Hey all! As part of my effort to write more on here I'm going to handle my end of year planning in a couple blog posts. This post will be a list of 2019 releases I played enough to actually rate. There will be at least one more post for the 2019-new-to-mes, which on average were a bit more exciting as those are more curated. Maybe the notes will be interesting to you, maybe they won't. It'll be a sneak peek as to what goes into the end of year stuff either way!
Bolded titles are the best games on this list.2019 RELEASES
Combo Fighter - A simpler, shallower Yomi. Delivers on the fighting game feel quite well but at this point there are plenty of options for fighting-games-the-card-game, and Combo Fighter just isn't the best of those.
Godsforge - I really wanted to love Godsforge but it proved to be a bit of a Juicyfruit game. Exciting for a play or two, then nothing. Desperately needed more variety in its card effects or, failing that, just more cards so you're not seeing the same plays over and over. Shame because it's gorgeous.
Battle for Biternia - The MOBA game that actually nails what makes MOBAs fun with absolutely none of the extra cruft. It's all about hero interactions. Immensely fun, palpably tense, very replayable, works well at all player counts.
Tiny Towns - Completely serviceable, fun even, but not remarkable. Buildings feel mathematically imbalanced and groupthink can make strategies crumble. The randomizer deck alternative loses the most notable mechanism - the resource calling. Feels underdeveloped.
Shuffle Grand Prix - A particularly well designed take that game that's made or broken by your table's play. Convincing other players of who to attack isn't just important, it's essential. Likely a divisive game as a result. Fantastic art and production.
Cabo 2nd ed - The best version of 4 Card Golf you can play. Immensely more fun than Silver, which is an overcomplicated mess that misses what makes this system fun in the first place. Has the classic card game feel with just enough modern edge to appeal to new-school snobs. Excellent.
Q.E. - I am not convinced this is truly an auction game. Instead it's a game of chicken with a touch of deduction, where the winner is the player who most accurately gauged the pulse of the table and spent the second most. Very interesting, very unique. Also allows players to write insults and doodle on their bids, which is always a plus.
Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection - A particularly uninspired Knizia game in which he remixes several of his less interesting mechanisms into an equally lifeless push your luck game. He's done far better. Production is notably stellar, but it doesn't save the design.
Res Arcana - Conversion puzzle where your success or failure is largely determined by the order of the cards in your microdeck. At this point we're spoiled for choice in the themeless resource conversion genre and this just doesn't compete with the best it has to offer.
Curios - Another Juicyfruit game that reveals itself to have very little to offer over several plays, but makes such a strong initial impression that it may fool you. It fooled me. Some hands are just give better information than others and those players will win. Fortunately it's short, but you can do far better.
Horrified - The Pandemic comparisons are easy to make, but not really applicable outside of it being a coop you can buy at Target. It's a pick up and deliver where you try, and often fail, to dodge the monsters. Plays nothing like Pandemic and that's a good thing. Despite the horror theme it lacks tension and much for theming, but it's so mechanically solid that I imagine many won't care.
Sovereign's Chain - A lovingly produced card game that makes me feel absolutely nothing. Not anger, not joy, nothing. Blank. Plays are obvious, the event deck is an event deck, and overall it doesn't manage to do much with its one novel mechanism.
Skulk Hollow - An card game of attrition and draw luck that appears to be geared more towards children or a parent/child table than adults. Great presentation and premise doesn't salvage the dull play. One of the biggest disappointments of the year, not because it's terrible (it isn't), but because it could have been so great.
Latice Hawai'i - The best version of a very good tile laying abstract. Combos in this are particularly satisfying; emptying your hand feels great. I struggle to recommend it as it doesn't stand out in any one regard besides production, but it's like comfort food for me.
Nine Tiles Panic - Oh Oink, honey, no. This one really stung because the premise is fantastic, but the play is just so uninteresting. Fulfill one scoring condition then finish quickly and you're almost guaranteed to keep the lead as the game generously showers you with 2nd and 3rd place points for the conditions you didn't even try to do. Some house ruling could fix it but I'm not interested enough in what's here to try.
Unmatched - The best thing about Unmatched is that it tricks you repeatedly. At first you think you're playing a skirmish game. Then you realize that it's actually a card game with bits you need to move around. Then you start to see exactly why every card is there, and it all comes in a rush as you realize just how much game is in this box. Not content for content's sake - curated, pinpoint design that's been polished to a mirror sheen. Every character (with the exception of Arthur) is a uniquely joyful experience. Unmatched just keeps giving the more you play it and I'm happy to give it as many plays as I can.
Slide Quest - A game targeted at children that's worthy of play by adults drunk OR sober. Never gets so challenging as to be unmanageable, but still requires some pretty solid communication as you manage the 1/4 of the game you can control. Really demands exactly 4p to be at its best as it gets a lot easier when players work multiple levers, but still a fun experience.
Conspiracy: The Solomon Gambit - A solid, if slightly too rulesy, redo of Conspiracy. I quite enjoy it but it seems to be a bit divisive among folks I've played it with. My biggest complaint is that the endgame can either be tense and exciting or a foregone conclusion depending on how players have bid until that point, but the rest of it is so engaging that I don't really care.CONCLUSION
Wow, I thought a lot more of my new-to-mes were 2019 releases than there actually were. I guess that list is going to be pretty damn long, then. Oh well. Technically Battle for Biternia is listed as 2018, but I don't think it actually delivered until January? I wasn't on the KS though, so if that's not the case I'll correct it.
2019 was a strange year. You'll note this list lacks a lot of notable heavier titles. My proclivities aside, I did play a fair number of popular heavy titles via other people's copies but not enough to really nail down my favorites. That said I don't see any of this year's euro crop ascending to best-of status. When a game as derivative as Wingspan is the biggest name in town it feels like we're in a lull at present.
Thanks for reading! Much longer post to come in the future with the rest.
The home of the Cardboard Diogenes Club, in which I consume as little as possible and write as much as possible. Opinions and strong takes abound!
01 Dec 2019
- [+] Dice rolls