Mission: Fun & Games - Staff Favourite Games of 2019

Well, another year has come and gone. With 2019 winding down to a close, we thought we'd put together a list of our staff's favourite games of the year. Below, each of our castle serfs has written down their thoughts on the game that they had the most fun with this past year.

Not all of these games are new releases from 2019, but they are the ones that have hit the table the hardest and most frequently for us over the last twelve months. If you get the chance, we highly recommend that you give them a spin.

Tim’s Pick: Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth

Cost: C$ 118.99
Players: 1-5
Ages: 60-180 Min
Playtime: 14+

Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth (JIME) is a cooperative, app-driven board game for 2-5 players. As I touched on earlier in the year, app driven board game experiences are starting to become much more common. While some may decry this is an affront to the analog nature of the medium, for board games like JIME the app only serves to enhance the experience of the game and eliminates a significant amount of set-up time. Expanding and improving upon the game system used in Mansions of Madness Second Edition, JIME has proven to be a fun and challenging entry into FFG's LOTR library of games.

Players choose one of six adventurers to journey through different regions of Middle Earth. The app controls the board layout and which quests are received, randomizing every time you play for a unique experience. Players can also collect items, gain new abilities, and unlock bonuses that help along the way. The game can be saved directly in the app, allowing players to pick up exactly where the story left off! For best results, use a balanced party, as each hero specializes in specific skills to help with any situation. True to the novels, the heroes are in constant peril, so players must work as quickly as possible before the Shadow of Mordor envelops the land of Middle Earth!”

Tyson’s Pick: The Taverns of Tiefenthal

Cost: C$ 65.95
Players: 2-4
Ages: 60 Min
Playtime: 12+

“Have you ever wanted to own a bar? Wanted to serve beer and shake your fist at the peasantry taking away tables from the well-paying nobility? Well do we have a game for you! The Taverns of Tiefenthal positions you as the owner-manager of a new tavern in historical Germany. You need to provide beer to your patrons and keep the tavern looking nice, all while continuing to expand your operations.

As a player, you need to decide where your focus should lie. Should you save your money, or splurge on new expansions? Do you hire help, or keep letting your dog greet new guests? The decisions are yours and will determine whose tavern will be the most successful. The numerous options mean that you can try multiple different strategies across numerous games, which is something I love.”

Brianna’s Pick: Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game

Cost: C$ 53.95
Players: 1-5
Ages: 16+
Playtime: 120-180 Min

"Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game by Portal Games has had me completely enthralled since I picked it up at the beginning of 2019 - and with good reason! This co-operative, story-driven game is like stepping into your favourite cop show, badge and stale coffee (with maybe a splash of whisky) in hand. Played over 5 seemingly unconnected cases, you and your fellow detectives will be tasked with following leads, testing evidence, and submitting your reports to the Antares Database. For added coolness, the Database is an actual website where your team will be provided with police files, forensic analysis, schematics, and witness testimonies as you go. In short, if you’re a fan of true crime and/or have always fantasized about being a detective, this game will knock your socks off."

Katrina’s Pick: Museum

Cost: C$ 74.95
Players: 2-4
Ages: 12+
Playtime: 30-60 Min

“I've always loved old art. When I was a kid, my absolute favorite places to visit were galleries and museums; I loved the musty smell of the old artifacts and the countless treasures that await through the admission gates. I would spend hours sitting in libraries reading books about different ancient civilizations. 

When I came across Museum, I was instantly drawn to it. Museum has absolutely beautiful art, with every single one of its 342 cards containing its own unique illustrations and little information blurb on the artifact. It feels almost as though the game is a collection of flash cards showing you countless ancient artifacts (and honestly I'd pay the price just for that purpose).

The game itself is simple. Collect artifacts and create exhibits; the more artifacts you have from a certain civilization, the more points you can get. The game keeps going until certain criteria are met, and then you get to partake in what I think is the best part of the game: sorting your treasures and creating the most effective museum exhibits to bring you the most points. 

While the base game itself can feel a bit basic if you're an avid board gamer, there's a fantastic selection of expansions that you can pick and choose from to create your own game experience. Want something more cut throat? Pick up The Black Market. Want to add further depth to the game? Try The Archaeologists, which allows you to fund expeditions and send archaeologists to various parts of the world to uncover more artifacts. The World's Fair allows you to borrow artifacts from your opponents - at a price, of course. 

For me, playing this game was like reliving the moments in my life when I was more curious and thirsty for knowledge, and because of that it has instantly become one of my favorite games to have hit my table this past year.”

Eric’s Pick: Root

Cost: C$ 61.95
Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playtime: 60-90Min

Root may as well be 4 different games played together on one board. Asymmetry is the crux of the game, with the cats beginning with near total control of the board, the birds confined to just one roost, and the mice not even present on the table. Later on in the game, the board state takes on a completely different character, with the cats falling back to defend a few key structures, the birds making bizarre moves just to keep their promises to their people, and the mice springing up and ambushing their enemies at the choke points. Every stage of the game puts emphasis on just how different each of the factions can be. 

Your first game of Root you will be focused on how to make your animals thrive, and every game after that you will learn new tricks on how to keep the others down. With surprising depth of gameplay and developers that continue to support the game with balance updates, Root was an easy choice for my game of the year.”

John Small’s Pick: Architects of the West Kingdom

Cost: C$ 57.95
Players: 1-5
Ages: 12+
Playtime: 60-80 Min

“A worker placement game that provides an entertaining (and somewhat cathartic) mechanism for throwing your fellow gamers’ meeples in prison for profit and glory. But seriously, Architects of the West Kingdom is an excellent worker placement game that uses the mechanic of “more meeples on the same space have greater effects”. Of course, the more meeples on the space, the more likely a target they become for other players’ bounty hunters.

The real goal is to build the cathedral, which ends the game (assuming your Virtue is high enough for the townsfolk to even let you near it...). It’s great fun - collect resources, build things, hire interesting people and arrest your friends.”

Drew’s Pick: Blockbuster

Cost: C$ 26.95
Players: 4-10
Ages: 12+
Playtime: 30-60 Min

“I would have to say my favorite game of 2019 would be Blockbuster! Now I wish they would bring back the actual Blockbuster. As a self-proclaimed movie-buff and avid movie watcher, I feel like this game is a good choice for movie fans around the globe. Mixing both new and old movies allows for people of all ages to play the game, and with any group of people. 

Each turn, one player on the team will draw a card with the name of a movie on it. That player must then quote the movie, act it out (charades), or use one word to describe the movie. 

I recommend this game as a nice break in between larger games on family game night! Our family played it at Thanksgiving and had a lot of fun. Plus there are no late fees when you take out this game!”

Cassi’s Pick: Clank! (all of them!)

Cost: C$ 42.02
Players: 2-4
Ages: 30-60 Min
Playtime: 12+

Clank!, Clank! In Space!, and Clank! Legacy.

It was a great year for Clank!. It's easily my most played game and one of my favourite games of all time. Both fantasy and sci-fi versions got excellent expansions and, though I'm only a few games into Clank! Legacy, I am having an awesome time with it and can't wait to see more surprises unfold and more stickers put onto our game board.

Clank! Expeditions, which are the board expansions for the fantasy version of Clank!, shake up the way you plan paths around the board. The Temple of the Ape Lords adds a "mini campaign" where you play one side of the board in order to get some tokens and a winner bonus at the end of that game, before resetting and playing on the other side using the tokens you just collected. I loved the rotating gears that change the paths on the second side, which you can move with the tokens won on the first side. It's clever and can really throw a wrench into the best laid plans!

Clank! In Space!: Cyber Station 11 Expansion has a new layout and "puzzle pieces" for the modular board that makes it a good refresh for experienced players. I found the new card types were a bit under-utilized but fun when they came up.

I can't say much about Clank! Legacy without it being spoilers but I can say it's an excellent legacy experience. There's stickers, there's tuck boxes, there's sealed envelopes - there's so much to discover! It's been a blast so far, and I highly recommend it.”

And now, the favourite game of the Lord of The Castle himself, John Engel:

John “The Boss” Engel’s Pick: Just One

Cost: C$ 32.95
Players: 3-7
Ages: 8+
Playtime: 20 Min

“I have just one favourite game of the year: Just One.

There is a heckuva lot of fun packed into this $30 game. Up and playing in no time, easy as heck to teach, with lots of pleasant gaming conversation and hilarity sure to ensue. A deserving winner of the Spiels Des Jahres award as game of the year.  

In an 8 player game with the Edmonton Board Game League last year, the secret word was “SHIP”. My 'Just One' word clue was “lollipop”. No one else had used the word as a clue and my teammates thought it was brilliant (and said so)! But then, the cluegiver asked what that word had to do with SHIP! He was dead serious, and we all took a while to stop laughing. Somehow, he had never heard of the Good Ship Lollipop. Poor guy, every time he comes in the store now, I asked if his good ship has come in...”

We hope this article will inspire you to go out and try some of these awesome games!

This will be our last feature of 2019. It's been a long and rewarding year, and we want to extend our eternal thanks to all of our customers, volunteers, and staff for their part in making Mission: Fun & Games and Boardgames.ca what it is. Here's to 2020 and all of the fun times we'll have together at the table!

Happy Holidays from Mission: Fun & Games!

Mission: Fun & Games Staff
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