Top 10 Board Games 2019 (That I actually played)

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My first list in over 18 months!

It has been far too long since I have done a list like this. Once thing I noticed when I compiled my list was the numebr of games I meant to review but didn’t get around to! So these lists have helped from a roadmap for a lot of reviews this year already 🙂

As you may have guessed from the title, this list is made up of games I actually played this year. I tried to also restrict it to games that were released in 2019, and no expansions. As I didn’t do a 2018 list I kind of fudged that rule a bit though as you will see.

Think I missed a great game? That is a possibility. It might also be on tomorrow’s list – Top 10 Games of 2019 I Wish I Played!

Any list like this is very subjective. Even without bending the rules a little bit for eiligability this year, I may have played a game you loved but it didn’t make the cut. That doesn’t mean I don’t like that game or think it’s bad – I just liked these games better. I would love to hear what games you think should be on this list!

All that said and done, let’s get on to my favourite games of 2019.

Number 10 – MegaCity: Oceania

MegaCity: Oceania is an exciting game. Not quite a dexterity game, not quite a city builder, but something in-between. And it is better for it.

Right off the bat, MegaCity: Oceania won’t be everyone’s first choice to play. It might not even be their second choice. But I can’t see many people that wouldn’t play it if it was in front of them.

Not into deep strategy games? Just have fun building your cities. Not the greatest at building blocks? Go for the ‘safe’ buildings and use location to your point advantage.

I played this right at the end of 2019, so it has the ‘fresh in my mind’ advantage. But while a review will be coming, if you get the chance to try MegaCity: Oceania, give it a go and enjoy a light but fun experience.

MegsCity Oceania

So I heard a lot this year that Pandemic: Rapid Response isn’t a ‘Pandemic’ game. That it’s theme was not there or too hard to immerse yourself in.

I don’t understand most of these arguments. These are all things I will cover in the full review later. For now, all I can say about Pandemic: Rapid Response is that is was a fun time on the table. I felt that the theme made sense for the gameplay, with certain leaps of logic that Pandemic already asks you to make in other games.

Was it perfect? Nope. But we did have a lot of fun, and that is what counts most of all.

Pandemic Rapid Response

Number 8 – That’s Pretty Clever

So I really got into That’s Pretty Clever last year, both physically and digitally. A tremendous mental puzzle that allowed you to zone out while playing, I really enjoyed playing this game.

My biggest complaint about it has nothing to do with the game at all. What was my gripe? I always played solo. You can play against other people, but I just never really found the time to start a group game. And the digital implementation is basically solo only, so there goes that idea.

For my full review, click here.

Thats Pretty Clever

Number 7 – Disney Villainous

Well, Villainous took me by surprise. I only got to play a few rounds with Alpal, but they were really, really fun.

There are usually two drawbacks to multiple themed card games. The first – learning curve. You have to learn all of the decks to know what works and what doesn’t. Secondly – mashing the ‘wrong’ cards together. Having Genie face-off against Snow White’s the Hunter doesn’t always work.

Prospero Hall took care of both issues with elegant simplicity – you pick a deck, and your opponents use your cards against you. You are even given tips on how to win/what to watch for on all of the other characters.

Is Disney Villainous a top tier competitive game? Of course not! But it is a quick and fun game that you can have new players getting into straight away, and that is always appreciated.

Disney Villainous

The first Roll Player ‘universe’ game I played, I was a little confused about Lockup when I first saw it. How could you take the dice placement of Roll Player and make it work as a bluffing worker allocation game?

The answer is you don’t. You let it be its own game within the world of Roll Player and enjoy.

Lockup was a game that I wouldn’t have seen for a while without Alpal’s influence, and I can imagine a lot of other gamers being in the same boat. If you get the chance, give Lockup a try – even if you didn’t like Roll Player. The game is entirely different and deserves to be judged on its own.

Lockup A Roll Player Tale

Ahh, Funko Pops. I have too many, and not enough. I will not let myself buy any Kingdom Hearts ones though. If I get just one, I will need to get the rest. And we already don’t have enough room!

Why am I going on about Funko Pops? Because now they have their own strategy game! Games? They have lots of things coming out!

The Funkoverse Strategy Game is no Memoir 44, Warhammer, or even Imperial Assault. It is very streamlined, quick to play, and with an expanding universe of characters and missions, here to stay. The only pack I am missing so far is The Golden Girls. I knew I had to try this when on the internet someone was complaining that Bea Arthur was the most overpowered character in the game.

Just let that sink in – Bea Arthur is seen as stronger than Batman, Rick Sanchez, The Joker, or even Voldemort.

Whether in amusement or disbelief, you must be smiling about that. And that moment of silly suspension coupled with simplified tactics and Pops replacing minis makes Funkoverse a great experience.

Number 4 – Escape the Dark Castle

So this one may be seen as a cheat, as I have definitely played it before 2019. But 2019 is when I got the collectors big box and expansions. I also didn’t do a 2018 list. So, it’s on the list!

Escape the Dark Castle is a light narrative dungeon romp that is still fun to play. Similar to a Fighting Fantasy/Choose Your Own Adventure game with randomised ‘pages’, each run is different. And that is just with the original base cards!

For my full thoughts, you can check out my review here. For something a little different, you can listen to Alpal and I playing here 🙂

Escape The Dark Castle

Wolfgang Warsch seems to have come out of nowhere in the last couple of years. The Mind, That’s Pretty Clever, Twice as Clever, and now The Quacks of Quedlinburg. The man has yet to design a game I haven’t enjoyed.

Quacks of Quedlinburg is my favourite to date though. It contains a ‘rubber band’ catch up mechanic similar to Mario Kart. What is this? If you are behind, you are given some advantages to help you catch up to the leader, keeping it competitive. And it is implemented so seamlessly, it was a couple of games in before I realised how good it is.

Yes, there are some random elements. Push your luck is also a more significant part of the game than I usually give it credit for. I enjoy it so much, and we are yet to play an ‘advanced’ game.

If you have a mixed group of players and are looking from something different, play The Quacks of Quedlinburg.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Another game not released in 2019, but I have had a ball playing it through the year. Also, this would have been on my top games of 2018 list, but that didn’t happen! Replacing the mancala like movement strategies of the original board game with dice rolling sounds disastrous, but it works well.

I know plenty of players that love the idea of Istanbul but get frustrated at various aspects of the gameplay. For these people, the dice game works wonderfully. You get the same sense of tension and racing your opponents as you do with the board game but in a fraction of the time.

If you are new to gaming, Istanbul: The Dice Game is a fun introduction to an intense euro game with a natural learning curve. The tactics you learn in the dice game can carry to the board game quite easily, even if it doesn’t look like it at first.

If I want to play a game, Istanbul: The Dice Game is usually on the list of options. For more information, check out the review here.

Istanbul The Dice Game

Number 1 – Chronicles of Crime

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective remade for the digital age. There are plenty of new deduction games out there, including Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game and Detective: City of Angels, both with their own twist.

Chronicles of Crime is probably the most accessible to play and works well in small sessions. Lucky Duck Games have outdone themselves with this setup.

The use of QR Codes makes reading easier to digest for most people. Instead of being faced with a wall of text, everything is in smaller bites. Plus you can actually interrogate people about items, something that is very difficult in the preprinted document format a la Consulting Detective/Legacy of Dragonholt.

The look on new players faces as they use their phones to actually examine a crime scene is priceless as well.

I am yet to make it through all of the original cases. I also have both expansions to look forward to. Chronicles of Crime is easily my choice for the best game of 2019, and I look forward to playing it through 2020 as well.

Chronicles of Crime

Honorable Mention

Deep Space D-6

I was really tempted to give Deep Space D-6 a spot on this list. A solo game only game that came out a few years ago, I still love to pull this out now and then.

Released in 2015, I only got my hands on it this year. By my bedning of the rulesfor thiis year, I could have found a way. The main reason I marked it off the list is that it is only solo, where as every other game on the list you can play with others.

All that said, for 2020 the follow up is now live on Kickstarter – Deep Space D-6: Armada. Check out my review of the original Deep Space D-6 here., then check out the Kickstarter here.

Deep Space D-6

What do you think? Is there a game you saw me talk about in Last Week’s Gaming that you think should be on this list?

Or even better, what were your Top 10 games of 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,


Last Week’s Gaming – June 10th, 2019

The Quacks of Istanbul are a Stack of Rocks.

Yeah, that one was reaching, but it’s been one of those weeks. At least I managed to get in some great play time this week!

Not mentioned below, I am finally up to the part of Final Fantasy X when I can just go and play Blitzball. Yay! But.

It’s been ages since I played FFX properly, but I lost the opening tournament 1-0. There seemed to be some harsh ‘randomisation’ happening, but still. I have won it before. Maybe I will reload the save and play it again to win? Find out what I do next week!

On to what Alpal and I did get to play this week 😀

Trivia games. One of the problems with them is you usually need a few people. But what if you could play alone?

It’s a simple premise – there are a bunch of questions, and the answers can only be 0, 1 or 2. Read the question, lock in your answer, shake the box of rocks for its answer, then see who is right.

First to three wins. Simple, right? And yet, somehow, I only won after a tiebreaker. That’s not embarrassing at all. But it was a bunch of fun 😀

It's a simple premise, and should be easy. But it came to a tie-breaker!

Dexterity games. I seem to have a love-hate relationship with this genre. But I will always come back for more!

Maki Stack is kind of a sushi themed Junk Art? In its most basic form, build a stack as outlined on the cards from the sushi wooden components. The catch? You have to use one finger from each hand as your ‘chopsticks’!

Then, you can play in teams of two, and you each use one finger each to build the stack. Finally, you can play in teams but blindfold one team member for maximum ridiculousness!

Maki Stack was a quick bit of fun and another on the list that without Alpal I would never know about.

If Junk Art makes you hungry, don't play Maki Stack! :p

Three players this time, and it was just as fun as the original game!

Playing with a brand new player that admittedly only had half a rules explanation, we settled in for a fun round of push your luck/card counting fun.

Our scores were not as high as the first game, but even with an on the fly rules explanation and no concept of end game scoring, Annabelle took the win by 1 point!

It’s one of the things I love about this 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner – while there are layers of the game there waiting to be explored, played at it’s simplest it’s an amazingly fun time!

The rubber band scoring works so well in this game!

Ended games day with an old favourite – Instanbul the dice game 😀

Alpal managed to do the sneaky ‘I went from 4-6 rubies and you don’t get another turn’ win, which is one of the feelings the dice game captures from the board game so perfectly!

I do have an annoying habit from another player of trying to call the rubies red diamonds though :p

Always a welcome addition to the game night, I stand by my 9/10 review of Istanbul the Dice Game.

20190415 Istanbul Dice Game
Roll your dice, and try to get more rubies than your opponents

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,


Last Week’s Gaming – April 15th, 2019

20190415 Tetris 99 Winner


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Mythos Tales

So the final case has been played.  This game has left me with a lot of ups and downs.  From the Kickstarter itself, the poor quality of the first edition, inconsistent case quality, it’s been a journey.

Expect the full review soon now, but the final case was a great night.  It was indeed an interesting round, with many possible choices.  Harls and I were wary as there are only a few pages to the case, but they were good ones.  Multiple choices, red herrings, logic leaps that are actually achievable – it was a great end.

20190401 Mythos Tales
It almost always looks like the same shot. It's a book, a map, and some cards - it's hard to get action shots 🙂

Dice Town

I have been trying to play Dice Town for quite some time, and thanks to Alpal I got the chance this week.

Even though my luck with dice isn’t great, Dice Town is definitely a great time.  Essentially poker Yahtzee, players roll dice to make the best hand you can.

But it’s not straight poker – each ‘card’ has a corresponding ability section on the game board.  Win these sections, and you can get points and use special abilities.

Playing a couple of rounds, it was a great time and I am sure I can talk Alpal into a few more games for a proper review 🙂

20190415 Dice Town
It may look complicated, but Dice Town is a great quick fun game

Istanbul The Dice Game

Ahh, Istanbul the Dice Game.  I don’t know what it is about this version of the classic game, but I love it.

Roll the dice, and adapt your strategy on the fly.  All three of us ended up with the 6 rubies required for the end game, but Elle definitely took home the tiebreaker.

Istanbul the Board Game is a great puzzle that I enjoy, but the Dice Game still gives me the same feeling in a lighter game mode.  Always a lot of fun to play.

20190415 Istanbul Dice Game
Roll your dice, and try to get more rubies than your opponents

Tetris 99

Tetris 99 has an event going this weekend, and I played quite a few games.  Even got a couple of wins, which was a great feeling 😀

If you have a Nintendo Switch and Online, grab yourself Tetris 99.  It’s free, it’s fun, what more can I say?

The Battle Royale format gives the games an interesting twist.  But at the end of the day, it’s Tetris – what can you really say about it?

A new patch has made the controls a little more sensitive, but everything is still working great with the Joy Cons.  I haven’t tried the Pro Controller or the Hori controller with the new version, but I am sure I will soon.

20190415 Tetris 99 Hard Start
Well this was a fun way to start. A few pieces in, and the pressure starts to mount

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,


Clear, Concise Ramblings 004 – Istanbul the Dice Game

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I will trade fruit for rubies.  So many rubies.

Welcome to the fourth Clear, Concise Ramblings!

This week, Alpal and I talk about one of my favourite games – Istanbul the Dice Game!

It’s amazing how this game climbed my favourite game list so quickly, don’t forget to check my review if you would like some more info.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Last Week’s Gaming October 8th 2018

Super Mario Party 20181008

Down the Castle to Istanbul for the Party

It looks a little light on gaming this week, and in a lot of ways, it was.  PAX Aus is less than three weeks away, and I start driving to Melbourne in less than two!

I got the chance to do a few different things which have been amazing, and I will talk about all that in detail as soon as I can.  On to what I got to play last week!

Istanbul the Dice Game

Istanbul the Dice Game is a rare treasure for me.  Normally when you have a ‘The Dice Game’ version, some artwork and terms are reused but the game just feels completely different.

Not so with Istanbul.  In the time it takes to teach and play the first game of Istanbul the Dice Game, you are starting to take a new player into the opening rounds of Istanbul the Board Game.

At the end of both games, each player is working out what they could have done differently to get that extra ruby ahead – even though the play mechanics are completely different!

I am always up for a round or two or Istanbul the Dice Game.

Istanbul the Dice Game 20181008
Simple to teach, great to play, and no two games are ever the same. I really enjoy Istanbul the Dice Game

Dragon Castle

I spoke about Dragon Castle in last week’s game list, and another couple of rounds were played.

With all of us getting into the swing of the game and some scoring strategies in play, the games are still just as fun as when we were still learning.

So far we have only played the maximum four players, but there will be some time set aside to play two and three players for a final review coming in the near future.

Dragon Castle 20181008
Dragon Castle is aa game I am very much warming up to.


Ahhh Downforce.  The most versatile simple racing game I know.

Restoration Games has hit it out of the park so far, and there is no reason I have to never play Downforce.  It’s quick, easy to teach, and always fun.

I have heard a few people coming down on Downforce as being too simple or not strategic enough, and this is a valid viewpoint.  If you are looking for a deep experience like Formula D, Downforce isn’t your game.

But for me and my game group, Downforce is a safe fallback that will be on the games list for a long time, and new tracks mean it will have centre stage fairly regularly as well.

Downforce 20181008
Always a fun racing game! One day my car/s will be in that top spot 😀

Super Mario Party

I haven’t played Mario Party for ages, and even then it was only a couple of goes with one other player.

With the Switch though I am looking forward to a couple of party nights in the future.  I played it only on the Switch screen and found it a little hard to see, so I am thinking this is definitely a game you should play docked to a TV.

There have also been a few complaints about the controls only working away from the Switch.  I played a few mini-games that required quite a bit of motion and hitting the L and R buttons at the same time.  The twisting the whole Switch while the Joy Con is connected would lose you the screen and be very awkward to play!

Super Mario Party 20181008
It's the first Mario Party I have played since the DS, and it looks like it will be just as fun 😀

If anyone complains about having to use a Joy Con, I think they may be missing the point.  Yes, using the Joy Con as a mini controller is not entirely natural, but if my big hands can do it in the short bursts Super Mario Party asks of you, I don’t really see what the fuss is about.

Can’t wait to play this with two or three others, and this will definitely be on the PAX Aus play list!

What about you?  What have you been playing this week?  Let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

Until next time,


Istanbul The Dice Game Review

Istanbul The Dice Games Box Art
Istanbul The Dice Games Box Art
Released 2017
Designer Rüdiger Dorn
Publisher Pegasus Spiele (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (Fan based solo rules on BGG)
Playing Time 20-30 minutes
Category Dice Rolling
Push Your Luck
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

I am not making the Constantinople joke.  I hear it all the time.

You may have heard of Alpal and I discussing Istanbul: The Dice Game in the Blatherings last week.  Today, welcome to the formal review!

If you have never played Istanbul, it is a game that I would encourage people that enjoy a medium weight game to play it.  The purpose of the game is simple – be the first player to obtain six rubies.  This is done by various trades and exchanges, and you travel around an randomly created marketplace via a mancala mechanic.

It is a unique game and one enjoyed by a large portion of my regular gaming group.  Don’t believe me?  Istanbul was also the winner of the 2014 Kennerspiel des Jahres, as well as many other awards and nominations.

Anyone that has played the original Istanbul will be pleased that the core of the game remains so intact, in what is a completely different game.

Where the original Istanbul is a very logical and strategic affair with near perfect information, Istanbul the Dice Game is a true dice game where your fate lies in your rolls and ability to react on the fly.

What it definitely isn’t is a case of Yahtzee with Istanbul symbols like some other dice versions – many of the features of the board game are cleverly integrated into the game.  This make the dice game a great choice for people that enjoy lighter luck based games, especially compared to the board game.

Istanbul Game Layout
Istanbul the Board Game - all this has been condensed down to a fun dice game!

Overview on How To Play

Istanbul is a market bargaining game.  You collect resources and trade them in for rubies.  When a player gets 6 rubies, this triggers the end game where play continues until all players have had the same number of turns (i.e. back to first player).

Then it’s a simple matter of the most rubies wins!  What tends to happen when playing though is that more than one player has six rubies, so people cash in their goods for money which acts as a tiebreaker.

How do you go about collecting things?  That’s simple – you roll the die and see what resources you have!

Everyone starts the game with five dice, and the ability to play two actions.  The actions are pretty much all exchanging dice and goods for other items, including rubies.

Istanbul the Dice Game Dice
All of your possible dice actions, and four of them are essentially the same thing - just pick a colour!

On each die, one side of each of the four resources is shown – cloth (red), fruit (yellow), spices (green) and jewelry (blue).  The other two sides are coins (Lira) and Bazaar cards, which I will talk about in more detail later.

As I previously stated, Istanbul the Dice game is fairly simple – you need to collect six rubies.  To collect rubies, you use your dice rolls to build up resources, then hand in those resources to collect the corresponding ruby.

But it’s not quite as simple as just collecting some fruit for a ruby either.  If you look at the board, you will see the rubies laid out in a manner that makes sense pretty much as soon as you look at it.

Istanbul the Dice Game Three Player Setup
The 'play' board - setup for three players. Look at all those rubies!

For example, to collect the fruit ruby you must pay 4 fruit resources as an action, as shown on the board.  But as you take the ruby from the right, the cost increases – the next player needs to pay five resources, shown as the ruby is taken.  All goods are costed like this, so you want to be first to get in and get ‘cheap’ rubies.

So how do you pay for the higher cost items?  By collecting resources from turn to turn.  Every turn, you will have whatever you roll on your dice, but you can store goods for later as well.

For example, if you roll two cloth, you can store a single cloth tile in your warehouse to use it later.  Have three different resources?  You can exchange those for a crate, or a wildcard resource.  Did you roll a rainbow and have one of each resource?  You can pick any two resource tiles (apart from crates) that you like!

Istanbul the Dice Game Actions
The complete list of actions available to you in Istanbul. It looks complicated, but is very simple and comprehensive.

This will be most of your actions, especially in the early parts of the game as you build your stockpile.  But do you go on an early spending spree, or hoard everything until the end?  With only two actions per turn, you can only exchange for two rubies, and the longer you wait the more expensive they become, so timing is everything.

The next common action is exchanging the Lira you rolled for money in the game – each die you rolled is worth 2 Lira and you get to build up your bank.

But there are ways to gain advantages during play as well, in the form of Bazaar Cards and Mosque Tiles.

Bazaar Cards can be exchanged from the Bazaar Cards die face, and offer one-time instant bonus opportunities to the player.  You may be able to gain a resource and lira, or exchange one resource for two others.

You may also be able to cash in situational bonuses – for example, if you have one of each resource, you can cash them in to take one ruby from anywhere on the board.

Istanbul the Dice Game Bazzar Cards
A selection of the Bazaar Cards. They play a surprisingly vital role to the game.

One thing about Bazaar Cards though is the majority not only help you but can help other players as well.  For example, you might be able to pick up a Cloth and three Lire, but all other players can pick up a Cloth OR three Lira.

If you roll multiple Bazaar Cards, when cashing them in as your action you can pick up that many Bazaar Cards and choose which one to play, giving you a little more control over the situation.

Mosque Tiles however probably have the biggest impact on making your own game unique each time.

These Tiles are laid out in a group of six, and you simply pay the cost on top of the tile similar to purchasing a Ruby.  At the start of each turn, before you roll your dice, you gain certain abilities depending on the tile.

These can be as simple as automatically gaining three Lira at the start of your turn, and increase to taking more actions or even add more die to your roll – probably the most powerful tile in the game.

Istanbul the Dice Game Mosque Tiles
The Mosque Tiles allow you to build your game differently each time, while making your turn unique to the other players as well.

There are also tiles that play during your turn, where you can switch your Lira rolls into taking one resource tile of a set type (e.g. rolled a coin but don’t want the cash?  Take a cloth marker).  These can also have a big impact on the game, as it allows players to get a slightly easier time accruing certain goods.

One feature I haven’t discussed is rerolls – technically, you don’t get any.  The exception to this is crystals, which you can gain by trading in two different resources or via Mosque Tiles and Bazaar cards.  If you trade in a crystal, which does not count as an action, you can choose to reroll as many dice as you wish.

Again, you need to really think about if you are going to reroll or not though.  While cashing in a crystal is simple enough, the fact it will cost you a future action makes it expensive in terms of play economy.  Also, if you are in a tiebreaker situation, crystals are worth three Lira which could tip a win in your favour.

Of course, tiebreakers mean nothing if you don’t think you can get enough rubies to be in the endgame, so it all boils down to picking the right moment and luck being with you.

Why do I enjoy Istanbul the Dice Game?

One thing I really like about Istanbul the Dice Game is that while it is a very competitive game at its heart, there are no real ‘take that’ mechanics in the game.  True, when you buy a ruby the price goes up, but that is the same for yourself just as much as other players.  At no point do you take anything from another player, so no one can be picked on or crowded out in this game, which is something a table can do in Istanbul the Board Game.

The Bazaar Cards are also a clever inclusion as well, and not as an Istanbul mechanic.  Playing one will reward the drawing player the most, but a good number give the other players a benefit as well.  That benefit can be straightforward (take money or goods), but it can also be the choice to exchange something to help them out as well, such as change goods for Lira.

It may seem small, but because Bazaar Cards are so commonly played during a game, players have a level of engagement on each turn, even if it’s just to see if that player will activate a Bazaar Card.  Far too many dice games are simply ‘roll dice – do the thing – tune out until my turn again’.  It’s true you can play this way, but that would be a sign to me that you really aren’t engaging in the game and it may not be for you.

Until next time,


JohnHQLD Blatherings 009 – Gold Fever, The Ratings, Istanbul The Dice Game, Space Base

JohnHQLD's Blatherings Podcast

Finally talking to Alpal about games

Happy weekend everyone!

After a couple of false starts with previous Blatherings, Alpal and I talk about some of the light games we have been playing lately.  We also talk a little about the rating system and our different ways of looking at games.

Have a great weekend everyone!