Happy New Year everyone! It’s the time for retrospectives, game of the year awards, and other such usual things that keep entertainment writers stressed through the holidays.
The games staff here thought long and hard about what our top games of 2018 were, but honestly, we had trouble. In board games, there are just SO MANY games to play, in so many genres, that it was damn near impossible to come up with a list. Instead, we decided to make up a list of our most anticipated board games of 2019! A mix of games we saw at GenCon, games we’ve heard about, and new discoveries we’ve seen announced, these are the games we are most hype to play this year!
Crusader Kings: The Board Game (Free League Publishing)
This is a game we’ve been excited about for a while. After talking with Paradox, we’ve been counting down the days for the release of their first foray into board gaming. A unique mix of on-board strategy and intra-player intrigue, this is going to be an incredibly interesting game. Just from our little taste at Gencon, we could tell this was going to not just something for 4X fans. A faithful (as possible) adaptation of the best selling video game filled with history, magic, and bear popes, there’s a lot of love being put into this game. Free League is a fantastic developer to boot, and have put their own polish into things. It’s a gorgeous game, even in the prototype we saw. It made over 8x its goal on Kickstarter, so it won’t be surprising if the first run of this game sells out quick.
You can still reserve your copy with a late pledge, however, with the base level running you $69 dollars plus shipping. If you want to be fancy, the tricked out “Royal Edition” is also available, with all the extra fixins, for $93. DEUS VULT!
Nexus Infernum (Archon Games)
Another GenCon standout from one of our favorite developers, Archon Games, Nexus Infernum is a “necromantic resource brawler” pitting players against each other in a bid for demonic power. From the sample we got to play, this is a really fun and fast paced game that mixes the dark aesthetics of the Eschaton universe with the darkly humorous edge Archon gives all their games. With some gorgeous art and fun gameplay, it’ll be a great addition to anyone’s shelf.
You can currently pre-order the game on their Kickstarter (which was wildly successful, and your humble author admittedly pledged to) for $55.00. For those with truly dark hearts, there’s also all sorts of add-ons you can buy as well, from the “Seals of Blasphemy” sticker set all the way up to the $100.00 “Necromancer’s Chest.” Pre-orders will begin to ship in July, with the game going into wider release shortly thereafter.
Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game (IDW Games)
IDW’s big announcement from PAX Unplugged, Metal Gear Solid will translate Hideo Kojima’s legendary series of “tactical espionage action” games from the digital to the cardboard and plastic. A partnership between IDW and Konami, the game will be a “fully cooperative miniatures” game that will allow players to take on the roles of Snake, Otacon, Meryl, or Grey Fox. IDW promises a “highly dynamic AI” and “sandbox” system, two phrases rarely attached to board games but that are deeply intriguing nonetheless. It’s being designed by Emerson Matsuuchi, who designed the Century games as well as Reef, and feature miniatures from veteran NECA sculptor Francesco Orrù as well as art from Kenneth Loh.
While there’s no set release date or pricing for the game as of yet, it will be available at GenCon to play, so keep an eye here for our full coverage of that convention!
Chiyo’s Secret (Wizkids)
An original game from WizKids and J.B Howell (Papillon, Reavers of Midgard), Chiyo’s Secret made this list because it is in fact a ROMANCE themed board game. And get over yourselves if that’s a problem. It centers on Chiyo and Fusanobu, a pair of star-crossed lovers in feudal Japan who wish to escape the complex and dangerous world of the Daimyo and live together in peace. At its core, this is another “hidden role” game similar to other games like Werewolf, but it plays with the rules of those games like its fellow WizKids game Doppelganger. In Chiyo’s Secret, there are four teams working for or against the lovers: the Loyal Allies who wish to seem them executed, the Usurpers who wish to use them as a bargaining chip for power, the Betrayers, who wish to use the lovers to curry favor with the Shogun, and finally Motonaka, who is the son of the fugitives and wants nothing more than his parents happiness. All of the parties are working against each other, and each have their own unique win condition. The art looks gorgeous and it looks like a highly flavorful and dramatic take on a very popular genre.
Chiyo’s Secret will release in February and retail for $39.99
Lovelace & Babbage (Artana)
Artana has some of the most aesthetically pleasing games in the business right now, and I’ve been mad since GenCon that I didn’t get a chance to stop by their booth. The successor to Conquistador Games, Artana has put out a slew of gorgeous historical games like Einstein, Speakeasy Blues, and Tesla vs. Edison. The big showcase this year was their newest game: Lovelace and Babbage. Based on the sometimes forgotten pioneers of computing Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, the game is a “filler” game designed by Scott Almes (Tiny Epic.) The players are all working to program a computer to produce the subroutines needed to complete certain tasks (Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any actual programming knowledge needed). You complete these tasks for patrons, who represent a who’s who of 19th century icons, including Charles Darwin, Mary Shelley, and Ada’s own father Lord Byron!
After overshooting its Kickstarter goal by $90,000, the game is set to launch in June of this year and retail for around $30.00
Tainted Grail: the Fall of Avalon (Awaken Realms)
One of the most successful board game Kickstarter campaigns of this year (making over 10x its goal), Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon is the latest from Polish game company Awaken Realms, the company behind Nemesis, Lords of Hellas, and This War of Mine: The Board Game. It’s similar in some ways to Greenbrier’s Folklore: The Affliction and other exploration board games in that you play as a character and make decisions that help the game develop over time. It’s set in a twisted version of the Arthurian realm of Avalon, mixing Celtic mythology and Arthurian legends with the dark vision of Awaken Realms. Players, or player as it can be played solo, travel around the realm to combat “Wyrdness,” fighting and negotiating in equal measure. It’s a grim game, and the rules don’t shy away from the high possibility that a character may die or go mad before their task is complete. The art we’ve seen so far is gorgeous, and the mini’s that come with it are of top quality (Awaken Realms got its start and remains a high level mini painting studio). It also incorporates and app into play, as well as having a full digital edition.
If you missed the Kickstarter, you can still sign up to be alerted when late pledges begin, with the basic game running about $113, and the higher tiers going up from there. There will also be a digital version as well for around $20.
Wingspan (Stonemaier Games)
If you’ve seen my unboxing videos, you probably know what a total sucker I am for wooden game pieces. And this one has an AMAZING centerpiece in that it features an all-wood dice tower that is shaped like a birdhouse! The dice are wood too! Wingspan is the newest game from Stonemaeir Games, and it really impressed me thanks to its looks,natural themes, and “engine based” gameplay similar to Terraforming Mars. There’s an amazing softness to this games aesthetics, with a natural palette complementing ornithological drawings that could have come straight from the Audobon Society. It has a really interesting premise: players are bird experts working to attract birds to their nature preserves and then use combinations OF those birds improve the habitat, get more birds, and earn enough points to win. It also has an all-female art and design team, which is still kind of rare in board gaming.
If you’d like to give Wingspan a try, you can get it from Stonemaier Games starting mid-January, or from retail stores starting March 8. It is currently retailing for $48.00, down from an MSRP of $55.00.
Cloudspire (Chip Theory Games)
Cloudspire is a really neat little strategy game from Chip Theory, based on tower defense and MOBA games like Heroes of the Storm. Set in the fictional realm of Ankar, where everything floats, Georgie, Cloudspire concerns itself with a war over “the source,” an energy macguffin valuable to all. Players take up a race, each with their own special units and heroes, and work to defend their base from other players. They can also send their heroes out to find resources and artifacts, adding an interesting twist to the strategy of the game. The MOBA element comes in when the heroes jump into battle, ploughing forward with their units to get past the “Spires” that hold them back.
The gameplay itself is really interesting, but it’s the art that helps put this one over the top. A truly unique and beautiful world has been imagined by the developers, all illustrated with a soft impressionism that belies the complex nature of its strategy. With solo and group play available, and a rather zippy playtime for a strategy game, Cloudspire will definitely be something to look out for this year.
While the Kickstarter ended, you can still sign up for Late Pledges on Chip Theory’s website, where the game will go for about $109.00 before jumping to $129.95 when the pledge period ends. It ships in June of this year.
Warehouse 13: The Board Game (Infinite Dreams/Conquest Gaming)
There were some fears among the Warehouse 13 fanbase that this game wouldn’t reach funding, as it was a cult show even when it was on air. But, four years after the Warehouse Agents were on SyFy, they’re back in board game form! Warehouse 13: The Board Game is centered around the Agents and their quest for artifacts, setting out in each “episode” to find a new one and keep it away from evil. But there is a catch. One of the agents is a traitor working for their foe Jame Macpherson, and is working to keep the artifacts away from the agents. The game is similar to the Battlestar Galactica board game in its handling of traitors, but puts some really neat work into making it mimic the structure of the show, down to calling the play sessions “seasons” and the endgame “the Finale.” The game is primarily illustrated by images from the show, and fans will no doubt get the most fun from the game. It looks deep and interesting enough to hold the attention of any gamer, whether they’ve seen the show or not.
You can currently pre-order the game at the website for $50.00, ten dollars less than the MSRP, and will ship in the first half of 2019.
Chai (Deep Aqua Games)
Finally, a personal favorite of mine and one I’ve been lucky enough to preview (keep an eye out for that). Chai is, for lack of a better word, an incredible pleasant board game. Similar in some ways to the microbrewing games that have flooded the market, Chai puts you in the role of a tea merchant trying to achieve the perfect blend and satisfy your customers(I call it Uncle Iroh Simulator). Incorporating actual tea blends and flavors into puzzle-based gameplay, it’s a game you can play solo or with friends. The art is incredibly charming and pops off of the board in amazing colors, drawing on a mix of western and eastern tea cultures. Plus, the creators are simply lovely, a husband and wife team who created this game as a passion project.
There’s still a little time on the Kickstarter, which has added stretch goals after funding in 17 hours, with a print-and-play version available for $5 and the full game at $50. It’s set to ship in September of 2019, and be sure to check here for more news and info on Chai as the year goes on!
________________________________________________________________________________What did you think of our list? Any of these you’ve heard of? Any surprises? What games did we miss? Sound off in the comments! And don’t forget to follow the Fandomentals and our Fanfinity channel for unboxings, news, and reviews of all things paper, pencil, or cardboard.