Shuck's Top 9: 2019 Edition
Author: ShuckPublished: January 18, 2020
Happy New Year and welcome to our annual top games lists. This time you will get Shuck’s list. If you want to make your own top games list try our Board Game Ranking Engine. If you want to generate your own top nine image like you see below try our Top Nine tool. And now, on with the list.
A new year, a new top te…no, top nine? Yeah, we decided to shake things up a bit. In honor of the pub’s new top nine generator tool we’ve decided that for the foreseeable future we will be posting our top nine games instead of the traditional ten that is quite common around the industry. So what does that mean? That means an old friend, my trusty tried and true Lords of Waterdeep won’t make the list this year. Unfortunately for Waterdeep, I have noticed a trend that as each year passes the heavier my top games get, knocking it down a bit more.
Honorable Mention: Lords of WaterdeepWait! I thought he just said…yeah, yeah. A technicality. I’ve circumvented the top ten by simply adding it as my honorable mention. I don’t care ‘cause as I said many years ago, it would be hard to knock Lords of Waterdeep out out of my top ten; so I’m talking about it. This was one of the first games that got me heavily invested into the hobby, which is probably why my nostalgic bias keeps it so high on the list.
At its core it’s a very stripped down version of Worker Placement with just enough extra content that makes it super enjoyable. Also, Set Collection is something I really enjoy which ties in so seamlessly with worker placement games. It’s a great family game that can also have the expansion included for a little more meat when needed.
So yeah, Lords of Waterdeep will always be a staple for me.
9. TakenokoI have a feeling this game fell so many spots because I just didn’t get it to the table at all this year, which is unfortunate. That, and a couple of new games to the list. Anyway, I just adore this game. It’s cuteness factor is off the scales. It’s usually the game I want to play with the kids. Usually. That game this year has been Downforce (my #12). Downforce is good but Takenoko is better. It’s got that Set Collection I like, a fantastically written rulebook, and pandas eating bamboo. There’s even a mama panda now. And babies! So cute.
8. TapestryThe brand new game to the list. And I’ll admit, I’ve only played this once and I was reluctant to rank it so high but I loved it. To be honest, it wasn’t a game on my radar at all. I wasn’t super interested in the theme and the board wasn’t all that exciting. Sure, the components were over the top but the tetris-like aspect to the buildings didn’t seem all that fresh, it’s pretty hard to top Penny Press’ tetris building of your newspaper.
The gameplay is what got me. It has Engine Building. I love Engine Building! Action Selection is a really close second to Worker Placement, albeit less interactive. All the cogs worked well together. It reminded me of 7 Wonders Duel (my #16) in that it had science, technology, and military tracks. Like an enormous, overproduced, epic version of it. I also really liked how you get to control your own ending based on how quickly you advance through the eras using the tapestry cards. Finally, the rulebook! I’m a sucker for well written rulebooks. I’m an even bigger sucker for rulebooks with pictures and just a few pages. It’s amazing to me that this big of a game fits in a four page rulebook. Well done, Stonemaier, well done.
7. Mission Red PlanetThis is by far the best Area Control game I’ve played. I know there are some of the classics I have yet to play but I doubt they’re going to surpass it. The second edition art is beautiful, the components are great quality…I mean, it’s Fantasy Flight, and the gameplay is super quick. It’s always my first suggestion when someone asks for recommended six player games. There’s something about Simultaneous Action card play and deciding when to pick up previously played cards that gives this game the edge over other Area Control games for me. Great game.
6. SignorieSince last year’s write up I’ve had many, many more plays of this game and as predicted, it moved way up in my rankings. Once again there’s Engine Building and Set Collection in this game, a common theme for me. Sometimes the Set Collection can work against you, as can the dice, but the game allows so many ways to adjust your strategy. Usually I hate dice but rolling them upfront and then drafting provides options. Boy, are there options. So many combos to keep me experimenting for years to come. Love. This. Game.
5. Russian RailroadsAnother Worker Placement game. It’s a unique one though. It’s flexibility in placing your workers gets me. You can get a discount by going to a spot early or wait and pay more later. What’s nice about that is the game doesn’t give you that “I must go here now” feeling but instead punishes you for waiting instead. It’s also nice to play a train game that isn’t Route Building or Economic. I just really enjoy this one every time it hits the table, which has been a while. Too bad it’s out of print. GARY! I need your copy.
4. ScytheNever have I seen a game live up to the hype. And never have I seen such a hyped game still at the top of players’ rankings years later. Scythe embodied the hype and has become a legend. It is the #1 game of all time according to the BGRE rankings. That’s crazy. And I love it.
When I think of an epic sized game Scythe is the first game that comes to mind. The board itself just devours tables. It’s so massive it needed a legendary box to fit everything in. It’s got a lot going on but gameplay doesn’t feel overwhelming. Rules are streamlined, which I like. There’s Action Selection, a bit of Area Control, Resource Management, and some mild combat. It’s the mild part that I like. Too much extermination gives me anxiety. Overall it does what I want a 4X game to do.
3. AgricolaAgricola has been consistently in my top three games for years now. It’s the game my daughter usually wants to play with me. And surprise, it’s another Worker Placement! This is probably the most stressful of the Worker Placement games I own, though. It’s like finishing a very involved game of chess. Your mind is mush when you finish, but completely satisfied.
Like chess, it’s not really that difficult of a games rules-wise. The difficulty lies in your decision making process. There’s always two or three more things you need to do but can’t. Whatever happens, though, there’s always a backup plan which is what I really like about it. It may not be the best plan but you’re never just caught in a situation where you can’t do anything. I still believe this is the quintessential Worker Placement game.
2. The ColonistsI’ve talked a lot about The Colonists on our podcast. The love I have for this game continues to rise. Not sure it can go much higher at this point but it is by far my favorite Worker Placement game. Yeah, I know that’s been a common theme of my list. What can I say? I like the mechanism.
The reason I believe this is my favorite of all the Worker Placement games is because of the spatial aspect. I’m pretty sure this stems from my desire to create a game such as this. I gave up once I found The Colonists cause it just does it better than I ever could’ve. The other reason I think this has jumped so high on my list is because I’ve been working on a rules reference all year…or maybe I worked on it so passionately because I love the game. Point being, I love the game.
I created the reference sheet because I’m not usually one for complicated games, and this is a very intricately complicated game. Lots of rules. Strangely though, it doesn’t feel overwhelming when you’re actually playing. It’s a pretty smooth ride. I’d never really played a civ building game until this and, to be honest, I’m not really sure I’ll play another one. This one is near perfection.
1. DeusDeus is the reason why The Colonists won’t get any higher on my list. It is my absolute, hands down, favorite game of all time and will continue to be until someone creates an Engine Builder that just blows me away.
Another common theme among my top games is Engine Building. It’s my favorite mechanism. Something about creating combos really appeals to me. I also like how in this game you constantly have to change your plans. I’ve realized that it’s not just the engines you build but the fact that you are challenged every game to adjust what you’re doing. You can’t just stick to one strategy. The game knows that, which is why it has such an ingeniously crafted discard mechanism that let’s trash cards without taking a penalty. It’s like Deck Building but with a tableau instead of a deck. Being able to see that tableau go off turn after turn is so enjoyable. I enjoy building my combos even if I’m losing. The game just makes me happy.
It’s great. Best game out there! No question.
About the Author:
Shuck | Graphic Designer
As a child I grew up on consoles and card games. Many, many hours were logged playing the NES but my family also taught me quality board games like Trumpet and Survive. As a teenager, I mostly played Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, or Chess. It was around this time, though, that I began dabbling in web design and Photoshop. My first experience in the modern board gaming hobby was after I played Carcassonne in college and went crazy finding ultra-rare pieces in German magazines. Now I enjoy developing games by observing the world around us and combining it with aesthetically pleasing graphic design.
- Favorite Games: SDeus, Takenoko, Agricola
- Favorite Mechanisms: Engine Building, Drafting, Set Collection