I played a lot of games in 2019. With 342 logged plays it didn’t quite hit the highs of 2018’s 404 plays, but it ranks second ahead of 2017 (332 plays) and the year in which I rediscovered board gaming, 2016 (162 plays). Here’s a breakdown of my top 10 most played games:
9 - Dragon's Breath
A friend of mine got Dragon's Breath at the UK Games Expo in June as he thought it would be the ideal game to play with his young daughters – I saw it and had to have it, but due to its Children's Game of the Year win in the Spiel des Jahres of 2018, by the time I got to the Haba stand it was sold out! Upon returning home I resorted to Zatu and five of the eight total plays came back-to-back outdoors on a hot July day in a local park on a picnic rug – a lovely memory.
9 - Architects of the West Kingdom
Seven of my eight plays of this unique worker placement game came in the first three months of 2019 – it was definitely my early hit of the year, winning Surprise of the Year and Artwork of the Year in my Zatu selections for 2018. Perhaps my most memorable play of Architects was at The City of Games expo in Bristol where I got to play a four-player game involving Zatu’s very own Louis! Needless to say, neither of us won!
8 - Sagrada
Quite fittingly my eighth most-played game of all time was also my eighth most played game of 2019. My nine plays of Sagrada, a fine “dice drafting and window crafting” game were spread fairly evenly over the year and it would have got a lot more plays if my wife's heart hadn't been stolen by another game...
7 - Sushi Go Party!
I’m not the biggest fan of Sushi Go or Sushi Go Party – I like them and would play them if asked to, it’s just I wouldn’t choose them myself. Nine of my ten plays of this game came in April and May, which shows it was a hot game in my family in the spring, but then the fizzle died out in the summer. My wife and eldest daughter could be found playing it often though.
6 - Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Lanterns is a favourite with my wife and eldest daughter. I struggle to comprehend the best strategy for this game but that just keeps me coming back for more. Since receiving it for Christmas in 2018, my plays were fairly evenly spread through 2019. I also have The Emperor’s Gifts expansion but we’re getting so much mileage out of the base game that the expansion hasn’t hit the table yet – but I do look forward to that day.
5 - Codenames
Codenames is undoubtedly one of the best party games out there, winning the Spiel des Jahres in 2016. My 12 plays of this came in only five sessions, because when you finish a game you just flip the cards over and go again! I fully expect Codenames to feature in my top ten most played games of 2020.
4 - Wacky Races: The Board Game
Wacky Races is a simple yet pretty game based on the 1960s cartoon that most of us are familiar with. I bought it in July and eight of my 13 plays took place in that month – I think it was because I was keen to play with all 10 different racers. Do I have a favourite? I’m not sure, but I did have a lot of fun at my Games Group coming from behind as Pat Pending to win.
3 - Noctiluca
Shem Phillips is known mainly for his worker placement games, Raiders of the North Sea and Architects of the West Kingdom, but in 2019 he released a beautiful dice drafting game through Z-Man Games, which I pounced upon as soon as it was released. I’m actually surprised that Noctiluca features so high on my list, with 14 plays, but it is testament to just how well it’s gone down with my wife and eldest daughter.
2 - Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
Railroad Ink is riding the crest of the roll and write popularity wave. In this game you roll custom dice and then draw the rails and roads that are displayed on the dice onto your grid in an attempt to create transport networks that score you points. I confess I don’t actually own this game as it seems to be impossible to get hold of, but I managed to mock-up a home-printed version. This game benefits from a very quick 10-15 minute playtime, and I managed to play it 17 times, also enjoying the different challenges of the Lake and River expansions.
1 - Azul
There was simply no competition for first place! I played Azul 52 times in 2019 – that averages at one play per week (and equates to more plays than my 2nd, 3rdand 4thplaced games put together!).
It isn’t necessarily my favourite game – I tend to be more drawn to games with a bit more theme – but it is so simple to setup, teach and play that this 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner got to the table again and again during the year. This was massively helped by the fact that my wife loves it and suggests it at any spare moment, and I don’t like to turn down the offer of playing a board game!
I know some people manage to play a lot more games than me in n avarage year, but with a wife and three children and the pressures of modern life I feel that I play a fair number of games. Having said that I’m always left feeling with this addiction, I mean hobby, I’m always left wanting to play more board games than I can physically manage. I wonder how many I’ll play in 2020…