For over ten years, I’ve intermittently published my Best New (to me!) Games list… and, when I missed a year or two, I added the missing lists to the most recent post.
- Best New (to me!) Games of 2011
- Best New (to me!) Games of 2013
- Best New (to me!) Games of 2016
- Includes lists from 2014 and 2015
- Best New (to me!) Games of 2019
- Includes lists from 2017 and 2018
- Best New (to me!) Games of 2020
- Best New (to me!) Games of 2021
However, before we get properly started with my list for 2022, we need to cover a few games that were excluded from the list for various reasons but still warrant attention being paid to them.
Expansions of Note
Sometimes, I’ve put expansions under #10 on the list as a group… but with the plethora of games I want to mention this for 2022, it makes more sense to break them out into their own category. Expansions specific to a game on the list (see: Return to Dark Tower or Everdell, for example) will be dealt with under their entry.
Dune Imperium: Rise of Ix
Dire Wolf managed to make an expansion for the highly touted Dune: Imperium that both deepened game play (offering new options for resource usage and tactical play) and continued to bring the mythology of the Dune universe into the game.
Empires of the North: Wrath of the Lighthouse
Technically, this is actually called Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North – Wrath of the Lighthouse… but why quibble? Wrath is a splendid solo module for a game that already has a lot of great solo content… if you want to learn more, you can read my review right here on the OG.
Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders
The danger of expansions is offering more stuff that bloat playing time and complicate decision trees… so when you see a box that adds variety and fascinating new challenges without all the mess, it’s time to celebrate. Expedition Leaders is a perfect example of how expansions should work.
Nemo’s War: Journey’s End
I’m working on a full review of the Ultimate Edition of Nemo’s War (which, if you haven’t read anything I’ve written about solo play, one of the best purely solo games in existence)… but for those of us who owned the earlier version, Journey’s End not only added a lot more game content – it also codified the rulebooks and variants in a great new format.
A couple of games had new revised editions in 2022 that aren’t really “new to me” – but I’d feel bad if I didn’t give a shout out to them
Call to Adventure: Epic Origins
I just reviewed this newest box in the series late last year – my two sons both think it’s the strongest box in the set and we’ve played it a good bit.
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition
Yes, I own all the stuff from the original version (and love it) – but if you want to get into the game now, I’d go with the Definitive Edition. They’ve re-tuned the decks (sometimes in major ways) in order to cut out slow build-up and get right to the fun part of playing Sentinels.
A few games that deserves a mention – but that didn’t quite make the top twenty (what? 20? yes…) cut. They are in alphabetical order.
- Key to the Kingdom – really nice re-imagining of a childhood classic from the folks at Restoration Games (my review)
- Marvel: Remix – clever and short card game based on Fantasy Realms
- Scout – speaking of clever, this card game is growing in recognition & popularity
- Skymines – I know it’s a re-theme of Mombassa, but I’ve never played Mombassa and I’m enjoying the multi-layered choices
- The Siege of Runedar – a Knizia cooperative that uses the box/insert as the board
- Wreckland Run – the newest solo game in Renegade Games series… I previewed it on the OG back early in the year and finally got my “real” copy just before Christmas
Best New (to me!) Games of 2022: #20 – #11
Typically, this is a list of ten games… but there were so many new-to-me games I enjoyed this year, I’ve expanded that list to twenty. While I’ve put them in a countdown order, there’s a lot of flexibility in the ratings… with the right crew of people, I’d be happy to play any of them.
For those days when you want a game that looks like a kids game but turns out to be a challenging deck-builder with the (actually thematic) twist of potentially losing cards you don’t use.
#19: Free Radicals
You could argue that putting this on the list after a single play is craziness – but I keep thinking about this game and long to play it again. It is a weird mix of everyone doing their own thing on their own board with only some overlap in how you deal with the buildings on the center board and, frankly, it should not work. The wild thing is that it does… and is a lot of fun to play.
#18: Dead Reckoning
My first play of this card-crafting pirate game was fun, but I had questions. Another game played the next day, and I still wondered if it was worth the time. Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself still thinking about the game and how to better work my crew. I’ve now played it three more times (both multiplayer and solo) and am trying to figure out how to get it to the table again.
#17: Tenpenny Parks
Beautiful production (love the artwork!) combined with fast-moving but think-y gameplay… yes, it’s similar to other games (Barenpark, for example) but different enough for both to have a place in my collection.
#16: For What Remains: Streets of Ruin
I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of this well-designed post-apocalyptic skirmish game… which my older son assures me is very “X-Com”-ish in feel. I just know that I like the campaign system and the randomized activation of units (simple “fog of war” system).
#15: 7 Wonders: Architects
Opinions are divided about this variation on the classic game in the online board game community – but it has been a big hit with my family and my game group as a quick-playing challenge with an excellent storage system that makes the game easy to drop onto the table and play.
#14: Final Girl
My younger son (who is a senior in high school) was a fan of Hostage Negotiator… but Final Girl blew that completely away. He’s helped me walk through a couple of scenarios of this excellent solo game… and while I’m not a fan of horror films, Final Girl has a fully developed game system and is dripping with thematic touches.
As I get older, the allure of real-time games is beginning to fade… but Level 99’s Bullet is an exception. It’s as if they translated the classic NES game Dr. Mario into an extremely playable board game experience. The fact that it works as a solo game as well as a multiplayer is a bonus.
#12: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
As a fan of the original graphic novel (which I collected in individual issues back in the 80s) and of solo games, this one was a big hit for me. My only issue is that the game is at its best as a 4 game campaign, which means I have to figure out how to leave it out for a week or so. (My full review is here on the OG.)
I’ll be the first to admit that reading the rulebook of Challengers! left me cold – on paper, it reads like “War!: The Deck-Building Game”. (Credits for that humorous title go to one of my fellow OG writers.) On the table, however, it’s delightful.
One of the major complaints has been the lack of control… but I’ve managed to win 4 out of 8 games I’ve played (against a variety of opponents and group sizes) and made the final match in all but one of those games, so there is definitely some level of skill in deciding which cards to draft, which cards to cull, and how to play cards that give you options.
Best New (to me!) Games of 2022: #10 – #1
#10: Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
I cannot believe it took me this long to play this wonderful Seth Jaffee design… I love the way he incorporated a mancala mechanic and gave it variety with upgradable “bins” and individual faction powers. Better yet, none of that interferes with the fast-moving yet thoughtful progress of the game.
While I like Voyages from Postmark Games a lot, I think Aquamarine is the better of their two print’n’play games. I’ve laminated copies of each map and keep a couple of dice & a dry erase pen in my laptop case so I can play pretty much wherever I go.
My copy of the Colossal Edition just arrived last week – but two plays (one multiplayer, one solo) are more than enough to convince me to list the game in my top ten. Glenn Drover has managed to condense a convincing civilization building game into about 90-120 minutes. There isn’t a combat system – as your primary objective is influence across the various countries of the Mediterranean.
#7: Eleven: Football Manager Game
I’m still waiting for my personal blinged-out copy (sigh)… but my initial plays with a retail copy make me very glad I backed Eleven. While there are still some rules questions to be resolved, the underlying game system works like a charm and is fun to play, especially if you are (like myself) a fan of Premier League soccer. Match play is important – but the game is much bigger than winning matches… it’s actually an economic/management game.
#6: The Guild of Merchant Explorers
I think this is the next step in the evolution of the roll’n’write/flip’n’write genre… not towards greater complexity (Twilight Inscription was fine but I don’t need to own it) but instead by finding creative ways to tell an ongoing story with good components and well-balanced variety.
#5: Heat: Pedal to the Metal
Heat is what happens when you partner the designers of Flamme Rouge with the production quality of Days of Wonder – an auto racing game that zips along and was very enjoyable to play. My first play was a lot of fun… but now that I have 17 (yes, seventeen) plays under my belt (including racing the 1961 campaign solo and the 1962 campaign head-to-head against my son), I’ll declare Heat as one of the best racing games I’ve played. It’s easy to teach the base game – and then easy to add the extra elements (upgrades, weather, etc.) after that. Recommendation: use the Legends expansion to fill out the field to 6 cars regardless of the number of players… makes the race much more race-like!
Based on the recommendations of others (esp. fellow OGer Chris Wray), I splurged on the Everdell Complete Collection without ever having played the game. It arrived in late October… and we’ve played it twelve times since. The new solo mode (Mistwood) works beautifully, the components are gorgeous, and the underlying gameplay is solid and enjoyable. Our favorite expansion is Spirecrest with New Leaf close behind. (Chris posted a week worth of Everdell reviews that are a great read if you’re interested.)
#3: Dice Realms
Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s customizable dice – a genre that hasn’t always produced the most interesting of games.
But don’t let that stop you. This is a very quick and unbelievably cunning bit of game design with huge variability in set-up. I know that my Tom Lehmann fan status makes me more likely to enjoy this – but it is objectively a great design separate of that. Big props to Rio Grande for including the proper storage solution in the box for the multitude of tiny bits.
#2: Ark Nova
While Ark Nova has similarities to Terraforming Mars (i.e. buckets of cards, build your engine, resource management), it is very much its own entrancing creation. The solo game is absorbing and the multiplayer game (with 2-3 players) is great fun. (I’d avoid four players due to downtime.) The puzzle of how to build my zoo while building conservation initiatives tickles my brain.
#1: Return to Dark Tower
I managed to review Return to Dark Tower twice this year – the second one (linked here) is the more extensive of the two and includes our thoughts on Gritty mode, solo play, and even the competitive variant.
Flat out, this was the best game of 2022… we played it 21 times this year and I fully expect to get 20+ plays next year. It is an immersive cooperative experience that utilizes the amazing tower and the app to create a game that wouldn’t work the same without them. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Five & Dime
I got curious – how many of my top new-to-me games were in my Five & Dime lists for 2022?
- Return to Dark Tower 21
- Dice Realms 16
- Heat: Pedal to the Metal 16
- 7 Wonders: Architects 15
- Aquamarine 11
- Ark Nova 11
- Everdell 10
- The Guild of Merchant Explorers 10
- Challengers! 8
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Board Game 7
- For What Remains: Streets of Ruin 6
- Dead Reckoning 5
So… twelve out of twenty. Not bad.
There are a number of games on my radar for this list in 2023… including Thunder Road: Vendetta, Voidfall, Arydia: The Paths We Dare Tread, My Island, Forsaken, and a couple of protoypes I’m not allowed to talk about… yet.
Games pictured above:
- Top Row: Everdell: Mistwood; Eleven; Return to Dark Tower
- Middle Row: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns; Ark Nova; The Guild of Merchant Explorers
- Bottom Row: Final Girl; Aquamarine; Dead Reckoning
I received review copies of Wrath of the Lighthouse and Dead Reckoning. The rest of the games on the list were purchased by me or belong to one of my two sons.