Best Games We Discovered in 2019
2019. Wow. Who can believe that this decade is nearly over? It’s been an absolutely crazy year, and one that has been really busy from both a personal and a gaming perspective. This year we bought our first home back in March. We attended the UK Games Expo as Press for the first time in June. We discovered Keyforge, undiscovered Keyforge again, and rediscovered it throughout various months of the year. We backed a few really ace Kickstarters, and one resounding dud. We really got into playing regular D&D again having two new adventuring parties on the go.
In the gaming world, roll-and-write games took the market by storm and really carved their own space, finally free of the overbearing shadow of Yahtzee. Stonemaier games released both Wingspan and Tapestry. Dungeons and Dragons released Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus and a new Essentials Kit. It has been a busy year.
It has been a truly chaotic past couple of months, so today, before taking a much needed few days away from a computer, I though why not round up a few highlights from 2019 and share them with the awesome readers of this blog? Let’s take a look at a few things 2019 had to offer.
There have been a few really awesome games and moments throughout 2019 that are well worth reminiscing about again:
Keyforge Sealed Tournaments
Let’s start off by looking at the Keyforge Sealed Tournaments, which are coincidentally how I spent a large chunk of my time in January, February, and March this year.
Keyforge is a unique deck game, meaning that you don’t build a deck in the game but instead you get a deck fully made for you in each pack. Each deck is made out of 36 cards (plus an extra one with the card list on it), with 12 cards coming from 3 different houses. There are 7 houses in each release, although those 7 houses do vary between 9 potential houses depending on the release you get your deck from.
Thus, with that in mind, Sealed Tournaments are a stroke of genius. You turn up with nothing but the tokens you need to play the game, you get given a sealed deck, and you all open your decks at the same time. There is then a tournament between a whole group of people who have only just seen the cards in their hands.
What Sealed Tournaments do is level the playing field. Due to the randomness of the deck and the short amount of time you have to get used to it, it means all players start off in roughly the same place. I love the format and I don’t think I would even consider playing competitive Keyforge in any other way.
The UK Games Expo 2019
Ahh, the UK Games Expo. One of the biggest gaming expos in Europe, the UK Games Expo (also known as the UKGE) is held at the NEC in Birmingham every May/June. This year, for the first time ever, we managed to get Press Passes (OoOo exciting).
The UKGE is always awesome, and 2019 was no different. It is always an utterly fantastic event, and I wrote a whole series of articles back in June covering it. You can read all the UKGE articles here.
We left the UKGE this year with a whole host of games that we are yet to write about but that do deserve some attention. Highlights we haven’t yet spoken about even nearly enough include:
- Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr
- D6 Dungeon
Let’s see if we can cover those in early 2020!
Dungeons and Dragons (again!)
Over the past few years I’ve sporadically run a couple of small campaigns with 2-3 people every now and then. This year, in 2019, we saw the birth of two new adventuring parties that we now regularly explore with – one of 4 adventurers, and one of a whopping 8 adventurers. Now we are cooking on gas.
Coming January I am running a home brew campaign for both groups that I have been writing (in Excel of all things – in giant vlookup tables) after we’ve been playing a whole host of one shots throughout the past few months.
I love DM-ing, and I am really glad to have found two groups this year. It promises to be an enjoyable 2020!
Now, let’s try a bit of a quickfire round. We have played loads of great games this year, but here are a few games that we discovered either in late 2018 or throughout 2019 and would recommend –
“But Luke,” I hear you protest, “you’ve already mentioned Keyforge like six times in this article.”
Yes, dear reader, that is true, but it is a really enjoyable game and I did play it over 50x in 2019. It has to also go on this list as well.
The new civilisation building game by Jamey Stegmaier is as good as people say it is. We’ve really enjoyed playing it over the past couple of months and can’t wait to explore more combos in the New Year. Tapestry is a fantastic game and I can easily see it becoming a gaming staple.
Taking engine building to a whole new level, Wingspan is another game that needs mentioning. It is one of those games that I need to play a few more times before writing a review, but we have enjoyed it each time we have played. The artwork and care that has gone into Wingspan is simply stunning and well worth looking at.
The Bloody Inn
My most played solo game of the year, The Bloody Inn is a superb game that can go up to 4 players. That being said, the solo experience is really enjoyable. Again, it is an engine building game, however, The Bloody Inn is also a bit different. It is a complex puzzle of short term solutions, and I really like that when playing solo. Also, unlike a lot of solo games, it only takes around 20 minutes to play, so if you lose you haven’t been playing for 2 hours only to feel dissatisfied at the end. (Review)
A game we discovered at the start of the year, Duelosaur Island is the small, two player version of Dinosaur Island. Duelosaur Island takes around 45 minutes to play, and is a two player game that stands out because it gives you a lot of autonomy. It isn’t like Onitama or Hive (both of which are fantastic by the way) where you are in this intense duel, but instead, with Duelosaur, you can kind of just enjoy the ride of building your own dinosaur park. (Review)
A bit of an odd game, Trains was a real surprise in 2019. Another engine building game, Trains is a game that also includes elements of area control and route planning. It has quite a lot of strings to its bow, and so for that reason I have to recommend Trains as well as put it as a highlight for 2019.
We’ve written about Yamatai a fair bit over the past few months, and that is because it is a really enjoyable game. Yamatai is a route building Eurogame in which you are trying to expand trade routes through the Yamatai archipelago to gain the favour of the queen. It is a fast paced game of short term strategy, and for that it deserves some attention. (Review)
Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr
Holding On entered our radar back at the UKGE in June and I have to shine a light on it as both a game and a concept. The idea is that Billy Kerr is dying in hospital, and as the hospital staff it is up to you to get Billy to tell you the story of his life. I don’t want to spoil it – but it is well carried out and well worth looking into, showing that games can have a deeper emotional impact.
From one type of game to another, Meeple Circus is a dexterity game we have had a lot of fun playing in 2019. Taking part over three rounds, Meeple Circus has players attempting to make the biggest and most impressive circus performance by stacking various shaped meeples. It is silly and it is fun. Meeple Circus is a dexterity game that everyone can play and enjoy. (Review)
CO2: Second Chance
The heaviest game on this list, CO2: Second Chance is a large game in which you are aiming to solve the world climate crisis. Far too complex to explain in a couple of lines, CO2 has options to play both competitively and cooperatively. It takes a couple of hours to play, but we have played it a few times this year and each time it presents a new puzzle. A very good game. (Review)
Welcome To…Your Perfect Home
Welcome To… is another game we have played a lot of this year. A draw-card-and-write game that has a bit more to it, Welcome To… is a fantastic puzzle of a game that has you creating your own neighbourhood. It has a very flexible player count and is really worth taking a look at, especially if you like both a challenge and a puzzle. Simply excellent. (Review)
2019 in a Nutshell
On that note, dear readers, that has been a very quick round up of a few highlights in 2019. As mentioned before I am now taking a much needed break for a few days until the end of the year, but I hope you all have a fantastic couple of weeks.
In the meantime, please feel free to recommend games or mention games that you have enjoyed in 2019 in the comments below.
Interesting post. Life may be too short for all the games and that’s a good thing. I very much enjoyed Cryptid this year, as well as Azul, Kingdomino and – my word – Lost Cities. Also introducing my girlfriend and her daughters to games. Saltmarsh is on the shelf because we approach D&D at its own pace. Thanks for the blogs throughout the year. I read them all.
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Some good games there – and let me know how the D&D campaign goes! Thanks for reading Bill, your comment means a lot! Happy New Year!