Jobby has been caught by Whamageddon, that must mean it’s that festive time of year. And that must mean it’s time for a top ten of games!
New to Me, That Is
There are nearly 50 games that I have played for the first time this year and this list is my top ten of those. Not all of these were released in 2019. In fact some were released quite some time ago! This year I have added more info to each entry. Along with the year published, I am also including the publisher (of the edition I own) and designer.
Right, here goes…
10. The Quacks of Quedlinburg
(2018, Schmidt Spiele, Wolfgang Warsch)
First up is last year’s Kennerspiel Des Jahres winner, The Quacks of Quedlinburg. This light-hearted game is far more fun than it has any right to be. The joy of pulling out ingredients from your bag to fill your bubbling pot with is hard to describe. This is push-your-luck done right. Pull out too many cherry bombs and your cauldron will explode ruining your score or buying power but when things go well it’s such a great feeling.
The joy of hearing the other players cursing as their cauldron goes pop is great. The things all the different ingredients do lend an air of strategy to the buying process. Do I concentrate on filling my bag with pumpkins to power up my mushrooms? Or do I get lots of ghost’s breaths to give me bonuses each round? A charming, light game that really does cater to a lot of players’ tastes.
9. Struggle for the Galactic Empire
(2009, Decision Games, Joseph Miranda)
Wow! What a change from the previous entry! I had this on my radar for years and finally saw a copy for sale at UKGE. I nearly punched someone in the face in my excitement to reach for it.
This is a solitaire hex-and-counter wargame, although replace hexes with sectors. The player is trying to keep control of a galactic empire that spreads out from a core star system. Each round bad stuff happens with systems rebelling, usurpers popping up and even independent empires forming! Each of these types of enemies will behave differently and need to be dealt with. This is a madcap, firefighting game where the player continuously struggles to keep control. If the Chaos Level goes to high, you lose (and I invariably do).
This game does a fantastic job of evoking some of my favourite science fiction works, especially Asimov’s Foundation series and elements of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. It’s an epic game to play and there’s lots of things to keep an eye on. After a few plays I’ve worked out some shortcuts to help smooth out play. I’m not a fan of the rulebook but the sheets of charts do explain most of what the player needs to know. A chaotic and crazy way to while away a Sunday afternoon when the wife is out. 👍
8. Dice Hospital
(2018, Alley Cat Games, Stan Kordonskiy & Mike Nudd)
I think it may have been Shut Up & Sit Down who got me interested in this game and I was very happy when I first played it. So happy, that I immediately went out and bought the expansion because of the cute ambulances that are in it. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not run out and buy expansions!
This game is basically about taking in ambulance after ambulance of poorly dice who only have a low number of pips on their top face. They can be made to feel better using various wards in your hospital. The wards allow for treatment of certain colour dice, increasing their value until they get better! Yay! Neglect dice and they die. Boo! Overfill your hospital and some dice will have to die to make room. Wha…?!
The first few plays will take a while until players get used to what those wards and doctors do. It is worth perservering as the game speeds up with repeated plays. I’m so looking forward to the expansion next year that has helicopters!
7. Blue Lagoon
(2018, Blue Orange, Reiner Knizia)
Ah, Reina Knizia. It would be true to say that I am a fan of the great doctor! One of my all time top ten games, Ra, was designed by him. He has a knack for designing games with beautifully simple rules that sit upon a mound of strategy waiting for gamers to explore. Blue Lagoon doesn’t disappoint in this.
I first heard of this when Sarah told me how much she enjoyed playing it in the Bennet Arms. Since then, she picked up a copy and we’ve played it a number of times at all player counts. It’s a lovely game about settlers expanding over a group of islands and has ridiculously simple rules. The components are bright and vibrant and it all looks sweet and family-friendly. And yet…
Under that cheerful exterior lies a game where players can get in each others’ faces. With players simply laying one piece each turn it doesn’t feel like much should happen but soon two opponents are angling for the same token or a fight has broken out over who can get the most pieces on one island. The combination of set collection and area control work brilliantly. It’s so simple and yet so challenging to play well. It’s great. I love it!
6. Trickerion: Legends of Illusion
(2015, Mindclash Games, Richard Amann, Viktor Peter)
This list seems dedicated on flitting from one extreme to the other. So, from Knizia’s half hour, lovely, colourful game to this drab coloured, table-hogging, multi-hour beast. It might not be bright but it is a lovely game.
In Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, players take on the role of a magician trying to win some kind of illusionist competition. The background story doesn’t make a lot of sense but the game itself does. Magicians learn new tricks, get the materials to do the tricks, prepare those tricks and then perform the tricks. Really, it’s hard to think of a game which follows the process so literally.
Which is good because this game can be a bit mind blowing. It has a wheelbarrow full of things the players will want to do but nowhere near enough actions in the game to do them all. The meat of the game is the performing of tricks which have been previously placed on cards. One player will perform a card getting bonuses for doing so, but any other players’ tricks on that card will pay their owners, too. This creates a sense of shared incentives.
It’s tight. It’s tough. It’s amazingly thematic and a nicely interactive worker placement game. You just need a lot of table!