Many Worlds Tavern's Best Board Games of 2022

Every game on the list released in 2022.  Did your favorite make it?

2022’s in the books and it’s been an incredibly busy year for us here at Many Worlds Tavern. We added Kathryn to the team, we exhibited at both BGGCon and PAX U, and we released our new line of Teas for the Tabletop. Somehow, I managed to sneak in a few board game plays in during the year.

Honestly, I’ve been scrambling a bit, because I’ve found that a lot of my recent game nights have consisted of games that released prior to this year. That’s good for my wallet and shelf of shame, but not good for a top five board games of 2022 list. So, I’ve been working super hard this December, playing plenty of new games. The things I do for you guys.

Keystone: North America
There are a lot of games where you can kind of… survey the field, make a fool-proof plan, and then execute that plan. That can be really satisfying. It’s like the game rewards you for coming up with a clever strategy and manipulating the mechanisms of the game to do your bidding. Keystone: North America is not that game for me. I try to come up with a plan, an idyllic, perfectly crafted collage of intersecting ecosystems and point-doublers that also accomplishes everything on my secret objectives card. Yet, during gameplay, I’m racking my head at all of the inefficient options presented to me, staring at the mocking gaze of the Brown Lemming or Burrowing Owl while I decide if the points on my ecosystem clusters will score better with a new animal or purchasing a wild card, or forget about both of those options because an important skill card is up for grabs. Figure it out well and you’ll get tons of points. Pick something bad and you might be tracing back the turns to figure out where it all went wrong. In this game, you feel scrappy; you get rewarded for pivoting, for never being too inflexible with your plan when new opportunities arise from the rapidly changing board state. It’s a puzzle that moves the goal posts every turn. I love it and I hate it. Number 5 game of 2022.

Flamecraft, as a package, feels almost too well-done. Not since Wingspan have I seen a game with as nice a combination of approachable gameplay, beautiful art, and vibrant component. Plus, it’s got the most puns per minute of any board game in 2022 in one box. This one’s just fun, y’all, in a way that’s very different from Keystone. In Flamecraft, you have a lot of freedom, but with whatever path you take, you’ll probably be able to do pretty well. The points and resources are flowing, and there isn’t a lot of negative player interaction to do. In an engine builder, throwing a wrench in your engine can feel pretty mean, and I applaud Flamecraft for not focusing on this as an aspect of the design. One cute mechanism is that instead of dealing with blocked worker sites, you can join other players at the same spot, you just have to give them a resource to do so. This makes the game so easy to recommend, especially with people who are newer to strategy board games. It was the biggest hit at my family game nights over the holiday break.

In boop, you and another player take turns placing your kitties and cats down. When you do, they boop, causing the cats around them to get pushed one space away. Get three kitties of your own in a row to unlock cats. Get three cats in a row to win the game. Checking for three-in-a-row happens after the boops occur, so you can set up some pretty clever moves to win the game. It’s kind of hard to discern the fun in an abstract strategy game without experiencing it yourself, so I’ll just say that boop does an awesome job at giving you a lot to think about with some pretty simple rules. Plus, I think we need more super-cute abstract games out there. In our experience, adding cats to things just makes them better.

Guild of Merchant Explorers
The amount of times I’ve called this game the Merchant Guild of Explorers or The Explorers and Guild of Merchants or some other rearrangement has given me some empathy with how many people say Mini World Tavern or Many World Taverns etc. IT’S MANY WORLDS TAVERN, but, I get it. Roll-and-writes, flip-and-writes, uh… verb-and-verbs have been popular for a while now, but I haven’t had one that’s stuck around. I enjoy the novelty for a few games, but then I get a bit bored. Guild of Merchant Explorers, sure, has some more pieces than the average verb-and-verb, it has a delightfully muted color palette, and the gameplay is interesting and intuitive. But, those things alone wouldn’t have put it on my top five. No, the reason I have come to LOVE the Guild of Merchant Explorers are these Invesetigation cards. At certain points in the game, players draw from this deck to add powers that only they can use. In a game where you can usually only explore one or two spaces at a time, getting a card like EXPLORE ANY NUMBER OF LANDS IN A STRAIGHT LINE or Explore four desert tiles and TRIPLE the value of any coins you earn from them completely opens the game up. It causes players to diverge wildly in strategy with one another and to find out how to utilize their new strengths in clever ways. Asymmetrical player powers. I love them in my other games, and turns out, I love them in Guild of Merchant Explorers.

Phantom Ink
Not since Codenames has a party game taken over casual gatherings with my friends like Phantom Ink. I think that publisher Resonym has a real gem on its hands with this game, and I don’t see it getting played enough at conventions or talked about online, so here’s my love letter to it. In Phantom Ink, your team of mediums races against another team to communicate with each of your team’s spirits. When you ask questions, the Spirit writes down their answer on the board. They do this slowly—letter by letter—because their mediums can stop them at any time. They usually do this because they can intuit the rest of the answer. Keep in mind that the other team doesn’t know what question was asked. So, if you ask a question like “What color is the object?”, and the spirit writes a Y, your team might want to stop because they know that the spirit is trying to write yellow. If they let the spirit write more, the other team might figure out the word. Of course, this is where the game design facilitates some hilariously unexpected situations. What if the spirit was asked “Who’s a fictional character that has or uses it?”, they start writing BRUC—STOP!—and the mediums think the spirit is trying to communicate Bruce the shark from Finding Nemo, when really it’s Bruce Wayne—the guy who’s also a bat. Miscommunication is so sweet in this game. If you’ve played Mysterium, it’s that same feeling when you’re the ghost and someone has the exact line of thinking you were going with, then says “nah, that’s not it.” There are sneaky questions in the deck as well, like “What has NOTHING to do with it?” It’s super fun when this answer trips up the other team. The only other rule has to do with these eyeball rounds. In these rounds, your team gets to ask for an additional letter on any clue—EVEN with the other team’s clues! This can bring a lot of clarity to a clue, but the funniest thing is when you ask for the other team’s letter, and it causes THEM to learn the true clue!

Thanks for an awesome 2022 and for letting us be a part of your year. We’ve loved meeting folks at conventions and playing games on our Discord (which you should totally join, if you’ve made it to the end of this video). My name is Chris, and if you need some coffee or tea for your game night, visit us at many worlds tavern dot com. 2023 is going to be our best year yet!

Care to share your top 5?

Let us know!  Leave a comment on the YouTube video with suggestions!

Tea for the Tabletop: