Top 50 Games of 2019 (40-31)

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Welcome to our top 50 games list for 2019, 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.

This series will comprise 5 posts, each covering 10 games as we work down from number 50 to number 1.  This is part 2 of 5.  You can click here to revisit part 1.  Now, onwards for games 40 through 31!

40: Santorini


Previous Position: New to the list

Year: 2016

Designer: Gord!

Publisher: Spin Master

Plays: XX players in ~XX minutes

I like that this is basically a platformer in board game form.  For such a cute, simple game it always amazes me how vitriolic a game of Santorini can become.  This is especially true when one player forgets the function of another player’s ability and is taken by surprise.  Salt.  For.  Days.

This is a game that is accessible to a wide range of players.  Most of my recent games have been with kids, and it works well with them.  The building aspect of the game is satisfyingly tactile and you end up with a really beautiful board by the end, assuming nobody just runs away with an early victory.

39: DC Comics Deck-builidng Game


Previous Position: 38 (-1)

Year: 2012

Designer: Matt Hyra, Ben Stoll

Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment

Plays: 2-5 players in ~45 minutes

Falling only a single place this year is the DC Deck-Building Game.  My biggest criticism of this game remains unchanged, in that you could play much of the game on autopilot.  There’s generally no reason not to just play all of your cards every turn.  There’s no real decisions to be made in the playing of cards like there is in, say, Dominion.  It’s too free, too open, too loose.

That said, it’s still a lot of fun.  The game looks really pretty and is full of references for comic fans to feast upon.  You do get to make decisions on the content of your deck as you buy cards from the middle of the table.  It’s a good, accessible, fun deck-builder that doesn’t take too much thought and has a ton of expansions if you want to add more cards to your mix.  Despite the flaws, this still sees a lot of play, and probably more play than a lot of my “better” deck-builders.

38: Arcane Academy

arcane academy

Previous Position: 35 (-3)

Year: 2016

Designers: Eric M. Lang, Kevin Wilson

Publisher: IDW Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~30 to 45 minutes

This game is all about building an engine and managing resources, though at quite a simple level.  There are only two resources to be managed, after all.  The engine comes in the form of the board, where you want to both get the best tiles down and ensure that you have effective links to maximise multi-tile activations.  Resources are important and the choice of project cards is important but, to me, the game is won or lost on board construction.

I love when I can get a good engine going and just steamroller everyone.  This is not always possible but is so satisfying when it does pay off.  It’s also a really easy game to teach, which is always a plus!

37: Forbidden Stars


Previous Position: 34 (-3)

Year: 2015

Designers: Samuel Bailey, James Kniffen, Corey Konieczka

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~120 to 180 minutes

Now out of print, Forbidden Stars continues to scratch a specific itch and does so using a familiar, fun theme.  If Warhammer 40,000 is the game of massed battles in the 41st millennium, then Forbidden Stars takes a step back and gives you control of the wider campaign, deploying ships and troops, moving your forces around the galaxy, engaging in coordinated battles in pursuit of objectives and artifacts.

The first few times I played this game, I did not really appreciate the combat aspect.  I’ve since gotten a better handle on this and I like it a lot more than I did.  I still enjoy the logistics of the game, building bases, amassing units and deploying them as required.  This is a heavy game, but it does a lot and a particularly great when played with all four players.  It’s just a pity there won’t be any expansions…

This is also a game where I feel that if I got it to the table more often, got some more games in, and really got my head around some of the nuances, it might have been higher on my list.

36: Paperback


Previous Position: 30 (-6)

Year: 2014

Designer: Tim Fowers

Publisher: Self-Published

Plays: 2-5 players in ~45 minutes

Liking both word games and deck builders, Paperback – the marriage of the two – was a no-brainer for me.  As in other deck builders, you are working to build an engine with your deck, but in Paperback you are not just trying to play a series of optimal cards to give you currency to buy effective action cards and valuable points cards.  I mean, you are doing this, but your cards are also letters and combinations of letters that should spell out words.

I like the form factor of this game, being the same size as a deck builder toolkit for Magic and yet fitting in a deep, fun experience.  The visual design is clear and simple.  There’s no art on most of the cards, except for the points cards, which are imagined as book cover from various genres.  This lack of visual generosity would bug me in another deck builder, but it works here, with each card only representing a letter or group of letters.  It actually helps maintain clarity.

Although it’s fallen 6 places this year, that actually only brings it one place below where it was in 2017.  This has been a pretty consistent favourite for me, but not one I’d play with every group.

35: Cosmic Encounter


Previous Position: 19 (-16)

Year: 2008

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, Cosmic Encounter has tumbled quite far down the list this year as I don’t think it made it to the table at all.  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, too.

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 and it worked really well!  I’d love to get this back to the table in the coming year.

34: Warhammer 40,000

warhammer 40k 8th

Previous Position: 23 (-11)

Year: 2017

Designer: Unlisted

Publisher: Games Workshop

Plays: 2+ players in ~120 to 180 minutes

Notionally, I’ve been playing 40K for years, having gotten into it at around the transition from 2nd to 3rd editions.  I maintain that the 2nd to 3rd ed. jump was the biggest that the franchise has seen, but the jump from 7th to 8th was pretty big, too.  And, man, I love 8th.  It’s got me actually wanting to play 40K for the first time in years.  Last year, I built out more of my Tzeentch Daemon army that I started for Age of Sigmar.  This year, I’ve been working (slowly) on some Adeptus Mechanicus.

I like that it’s a game I don’t struggle to get to the table, like my other miniatures games.  There are people to play.  The models are also beautiful.  Games Workshop are really consistent in their quality and the company seems to be doing major work to rebuild their brand and the trust of their fans following years of stagnation.

11 places seems like a big fall for this game, but the higher placement last year was largely due to the excitement and novelty of the new edition.  This new edition is still fantastic, but I’m used to it now.  It’s still on the list, despite the previous editions of 40K not appearing on any of my lists before last year, which should also indicate how much I’m still enjoying this edition of 40K.

33: Takenoko


Previous Position: New to the list!

Year: 2011

Designers: Antoine Bauza

Publisher: Matagot

Plays 2-4 players in ~45 minutes

I’ve played Takenoko a few times over the past couple of years and it consistently entertains.  First of all, the game is cute.  The little panda miniature, the stacking bamboo, the pretty cards and tiles… it all just works, visually.  The game is also a lot of fun and I like the little individual objective cards that you spend the game working towards.

It’s a game that I don’t own, but which I would like to pick up this year.  I think it would see a lot of use and would be a regular choice for several different types of group.  I’m also keen to play it a bit more to fully get my head around how the game really works and how best to build towards multiple objectives.  I think I’d appreciate Takenoko more once I understand the depth a bit better.

32: Fiasco

fiasco cover

Previous Position: New to the list!

Year: 2009

Designer: Jason Morningstar

Publisher: Bully Pulpit Games

Plays 3-5 players in a few hours

Fiasco had been sitting on my shelf for a few years until I finally got to play it this year.  I’d sort of built it up in my mind, which can often lead to disappointment as it can be hard for a game to meet those expectations.  Fiasco smashed my expectations.

Credit to the group I played with, as they were wonderfully creative, knew each other well enough to play off one another’s characters and were always cooperative in working towards a great story.  That Fiasco gave us the scaffolding to build such a story and have a fantastic time in the process is a credit to Bully Pulpit.

Mechanically, the game is really simple is the rules are just there to support the storytelling.  I’d like to get a couple more games of this under my belt in the coming year.

31: Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team


Previous Position: 44 (+13)

Year: 2018

Designer: Unlisted

Publisher: Games Workshop

Plays: 2-4 players in ~30 to 60 minutes

I think this is the first item on this year’s list to actually move up a few spaces.  Well, more than a few in this case!  Last year, I had played a couple games of Kill Team, but I’ve managed a dozen or so this year.  It was a lot of fun.  I like skirmish games with low model counts and a focus on movement and objective-based play.  They’re much more accessible than larger, army-based games.

I really like that you can put together a nice force for this game with only a box or two of plastic miniatures.  It’s also a lot less to paint, whilst still having a good, usable, coherent force.  The core set is a really cool box, with loads of great terrain and a mat, and a new version of the box (not a new edition) has not long been released.  All in all, a great choice for players of 40K or just those looking for a skirmish game.

See you next time for part 3, featuring games 30-21


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