2019 has been a banner year for new board games! It's honestly been hard to home in on the best of the best with so many great options out there, but we were up to the challenge. With no further ado, here are our top picks for new strategy games we love playing!
Tiny Towns - You are the mayor of a tiny town in the forest in which the smaller creatures of the woods have created a civilization hidden away from predators. This new land is small and the resources are scarce, so you take what you can get and never say no to building materials. Cleverly plan and construct a thriving town, and don't let it fill up with wasted resources. Whoever builds the most prosperous tiny town wins!
Published this past summer, Tiny Towns has been one of our bestselling strategy games of 2019. With its charming design, it has a lot of appeal on the table. We think you’ll especially like Tiny Towns if you enjoy puzzley games with a visual-spatial element like Azul or Sagrada. Like those, Tiny Towns has simple rules, but can get surprisingly think-y!
Ishtar - From the award-winning designer Bruno Cathala, Ishtar is a game in which you play the role of a gardener aiming to transform the dry desert into the Lost Hanging Gardens of Babylon. To accomplish your mission, you will have to plant flowers, which, if you place them well, can help you gather precious gems and activate actions. Whether to buy Trees or to purchase upgrades, collecting gems will be a crucial part of the game. Get them before your opponents, recruit apprentices, send them to earn points in the copses of flowers you have created, block others and think carefully of the upgrades to purchase if you want to become the best gardener at the end of the game!
We think you’ll like Ishtar if you enjoy highly strategic games where there are many paths to victory, such as Agricola. Ishtar is an elegant, intuitive game that also has excellent depth, player interaction, and re-playability.
Marvel Champions - Jump into the Marvel Universe with Marvel Champions: The Card Game, a cooperative Living Card Game for one to four players! Marvel Champions: The Card Game invites players embody iconic heroes from the Marvel Universe as they battle to stop infamous villains from enacting their devious schemes. As a Living Card Game, Marvel Champions is supported with regular releases of new product, including new heroes and scenarios.
We think you’ll like Marvel Champions if you’re a Marvel fan who wants a fun game experience that’s easy to learn and quick to play, but offers lots of variety. Kids ages 8+ (especially if they have experience with a card game like Pokemon) will have fun playing this with a parent or other adult. We think kids ages 12+ could play it on their own.
Everdell - Everdell is a streamlined worker placement game that features a detailed world realized through stunning artwork. Utilizing a tableau-building mechanic, players will work to build a city of critters and constructions. Everdell is easy to learn, yet offers satisfying strategic depth and endless re-playability.
We are completely charmed by Everdell, and will gladly play it any day, with just about anyone. We think you’ll like Everdell if you enjoy whimsical, highly thematic games with a great table presence, such as Wingspan, or if you want a game that will appeal to a broad range of gamer experience levels. Newer gamers will find it easy to learn, but more experienced players will enjoy exploring different strategies.
Cartographers - This map-drawing game is one that's perfect for when we need a pleasant, engaging diversion without a lot of conflict or tension. It's an interesting visual-spatial puzzle with just a touch of player interaction, and enough variability from game-to-game to keep it coming back to our table. Try the solo variant, too!
Shobu - Shobu is perfect for fans of abstract games like Othello, Hive, and Quorridor. Your goal is to be the first player to push ALL of your opponent’s rocks off of ONE of the boards. It sounds easy, but the rules of the game make it a trickier endeavor than you might think at first. It's small enough to travel easily with, but attractive enough to leave out on the coffee table. We love it!
Mandala - Linda and Andre have been playing this game a LOT since it came out in November. This is a fast-playing card came for just two players, and is exactly the kind of game we like to play on a weeknight after dinner. If you enjoy two-players like Jaipur, Lost Cities, or Fox in the Forest, you should definitely check it out!
Res Arcana - In Res Arcana, 2-4 alchemical mages vie for control of ancient monuments and places of power. Use your magical essences and items to build artifacts, activate their powers, and command dragons. The mage with the most victory points wins!
We think you’ll like Res Arcana if you like engine-building games like Splendor, but would enjoy something with more complexity and variability. If you’re a fan of collectible or living card games, and need something to play with people who DON’T like those games, this is a nice middle ground where euro-boardgamers (engine building and resource management) and CCG players (hand management and card combos) can meet and enjoy a pleasant game night together!