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Our Top 20 Tabletop Games of 2018 (Part 1)

Our Top 20 Tabletop Games of 2018 (Part 1)

Every year, the fantastic team of Geek & Sundry contributors come together to figure out which games released over the course of the year we couldn’t get enough of. Before digging into the list, there’ a few things you should know:

  • We only considered games released between Essen Spiel 2017 through until Essen Spiel 2018 (which occurred this year at the end of October), simply because we wanted to make sure the games included on the list were truly great, and to do that we needed more than a handful of plays with them.
  • We didn’t rank the 20 games  – these are all games we highly recommend as best representing what tabletop gaming can be. As such, the games are presented in alphabetical order.
  • No, there are no RPGs on this list – we have an entirely separate list for that (three parts actually, covering prestige gamesindie games, and supplements & add-ons).

Without further ado, here are the first ten titles on the list:

2x1 G&S Approved GOTY

A Song of Ice and Fire: The Miniatures Game – CMON Games

This is a miniature wargame set in Westeros that combines refined strategic ranked combat mechanics, beautiful miniatures, and boardgaming elements that provide compelling tactical choices with worker placement and hand management. In this game, you can feel as clever as Tyrion, as skilled as Jamie (with both hands), or even as sadistic as Ramsey Bolton, since you can punish Theon Greyjoy for being a perpetual disappointment (he comes in a box with Ramsey, who uses Reek to panic opponent units – it’s simply brilliant).  It’s hybridizing miniature wargames with boardgames by injecting board gaming into miniatures, and it’s a standout because of its excellent execution. Read our full overview of the game here!

Starter Set – $149.99 MSRP – CMON Games

Archmage – Starling Games

Starling Games Kickstarted Archmage in 2017, describing it as a hybrid Euro game with thematic elements. It combines area control, exploration, resource gathering and management and an interesting tableau system that handles spellcasting while leveraging its theme to pull it all together into a compelling game experience. As Rob Wieland put it, “Archmage’s gameplay nails the feeling of being a powerful wizard who wants to become THE powerful wizard. The master level spells that combine three schools of magic can really wreck a rival’s day.” Read his entire hands-on overview here!

$60.00 MSRP – Starling Games

Betrayal Legacy – Avalon Hill

This Rob Daviau-designed game applies the brilliant legacy format onto a beloved, classic modern board game, Betrayal at House On the Hill, with a twist: after the legacy campaign is done, the game itself can be played as the classic with a chance to explore new haunts provided by the books in free play mode.

As Rob Wieland described the game: “Each game in the campaign is set at some point in the past of the house’s history. Players play out the game per usual by exploring the house, gaining items and triggering the haunt. Each game in the legacy campaign adds mechanics to the game, in some cases by literally having players peel stickers off of a spooky board and put them in relevant sections of the rulebook. Players also get to name artifacts and even create heirloom items for later haunts that if a later character from their family acquires while exploring the house function better in their hands than anyone else’s. ” Check out his look at the game here!

$75.00 MSRP – Avalon Hill

betrayal-legacy-box

Brass: Birmingham – Roxley Game Laboratory

Ruel Gaviola, our resident euro-gamer couldn’t get enough of this Martin Wallace-designed standalone sequel to the much-lauded eurogame, Brass. It’s a hand management and route building game, and as Ruel puts it, “Brass: Birmingham is a remarkable achievement. Wallace, along with designers Gavan Brown and Matt Tolman, have not only improved on the original game, but they’ve also managed to exceed it, making the Industrial Revolution a fun and engaging world. New players may be overwhelmed at first, but investing time into the game will reward you with one of the best gaming experiences of 2018.” Read the full overview here.

$75.00 MSRP – Roxley Game Laboratory

birmingham_cover

Disney Villainous – Wonder Forge

It’s so easy to look at a game that is steeped in childhood nostalgia and write it off as a licensed product that won’t provide a weighty, strategic, and compelling game experience. Disney Villainous proves all those preconceived notions totally wrong – it has the hallmarks of a meaty gaming experience: asymmetrical design, hand management, worker placement, and a good dose of take-that (it’s a game about villains, after all). It has all the fun and the enduring quality of a classic Disney movie, and will continue to hit our tables for years to come. Read about it in our overview.

$39.99 MSRP – Wonder Forge

Villainous FI

Everdell – Starling Games

Cute woodland critters seemed to be trending in 2018’s board games, as this is one of the two games featuring anthropomorphized creatures. Don’t let the cute fool you into writing this game off as insubstantial. As Rob Wieland put it, “The game looks like lighthearted fun but underneath the gorgeous artwork and impressive components lies a tightly wound worker placement game that requires the ability to change strategy on the fly.” Read his full overview here.

$60.00 MSRP – Starling Games

Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-KarRestoration Games

In a nostalgic entry into this list, Fireball Island was a much-anticipated game. Ruel Gaviola summarized the experience of going back to this classic: “Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar captures that feeling of childhood game-playing; it’s flat-out fun for the entire family. Restoration Games has wisely replaced the dated mechanism of roll-and-move with a modern hand-management style of play, but the focus is still on that spectacular 3-D island and those marbles rolling down towards you and your opponents.” Read his overview here.

$75.00 MSRP – Restoration Games

Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr – Hub Games

In this game, you work together with your fellow players to save a man’s life. It’s a big concept, and Holding On shows us what the medium of games are capable of from a narrative perspective. Raf Cordero sums up this game in his overview, where he makes the case of why this is a standout game for 2018: “Many of us play board games to escape real life, and I can see why you might not want to play a game that can – and likely will – make you sad. I get it; I also implore everyone to sit down with Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr. It’s a challenging and fun cooperative game, but it is also uniquely powerful and settles any debate about the artistic merits of board games.” Read his full overview here.

$40.00 MSRP – Hub Games

My Little Scythe – Stonemaier Games

This standout game is an adaptation of one of our favorite games of 2016: Scythe. Borrowing the refined mechanics from the original (exploration, resource management, and area control) but wrapping it in a package that is cute, friendship-forward, and in its own world, and the story of how a father and daughter collaborated to realize it is a heartwarming tale all on its own. But the game itself is a standout because, as contributor Ruel Gaviola puts it, “Family friendly games don’t always appeal to hobby gamers and hobby games aren’t usually family friendly. My Little Scythe is the exception to the rule. […] My Little Scythe is a wonderful choice for a family game night and it’s also a game that will exceed the expectations of many veteran gamers.” Read the full overview of the game here.

$50.00 MSRP – Stonemaier Games

Reef – Next Move Games

Next Move Games was rewarded with a prestigious award in board games this year, the Spiel des Jahres  for their title Azul. The follow up for that game, Reef, is one we think is certainly in contention for next year’s Spiel des Jahres because it shares the same qualities that make for future classics: simple rules, accessible depth, and strong aesthetic appeal.

As Raf Cordero put it in his overview: “Reef is about building, well, a coral reef! Slowly but surely your multicolored reef will grow horizontally and vertically on your own personal board. […] A game of Reef is won by navigating the uncertain waves of points and construction. The tactical battle with yourself is sharp, yet accessible. Watching the growth of your reef is rewarding. Reef is a game for almost everyone, and its short playtime makes it easy to play again and again. Which is great, because you’ll want to. ”

$39.99 MSRP – Next Move Games

Be sure to check out part 2 of this list!

Image Credits: Teri Litorco, Rob Wieland, Ruel Gaviola, Avalon Hill, Raf Cordero

Editorial disclosure: Publishers of some titles featured on this list provided press copies for review purposes. Additionally, Wonder Forge and Avalon Hill partnered with Geek & Sundry for branded content, but partnerships did not affect Geek & Sundry’s editorial team’s decision to include Disney Villainous and Betrayal Legacy on the list.


Teri Litorco is the contributing editor of Geek & Sundry, author of The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming, a YouTuber, and a social media oversharer: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

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