2019 Techraptor Awards – Tabletop Game of the Year

Tabletop article by A Potts on Thursday, January 9, 2020 - 12:00
Feature

For outstanding design in tabletop gaming

2019 is my second year on the TechRaptor Tabletop team, and this year I was promoted to Tabletop Editor. We’ve recruited a couple of new tabletop writers and we’ve covered some stellar products. Because of the sheer volume of quality content that’s coming out of the tabletop world, we’ve decided to split the GotY articles into 2, so there’s this one, the Tabletop Game of the Year 2019 and there will also be the Tabletop RPG Game of the Year 2019. This award is for any tabletop game, that’s not an RPG. As the genre gets more and more hybrid games, this does muddy the waters slightly and we’d be happy to discuss this in the comments. We also only include products that have been released in the year of the award and if your game of the year is missing, let us know in the comments and tell us what it is and why you think it’s so good.

Here’s the list of nominees (and here’s the list of nominees for all categories):

Readers' Choice – Core Space

There was some stiff competition this year for tabletop games, but we weren't surprised to see Core Space as the Readers Choice winner. With our On The Tabletop articles, we've tried to get a gaming group of varied gamer types and Core Space was an instant hit with the entire group. They've been crying out to play more ever since. It's great to see this reflected across the community as well and clearly Core Space appeals to a large variety of tabletop gamers. Battle Systems are on to a winner with their combination of straight-forward, fast-flowing rules and expansive availability of options for the game.

Battle Systems have promised more content for Core Space this year and it's going to be interesting to see where they take it.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Warcry

Warcry

From the guide:

"The WarCry rules are extremely simple to learn and teach and each Warband is made up of a small number of fighters. This makes WarCry extremely beginner-friendly and a great entry-level product."

Adam: When I played my first demo game of Warcry, I knew that it was a lot of what I was looking for. While Warhammer Underworlds is an incredible small scale and fast game, Warcry allows the list building flexibility of Warhammer Age of Sigmar on a smaller scale. It’s fast and simple, so you can play several games in a single gaming night and because of the smaller size of the forces, you can collect and build different factions that interest you.

There have been a couple of expansion products released this year for it as well. Monsters and Mercenaries allows you to add different miniatures to your warbands and also allows you to fight and tame great beasts. The Tome of Champions gives the background information to some upcoming warbands and includes the stat cards for all the previous warbands only released until now in card packs.

Warcry is a stellar games system and we hope to see it develop further in the year to come.

Hellboy: The Board Game

Hellboy

From the Preview:

Hellboy: The Board Game is a great iteration on the dungeon-crawling formula which manages to take the best parts of other games and perfects them. While the tutorial doesn't sell the game all that well, and there are some other petty niggles the game is downright outstanding, and the art style lifted directly from the comics makes it stand out visually. The number of tactical options available means that a clever team can get through even the toughest of challenges, and the different card decks keep players guessing, so you can never be quite sure what's around the corner.”

WillHellboy: The Board Game was an interesting beast. 9 times out of 10, board game adaptations of other media are basic cash-ins made to draw money from a fanbase. While Hellboy might be pretty good at drawing out money from fans of the comics, it does so for all the right reasons. Since we reviewed it we've had a chance to make our way through pretty much every scenario the game could throw at us, and it's still a hell of a lot of fun.

Of course, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have issues. The main one being that only one person gets to be Hellboy, prompting endless fights when you start up a game. Other than that though it's honestly just nice to see a dungeon-crawling game that doesn't fall back on 'classic fantasy' or Lovecraft, which seem to be the two default settings for the genre these days.

Mage Knight Ultimate Edition

Mage Knight

From the Review:

"Mage Knight is one of the best board games of all time, and Mage Knight Ultimate Edition is the best version of Mage Knight and its expansions. If you don't have Mage Knight then this is the absolute definitive version to get, and it is even worthwhile if you are like me, and already have everything that has been released to date. The game is extraordinarily fun, complex, satisfying and enjoyable, and having consistent components, condensed reference materials, and an easy storage solution means that it's easier than ever to get this wonderful game to the table to play. Whether you are a solo player, a coop player, a competitive player or a mix of all of the above there is something in Mage Knight for you. It takes time to learn how to play, and even more time to master, but the time invested in Mage Knight is always worthwhile, especially since the game constantly rewards you with new challenges, and a true sense of accomplishment as you learn to play, begin to succeed, and then become good enough at the game to challenge yourself with new scenarios and variants (all of which are included)."

Travis: As stated in the review: Mage Knight is one of the best board games of all time, and Mage Knight Ultimate Edition is the best version that you can get. Although the only 'new' content is a few cards, this is still a must-have for anyone who loves Mage Knight or for anyone who wants to try it. It's complex and demanding, but equally enjoyable and rewarding.

Third Place - Time of Legends Joan of Arc

Time of Legends Joan of Arc

From the Preview:

"Time of Legends Joan of Arc has a fantastic flow to it. Once you know how the round works it all feels very natural to go from one stage to another. This allows you to really get behind the story of the scenario and really focus on building an interesting tale of battle.

We are also very impressed with the huge amount of detail in the miniatures, not just in the huge pieces, but the smaller units are still full of character despite their tiny size."

Adam: The first I heard about Time of Legends Joan of Arc was when pictures started appearing of people standing beside their 6-foot tall stack of boxes from the Kickstarter. I had spent much time on Kickstarters purely because of my focus on CCGs and wargames keeping me busy. So when I was asked to cover it before it went into retail I didn’t really know what to expect.

I received the mountain of product and after playing my first game, I was incredibly impressed at how well the mechanics flowed and how much depth and detail there was in the wargame. It blends several elements to make a varied and responsive gaming experience. The setting up of games can take some time, but the reward is worth it.

Second Place - Core Space

Core Space

From the Preview:

"Core Space is one of my favorite games of the year so far. The scope of play out of the core box is fantastic and the scenery is extremely versatile for creating internal battlefields. Playing individual games is fun and challenging, but the real reward for Core Space is in campaign play, and seeing your crew grow, fail and endure."

Adam: Core Space was the standout product that we featured in On The Tabletop this year. The whole team loved it so much that we’re starting our own campaign next year, with our own custom crews.

The scenery is awesome, as would be expected of Battle Systems, but what surprised us the most was how cleanly the mechanics work and the game flows. The basic game is a joy to play, and then when you feel comfortable, you can add in as much depth as you and the group want with extra enemies and action options. With the packs that are available, your crews can easily get stuck in a huge AI battle between the Purge, the galactic police and rogue gangs, but the simplicity of the design lets all of it happen without taking away from the player’s turns. Games are pretty deadly for your crew, but there are spoils for the chancers and the brave.

First Place - Middara

Middara

From the Review:

"Middara is an absolute blast, and it has made it in to my top 5 games of all time. The gameplay is big, boisterous, fiddly and complex, but it fits in with the theme and feel of the game so well that I couldn't see this game working out as well any other way. The story is the main draw for Middara, although the mechanics are solid, interesting and fun, especially when it comes to the myriad different ways you can build out and gear up characters. Speaking of the story, Middara's story is unique, engaging, and captivating, and while it does use some cliches—and not every twist and turn is a shocking revelation—player choice has a significant effect on the way things play out over the campaign. The story itself is well-written, and the characters experience growth, both personally and as a group as the story unfolds. The journey through the story is incredibly satisfying from start to finish. If you buy Middara prepare for a long-haul experience. It took us nearly 100 hours to play through the campaign, but even after those 100 hours we can't wait to see what happens in Act II. Middara has a few rough edges, but overall this game is a triumph, blending a great story with satisfying gameplay. While not every story beat is perfectly original, and while some of the mechanics have been used before, the story and mechanics come together into an awesome experience that is unlike anything we've played before, and we are hungry for more."

Travis: What happens when you take a choose your own adventure, a dungeon crawl board game, more player choice than you can throw a stick at, and a well-written novel and you throw them in a blender? Well, if you are the brilliant minds at Succubus Publishing you get one of the best games I've ever played. Middara: Unintentional Malum Act 1 has already made it into my top 5 board games of all time, and it's just the first part of a planned trilogy. To top it off you can play the game as a 'standard' dungeon crawler, adding untold playtime to an already 100+ hour delight.


We at the TechRaptor Tabletop Team have had another incredible year. We've played some fantastic games and met some amazing people. We hope that the industry continues to grow and develop, both in terms of products and attitudes. Inclusivity made some steps this year, but it's not enough. The tabletop needs to be a safe and open environment for all, because having more people play means more growth for the industry, which means better games will be produced for us to enjoy, which can only benefit us all long term.

We look forward to seeing you in 2020. Thank you for all your support in 2019.

What would your pick be for our Tabletop Game of the Year Award? What do you think we got right? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

A Potts TechRaptor

A Potts

Tabletop Editor

Adam is the Tabletop Editor for TechRaptor. He's been involved in the video game and tabletop industry since 1997, including managing communities, flavour text writing for CCGs, game development and design and has played physical and digital card games at a high competitive level.