Ryan's Best of 2019 Lists

As we’re getting towards the end of the year, I thought I’d go with some of my favorite things from the past year. I probably won’t include my top games, I’ll do that later this month.

TV Shows
It was really an amazing year for TV. I won’t even pretend to have watched everything, so it’s completely possible I missed your favorite show, but here are a few of the best ones I’ve seen this year:

1) Fleabag- I’m not even sure how I’d describe Fleabag. It’s extremely well written and acted, and the less you know about the show, the better off you are. It’s not a mystery or anything, but it’s one of the most clever and genre bending shows out there.

2) Watchmen- Sadly I’ve only seen 3 episodes so far, but they were fantastic. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I’ve loved it so far. So well acted, and it’s gorgeously filmed, and does a great job of having the feel of the source material.

3) Barry- Bill Hader has created an amazing character, and surrounded himself with talented character actors who are able to turn a story about a really dark person into comedy gold. There was a one off episode that involves trying to force someone to leave town, and ends up with Barry being beaten up several times in some truly amazing combat sequences, while also being possibly the funniest episode of anything I saw all year. But when this show goes dark, it goes really dark, and then is more a drama than comedy, and it’s still brilliant.

4) Big Little Lies- Second season may not have been as good as the first, but it was still well acted and a very good drama. Meryl Strrep is amazing, not that anyone should be surprised by that.

5) Good Omens- I love Neil Gaiman, so I had high hopes. It was a lot of fun, and I felt they did a good job bringing the novel to life.

6) The Good Place- Just silly fun, but some extremely smart writing. Their podcast that tells stuff behind the scenes is a fantastic addendum to each episode. The podcast is hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, so having an actual actor on the show really brings some neat insight, and he has various actors and production crew on each episode, so they have their own insights to add.

7) The Americans- We finished the final couple of seasons of this brilliant show. So well acted and consistently well written. It also gets you thinking about how the “good” guys aren’t always so good. I was always really fascinated on how the show makes Russian spies someone you care about and root for. Some neat 80’s nostalgia too.

I guarantee I am forgetting a bunch of good stuff, but this was the stuff that really stuck with me.

Novels

I read a lot. But most of the stuff, while keeping me entertained, doesn’t effect me in any particular way. I’m only going to list the stuff I rated as 5 out of 5 stars (Per Goodreads, I’ve read 67 books so far this year.).

As I look through my Goodreads ratings, I had no 5’s that weren’t Graphic Novels, so I’m going to list a couple books that DID have a lasting effect on me. I may have become more selective in rating things over the years.

1) The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie- Someone on BGG mentioned in the monthly New To Me Novels geeklist that this felt like Spirit Island the novel. I couldn’t think of a better description. It’s a fantasy novel told from the Protagonist but also a God’s view. Really well written and neat novel.

2) The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake by Steven Novella & The Skeptical Rogues- I wish everyone would read this. It gives advice on how to look at news stories skeptically and advice on how to avoid fake news. Sadly, it’s audience most likely knew most of these tricks, but it had some interesting stories I had never heard, even after listening to the podcast for over 10 years.

3) The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players by Travis Sawchik & Ben Lindbergh- I love the analytical movement in baseball, and this takes that to a new extreme. It breaks down what a lot of cutting edge folks were doing as the movement started, and what people were trying out to get an edge. Not for everyone, but I loved the book.

There were a handful of other really fun novels I read this year, but these were the ones that stayed with me afterwards.

Marvel Champions

Solo Games
Ok, I decided to add something game related this article. I don’t watch a ton of movies, but I wanted another list to add. And while I listed my top 20 that I submitted to the 1 Player Guild, that list has changed already, with me playing several games in November.

1) Marvel Champions- This game is amazing. I need to play it more, but it’s really quick solo and almost as much fun as with more players. I’ve played a lot more with 2 players, but I need to start playing solo to try different decks out. I am really excited to get the new stuff as it comes out.

2) Wingspan- Really great game with a great Automa. I need to break this out more often also. Interestingly these are both also going to be high on my game of the year list too.

3) Star Realms: Frontiers- Take Star Realms, which is a great game, and add some solo scenarios and new card interactions. Still a great game, but I can play it on my own.

4) Sprawlopolis- A fantastic little puzzle game. You have goals to have other things besides just making the best city, which makes this game really hard. I haven’t even been close to winning, even though my scores are improving. It’s 18 cards total, and fits in your pocket, so it’s portable too.

5) Race for the Galaxy- This requires the Gathering Storm expansion, but I feel dumb that I never tried this before this year. Another really tough Automa, but any excuse to play this game more is great.

6) Unbroken- A very controversial game due to some shady Kickstarter distribution issues, but I got it in a trade. The game itself is very straight forward, and very difficult. I look forward to playing it more. You are the only surviving member of a group of adventurers that got ambushed, and now you are trying to get out of the dungeon with no supplies or weapons.

7) Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale- An really amazing take on roll & flip genre. Drawing a map with different terrain is great fun, and looks cool when you are finished.

8) Palm Island- Still great, still fun, but I finished 10 plays of this for the year, so I’ve been focusing on other games.

9) Deep Space D-6- This dice placement game is a ton of fun. Chuck the dice and hope you can fend off the many bad things that will happen to you. Having multiple ships to use also adds to the replayability.

10) One Deck Dungeon- I finally got my own copy, although I still haven’t returned Eric’s copy yet either, whoops. Fun, quick, and some neat dice manipulation in this one too. I hope to play it more now that I don’t have to worry about wearing someone else’s copy out.

Sprawlopolis

I think I’ll stop there. I hope you enjoyed my lists. Any TV I should be looking into? How about novels (I tend to read mostly Sci-fi & Fantasy.). What solo games are you playing? Let me know in the comments.

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