Announcing the 2019 Game of the Year Finalists

The end of 2019 is nigh, so it’s time to look back on our top picks in the tabletop world! We’ve narrowed down titles from our GeekDad Approved selections for 2019 and soon we’ll choose the one that will receive our Game of the Year award. In the meantime, please have a look at our list of nominees and learn more about our process for selection.

Our 10 Favorite Games of 2019

Our finalists for Game of the Year are Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale, Endeavor: Age of Sail, Mapmaker, Planet, Point Salad, The Primary, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Tiny Epic Mechs, Tiny Towns, and Wingspan. Each description below includes a link to our original review.

Cartographers chasm
Cartographers. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale

This twist on the roll-and-write genre has players filling out a map with polyomino shapes, attempting to score points based on shifting conditions. Many roll-and-writes can feel a little like solitaire, but Cartographers includes ambush cards that let you draw on your neighbor’s map, which adds some clever player interaction. Read our full review here.

Endeavor: Age of Sail. Photo: Rob Huddleston

Endeavor: Age of Sail

Certainly one of the heavier games on the list, Endeavor: Age of Sails manages to show that both well-thought-out rules and beautiful design can exist in a truly wonderful game. We just ran our review of the game, so in case you missed it you can read all about it here.

Mapmaker. Photo: Rob Huddleston

Mapmaker

The first of two politically-themed games on the list, Mapmaker takes a fairly simple concept and elevates to the next level. Players take on the roles of real American political parties, but beyond that there’s nothing of the messiness of modern politics. Instead, players compete on an abstract map to create districts that maximize their voters while trying to trap their opponents’ voters. It’s a quick, fun game that nonetheless manages to teach an important lesson. Read our full review here.

Planet cards and completed planet
Planet. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Planet

This game of assembling a planet using magnetic tiles feels a little bit like three-dimensional Kingdomino. Although it looks like a simple game for kids, it’s not just a gimmick and has some real depth to it. Read our full review here.

Point Salad veggies
Point Salad. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Point Salad

This card-drafting game is short and simple, but we just can’t get enough of it. Collect vegetables for your salad to match as many scoring conditions as you can, in a true “point salad” fashion. Read our full review here.

The Primary. Photo: Rob Huddleston

The Primary

The other political game on our list is more abstract politically as players compete to win the nomination of an unnamed party. The game avoids any real connection to politics while using a programming mechanic to keep up the tension in an quick, light game with surprising depth. Read our full review here.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg advanced board
The Quacks of Quedlinburg. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Press your luck as you fill your pot with ingredients and try not to explode! This game is easy to learn, but provides a lot of variants to keep things fresh, and it’s been a big hit this year. Read our full review here.

Tiny Epic Mechs battle
Tiny Epic Mechs. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Tiny Epic Mechs

This title from Gamelyn Games combines a clever programming game with an impressive toy factor, dressing up its ITEMeeples with power suits and a mech. Stake out your territory in this battle arena, and try to predict where your opponents are headed! Read our full review here.

With no where left to play, this player is done. Image by Rob Huddleston

Tiny Towns

When I first reviewed Tiny Towns, I said that there were few games that I was more excited to introduce my friends to. That still holds true today, almost nine months later. What’s been described as “slow motion Tetris” has players use a shared set of cards and the same building units to create wildly different very small towns. Bonus points for its fantastic solo variant.

Read our full review here.

Wingspan. Photo: Dave Banks

Wingspan

A beautiful game that combines a bird-watching theme with an engine-building mechanic, Wingspan was our first GeekDad Approved title of 2019 and went on to win the prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres. Read our full review here.

How We Picked Our Finalists

The GeekDad Game of the Year is an award given annually to the game we have enjoyed the most in the previous year. Qualification is dependent on a number of factors: First (and probably the biggest filter), the game must have been reviewed on our site in the previous 12 months. Additionally, we must have recognized the quality of the game in the review and noted the game as a “GeekDad Approved” game, worthy of our big, shiny metal thumbs-up.

Second, the game must be accessible to most families –- a bit of a nebulous identification to be sure, but roughly a game should be one that most families would be likely to play on a weekend afternoon. This would typically rule out very heavy strategy games and very light fare. (That’s not to say we’re not heavily enamored with some of those games, we just have to be more selective as we narrow games down.) For this reason, generally, games are going to adhere to an 80-minutes-or-less rule, though we do make exceptions. And we have an admittedly light game on the list this year too, but it’s one that was just so loved by multiple GeekDads that it simply had to make the list.

Third, we also keep an eye on content, and games that have themes, language, or art that we deem inappropriate aren’t going to make the cut. The family game category, as you traditionally think about it, is a good place to start, but it’s not absolute. We recognize that families might consist of adult children or older teenagers, as well as very young children. Resultantly, our sweet spot covers a very large area.

Fourth, a game we select as a finalist must have come out in those previous 12 months and be currently available in wide release. There’s no sense in us celebrating a game that not many (or no one) can get their hands on. (Occasionally we put a GeekDad Approved seal on a game we enjoyed even though it wasn’t published in the 12-month window—these do not have the year designation on them, and are not eligible for Game of the Year.)

Fifth and finally, we love games that have fresh takes on old mechanics, offer great components, or otherwise have a special something that will get everyone to the table. As we narrow down our list of GeekDad Approved games to just 10 finalists, we try to include a mix of genres, game weight, game length, and themes, though it’s always hard to fit everything!

Our Timeline

Our selection process gathers steam in mid-November. It is then that we begin our judging, winnowing down our list of Approved games to just ten finalists, which we announce later in the month. Everyone who writes for GeekDad has the opportunity to vote in this process; our only prerequisite is that they have played the games they provide input on.

This year, since Thanksgiving is so late, a select few of the GeekDad staff will get together just before the holiday to play the finalist games, discuss what they enjoy, and make a single selection as our game of the year. This game will be announced later in December this year.

The timetable might seem a bit odd–a 12-month calendar keyed off November, but there is reasoning behind it. By considering games released between last November of the previous year and the first ten months of the current year, we feel as though we capture most games released during the year. Further, by narrowing our field and making a selection by mid-December, it allows our readers to consider and make a purchasing decision on a game they can have for the holidays and enjoy all of the next year.

Our Approved Games for 2019

Chances are that one of your favorites isn’t on that list. Tell us which one and why! And make sure to check back in sometime in December to find out which one we’ve chosen as our 2019 Game of the Year!

The Artemis Project
Astro Trash
Campaign Trail
Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
The Chronicles of Crime
Copenhagen
Deep Blue
Endeavor: Age of Sail
Gùgōng
Herbaceous Sprouts
Mapmaker
Minecraft: Biomes and Builders
My First Castle Panic
Pathogenesis
Planet
Point Salad
The Primary
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
The Rise of Queensdale
Scorpius Freighter
Slip Strike
Spy Club
Starfinder Beginner Box
Sunflower Valley
Talisman: Legendary Tales
Time Chase
Tiny Epic Mechs
Tiny Epic Tactics
Tiny Towns
Village Pillage
Wingspan
Zombicide: Invader
Zombie Kidz Evolution

The Fine Print

We realize that we can’t get to every game that is released each year. For that, we apologize. There are only a handful of us and we have day jobs. But we are trying hard to review as many games as we can.

To be completely transparent, when we identify a game as Approved, the publisher is notified and we provide a logo noting the Approved designation that they are free to use without any obligation. However, for any game that we select as a Finalist or as the winner of our Game of the Year, we request a small fee for use of that logo and designation; again, there is no obligation to participate, nor do we consider the likelihood of a publisher paying when we narrow down our list.

We ask for this fee since we believe the award provides a benefit to the publishers who decide to use it, but also to offset administrative costs of running a big website and travel costs involved with a number of us getting together to play the Finalists games and make a decision on the overall winner. We’re bloggers. Financially, it’s a losing proposition -– in a big way. We’re just trying to offset that a little.

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