Games I Played in 2019: The Complete and Comprehensive List

Updated: Jan 22

The year 2019 has been a wild year for me personally, I moved from the United States to Japan, leaving behind all my friends and family. I left my job and put all my energies into freelance board game design. Oh and I've been battling the worst bout of depression of my entire life.


Despite, all that, I still managed to play a whole lot of games in 2019.


119 Unique games to be exact.


I've ranked every single one of these games, based off my personal enjoyment, but rest assured, every minute I spent gaming this past year was joyful, as much as it could be anyways, and I can honestly say, there is not a bad game on this list. In fact, many of these games would be contenders for my all-time top 100 list, if I had the constitution to make such a thing.


It is truly amazing that we live in an era where we have access to this many unique and interesting games, and if you only takeaway one thing from this post, I hope THAT will be it.


Anyways, I think this meat is tenderized enough, let's get cooking.


119. 1775: Rebellion

Why it's on the List?


I played it once before and had a bad experience, I thought it deserved another shot.


Why this spot?


We played the 2v2 version of the game and some early bad luck put us in an impossible position. I think the game has very good mechanics, but its now 2 for 2 with bad experiences.



118. Liberation

Why it's on the List?


I like button shy games, a lot. I was enticed by the idea of an epic 2 player galactic struggle that fit neatly into their 18 card wallet series.


Why this spot?


It just fell a little flat for me. There is a wheel-spinning nature to it, where actions often get undone by your opponent's action. Not to say it's a bad game, just didn't quite work for me and left me feeling a bit dissatisfied.



117. Pocket Baseball

Why it's on the List?


My wife is a huge baseball fan, so I snagged this Mad Pack game as a stocking-stuffer for her.


Why this spot?


It is a fine game, in fact, it is a good game for what it is. A small scale baseball simulation. I would just prefer something more like Bottom of the 9th to get my archaic Blernsball fix.




116. Pataruta

Why it's on the List?


It was an instinct purchase from the Tokyo Game Market and it turned out to be easy to translate the rules and get it played.


Why this spot?


The game is fine, it uses a neat pattern recognition mechanic that I enjoyed. However, it incorporates a speed element which I am not a huge fan of and there were some graphic design issues with the Venn Diagram "universe" that made cards confusing.



115. Libertalia

Why it's on the List?


It seemed like a perfect game for my group and this is many's people's favorite Paolo Mori design, a designer I enjoy.


Why this spot?


I gave this game many chances, every time I played, I had a bad experience. I thought, maybe a different player count? maybe a different group? It's a mystery I will never solve, but it failed repeatedly.



114. World of Yo-Ho

Why it's on the List?


Really clever concept to bridge digital and analog gaming here.


Why this spot?


Video games let you grind through side-quests to get an awesome item or to level-up for the main story. Well, that is World of Yo-Ho, except, there is no main story.



113. Cosmic Run: Rapid Fire

Why it's on the List?


My wife bought this on a whim back in 2017 and we FINALLY got a chance to play it once we realized we actually kind of enjoy roll & write games.


Why this spot?


The game is decent, but I was expecting a quick and frantic space race with some tense decision making, but found most decisions were obvious and lacked intrigue.



112. The Wizard Always Wins

Why it's on the List?


It was available for like $7 at Target, as if my collection wasn't big enough already.


Why this spot?


The game is not bad, but it is a bit repetitive and while it has a similar base mechanic to Quacks of Quedlinburg, it lacks that constant turn-to-turn satisfaction.




111. Korrigans

Why it's on the List?


St. Paddy's Day (need I say more?)


Why this spot?


My expectations were low and were easily exceeded. It's a nice family game and if I had little ones, it might be higher. But for now, I'd only use it to break from the St. Paddy's Day binge-drinking.



110. Shadows in Kyoto

Why it's on the List?


I loved Hanamikoji and I was interested to see what the next in the line would bring to the table.


Why this spot?


This is a decent game, but MAYBE I just don't like Stratego games all that much. One other problem was one of the meeples had a split in it so it was easy to tell apart from other meeples. I'm sure EmperorS4 would take care of that, but I haven't cared enough to ask, which says a lot.



109. Rising 5: Runes of Asteros

Why it's on the List?


I was extremely excited when I heard about this one. Co-op Mastermind? Yes, please.


Why this spot?


Frankly, this one is a huge bummer. The game plays well and everything works as planned, it's just WAY too easy, on any difficulty. No challenge = boredom.



108. Thunder & Lightning

Why it's on the List?


I had heard nothing but good things about this one.


Why this spot?


This is definitely the closest I've gotten to liking a Stratego game, but it just drug on for way too long for what it was. I think it was about 90 minutes? The juice just wasn't worth the squeeze, here.



107. Mezame no Sora

Why it's on the List?


The nice box and art style drew me to this one. Truthfully, I didn't want to buy the game, it was at the tail end of an expensive Tokyo Game Market. However, the designer was so damn nice and friendly. I really wanted to support him and his game.


Why this spot?


The game is actually better than I expected, although it is essentially a slightly more complicated space version of "Hey That's My Fish." I don't regret the purchase and it is better than some other games that I had much higher expectations for.



106. Blend Coffee Lab

Why it's on the List?


Saashi & Saashi is my favorite Japanese Publisher and Coffee Roaster is my favorite solo game ever and here we have a trick taking game, set in the same universe.


Why this spot?


The game is OK. It's not a bad trick-taker, but the rules that are in place to make it unique are a bit convoluted and unlike it's big brother, Coffee Roaster, it fails to bring the theme through as well as I would like.



105. Piepmatz

Why it's on the List?


Riddle and Pinchback have some quality designs under their belt and this one has cute artwork and theme.


Why this spot?


You know when you experience something that you accept is good, but it just doesn't do anything special. That's how I feel about Piepmatz. I enjoyed my play of it, but it didn't do anything to resonate with me.



104. Shifty Eyed Spies

Why it's on the List?


Party game that somehow showed up, as you may have guessed, at a party.


Why this spot?


You know when you experience something that you accept is bad, but it just does something special. That's how I feel about Shifty Eyed Spies. It was a mess, in a good way, and I still recall specifics of the mess nearly a year later.


103. That's Not Lemonade

Why it's on the List?


A friend of mine lost his mind when he heard that the Kickstarter was coming with tiny red solo cups as a component. *lowers head in shame*


Why this spot?


Tiny cups aside, the game is actually kind of fun. It's ridiculous and there is no denying that. But I also can't deny that I enjoyed playing it and we even played it a few times in a row.



102. Yamatai

Why it's on the List?


Bruno Cathala is one of the best designers in the world and this one is a beauty to look at.


Why this spot?


It is a brain-burning game and there are some satisfying moments throughout, but it mostly felt like work rather than play.



101. Naval Battle on the Board

Why it's on the List?


The game seemed to have a lot of charm and I decided to pick up a copy of it at the Tokyo Game Market.


Why this spot?


The game is a relatively good abstract strategy game, includes a bit of programming and forethought to be successful at it. I walked away from the experience thinking well of it, but just haven't had much urge to come back to it.



100. Dimension

Why it's on the List?


I picked this up in a trade because it seemed like a fun puzzle game.


Why this spot?


It is indeed a fun puzzle game, but boy, is it stressful. I think there is also limited replayability because once your good at it, it's not AS much fun.



99. Shadows Over Camelot

Why it's on the List?


It's a classic that I have been meaning to try for years.


Why this spot?


It's a good game, but I think time has done a number on it. There are just better hidden traitor games and co-op games out there at this point.



98. Murano

Why it's on the List?


I had an obsession with trying to get this one while it was out of print and I finally did, but it wasn't cheap. It's beautiful and it's by the Brands. I had to have it.


Why this spot?


It's a real shame that my playthrough of it didn't live up to what I had hoped. It felt like a real grind and it slightly outstayed it's welcome. It also felt like I could see the mechanical bones of the game a little too well.



97. Monster Crunch! The Breakfast Battle Game

Why it's on the List?


I have a friend who, like some Tom Hanks or Robin Williams movie (I can never remember which), is a kid in an adult's body. He loves nostalgia and his favorite brand is cereal mascots. So I buy this game, wrap it in some glittery paper and say "Merry Christmas ya filthy animal!"


Why this spot?


This game is a sweet treat disguised as a breakfast cereal. Just don't play too much or you'll get cavities.


96. Pandemic: The Cure


Why it's on the List?


I have a soft spot for Pandemic games as they played an integral part in me taking to the hobby. I always try to play the offshoots at least once.


Why this spot?


This game was pleasantly surprising, it captured the Pandemic feel in a lighter dice game, but it just lacked the tension I felt when I first played the original Pandemic.




95. Getaway Driver

Why it's on the List?


I love the theme and once again, Ryan Goldsberry hits a homerun with his illustration and graphic design.


Why this spot?


It's a good, but not great game. Though the theme is great and does come through quite well, doing so makes the game quite a bit fiddly. I also have my reservations about the balancing although I haven't played it enough to say.




94. Trapwords

Why it's on the List?


Another word game coming from the publisher that brought us Codenames, hopes are high with this one.


Why this spot?


It's good, but it's quest to implement "theme" actually subtracted from the fun for me. Also, the mechanics behind Trapwords have a lot of promise, but in reality, you end up with people just staring at each other, while one player stutters and stumbles to say a single word.



93. Zany Penguins

Why it's on the List?


A friend of mine is obsessed with Bruno Cathala.


Why this spot?


I went into this game with very low expectations, but found it to be quite fun and while it looks like random, zany fun, there is actually a decent bit of strategy to it.





92. Neta-Tanka

Why it's on the List?


I love worker placement and this one seemed to have a unique twist where you are linking actions together.


Why this spot?


Another game that fits into the "good but not great" category. I thought the twist would tie the theme together and make for interesting decisions. Truth is, it actually just makes your optimal choice much more obvious.



91. Liqueur the Game

Why it's on the List?


Every now and then, I go into Yellow Submarine, my FLGS, and grab myself a game I've never heard of.


Why this spot?


Like biting into a chocolate filled with cherry liqueur, this game was a delightful surprise. Basic set collection, but very well executed. Fun fact, it even makes an appearance as my twitter banner, betcha didn't notice that, did ya?


90. Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game


Why it's on the List?


I honestly just wanted a small box game that could offer an interesting solo experience. Roll & writes usually fit that calling, so I gave this one a shot.


Why this spot?


I actually really liked it. I thought it was challenging but pure, compared to some other roll & writes that are out now. Confession time: I still haven't played The Castles of Burgundy Board Game, but until then, this will hold me over.



89. Bargain Quest

Why it's on the List?


Shut Up and Sit Down


Why this spot?


The artwork is a delight and the theme manages to make "generic fantasy" unique. The game is good but in the end my expectations and the amount I paid for the Kickstarter left me with the tiniest shred of regret.



88. Divinare

Why it's on the List?


I added this one in a BGG trade on a whim. The theme attracted me and the art is well suited to that theme.


Why this spot?


You are basically using probability to bet on outcomes, but this game brutally penalizes you for the most minor mistakes and I love it. Intenso!



87. Moon Base

Why it's on the List?


It just has an overpowering table presence. I had to play it. I had to have it.


Why this spot?


This is a difficult abstract strategy game to wrap your head around, and I am pretty terrible at it. I think that makes me want to try it over and over again.



86. Illusion

Why it's on the List?


Wolfgang Warsch was on fire.


Why this spot?


This game cleverly uses it's player's perceptions of color and space to create drama, but there is not much replay value here. It is the type of game you show to someone, but not one you play repeatedly.



85. Nine Tiles Panic

Why it's on the List?


I love me some Oink Games, and a friend of mine had a copy, so we played it at an izakaya, drank beer and ate the saltiest edamame in the world.


Why this spot?


This game is frantically challenging. You get a random set of scoring criteria and then need to build your personal 3x3 grid as optimally as possible. The scoring is clever and I like how finishing earlier than others just gives you a tiebreaker rather than extra points.


84. Saint Malo

Why it's on the List?


I really liked the idea that you were building your own little port, placing people, buildings, and walls. I also thought that the pirate attacks was a clever idea.


Why this spot?


It is good, but it didn't quite live up to what I was hoping. I think the biggest complaints I had was, pirate attacks aren't super relevant, and unlike other roll & writes, players don't act simultaneously, so there is a lot of downtime.



83. Shephy

Why it's on the List?


There are very few good solitaire-style games out there and this is one of them.


Why this spot?


This is an excellent game, takes about 10 minutes to play, has enough randomness to keep it challenging. Plus look at those sheep! Even when they are humping their brains out, they are just the cutest fluffy balls of nightmare fuel. Yes you are. *belly petting*



82. In Front of Elevators

Why it's on the List?


I've already mentioned my love for Saashi & Saashi. This was their Spring 2019 Tokyo Game Market release.


Why this spot?


What a clever little game this one is. It's got a really cute theme and the perfect artwork to see it through. The gameplay is simple, but requires a good amount of forethought, otherwise you'll fall to the back of the line.



81. Space Alert

Why it's on the List?


It's a game I've had high expectations of for a long time. Especially since I like a lot of Chvatil games quite a bit.


Why this spot?


I think the game is neat from a design perspective but it didn't quite stick the landing as a cohesive experience.



80. Escape Plan

Why it's on the List?


I backed the kickstarter on this one and I was excited to have a thematic and more approachable Vital Lacerda game in my collection.


Why this spot?


The game was so close to being great. It had a lot of clever mechanisms, great artwork, excellent component quality, and a great theme. However, to me, it still felt like a fiddly Euro with a fancy overcoat.



79. Sunset Over Water

Why it's on the List?


This game is stunningly beautiful thanks to the Beth Sobel artwork. Looking at it genuinely gave me a feeling of calm and serenity, so I had to try it.


Why this spot?


While the game has a soothing presence, the game is actually pretty cut-throat. At first that juxtaposition didn't work for me, but by the end of the playthrough, I found myself loving that about this game. It is what makes the game's clock go round, so to say.



78. Lost Expedition

Why it's on the List?


I have always thought this game was a bit underrated, and I enjoyed the base game for a couple of years now. I really wanted to try out the new expansion.


Why this spot?


There are 4 modular expansions that provide a lot of new story elements, quirks, gameplays, and difficulty modifiers. I am very happy with this game and I think the expansion just makes it all that much better.



77. Let’s Make a Bus Route

Why it's on the List?


This is already the 3rd Saashi & Saashi game on my list. This is one I was desperate to get and it looked like I had missed out on it, but luckily they printed more copies.


Why this spot?


This adds a really neat twist to the roll & write/flip & write genre. It has players all drawing onto a mutual board and if their bus routes go the same way, they cause traffic which penalizes you points. It's simple, but brilliant.



76. Fuji

Why it's on the List?


Wolfgang Warsch was on fire, but now he is drenched in lava spewing from everyone's favorite active volcano!


Why this spot?


This is another excellent take on his cooperative limited communication games and this time it involves dice, so it's extra special. The only complaint I have about this one is that it is really best suited for 3 players as other player counts just seem tacked on.



75. Beyond Baker Street

Why it's on the List?


This game is essentially Hanabi with a better theme and better implementation of it's elementary mechanics.


Why this spot?


I always liked Hanabi, I liked the challenge of trying to get a perfect score, but it always felt really abstracted. Beyond Baker Street does as well, but to a much lesser extent and the fact that it has an actual win state instead of point-based scoring is the cherry on top of the mystery sundae.



74. Flatline

Why it's on the List?


I got a chance to try this at PAX unplugged 2017 and it stood out as one of my favorites of that convention so I added a copy to my collection soon after.


Why this spot?


I have always been enamored with this theme and it manages to capture it better than most. I still think there is a potential better way to get that ER feel. Perhaps someday, I'll take a stab at it.



73. Fugitive

Why it's on the List?


Tim Fowers creates some of the best themes in modern board gaming. Similar to the previously mentioned Getaway Driver by Fower's colleague Jeff Beck, this one puts you in the asymmetric role of fugitive making their escape. Let the chase begin.


Why this spot?


The theme is not the only thing that makes this game great, it really captures this idea of a manhunt as you retrace footsteps and use your deductive reasoning. My biggest concern with this is replayability. I've played this 4 times now, and every time it came down to a 50/50 guess from the detective. That end-game tension is enjoyable, but it sometimes felt overly orchestrated as if players didn't have enough agency to produce a different outcome.



72. Vindication

Why it's on the List?


Another Kickstarter arrival in 2019, it was highly anticipated due to a couple of unique things: The end-game triggers, and the action management.


Why this spot?


This is another game that I feel was just a touch shy of greatness. The things that intrigued me initially, lived up to my expectations, but the rest fell just a little bit flat. Still, I enjoyed it and it will stay in my collection.



71. Tokyo Highway

Why it's on the List?


This is a game I wanted since I visited Tokyo back in 2017. I finally got a copy this year, and like the previously mentioned Moon Base, this Itten game has tons of table presence.


Why this spot?


What a great dexterity game. It's just brilliant, it is supremely stressful, especially with the shaky mitts I have, but it's an absolute delight to play and even more of a delight to marvel at and discuss when it's finished.



70. Zombicide: Green Horde

Why it's on the List?


Zombicide Black Plague is my wife's favorite game of all time. We got the kickstarter version of Green Horde this year also. *Looks at collection...* So, so many boxes...


Why this spot?


I enjoy playing this game quite a bit and the additions with Green Horde are really cool. It is just super bloated and a headache to setup/teardown.




69. Just One

Why it's on the List?


Almost every party game I have ever played, at some point my friends and I turned it into a cooperative game, so this, wahhh? Why didn't I think of that?!


Why this spot?


Although the idea itself was brilliant, simple and well designed, I just don't like the game enough to put it higher. It doesn't measure up to some of my current party favorites, and it got easy and repetitive after multiple plays.



68. Archaeology: The New Expedition

Why it's on the List?


This game has a really tiny footprint and is super easy to explain and learn.


Why this spot?


At first I didn't think much of this game, but I just kept playing it, again and again. It's so smooth, so fast, and so simple. Oh and I'm really really good at it. It's one of the few games that I almost always win.



67. MetroX

Why it's on the List?


Another one of those random purchases from my FLGS, Yellow Submarine. A flip & write by Hisashi Hayashi. And...


Why this spot?


Yet another pleasant surprise here. This one is super puzzly and there is a lot of replayability despite having set maps. It is one I find myself coming back to often and always finding new challenges each time.




66. Oh My Goods

Why it's on the List?


Alexander Pfister is one of my favorite designers and this game had been stuck in shrink for a long, long time.


Why this spot?


The multi-use cards in this game are just phenomenally well done. How he packs such a big punch into such a small package is always shocking. I usually only play this solo, otherwise I think this could be higher on this list.




65. Paperback

Why it's on the List?


This one has gotten a lot of play, particularly as a solo/cooperative game and I come back to it frequently.


Why this spot?


The deckbuilding in this game is really wonderful and it works surprisingly well within the construct of a word-building game. I used to love Scrabble when I was a kid, so this one hits a nostalgic sweet spot for me.




64. Ice Cool

Why it's on the List?


Listen to the pitch: Wobbly penguins, flicking, asymmetric play, and fish clips! How can you say no?


Why this spot?


This game is just downright fun. No, I don't have any kids to play it with and no, I don't need kids for this to be fun. Just give me opportunities to pull off some sweet trick shots, and a couple of craft beers and I am set for at least an hour or two.



63. Fuse

Why it's on the List?


Yet another wonderfully themed real-time cooperative game from Kane Klenko.


Why this spot?


This game, like Ice Cool, is just a lot of fun. Granted, this one is more of an intense and frustrating fun, but fun none-the-less. Instead of jubilant yells, you'll hear frantic, panicked, and often incoherent yelling as the friendly A.I. calmly tells you that you have 1 minute until detonation. "I know, Susan!"



62. The Shipwreck Arcana

Why it's on the List?


A cooperative limited communication game is something that I always am intrigued by. This one adds a really solid bit of deduction to it and in an extremely sleek tarot package too.


Why this spot?


The gameplay in this one is right up my alley and the ONLY reason this one is not higher is because I found it to be a little too easy. Luckily the expansion adds a lot of nuance to help with that.



61. When I Dream


Why it's on the List?


This game seemed like a bit of a gimmick to me, but it's one that I was itching to try.


Why this spot?


This is definitely one of the more enjoyable social deduction games for me. I think the key is that it doesn't have all that arguing, You figure out who's working against you and then you can just ignore them.



Check out Part II for the top 60 games that I played in 2019. It's sure to be a hoot'n holler'n gangbuster, if I'd ever seen one.


I get a bit nervous when it's time to say goodbye, please forgive me... partner.

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