Punchboard Media Presents: The Top 10 Board Games of 2018
Everyone loves a good Top 10 list, and we’re no different. We here at Punchboard Media also love Top 10 lists that are just a little bit different, and aren’t just the same things being listed by everyone. So the question becomes, how do you get lists like that? You ask your friends to help. In what we hope is going to be an ongoing monthly series of Top 10 lists, we are going to dig deep and have our contributors here help us create some fun lists for everyone to enjoy. There are a lot of different voices here -- a lot of different ways of thinking -- and I hope that brings us some interesting and diverse perspectives. Voting on these is done over a two-week period, allowing many Punchboard Media creators to jump in and vote. Some months we’ll have a bigger turnout than others, but rest assured, these “scientifically” proven results will be a lot of fun to see.
2018, some may see it as a banner year, others see it as average. Whatever we think about the quality of games that came out last year, we can all agree that A LOT of them were released into the wild. For our initial foray into the world of list making, we here at Punchboard Media have chosen a Top 10 Games of 2018 now that we are five months into 2019. You no longer have to look around to find a definitive list of games, we’re going to give you that list, right here, right now.
Here are the five games that get Honorable Mentions, numbers 15 through 11:
15) Cryptid (54 pts)
14) Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game (55 pts)
13) Arkham Horror 3rd Edition (57 pts)
12) Decrypto (60 pts)
11) Brass: Birmingham/Lancashire (69 pts)
That’s a pretty solid list of games that didn’t make the Top 10. We had twenty-three contributors who voted in this poll, and they cast 341 votes between them (Not everyone decided to rank fifteen games). Each contributor was given 120 points to vote with, they could give their number one game fifteen points, number two would get fourteen points, on down to their number fifteen game getting one point. Just like in most games we play, the game with the most points was declared the 2018 Punchboard Media Game of the Year.
10) Space Base (75 pt, 2 first place votes/2 third place votes)
John D. Clair’s dice-rolling, tableau building, space game — published by AEG — plays a lot like 2012’s Machi Koro, but with more going on. The players control a small fleet of ships and through card purchasing can build their tableau to be more efficient at gaining credit, income and most importantly, victory points. Cards will be activated when the active player rolls the two dice. You can use the dice individually, or you can use them as a sum. The active player will activate ships in their base and everyone else can use the dice to activate the ships they have deployed out into the galaxy. Straight forward game play, with the ability to create some clever combinations in your tableau, highlight Space Base.
9) Keyforge (76 pts, 1 first place vote/1 third place vote)
Richard Garfield is back, and in a big way, with Fantasy Flight Games’ Keyforge. The designer who brought us Magic the Gathering has decided to step back into the competitive card game world. This time though, all of the decks are pre-made -- there is no deck building here. Not only that, the decks are all unique, both in name and in composition. Buy a deck at the store, open it and play a game. With its low barrier of entry and unique style, Keyforge has been a hit since its debut.
8) Ganz Schön Clever (82 pts, 1 third place vote)
The first of two entries from wunderkind Wolfgang Warsch. Ganz Schön Clever is a roll-and-write game where you are rolling dice of six different colors hoping to best fill in spots on your player sheet to score the most points. Ganz Schön Clever was a Kennerspiel des Jahres nominated game that took the gaming world by storm with it’s ease of play, and it’s “pretty clever” action combinations that you could activate through correct usage, and timing, of the dice you chose.
7) Welcome To… (85 pts, 1-first place vote, 2-third place votes)
Designer Benoit Turpin brings another roll-and-write game, or rather a flip-and-fill game, to the list. Instead of dice dictating the actions that the players can do, cards are flipped and the players fill in spots on their player sheets based on the cards. Players are trying to build the perfect neighborhood, the houses have to be in ascending order on the streets, but the fun of Welcome To… comes from the actions that can be taken as you play. Flip cards and fill in your neighborhood to try to score the most points. Interesting tidbit, Welcome To… is currently the highest ranked game in the Roll-and-Write family on BoardGameGeek.
6) The Quacks of Quedlinburg (92 pts, 2 second place votes)
The second Wolfgang Warsch title on this list is the biggest game of his to date. Quacks is a bag-building game of sorts, where the players are “Quack” Doctors who are brewing potions and medicines with various ingredients that they have in their bag. You have to be careful though, if you place too much of a certain ingredient and the whole thing will blow up in your face, leaving you with a choice of either buying new ingredients, or taking victory points. If you stop, and your potion doesn’t blow up, you don’t have to make that choice, you can gain both. To make the game even more fun, most ingredients have special bonus actions associated with them that will allow you to further your potion-building skills.
5) Sprawlopolis (94 pts, 1 first place vote, 3 second place votes, 1 third place vote)
Cooperative city building in a tiny, 18-card format made popular by Button Shy Games. Steve Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka designed the number five game, Sprawlopolis. It may seem easy to design a city, but not every city wants the same things. Every game of Sprawlopolis will play differently based on the variable scoring system, but you will only ever have those same 18 cards to work with. It’s all about efficiency in placement, and making sure that what you are doing is adding points to your scores, and not taking them away.
4) Gizmos (101 pts, 1 second place vote, 1 third place vote)
If there is someone in today’s current board game climate that you can count on to give you a quality game each and every time out, it may be Phil Walker-Harding. Gizmos is an engine builder that uses marbles. The players are scientists competing at a science fair trying to create the best engine. The four different marble colors are your energy, which power the engines. Complete with a marble dispenser, Gizmos creates a table presence that grabs players and gameplay that keeps them around.
3) Root (109 pts, 3 first place votes, 1 second place vote, 1 third place vote)
Cole Wehrle, previously best known for his Pax series of games, has created what many may consider a “gateway” card-driven war game in Root. Wehrle teamed up with Leder Games after the success of Vast: The Crystal Caverns, and that brought some asymmetrical play into the field, where each faction has a unique way to go about winning the game. What you end up with is an anthropomorphic battle of wits and strategy among the woodland creatures of the forest that delivers a unique experience each play..
2) Coimbra (112 pts, 2 first place votes, 2 second place votes)
Coimbra, from designers Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli, brings a fresh look at dice drafting set in 14th and 15th century Portugal during the Age of Discovery. As the head of one of the prominent houses of the time, you are attempting to influence the churches and funding expeditions, all while hoping to curry the favors of the most influential citizens in order to gain more prestige than your fellow players.
1) Just One (130 pts, 2-first place votes)
The best game of 2018 and possibly the leading candidate for Spiel des Jahres is this “word” game from the designers of 7th Continent, Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter, Just One. Simple in description, Just One is a game where the players are working together to get as many correct answers as possible. The active player draws a card and does not look at the words on it, picks a number and each of the other players try to give a clue that will lead the active player to say the word on the card that has been chosen. Catch is, none of the clue givers can give the same clue. If they do, they cancel each other out and thus give the active player less information to deduce the word. It’s an absolutely brilliant design, and a worthy Game of the Year.
We realize that there are probably some omissions that many of you will feel are glaring or even inexcusable. The Mind didn’t have enough votes to finish in the Top 25, and many of the 2019 possibilities for the Spiel des Jahres aren’t on this list either. This is what you get with a group of contributors who are both on the cutting edge of the Cult of the New and trying to be mindful of their purchases and what they bring into their collections. You can’t play them all, no one can. We do think, however, that what we have here is a very representative list of 2018 titles that anyone can look at and find something that they will enjoy. Feel free to join in the comments and give us your Top 10, or let us know some titles you think that we overlooked. We may tell you where they ended up on our list of 106 games that received at least one vote.
Comments from the PunchBoard Media Contributors
Eric Buscemi (The Cardboard Hoard): I agree with most of this list, although two of my personal favorites of the year -- Plaid Hat Games’ Guardians and Crystal Clans -- did not make it. It says something about the company’s marketing, or lack thereof, as well as the glut in the current market, that these two titles didn’t get more buzz, and hence, more of a shot at making a list done in this way. I do feel this list properly places Just One and The Mind, which was a gripe I had with this year’s Golden Geek ‘Party Game’ voting.
Patrick Hillier (WDYPTW) 2018 was not a year for me with a lot of plays, so filling out this list was a challenge. Fortunately, I got a lot of the games played early 2019 and just before the deadline I got in a game of Coimbra to solidify my first place slot. I learned The Quacks of Quedlinburg in March, and it has become a regular family favorite. Simple but fun games like Just One and Sprawlopolis show that games do not have to be heavy or complex to be among the best. The only surprise on this list for me was Space Base -- which fell a little flat for me. Others like Root are worthy, but I just had not played enough and it really isn’t my style, although I see the reason people would like it so much.
Marti Mahood-Wormuth (Open Seat Gaming): 2018 has been quite a wild ride, and I was happy to see that many of my top games were included in the PBM list. I did play Root -- but was underwhelmed by it (I know, sacrilege!). I was pleasantly surprised to see Just One at the top -- such a great game and deserves a spot on this list. And, out of these, Coimbra and Keyforge are the only games I haven’t played -- and they’re both games I want to play (Keyforge is sitting on my unplayed shelf). I do want to give a shoutout to my personal #15, Patriots and Redcoats (I was the only person who voted for it, haha). If you, like me, are very bothered by the theme of Secret Hitler but enjoy the gameplay, P&R is a must-try.
Ric White (One Board Family): Welcome To… is my roll-and-write jam -- I’m always down for a game. I still haven’t played Root, but I would like to very much please -- it’s just so well designed! I’m a huge fan of Cryptid -- I would probably classify it as the game that I most want to own that I don’t. Coimbra and The Quacks of Quedlinburg were solid, and I’ll probably play them again, but they don’t get me all that excited. I certainly would put Chronicles of Crime in over Detective -- I feel it allows for better teamwork and the VR component is great. I didn’t have that great of a time with Gizmos -- while I understand how people like it and I appreciate unique mechanics, I think there are better engine-building options out there. Same goes for Sprawlopolis, but it could’ve just been that I and my gaming companions were not very good at it. I would personally have put Trapwords on the list - it has been a hit (and cause of enjoyable frustration) at the past few large gatherings I’ve hosted. Mars Open has also seen a lot of tabletime with some larger groups of players -- people love to break out those paper football skills they never thought they would need again. But the most ridiculous omission here is Reef. What is wrong with you people?!? This was easily my top game of 2018, and I will play with anyone anytime. A great balance of a cool theme, solid mechanics, and ease of entry -- I’m tempted to just turn this car around until you all learn to behave yourselves and pick good games.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): I was kind of surprised by this list. I tend to think of the game of the year for most media outlets as a heavier game, or a more thematic game. I hardly ever think of it lining up with what I think has to be one of the favorites for the Spiel des Jahres Award this year, Just One. I think it’s pretty fantastic. Out of this Top 10 list, I have played nine of these titles, the only one I am missing -- I actually own -- and just haven’t played for some weird reason, Welcome To, but only five of them actually ended up in my Top 15 list for the article. My Top 2, Gunkimono & Blue Lagoon didn’t even make the Top 50. My highest game was Gizmos which I had as my number three. All in all I think this is a fantastic Top 10, that shows the different tastes of all the folks at PunchBoard Media. I am curious though to see if any of these titles stand out for another year.
BJ from Board Game Gumbo (Board Game Gumbo): I love the top three here, as they represent a good cross section not only of gaming but also of the discussions we have had on the different Punchboard Media outlets. Based on the chatter and reviews, Just One was easily the party game of the year, and even if it was not my number one game of the year, it still deserves getting more love. Coimbra, Detective and Root were my top three choices from last year, and I was happy that all three made the list, as well as other favorites like Space Base. The more I look at the top fifteen, the more it solidifies in my mind that this was a more than solid year for cardboard, and that many of these will still be played down the road. Now, if I could just get my hands on a copy of Quacks….