There are three new games on my list this year and I’m excited about that. I feel my tastes shifting a bit and most of these changes reflect that. Since most people don’t read introductions I’ll stop this one here and get on with the list. Here we go!
If you want more information about a game on the list, click the image to get to a review or other articles about the game.
There is no denying my love for a grandiose space 4X game and I’m not sure any game has yet to do it better than the fourth edition of Twilight Imperium. Politics, technology, trade, conquest, battle – this game does it all and does it well. My one gripe about this game is also something I love about it – the time it takes to play. When I get done I feel like I’ve had an epic experience. But it also means that it can’t hit the table very often. Oh well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
One of the things I appreciate most is when a game’s mechanisms make you feel the theme of the game. There is no denying this game can be random and swingy but, hey, this is Las Vegas. What did you expect? It is also a perfect next step into the hobby for those who like Monopoly. Property development, dice chunking, and some luck of the draw but with more strategy and interaction. Oh yes. Strategy and luck can go hand in hand and do in Lords of Vegas.
Inis is another new game to my top 10, but it has been hovering at 11 or 12 the last couple years so it isn’t a giant surprise it popped up a few spots. It deserves its time in the spotlight. I love the card drafting mechanism that drives the actions of this game – especially at 3 players. The victory conditions are unique as well – you must satisfy 2 of the 3 available victory conditions at the same time. This makes for some interesting shifting alliances. As one player closes in on victory the others unite to stop them. But be careful, you might unknowingly put your ally in a dominant position as well. Inis is a tense, strategic, area control game that deserves the spot it received this year.
Alexander Pfister hasn’t ceased to amaze me with his interesting combination of mechanisms. They are like a dish that has flavors in them you don’t understand how they work together but they just do. Great Western Trail is like this but Mombasa is my favorite of his to date. I like stock games a lot and this one does it well. Add to that the unique rotating hand action system in the game and you have lots of interesting decisions to make, making Mombasa land comfortably in my top 10 at number 6.
Another year, another chance to sing the praises of Eclipse. It dropped a few spots but it is still firmly in my top 10 and I don’t see that changing. The thing that always grabs me about this game is the interconnectedness of the economy and action system. On the surface it is simple – the more actions you take the more it costs to keep up your empire. Under the surface, everything in the game is connected to this. There is never enough money to everything you feel like you need to do – such wonderful tension. This and the combination of traditionally Euro and Ameritrash conventions make Eclipse a winner.
Thanks to a shift in game preferences by some of the rest of the Pub, I have been brought back to enjoying really heavy games. Vital Lacerda is one of the kings of heavy. The Gallerist sees you taking on the role of an art gallery manager. You have to find new artists and promote them, get the right patrons in your gallery and manage the foreign art market, among other things. I really like the action system in the game where, if you take an action that someone else previously did, they get to take another small bonus action after yours. All of this adds up to a really tight system where you always feel like you need just one…more…action. The Gallerist has decision tension in all the right places.
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There is much to love about this game but my two favorites are the variable action order (with a bit of randomness thrown in) and the wonderful cube tower used to resolve conflict. Each round a set of action cards is dealt up showing which order they will take place in the coming round. Five are face up and five face down. The face-down cards are revealed as the round progresses. So you know some of what is to come but there is still some unknown which means you can plan, just not perfectly. The cube tower is the best way I have seen to resolve combat. All you do is drop the cubes representing the units in combat through the tower. Some get caught in the tower, some previously caught get knocked loose, and what falls out the bottom shows the result. It is quick, less random than throwing dice, yet still produces excitement at seeing the outcome. And since some cubes can get caught in the tower your past conflicts can impact current ones. I love it.
Scythe moves up to number two this year and for very good reason. It elegantly combines of so many things I love in board games with style. The action system in the game is simple, intuitive but still provides great decision tension. The board play and territory control are interesting. But the popularity system in the game is the piece that brings is home for me. It makes your aggressive actions mean something – they have a cost. You cannot simply wreak destruction across the map and go happily on your way. Add to all of this the exceptional art and components and you have something close to a masterpiece. If I could change one thing it would be to make the combat more interesting. It is fine, just nothing special. I understand that Rise of Fenris can help this and I am eager to try that expansion. Until then, it will solidly remain my number two.
I remember when Star Wars Rebellion was announced. As details came out about it I knew it was for me. It is the game I had been wanting to play for years and when I finally played it, it shot to my number 1 spot and hasn’t moved. As cliche as it sounds, Rebellion is truly Star Wars in a box. The Empire tries to hunt down the Rebels to secure their rule in the galaxy with a giant iron fist while the Rebels move covertly and try to gain the people’s support to finally overthrow the Empire. Your characters go on missions or lead battles all to support your cause. It truly is a tense Original Trilogy sandbox for you to play in. If you love Star Wars and board games, this game is for you, as it is for me.