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,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – August 5th, 2019

The steps of a Pandemic: a Contagion, a Rapid Response, and hopefully The Cure.

So this weeks game night was Pandemic dice themed! OK, only 2 of the 3 games were actually dice games, but the third was still radically different from the base so I am counting it 🙂

Dice and I have a complicated relationship. If rolling 6 of a kind will kill me, you can be sure it’s a 50/50 thing that I will roll six of a kind. That kind of relationship adds to the ‘draw a card and lose’ gameplay of Pandemic.

There are a lot of ‘the Dice Game’ variants out there. Some don’t have the same feel and miss, and some become more popular than the base game. A round of Istanbul the Dice Game anyone?

I don’t think Pandemic: The Cure is quite in the latter category, but it is a version I would like to get to the table more often. If you know players that are more interested in throwing dice than playing with cards, give Pandemic: The Cure a look.

It's very close to the original Pandemic experience, but with Dice!

Second week in a row, Pandemic: Rapid Response makes it to the table.

We had another new player, so I played it the same way as last time – no timer until we did the first city card, then the timer comes into play. Also, we didn’t play with the extra crisis cards, that additional ‘oh no’ when the timer runs out.

Another new player, same result – Rapid Response was a fun game to play. Yes, it takes a couple of rounds to start to see how everything works, but that is common among a lot of games.

Maybe next round I can play with the same group, and play with timer and perhaps crisis cards from the get-go.

I am really enjoying Rapid Response

After saving the world a couple of times (alright, once – we lost The Cure), I thought it would be time to give the virus a go.

Pandemic: Contagion was the first game I am aware of in the extended Pandemic universe, and you play as viruses trying to infect as many people as possible.

Even though the game night was Dice themed, I threw Contagion on as an end of game night choice just for something different, and it worked.

I had forgotten how much fun Contagion could be. It wasn’t a game that took the game world by storm, but it has a strong base and is a fun diversion. I am glad I pulled it back out for another round 🙂

Sick of saving the world? Pandemic Contagion may be for you!

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (PSVR)

So something surprised me this weekend – I finished Wolfenstein Cyberpilot.
There was a bit of a story twist, but at the end of the day, it’s four levels that I think I played for about 2 hours and then saw the credits.

Looking through the trophy list I saw a few things that sound like fun and will be challenging to aim for, but while I didn’t expect an epic game I did expect more.

That said, it was fun, and I enjoyed it. I might go for the platinum. I am not sure at the moment. If I can make some time with Harls maybe I will probably try more for the Youngblood platinum, but Cyberpilot could remain a fun distraction on the side.

Good Doggy. It is fun playing the as the Panzerhund.

Beat Saber (PSVR)

Here I am, firmly back on the Beat Saber train. I haven’t been able to play as much as I wanted, but I did get to play a lot more than I have been this week.

And this week I finally got to do something I have been working on for ages with the Vive version – I finished every level of the campaign!

I have come close a couple of times, but without a cloud save for the PC I have had to start again a couple of times. Ah well, just means playing more Beat Saber!

Now to platinum Beat Saber I have mainly the Expert level trophies and some time ones to get. My goal is to have the Beat Saber platinum before PAX – wish me luck!

Expert Turn Me On with a window of required hand movement. But I cleared it eventually 🙂

Blood and Truth (PSVR)

I bought Blood and Truth when it came out, but I just hadn’t had any time to give it a try. That was unfortunate, as I had a ball trying it out Saturday afternoon.

Some tracking issues took me a while to sort out, and the start of the game has you doing next to nothing for an extended period. But once you get past that, I had a great time shooting my way through a casino, laying explosives and tagging bad guys.

I even got the ‘Bogey Man’ trophy very quickly, racking up six consecutive headshot kills.

Now I have finally started playing I will give it a better run through next weekend. But if you have a PSVR and haven’t tried it out, my take right now is it looks very promising.

And... my capture messed up and I didn't catch a screenshot. Oops. Next week.

Final Fantasy X (Switch)

Flying around a fair bit this week, I got in some quality Final Fantasy X time on the plane.

Story-wise I am still in the lightning plains partially as I am grinding a bit for sphere levels, also because I am trying to remember what the glowing cactaur stones do.

One feat for this run was winning my first league in Blitz Ball. Now I can spend some more time finishing the story, which I will need to start getting a move on with.

Sometimes you get bored and let a massively overpowered summons do your work for you

Tetris 99 (Switch)

Also on the plane, I thought I would play against the CPU a bit in Tetris 99. It is a paid add on that I bought for such occasions, so why not?

I jumped into the CPU mode, and just as I started getting into a rhythm, I won the match. I was a little confused but happy. Then I saw how many foes I KO’d.

Now I have said I consider myself an above average Tetris player with plenty of room to improve. But this taught me never to look at someone’s win screen now. I knocked out 21 level 1 CPU opponents.

I cranked the level back up to 5 and started fighting for top 10 again – more what I am used to. It was a lot of fun, but if someone tells you how good they are at Tetris and won’t play in front of you, this could be the reason!

Yeah I won't be trusting a lot of these screens again

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,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – July 29th, 2019

The Pretty Clever Lords of Waterdeep had a Rapid Response to the incident in the Blue Lagoon

It was another great week of gaming! I have a lot of new games coming in via both retail orders and Kickstarters, and quite a few games launched last Friday and I got to play two of them!

Travel may interefere with my gaming this week, but with the original Doom trilogy, finihsing Final Fantasy X and waiting to start Fire Emblem: Three Houses I will have some solid replacement games waiting in the wings!

It has been far too long since I got Lords of Waterdeep to the table. It was a mix of new players and a couple of veterans, and everyone had just as good a time.

Lords of Waterdeep takes a long time to play, especially when learning. But two brand new players jumped in and played the full expanded game (to accomodate 6 players) with no issues at all.

It was a fun night, with breaks for dinner and desert making for a long but very social night. Expect to see more on this game over time, it still makes me happy to play 🙂

Lords of Waterdeep is my most 'blinged' game, hands down.

Playing solo, I am still enjoying That’s Pretty Clever on my phone. But I am thinkign of a Roll and Write night for my games night, so I pulled out the physical version again.

That was for 2 reasons. First, you quickly forget how much admin the app does for you! Secondly, playing the physical version takes longer and I wanted to get a feel for how long a game may take per player.

My biggest gripe is I was concentrating so much on those things, I made very poor decisions. Maybe I should take a bit longer and go for a much better score!

I pulled out the physical version for something different, even though I was playing solo

Another Alpal special that I would never have even thought to look for – and it’s a Reiner Knizia game!

Very similar in a lot of respects to games like Through the Desert, Blue Lagoon has players exploring land and collecting resources. A lot of players start turning away at such a description, but Blue Lagoon is surpricingly accessible for all players.

Want to claim a chunk of land as yours? Have more people on it. Want to have explored the most? Have people on every island. Add set collection for the resources, and you have the trademark ‘everything gives you points somehow’ of a Knizia game.

Another Reiner Knizia classic - simple yet deep, with the top 3 spots within 6 points of each other

We had a four player game, and even on the very first game almost everything clicked quickly for everyone. You play in two stages, and there are slight placement changes between the two, but it’s a game you can teach and be playing wihtin five minutes every time.

I have been looking forward to this since it’s announcement. Rapid Response is the latest addition to the Pandemic universe, and is designed by Kane Klenko of Fuse, Flatline and Flipships fame.

A real time turn based race against the clock, players have to strategise, carry out their turn and hope luck is with them against an unstoppable force – the timer :p

Instead of using cards like normal Pandemic, players roll dice and use worker placement type mechanics to create enough supplies to save a town after an unnamed disaster.

I was worried this would have the same initial 'huh' factor as Fuse and Flatline. There was nothing to be worried about.

Every time the timer runs out (every 2 minutes), you lose a token and a new city has a disaster you must deal with. Every time you save a city, you get a token back, so there is no downtime in this game!

We played until we cleared the first card without a timer to make sure we had the mechanics and the like nailed down. We also played without the crisis cards – extra machanics to increase the challenge!

Unlike explaining Fuse and Flatline to new players, Pandemic: Rapid Response seemed to click a lot better and work a lot smoother out of the gate. Look forward to a formal review in the next few weeks!

Gloomhaven (Steam)

You knew I was going to give this another go. Or thirty.

Nothing has changed since I played last week, but I am still really enjoying the ability to jump in and just clear a dungeon.

I am thinking of resetting and playing with all 4 available characters, but that will be in a week or so. I am having fun just finding my feet with the systems again.

One thing I did do differently was move Gloomhaven to my ultrawide screen, and I am glad I did. The extra screen real estate works nicely, and it the UI doesn’t feel strange like some other games.

It's a little thing, but I really love the little touches already present - like the adventure 'map'

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (PSVR)

Both games coming out Friday interested me for very different reasons.

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot has you strapped to a chair and using the move controllers as virtual control sticks – both in and out of the game.

The first level has you controlling a panzerhoung – a giant robot dog with a flamethrower, and the second level has you controlling a drone with a cloak and short range zap.

I only finished two levels, but I have played enough to know I want to finish it. I don’t know if I want to platinum it, but we will see.

Flying a drone through an enemy office. That guard is about to get a shock :p

Fair warning though – in the drone level, I got my first case of VR motion sickness in a very long time. It may have been because I was playing standing while my ‘body’ was seated, but it defninitely happened. I will let you know how that goes as I play more.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood (PS4)

The other Wolfenstein game, Youngblood, had me as a co-op shooter I could play with Rabbit. Thanks to the buddy system, I only need to buy one copy of the game, and I can play with any of my friends – with some restrictions. I will talk more about that during the week.

Playing at the moment in offline mode myself, I am surprised how much Wolfenstein: Youngblood has drawn me in. I can stealth almost every area, but the run and gun gunplay is satisfying when things go wrong.

If all zeppelins had nightclub casinos, I am sure they would be a lot more popular!

Developed with Arkane Studios, the Dishonoured and Prey mechanics are very much present and fit right in. Stealth, collectables, great level pacing – it’s all here.

If I can setup a regular game partner session time, I think this might be my first Arkane platinum – I am enjoying it that much!

Horizon Chase Turbo (PS4)

Back in the day, I could mostly fit in the arcade Out Run machine at my local shopping center – the one with the car you sat in and moved as you steered. It was different, it was fun, but I never quite had the drive (hah puns!) to finish it.

Last weekend, I sat on my couch and had the exact same experience, minus the moving chair.

You can grab Horizon Chase Turbo on PlayStation Plus for July still (for a few days anyway), and if you would like to kick back with an OK racer with nostalgia feels, it works? Personally, I will just fire out Burnout Paradise again next time I want a race.

This is very much old school racing - even down to the graphics

Beat Saber (PSVR)

Yep, switched back to the goold old PSVR for a bit this week after playing the Vive for a couple of weeks.

Beat Saber is still excellent, and you should definitely play it. That hasn’t changed.

Bonuses for PSVR – the screen noticably doesn’t have the ‘screen door’ effect like the Vive does. The headset is more comfortable to wear overall, but it still has the annoying cable that must lead in front of you.

Well that was a terrible cut - but it was a cut!

Bonuses for Vive (w/ wireless adaptor) – No cable, except for a small cable to a battery pack. Obvious increase in precision tracking. Level Editor on PC which I will be messing with in a couple of weeks 🙂

Basically, I don’t think I will ever get sick of playing Beat Saber. I am giving serious thought to finally doing a semi-concentrated platinum run on PSVR though.

What about your week? I hope you had a great one!

What games did you get in? Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Do you have a Gen Con wish list?

Shout out in the comments, on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

A new Pandemic spin off is coming – Pandemic: Rapid Response!

So Alpal, you know how I wasn’t allowed any more Pandemic games?

So last weekend, the unpacking of the games room began.  There is still about 20 boxes to go, and I need to get some more shelves before the actual resorting can begin!

Alpal was giving me a hand (i.e. leading the charge) on the unpacking and was trying to put all of my Pandemic games together. From memory, all I am missing is the Pandemic spin-off expansion The Cure – Experimental Meds, and they weren’t sitting nicely on the shelf.  Alpal’s solution?  Ban me from buying more Pandemic games :p

Well, that rule is about to go right out of the window.  Last night, Z-Man Games announced a new Pandemic spin-off called Pandemic: Rapid Response.  Rapid Response is a real-time cooperative game from Kane Klenko of Fuse and Covert fame.

It's a theme that keeps on giving! Pandemic has another spin off game
The board already makes a lot of sense - the body of the board is your plane, with the outside the plane's location in the world

Players take on the role of an elite response team dealing with natural disasters all over the world.  This time it’s not just diseases you are dealing with!

Pandemic: Rapid Response refers as much to the theme as it does what players will need to do to win. Where in the normal Pandemic you have until you draw your card to make a decision, now you only have until the timer runs out to fix everything on the board!

Mechanically, Pandemic: Rapid Response looks like a fusion of the base Pandemic and another medical-themed Kane Klenko game – Flatline.

Players roll dice to do various tasks that boil down to rolling certain symbols to fulfill different tasks.  Movement is still sort of handled by dice, but it’s by paying/sacrificing a general die rather than rolling a specific one.

Like Fuse and Flatline, your choices are partly limited by how well you roll. And how quickly you can change plans.
It's not a Pandemic Game without different player powers

And there are the player powers. It can’t be a Pandemic game without everyone having different abilities!

Some examples are the Analyst gets more reroll opportunities, while the engineer gets to treat the plane symbol as wild (effectively).

Just like in the base Pandemic, it’s learning how these roles fit with your playstyle initially, then changing them up to increase the difficulty and help replayability.

Because you are dealing with more than ‘just’ viruses, each city needs different aid depending on what disaster has befallen it.  This helps make resources more generic, helping limit the number of resources what you need to create and manage.

But Pandemic’s requirement of needing to read the future hasn’t disappeared entirely – each city has it’s own problems, and that means it’s own solutions!  There may only be a small number of resources required in total, but stock up on the wrong ones and you will be losing cities in no time.

City cards are of course returning, and show what that city will need to help it

So today I have given general gameplay thoughts, but in a more definitive way than other game announcement articles. That’s because Rodney Smith of Watch It Played has already got a rules video up!

You don’t need to be a Pandemic fan to play Pandemic: Rapid Response.  It’s a completely self-contained game that while in the Pandemic universe, backstory and previous game mechanics won’t really be of help.

And we won’t have to wait long to play it either!  In the US, Pandemic: Rapid Response is a Target exclusive, and their website has the launch date of 15/6/2019.  Rapid indeed!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD