Jay Shaw's Top 10 Awesome Tabletop Games of 2018!

Jay Shaw, Sr. Creative Director

Trying something new this year since we’re also a board game company now! 2018 was a development year for the game department at Mondo and we can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve got coming in 2019. While this list won’t include any titles from us, there are so many incredible games coming out we wanted to give a shout out to some favorites this year. In no particular order...

Western Legends - Kolossal Games

Western Legends pits players against one another for domination of the American wild west. What’s great about this game is how well the theme is integrated with the mechanics. It’s very open-ended in terms of player objectives and style of play. Want to play as an outlaw and rob other players on their way to cash in gold? Want to play as a marshal and chase outlaws around the map with the aid of the sheriff? Want to just hang out in the hills looking for minerals and helping ranchers deliver cattle? Want to hang around town and risk it all in games of poker? All completely workable strategies. The player interaction is high and the games are fairly quick for how much is there on the table. It’s a blast.

The Mind - Pandasaurus

Here are the rules of the game. All players have a card in their hand with a number between one and 100 printed on it. This card is kept secret from the other players. All you have to do is place your card face up in the middle of the table, but here’s the catch, it must be placed in ascending numerical order on top of the other cards being played. Players cannot talk or signal each other, they just have to play their cards in order from lowest to highest to proceed to the next round and possibly win the game. How do you do this? With The Mind! This game rules. It’s so simple and so fun and might have you believing in the power of telepathy if you get an especially good game going. 

Brass: Birmingham - Roxley Game Laboratory

Brass: Lancashire is a modern board game classic. Originally released in 2007 and designed by Martin Wallace, it’s been called one of the greatest games of all time. This year Roxley released not only an updated (and gorgeous) new edition of Brass: Lancashire they also released a sequel, Brass: Birmingham. Both games are quite similar but I prefer Birmingham for no particular reason. The components are top notch, the art is stunning, and for a game about the industrial revolution it’s incredibly tense and fun. Brass is just a perfect example of elegance in gaming. 

Keyforge: Call of the Archons - Fantasy Flight

Fantasy Flight is exceptionally good at putting out compelling competitive card games. Legend of the Five Rings is one of my top games from last year and I’ll always have a soft spot for Netrunner. Richard Garfield (creator of Magic: The Gathering and Netrunner) has put together one of the most fun and fascinating head-to-head card games in recent memory. Rather than chasing the most powerful cards to build the perfect competitive deck, Keyforge forces players to abandon that concept as there is no deck building at all. Instead, players purchase small pre-assembled randomized decks and must play with those straight out of the box. Each deck is completely unique so the players must rely on their abilities to chain cards together and effectively use anything in the game rather than an especially powerful collection of cards they’ve built. It’s a really novel approach to this genre of game and it’s great.

Cerebria: The Inside World - Mindclash Games

Mindclash is known for putting out exceedingly dense euro games dripping with cool theme. Anachrony and Trickerion are two of my favorite games and Cerebria is looking like it’s going to fit very comfortably on that list as well. Cerebria takes place inside the realm of the mind where players take the side of either gloom or bliss in direct competition for control over this fantasy consciousness. This is all done through a very clever form of area control and engine building that Mindclash has become known for. It’s a much denser game than the light and colorful theme would have you believe, but that’s what makes it so great. The juxtaposition between delightful artwork and bright colors alongside painfully strategic long form gameplay really sets Cerebria apart from everything else on the shelf. I think it’s a bit of a masterpiece. 

Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress - Games Workshop

I love Warhammer 40k. A lot. Probably too much. The lore is just so damn good and I love building and painting toys to play with. Blackstone Fortress is the first Warhammer Quest game set in the 40k universe. It takes everything great about Warhammer (rad miniatures, deep lore, grim brutal battle) and condenses it into an incredibly fun cooperative dungeon crawl played over multiple sessions. You’ll die a lot in this game, and that’s half the fun. 

Betrayal Legacy - Avalon Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a blast. It’s a lighter haunted house game best played with a group that really gets into the spooky thematic fun. Rob Daviau’s Legacy system turns a solid single play game into an engrossing campaign played over multiple sessions. This longer form of gaming works absolutely perfectly here with Betrayal. It’s an excellent game for your horror-loving friends to sink their teeth into. Not simple by any means, but the slow unfolding of the mechanics and rules make this one very easy to get to the table and provide a great ramp for players not as familiar with this type of gaming.

Fireball Island - Restoration Games

Fireball Island was a BIG deal in the mid-'80s. I remember watching the commercials for it and begging until my mom finally bought a copy for me and my sister. The game in reality wasn’t quite as awesome as it promised. Mousetrap kinda had that same problem. Awesome on the TV, janky in the living room. Restoration Games has gone and fixed that with their edition of Fireball Island. This new version works exactly how I imagined it would when I was 10. It’s huge and goofy and a ton of fun to play with my kids now. 

Tokyo Washi Game - Jordan Draper

Jordan’s a gem. His games are so refined and elegant and thoughtful. I love everything he did with the Tokyo series but I especially love his washi tape game. The entire game is a roll of washi tape. You peel off two equal size strips and stick them to the table. That’s your play area. Players draw cats and fish in different spaces and race to eat the most fish with their cats using different colored pens as play instruments. The game is entirely strategic and takes a few minutes to play but the real magic is the use of an everyday item like a roll of decorative tape to create the environment. Jordan’s got a great new game on the horizon called Metal (miniaturized lawn games using all metal components) and I can’t wait for everything he’s got coming in the future. 

Hardback - Fowers Games

Hardback (and Paperback before it) is a deck building game with a very novel (hah!) theme. You use the cards in your hand to spell words and purchase better letters to spell better words. It’s like Dominion meets Scrabble set in the 19th century with a ton of really fun and innovative gameplay elements tossed in. I also love the super thematic packaging and presentation. My wife annihilates me in this game but it’s still a lot of fun.