The year is coming to an end. I hope you had a good 2019 and could move some things in the directions that you wanted. One of the most enjoyable ways of that is to move wooden meeples, plastic miniatures, or cardboard counters over game boards, and I also hope you had a lot of good board gaming. While I am not the person who plays the most new games every year, I certainly play some that are new to me – and so I invite you to have a look at the games which I discovered this year which I enjoyed the most! Obviously, no „new-to-me“ post could be complete without a shoutout to the inventor of the concept, the venerable Cult of the New-to-Me Leader Dave! Check out his blog and subscribe for reviews on and news about board games (including excellent coverage of their digital versions!).
So, here are my top 3 new-to-me games of 2019:
Ex Libris is a fine game in which the players are book collectors who want to have the best collection to be named town librarian. The game scores on three levels:
- First, Ex Libris is a mechanically good game. You acquire new books with a decently implemented worker placement mechanic, but the game shines when you shelve them: Creating a structurally sound shelf with a wide variety of books which at the same time are alphabetically ordered is a delicious puzzle in which there is no perfect solution. Okay, maybe I just like being my overly pedantic self in regard to bookshelves.
- Ex Libris is an accessible game. The rules are easily picked up and the game starts rather simple and then develops a bit more complexity with additional locations from which to get books etc. It is definitely a game which you can try out with people who don’t really play board games – especially if they like books!
- Most of all, however, Ex Libris is a cozy game. The little town of bookish gnomes is captured perfectly in the art, and all the books have titles enchanting magical titles. How could you resist anything titled „Strangler Things“ or „A Lich in Wonderland“?
By my standards, Root is really a new game – after all, it’s only been released in 2018! Back then, it was all the rage and lured eurogamers into wargaming and wargamers into eurogaming, united by their shared love of cute animals and tough competition. And what’s not to like about that?
Root is delightfully asymmetric. So, with the four factions in the base game, you already get four very different experiences – ranging from the imperial economic exploitation of the forest (the Marquise de Cat faction) to a lonesome, opportunistic jack-of-all-trades (the Vagabond faction). Yet, what your faction is doing is intricately related to the other factions. Furthering your agenda while keeping everyone else down and yet not painting too big of a target on your own back is a delicate puzzle, and one that probably becomes more interesting with experience (I cannot tell yet) – but that is bedazzling for first-timers as well. At least as long as they play against other first-timers – I would assume that going against a seasoned opponent might result in a rather lopsided game. But if you don’t mind a game which will take a few plays to really understand, Root offers a titillating tale of empire and insurgency in a forest.
The new game with which I had most fun this year, however, is…
I play a lot of games which are on the fringes of what counts as a war game – but this one is the very definition of one. Definitely only concerned with the strategy, operations, and logistics of military campaigns, employing the trademark core mechanisms (hex map, unit counters, die rolling with a combat result table), and even has the most popular setting (World War II). Within that, it offers everything from two-month regional scenarios that play in an hour (Balkans 1941) to the whole 1939-194? campaign, named the „Main Event“ in the playbook. Obviously, as „Real War Gamers Play the Campaign Game“, I went all in (after playing the introductory scenarios a few times, which are excellent teaching tools – as the game generally does an excellent job teaching a complex matter in a clear way). So I spent the first half of the year on my first campaign and had an excellent time – excellent enough to give me the ambitious idea to play a second campaign, just this time documenting it on Twitter and accompanying it with a lot „historical documents“ on the blog which I now have to fake on a regular basis. You can see the current state of affairs in the game in the Twitter thread (and vote on the strategy!) – and subscribe to this blog if you don’t already to get the full range of diaries, newspaper articles, speeches, diplomatic reports, propaganda leaflets and more for this exciting counterfactual historical narrative!
Which games did you discover this year? Let me know in the comments!