Gary's Top Games: 2018 Edition
Author: GaryPublished: January 14, 2019
Happy New Year and welcome to our annual top 10 games lists. This week is Gary’s turn. If you want to make your own top 10 list try our Board Game Ranking Engine. And now, on with the list.
When I look back on 2018, I think this may have been one of the most fun years of gaming I have had in the hobby. From the perspective of what my top 10 list looks like this year much has stayed the same, I love a crunchy euro, but I also had some games that really surprised me and expanded my tastes quite a bit in a couple directions that I could not have predicted. I’m excited about all these games, and writing about them has made me want to play them all again. I also have to wonder what 2019 has in store for me and if I won’t see some more movement on the next version of this list.
10. SuburbiaSuburbia feels like an old friend at this point. I mean that in all the best ways possible. It has fallen seven spots from #3 last year to #10 this year, but I look at that as more a function of some new games and genres making a big splash on my gaming table and tastes this year. The tile laying and the interaction between tiles is still so very satisfying with this one. The careful balancing act of how you grow income, influence and population is so tight and still so fun. You want to get an economic engine growing before your population explodes or else your growth there will outstrip your ability to pay for new tiles, and this tension makes the game top 10 material for me.
9. Fields of ArleFields of Arle feels like it could be Agricola’s 2-player cousin. There is no feeding of your workers in this game, but now you have to deal with the manufacturing and shipping of goods as well as clearing your land and moving dykes back to increase your pasture space. You still have all the key signatures of Uwe Rosenberg goodness, and the game offers some really great decisions. This isn’t a game where you feel a lack of things to do, it’s quite the opposite. The tension comes from trying to figure out what the best things to do are.
8. Ora et LaboraAnother Uwe game. I guess maybe his older games are just my kind of games. Ora et Labora features spatial challenges as you try to best build up and expand your player board, as well as an engine building mechanic that will be familiar to Rosenberg fans. This one has a very cool rondel for the resource management, and the manufacturing and converting of resources using the your buildings feels similar to Le Havre (which is never a bad thing in my book).
7. MadeiraIt’s been on my list before, moving up one spot this year after dropping a few the year before. I really love this game, the kind of brain burn it provides is right up my alley. Having to pivot based on which crown requests are available to you, but also trying to plan a long-term strategy is tough as is figuring out how to make the best possible actions using the dice you receive each round. Just Bryan referred to this game as an economic simulation after a recent play and I think it’s definitely got that as players try to tailor their operations to the needs and wants of a crown that change over time. I don’t see Madeira leaving this list anytime soon.
6. Warhammer 40K Kill TeamSay What? Gary has a tactical minis wargame on his list, and it’s from Games Workshop? I’m supposed to be the euro game guy but after a friend got me hooked trying out Necromunda and the Warhammer 40K starter set I was intrigued, but didn’t want to invest the time and money it takes to assemble a larger army. Cue Kill Team and its teams with rosters limited to 20 units and games only taking half of that or less. My buddy gave me some spare Orks and I bought a core rulebook and we were off. I’ve now got a second squad for the Deathwatch faction that I’ve bought a few minis for and am really enjoying the game. This one really came out of left field for me.
5. Blood Bowl Team Manager: The Card GameBlood Bowl: Team Manager is just fun. Set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, the game is essentially a “Fantasy” Football themed card game with an area control mechanic. Players play for 5 weeks of games, competing over a specified number of highlights for each game that will determine the number of fans teams pick up. The team with the most fans at the end of the season wins. This game has a great sense of humor, chaotic dice rolls, wild and probably overpowered special abilities for the star players you can recruit. It has been some of the most fun I’ve had gaming this year, and I look forward to having more fun with this one for a long time to come.
4. Russian RailroadsAnother game that is familiar to this list, Russian Railroads. It comes in high on the Pub’s aggregate list as well so I feel confident saying it’s one of our groups favorite games. The way in which each player will customize their player board each game is just really fun. Plus the worker placement mechanic is really well implemented, with certain action spaces costing more workers but offering a better version of an actions. I think we all agree that using coins to purchase engineers or as a “wild” worker is pretty brilliant as well. All in all, this game is just a great game and one of my favorite worker placement games.
3. Le HavreLe Havre had spent the last two years in my #2 spot, so it’s been a top 3 game for me for some time now. Le Havre is simple in it’s mechanics, but offers some real depth on the decision front. You don’t have many turn to get things done, and there is a definite tension but at the same time you rarely find yourself without some good choices in front of you. If someone took the building action you wanted, you can often find another option or pivot into a different strategy quickly. The end goal is to be worth the most money at the end, so it always hurts when you have to take a loan so you can feed your workers or pay for an action, although there is always the hope of a big payoff in the end. I love the arc of this game, as players start from nothing and build up there is a struggle to get the best buildings and late game it’s to maximize their resources so they can ship out that last boat full of goods and make a few dollars more than the next player.
2. The GalleristThe Gallerist features a stellar production quality and follows through with great gameplay as well. I really enjoy trying to balance the promoting of new artist with the buying and selling of art and the need to have a presence on the international market. This game has quite a few moving pieces but they all come together and interlock to form a crunchy, brain burning euro that always leaves me questioning if my last move was the best and trying to plan multiple turns ahead. You always want to pay attention to the other players as you can often set yourself up for a nice main action and a complimentary kick-out action if they replace your pawn at an action space. Additionally, the way that the promoting of artists works always leads to tension as players might have stakes in the same artists success or a player can piggy back off the promotional work another player has done for an artist to make a few extra bucks. This game got me interested in Vital Lacerda and his game and I’ve since picked up a few that I either enjoy or look forward to getting to the table.
1. AgricolaThe Gallerist features a stellar production quality and follows through with great gameplay as well. I really enjoy trying to balance the promoting of new artist with the buying and selling of art and the need to have a presence on the international market. This game has quite a few moving pieces but they all come together and interlock to form a crunchy, brain burning euro that always leaves me questioning if my last move was the best and trying to plan multiple turns ahead. You always want to pay attention to the other players as you can often set yourself up for a nice main action and a complimentary kick-out action if they replace your pawn at an action space. Additionally, the way that the promoting of artists works always leads to tension as players might have stakes in the same artists success or a player can piggy back off the promotional work another player has done for an artist to make a few extra bucks. This game got me interested in Vital Lacerda and his game and I’ve since picked up a few that I either enjoy or look forward to getting to the table.
About the Author:
Gary | Podcaster Extraordinaire
I grew up playing video games and dabbled in a few CCGs and the BattleTech board game in high school. I had otherwise lived peacefully without any knowledge of the hobby board games industry until Shuck lured me into a game of Lords of Waterdeep at our local game store in 2013. It was at that game night that I met Bryan as well. I was hooked. I started building a game collection of my own so I could share my love of board games with friends and family. In particular, I enjoy playing games with my four young children and introducing them to the hobby.
- Favorite Games: Small World, Agricola, Suburbia, Viticulture, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game
- Favorite Mechanisms: Worker Placement, Set Collection, Tile Laying