End of Year & Top 100

40 – Nippon

I didn’t think much of this one when I first saw it years ago, but when I finally got a chance to play it, I was really taken with it. The core mechanism of choosing workers, trying to both get the action you want and planning ahead with what color the worker is, is really unique. It’s also an economic game (check) with factories that create asymmetrical gameplay (check) and just happens to be set in Japan (check). This is definitely one of my favorite hidden gems that never gets talked about.

39 – The Castles of Burgundy

The opposite of hidden, but still a gem. Not much to say about this one. Great game. Really smooth gameplay. Tech tiles that create asymmetry. A variety of strategies to pursue. I look forward to playing the new version (not the one with the minis).

38 – Merchants of the Dark Road

This game needs an insert. With that out of the way, I wasn’t sure at first how much I liked the game. But after a few plays, including solo, I do enjoy the main dice mechanism and the big rondel board. The art and setting are great, of course. And even the retail version has a really nice production. The game doesn’t have much depth to it for all the components it has, though (and it is a bit bloated). It could drop for me over time. My friend backed it and has some small expansions, so hopefully, those can improve the game.

37 – Oak

This might be the biggest surprise of the year. I mean, we like Game Brewer games (maybe not the production catastrophe of Stroganov), but Oak had so little coverage and we knew very little about it. But this was really enjoyable from the first play. Not only does it have asymmetrical player boards, the creatures give you unique abilities, the cards you unlock offer new options, and the druid workers you upgrade give you new abilities. And it’s a very tight game with not very many actions over the course of the game. And like Castles of Burgundy, there are several strategies to pursue without the game being that heavy. Oak is highly recommended!

36 – Now or Never

It’s long, the rules still aren’t great, and the building system is weird and feels out of place, but everything is so much fun. There’s also a fan-made app that helps with the wonky calculations you need to do with the resources. The exploration is a lot of fun, and the character upgrades and gear can create all kinds of neat combos. I think the writing is better than Near and Far, but not by a lot. Some of the encounters can be a bit boring and unimaginative, and overall, the writing is serviceable. But as an adventure game, it’s a lot of fun.

35 – Concordia

It’s really dry, not a looker, and even sounds really boring, but the gameplay is really good. I love the card play in this one, and it’s got a simple but satisfying economic element. Pretty sure this is my favorite game with the worst most boring theme. Now that is has an app, I might have to try that out.

34 – Space Hulk: Death Angel

This is a classic solo game. Simple, brutal, really engaging, and creates a lot of tense moments. RIP. Wish I had gotten some of the expansions, but I think it’s all really hard to find these days.

33 – Brass: Birmingham

Hello again, Martin Wallace. Hey, look! It’s trains and loans! But also really interesting card play and a feeling similar to area majority. It’s a fascinating design that can easily trap you in bad investments. I often get so caught up in monetary investments that I don’t make enough points. Still a fun crunchy game!

32 – Glen More II: Chronicles

Rondel gameplay with tile-laying and a touch of engine building? Why yes, please. The production is also really good, and the modules (the titular chronicles) sound really interesting. We’ve only played the boat race so far. I know it’s not exactly an overlooked game, but it still feels somewhat underrated. I think this should stand right next to Castles of Burgundy as a classic mid-weight Euro.

31 – Mosaic: A Story of Civilization

Again, not quite a civilization game, more of an empire-building game since it’s only one era, but it’s a huge game that plays remarkably well. The setup is a bit extreme, but it’s really satisfying, even when your military strategy went nowhere because they never got the card upgrades to be able to compete with city spam and wonders. Love the technology cards. And for such a big game, the turns are so quick. I was a little unsure when we played the Tabletopia version during the Kickstarter, but they made some great improvements.

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