lbleicher's 2010s in board gaming
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It is funny to make a 2010s list for me for two reasons. First, because it almost equates to my very own "a decade in board gaming" (I entered this hobby in 2009) and second because, as you will soon find out reading my entries, my preferences lie in a style of game that was not the 2010 mainstream. I've played many of the 2010s hits of course as I participated in many gaming events where the "hot stuff" was available, but after some time I found out that my preferences lied not on the legacies, the deckbuilders, the point salads, the tableau buildings, the dice placements, the "multiple routes to victory" that usually translated to "define a given strategy from the start of the game and hope you are the only one who chose it", the multiplayer solitaires that dominated the top positions of this decade games, but rather the games with direct (and either positive or negative) interaction, the tile placement on a common central board rather than an individual tableau, the auctions, the shared incentives, the collective route/network building, etc.

So that means I started playing modern board games in 2009 but most of my favorites came before that. Which is usually great news as I save a lot of money buying used games instead of spend copious amounts of cash in kickstarter campaigns.

But of course, this doesn't mean I'm such a curmudgeon I declare "nothing good came in the 2010s regardless of what kids these days say" - there's good stuff (for my tastes as well) coming up, it just takes a bigger effort from me to find them as they are usually buried in a pile of "hotness" that doesn't interest me. Ok, enough talk, let's add some items.
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1. Board Game: Poseidon [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:1659]
Board Game: Poseidon
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Best game of 2010: Poseidon

In my early days of gaming I would never contemplate the idea of playing "economic games" - how could games about economy be any fun? I was proved wrong when I discovered Mac Gerdts' masterpiece Imperial, which quickly proved me wrong and showed me it was perfectly possible to have lots of fun with games about economy.

At some point I found out about the existence of 18XXs, but I never expected to get one. Being touted as incredibly long and unforgiving, it seemed to be the kind of thing I could get to the table with my friends. But then I read about "entry-level" 18XXs and decided I should try one. There was the "18xx teaching game" 18EZ, which was virtually impossible to find, and also Poseidon and Steam over Holland. By sheer chance (it was the first I could find a copy to buy) I got Poseidon, and it worked great as a 18XX gateway.

I wrote a review about it here: Why Poseidon works - or How did I successfully enter the 18XX universe
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2. Board Game: Trick of the Rails [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:2497]
Board Game: Trick of the Rails
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Best game of 2011: Trick of the Rails

I should learn more about modern card games as they are clearly a sub-class where people are doing quite creative stuff. In this game Hisashi Hayashi manages to create a card game that is simultaneously a trick-taker and a railroad investing game - yes, solving tricks let players "take shares" or "build track" in railroad companies, and the endgame score is the player "net worth", calculated by multiplying the number of shares each player has on each network by the amount it is worth according to the cities in its route and the train it acquired. This is really a brilliant design and a very fun game.
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3. Board Game: Clash of Cultures [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:259]
Board Game: Clash of Cultures
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Best game of 2012: Clash of Cultures

Being a fan of civ-building and RTS computer games in the 90s, it was just natural that the interest carried on when I switched to board games in 2009. However, it has always been in a limited way: I read a lot (I do mean a lot) about civ board games for many years, doing countless Advanced Searches to see which were the civ games that could be played in a regular gaming night, because just as I never contemplated the idea of finding people willing to spend 6+ hours playing a 18xx, I knew finding people to do the same for a civ would be just as difficult.

I ended up getting just one short civ, Tempus, a story I told here: My quest for the Civ-lite holy grail: Tempus. But I had the chance to play Clash of Cultures, which does an excellent job in making a bona fide civ game that plays in a reasonable amount of time.
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4. Board Game: Serenissima (second edition) [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2115]
Board Game: Serenissima (second edition)
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2012 runner-up: Serenissima (second edition)

Given my tastes in board gaming, it should be no surprise that this list has a few remakes, and here's the first one of them.

Serenissima comes from a time when euros didn't fear interaction. It is a game about trading in the mediterranean, except that your trading boats can actually fight each other while you try to pick-up and deliver stuff around. Great fun!

I don't know how much the original Serenissima from 1996 was changed in order to make this new edition, but it's still a game that feels like a game from that era - which is great to me.
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5. Board Game: Northern Pacific [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:2909]
Board Game: Northern Pacific
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Best game of 2013: Northern Pacific

I still barely believe how Tom Russell achieved this. This is a game that can be explained in 20s (seriously), and then played in 5-15 minutes if you use the original rules or 15-45 minutes if you play by the Rio Grande Games edition rules, on which there are three rounds with scores summed up.

This is basically the most perfect distillation of the concepts of shared incentives / temporary alliances. Minneapolis must be connected to Seattle, but there are many ways to do it, with many possible cities in between that can be reached or not. On your turn, you either "bid" a cube on a city you believe will be connected, or you build one connection. Whenever a city with cubes is actually connected to the route, those with cubes there get them back and another one from the stock. Whoever has more cubes in the end wins.

Yes, I know it seems unbelievable there's an interesting game in such a simple description. But there is, and it is incredibly fun.

I wrote more about it here: Ridiculously simple. Ridiculously brilliant.
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6. Board Game: Lost Valley: The Yukon Goldrush 1896 [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:2986]
Board Game: Lost Valley: The Yukon Goldrush 1896
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Best game of 2014: Lost Valley: The Yukon Goldrush 1896

And here's another remake. This time it seems there are very few changes from the original Lost Valley from 2004. Basically, it is a gold mining game where the scenario is built by the players as they explore it (with tiles successively placed as the player moves to the borders), and infra-structure for mining or getting stuff can be built by the players and then used by any player (I actually found out about the existence of this game when I asked people to recommend games that were similar to Roads & Boats, where there's also shared infrastructure on a map).

It feels like playing those lovely computer adventure games from the 90s, and there's a lovely endgame condition: when tiles are exhausted the river starts to freeze (represented by a big ice block placed on the the river source), which is progressively moved (the rate being determined by dice that is biased for freezing) until it reaches the starting tile, immediately finishing the game after players spent the last rounds crazily looking for that last gold nugget.
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7. Board Game: Maskmen [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:3403]
Board Game: Maskmen
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Runner-up of 2014: Maskmen

Remember I mentioned I should learn more about modern card games? Here's another great example. Here, the twist is the suits "fight each other" so that their relative value is being determined as the game progresses from those "fights". Very curious game I wish I had more chances to play.
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8. Board Game: The King Is Dead [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1317]
Board Game: The King Is Dead
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Best game of 2015: The King is Dead

Peer Sylvester is a master in doing a lot with little. In The King is Dead (a reimplementation of Kinf of Siam), players have at most eight actions to do in the entire game (and some of them are the same, just referring to different factions), manipulating area majorities in different regions with the huge twist being the fact you are not trying to win with "your" factions - you are simultaneously trying to make factions win the majorites and betting on which faction you think will will. But you actually have to remove a cube from your faction from the board while doing this and therefore weakening it - meaning that those eight at most actions you will have until the game ends are all agonizing decisions. This game is nothing but wonderful.
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9. Board Game: Ponzi Scheme [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:949]
Board Game: Ponzi Scheme
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Runner-up of 2015: Ponzi Scheme

Yeah, I know there are a lot of remakes in my list, but here's a game that is simultaneously very innovative while it also feels like the old-school euros I like so much: Ponzi Scheme.

This is a game on which you get "investors" for your bogus investment opportunities by promising them big returns. Since your investment opportunities are bogus, how do you pay their returns? Simple: you keep getting new investors to pay them later.

Of course, this obviously means sooner or later you will bust. But there's no problem in that: your goal in this game is being the player in the better position when someone inevitably goes bust. To make things even more hilarious, your score also depends on accumulating luxury items that give big scores when you have many of the same kind, but you need to make offers to other players to do that. And those offers are not only secret, but a deal has to be done: if you secretly offer $15 for a player's item, she either accepts the money and gives you the item, or she refuses the offer by actually giving you the amount you offered and getting the same item from you (you can only make offers of items you already have at least one).

Needless to say this game usually results in very loud tables.
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10. Board Game: North American Railways [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:3564]
Board Game: North American Railways
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Best game of 2016:

Once again Peer Sylvester does a lot with little in what may be one of the simplest forms of commodity speculation game.

I feel a bit awkward for picking games I played only once both for the winner and the runner-up, but for some reason it seems I didn't play many games released in 2016.
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11. Board Game: Mare Nostrum: Empires [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:443]
Board Game: Mare Nostrum: Empires
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Runner-up of 2016: Mare Nostrum: Empires

Another remake, this is a dudes-on-a-map with some nice stuff added to it that could be my favorite choice of the genre if not for the fact some of the winning conditions can go back-and-forth, making game length very unpredictable. Which is a shame, because it is a rare case on which "multiple routes to victory" really mean you can try winning in other ways and it's not just "you can pick this or that pre-built strategic path hoping no-one else will do it".
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12. Board Game: Tulip Bubble [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:2263]
Board Game: Tulip Bubble
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Best game of 2017: Tulip Bubble

There are basically two ways of creating games about stock holding / commodity speculation. The first one, so common in economic train games such as the Winsomes or the 18XXs, is doing perfect information games where fluctuating prices depend solely on what the players do; the second is including chance to represent the unpredictability of the markets.

Games of the first kind tend to be thinky games of course, while those of the second kind are usually raucous. I happen to like both kinds of such games, and Tulip Bubble is a great example of the second group. It has just the right balance of how much of the price fluctuations on the flowers players buy and sell are defined by their actions and random events, including a bit of push-your-luck for the game ending.
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13. Board Game: 1920 Wall Street [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:3546]
Board Game: 1920 Wall Street
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Runner-up of 2017: 1920 Wall Street

It is quite curious that this game came out in the same year as the previous one, as it is also a "commodity speculation game of the second kind". However, this one is shorter, has simpler rules and comes in a smaller box, so it offers a nice lighter alternative to the previous one.
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14. Board Game: 18Lilliput [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:1998]
Board Game: 18Lilliput
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Best game of 2018: 18Lilliput

I guess I can simply quote myself from my blog:

Quote:
It may be weird to add to the list a game I have just removed from my collection, but the fact I did actually proves its worth. The reason I bought 18Lilliput was because, in the situation of being the sole train game enthusiast in a city full of eurogamers, 18Lilliput seemed to be just the perfect gateway for people in my situation. By making a simplified 18xx with euro mechanics, it seemed to fit the job of bringing eurogamers to 18xx. It did just that. And it did it so well that now I feel I won't really struggle to find players for my "regular" 18XXs, which meant 18Lilliput could go and do its magic for someone else. Thanks for that, Lonny!
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15. Board Game: Belratti [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:1810]
Board Game: Belratti
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Runner-up of 2018:

I'm usually not a big fan of co-ops, but perhaps that can be explained by the fact I haven't played many co-ops that are impossible to play solo. Which is the case for Belratti, a cool game that may be somewhat reminiscent of the likes of Dixit but plays co-operatively for a team score. And, even better, it comes in a very small box!
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Best game of 2019: Babylonia

It may look like a hollow victory - as of January 2020 Babylonia is the only game from 2019 I have played, and I played it only once.
However, it was very clear from this first play that it is something special, and it was my first Reinerssance game. It clearly is a game that rewards repeated plays and I hope I have those soon.

Below is what I wrote before playing it:

Interestingly, I'm yet to play any game released in 2019 (even more funny is the fact I have actually already played a game that is scheduled for release in 2020 - Scott Petersen's 1830-intro 18Chesapeake). I guess I'll need to update this geeklist in the future, not only for 2019, but for other years as I'm sure that, with more effort, I will be able to find other games that please me in an era when the mainstream doesn't exactly fit my gaming tastes.

As for 2019, I already have a few suspicions: something tells me I will probably enjoy Q.E. (I love auction games with a twist), Across the United States (from the same designer of Trick of the Rails) or Babylonia - Reiner Knizia made some of my favorite games ever but he was mostly dormant in his "games for gamers" releases in the 2010s, but he now seems to be back in that business - people are actually talking about a Reinerssance!
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