My Top Games of 2018

So with 2018 drawing to a close, I thought I would take the time to go through the top 10 games I have played, for the first time, over the past year; with that in mind, the only caveat I will state now is that not all these are games released in 2018, although the majority will be, just games I have played for the first time this year …

Photosynthesis (2017)

This is the first ‘new’ game I played in 2018.  A beautiful looking game and very simple to teach with one overarching rule that covers most of the actions within the game.

phtosynthesisThe game premise is that you are growing trees within a dense forest and you gain ‘light points’ based on the height of your trees that are receiving sunlight, and not in shadow from another tree, which you can then use to grow your trees, seed new ones and harvest them when they are at full height.  Upon harvest, you receive a points token and the player with the most points wins. It really is that simple.

Gameplay is estimated at around 15 mins per player and for the basic game, that works out about right.  There is also an advanced rule that prevents players from planting seeds or growing trees in spaces that are in shadow.  Although this is a straightforward rule in itself, it certainly does make a big change to strategy and game time.  If you enjoy a good abstract game, this is definitely worth a look at.

1st & Goal (2011)

Played this for the first time while waiting for the Superbowl to start and is so far the only American Football themed game I have played.

The theme does work quite well although there are two elements of luck, which can be a hindrance at times. Firstly you are drawing cards to your hand limit and if you have a poor selection, as can often happen, there is little you can do to counter the type of play you believe your opponent is going to use; this doesn’t leave a lot of room for ‘reading the field’. Then there are the dice, as with all dice based luck a bad roll can be disastrous, although I will concede that this part is much more in tune with the theme.

1st and GoalWe played this a couple of times in a row and, despite the unfortunate strokes of luck, the two decks are actually pretty well balanced.

I would be interested in playing this with a couple of the expansions, but would also be interested to know if there is a better, more rounded, American Football game out there. (realistic as opposed to fantasy, i.e. not BloodBowl)

Massive Darkness (2017)

This, for me, is a great dungeon crawler and has a campaign levelling system I’d like to see introduced into the Zombicide games and is something I feel the Zombicide games severely lack (I will admit I have not played the latest releases so this may have already been done).

2018-04-16 21.46.10We played this game through the entirety of the first campaign which although challenging on the early levels, it does become a bit of a walk-through by the time you reach the final stages.  This is predominantly due to some of the artifacts which, when used with certain classes, can be a little ‘broken’; however, nothing that can’t be easily fixed by a couple of house rules in order to keep the levels of trepidation up.

Overall, this really is a pretty solid dungeon crawler with plenty of replay value when considering the numerous combinations of characters and classes to have in your party and the additional enemies available.  Although it is a little pricey with the many add-ons, if you have the budget for it, is worth the investment.

Century: Eastern Wonders (2018)

I was very pleased to get one of the first copies of this game in the UK, from the UK Games Expo, and have played this game many times since.

2018-06-07 11.48.01Eastern Wonders is the follow-on game to Century: Spice Road, which I also still enjoy playing; and although the game is still based around spice trading, it has very different gameplay to Spice Road.  The additional ruleset giving amalgamation of Eastern Wonders and Spice Road.  I have done a full review earlier in the year which can be found here, so all that’s left to say is that I really am looking forward to the third instalment, Century: A New World …

The Grimm Forest (2018)

This one really took me by surprise. Having three daughters, I thought a game based around the tales by the Brothers Grimm would be a nice little game that they could embrace; how wrong was I …

At a glance, the game does appear to be just that.  You play the descendants of the three little pigs who are trying to set up homes; and as such your objective is to be the first to build at least three houses, which can be made of either straw, wood or brick, in order to trigger the end of the game.

2018-08-27 22.01.21You do this by secretly selecting which location you are going to, collecting the resources (or sharing if more than one player goes to the same location) and using them to build your houses.  All seems a nice enough game …

But then you have the Fable cards (which allow you to affect your opponent’s actions) and Friend cards (which give you a fairy tale character to assist you by giving bonuses, or take resources from your opponents); however, if your opponents think your ‘friend’ is too beneficial, they may get the opportunity to force a different friend on you (replacing the one you have).

All of this makes it a surprising cut-throat and back-stabbing game, providing much entertainment all around.

Mint Delivery (2018)

The follow-on Kickstarter to the successful Mint Works. Again, this comes in a container about the size of a mint tin, so is great for travelling.  Personally, I do still prefer Mint Works over this, but as an alternative, it’s good enough that it travels with me too.

Mint DeliveryThe premise of Mint Delivery is, as the title suggests, a pick-up-and-deliver game; with the playing taking the role of a truck driver, taking orders and delivering the goods from the factory.  The play time is a little longer than Mint Works, but should still easily take no longer than 30 mins.

As a stand-alone game, I have to admit I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it, but as a travelling companion to Mint Works it is a worthwhile addition; and probably the biggest reason it is on this list.

Azul (2017)/Azul – Stained Glass of Sintra (2018)

AzulI know that strictly speaking, they are different games; however, I was introduced to them both this year and they are, in my opinion, similar enough to be grouped together.

The premise of Azul is a mosaic building game and Stained Glass of Sintra is building a stained glass window.  The drafting of the tiles is the same and dealing with excess tiles drawn is very similar; the primary difference between the two is the way the points are calculated.Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

As much as I enjoy both of these games, I honestly feel that you only need one of them in your collection, especially as they are both stand-alone games; unlike the Century games mentioned earlier, where there are additional rules to combine some the elements.

Everdell (2018)

I think this is the most beautiful game of the year, the artwork is wonderful, nice wooded character pieces and the inclusion of the 3D tree is great; the game could be played without it and isn’t essential to the gameplay, but it really adds to the theme and is a wonderful addition.

EverdellEverdell is a tableau-building worker placement game and has a gentle flow to it.  Although each player can affect the actions of the others by using a worker to block a location or take a card from the meadow area to play, everyone is also playing the game ‘at their own pace’; in that a player can move to the next season when they want to and not have to wait for all players to ‘pass’.

In short, you are collecting resources to build and populate your city with a mixture of common and unique characters and locations; many locations will also allow you to ‘recruit’ a character at no cost, so there isn’t too much of a requirement stockpile resources.  When everyone has passed at the end of the final season, the game ends and points are counted up.

There is a game-time estimate of 20 mins per player, which isn’t unreasonable, however with the relaxed feel of the game, I’d say 30 mins is more likely.  I was pleased to get this game into my collection and it has been played a number of times already this year.

Nemesis (2018)

Nemesis is a semi-cooperative survival game set on a spaceship trying to get back to earth, whilst fending off alien intruders.  There is no doubt that this game is heavily inspired by a well-known Xenomorph sci-fi movie franchise and has managed to capture the same level of threat and fear that is associated with the movie franchise; although it can generate much hilarity in equal measure.

NemesisThe overall objective of the game is to ensure that the ship’s engines are working, that you are indeed headed to earth and you get back into a stasis chamber without being ‘infected’.  However, each player has their own secret objective (which they have chosen from two) and as such their agenda may, or may not, align with yours.

As you explore the ship, you are generating noise, which is drawing the intruders toward you; generate too much noise and they will appear and attack …

It may be that in space, no one can hear you scream, but they can all watch on as you screw up your dice rolls and get yourself killed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first play of this (with a couple of rules errors) and would willingly jump into another game with both feet.

Cerebria – The Inside World (2018)

The final selection on this list is Cerebria, by Mindclash Games.  Having really enjoyed both of their previous games, Trickerion and Anachrony, I backed the Kickstarter for this within hours of it going live, and had been looking forward to it all year.  This is the third game from Mindclash Games and once again, they did not disappoint.

I will say that although the game specifies 2-4 players, it is best played with 4.

Cerebria - The Inside WorldCerebria is a team based area control game where the players take the role of Spirits representing opposing sides of human nature, Bliss and Gloom, fighting to gain overall control of the human’s mind (game board) by moving around the different realms to perform actions and play cards in order to take control of the realms.

When each round end is triggered, the teams add fragments to the identity (in the middle of the board) depending on completed objectives.  This means that although a team may control the most realms at the end of the game, this does not necessarily mean they are the winners.

Once again, Mindclash Games have produced a well thought out and well themed moderately heavy game, in both gameplay and physical size, which is so enthralling you really don’t notice the time pass … I’m am again, looking forward to their next release.

Honourable Mentions

As with many of us, there are so many games we all get to play throughout the year that there are many more we want to put on the list, but don’t make for one reason or another, but these ones, in particular, I wanted to give a shout out to …

Teotihuacan – City of the Gods (2018)

This actually is a wonderful game and really enjoyed the one time I have played it. However, I would really need a couple more plays to make a good judgement on it; even though at this point I do feel it would be favourable 😉

Ticket to Ride – France & Old West

Simply put, this didn’t make the list because it is an expansion; and one of the better map collections for Ticket to Ride too.  Although the main selling point of this map collection is the France map, I actually prefer the Old West map.

France – You need to place the coloured routes before you can place the trains.  This is a great twist on the base rules and allows for a different map every game.

Old West – You select a starting city and every route you place has to be connected to this city and you can claim additional cities along the way; anyone who has played Trans America/Europa will already be familiar with this rule.  The added twist with this map is the points scoring.  If there are no cities on a route you get the points as normal; however, if one or more of the joining cities are claimed, the points go to the owning players only.

I know there are many more games I could mention, but I have to stop at some point … if there are any games you think I should aim to play next year, keeping in mind the list above, then please let me know in the comments … Otherwise, I hope you all have a good and game-full New Year.

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