Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne assesses claims to the five best board games of 2019.

I read an article about the five best new board games of 2019 in The Week magazine.  The Week, for those of you not familiar with the magazine, pulls together and summarizes news articles, opinion pieces and reviews from a wide variety of materials that published the previous week.  In this magazine’s Leisure section, it has listed a selection of reviews of what it considers “the best of the…” for the past week.  For the week of November 15, the magazine chose to focus on boardgames and chose the following as the best new boardgames, all of which, with the possible exceptions of 4 and 5, have been great sellers in stores so far this year.  Here’s the list, with quotes from The Week’s reviews:

  1. Photosynthesis (Blue Orange Games).  “’Absolutely perfect’ for introducing people new to the world of modern board games.” (see " Blue Orange Goes Green in 'Photosynthesis'")
  2. Azul (Plan B Games). “Beautiful and beautifully simple, it’s a new ‘instant classic’ among gateway boardgames.” (see "'Azul' Spotlights the Moorish Art of Decorative Tiles")
  3. Wingspan (Stonemaier Games). “The hottest game of the year was designed by an amateur birdwatcher and ‘It’s a marvel.’” (see " Stonemaier Broadens Its 'Wingspan'")
  4. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 (Z-man Games). “This twist on Pandemic’s cooperative strategy classic tasks 2 to four players with limiting the spread of four viruses.”
  5. Terraforming Mars (Indie Boards and Cards). “Though the gameboard is ugly, the gameplay generates a “tight, tense experience the whole way through.’” (see " Stronghold Games Takes on The Red Planet")

Given that last time I checked Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Azul are only available through exclusive distributors, Photosynthesis appears out of stock at my distributors and, while Wingspan did come back into stock for a short period of time and prices online approximated the MSRP.  I see Amazon’s pricing for the game from third party sellers has climbed back into the $100 and up range.  That’s what happens when you combine positive reviews in both The New York Times and on NPR with an already hard to stock game.

Terraforming Mars, which performed quite well at retail on first release, but then slumped, does appear widely available so I guess one out of 5 being available to all stores is not too bad.  I figure a skilled salesperson could even use the out of stock games to cross-sell a similar game:  “I am sorry we are out of Photosynthesis right now but we do have Ecos, a habitat and engine building game.  Would you like to take a look at it?”

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of