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Digital Subscriptions > The Best Games of 2019 > The Best Games of 2019 > EMBARK


Sets off but lacks some wind in its sails.


Sets off but lacks some wind in its sails.

Embark disregards a potentially complicated discussion on the topic of colonisation to instead approach its theme in a simplified and abstract manner, embodied by its cube workers. They are just game pieces, serving a primarily mechanical function. Don’t think too much about workers travelling to an untouched island and mining it out of resources or cutting down its forests to build villages – instead, think strategically about fitting your workers on card ships because if they don’t make it to the island, you’ll miss out on victory points.

Behind this awed theming, there is solid gameplay with a lot to oer. ere is an element of blung and strategy, as players secretly assign their workers to dierent boats. Only a full ship can travel to the island, but miscount the number of available spaces or mistime assigning people and someone may be left o the trip, their player missing out on those valuable points.

When loading cubes on the boat, workers are assigned roles that they will perform once on the island. the colonists begin building huts, while explorers discover more of the island’s secrets, unlocking its special abilities and increasing its victory point value at the end of the game. There are jobs on the island that require some co-operation from the players, such as exploration. While some tasks will be unaffected by an opponent’s presence, such as building villages, others, like mining, will be in direct competition. If a miner arrives on the island but all relevant spaces are occupied, they become a colonist instead and so ship spaces are never wasted – it is worth mentioning that this rule is not clear in the rulebook and had to be clarified with the publishers via the BoardGameGeek forums.

DiTherent island tiles and ships add a bit of variety to the game each time – while these are not necessarily gamechanging, they are just enough to spice things up. Special talent powers, chosen at the beginning of each game, have the potential to affect the gameplay significantly, not only encouraging players to adopt a particular strategy but, depending on the card, even giving some players an unfair advantage. After several playthroughs, our group unanimously agreed to remove the Jackof-All-Trades and Wanderlust cards from the game because they simply gave too big of an advantage to whoever picked them up.

Embark makes itself very easy to enjoy. Its gameplay is tight and fast, offering just enough player interaction to keep everyone involved without being overly confrontational. It easily traverses the seas of having enough strategic depth to become engaging and challenging, without losing approachability and ease of play. It’s a good game, but a less problematic theme could have made it that much easier to enjoy.



► Five double-sided island boards

► 36 boat cards

► 20 talent cards

► 60 ore tokens

► 79 victory

► point tokens

► 20 farm tiles

► 15 lock tokens

► Five player screens

► Five player boards

► 150 cubes

► irst player token


Navigating Embark’s gameplay is effortless and joyful, as long as you sail past the implications of its theme.


Revolution!, like Embark, is designed by Philip DuBarry and features the same secret bidding against opponents at its core, but is a little bit more cut- throat.

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About The Best Games of 2019

Must Plays and more in our Best Games of 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Over the next 196 pages discover all of the most positively reviewed games of the year. With a massive 181 games reviewed, this is the definitive “what to play next” guide of 2019! Games reviewed include: Wingspan Copenhagen Hellboy: The Board Game Res Arcana Lifeform Century: A New World Megacity: Oceania Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Rough Nights & Hard Days Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra Tapestry Letter Jam Hako Onna Everdell Battle Ravens Dune + Many more!

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