Here we are, new years eve…eve? Regardless, 2022 is just about in the books and as usual, we close out the year with our Top 10 Board Games of 2022 list. Normally fellow BGQer Andrew joins me in making this list, as I like to offer a diverse perspective on games released over the year. Unfortunately, Andrew was busy this year measuring his wooden cubes to make sure they were all perfectly square (or maybe playing Marvel Snap, I can’t keep up with how he spends his time anymore). So I’ve enlisted the aid of fellow reviewer Brandon this year. While I tend to be more of a thematic, dice-chucking, minis-loving gamer, Brandon leans more toward the crunchy euros. That and Oath, which I’m pretty sure he plays on repeat all day.
Like every year, there are also some games that I didn’t include in this list because they either just missed the cut, or I haven’t had a chance to play them yet. For me, it was ISS Vanguard, Star Wars The Clone Wars, Bardsung, and Marvel Dice Throne. For Brandon, it was Revive, Wonderlands War, War of the Ring Card Game, Longshot the Dice Game, Woodcraft, John Company: 2nd Edition
10. Red Cathedral: Contractors (review)
Brandon: Devir Games continue to produce great products. I know! I know! When reviewing the Contractors expansion I marked it as an optional addition to your collection, but I have such a great time with Red Cathedral and find myself playing it often enough to make this expansion a worthy addition to the best of 2022 list. There’s something for everyone to enhance the base game, but it’s the inclusion of ten new guilds and extra building plans that keep this as a mainstay in my collection. The rest of the expansion modules are nice to have as an option as well.
10. Heat: Pedal to the Metal
Tony: If you ask me in a few months where Heat ranks in my top 10 for the year, I could see it being a bit higher. However, I only recently got this one, so I haven’t had a chance to dive into all that it has to offer. That said, what I have played so far has been great. Heat: Pedal to the Metal is an excellent racing game that tasks players with managing their heat supply during the race. Heat is a hand management, deck-building game that not only is easy to learn, but comes with a bucket of expansions to increase its replay value.
Brandon: Devir Games strikes again! Lacrimosa, designed by Gerard Ascensi and Ferran Renalias, fuses familiar gaming mechanisms into a unique theme. And while the theme does have logistical issues, the gameplay is quite fun and overshadows the confusion. This is a simple deck builder that asks players to select two cards from a limited hand size to utilize their top actions or their bottom resource collection. Turns are quick yet decisions remain tense as players scramble for resources available on the main board. It’s nice to sit down to a game night where the setting is a little different from the norm. Assisting with the completion of Mozart’s Requiem provides a wonderful buy-in to the tired European flair we see from so many games.
1-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 90 minutes • $
9. Vengeance: Roll and Fight
Tony: A random purchase at Gen Con this year ended up being one of my favorite roll and writes of the year. Vengeance: Roll and Fight will have you taking vengeance on a bad guy who wronged you. Each round you’ll roll dice, equip your character, attack some thugs, and try to earn the most points as you make your way through the your nemesis’ lair. Vengeance: Roll and Fight is a reimagining of the Vengeance board game and does a great job of taking the essence of that game and distilling it down into a quicker playing package.
8. Weather Machine
Brandon: Despite my enjoyment of Vital Lacerda’s games, I did not back this project when it was on Kickstarter. Why? I couldn’t quite come to terms with the clash of iconography and artwork, the massive player boards, the action selection system. So, when I had the opportunity to finally play this (thanks Matt!), I quickly fell into the Lacerda mechanisms that I was familiar with and the complexity, while still present, seemed to fade into the background. The use of four major locations with multiple actions segments the board and makes it more accessible than you’d imagine. Also, the game’s theme of keeping weather issues at bay while publishing research papers on these actions tells a story that’s enhanced by the wonderful artwork by Ian O’Toole. It may have one or two more ideas shoved into this design than necessary, but I would never turn down a play if it was offered again.
8. The Guild of Merchant Explorers (review)
Tony: A route-building game that will have you traveling around the map trying to reach different points of interest. The game is played over four rounds, and each round will reset your exploration progress, forcing you to start from square one again. Don’t fret though, because along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to found villages to give you better starting points. The Guild of Merchant Explorers has a great ramp up feel, where you get stronger as the game progresses, allowing you to reach more distant points of the map.
Brandon: This would probably be higher on my list if I’d had a chance to play in person. Thankfully I was able to play this at all thanks to the digital implementation on Board Game Arena. Carnegie is designed by Xavier Georges of Troyes fame (one of my all-time favorite games) and utilizes a unique action selection system that powers turns each round. Everything is interconnected from worker placement to route selection. There are also plenty of meaty decisions from developing your company to balancing strategies on the main board. The game is further enhanced by Ian O’Toole’s crisp clean artwork and the fact that end-game bonuses are related to charitable donations rather than gathering power or influence.
7. Wonderlands War
Tony: This Alice in Wonderland-themed area control game will have you battling it out for different locations from this Disney universe. While you are definitely going head-to-head with other players, this isn’t really a combat-style game, as even losing battles is not very punishing. I really liked how each of the game’s characters felt unique, making me want to try out each one. And the combination of card drafting, bag building, and area control hit the sweet spot for me, and I’m itching to play this one again.
6. Dune Imperium: Immortality
Brandon: Did we get two Dune Imperium expansions in 2022? I think we did. And while Rise of Ix fixed a subpar section of the main board and enhanced combat (while also adding more leaders), the better expansion was released just recently. Immortality is a smaller addition, but it makes a stronger impact. With the inclusion of the Bene Tleilax and their genetic manipulations, the card pool gains a new enhancement called Graft, making card selection more interesting. The Xleilaxu research also enhances deck building by making cards available sooner, as well as allowing players to get through their deck faster. It may be a little off base from the world people only know from the recent film release, but it expands the universe of Dune: Imperium in a weird and wonderful way.
6. Planet Unknown
Tony: A sleeper hit from Gen Con ended up being a really fun polynomial game. In Planet Unknown, you are exploring your own planet by drafting tiles from a shared “lazy Susan”, and using them to terraform your planet. Planet Unknown features simultaneous turns, so the gameplay is quick, however what you draft and where you place it make all the difference. As you place tiles, you’ll also move up on various tracks giving you advanced technology, special tiles, and unique scoring opportunities to use. The game also includes solo mode, and unique starting locations, giving this one a lot of opportunities to hit the gaming table.
5. Messina 1347
Brandon: While technically a 2021 release, this didn’t make it to retail in the US until this year. Designed by Raul Fernandez Aparicio and Vladimir Suchy, Messina 1347 brings the pandemic into focus. There are a lot of moving parts during play, from hexagon movement, to quarantined workers, to fighting the plague with fire. And while some may be wary of the setting and theme, I recommend this game for one major reason: the gameplay arc. Messina has a built-in world-building element that sees players not only combating the plague, which ramps up fast, but also rebuilding and repopulating the city. As such, your efforts are rewarded as you progress in a way that’s unique, meaningful, and ultimately hopeful. It’s incredibly tight and over too soon, but it only makes jumping back in that much easier.
5. Frostpunk: The Board Game
Tony: I’d probably rank Frostpunk higher up on this list if it wasn’t so punishing. Much like the video game it’s based on, Frostpunk is a hard, hard game to win. It took me more than a few tries to get my first victory. Winning at Frostpunk requires careful planning, hard decisions, and a little bit of luck. That being said, the production values are off the charts, the game is highly thematic and true to its source material. And for when I’m not looking for a beatdown, there are some variants suggested by the game designer to help make the game a little easier to win. I always like when designers give us a few different levers to pull to help customize game for our play preferences. That all being said, I’m really enjoying this one and am looking forward to venturing out into the frozen wastes again.
4. Scout (review)
Brandon: Here it is, your hard-to-find 2022 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year nominee. Scout, originally released in 2019 and reprinted by Oink Games in 2021 (reaching US shores in 2022), is a super small ladder-climbing card game with restrictive elements. Players must keep their hand of cards in the order received and can only manipulate this by playing sets or runs larger than the previous played, or by giving others points to add cards to their hand wherever they choose. As you may have already heard from others in the industry, it’s fun and quite addictive. This is my new go-to travel game and it will be gracing many tables this holiday season. A bonus is that it plays up to five players!
4. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Tony: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a game I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. It’s based on one of my favorite Batman comic books of all time (seriously, read it if you haven’t), and takes place over four grueling games. This solo game presents players with a 4 mission campaign that follows the story from the comic book. You’ll be controlling a long-retired Batman, returning to the streets of Gotham City to bring back order and justice. While the game is hard, it was never punishing, and gives you lots of tools in your utility belt to take on the mutants, cops, and rogue’s gallery of criminals. The designers also gave us the options for both cooperative and versus mode for gamers who aren’t strickly solo gamers.
3. Root: Marauders Expansion
Brandon: Back in our Best Games of 2022 So Far list, I chose this as my selection. The Marauders Expansion continues to be a strong addition not only to the Root system, but also to my collection overall. This expansion enhances the base game by adding two new powerful factions, an advanced setup ruleset, and a new wrinkle with the inclusion of hirelings. As such, not only does it make larger player counts more exciting by drafting factions and changing setup, but it also makes lower player counts more dynamic by the inclusion of the hirelings which are shared factions that can prove to be a powerful comeback option. Highly recommended (re: essential?) for those who enjoy Root and have at least one other expansion.
3. Return to Dark Tower
Tony: If the Dark Knight Returns was a sleeper hit for me, Return to Dark Tower was the easy choice. Its Kickstarter raked in dollars to the tune of $4,000,000+ so this one had plenty of eyes on it. Fortunately, the design team was able to pull off a reimagination of a game that many had serious nostalgia for. Return to Dark Tower takes the ages-old gameplay from Dark Tower and integrates it with a custom app and digitally connected tower to give you that feeling of the classic 1980s board game. However, this wasn’t just a straight-up reprint (I’m looking at you Hero Quest), but updated to be enjoyed with modernized looks and mechanics.
Brandon: This has been my year of Board & Dice review copies, and I was getting burned out on not finding one that I wanted to keep in the collection. Until Tiletum. Designers Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini return to form with this design that creeps up from underneath its bland exterior to provide excellent gameplay. This is a game of dice drafting that features powerful combos. Its mechanisms feel like time-tested classics (many are present in these designers’ previous work). Yet I can’t get over how little went into developing a unique visual world around the gameplay. It’s an illustration and component refresh away from being considered a top-tier game in my collection. Regardless, I’ll settle with the exciting gameplay and praise this design that is sure to get Euro gamers to the table.
2. War of the Ring: The Card Game
Tony: When I demoed War of the Ring: The Card Game at Gen Con this year, I knew they had something special. And now that it’s in hand, it sure did not disappoint. War of the Ring is one of my favorite board games ever made, and I was impressed with how they were able to distill that epic Lord of the Rings game down to its core. You can play War of the Ring: The Card Game in under 2 hours, and still get that legendary clash of good vs evil. This card-driven game has tons of hard decisions to make, tense battles, and is still filled to the brim with the theme and flavor of its source material.
1. Arkham Horror LCG: Scarlet Keys Expansion
Brandon: An easy choice at #1 for the year for someone who has invested a lot of time and money into this LCG system. The Scarlet Keys campaign AND investigator expansions both provide plenty of exciting new adventures. This time around, players are thrust into a globetrotting adventure featuring time as an ever-dwindling resource. As such, there’s only so much you can experience in one full playthrough, thus creating a built-in need to revisit the campaign multiple times to see all that is happening within the void of the mythos. This narrative is sharp and each scenario is unique. Plus, the Scarlet Keys investigators each offer new abilities to experience as you trek around the world. It’s also designer MJ Newman’s final Arkham love letter to fans as she moves on to new projects. What a run it’s been!
1. Foundations of Rome
Tony: Back in the summer, we released our list of our Best Games of 2022 So Far. And on that list, Foundations of Rome was my choice. Here we are at the end of the year and it still holds that spot for me. Sure, the game is gratuitously overproduced, but that’s part of its charm. It looks absolutely stunning on your table and the gameplay is just as engaging. It also helps that it’s very easy to get to the table as well: Draft cards, place buildings, earn points and money. This one just ticks all the boxes for me with enjoyable gameplay, accessibility, masterful production values, and variety with its included expansions. I’ve lost count of how many games of Foundations of Rome I’ve played but it’s already turned into one of those games that I’m always willing to play.