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So... that was 2018, I guess.

Christian Heckmann
Rheinland Pfalz
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It's January the 3rd, 2019, the new year is still wet behind the ears, so we're still on schedule for a review of the year that was 2018. And what a year it was. 12 months! 52 weeks! 365 days! That's... something, I guess. I also played some games, watched some movies, listened to some albums, you get the gist. Here's 2018 in numbers and some words!

Like last year, I'm gonna start off with some statistics and draw some comparisons to my last review of the year:

Total games played in 2018: 530 (1.45 games per day, +16 games compared to 2017)
Total unique games played in 2018: 241 (2.2 plays per game, -29 games compared to 2017)
Number of games played only once: 146 (60% of total games played, -26 games compared to 2017)
Busiest month: November (70 plays, 13.2% of all games played)
Least busy month: September (27 plays, 5.09% of all games played)
(Very strange, in 2017, the busiest month was September with 68 plays and the least busy month was November with 28 plays... how things can change...)
Busiest date: 09/07/2018 (13 plays, 2.4% of all games played, -2 games compared to 2017)
Top 7 most played games of 2018 (because neither Top 5, nor Top 6 would have worked out...):
1. Welcome To... (26 plays, 4.9%)
2. Avenue (25 plays, 4.7%)
3. Can't Stop Express (16 plays, 3%)
4. Win, Lose, or Banana (12 plays, 2.2%)
5. NMBR 9 (9 plays, 1.7%)
6. Krazy Wordz (8 plays, 1.5%)
6. Rise of the Necromancers (8 plays, 1.5%)
Top 6 of last year, played in 2018:
2017: 14 plays; 2018: 25 plays; +11 plays
Dr. Eureka
2017: 10 plays; 2018: 2 plays; -8 plays
2017: 10 plays; 2018: 3 plays; -7 plays
BattleLore (Second Edition)
2017: 9 plays; 2018: 3 plays; -6 plays
Puzzle Strike (Third Edition)
2017: 9 plays; 2018: 1 play; -8 plays
Wiz-War (eighth edition)
2017: 9 plays; 2018: 0 plays; -9 plays
Time approximately spent playing boardgames in 2018: 22.1 days (6% of the year)
Games and expansions added to my collection in 2018: PLEASE, LET'S NOT TALK ABOUT THIS, MY CHALLENGE FAILED, OKAY?!?
Games and expansions culled from my collection in 2018: Far too few...

Okay, now, as is customary, we'll continue with some bests and worsts. First of all, let's have a look at some different media besides board games.

Best film of the year:

It had to be this one. I mean... sure, I haven't really watched a lot of new movies this year, mostly because the cynic in me... scratch that, the cynic that is me is completely jaded when it comes to new, flashy movies. That is unless they are part of the MCU. Twenty movies in, you'd have to be some sort of soulless machine not to be invested in the characters and stories and stuff. So yeah, Black Panther was pretty good as well, so was Ant-Man And The Wasp, but Avengers: Infinity War takes the cake. Probably one of the most ambitious movies of all time, perhaps not perfectly realized, but coming pretty darn close. This one's great, folks.

Best video game of the year:

This is kind of cheating, I guess, because Finding Paradise was released December 14th, 2017, so technically it isn't a 2018 release. But I played it in 2018 and... come on, it was released roughly three weeks before the end of the year, are we gonna be that pedantic? Here's the deal: I played five games that were released this year and all of them were good, pretty good even. God of War (2018) is an absolutely bombastic blockbuster of a game, beautiful, fun, surprisingly touching at times for a game starring the angriest guy in all of (fictionalized) Greek mythology. But is it game of the year material? Perhaps, I don't know, despite all its strengths, it felt a bit too vapid. Same as Red Dead Redemption II, a good game, sure, but haunted by too many small niggles, a bloated playing time and a really rather mediocre story that treads water for far too long and therefore dilutes its strong points too much. Other games were Iconoclasts (pretty, fun, but at the end of the day, just another Metroidvania), Return of the Obra Dinn (ingenious concept, really clever in parts but at the end of the day, the story had its problems and some of the deduction-parts were too opaque for my liking) and The Hex (cool concept, decent implementation, strangely shlocky ending...). Finding Paradise is an incredibly touching, deep, cleverly written game that everybody should experience. So yeah, this one.

Best CD of the year:

I think I listened to four albums that were released this year. "The Shadow Theory" by Kamelot, "Contrasts" by Imber Luminis, "Requiem - Pianissimo" by Virgin Black and "Palo" by Kalmah, so crowning "Palo" as my album of the year might not sound like high praise, but it is really, really good. Some back-to-the-roots-stuff interspersed with some of the most catchy stuff that Kalmah have ever done. "Evil Kin", "The World Of Rage", "Take Me Away" and "Through The Shallow Waters" are immensly enjoyable songs, period.

Book of the year: Yesterday or so, I learned via Facebook that over the course of 2018, Dumon read and/or listened to a total of 161 books. That's a lot. I finally finished "Imajica" by Clive Barker, then read "The Hellbound Heart", also by Barker, and "John Dies At The End" by David Wong. That's also pretty good, isn't it?

Now with that out of the way, we're prepared for our main attraction, me rambling about new board games. Clear the ring!

Best game played in 2018:

Doomtown: Reloaded, of course. I only played the game five times over the course of 2018, though. I should really step up my game in that regard in 2019.

Worst game played in 2018:

Granted, I didn't expect much from Indus beforehand, so I didn't really care that much when the game turned out to be quite terrible. But yeah, looking back at it, this was probably the worst game I played all year. There were some other contenders, but I think I'll go with this one in order to save the other as my worst game published this year. Stay tuned...

Best game of 2018:

Okay, for this year, I decided to do things a bit differently. There's not gonna be that one clear choice alongside a few runner-ups. No, instead, you'll get ten choices. And then ten more. And another ten. Because why stop with one game, if you can have thirty? "Top thirty of the year?", I hear you say. "That's a pretty stupid number!" I know. And what I'm gonna do is not call out the thirty best games of the year in order, but three lists of ten games each with a certain theme. So here we go with the first list...

Ten games I haven't played but think could potentially enter my list of the best games of the year:

That's a mouthful.

10. Reykholt. I'm not that big into Uwe Rosenberg-games, but Nusfjord turned out to be a pleasant surprise, so if Reykholt follows suit being "general Rosenberg but in a lighter fashion", I think I could take a liking to it...
9. Holding On: Das bewegte Leben des Billy Kerr. To be honest, I don't think this could shoot far up on my list of best games of the year, it's just... I hope it's good based on my love for To the Moon/Finding Paradise.
8. Neon Gods. This one's getting savaged a bit by people who complain that it's a far too streamlined version of City of Remnants. I for one think that this could be a good thing. I liked City of Remnants conceptually but I found it to be nigh-unplayable, so fingers crossed that Neon Gods would be just the game for me.
7. Shifting Realms. This one sounds and looks really cool. A lot of people lament that it doesn't live up to its potential and plays far more pedestrian than it should. I still think it looks neat.
6. Lincoln. I liked A Few Acres of Snow and while Lincoln has a different core mechanic, it seems to recycle some of the ideas of that game and put a new spin on them. So who knows? Could be pretty good. Mr. Wallace usually knows what he's doing.
5. Lucky's Misadventures. This one simply HAS to be good. The artwork is cool, the theme is offbeat, it seems to add some cool twists to the trite genre that is deckbuilders, so yeah, more power to that one. I really need to get it to the table soon.
4. Tsukuyumi: Full Moon Down. I got a bit soured on this one because of the hackneyed rulebook and the sloppy production of the English language version. Also the box is far too big to take this game anywhere. Then again, it's something that I'd consider right up my alley and people seem to like it well enough, so perhaps I should finally bite the bullet and get it to the table.
3. Vault of Dragons. Is this even a 2018-release? Is this thing out yet? You're killing me, Gale Force Nine. Anyway, new version of Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem set in the D&D-universe? Shut up and take my money!
2. Wildlands. Aaaand Martin Wallace again. With a light dungeon-crawler that sounds a bit like a mixture between Arcadia Quest and Tannhäuser. I didn't like those two games too much but Wildlands sounds and looks really cool and the fact that Osprey Games seems to support the heck out of it fuels my hopes that this one could be here to stay.
1. Vindication. Wow, this sounds really, really good. A cool theme imposed on some very intriguing gameplay, plus great components. What's not to like? I hope to get this to the table very soon. Yes, I already own a copy. Spoilers.

Ten games I have already played but couldn't make up my mind about yet:

10. Dare to Dream. The one game of this that I played was quite fun. The theme is great, the artwork as well, I don't know why people have such a hard time wrapping their heads around this game, I found it to be rather accessible. Still, a single play might not be enough to accurately judge its overall quality and longevity, so yeah, that's why it's on here.
9. Deja Vu: Fragments of Memory. Also a single play and a solitaire-one as well. It was good fun, quite thinky but yeah, pretty cool. I found the graphic design to be a bit problematic and don't know whether it'd be any good with more than two players, but... I'm sure as hell intrigued to try it out.
8. Cosmic Run: Regeneration. And another one I've only played once with two players and I completely trounced my opponent in the process. It was fun, though, a pretty cool push-your-luck-style dice-allocation-game, and I'd like to try it again soon.
7. Hail Hydra. This one I've played twice, both times with five players, which might not be the most optimal number of players? I don't know, more would probably be better. As it is, it was kind of fun but it seemed to fall a bit short of expectations, probably because people weren't used to the games intricacies yet, so perhaps this will get better with repeated plays? If that's so, this could be a pretty neat game. We'll see.
6. Who Goes There?. As implied in my session report, I quite enjoyed my game of Who Goes There? but I'm not itching to play it again. Perhaps I do the game wrong, perhaps re-playing it would be amazing, hence its presence on this list. Still... ah well, I guess we'll never find out.
5. Alone. I had fun playing this one. I think the other guys at the table had so, too, even though none of us were completely blown away. But since I've played it only once as one of the dungeon masters, I don't know yet how well it holds up to repeated plays and/or whether playing the hero is fun.
4. A Place in the Sun. This is a strange one. Half of my single game of this was torturously strange. But then things started to turn around when we finally got the game. It became quite intriguing close to the end. Intriguing enough for me to decide that I'd have to try it again, but I didn't get around to it yet. It could be cool if both (or all) players know what they're doing right from the beginning...
3. The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch. I started a campaign of this with K., but we never progressed past the first scenario. Which is a shame, I liked quite a few things about this. I tried to coax D. into playing a campaign of this a month or two ago but he's preoccupied with other stuff at the moment. So yeah, once I get around to playing this a few times more, I think that this could be a really neat game. It has cool miniatures at the very least.
2. KeyForge: Call of the Archons. With two plays of this under my belt, I don't think that I can accurately assess how good this game is. I know that I liked my two games of this, but I'm not sure how far this could rise for me yet. Perhaps I should just pull the trigger, buy a deck or two, play some games of this, try to get into it. That shouldn't hurt, should it?
1. Ganymede. I played Ganymede four times now, every time with two players, and... I think it's kind of brilliant. But I don't know whether this feeling will last. It's such a clever, quick game, but that's part of the problem, you really need to be on your toes when playing this, as the breakneck pace punishes each and every mistake you make. So while I think that it's a really cool game, I think in the long run, the tightness as well as the very short playing-time that makes the game feel like it's over right when it gets going might hamper my interest in it. We'll see.

Current top ten games of 2018:

Okay, we're getting there. I always find lists like this kind of vacuous, because perhaps tomorrow I'll play a game published in 2018 and it'll be amazing and change everything for me. I mean, there's twenty potential games like this that I know of up there, how many hidden games that I have never heard of do you think are out there? Anyway, here's my current top ten games of 2018.

10. Dam It!. This one's surprisingly great. Cool artwork, easy to play with little downtime, yet full of crunchy decisions. It has shades of Fungi, Century: Die Gewürzstraße and Geschenkt in it but comes together quite nicely as its very own game that plays exceptionally well with two.
9. Century: Fernöstliche Wunder. Speaking of Century: Die Gewürzstraße, that game's successor Century: Fernöstliche Wunder isn't half bad either. And the combination of those two is better still. I'm looking forward to finding out how the final game of the trilogy will shake things up in the future.
8. Small Islands. I didn't think that this game would be as pleasant as it turned out to be, but here we are. Small Islands is a pretty, very cool tile-laying-game that introduces a few neat twists to a time-tested formula. It might not be high art, but it is really fun and that's worth something, isn't it?
7. Root. It might not be as asymmetric as I had envisioned it to be, but that doesn't mean that it's beat, does it? Root is a very cool design with a lot of stuff to explore, yet surprisingly accessible once you get the hang of it. Even though I don't think that it's the gamechanger that a lot of other people seem to take it for, I like it quite a bit.
6. Star Realms: Frontiers. Yes, on its most basic level, it's just more Star Realms. But that ain't a bad thing now, is it? Star Realms is a really fun game and the Star Realms: Frontiers-set contains some very cool cards, so that's nice.
5. That's Pretty Clever. Sure, I wished that they had added some kind of theme to this game, no matter which one, because the way it is, it's an incredibly soulless optimization-affair. But oh man is comboing stuff in this one fun and fulfilling. Take this, put it there, get this bonus which helps you get this one and boom, awesome quadruple-super-move executed. Cool!
4. AuZtralia. It took me four games to finally realize that yeah, I do like AuZtralia. It isn't perfect and it isn't as idiosyncratic as I had hoped it would be, but it's a fine, fun, entertainingly chaotic game with a cool theme. I don't know whether it'll stay in my collection forever, but for now, this one's fun.
3. The King's Guild. The Splendor-killer. It might not bring too many new ideas to the table, but it takes pretty much everything that made Splendor good and adds a few new twists and a huge bucket of flair to it. The King's Guild has one of the coolest boards I've seen all year, is fast and fun and just a very good game.
2. Welcome To.... It would be kind of strange if my most played game of the year didn't turn out in my top ten of the year, right? Welcome To... is a very fun game and proves what roll-&-write-games are capable of.
1. Rise of the Necromancers. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody, mostly because I already teased that this would be at the top of this list like... five times or so. Rise of the Necromancers is a really fun game and one I brought to the table a lot this year and since this game basically came out of nowhere for me, this is a really nice surprise. I'm looking forward to the expansion quite a bit.

Okay, now that that's done, let's look into the other direction. And no, don't worry, I'm not gonna put another three lists of ten games here, this is just gonna be one. And while it'd be tempting to go with some high-profile-release that I found didn't live up to its expectations (there were a few of those), I probably couldn't reconcile that with my conscience. So here we go, the...

Worst game of 2018:

I can't say that I was expecting great things from Hero's Crossing. I hoped that it'd be good, because it looked great and sounded like a neat concept. However in practice, this game is just a slow, random, unfun slog where it's hard to do anything at all and even if you finally manage to get something done, it feels like a complete waste of time. As said, the artwork is fantastic and there are some good ideas in there, it just doesn't come together very well. So yeah, I'll have to give it to Hero's Crossing, the worst game of 2018 I have played. (Dis)Honorable mention: Qwantum. But nobody really cares about this one, right?

Okay, here's some other board game related stuff to discuss...

Best new to me game of 2018:

While Rise of the Necromancers is fine and stuff, I'll have to go with the super-awesome Allegiance: A Realm Divided which I stumbled across by accident, bought on a whim, fell in love with and played a lot over the course of 2018 (7 times, I wanted to introduce it to K. around Christmas-time in order to push it up into my most-played-games-list). It's an incredible two-player-duelling-card-game. If you haven't played it yet, you owe it to you to try it out, TripleThr3at!

Greatest comeback:

Last logged play for Die blutige Herberge before this year was June 26th, 2016. Before that it was somewhere in 2015. And then, I played the game four times over the course of two months. If that's not a comeback, I don't know what is.

Longest mainstay:

This one's more or less of a guess, because my statistics aren't that accurate. But it looks like I've been playing at least one game of CV per year regularly since 2015. Doesn't sound like much, but... I think it is.

Greatest disappointment:

Yeah, something like this had to make it on this post... Did I expect too much? Am I perhaps just a cheeseball? People seem to like Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, like... a lot. None of the players present at the tables when I played it did so excessively, but... yeah, its rating here on the Geek isn't half bad. I mean, I also don't think that it's a bad game, it's... fine. Just... fine. And therefore nothing I really need in my collection. It's just too big and cumbersome to play for the amount of joy it elicits. If you like it, that's great, for me personally though, it was just a massive disappointment.

Okay, let's see, what else can we talk about? Oh, perhaps a bit of a prospect. Some things I look forward to in 2019? Yeah, sounds good, that should give me something I can look back at next year. Here we go...

Games I'm looking forward to in 2019:

10. Bad Bones. Is this out yet? It's listed as a 2018-release, but I read that it'll be available in a few months or so. Anyway, looks like a fun, quick, light game of tower defense. Nothing too mindblowing but if it's as fast as the early reviews imply, I think that it could be really fun.
9. Bärenpark: The Bad News Bears. Uh, an expansion. I've recently re-discovered my love for Bärenpark and the contents of this expansion don't sound half bad. More space to build on is always something that I welcome in games like this.
8. Dark Venture. I don't think that this game will be great. Then again, I don't know much about it, skimmed the Kickstarter-page once and went "Ah well, why not?" and backed it and that's how I got my hands on Rise of the Necromancers, so who knows? The artwork is cool and I'm always hoping to find a good adventure-game, so fingers crossed.
7. Dark Domains. Necromancer-games are cool. I hope this one will be, too. I also hope that it'll be possible for people living outside of the US (like me) to purchase the finished game at a reasonable price. But yeah, the board looks really good, the theme sounds fun, the mechanisms seem to be right up my alley as well, this could be something.
6. Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage. I have never played a legacy-game, so perhaps this one could be my first. I mean, the thing scarring me off of legacy-games most is the prospect of having to play the same game with the same group x times in a row or something like that. But if games of Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage are as short as they say, this shouldn't be that much of a problem. Responses to the Essen-Demo last year have been decidedly mixed, though, so who knows? Perhaps the feedback that they have gotten will make the game better? We'll see...
5. Maniacal. I have to admit, the look of the game doesn't inspire that much awe in me. The artwork is cool, but the main-board which seems to be just some tracks and spaces for cards...? Eh. Then again, Hassan Lopez' previous game is absolutely awesome, so I think I should give him the benefit of doubt.
4. Okko Chronicles: Cycle of Water – Quest into Darkness. Funny thing, I'm not really a fan of Okko. I read the first three comics and own and have played Okko: Era of the Asagiri quite a few times, but both of these things to me just were... good. Still, this thing here really intrigues me. It promisses an asymmetric one vs. many game that doesn't rely just on combat but also other stuff. Plus, while I didn't think that the stories of the comics were that great, I do like the world of Pajan (even though it's a stupid name).
3. Skulk Hollow. Cool, huge wooden bits, a neat theme, asymmetric factions and great artwork... This one looks quite good. Like a neat two-player-companion-piece to Root.
2. A War of Whispers. A game where you don't play the kingdoms at war themselves but cunning spymasters who play both (or let's say all) of the factions against each other? Sounds a bit like Imperial. But A War of Whispers is set in a fantasy-realm and apparently plays far quicker (fifteen minutes per player). Sounds cool. I hope it works.
1. Getaway Driver. Why did it take so friggin' long for anybody to finally decide to create such a game? I mean, now that it's in the making, it seems so very obvious. Asymmetric Chicago 90-style car-chases mixed with a tile-laying-game? How cool is that? I need it now.

And here's some other stuff I look forward to in 2019:

- Avengers: Endgame (obviously)
- Hopefully finishing my Bachelor's degree in computer science
- Trying (and probably failing again) to play all of my ten favorite games of all time
- Lorelai by Harvester Games
- Loads of Kumpir... Kumpir is awesome, why is it so hard to get here in Mainz?
- Writing (mostly) daily articles for you lot!

So that's it, this concludes my personal look-back at the year 2018. A pretty good year, if you asked me. Have had worse. Hope you found it helpful/interesting/not excruciating. Tomorrow's article will be shorter. I promise. Feel free to thumb this post, comment on it, tell me what you thought about 2018 in general and/or my feelings towards it. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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