Best Boardgame of 2018

Since the Quarterlies thread is now active, I wanted to post a thread specifically dedicated to boardgames, even though boardgames are eligible for the Quarterlies, because you and I and Mick Mulvaney all know ain’t nobody gonna win a Quarterly with a boardgame. We had one thread like this last year, but I didn’t bother to add up votes. This year I will, although I suspect the winner will be the game that gets more than one person to vote it #1. Still, a fun exercise. See? I said “fun.”

Rules are the same as for the Quarterlies: vote for up to 5 games. Your top pick gets 5 pts, your fifth pick gets one point, the middle games get in-between points.

  1. The White Tribe

Can you transform your state from a reprehensible racist, apartheid, neo-colonial throwback into an inclusive African republic while staving off a communist insurgency? Your only enemy is yourself, really… As a politico-military game puts some popular “series titles” to shame when it comes to modelling Counterinsurgency.

  1. Nemesis

Kim Kanger takes an “irrelevant theater” (that’s an argument for another thread) and makes it damned interesting with his usually purpose-built unique system for a unique theater (they are all unique. You’re unique! I’m unique! Burma ain’t France!).

  1. Blenheim, 1704

A graceful, classically done adaptation of Churchill’s (the other one) greatest victory. And a fantastic, innovative Seven Hex System by up and coming designer Steve Pole.

That is all. P.S. I am amazed I actually put a solo title up. But it’s damned fantastic.


U Happy now, Bro?

Man I think most my new games last year were from 2017 or older, except Vindication which I haven’t had a chance to play yet.

FINE, I just ordered The White Tribe, I hope you’re all very happy.

1. Skies Above the Reich - wonderful solo game that puts you in the position of a staffelcapitan hoping to keep your pilots alive and knock out some B-17s in the process. By far the best/clearest written rules I’ve ever seen. Always plenty of decisions to be made; great narrative.

2. Root - cutesy little asymmetric game that’s been described as “COIN in the forest” from the designer of one of my all-time faves Pax Pamir. I’ve only played a handful of games, all 2p, but I really want to get it on the table more.

3. The White Tribe - Not going to unseat the so-far more played Skies of the Reich for me, but this one is very good, and very tense. Haven’t played it enough yet to really take its measure, but I know I’m gonna come back to this one.

EDIT: whoops, Root was done by the designer of Pax Pamir, not Porfiriana. In my defense I’m sick as a dog.

  1. Pulsar 2849
    This dice-placement Euro game in space is easily my most played heavier game of the year. Easily because everyone I’ve played it with has enjoyed it, and I’ve played with a bunch of different people. Everyone has wanted to play again. It has a nice balance between cut-throat fighting over hiring engineers as well as open-ended areas you can confidently not worry about anyone stealing from you, which is I think the biggest reason it’s appealed so widely.

  2. Imperius
    This is a card game of political intrigue where you are just as often playing your opponents cards for them as you are playing your own cards. I’m premature here. I’ve only played Imperius 3 times, but I really loved all of those plays, each feeling a little less chaotic than the last. As one player pointed out last game, the core mechanic here forces you to be intimately aware of the strategy each opponent is pursuing so you don’t accidentally help them achieve it. Incredibly dramatic but carefully calculated is a rare combo in board games, and I love it.

  3. Keyforge
    This is the unique deck-builder that’s like Magic the Gathering, except all decks are premade and every one is unique. I thought I would like this because I don’t like deck construction and assumed since this had none that all the decks would be balanced. I actually love this because learning how to play a random deck is incredibly satisfying and fun. Trying to figure out if a deck is a dud or just needs a specific playstyle to shine is surprisingly enjoyable. It does mean sometimes the games are incredibly lopsided. So this game is best when both players can laugh at those situations, and then proceed to discuss what could have changed the game state. This game is much more about exploration and discovery than intense competition, and I love it for that.

  4. Rising Sun
    This is designer Eric Lang’s biggest dudes on a map battle game yet. Every play for me so far has been an exhausting 3 hour mess of negotiation, carefully planning, and incredible frustration. I complained a bunch about this game in the 2018 board game thread. I don’t know if I ever said a good thing about it. I believe @Shieldwolf compared it to Cosmic Encounter and it completely flipped how I thought of the game. Like Keyforge, the best part of Rising Sun is the 1-2 hour post-game discussion where all of us try and figure out what the hell just happened. Between its incredible array of setup variability and the phenomenal difference only a single coin can make, this game can go pear-shaped a million different ways, each distinctly morbidly fascinating. Playing it for discovery instead of mastery totally changed my opinion on it.

  5. Dragon Castle
    I got really into board games that chill me the heck out this year. Dragon Castle was my favorite game to shut up and quietly enjoy relaxing with friends. It’s a 30 minute castle building game played with mahjong tiles. Every game, 2 random rules from a quite large set are added. This is just enough variability to make each game interesting, but not enough to ever make it taxing. Any night my wife or I came home exhausted or frustrated, we’d get this out, chill for a bit, and then go for a walk and talk. A great close to any stressful day.

I haven’t ordered The White Tribe yet, but will very soon…

Anyway, I haven’t played many 2018 games. These are the ones I really liked:

Bios Megafauna: we had a play by forum here. I played some more for games after that. It’s a great Phil Elklund’s design, with somewhat simpler rules than usual and really, really cutthroat. Has me really excited for Bios: Origins, which will complete the Bios trilogy and will have a horrible box cover(if they don’t change what they presented in the Kickstarter).

Skies Above the Reich: played 6 missions (basic) so far and really liking it. It’s a little bit more “learn as you go” than I usually like (no easy way to analyze combat outcomes beforehand due to the damage systems being integrated into game bits) but it plays fast and is really tense.

AuZtralia: I can actually get to play this with my group! Fun game about building an army to fight Elder Gods while pretending to like trains and farms. It is a really tight design in how much it packs in so little weight (this can be taught in 10 minutes easy).

Number them, Juan. Or the ai won’t catch it. Feels like a Tiller game…

No AI here, but in the absence of numbers I will assume that the first one listed is #1.

They are Boardgames. God’s Country. Crafted with the hand of Man. So appropriate.

Yes. Just imagine it’s a messy rulebook without a numbering scheme. First is #1, last is #3.

  1. Deep Madness.

  2. Nemesis…if I ever get it!

I’ve played more tabletop games this year than ever before, but very few of them are 2018 releases.

  1. Everdell. This is not only my top 2018 release, but also one of the most fun games in my collection, period. It does absolutely nothing innovative or eye-opening, it’s just a rock-solid worker placement and tableau building game wrapped in gorgeous art design. A pleasure to play.

  2. Paper Tales. Again, nothing revolutionary about this game, just a stellar implementation of tried-and-true mechanics. It’s a very compact, very quick-playing card-based engine builder. Because it moves so quickly, you’re forced to make the best of imperfect options. Because there are some very interesting card interactions and interdependencies, there are always plenty of imperfect options to choose from.

  3. Root. I’ve only played one game of Root, but it was a great experience. I’d happily spend a lot more time exploring this, given the opportunity.

  4. Darkest Night 2nd edition. The same game that Tom praised years ago, with a shiny new coat of paint.

I played a couple of other 2018 releases this year, but those are the ones worth mentioning.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some older games that I played for the first time in 2018 and really enjoyed. They include Istanbul, Twilight Imperium 4th edition, Caverna, Comancheria, Cosmic Encounter, and Santorini.

I also played a couple of games that won’t be out until next year. Among those, the standout was Pipeline, a fairly heavy Euro game about refining and selling oil in a newly privatized market. It’s fundamentally an engine builder, and one cog of that engine is a network of refineries that your piece together from tiles, Galaxy Trucker-style.

You should add the pursuit rules, they add so much flavor. I won’t go back to basic! In that vein, the next campaign I do will incorporate the intercept phase rules from Storm Above the Reich (also staffel erosion because I’m a huge masochist).

For games released in 2018, I don’t really have a top 5 as I didn’t play that many recently released games. I have a top 2:

1)Thunderstone Quest - the best version of the deck building dungeon crawler by far, addressing a number of issues with prior versions including the progression of enemies, some broken/unbalanced mechanics, etc. On the 4 star scale, I give this 4 stars.

2)Brass Birmingham - a solid heavy Euro, with less bottlenecking on the map but a new bottleneck in the form of beer needed to ship goods. Some people prefer the original but I like the rebalanced iron and coal systems and the new beer system. 3 stars.

I will also give a possible #3) to Underwater Cities - only played it once, on New Years’s Eve. I thought it was good in a Terrraforming Mars kind of way but it felt a bit long. Provisional rating 3 stars, but could change up or down with more plays.

My top 5 played and enjoyed games in 2018 were, in no particular order

Gaia Project
Terraforming Mars
Thunderstone Quest
Steam Works
Sid Meier’s Civilization: a New Dawn


Late post, I apologize in advance.
I will be revising this on Sunday when I get Nemesis and Teotihuacan to the table.

2018 was a great year. One of the best in a while and judging by what I played, ** The year of the medium weight euro**.
Teotihuacan and Gugong are are really great mid weight games. Something that you can play fairly quick and are going to stay in my collection for a long time. They scratch different itches and if you like euro games and pretty things pick them up. You won’t regret it. If you can find the Deluxe version of Gugong, GET IT!!! It’s that pretty, upgraded, and well packaged. Even my wife liked it so that’s always a good thing when you have as many games in your house as I do.

2018 games I haven’t gotten to play or haven’t received yet but are in route:
Nippon Expansion
Great Western Trail Expansion
Mansions of Madness Expansion
City of the Big Shoulders
Escape Plan


Pulsar is odd. I have enjoyed my plays but I’m not sure I enjoy the game if that makes any sense.
Verdict is still out if I’m keeping the game. Porousnapkin, Maybe you can help me with understanding this one.
Point salad in space. Interesting decisions. Lots of ways to win. Even when you are way behind you can still come back. Mechanically it’s great. It’s easy to teach and quick to play, but like space, it’s cold, very cold. There is nothing here thematically and maybe that’s why I’m on the fence with this one.

Madeira. Dice placement game, but so much more. It’s fantastic. What’s Your Game?? puts out really great games that are heavy in terms brain burning, but easy mechanically. Expansion and revised edition coming. If you like heavy games give this one a shot.

Another What’s Your Game?? with a very cool use of cards. To play actions you must play a card if it is higher than the previous card played do one group of actions. If it is lower do another. I like the puzzle that it delivers and look forward to getting it to the table more. Expansion and revised edition coming.

This War of Mine
Bought, played, sold. Must be terrible right? Wrong. Great story telling. Terribly depressing. I’m not a solo gamer so playing it solo was not “fun” and I’m not sure I could get a group to play, so out it went. That said, wow! There are brutal games without sympathy and then there is this war of mine. When you succeed you really feel like you’ve survived, but most of the time it just makes you feel lost and abandoned.

Heaven & Ale. Meh. It’s not a bad game, but it was so highly praised I was was bit miffed I didn’t enjoy it more. Maybe a higher player count would help.

Better than I expected but it just misses the mark. Maybe more cards would help, but it just feels like something is missing.

Designed by Stefan Feld… okay not really. Wei-Min Ling is a Taiwanese designer, who perfectly emulates the german game designer in this game about houses in Venice. It’s a tough puzzle. Lots to and very little time to do it. Point salad goodness with some interesting mechanics. If you like Feld you should check it out.

Brass Birmingham
There is a reason why Martin Wallace’s Brass has remained so high on the top 100 and Birmingham builds on that reputation. Purists will tell you that this isn’t really a Wallace game and that it not as interesting as the original. Personally, I think Birmingham adds something sorely missing from the original, variety. The board setup is never the same. The new Brass (whichever one you play) is beautiful, fascinating and the only game I have ever played to give me serious analysis paralysis.

Clans of Caladonia
Terra Mystica clone. Maybe, but I find this game less dry and different enough to own both. I haven’t had the chance to play Gaia Project, but I hear mixed things. I can tell you Clans plays fast, is easy to learn if you have played Terra or Gaia, just as unforgiving, and has an interesting market system. I’m not sure if it or Terra Mystica will stay in my collection, but Clans is definitely a game you should try.

AuZtralia This is the year Martin Wallace has an identity crisis. Wildlands, a tactical combat game, and this a pseudo sequel to his other non traditional Wallace game, A Study in Emerald. While study is a game that really isn’t that great. It does an amazing job of telling a story each time you play it and the unique win system keeps it interesting. This game is less about story telling and more about optimization. I’m not sure if it’s a good game or not. My first play was okay, but afterwards I kept thinking about it. My second game I was dead last and literally fighting the monsters off at my door.I was able to fight them off and came back and won the game. That, for me, gives this game another shot. I enjoy it. I wish it didn’t slow down at the end, but I understand why it does.

A game that kind of came and went, but really should be played. A feld like that works really well and has multi use cards.

One partial play. Can’t say a lot yet, other than it’s beautiful and ap inducing. Has Iconography overload. Looking forward to more of it 2019 and I suspect it will be great.

So beautiful. Interesting and unique theme. Interactive. Great table presence and art. Expansion on the way.

Still with me?So what are my top five of this year? Some of these may be a cheat as they came out in 2017 but I didn’t have access to them until 2018.

  1. Anachrony 7 plays
    Worker placement (check)
    Theme that actually ties to game play (check)
    Table presence and bits that while not needed add to said theme (check, check, check)
    Smell of rubber burning as you plan your strategy (check)
    Player interaction (check)
    Multiple expansions including the best solo mechanic I’ve seen in a board game (CHECK)
    This is a game you will lose your first time. You will be completely lost by the iconography. You won’t meet your goal and even if you do you will have missed the opportunity to score other points and you will have caused a paradox or two along the way. That said, this is easily one of the best worker placement games out there. Mindclash is a new company with only 3 games and each one has been a home run in terms of production, mechanics, and game play. If you haven’t played one of their games go do it now!

  2. Twilight Imperium IV 5 plays
    I played TI3 one time with Tom Chick back in the day. It was a 12-14 hour experience and I loved it. I won so I’m sure that was part of it, but even so the stories that came out of that one game were glorious. I wanted to play it again, but knew it would never happen. Then TI4 came. I started reading about streamlining and listening to a podcast called, Space Cats Peace Turtles. Their love of this game was infectious and helped push me over the edge into buying the game. It sat on my shelf for 3 months before I convinced some people to play. After that it was like opening pandora’s box. I couldn’t put it away. Everyone who played enjoyed it. Even as I’m typing this I want to play it right now.

I can play a 6 player game in 6 hours. Is that a long time HELL YES, but doesn’t feel like it. Is the game balanced? No. Does it suffer from FFG rules and crazy amounts of errata? Yes. Does it tell a thematic story? Yes. Does it have amazing moments where you pull off a play that your children will tell their friends about because you won’t shut up about it? YES! If you even remotely like the idea of a space opera board game give it a try.

  1. Nemesis. It’s long, it’s fiddly, it has player elimination, but it so captures the essence of the alien(s) movies. Your mileage may vary depending on your group, but if you go into this game knowing you’re not going to win and go for the ride you will enjoy it immensely.

  2. Lord of Hellas 3 plays
    Is Dudes on a map.
    Is Area control.
    Is Ameritrash.
    Except it isn’t. It’s a euro game with a cool theme. There are multiple victory conditions and an interesting combat system that doesn’t revolve around dice. It’s also an area control game where you don’t have to have the most units on the map to win. I like when any game takes a conceit of the genre and flips it. Awaken Realms has had an amazing year. Hellas, Nemesis and their just finished kickstarter, Tainted Grail are quickly making AR a company to look for.

  3. Rising Sun 5 plays
    I love Chaos in the Old World. It’s still one of my favorites and one of the first big games I got when I started this hobby. Blood Rage promised a lot and to it’s credit it delivered. If you ever played Midgard, then you know that Eric Lang did an amazing job of updating that game to make Blood Rage. It’s fast and furious and fun, but for some reason I don’t love it. Then Rising Sun was announced and with it hints that it was going to be Blood Rage 2.0 but with diplomacy. I didn’t like the sound of that, but I loved the theme and the miniatures and with Cmon I figured that if it sucked I could at least sell the game for what I paid. Well I’m glad to say that Rising Sun is not Blood Rage 2.0. Like Hellas, it takes a conceit of a war game where you have to win battles to win the game and flips it on it’s head. Lots of ways to score points. Lots of ways to bluff your way through battles. A ton of content and replay ability. If you like diplomacy there are tons of opportunities to use it, but if you’d rather just play and leave the wheeling and dealing behind you can and the game won’t suffer for it.
    BUT if you play enough you will see there is a lot of opportunities to use diplomacy and when you use it adds a whole new level to the game.

  1. Keyforge
  2. Empires of the Void II
  3. The Mind
  4. Stalingrad: Inferno on the Volga

I am not sure how many 2018 releases I played. I’ll have to rank them later. Twilight Imperium 4 and KeyForge have both been mentioned, and I agree they are great. Decrypto also, and that made my Top 5 games ranking in the other thread. I only played Rising Sun once, and it didn’t really grab me (although I won’t deny there is a good game under all the overproduced components).

Whoa. I have it but haven’t played it yet. I take it this is good Michael Rinella and not bad Michael Rinella?