Tomorrow I’ll be doing an article looking forward to my 2020 resolutions, and I just wrapped up things that I’m looking forward to in 2020 for movies, games, and more. Today, I’m going to look back at 2019, it was a big year for nerdy…
So, I was going to do an article on kickstarter games that I had backed in 2019 because most of those are coming to me in 2020, but I decided to expand upon that with a series that will be running between Christmas and New Years (and depending on how many I prep into the New Year as well).
Let’s start by talking about some Kickstarters that I will have coming in. I’m counting reprints/second editions with this, so the first one is:
Middara – This game rivals Gloomhaven in terms of size and is bigger in terms of story. There has been so much put into it, and the first kickstarter took forever to fulfill. However, I’m just backing what came out in that Kickstarter so I expect to get mine next year, and projected date places it the middle of next year. In Middara, you are in an anime-esque world and fighting through a massive story with lots of different dungeons and interactions. You make decisions that might change up things in the future, and you upgrade your characters with interesting skills and weapons. This game looks amazing, when I’ll play it, who knows, but I’m excited for it.
Village Attacks – Another reprint, I played it at GenCon last year, got a scenario and a few bits for it, found out that it was impossible to find, but then they kickstarted an expansion for it, which I backed so I could use my GenCon scenario. In this game, it’s tower defense, but you’re the bad guys who are keeping those pesky villagers with their torches and pitchforks from running you at of your house. It’s fully cooperative which I like, and the theme is just a lot of fun. I’m excited for this one to get it back to the table and properly deal with those villagers again. The scenarios are a lot of fun, and depending on what villagers come out when, the game will feel different playing the same scenario.
Dice Throne Adventures – I’ve talked about how much I like Dice Throne. This Yahtzee/King of Tokyo style game where you are fighting a character against another character. You’re part of a massive tournament that the evil emperor has set-up that isn’t at all like Mortal Kombat or anything like that. But in Dice Throne Adventures, you are fighting your way through the evil emperors lands, leveling up your characters, and playing cooperative against the game with whatever characters you want from Season One or Two of Dice Throne. It sounds like a campaign dungeon crawl, and while it does have some of that feel, it’s shorter in terms of campaign so you can get through it and play again without the time commitment like you need for bigger dungeon crawls.
Shadows of Kilforth – I blame Rolling Solo Youtube Channel for getting me into this game, the original, Gloom of Killforth is a one shot adventure game where you are in a world where things are going poorly and you as an adventurer are leveling up, exploring locations, fighting monsters, hoping to get strong enough to be able to take down whatever monster is blighting the land. The original game had a fantasy feel, and while this maintains the fantasy, it also has an eastern feel to it as well, which is cool. This game is also a smaller footprint game as you’re not setting up massive dungeons and needing a million tiles to play it.
Those are ones that I’ve kickstarted already that I’m really excited for. There are two that I know I want to kickstart in 2020, so let’s talk about those.
Frosthaven – Sequel to my #1 game of all time, no brainer I want this. I expect to get it sometime in 2021, but it kickstarts in March of 2020, so I’ll have paid for it then. It builds off of Gloomhaven and the Forgotten Circle expansion to tell you a whole new story set in the same world. But unlike in Gloomhaven where you start out of a set city, in Frosthaven, it adds in some city building and you have to worry about defending the town as well as going out on adventures. The out of the box characters seem a bit more challenging but also seem amazing to play. I’m curious to see how this game differs from Gloomhaven, but I hope it keeps a ton of the same feel.
ISS-Vanguard – A story game from Awaken Realms, sign me up. I have Tainted Grail that I’m dying to play (I’m going to try and play it over my time off around Christmas), but ISS-Vanguard is supposed to be more of an open world sort of game (or open worlds since you’re in space). You can go to different planets in different orders and experience the story that way. The art work that came in the Tainted Grail surprise box is amazing and I really love the style. I’m going to be curious to see how an open world game with a story comes together, but I like the idea of a non-fantasy big story exploration game.
Roll Player Adventure – Now, I don’t like the base game, but I got to play an early prototype of this at GenCon, and this is very different than a game where you’re rolling up your character like Roll Player is. In this, it’s a campaign game, but as compared to some games with campaigns, like from Awaken Realms or Gloomhaven, it isn’t nearly as heavy. The story is a little bit sillier, but the mechanics are fun. Can you manipulate the dice to be able to get through all the story and encounters that you run across. The mechanics were cool, and the game at GenCon, even in an early form, was a ton of fun. Helped that I might have been a power hungry sorcerer.
And, finally, and these aren’t last or least, but there are a few games that are coming out in other ways that I’m definitely interested in. Might just be normal publisher, but also might be kickstarter, I haven’t researched enough.
Deranged – Wait, you’re saying, it doesn’t say 2020, but for it coming to the US, it’s coming in 2020. I played this at GenCon and it was amazing. The game play was smart and simple, the world building of the game was really cool. While it’s not story driven, there is a lot going on, and the card play is really really fun in the game. I like the light horror theming as you’re trying to avoid monsters, get rid of your curses and not become deranged. But it’s very possible that you will or that you’ll die, and then you’ll need to get rid of more curses. It seems like a cooperative game where you’re trying to escape this town with no curses, but it’s competitive, and only one person can escape, so if someone gets too close, time to get kill them and give them another curse. Can someone win in all that fighting, who knows.
Time of Legends: Destinies – I almost kickstarted this game, then I decided I wanted Oathsworn instead. But this one seems really interesting. Each character has secrets that they are trying to solve as well as solve the story that is happening in this game that is set in the same world as Time of Legends: Joan of Arc. But in this one they combined with Lucky Duck games that did Chronicles of Crime, so there’s app integration. And there is a scenario builder that people can use to create more, since out of the box it seemed to come only with a few. For me, I really want to try this one next year, and hopefully if I can make it to GenCon it’ll be there for demoing.
Pandemic Legacy Season 3 – Some of my best gaming experiences have been playing through the first two season. I’m so excited for the 3rd season and last season. I don’t know anything about the game, I just know that I want it and I’m going to be ready to play it the second that I get it. No official release date yet for it, but it sounds like it should be a 2020 release and I’m guessing first half of 2020. That’s about it that I know about it, but it’s an instant buy for me.
There’s so many games coming out and with my proclivity for campaign games, I need to get cracking on the ones that I already have. I need to figure out a more consistent time to play them on Malts and Meeples, but we’ll talk about that in a future article about New Years Nerdsolutions.
What games are you looking forward to, is there a game coming out or to kickstarter that you just need to play?
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There are so many board games in the world, and while I would like to say that I have a massive room dedicated only to board games where I can fit in lots of Kallax shelves from Ikea, I don’t. I was able to fit…
Normally, this would be another Halloween article, because I’ve been doing those every Wednesday, tomorrow, since it is actually Halloween will be my Halloween themed article. Instead, you are getting more of my top 100 board games, which will wrap up on Friday.
These rankings are the opinion of yours truly, and if you don’t like them, that’s okay. We all have different tastes in games and that is great. There are some games that I’ve only played as a demo, and I felt like I got enough of a feel to put them on the list, thanks GenCon for all the demos. These are living rankings so next year I’m sure that things will change, so I’ll probably be doing another one next year. Thanks to Board Game Geek for letting me enter/rate my collection and games I’ve played. Thanks to Pub Meeple for creating a tool that pulls in those games that I’ve rated and creating a ranking tool. Again, the numbers and names will be linked to Cool Stuff Inc and Amazon if you’re interested in the games.
20 – Sagrada
Sagrada is a very pretty game in which you are drafting dice in order to create the most beautiful stained glass window out there. However, you have certain rules as to how you can place those dice, such as certain colors being required in spots or certain numbers being required. To make it even trickier, you can’t have the same number or the same color orthogonally adjacent to one another. So, your stained glass window soon becomes a puzzle. To add to that, you are also looking at scoring in four different areas. Each player has a private objective that they are trying to score, but there are also three more public objectives that players are trying to get as many points from. That seems like a lot of things to stay on top of, and it is, thankfully, the game gives you ways to move or manipulate dice, so hopefully you can fill in your whole stained glass window. Sagrada is a pretty game on the table with the translucent dice, and a fun game to play. it is definitely lighter, but there is enough going on that I feel engaged throughout the game, and I’m always hoping people won’t draft that one die that I really need. They normally do, but I’m hoping that they won’t. The game also scales up well, so it’s fun with two players and it’s fun with four players. There is an expansion that takes it up to six, but I haven’t tried that yet.
19 – Dice Throne: Season One
Alright, here it is, the first season of Dice Throne. As compared to the other ones, which in the future might just be Dice Throne Season Two when I finish getting all the characters, Dice Throne: Season One comes with six different characters that all play in fun and different ways. The game is still a yahtzee style dice rolling battle where you are trying to knock down your opponent before they can take you down. But characters like the Paladin can heal more and has buff abilities, whereas the Pyromancer is just about doing damage and doesn’t really do defense. This is fun, because it makes you adjust how you are going to play the game. The Shadow Thief for example, is all about getting combat points to put cards into play, but the more combat points they have, the more damage that they can do on some attacks. I think technically you could play this as a three versus three game with each team facing off against the other, but I prefer the game as a one versus one game. All the characters feel pretty balanced and it seems to be a luck of the roll as to who wins but there is enough dice manipulation that you feel like you can go for your ultimate ability if possible. I haven’t done this yet, but this game seems like ti would be amazing in a tournament format, so I’m hoping to get one of those done this winter. I really love all the Dice Throne stuff, and some of the Season Two characters are more interesting, but with what I got for Season One, I got more characters, so that’s why it’s higher.
18 – Dead of Winter
It’s zombie time, and Christmas. You and your group of survivors are huddled in your base in the town VFW (not part of the game, but I gave it a location), you’ve barricaded the doors off but the zombies keep coming, and you’re going to need to get food eventually. Dead of Winter is a zombie survival game where each player has their own objective as to what they want to do, or have in their hand, by the end of the scenario in order to win the game. However, the scenario has things you need to do as well, and there keep on being crisis that happen. And then you need to feed the colony as well. So life is tough for you as players as you run around to various locations, searching for what you need, and hoping not to get bitten by a zombie or get frost bite (bitten by a cold zombie). To make matters worse, you’re beginning to suspect that there might be a traitor in your midst. That’s Dead of Winter in a nutshell, a semi-cooperative game where each player has a secret objective that they need to complete, and there might be a traitor in the game. The odds of their being one are fairly low, because you mix it into 2 x [The Number of Players] cards, but most of the time there is one. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, and then there are crossroads cards. These are cards that have you make tough decisions in the zombie filled world, like, do you let in some strangers to your group, you get more actions, but more mouths to feed as well. This is a big game with a lot of decisions to make in it, and if the scenarios weren’t hard enough, the daily crisis and personal objectives make the whole game even harder.
17 – Deranged
This game isn’t even out yet, how do I have it on my list so high? Because that’s how awesome the long demo at GenCon was. In Deranged you are stuck in a small town, because you are cursed, and you only have a limited amount of time before you can escape. But in order to escape you have to get rid of your curses. And if that wasn’t hard enough, there are monsters floating about down there that want to try and kill you. And then, if you die, you come back, because you know you’re in a cursed town that never wants you to leave, and you are cursed again. Plus, it’s possible at night time that you are going to become a deranged monster who has lost their humanity and then you can’t escape, but don’t worry, you can get your humanity back, you just have to kill another character, which will cause them to come back with another curse. This game is a ton of fun as you play cards that might advance time to the point where you hit night and become deranged. This game feels like a lighter horror game that offers a lot of decisions and plays pretty quickly with teaching the game and playing through it. The demo I played wasn’t the full game, but I got a really good taste of it going through a day. The aesthetic on this game is great as it has not a Lovecraftian feel, but definitely an early 1900’s feel. The game play is slick as you use cards for their abilities, but you have to weigh the choice of a good power or keeping back a card to play on defense if a monster is going to attack you or maybe a deranged is in your area. It’s coming to the US in Quarter One of 2020, I believe, and I’m waiting excitedly to be able to get my hands on it.
16 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
I’m a big fan of deck building games that have theme, aka. not Dominion. And though I did have Ascension on the list that doesn’t have theme, the ones higher than it definitely do. In Aeon’s End: War Eternal, the standalone expansion to Aeon’s End a game I haven’t played, you are taking on the role of various breach mages who are trying to stop the town of Gravehold from being destroyed by one of several monsters that might be after it. You have the power, and you can acquire and gain more power to deal damage, cast more spells, and get more powerful spells throughout the game. Aeon’s End: War Eternal at it’s heart is like most deck building games where you have a market of cards where you can spend your money to buy either attack spells, artifacts that do something, or buy better and more money. But the way you cast your attack spells is unique because you have breaches that you have to cast your spells through, and depending on your character, you might have more breaches available to start than another player. However, the biggest difference from this game as compared to other deck building games is that you don’t shuffle your deck. When you play your cards on your turn, you play as many of them as you want at and then you sort how they go into the discard pile. So if I want, I can clump a group of money together in hopes that when I draw my hand after going through the deck, I’ll be able to get a hand with a lot of money in it. So you there is another area to strategize in this game as compared to a normal deck building game. The theme comes through well, and I like that the different giant monsters you are fighting have different goals. One of them is trying not to do direct damage to the player or the town of Gravehold, but is trying to dig under the city so that it collapses. This is a game that feels like it has a ton of replayability, and it has a legacy version that I really need to play.
15 – Second Chance
Another flip and write (roll and write) game, they are so popular right now, and I do like them quite well for a relaxing game to sit back and play. In Second Chance, you are flipping two shape cards every turn, and players pick one of the shapes and can rotate it, flip it, mirror it, whatever they want to put that shape somewhere on their board as long as it touches another shape they’ve put in play. The goal of the game is to fill in as many of the squares in as possible in this Tetris like puzzle. But sometimes you really need a specific shape and you get two shapes that you can’t use. In that case, you get a, you guessed it, second chance. A single card flip that has a shape that only you can use. If you can use it, you are still in the game, if you can’t, you are out and you can start counting up your open spaces. Second Chance is a fun game and a very relaxing game to play. I like to doodle as I fill in the shapes so that each section looks different than other ones do. Kristen likes to do specific patterns in how she fills in her shapes. The game plays fast, and because everyone is using the shapes, though with a unique starting shape, there is no downtime for anyone in the game. Like Criss Cross before, Second Chance is a game that people will play once and then want to play again. If you’re looking for a very accessible roll and write (flip and write) game, Second Chance is definitely that.
14 – The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
When I started ranking everything, I thought that this game was going to be higher on my list. But it dropped, I like this game a lot as 14 is really good. I think the reason is that while this game offers a lot of interesting choices, it doesn’t have the same weight of decision making that some of the other games do. In this game you take on the roll of Harry Dresden and other characters from The Dresden File books as you work through a book to try and solve the mystery that is going on. You can focus on two areas, the first is solving cases with your investigation cards. These cards have a cost and then they put clues on a case according to various rules on the card. The other is attack, which works like the investigate cards, but goes on the bad guys instead of the cases. Your goal, at the end of the game is to have more cases solved than there are bad guys left on the board. It’s tricky though, because everything costs something, and you have a limited amount of fate points (as they are called) to spend. But you can get them back by discarding a card and getting back the cards cost in fate points. That works well as a mechanic, but can lead to someone having to discard several turns in a row, which can be boring. Thankfully, discarding does a bit more than that, it also has another action that it triggers for the players. For someone characters it might be adding in damage to a certain bad guy, either the nearest or farthest, or do the same thing with a case. Plus, each character has a one time ability that feels like them. This game, while being a big puzzle, is very thematic and a lot of fun as you try and recreate the book on the table.
13 – Hanamikoji
This is the first of two two player games on the list. Technically the other can be played with four, but it’s a two player game. Hanamikoji is, however, only a two player game. In this game you are trying to win favor of various Geisha by giving them gifts. Each Geisha is worth a certain number of points and wants a certain type of gift. If you have more gifts in front of that Geisha at the end of the round, you win their favor. How you get gifts in front of them is where the meat of this game is, though. It is actually only just cards, but you have four different ways you can play down cards. You can discard two that won’t be used for winning a Geisha’s favor, you can play one face down that will be used, you can play down three cards, your opponent picks one that they get and you get the other two to use for winning favor, and finally, you can put down two groups of two, and your opponent picks one of them. The trick of this game is that you want to keep everything and often times you are helping your opponent. Can you manipulate things to where you’ve gotten enough favor points from the Geisha or have won the favor of enough Geisha? I feel like most of the time the game is over in two rounds of the four actions, but it’s always a struggle. And you really want your opponent making the hard decisions for you. This is a fast game that is abstract, but it looks good on the table, and because of it’s speed, you generally want to play multiple times. There is also enough hidden information that you can never fully solve the puzzle of how to play it.
12 – Welcome To…
The last roll (flip) and write on the list. This is my favorite of that genre because there is a bit more to sink your teeth into. In the game you are building your perfect 1950’s neighborhood so that people come to your development over that Stepford neighborhood over there. And of course, to do that, you need to set-up your neighborhood correctly. Do you go for a lot of parks, do you try and build swimming pools, are you advertising your neighborhood? But most importantly, are you building those white picket fences, because a neighborhood isn’t a neighborhood without them. This is another one of these roll (flip) and write games that everyone is using the same resources. Everyone gets to pick which one of three combinations of an action and a house number to use each turn, so the game can play up to 100 out of the box, since there are 100 sheets with the game. This game still plays fast, but I like it since it gives you more options as to what you can do and how you want to try and get your scoring as compared to games like Second Chance and Criss Cross. I also like it, because I can quickly tell people what the game is about with that 1950’s neighborhood reference, and everyone gets an idea. There are also expansions that I haven’t played yet, but I have the spring one and a fallout, I mean, bomb shelter, one ready to try. I’m excited to get those to the table soon as they add in a few new things to the game which seem fun.
11 – Star Wars: Rebellion
This is the other two player game, though technically it can be played with four people, basically just splitting up the two sides of the Empire and Rebels. I wouldn’t do that. In this game if you are the Empire, you are trying to build up enough troops and search the galaxy for the rebel base. You get some help from that with your probe droids, plus you are trying to mess over the rebels in whatever ways you can. The Rebels are trying to create unrest in the empire and complete missions to undermine the empire. If they can complete a certain number of them for points before the empire can find them and wipe them out, they win the game. Of course, you can also build Death Stars and blow up planets if you want as well. This game is described by the Dice Tower as Star Wars in a box. And I have to agree with them, it is only the original trilogy, but that’s all I want to play. I don’t need to have mechanics for a romance subplot between Hayden Christenson and Natalie Portman. It’s a game of cat and mouse as both sides try and disrupt the other, but both sides ultimately have bigger goals that they are working towards. Plus, you can customize the characters you are playing with as you go along. Maybe you get Chewie but not Han, or who needs the Emperor when you have Grand Moff Tarkin? But each of them brings an ability that they are better at, so you have to balance that. Along with that, you get to have epic space battles and ground battles that take place on and around these planets which can swing who is leading. Star Wars: Rebellion is a big, long, and thematic game that I’d recommend to Star Wars fans who like to board game. I’ve enjoyed playing both sides as well, though I’ve had better luck as the Empire, just made one mistake as the Rebels, though, and I could have won.
Man, there is so much to say about these games. I really do love them all and I want to sit down and play them all. I’m excited to do my top 10, because I had a game in there that surprised me after I had done all of the sorting. But you’ll have to wait for Friday for that game.
If you have a game that you like out of this section of the list, let me know what it is. Or what game do you want to try?
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So, recently there’s been a trend in board games where apps or other pieces or technology are starting to get integrated into gaming. Then CMON announced Teburu a digital board set-up that allows the system to track where your characters are, have your player sheet digitally in front of you, and to know what you rolled on special dice.
So, is there a point where a board game isn’t a board game? And do you qualify something like Onirim, Onitama, Ascension, and other games that can be played fully digitally to be board games in that form?
This is a question that a lot of board gamers have been grappling with. There are those who really enjoy breadth of what can be added to gaming. There are those who like there fact that it helps with book keeping. There are those who don’t like it, because they don’t want technology around when they game. There are those who don’t like it because they want their board games to be only board, cards, and dice.
I think that I can see both sides of the argument with this. Now, I will say, personally I enjoy when games have apps integrated into them. But I can also understand not having technology at the table. It’s nice, when playing Gloomhaven, to be able to sit down and just play without checking a phone much or at all for a couple of hours. Just because some games have an app doesn’t mean that all of them do, so there’s always going to be the option to play games without an app.
Now, I can understand that with a game like Journeys in Middle Earth, where the app helps out a lot with the game play and making things run smoother. In some ways, you don’t really need to set it up on the table because of how much of the heavy lifting the app does. So, that leans into the app a lot, and it doesn’t offer a way to play without the app. Games like Descent 2nd Edition and Star Wars: Imperial Assault both can be played with an app, almost to the level that you could Journeys in Middle Earth, but they also allow for options where there doesn’t need to be an app. So is that pushing it too far away form a board game, or is, because Lord of the Rings is a theme that a lot of people enjoy, something that bugs the people who want board games without apps, because they can’t get that game with that theme like they’d want?
In some ways, I think because you can’t get a handful of games, with whatever themes they might have on them, per year, that’s not that much of a reason to be up on arms about it. There are thousands of games that come out each year, and the vast majority of them don’t have an app with them. Now, a number of the ones that are talked about a ton, do end up having an app with them or something along those lines, because they are something new and different. But being new and different doesn’t make them the only games that are worth it out there, as we’ve seen with some of the hottest games this year being Wingspan and Tapestry, in terms of hype, which don’t have an app with them.
So, I personally think, whether you fall on the side of app or no technology, you are going to have plenty of games to play. For that reason, I don’t think there’s much of a reason to complain when game does come out with an app.
That brings me to the second part, though, does playing game like Onitama or Onirim on your phone count as playing a board game? Or a larger game like Small World or Scythe, are those board games still or when you are playing them on your tablet or phone, does that change it up so that it’s not a true board game experience.
Here, I actually am going to go with saying that they aren’t playing the board game. Though, it is close. Onirim is the one that makes this tricky. The reason it’s tricky is that Onirim is a solo game experience, when I think about the others, you lose the face to face, sitting around the same table aspect of the board game experience. With Onirim, you never have that experience. So, I’m going to say, my reason for saying they aren’t truly a board game experience is because you aren’t getting the tactile experience that you do with a board game. You aren’t flipping the cards and shuffling in Onirim, which for a lot is really nice, but you lose that tactile experience.
This really then does take us into Teburu. I got to barely see it through a window at GenCon, but it was interesting to see live as well as see the video for it. It’s an interesting thing, because while most games with apps still have you do most things, Teburu is going to allow the games to track even more things. In Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, you track where the monsters and you are on the board, the same with fire, the game only cares that there are still monsters, investigators, and fire on the board. So you’re still involved with that, and you still track when hit a monster or number of successes for a given roll. In Teburu, whatever game you are playing on the system, you’ll be able to roll the dice and it’ll automatically calculate your successes or possibly prompt you to see if you want to reroll something or use an item or something along those lines to improve your roll.
So, does that take it away from being a board game? If we’re going by my tactile board gaming experience, it seems like it wouldn’t because you are still rolling dice and moving pieces on the board. But it does feel a whole lot closer to being a video game when it’s doing all the house keeping. Journeys in Middle Earth definitely falls into the same issue, while you still have to enter successes, there are definitely things that feel like you don’t need to set-up the board, you can just play the game in the system, or if not fully doing that, be able to almost do that. In think that Teburu is going to be an interesting enhancement to board gaming. It makes we wonder what they’ll be able to use it for, and if I were to ever get it, if it would still feel like a board game experience.
Overall, I think that technology in board games is interesting. I don’t think that it’s needed for a great gaming experience, though. And there are so many games out there, that I’m always going to have the option to play a board game without the use of an app. I’m excited and curious to see how technology will be used in the future, with story driven games like Time of Legends: Destinies or Chronicles or Crime where they are offering content creation tools since the story is contained in an app, to Star Wars: Imperial Assault that allows you to do a cooperative dungeon crawl without as much busy work. There are a lot of fun things out there, and even playing games like Onirim and Onitama as an app can be fun, because it gives you a chance to try it before you buy it.
What do you think about board games having apps or needing apps to play them? Do you want them to only be cardboard, dice, and cards? What is your favorite game that integrates an app?
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