For me, the most notable thing about the games I played in 2019 was just how few ‘traditional’ wargames I actually played – only two in fact: Dux Britaniarum and Red Sand, Blue Sky – both of which I played twice.
By far the most numerous type of game I played in 2019 were what I have previously termed ‘hybrid’ games; that is, games played on a board where miniatures play an important element in the game. These include Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, Gloomhaven, Mansions of Madness, Red Alert: Space Fleet Warfare, Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, Memoir ’44, Zombicide: Black Plague, Batman, Gotham City Chronicles, Battle of Britain, Dungeons & Dragons: Temple of Elemental Evil, Dungeons & Dragons: Legend of Drizzt, Nemesis, Ninja All-Stars, Time of Legends: Joan of Arc.
These games between them account for almost half of the total number of games I played last year. It’s been a significant shift in my hobby gaming over the past couple of years, which I think shows two things
- My love of these type of games
- The ease that these games are to play, when compared to more traditional wargames. They are usually easier to transport and set up, and quicker to play, which is certainly a factor in my gaming hobby at present.
My gaming in numbers
- Number of games played in 2019: 163
- Number of different games played: 59
- Number of games played more than once: 26
- Month in which most games played: January (31)
Most Played Games of 2019
Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth is probably my favourite game played during 2019. I’m a big fan of Fantasy Flight Games App driven games, and JIME uses this engine well to drive it’s campaign, giving the players plenty of mystery to explore during play. Whilst I am not fully convinced that the campaign fully stands up to repetitive play, and there seems to be an issue with the difficulty scaling with increased number of players, playing with two characters has proven to be an enjoyable challenge. I think that both Imperial Assault and Mansions of Madness are better games, but this has been a consistent favourite on the table, even considering that we have only played the first of the current two available campaigns.
We have continued playing Gloomhaven this year as we have been steadily working our way through the extensive campaign contained within this game. We started the game in August 2018, but several large gaps between plays in 2019 means that we still haven’t finished the game. Leaving large gaps between plays is not particularly conducive when involved in such a narrative led game, and I think that our playing experience has suffered as a result, as we seem to have lost track of the story and the constant ‘dungeon bash’ style of play has become a little repetitive. Given that we have invested 90-odd hours into this game, this should not really be a surprise.
I was expecting Keyforge to feature quite large in my gaming this year, but this has proven not to be the case. There is no doubt that this game works best in an FLGS or tournament environment, and without attending these events (and thus facing different challenges by playing different opponents) the fixed nature of the card decks in this game means that playing the same opponent becomes dull, unless you are constantly investing in new card decks – which is probably what FFG would like you to do, but not something I am willing to participate in. I suspect that this game will only see the odd play in future.
Instanbul: The Dice Game is our ‘go to’ filler game at the end of an evening when the main game has finished early. Whilst luck is obviously a factor, given that dice are involved, it’s a fun a challenging game.
A classic game in a similar style to the ‘choose your own adventure’ books that I grew up with, Escape the Dark Castle is a co-op game which seems to tantalize you with the hope of success before dashing those hopes with some brutal dice rolls. A deceptively simple looking game with a massive amount of replayability, especially if you add the scenario expansion cards into the main game story deck. Great fun.
A simple premise: try and link words together by using another single word as a clue. Mae it competitive between two teams and you have Codenames, which is almost the perfect party game.
Mansions of Madness is, quite simply, one of my all time favourite games. A mix of exploration, puzzle solving and combat set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft and inspired by the horrific nature of his stories, this co-operative game offers huge amounts of fun and challenge in immersive scenarios. Simply excellent.
One of the ‘discoveries’ of 2019, Red Alert: Space Fleet Warfare is the newest implementation of the Commands & Colors system by Richard Borg. It has taken tired and tested game mechanics and sprinkled enough thematic changes to give the game a completely fresh approach. Couple this with expansions which each add multiple options to force building, rather than simply giving the option of further scenarios, and you have one of the best versions of C&C.
Castle Ravenloft brings the classic RPG campaign into a boardgame environment. Yes, you lose the role playing element of the game, but it’s a hugely fun, if somewhat difficult, dungeon bash which scratches your fantasy gaming itch.
Thanks to the Legends of the Alliance app, I fell in love with Star Wars: Imperial Assault this year. Whilst the ‘one versus many’ approach of the boardgame is fun, I think the fully cooperative play that the app enables gives that added dimension that raises the game to new heights. Plus, it’s Star Wars, so what’s not to like?
Star Wars: Outer Rim gives you the opportunity to experience life as a smuggler or bounty hunter on the fringes of the Empire in the Star Wars universe. At its heart it is a ‘pick up and deliver’ style game, and I think it certainly rewards the players if they invest in the theme – but who can complain when you can get to make the Kessel Run in the Millenium Falcon? It’s probably best with two or three players, but I’ve really enjoyed this game.
Another game that rewards theme investment, but if you happen to be a fan of the Thunderbirds TV show then this reimplementation of the ‘Pandemic’ mechanic is a ‘must play’. This has been one of those games that we played this year and found ourselves asking “This is really good, why don’t we play this more often?”
What were my favourite games of last year? You need to listen to our review of 2019 podcast to find out.