11 Unique Board Games from 2019
Once again, thousands of board games have passed through the process to be published and unlike times gone by, no one can really say that they have played all of them. So instead of the numerous top games list of 2019, I would like to feature and shoutout 11 unique games in no particular order that I have played or want to play in the coming year if possible.
1. Slide Quest
From a design perspective, this is probably one of the most unique games out there. How do you translate a Mario Player Character experience with levels in a board game form? Blue Orange managed to create Slide Quest, a dexterity game with levels that increases the thrill of the game while making it not just a solitary but also a co-op game. It uses a simple but ingenious paddle-like contraption that gives this dexterity game its essence. Just put the paddles and level sheet on and go!
I actually played this with friends when it was near its final production phase and was amazed at how well the paddles worked. You truly feel you are in control of the knight and if you lose, you feel it is your skill and cooperation that failed and not the design. Also, the cooperative 4 player experience of each person controlling one side is the hardest but most rewarding too.
2. First Contact
First Contact is to me most likely inspired by the movie, Arrival, where a linguist is trying to decipher the language and communicate with aliens who have come to earth. And again taking this idea to a party game would seem a folly but again, it was another unique and fun experience.
In First Contact, 1-3 Aliens try to tell the human players what they want as offerings but the two species have to figure out what the other is trying to say via words in their language. This is done by the humans pointing to items on a shared group of cards and the aliens writing in their language (Randomly chosen before the game box) what it means to them. Then when this is done, the aliens will write a sentence in their alien language and the humans have to give one item they hope the aliens want.
I played this with both a linguist and other party gamers and all agree that this is probably for party goers who are more cerebral as unlike some other party games, there is little chance of a person winning this without putting thought in the game.
An obvious Harry Potter inspired themed game that transports you as students of a Wizarding school who are trapped in the library and the only person that can help you get out has been turned into a book called the grimoire. Every turn players have to use the 2 clues given by the grimoire from pictures it shares to find the right picture ("book in the theme") to advance and escape. But within the student's midst is a traitor wanting to thwart the good student's efforts.
Mysterium is a similar and popular game but it has never resonated with me as it is so abstract that no one I know has ever won the game. But in Obscrurio, published by Libellud takes that same idea, but does it better and more importantly faster.
4. Pax Pamir
Pax Pamir takes the Pax series and finally makes it accessible to most players even outside the wargaming circle. The game is less than 2hrs and sees players choosing to back the British, Afghans or Russians in their bid to control Afganistan during the colonial period. This is done by spending money to influence nobles, build roads, forts, and armies. Choosing to back the right side gains you victory points on a scoring round and thus negotiations and switching sides are all part of the game.
Historical wargames have a consistent base but a niche crowd from game to game. That coupled with their usual many rules and long playtime usually detracts them from a wider audience but Pax Pamir fixes that and still has a strong theme to the period.
The best selling board game of 2019 on many websites is Wingspan. A card-based board game that has the theme of you owning an aviary and populating it with birds of all species. Each bird card having its own powers and the spots it occupies giving you actions during the game.
Having played the game more than a few times, I totally understand why the game has sold so well. It has strategy, beautiful art and facts about the birds you can learn if you so choose to read the cards. It does not introduce anything new mechanically but works very well as a whole indeed.
6. UBOOT: The Board Game
The world of app-driven board games is becoming more and more common and their interactions more involved. This is where UBOOT sits with its app-driven board game. Each player takes control of a role such as captain or engineer and in real-time they are solving events and missions from the app to win the game. Work well together and survive or, perish into the depths of the Ocean.
With well-regarded reviews and great production, the app adversed are the only ones who might have a hurdle to try this game. Well that and the high price to get it in Singapore but still I hope to give it a go sometime soon.
7. The King's Dilemma
The so-far universally praised King's Dilemma is a story based legacy game with negotiation based core gameplay. You go through up to 20 plus games of about 40 minutes to an hour and see your noble house trying to gain power within the realm by advising the king as to problems that affect the realm. Such as fixing windmills to invading another country, all the while pushing your agenda which will see you working with and betraying your fellow nobles in due time.
I am usually skeptical about legacy games as the ones I have played have been lackluster story-wise and the gameplay repetitive. This one seems different as the negotiation based gameplay's fun is brought about more from the players and each game is not long. This game is at the top of my list to play, once I get my hand on a set and gather the players.
8. It's a Wonderful World
Card Drafting mixed with resource management that contains a ton of cards, resulting in a different game each time. Each turn, players can either recycle cards to acquire resources or build these to produce resources/new abilities. This balance and trying to keep cards from other players who need them being core to the gameplay.
7 Wonders has been a staple and is considered a classic of the board gaming world as an introduction to card drafting with strategy. Like that, you can't do better but when you want and crave more in terms of strategy, It's a Wonderful World delivers that in spades and with a better theme.
9. Detective: City of Angels
In recent years, thanks to the popularity of escape rooms. Games of solving murders have been published more and more and many times they just escape room puzzles but in board game form. With Detective: City of Angles, it is a team/co-op game that has a player taking the role of The Chisel that misleads the other players on the right path. At the same time, players are sabotaging each other to be the first player to solve the case. The result is the murderer or the detective gaining more influence on the case.
Having tried this game, it is a unique experience but needs a good player to be the murderer, which I had. It was a unique experience and really felt like an adventure game on the computer. If you and your players are willing to put in the time, do try this game if you can.
10. War of Whispers
Game of Thrones literally has created a theme and genre of board games and War of Whispers is a result of that. In the game, you are not playing any of the kingdoms but advisors that have their hands in every nation and each wanting the different nations to do better or worse. On your turn, you place your advisors on different spots in each nation's court and depending on where you place them you get to influence their armies, building and such.
Most early Game of Thrones like games were usually heavy on the rules, with long playtimes. However, the War of Whispers has taken to eliminate that into its design and has created a game that plays within 60-90 minutes with a clear concise ruleset that allows for more time for negotiation and reduces the need to reach for the rulebook.
11. The Quacks of Quedlinburg
There are many simple family games in the market and they are generally luck based mechanic that leaves little fulfillment for both parents and kids. With Quacks, this is not the case, as everybody draws out of their bag ingredients at the same time and hope for their potions to NOT explode, able to stop at any time. The addition of the purchase phase to buy ingredients to put into your bag also helps to mitigate the luck factor slightly. Resulting, the game is quick, fast and satisfying.
Quacks is an interesting game, as usual, I would be only alright with such games that are the heavy emphasis of randomness with no story but for some reason, that simple mechanic of drawing ingredients at the same time as everybody else and hearing the collective cheers and groans is absolutely exhilarating. Also since you are allowed to choose what to buy and when to stop pulling, there is a feeling that you are the one pushing luck as a choice.