Top Games of 2022!

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here. This week, I played my 200th new or new-to-me game. I set that as a goal for this year, and barely made it! Of those, the vast majority were new games from 2022, and the year had so many solid games that it was really hard to winnow this list down.

I’ll talk about the near misses at the bottom of the post, but I should give a caveat about games that I have not played yet. I really tried to get all of these to the table at BGG Con 2022, but even with four solid days of gaming, we ran out of time! So, you won’t find Deal with the Devil, Village Rails, Heat, Atiwa, Woodcraft, Citta-Stato, Evora, Balada, Revive, or Skymines on this list even though these are all right up my alley.

Enough blather, let’s get to the lists, and I’ll have some comments below:

BJJayJerodDaveMitchell
Starship CaptainsPlanet UnknownMosaic: A Story of CivilizationMassive Darkness 2Merchants of the Dark Road
The Guild of Merchant ExplorersFree RadicalsEndless Winter: PaleoamericansMarvel Dice ThroneLongshot: The Dice Game
Mosaic: A Story of CivilizationMy ShelfieThe Great SplitThe WolvesMarvel Dice Throne
Tenpenny ParksTidal Blades: Banner FestivalStarship CaptainsStarship CaptainsTuring Machine
TiletumNext Station: LondonSea Salt & PaperCaesar!Foundations of Rome
Green Team WinsGift of TulipsThe Guild of Merchant ExplorersThe Great SplitDune Imperium (w/ The Rise of Ix)
Three Sisters Founders of TeotihuacanTenpenny ParksLong Shot: The Dice GameTerracotta Army
Endless Winter: PaleoamericansBettaCarnegieSkate SummerPlanet Unknown
The Great SplitGuild of Merchant ExplorersFree RadicalsVagrantsongPlanted
Sea Salt & PaperDog ParkThree SistersCat In The BoxThe Spill

Here are some quick thoughts about the games on the list, in no particular order:

Starship Captains

Starship Captains fits me perfectly, because it is a thematic euro where almost everything you do makes sense. I love watching each players’ ship bounce around the galaxy, every player watching what the others are doing in hopes they will leave a certain mission alone or run away from the pirates. Jerod hates that I compare it to Scout, a card game Steph Hodge introduced me to at Dice Tower Con and that I’ve been playing non-stop ever since. Scout is a game that has joined my “little game bag”, because it is just so easy to teach two or three or four games how to play and it’s a perfect end of the night or warm up game. I’ve decided to cheat this year — I’ll give Starship Captains my favorite game of 2022 so far, and Scout my favorite new-to-me game of 2022. Will Starship Captains win the coveted Fleur de Ludo award? Even I don’t know yet!

Tiletum

I am two plays in, one at three player and one with my wife, and I LOVED both plays. I know it may seem like a strange comparison, but the gameplay in Tiletum feel a bit like the combination of Pinchback and Riddle’s patented “loaded” roll and write games mixed in with Empires of the North. No, there is no card play to speak of, but it’s the way that players can chain actions back-to-back-to-back like my favorite bubble-wrap popper games. This has the potential to be my favorite “T” game, but I want to see how it plays at a four player count first.

The Wolves

What’s this? An area control game made the list?? (And it just missed mine, barely.) Tonnerre, mes chiens! What got me quickly during my play at BGG Con was how thematic the movement of the wolves is around the board. It feels like something a wolf pack would do, chasing game around a region, nestling down for rest and claiming territory for themselves. I can’t wait to play this again. This might not be the only area control game that makes it on to the list this year…

Three Sisters

Another in the loaded roll and write series from the Fleeples makes an appearance or two on the Gumbo lists. In my opinion (and I know The Brandt may disagree!) this is Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle’s best effort….so far…to get a big game feel in a tiny package and do it randowriter style. (Stay tuned for 2023, though, and get your Mardi Gras beads ready.) In this version, players attempt to grow gardens using the synergy that develops among three types of plants. But of course, there are some twists — weather to deal with, bonuses to use, and upgrades galore. You are going to want to do everything, but you can’t, and that’s the puzzle of this game.

Sea Salt & Paper

Caveat: Jerod and I have only played this on BGA, but I’ve played it dozens of times, so trust me, I know it VERY WELL. It’s addicting! Players dig through a small deck of cards trying to get point scoring cards or combo cards faster than the other players in a race to 7+ points. Do you go for colors? Or for player attacking sharks? Do you try to play quickly or go for the big combo? It’s a meta game too that develops depending on the player counts and people at the table. This is a collection essential for anyone who likes chaotic card games like For Sale or No Thanks! or Stick Em or Scout.

Green Team Wins

Easily my favorite party game of the year (although I am glad Jay taught us Poetry for Neanderthals). Green Team Wins is simple, plays as many people as you want (if they team up), and has only two or three rules to teach. While pondering the thought-provoking questions of This or That, Choice of Three, or Fill In The Blank, your family or group will be arguing and howling with laughter all night. It is so elegant that it feels like it should have been designed already. I’m actually surprised it didn’t make Jay’s list!

Endless Winter: Paleoamericans

It should not be a surprise that it made me and Jerod’s list, because we’ve played it a lot and talked it up on social media a lot, too! We love this game. I bet if Dave gets a play in or three, it will make his final list, too. Endless Winter makes the cut because these last two years have seen an outgrowth of deckbuilder+ games, where the designer adds another flavor to the mix. In this case, there are a bunch of flavors — engine building, set collection, area control, etc — and it should by all counts have been a muddled mess. But with some deft design and development, it is instead one heck of a great time. Get some gumbo on the stove and enjoy an endless winter.

Cat In The Box

The premise of the game intrigued me. My first play tickled my fancy. And subsequent plays cemented the fact that this is one of the most innovative, interesting, exciting card games to come out in a while. It feels classic and modern at the same time. We had so many area majority or area control games (or at least games that featured that mechanic) make it in our top twenty favorite games (games like Cat In The Box, Wonderlands War, The Wolves, Endless Winter) that I’m starting to wonder who spiked the gumbo this year.

Tenpenny Parks

All summer, I thought this and The Guild of Merchant Explorers were locks for my game of the year. They are both still in my top ten. I love theme parks, and I love trying to find the perfect theme park game. This is my favorite theme park game by far. Tenpenny Parks has everything I want in a euro game — an interesting setting, smooth mechanics, amazing artwork (from Vincent Dutrait), and a roughly “one hour wonder” play time. This could have easily been my favorite game of ‘22and you know what, if I played it tonight, it probably would jump there. Highly recommend this one.

The Guild of Merchant Explorers

The Guild is probably my most played 2022 game in person — I’ve played it at least once or twice just about every month since Dice Tower Con 2022. It gets bonus points for me because my wife loves it so much, and we have such a good time competing. Guild’s only drawback, and it’s a picayune complaint, is that there is it much in the way of theme or setting, but it is also not as abstracted as Azul or Splendor, so I’m giving that potential negative a pass. I fully expect AEG to support Guild with more maps. This system is ripe for expansion and I’m all in.

Mosaic: A Story of Civilization

My sons and I used to have so much fun playing Age of Empires and Age of Mythology in lan parties with our troop. I’ve been trying to find the game that best recreates it. Mosaic comes the closest to me, even if the fighting is not the same here as it was in the “Age of” series. That’s not a bad thing; there are plenty of civ games that focus on that part of the game. Mosaic does not need to, because the tech tree part of the game and the puzzle of advancing your civilization based on the board state and cards available is much more enjoyable.

The Great Split

Dave calls this one “I Split You Choose Tapestry” and that’s a good name for it. Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower always bemoans the lack of good “I split, You choose” games, and in my humble opinion, this is the best one so far. The game is simple — take a hand of cards, divide them into two, and pass them to your neighbor. The cards you get back from your neighbor as well as the cards you choose from the neighbor on your other side determine which tracks you move up. Just like in Tapestry, the tracks each do different things — maybe they let you run up the tracks faster, or score points during the round, or get multipliers, but in any case, in every hand there are crunchy, juicy, delicious, tantalizing decisions (that’s for you, The Board Boys) to make! It’s a sleeper AND IT SHOULD NOT BE.

But wait there’s more…

What a year for board gaming! There were so many solid games in 2022, it was really hard to narrow down the choices. Here are a few more games that really stood out to me beyond the top ten:

Wonderlands War

I played this only one time, but it was an awesome experience at BGG Con with the Board Boys and Dave from the Gumbo. I went in with ZERO expectations and left visibly excited by the play. Maybe I could learn to love the beast that is area control games, especially if it has some betting and some wild chaotic moments in it.

Ready Set Bet

So many good racing games this year! Ready Set Bet has everything I love about racing — excitement, quick turns, and betting! Unfortunately, I seem to like this much more than the other Krewe de Gumbo members, so it has not gotten to the table enough for me to put it in the top ten. But, give me a microphone and some dice, and I’ll be happy to be the moderator / track announcer for you!

Siege of Valeria

I’m not much of a solo player. I like sharing the tablespace with friends and soon-to-be-friends too much! But, my friend Glenn Flaherty’s solo design in the Valeria universe captivated me. It had tension. It had puzzles. It played super quickly. It got out of hand just as quickly! I don’t consider myself an expert on solo games, but this is one I definitely recommend even if I have not played it enough to warrant inclusion in the top ten.

WRAP UP:

So that’s our yearly way-too-early look at the the top games that we played that were released in 2022. This is not the final list for 2022. I’ll come back in June with our “Fleur Des Ludo” award for the top six games of 2022.

Have you played any of the games on this lists? I’d be curious to hear which ones you enjoyed, and which ones missed the mark for you? What games did we miss out on? Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook or leave a comment right here, and I’ll be sure to post a snarky comeback.

I also want to thank the publishers and designers who trusted us to cover their games, and give our annual disclaimer that some of the games in our list were provided gratis by the publishers. But, many of the games (if not most) were purchased by us or we played friend’s copies or copies in convention libraries.

I don’t say it enough, but thank you for joining me on this roller coaster ride of cardboard each year. I’ve enjoyed visiting with all of you on the social medias or at cons, and I humbly thank you for your support and time. I’m hoping to hit Owl Con 2023 in Houston, BGG Con Spring in Dallas, Dice Tower Con East in Orlando, and of course, Southern Board Game Fest right here in Acadiana in October.

See you there?

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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