7 Wonders Duel – Deck building and card drafting are not mechanisms that I’m particularly fond of and for that reason, 7 Wonders has never been played by me. 7 Wonders Duel, a stand-alone two-player game was released and all I heard was how great it was for two-players. It was on our radar but towards the bottom as again, the mechanics weren’t something we were looking forward to. Clank! helped change our mood toward ‘card’ games and a friends glowing recommendation helped us make a trade of Snow Tails for 7 Wonders Duel. Since receiving the game, it has become a hit for us as a quick, mid-weight exercise. The game is very chess-like with moves and counter moves based on strategy of the players. We’ve enjoyed 7WD so much that we actually gifted our copy and purchased another copy with the expansion and the Broken Token insert.
Clank! In! Space! – Clank! is a favorite in our household and we own all the expansions and promos for it. It was only natural that we would eventually move onto the other iteration of the universe and I’ll be honest, if the Space version gets the same support that the dungeon version has received, I may not ever go back to base Clank! The modular board creates a different experience each game and the small changes, such as activating modules before racing for a treasure, alter the game more than imaginable.
Flamme Rouge – Racing games are hit and miss and 2018 saw a few come across our table (Steampunk Rally, Downforce, etc.) but Flamme Rouge is the stalwart. Such a quick and easy game to learn and grasp that offers strategy and meaningful decision making from the first turn to the last. We enjoyed Flamme Rouge so much that we even attempted a Grand Tour, linking six races one after another with the exhaustion carrying over.
Great Western Trail – GWT is a game that I’ve wanted since it was released but worried that the incredibly dry western theme would turn off my gaming group. We finally got around to playing it yesterday and it was a hit that saw us play back-to-back-to-back-to-back games. Not since Twilight Imperium have I played a game where all I do is think about the next time I get to play it. The turns are elegant and frightening quick and GWT offers such an array of choices that rival any game of its depth and length that I’ve ever played. I could not give any more of a glowing critique of this game. Anyone looking for validation about GWT living up to its enormous hype can stop here because it does.
Hive – You ever have one of those moments where you do or try something and wonder what took you so long to get around to it? That was my thought process after trying out Hive, an abstract tile placement game based off of bugs that was released way back in 2001. Since December 1st (the day we came home with Hive), it has been played fourteen times among four different players. Hive is an absolutely phenomenal two-player game and I can’t believe I waited so long to try it out.
Kepler-3042 – The least played of the games mentioned on this list, I was blown away by the tension I felt with every action in Kepler-3042. The game is a 3x space adventure where every decision matters. The choices and actions aren’t difficult to understand or rationalize but planning and chaining your choices can be. I don’t find this to be any heavier than any game on this list but it is one I struggle to fully piece together the puzzle for. I only played a handful of times in 2018 and while each play pretty much has players interacting with themselves, I’m eagerly looking forward to more plays in 2019.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition – MoM was everything I wanted Betrayal at House on the Hill to be. While I still enjoy the more lightweight social aspect of Betrayal, MoM has eclipsed it in every sense. I was hesitant going into the game initially as I wasn’t sure how I would like the inclusion of the digital app but honestly, it makes the games book keeping much easier and for the most part, I have no complaints regarding it (except it doesn’t have a back button. Why for the love of God doesn’t it have a back/undo button?).
New Bedford – New Bedford was a game that I was aware of but not one that was ever on my radar. Thanks to the PAX Unplugged flea market, there was a copy going for cheap that I jumped on as more of a ‘why not’ purchase. New Bedford was worth every discounted penny. It’s an incredibly quick worker placement game with a somewhat morbid (yet historical) theme. It feels like a light version of heavier worker placement games
Rajas of the Ganges – I was told that Rajas of the Ganges was a Castles of Burgundy killer. While it hasn’t killed off CoB, it’s definitely worthy to be mentioned in the same breath. The gameplay and decision making is solid but what sells Rajas over similar dice placement games is that once the game is set up, there is just playing until the game ends. There is no between round restocking of items or reshuffling of cards or anything of that nature. The game has not and will not replace Castles of Burgundy but for every two or three times we bring out that classic, Rajas will also be played.
Tobago – My ultimate thrift find of the year, I was thrilled to grab a complete copy of this game at a second hand shop. Tobago had been on my grail list since I learned of it and I worried I’d never be able to find an affordable copy. The game has a simple deduction mechanic coupled with amazing components. Each turn is a cat and mouse of who will reveal what and where and then in turn, who can collect the newly discovered treasures. The mechanics are so smooth and impressing that I’m charmed every time this hits the table.
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition – This was a game that I told myself I needed to play just once…just to see what the appeal was. I sweet talked my friends into trying it out and locally stumbled across a brand new copy half price. It was an omen and a date was set to play the game. Since purchasing the game in the summer, we’ve played three times and TI4 ranks as one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I am always looking forward to the next play and spend countless hours bashing myself for decisions I did, or did not, make.
There were a few games I omitted as I wrote reviews of them and that rationale helped me cut down the list a little. A Fake Artist Goes to New York, BEEEEES!, Can’t Stop, and Cockroach Poker would definitely make this list and almost had me expand to twenty.