Top 12 Boardgames Played in 2019 - #4 to #1
Updated: Jan 5
The final countdown of the top 12 games that I played in 2019 to see out the decade!
#4 - BRASS: BIRMINGHAM
Designed: Gavan Brown, Matt Tolman, Martin Wallace
Brass: Birmingham is one of two modern republishings of the boardgame classic Brass, the other being Lancashire. The Lancs edition took the original Brass and basically gave it a lick of paint, whereas it's this Brum version that added a few extra bits as well that make it more appealing.
First thing to note with Brass: Birmingham, and a lot of Roxley stuff in general to be honest, is the amazing visuals and production quality. The board and tiles all look great, and while the theme is drab as hell, when you start getting into the late game the board just looks full of life. The edition I have even comes with chunky poker chips for the money, which are so fun to play with, despite adding nothing but cost to the box.
The game itself is great to play as well, with players vying for spots on the board to build their buildings, and connecting cities with important canals and rails to utilise trading posts to become one of the greatest business owners the black country has ever seen.
A game I looked out for for months as it was hard to get for RRP, and it really didn't disappoint when we finally got it to the table. And now I have a cool set of poker chip monies to play any other game with as well. Result.
#3 - T.I.M.E. Stories
Published: Space Cowboys
Designed: Peggy Chassenet, Manuel Rozoy
In T.I.M.E. Stories you play as a team of time cops who are investigating temporal anomalies throughout different periods of the past. A bit like Doctor Who, but with way less present day London, players get transported into the bodies of characters in the past, using them as vessels to blend in and figure out what is going on and how to fix it. If the premise of T.I.M.E Stories doesn't make you immediately want to see it then I don't know what to tell you.
The base game comes with one adventure taking players to a working Asylum in Paris in 1921, and there are loads of expansions, each with a different setting and characters. The game works in a sort of run based system, where you will accomplish as much as you can before you fail, die, or your time units run out and then you get kicked back to modern times where a stern man tells you how crap you were. Second and third runs you then use the information you gained to do a better and less meandering job until you win, so each pack is played 2-4 times on average.
The game play revolves around a deck of oversized location cards that have some incredible looking art. Each location you visit is comprised of a wide angle that has 4-6 of these cards in a row and really bring each room and area to life. Players select which part of the area they want to go to, flip over the card and read the text on the back to investigate.
The game uses dice rolls for things like combat which are probably the weakest part, but the actual exploring, gathering items and clues, and working together to try and find new areas and leads is a great experience. It's a game that you complete once and then want to immediately play more of, and buy every expansion, and then lend to friends so they can experience it as well.
#2 - Middara
Published: Succubus Publishing
Designed: Clayton Helme, Brooklyn Lundberg, Brenna Moncur, Ian Tate
Middara is an immense JRPG in an immense box. That's slightly reductive, but I think it sums up the Middara experience quite succinctly. The box itself is enormous, the gameplay is strategic and turn based, the story sections are long and detailed, and there are more skills, upgrades, characters, powers, and equipment than you can shake a Stick of Power +2 at.
Funded via Kickstarter some 5 years it took an age to come out, but the result was something quite worth waiting for. The creators original scope expanded and they refused to compromise, from the miniatures in the box through to all of the art, cards, and rules, they plugged away at it until it was ready and it shows. The "Big box of miniatures + a game" trope has become pretty common on KS these days but this seemed to be one of the first that has really stuck the landing for me.
The strategic turn based gameplay is great, really bringing to life the elements of a classic console RPG that made them so enthralling. The fact that you are playing with friends and you need to think about team work and positioning really adds to each session. The campaign book is longer than most novels, and if you don't want to read out the story sections then there are audio files and reduced cliff notes versions as well. There are story quests, side quests, shopping trips to be had, and cities to explore.
To call back to the first line, the game really is immense in quality, scope, and scale, and this is only the first of 3 boxes, so plenty more to come!
#1 - The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Published: Schmidt Spiele
Designed: Wolfgang Warsch
Yes the best game, and most fun, I had in 2019 was the 2018 award winning hit, Quacks of Quedlinburg.
The rest of the list has more complicated games, and games with more rules and interactions, but it's this simple 'hand-into-bag-pull-out-something-push-your-luck-a-thon' that made the biggest impression. Some of the best moments of the year were when someone around the table was really pushing it, getting pulls that are against all odds and doing amazing or amazingly bad.
Quacks has players drafting chips that they then place into a black sack, each turn you pull our a chip to add to your cauldron without getting too many of the white numbers which cause you to explode. It seems insular, with not much player interaction at all, but cheering people on, watching anyone go on a crazy streak, or watching someone crash and burn are all hilarious.
The game is somehow better than the sum of it's parts. The presentation is nice, the chips are good, and the different ingredient types you can play with to change up every game are plentiful. But it's the simple times of sticking your hand in a bag knowing you have a 66% chance of blowing up, but that you reeeeally want those extra points, that bring out the best experiences.
A great game for families or game groups, it's easy to explain and everyone has a chance of winning which gets everyone involved the whole way through. A deserved winner
So that's it for the list this year! Lots of great games were played, and plenty didn't make the Top 12 that I still considered great fun, it really was a top year for games and looking forward to 2020 being even better!
Let me know if you agreed, and what your favourite games of the year were!