I’ve been playing board games since the Reagan administration and, in that time, my tastes have ebbed and flowed from tabletop RPGs to euros to wargames to DOAM to…whatever. I fell in love with deckbuilding when it was the big thing, and then wouldn’t pass up a worker placement game even if the theme was exciting as toenail fungus. I bought every damn Savage Worlds and Deadlands rulebook and read them back-and-forth until I realized I’d never find anyone to play it with me and moved, instead, into engine building and resource management. I devoured every new title I could find for fear of not getting a chance to play “the next big thing”, and I relished with delight the most sought after and delectable European morsel: the Victory Point. Then I played 1889. The conversion wasn’t instantaneous, but the past five years have led me to an inexorable conclusion: 18xx is the greatest game on the planet.
PC/Mac/Linux, Switch There’s been a noticeable uptick in quality spatial puzzle games in the past five years. Games like Stephen’s Sausage Roll, Snakebird, Jelly no Puzzle, and A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build all take the classic Sokoban formula of moving/changing objects to their designated zones/states and put in their own little wrinkles, exploring the possibility spaces created by these tweaks to the formula. I like to call them “SokoButs”, as in “Sokobon, but…” because it’s fun to create microgenres and nobody has claimed this one yet. Feel free to use it, because I sure will. I attribute this recent boom at least partially to the release of PuzzleScript, a free toolset for designing SokoButs, in 2013. PuzzleScript streamlines the game design process via a simple markup for defining the rules that govern a SokoBut’s core systems. Baba Is You is a new SokoBut from Arvi Teikari, and its “but…” is huge: each puzzle’s rules are physical objects within the puzzle. By pushing around nouns, verbs, and adjectives, you rewrite the logic of the game in real time. Basically, it’s PuzzleScript: The Game. Baba Is You is an entirely new kind of logic puzzle, and it’s the best puzzle game I’ve played in a very long time.
iOS, Android, PC Temple Gates came out of nowhere in 2017 to rock our worlds with the, still fantastic, digital port of Race for the Galaxy. While we know they’ve been working on it’s dicey cousin, Roll for the Galaxy, we also know that they’ve hooked up with Stone Blade Entertainment and have been working on their 2-player card battler, Shards of Infinity. Looks like the latter has been getting the bulk of the attention because, today, they announced that beta signups are open.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac It’s no secret that we here at Stately Play feel that Czech Games Edition can do no wrong. First of all, they have Vlaada Chvatil designing games for them, which puts them one step away from God. Secondly, they created Galaxy Trucker back in 2014 and it reshaped how we thought about digital versions of board games. Not only did they include a lengthy, somewhat open-world campaign, but they also created entirely new rules so we could play the way digital board games were meant to be played: asynchronously. Five years later there still aren’t many apps that match it (and one of the ones that did is also from CGE: Through the Ages), and so it’s time for Galaxy Trucker to spread its wings (made of crepe paper and duct tape, I’m sure). Today it’s made the move to the big screen and released for PC/Mac on Steam.
PC BATALJ, henceforth stripped of exuberant capitalisation, has released. It features three distinct factions, WEGO combat, a crisp aesthetic and the seal of quality you’d expect from DICE alumni. It is without a doubt one hell of a game. At least. I think it could be. Possibly one of the year’s best, caught in the right light. But so far, in this online-only game, I’ve yet to find a single match.
PC/Mac If you need proof that we’re living in a Golden Age of digital board games, I offer up Mystic Vale as evidence. Releasing less than a month ago, I’m guessing many of us have already moved on to other games like Evolution or the latest darling, Castles of Burgundy. If a game with the name recognition and polish of Mystic Vale had appeared back in 2013 our heads would have exploded. To bring Mystic Vale back to our collective subconscious, today Nomad Games released its first expansion: Vale of Magic.