OPINION/UPDATE: Top 5 Games I Played in 2018 (and other stuff)…

It’s probably time for a bit of an update, and I figured it’s worth throwing my tuppence-worth in on the ‘best of 2018’ front, as well, so here goes… Following what seems to have been a flurry of activity across the last few months of the year: namely a boardgaming week in Le Pas Opton, France in September (the full story of which starts here btw: An early start…) and a packed gaming weekend at MidCon in Derby in November (you can read about that one in The SPIRIT #3, a downloadable FREE PDF magazine you can find by clicking on the link here or at the end of this post: The SPIRIT #3*); the tail end of the year seems to have been somewhat devoid of much in the way of gaming activity. Working in retail and restaurants during the festive period doesn’t lend itself quite so well to finding free time to play games, so it’s certainly been a bit of a struggle in December! On a positive note, I took the rather bold step of ordering a couple of prototype sets of cards for my Aliens Ate My Planet! game, and confess I was really pleased with how they’ve turned out… I’m looking forward to getting this game in front of a lot more people in the New Year (and yes, am after a publisher, too: the current artwork is primarily for prototyping and playtesting only, unfortunately). Development on one of my other designs, Agents in Time (and Tsuxnet Strikes Back!), has been halted for a while, mainly because there’s nowt really that needs changing in the core design, although I’m not happy with some of the Event Cards and will be looking again at how to fine-tune these to reduce the very random swings of good and bad. Am still chuffed with the player boards I did for this, and hope they pique your interest, too:
That all said, and issues of finding time for gaming this year aside, here’s my ‘Top 5’ selection for 2018. Remember that these are games I’ve played and enjoyed regularly throughout the year, rather than stuff I may be quite excited about for next year and/or games that I’m keen on, etc.

Top 5 Games I Played in 2018…

5… Azul

Azul has been a mainstay of my gaming this year, helped immensely by the fact that it’s pretty as well as easy to teach, and of course a lot of fun, too.
If I have a complaint, it’s that players can have their choices and options severely hampered by other players, and although many would argue this is all part of the game, it ceases to be quite so fun if you’re caught out two or three times in consecutive rounds. Otherwise, it’s a fun and easy game to play and teach, and rumour has it this has started to outsell a number of more established boardgame ‘classics’ this year: no doubt winning the Spiel des Jahres in 2018 has contributed significantly to its popularity.

4… Quarto

Quarto has been a favourite game of mine for a couple of years now, and I’m fortunate enough to have played it a great many times this year.
What may seem at first like a basic abstract game (connect four-in-a-row — as long as they share a common feature) very rapidly turns into a cunning battle of strategic thinking and artful deception (or perhaps, hope). You see, the key thing about this is that from the get-go you must choose the piece your opponent has to play from the pool of sixteen pieces, and vice versa. And to win, you must be able to complete a line of four pieces that have a single matching characteristic (be that colour/shade, height, shape, flat-top or hole-top) — this becomes increasingly challenging as more pieces are placed (and I’ve yet to see any ‘ties’ or ‘stalemates’ in this game: I’m not even sure if that’s possible). You are basically trying to ‘trap’ your opponent into a situation where they effectively have to gift you the win, and there are always plenty of “Darn, I didn’t see that!”-type moments! The wooden board and pieces are top-quality and will last many years, I suspect, and the simple premise behind the design is smart, clever, and more importantly, beautifully simple. Easy to pick up and play almost anywhere, a game of Quarto rarely lasts longer than 10-15 mins, which makes it ideal for filling a gap and/or when there are only two of you waiting for someone else to arrive, or if you just want to chill out with something fresh and engaging. Very highly recommended, and without hesitation.

3… Flamme Rouge

I like Flamme Rouge a lot, and much as I prefer to play with the Pelaton expansion (which adds cobbles and allows more players), have yet to recall any game of this that has failed to bring out the competitive nature of its players, with or without the expansion. It’s a crapload of fun, too, o’course, and invariably players are always worrying whether or not they will have enough cards to reach the finish line as the closing stages approach.
Invariably, most players do make it to the finish line, but I have seen a few games where it’s touch and go, and heard a couple of woeful tales of players running out of cards: you have to be really unlucky or play very badly for that to happen, imho. This aspect of the game (managing your card decks) has, to me, always been a shining example of impressive balance and design, and thus full credit should go to designer Asger Harding Granerud for getting this ‘just right’. A perfectly clever, fun racing game.

2… Century: Golem Edition

This may seem like a strange choice, but remains a game that my group breaks out regularly, and with nary a complaint to be heard. Century: Golem Edition (which I reviewed ages ago here) is a prettier and more attractive version of Century: Spice Road I think, with nicer artwork and a considerably neater box design. It’s another one of those games with ridiculously simple gameplay (play a card, ‘buy’ a card, claim a card, or pick up all the cards you’ve played) but with enough depth and interest to keep players fully engaged throughout.
This is likely to be one of the games I introduce the rest of my family to this Christmas (as well as Koi – a very pretty pond-based game of programmed movement and simple strategy), and amply demonstrates that games which are easy to teach and play will always have a longer shelf-life than the latest and greatest over-complicated strategy/’euro-style game’.

1… Rise of Tribes

This is, hands-down, far and away my favourite game of this year – I’ve written about it extensively in The SPIRIT magazine* (issue #2 can be downloaded FREE as a PDF from here), and it’s made it to the table regularly ever since it came through via Kickstarter. RoT_12 An attractive and involved game, with no shortage of options and all played out on a small map… there is lots to like about this, but the unique dice-shifting mechanic and easy gameplay make for a fun and relatively quick game of conquest. Additional optional gameplay elements, attractive art, and all-round smart design have pretty much guaranteed this game will stay in my collection for a long time to come. More to the point, it also ensures that this makes it to the table regularly. Games that are easy to teach have been de rigueur for a lot of my gaming this year, and I think that’s reflected in many of my choices above. What were yours for 2018?

[*The SPIRIT #3 is a free-to-download PDF magazine about boardgames and boardgaming, and can be found by clicking this link]

And that’s almost your lot for 2018… May I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year, and although there’s a good chance I’ll be posting something just before 2019 begins, I have no wish to make promises I can’t keep… 😉

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