Brawler Scott Sexton proudly presents his best board games of 2019! From dice chucking Ameri-trash goodness to brain burny Euros, this list has a little something for everything! If you are looking for some of the top board games of 2019, you’ve come to the right place!
10Run Fight or Die: Reloaded – Its easy to overlook RFoD:R as a cheap Zombicide knock off. That is too bad because its really Richard Launius’ “gamery” riff on King of Tokyo. For all of you stuffy sorts who want more crunch and math in your dice games, this isn’t for you. There are plenty of Roll & Writes that try to do that. What RFoD:R does is double down the fun of pressing your luck rather than overwhelm you with volume or depth of decisions. Its my silly dice chucker of choice.
9Sorcerer – I’m a sucker for dueling wizard card games. Mage Wars is still one of my favorite games of all time. The problem with Mage Wars is that its an LCG that requires deck construction ahead of time. Sorcerer offers a unique LCG play experience every time without bogging things down with all that pesky deck construction. You can randomly pick (or draft) three sets of cards, shuffle them together, and voila you have a surprisingly cohesive deck of spells and beasties to do battle with. Sorcerer isn’t good enough to dethrone the modern classic that is Omen, but its good for the occasional but always satisfying romp. (Editors Note: Make sure to check out Scott’s full review of Sorcerer from White Wizard Games.)
8Nemesis – Here is a surprise, I enjoy highly narrative Ameritrash games. Nemesis does a faithful job of emulating the Alien movie franchise. Players will die. The dice will be unfair. The occasional table will be flipped, but it all feels true to the source material. In some ways Nemesis gives me a similar vibe to another “movie in a box game” that I enjoy, Camp Grizzly. Regardless of the outcome, the game gives me the sense that I’ve just watched an entertaining genre film. While neither game is truly scary, they absolutely nail the mood and tension of a good popcorn flick.
7Football Highlights: 2052 – She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. Mike Fitzgerald designs are equal parts innovative and WTF. Like all his best card games, if you can get past the learning curve, you are going to find a gem of a game. FH is probably forever doomed to be the Cousin Oliver to the masterpiece that is Baseball Highlights: 2045, but that doesn’t make it a bad game. Its worthy of breaking out for a nice change of pace or owning if you simply LOVE American style football. FH is a game that takes a while to really “get” how clever it is, but once you’ve got a few games under your belt, you’ll be cycling through your check downs and calling audibles on the fly like a pro. While technically, this game isn’t a must buy for fans of the superior BH, it does make for a very good self contained expansion to the BH legacy.
6Court of the Dead: Mourner’s Call – COD is a really weird dudes on the map style game. On the one hand its so simple that you could have called it “My First Dudes On A Map Game” except that it has these two game tracks that are so weird and difficult to wrap your head around that it makes developing long term strategies difficult. The game’s narrative wants you to think that this is a semi-cooperative game, but that yarn is a lie. How often is your rule book an unreliable narrator? Its an opaque challenge, and I dig that, but this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The components are out of this world gorgeous, which is the main advantage this has over games like El Grande or San Marco. COD is a fun WTF game that isn’t going to fire anybody’s copy of Blood Rage, but its a game that begs to be played at least a couple times.
5The Taverns of Tiefenthal – I love the player board for Hansa Teutonica. ToT takes the evolving player board/player powers idea and cranks it up to 11. Oh yeah, and there is also a bit of the deck building/press your luck engine from Mystic Vale. The base game borders on boring, and I would never play this without all the expansions mixed in for good measure. Oh boy are those expansions a delight! Flipping over the cardboard bits on your player board, evolving your powers (and the art that spreads out before you) is incredibly satisfying. The monk track, however, is under utilized and I’m hoping that some expansions can balance out that last little element for me.
4Mezo – Take the combat resolution from Cry Havoc and Rising Sun. Imagine if every faction had an asymmetric list of combat actions to choose from instead of a shared list. The end result is Mezo. Much like Cthulhu Wars, you are given asymmetric Gods who run around the board, but rather than serving as a wrecking ball of immense proportions your God prefers to work in mysterious ways, typically on the periphery. This isn’t to say that the Gods of Mezo are relatively impotent like the Gods and Monsters of Rising Sun, just that the Gods of Mezo feel more like, … well, uncaring and capricious gods who are sometimes helpful but not truly knowable to their supplicants.
3Pax Pamir 2.0 – Yeah, everything you’ve heard about how good PP is, … its true.
2Hate – Its a butter smooth minis skirmish league game. You don’t buy this to play one off skirmish battles, you buy this to play through a league’s worth of games with 2 to 4 of your closest friends who are willing to devote a month or two’s worth of game nights to this beast. Its an absolute blast if you can find a group to swing that. Who doesn’t love leveling up your tribe through carefully planned cannibalism management?
1Glorantha: The God’s War – Glorantha is my very subjective (and arguably dysfunctional) choice as my game of the year. Its got problems a plenty. I get that the game feels a bit like a half baked product that needs further polish. If the upcoming 2.0 kickstarter can address these issues, it will ultimately surpass Cthulhu Wars on my list of favorite games. I’m a veteran of Peterson Game’s evolving revisions to Cthulhu Wars, so I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that Glorantha is going to be tightened up over time. But who comes to a game like Glorantha expecting a perfectly balanced and polished experience? The fun of games like Glorantha is in marching wrathful gods of destruction across the map to ruin your opponent’s day. Glorantha embraces the uniqueness of its factions and rides the rails of a roller coaster narrative in ways that the mythos of Cthulhu Wars just isn’t capable of delivering. Glorantha drives a narrative that is stronger then anything you’ve seen in a dudes on the map game before. Fingers crossed that the kinks can get worked out, cuz as it stands now, its one hell of a good first draft!