Welcome to the 2018 Zatu Selections - our very own board game awards. Today we announce the five games chosen by members of our writing team in the Kickstarter of the Year 2018 category.
Each year, more and more games are being funded through Kickstarter. With so many games added each week it has become much harder to get noticed; you need to know what you're doing when you launch a Kickstarter campaign. We've managed to narrow it down to five top Kickstarter games which stood out from the crowd and presented a brilliant gaming experience.
Andy P - Everdell
This title and Lords of Hellas battled it out for supremacy for me this year, but in my opinion Everdell narrowly pips it, only by being brought to the table a bit more than the former. A simple game with plenty of heart, Everdell sees you vying with your fellow players to become the greatest architect in Everdell by building the most glorious town. Through a combination of woodland critters and towering constructions, you aim to build up resources and combinations in your tableau while achieving the various events on offer.
Part worker placement and part tableau builder, Everdell is a great example of how to meld theme and form in situ. The combination of the breath-taking organic art form and mechanical engine building means the game has a lot to offer for fans of lighter 1-2-hour games. Every character is uniquely crafted and fits the setting perfectly, each character feels animated and every landscape and building has a depth of detail that brings the magical province to life.
Not to mention the production quality, which is set at a very high bar, from its unique-materialised resources (including berries that feel squishy!) to its custom player meeples evoking multiple different animals, to the magnificent sight of the Evertree commanding people to stop and gaze at Everdell’s inherent beauty. With the prospect of the expansion ‘Pearlbrook’ on the horizon in 2019 promising new cards, resources and routes to victory, it is difficult to see Everdell not sticking around for months and years to come.
Nick W - Robin Hood and the Merry Men
If 2018 had a few more months of game playing time this might very well change, but given the strength of this game it might very well not too. Robin Hood and the Merry Men is my Kickstarter of the year, and not because I count one of the designers as a friend. In fact, that made it harder to play, as I was worried I wouldn’t like the game - but thankfully I absolutely love it.
Robin Hood is billed as a semi co-operative game, but that doesn’t feel completely accurate. Yes, you have some joint targets to achieve/keep an eye on, but you are rewarded for doing so and can work this into your game plan. It is one of the most thematic games I have ever played - every action you take feels like it fits in the world of the hooded vigilante.
Using a clever take on card play and worker placement you will rob the rich, steal from carriages, avoid the Sheriff, trap his guards and more. You will have to stop the Sheriff gaining too much control of the board and gaining too much money and choose when to send a point scoring envoy to the King.
While some Euro fans might scoff at the use of dice in the game, the luck is balanced in the players' favour and bad rolls usually only effect those who push their luck too far. The game is incredibly confident and accomplished thanks to the usual attention to detail from Final Frontier Games, which means retail adopters get a great deal as well as Kickstarter backers.
Luke P - Rising Sun
Rising Sun - Eric Lang strikes again! If you want miniatures and monsters on a map coupled with clever rules that promote strategy and tactics that can differ from person to person, then you look no further than CMON's Director of Game Design.
In Rising Sun, you take command of a Japanese house, each house has a power making them unique to each other. The Kami (Japanese gods) have returned to feudal Japan to rebuild it. Over the various seasons you will make alliances and negotiate with your allies and enemies, relationships are very fluid during Rising Sun and friendships are broken at the click of a finger. You may be honourable in your actions and reap the benefits of those noble acts, or you may be treacherous in your actions and gain the rewards that skulduggery often reaps. You will wage war across the land in epic battles filled with soldiers of the highest calibres and monsters directly from your nightmares.
Dragons and Demons can be recruited to your side, all with various abilities to challenge your foes. In war you may find that an honourable death will reap a greater profit or ensuring that poets and lauriets tell stories of bravery and valour. The bidding system within Rising Sun really sets it apart from games similar to it. During a battle you will secretly bid on various options against your opponent who is bidding on the same options. This may mean that although you know you are going to lose the fight and your men will die you may yet come out the other side better off. Having taken a hostage of your enemies or taken your own lives in honourable seppuku and denying your foe the spoils of war.
A fantastic game that tries to do different and interesting things in a heavily populated genre of games. Coupled with the always stellar production of CMON, this made Rising Sun the Kickstarter game of the year for me.
Craig P - Architects of the West Kingdom
My Kickstarter of the Year is Architects of the West Kingdom, from Garphill Games. Designed by Shem Phillips, this is the first in a new series of titles, akin to the North Sea Saga. I base my choice both on the finished product, which most certainly lives up to the high quality we have come to expect in terms of appearance and gameplay, and the management of the campaign.
Shem has a knack of involving himself throughout and takes the reigns in responding to backers where others on the platform have fallen short. One bone of contention for some involved the game being available to the public at Essen Spiel ’18, before backers had received their copies. This was not a major issue in my mind, as the question to sell at the convention had been raised with the community ahead of time, it is just a shame that there were let downs from distributors along the way. Shem was open and honest throughout, which is a major plus, and shows his appreciation to those that help bring his vision to life.
The game itself shows no signs of leaving my table anytime soon. Firstly, we have artwork from Mihajlo Dimitrievski (The Mico), which adorns much of the Garphill Games product line, and is a mainstay in modern board games in recent years. To add to the attractiveness of the game, we have the intriguing gameplay brought about by the worker placement element - place a single worker each turn, carry out actions dependant of the number of workers that player has in that space. This can lead to them receiving more goods, being able to choose more actions, making cards cheaper to buy, etc.
There is also the counter-action of the Town Square, where players can pay to round up groups of workers, to then send them off to the Tower. This to-and-froing forces players down multiple paths, knowing that if they focus on one action too much, they will ultimately be targeted and rounded up. A fantastic final product, and an overall, well managed campaign.
Matt T - Endeavor: Age of Sail
Endeavor: Age of Sail (published by Burnt Island Games and Grand Gamers Guild) is the second edition of the popular classic Endeavor. This was funded on Kickstarter and delivered to backers during Q4 of 2018.
I never played the original game as it did not officially support two players, but the new edition does. When I saw this on Kickstarter, I was very intrigued and backed it almost straight away. I was not disappointed. Endeavor is a game of empire building, sailing out across the world, establishing shipping routes and occupying cities as well as building up your industry, culture, finance and influence.
The gameplay is streamlined and smooth with some interesting choices to be made. The two-player variant has a dummy player, which usually I am not a fan of as it can involve a lot of “admin," but it just works really well here.
The way the game tackles the delicate subject of slavery, which was very much present during the time period the game is set, is done in a very tactful way. They have not avoided the subject but instead made it work within the game mechanics and the theme. Taking a slavery card is a difficult choice to make, not just from a mechanics/game perspective but from a personal perspective as well. It just does not feel right.
The new edition is more than just a re-print. It comes with a double-sided board for different player counts, variable starting buildings, exploits to enhance the gameplay and offers different scenarios as well as updated artwork and graphics. The deluxe Kickstarter version also came with upgraded player components, recessed player boards, wooden tokens instead of cardboard and Game Trayz to store all the components for each player.
I am very happy I backed this on Kickstarter, not only does it look the part with the upgraded components, but it has the gameplay to back it up. It is refreshing to see a Kickstarter game look good and have the gameplay to go with it. There is so much content in the box and strategy to delve in to, that I have not even played with the exploits yet. Something that I hope to remedy very soon.
This game made it on to my 10x10 challenge for the year and I think will exceed 10 plays by the end of 2019!