If you are searching for the definitive best of 2018 boardgame guide, look further. This isn’t it. This is a woefully incomplete and wholly inaccurate guide of the best and most notable games that I personally played in 2018. You won’t find your traditional categories here and, I would venture to say, you won’t find the traditional winners. This isn’t your father’s “best of” list…unless you happen to be one of my kids’ reading this, then, actually, this is your father’s “best of" list.
Best Technology Assisted Party Game - Werewords Deluxe
I’ll be the first to admit I do not like games that require an app. I’ll also be the first to admit that when playing games like Sentinels of the Multiverse or the dreaded Munchkin, the first thing I reach for is a stat tracking app. So, while I like the assistance of an app, I don’t like them being required. Werewords has finally swayed me to the dark side. Initially, I was disappointed with the lack of true components that comes with the game but the app is fantastic.
Werewords takes the classic Werewolf/Mafia trope and puts an actual game to it. You may also be screaming at the screen saying “But it’s freaking twenty questions!” and, yes, at its core Werewords is twenty questions. But the way it uses that core mechanism to such an entertaining degree is fantastic. Both Seers and Werewolves know what the “Secret Word” is but they have to try to hide or disguise that information. It’s a social deduction game based on deduction of actual clues given by what players say or don’t say. Being amazingly good or amazingly bad at 20 questions only makes it more entertaining. I don’t think anything is ever going to top the game where, as time was counting down and the questions were stalling, one player suddenly burst out “Is it a fabric?” The entire table fell silent, looked at offending player and yelled “Seer!”
Expansion of the Year - Kemet: Seth
The ink is barely dry on my review of Kemet: Seth, so it should be no surprise that I’m still in love with the razor’s edge of possibly broken and balanced that Seth walks. Can an alliance of two stop Seth from rampaging using furious assault? Can Seth meet an Alliance of five using the black alliance power tile and still come out the victor? My only answer is I cannot wait to find out and I will revel in every moment of attempting to derail the plans of the Alliance or to Banish Seth from whence he came.
Best “That’s Not a Game” Award – The Mind
If you have debated whether or not The Mind is a game, you are missing the point. Watching it succeed, watching it fail, doing faux yoga breathing exercises before each round: it’s all part of the experience. If you NEED it to be a game, place some wagers on how long before it clicks or is dismissed as ridiculous by various personality types.
Best Word Play – Movable Type
Did you know that Movable Type has a solo mode? I personally cannot tell you about it because every time I pull the game out to play solo, someone inevitably walks by and says “Oh, I’ll play!” It’s sharp, streamlined and simple. It is also a recent graduate from “prominent place on the gaming shelf” to “In the Buffet beside the gaming table for quick access.” This puts it alongside titles such as Coup and The Fox in the Forest, which is high praise indeed in my household.
A few players have mentioned they would like to play an app version of this but I personally don’t want one., I love the “thwip” of the cards, the groans when someone takes a letter you want, the tapping of the cards on the table to signal you are ready to proceed. And there are no thoughts of whether or not someone has “Anagramfinder.com” open in another tab while you play. Finally, if you ever can’t find someone to play with, I hear it has a solo mode.
Best “Probably a conflict of interest but screw it” Award – Seal Team Flix
This category could be the “Best Dexterity Game” or it could be “Best use of side boards” or even “Criminally overlooked Game of the Year.” But, since Pete Ruth and Mark Thomas are both longtime Therewillbe.games forum members and site contributors, it gets stuck with this unique award. The only thing harder than the hotel lobby scenario has been finding a copy of the game at my local stores. It also gets the “Close but no cigar” acronym award along with the “Camel Cup fantastic font” award. They had better get that expansion out soon; they are running out of room for awards on the game box.
Game of the Year- Inis
Yes, I am quite aware that this is 2018 and Inis was released in 2016. But earlier this year was my first chance to experience Inis and, after purchasing the game, it has consistently hit the table over and over, always providing a thoroughly entertaining night. And you know what? My wife loves this game. Sure, she will grimace and endure playing Kemet and will quietly trounce me in Cyclades but she actually adores playing Inis. From casual to ultra-competitive, everyone I have introduced it to has enjoyed the experience. In a few short months, an expansion will be released and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
So, there you have it, my best of 2018 awards. There are plenty of games that I wasn’t able to experience that might have made the list (Lords of Hellas, Western Legends), others that innovated but failed to set the hook in me (Root) and some where the dust hasn’t settled enough to render a proper judgment (Keyforge). As promised, it is woefully incomplete and wholly inaccurate.