Board Game Expert Review 2018

February 3, 2019

If you’ve stopped by the Lair on almost any evening you can find Damon giving the best expert board game recommendations out there.

Damon, our resident board game expert, can be found here even on his days off playing board games and has tried out nearly 100 new games in 2018. Below is his short list of 10 best new games to check out!

Newton, Clans of Caledonia, Western Legends

10. Newton

1 to 4 players, 90 minutes, Ages 14+

Players are young scientists who are travelling Europe, to study at universities and meet other scientists in the hopes of making some major scientific discoveries. The game uses card drafting, hand management, tile placement, and point to point movement on a European map. Each turn players play cards out of their hands for actions, and symbol combinations. Players are also collecting books, which are tiles that they use to fill their library shelves to generate points.

9. Clans of Caledonia

1 to 4 players, 30 – 120 minutes, Ages 12+

Clans is a mid to heavy weight economic game set in 19th century Scotland. Players represent historic clans with unique abilities, and they complete to produce, trade, and export goods and whisky. The game is played on a modular board, and players start on the outer edge of the map, and try to expand their land by buying hexes of land to increase their production. Players can buy and sell resources which causes prices of goods to go up and down, so there is commodity speculation. Players can also complete mission cards to create money and victory points.

8. Western Legends

2 to 6 players, 60 – 90 minutes, Ages 14+

Western Legends is a medium light weight sandbox game where players can do anything they want in a western setting. Players can be good, bad, or neutral characters and your status can change based on what you do. Players can do things like herd cattle for money, gold mining, gambling, and even commit crimes. But if players become wanted, other players can become a deputy and try to hunt them down for points. The game is a race to fifteen points and the player who does it first wins. The game is surprisingly fun for such a simple game, which uses area movement, betting, hand management, and pick up and deliver mechanics.

Merlin, Shards of Infinity

7. Shards of Infinity

2 to 4 players, 30 minutes, Ages 10+

Shards of Infinity is a light weight deck building game set in a sci-fi universe. It was created by the same team who designed Star Realms, and Ascension. Players all start with the same deck of ten cards, and each turn players will buy cards from a common six card market display, and add them to their deck. Players starts with fifty hit points, and they try to reduce their opponents to zero health, and be the last man standing. An addictively fun game with a small package.

6. Merlin

2 to 4 players, 75 minutes, Ages 14+

Merlin is a medium weight game with worker placement, area control, dice rolling, and set collection. Players are knights of the round table, who are trying to convince King Arthur that they are the best candidate for becoming the new king. Players move their knight pieces around a roundel, which is a circle with spaces on it, where each space provides a different power. The Merlin piece is a neutral piece which can be controlled by all players, so this creates an interesting dynamic and tension as players try to get the best uses out of their pieces and Merlin. There are so many different ways to create points that the game has a pretty high replay value.

Gizmos, Sagrada

5. Sagrada

1 to 4 players, 30 – 45 minutes, Ages 14+

Sagrada is a light weight dice drafting game, with pattern building, and set collection. Each turn players draft dice and try to fill in their stained glass window display, however players can’t place dice with the same numbers or colors next to each other. Every game has different scoring cards, which are drawn to provide different ways to score points every game. A great game for families, with easy to learn rules and a beautiful presentation. 

4. Gizmos

2 to 4 players, 40 – 50 minutes, Ages 14+

Gizmos is a light weight card drafting and tableau building game. Players are scientists who are trying to build the best machines which convert energy pellets in the form of marbles, and feed them into their machine to generate points. Each card you add to your tableau will fire off chain reactions, letting you do more actions on your turn. Whoever builds the greatest machine and collects the most points wins the game. This is my pick for the best family game of the year.

Crown of Emara, Coimbra, Carpe Diem

3. Crown of Emara

1 to 4 players, 45 – 75 minutes, Ages 12+

Crown of Emara is a medium light weight game which uses hand management, worker placement, action programming, and pick up and deliver mechanics on two modular boards. One board is for gathering resources and the other board is for special actions like building buildings, hiring staff, and buying titles for nobility points. Each turn players will play action cards face down in front of themselves in a specific order. Then players will reveal their cards in order, and move their pawns on the two boards, trying to score points. There are two scoring tracks, one for building points, and the other for people points. The interesting thing is, only the lower score from these two tracks is used for your final score, so this leads to a lot of opportunities for experimentation and varieties of strategies.

2. Coimbra

2 to 4 players, 60 – 90 minutes, Ages 14+

Coimbra is a game set in 15th and 16th century Portugal, where players are nobles who are trying to increase their prestige by recruiting the most influential citizens to their cause. The game uses card drafting, dice drafting, tableau building, point to point movement, and set collection as its main mechanics. The game has a very interesting dice drafting mechanic where players can use their dice in a variety of interesting ways, to draft cards, and increase their influence in four guilds for points. As players add cards to their tableau, the cards create some interesting synergies and power combinations, making it so that no two games are ever the same.

1.  Carpe Diem

2 to 4 players, 45 – 75 minutes, Ages 10+

Carpe Diem is card drafting, tile drafting, and tile placement game, where players are rich patricians in ancient Rome, trying to build the most lucrative district. Players will draft building tiles to be placed on their district boards, and each building type provides a different power. The game has such a variety of ways to score points, and ways to arrange your tiles that the game has almost limitless replay value. Though the game’s presentation and art aren’t my style, the game is so much fun, it had to be my #1 choice.

Important Collector’s Note:

Due to the nature of some of these game publishers, not all of these games will be in print all of the time, but Dragon’s Lair will be happy to place special orders for you, and will contact you when the game does come back into the store. You can do so on our Orders page, or give us a call!