Just One

Bob’s Top 10 of 2019

So, as we come to the end of 2019, alright fine, as we come into the third week of January 2020, I am sitting here reflecting on the whirlwind past year I’ve had in the board gaming industry. I attended a whole bunch of conventions this year and played more new games for the first time in 2019 than any other year prior.

I have a feeling that the year ahead is going to be just as intense as I peek at my planned calendar. I’m extremely thankful for the new people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made, which will hopefully flourish and blossom into more collaboration and more elaborate content and…….what? Are you giving me the Grammy exit song?

Wow, ok fine. Here’s my Top 10 Board Games for 2019

#10 Just One

Publisher: Repos Productions
Released: January 2019
Purchase on Amazon

Man, do I love party games, especially party games that support higher player counts and do it well. Just One has been our most played and most easily accessible party game of 2019 by a long shot. It provides just the right amount of tension to keep everyone on the edge of their seats as they try to secretly write words to steer a player in the correct direction.

Just One

It won the prestigious German Game of the Year award, the 2019 Spiel des Jahres, and it is easy to see why after getting this on your table. Just One is an amazing cooperative party game that has seen countless plays on my table in 2019 and the reason why I have it in my top 10 of the year.

#9 Azul: Summer Pavilion

Publisher: Next Move Games
Release: October 2019
Purchase on Amazon

I am a big fan of the Azul series. The original is a wonderful gateway game and I have seen that game bring many people into the hobby of modern board gaming. Summer Pavilion, however, requires much more strategic planning and is most certainly the heaviest weighted game in the trio. The artwork is beautiful and I can never get enough of those tiles.

Azul: Summer Pavilion

I absolutely love the new end game scoring options and the new tile pacing mechanics into each flower. This is by far my favorite in the Azul series.

#8 Cartographers

Publisher: Thunderworks Games
Released: September 2019
Purchase on Amazon

Oh roll and writes, how I adore them. You knew you weren’t getting through my list without seeing a few. Although, technically, this is a flip and write….draw and draw? Either way, there are cards instead of dice.


Cartographers is chock full of thematic map making, dungeons and dragons, goblin and bugbear goodness! Set in the same thematic realm of Thunderworks Games releases as Roll Player and Lockup, Cartographers will have you reclaiming land for a Queen who has conveyed to you which types of land she values the most. It will be your job to strategically draw polyominoes onto your map consisting of her needs for trees, houses, water, farms, and more to obtain the most victory points you can. Just watch out for those nasty Kobolds.

#7 Fleet: The Dice Game

Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Released: March 2019
Purchase on Eagle-Gryphon website

Yes, just one more I promise. Fleet TDG is not only my favorite roll and write of 2019, it may actually be my favorite roll and write of all time, or very close. I am super excited to see what Ben and Matt have planned for 2020.

Fleet: The Dice Game

Now, I know BoardGameGeek has Fleet being released in 2018, but technically I didn’t receive my copy from Kickstarter until Jan/Feb 2019, as did a lot of people. So, that is why I am putting Fleet The Dice Game on my Top 10 releases of 2019. There is not much I am going to say about this game other than if you love thinky, strategic, roll and write games, you need to own this game.

#6 Hadara

Publisher: Z-Man Games
Released: August 2019
Full Review | Purchase on Amazon

This game was totally under the radar for me when I was first introduced to it at Origins 2016. Ric, Adrian, and I did a ridiculously fun live playthrough with Beth from Z-Man games. I immediately fell in love with this game! I love card drafting games like 7 Wonders, Treasure Hunter, and things like that, and this game utilizes that same mechanic but offers a two-part draft, one closed draft and one open draft.

Hadara Board

The game has great artwork, tons of great cardboard and feels like a great combination of 7 Wonders and Through The Ages, where you are monitoring and controlling your military, civilization, money, and food resource levels to maximize your victory points. This is going to be a staple on my shelf going forward for sure.

#5 In the Hall of the Mountain King

Publisher: Burnt Island Games
Released: December 2019
Kickstarter Page

I received In the Hall of the Mountain King late in 2019 and it shot up my list extremely fast. This is Burnt Island Games sophomore effort. Their first was the reimplementation of Endeavor, as Endeavor: Age of Sail, which was received greatly! Their second release has just taken them to the next level. ITHOTMK is absolutely beautiful! The components are top quality, from the polyomino tiles used for tunnel placement to the statues and pedestals, even the tray storage is done by Gamer Trayz. The artwork by Kwanchai Moriya is stunning as well!

In the Hall of the Mountain King

The cascading mechanic of gaining resources by selecting trolls and then cascading down your pyramid of previously placed troll cards to regain their resources is extremely novel and extremely satisfying if timed and planned correctly. I wanna do all the things! I am super excited to have this on my shelf and am looking forward to many more plays in 2020!

#4 Taverns of Tiefenthal

Publisher: North Star Games
Released: November 2019
Purchase on Amazon

Wolfgang Warsch is a genius. Seriously. Board game design is his hobby as his full time career is a doctor in cancer research as a molecular biologist. On that note, his board game designs have been nothing short of spectacular with titles like Ganz Schon Clever, The Mind, Brikks, and Quacks of Quedlinburg. The Taverns of Tiefenthal (The Taverns of the Deep Valley) is just another notch in the great belt of game design from Warsch. I love the dice placement mechanic, as it combines dice and worker placement.

Taverns of Tiefenthal

The theme of this game is allocating your dice onto a tavern board to create and deliver beer to your guests. You need to attract the wealthiest guests so you can sell them expensive beer so that you may upgrade your tavern to allow for persistent abilities at some point to better help with dice allocation. I also love the multiple ways to achieve victory points, so there is not exactly one path. Also, the different modules included allow for some game variability based on preference, though I personally prefer to use them all at once.

#3 Shobu

Publisher: Smirk & Dagger
Released: Summer 2019
Full Review | Purchase on Amazon

Shobu was one of the games I was most excited to review after bringing a copy home from Origins 2019. Even after receiving the copy at Origins, I was running around the convention putting it down on tables and saying lets play. As far as I am concerned, Shobu is the best two player abstract game I have ever played.

Shobu board layout

The game is simple yet elegant. It plays almost zen like and I find myself rarely saying a word when I play. It garners my complete strategic attention. Sometimes, I must even remind myself to breathe. The components are beautiful and bare; but, however the rawness of the wood, stone, and rope is simplistic in design, the gameplay is exact opposite in strategy. I have written a full review you can check out here as well as a short visual description with Curt Covert on our YouTube page from Origins.

#2 Wingspan

Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Released: March 2019
Purchase on Amazon

I must say that the theme of Wingspan is the most unique theme for a game I might have ever played. I won’t say that I didn’t care about birds before I played this game. I just had never really thought that much about birds. Now I can tell you tons of bird facts and about their habitats. I also know what size they are and how many eggs they produce and how many victory points they are each worth. I’m not certain if that last part is scientifically accurate, but if I can ever find a pelican in real life, I’m going to check.

Wingspan from Stonemaier Games

The game was designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, the same designer of the awesome Button Shy wallet game Tussie Mussie. The game was published by Stonemaier Games so the component quality is top notch and the artwork was done by a handful of amazing artists: Beth Sobel, Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo and Natalia Rojas. This game is all around beauty. From the artwork to the bird engine building mechanic, it flows so smoothly. It’s also got a lot of recognition for being very next level gateway accessible. As the winner of the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres (Gamer’s Game of the Year), I believe this game is a must own.

#1 Paladins of the West Kingdom

Publisher: Renegade Game Studio
Released: November 2019
Purchase on Amazon

Just like my top release of 2018 Architects of the West Kingdom, here comes Shem Phillips and S J MacDonald swooping in to take the lead for my favorite release of 2019 with the next in the
series, Paladins of the West Kingdom. This excellent worker placement game takes the meeples out of your possession and turns them into temporary workers that sometimes work only in certain areas.

Paladins of the West Kingdom

In order to gain these workers you recruit the help of a Paladin each round. These Paladin cards will tell you what type of workers you will get and what type of round ability or discount you may get, and will temporarily raise your ability to influence, fight, or even increase your faith to convert people from the board to offer you end game victory points. There are so very many paths to victory but obtaining the most points is obviously the end goal. Whether you chose to send out folks on missions to gain resources, hire them for persistent in game bonuses, chose to fortify your towns walls, absolve a criminal or just chop down an outsider with your military might, and ravage their spoils, Paladins of the West Kingdom is my game of the year for 2019.

Bob Crowell

I love everything to do with the world that is board gaming. Dice placement is probably my favorite mechanic of all time. I love learning new games and love teaching them just as much.

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[…] any of the West Kingdom games, you know they are solid. In 2019 Paladins of the West Kingdom was Bob’s game of the year and I was able to pick this one up just before Christmas last year. Players are scoring points by […]

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