Welcome to our top 50 games list for 2018, in which I list my personal top 50 games at this point in time. My choices are not limited to games from this calendar year, but instead, represent my current thoughts on the top 50 games to me. Next year, some of the games featured may move up and down as my opinions change and I get the chance to play more games or revisit old favourites.
20: Blood Rage
Previous Position: 12 (-8)
Designers: Eric M. Lang
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not
Plays: 2-4 players in ~60 to 90 minutes
This hasn’t seen the table much this year, but then I’ve been far more focused on RPGs and the newer games in my collection that have dominated my table over the past 12 months. Blood Rage has, and this may be me damning the game with faint praise, some of my favourite drafting in any game. I find the drafting stage of this game really agonising as I try to work out on the fly what I want my clan to be like, what monsters to recruit and what playstyle I want to use. It’s really stressful but in a good way!
I like that the game can be so different, based purely on how the drafting stage goes. Are you tailored for getting lots of dudes onto the map? For making the most of smaller numbers of models? Do you rely on monsters or boats? Are you setting up to just murder your own dudes and get points for them in Valhalla? I like the options and the fact that you’re not always in complete control over which ones are available to you in a given game.
19: Cosmic Encounter
Previous Position: 15 (-4)
Designer: Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Bill Norton, Peter Olotka, Kevin Wilson
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Plays: 3-5 players (more with expansions) in ~60 to 120 minutes
One of my earliest favourites. If I’d done this list four or five years ago, this would have had the top spot. It falls a little more each year and I worry that it would get to the table more if I’d not bothered picking up all of the expansions. As I added more and more to the box, it rapidly became unwieldy and all the card and plastic did not quite fit inside. As such, the box is pretty much wrecked.
The game itself is really simple. The core rules are very approachable and easy to both learn and teach. The complication (and the fun) comes from alien races that act as player characters, each of whom breaks the game in different ways. I’ve played this a couple of times on Tabletop Simulator, too. It worked really well! I’d love to get this back to the table in the coming year.
18: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Previous Position: 8 (-10)
Designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
Plays: 2-4 players in ~30 to 60 minutes
The campaign style of this game is an interesting way to teach the game. As you succeed and move on through the scenarios, you are introduced to more and more advanced concepts. At its core, it’s a decent deck builder. There are a few quirks – the house dice, the character specialisms – that set it apart from other deck builders. It’s just a nice, solid card game.
My biggest criticism of the game is the artwork. It uses stills from the movies, but I really hate this as art. How amazing would it have been to have actual artwork for this? As it is, it looks cheap, which is a real pity. Functionally, the game is great. The visual design is also fine. It’s just those stills that I really feel let down by.
17: Among the Stars
Previous Position: 10 (-7)
Designer: Vangelis Bagiartakis
Publisher: Artipia Games
Plays: 2-4 players for ~30 minutes
A really great drafting game, Among the Stars sees each player building a space station with their drafted tiles. These stations are all about synergy, with different tiles interacting with one another in order to generate points. it sounds pretty simple, and it is. The drafting stage is an absolute joy, as you rummage through your options, working out what works best with what you’ve already got and considering your options for the future of your station.
Visually, this game is an absolute treat, with each room being lovingly depicted in fantastic, original artwork. I’ve played this game a lot and I’m still playing around with different synergies and options. I never feel like I’m just trying to recreate the same bases over and over, but rather adapting to a fresh design each time.
16: Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
Previous Position: 16 (No Change)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Plays: 2+ players in ~40 to 180 minutes
I like being proven wrong. I was one of the many people who were pissed off when Warhammer was shelved by Games Workshop in favour of this new game, Age of Sigmar. Round bases? Golden-armoured warriors? 4 pages of rules? How could this ever work?
It does, though.
I’m not going to rehash all of the arguments for an against AoS. It was a botched launch and GW did well to come back from that. The game now has a number of original armies and is in its second edition. The game is quick and easy and is just a pleasure to play. It might lack depth in comparison to classic Warhammer, but it’s so much easier to take the table and is just pure fun. I’ve played this a lot and I really enjoy it.
15: Eldritch Horror
Previous Position: New to the List!
Designer: Corey Konieczka, Nikki Valens
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Plays: 1-8 players in ~120 to 240 minutes
This sat in the collection for a while before making it to the table. Eldritch Horror is an expansive game of cooperative awesomeness. Players work together to defeat an evil threat to the world. This is often, for me and my group, an exercise in utter, doomed futility, but that’s ok. I love how this works. I love that there are a lot of moving parts going on. I love how characters develop as the game goes on.
I particularly like playing this where there’s no time pressure and with a group that will really get into the spirit of the game. Just reading the mechanical implications of the cards does work, and it’s probably the fastest way to play. I prefer properly reading each card as, adding up all of the horrific events that these characters go through, you end up with quite a story developing in each game. Eldritch Horror is fun and it is difficult, and I love it.
Previous Position: 13 (-1)
Designer: Rikki Tahta
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
Plays: 2-6 players in ~15 minutes
Coup is an amazing example of a designer producing a whole lot of game with very few pieces. Coup consists of a few cards, some coin tokens and some summary cards to help players keep track of what each card does. From these humble components comes a game that I adore. This is my go-to social game, and I even prefer it over The Resistance, which I also love dearly.
I really enjoy the cut and thrust of the bluffs and accusations that this game fosters. It feels more dynamic than The Resistance and you have a lot more individual power. You can’t be frustrated by those fools who keep allowing the spy onto the team; if you doubt a player’s honesty, you can just call them on it. It works. It’s direct. It’s fantastic.
13: Star Realms
Previous Position: New to the List!
Designer: Robert Dougherty, Darwin Kastle
Publisher: White Wizard Games
Plays: 2 players in ~20 minutes
Star Realms is my most played game ever. That is, it’s my most played game if you let me count digital playthroughs. I play a few rounds of the Star Realms app each day. It makes me happy. When it comes to the tabletop, I tend to play the fantasy version, Hero Realms, as my Star Realms deck is a bit knackered and Hero Realms lets me play with more than 2 players.
First up, it’s a deck builder. Immediately, I’m going to like this game. Then, the art is cool. This is even truer for Hero Realms, which is a beautiful game. Finally, it’s bloody competitive. You and your opponent are pitted against each other and properly go for it, throwing ship after ship at the other player and space station they put in your way. There’s nothing more satisfying than really getting a big turn with lots of synergies in play and a ton of damage to pour onto the enemy.
12: Dead of Winter
Previous Position: 5 (-7)
Designer: Jonathan Gilmour, Isaac Vega
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Plays: 2-5 players in ~45 to 210 minutes
I really want Plaid Hat to put out another Crossroads game. Their first of these games, Dead of Winter, is a great semi-cooperative game where players work together to meet a shared objective whilst also trying to fulfil an individual, secret objective. The Crossroad cards, for which the prospective series is named, is an event deck that triggers each turn if and when specific pre-requisites are met. The Crossroad cards take a game that would already be great and add a random element that really works well to up the ante and create truly tense situations. Some of the cards really screw you over, too!
I love working with others and planning out how to meet the shared objective in this game. I do try to meet my shared objective, but I always try to keep a handle on the shared one. Maybe this is why I lose so often… Dead of Winter is tense, fun and occasionally manic. It can present truly difficult decisions, but also hilarious situations. This is a game that really develops a narrative in a natural, unforced way.
11: Vampire: The Masquerade
Previous Position: 6 (-5)
Designer: Graeme Davis, Tom Dowd, Mark Rein-Hagen, Lisa Stevens, Stewart Wieck
Publisher: White Wolf Publishing
Plays: Ideally 4-6 over however long you want. Again, RPGs…
I know there’s a new edition of Vampire, but I’ve not played it. The ongoing chaos around the reincarnated White Wolf, which seems to have just been neutered yet again by their latest parent company, Paradox, also makes me sad, so I’m not thinking about this new edition at the moment. I’ll pick it up at some point, I’m sure, but in the meantime, I’m looking at the version I usually play, the Revised edition.
Vampire is just such a good system. Mechanically, it’s fantastic. There are flaws, and certain aspects definitely lack polish, but it works well overall. The background is where it really shines. White Wolf developed such a deep, detailed, involved world that gives you a massive sandbox in which to play. Vampire remains one of my favourite games to both play in and run.