Once again, Token Opinion announces our holiday recommendations for 2019. These are the games that have most impressed me this year. The majority were released this year, with a few titles sneaking in from 2018. Love the list this year? Hate it? Maybe I just missed a game? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Sound out in the comments below.
I’m going to kick off this year’s recommendations with “Skulk Hollow,” an asymmetrical two player title from Pencil 1st Games. One player takes on the role of a giant ancient Guardian, while the other player commands several Foxen Warriors. Seriously, who doesn’t love anthropomorphic foxes?! Players both navigate a 3×3 grid, but the guardian is also represented by another board, allowing Foxen to jump on and attack the beast directly. Gameplay is quick, smooth, and fun, while still remaining thought provoking. The title features great world building as well, and completely oozes charm. With at least one sequel game planned with cross compatibility in mind, there’s a lot of promise to be found here.
“Ragusa” is… Sublime. I believe it has hit the table almost every game night since we received it (full disclosure, I backed the Kickstarter). It’s a fascinating experience where worker placement masquerades as city building. Each turn you place just one of your houses- but the consequences of each decision increase exponentially as other players will benefit from your actions as the game progresses. And with a simple timing mechanism, the game rarely goes past an hour. In short, I can’t recommend “Ragusa” enough.
“Space Base” is a simple dice rolling game from AEG. The core is very simple: you have a set of cards numbered from 1 to 12. Each turn you roll a pair of dice, assign them to the similarly valued cards, and receive the reward associated with that card. But as the game progresses, you will begin receiving rewards on other player’s rolls- making every turn progressively more rewarding. The end result is a game that is easy to play, but leaves a lot of room for strategy.
I think by now most of my visitors are going to know about “Quacks of Quedlinburg.” For those who don’t, this game is phenomenal. In “Quacks” you are attempting to make the ultimate potion. You’ll do this by throwing chits in a bag, then drawing them out at random. There’s a push your luck element here, as some of the chits are bad- pull out too many and it’ll end your turn! “Quacks” features a lot of variability, but is easy enough to grasp that it’s a great gateway title.
“Tapestry” is the newest title from Stonemaier Games. It’s a civilization game, but does away with the normally obfuscated mechanics one might expect in a civ game, instead relying on four tracks: science, technology, exploration, and military. Players will choose when to progress on these tracks, and when to reap the rewards of this progression- an interesting tight rope. As one can normally expect with a Stonemaier title, the production is excellent.
“Dragonrealm” is the sequel title to another Token Opinion favorite, “Dragonwood.” It features a lot of the same mechanics as the original, including hand management, poker style hands, and dice combat. But it takes a different approach, by having players collectively capture a location, and receiving scores for that location. I’ve had a lot of fun with the original title, and “Dragonrealm” looks to be just as good.
“Tiny Towns” is a fascinating combination of set collection, polyomino puzzle, and… Bingo! That’s right! Each round, players will take turns calling out resources, placing those pieces in a pattern on a very tight four by four grid, and then using them to assemble buildings. It’s a tight, fascinating puzzle game that’s easy to recommend.
Recently, Portal Games ran their first ever Kickstarter project to produce the third edition of “Prêt-À-Porter,” which is widely regarded as one of the best business management sims ever designed. The fashion theme is clearly different than most games these day, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a big part of the appeal. Featuring updated artwork, upgraded components, and streamlined ruleset, this is an easy buy for any eurogamer on your list.
I’ve long thought that deck building is the perfect game mechanic for a legacy game. Enter “Clank: Acquisitions Incorporated.” Here we have an exceptionally well produced, legacy version of the outstanding adventure deck builder, based on the popular podcast series from Penny Arcade. For those unfamiliar, ‘legacy’ describes a game that evolves over a series of plays. Everything here is dialed to perfection, with top quality miniatures, multiple boards, and over three hundred cards!
“Res Arcana” is incredibly difficult to explain. Each game you will receive eight cards which will allow you to generate resources in a variety of ways. You will use these resources to purchase a ‘place of power,’ which will allow you to start generating victory points. The first player to ten points wins. I understand that this game has a tendency to come off a bit dry in the description, but it is absolutely fantastic!
I’m going to step out on a limb here, and say that “Hanabi” is a classic. It’s the kind of game that belongs in every closet, along with chess, checkers, and dominos. The game is simply that good. “Hanabi” is a cooperative title, in which you and your friends are attempting to build ‘straights’ from five suits of cards. The added twist is that you can’t see your own cards- you must rely on your friends to adequately clue you as to which cards you should play. While this seems simple enough, I could likely write a book on the layers of thought and methodology at play in this title. This deluxe version really steps up component quality by replacing the cards with Mahjong style tiles, allowing players to focus solely on the gameplay. I really love “Hanabi,” and this is the way to play it. Don’t let this one pass you by!
Let’s be honest. No conversation about board games this year is complete without mentioning “Wingspan.” This is the game of 2019. And it’s not difficult to see why. Different theme, gorgeous artwork, the standard Stonemaier attention to detail- they knocked it out of the park with this one. In “Wingspan,” you are attempting to attract a variety of birds to your sanctuary. As birds move in, you will gain abilities and resources allowing you to attract even more birds to your preserve! Birds will earn you victory points in a variety of ways; and after four rounds, the player with the most points wins. “Wingspan” has received a lot of unexpected attention, and though it has been out for most of the year, Stonemaier has had a tough time keeping it in stock. But if you can find it, any gamer would be happy to find this under the tree!