2017 was an interesting year for me and board games. Life is very busy with four little children to raise. Busy means choices between responsibilities and hobbies and, since board games are secondary, responsibilities win. This means less playing and less buying of the board game variety. I am not less interested, however,so here we are again at the beginning of a new year and its time to rank some games!
All of us here at the Pub made good use of our Board Game Ranking Engine again this year to create our individual lists which we combined into the Pub’s Top 5 games for the year 2017. And without further ado, here is my top 10.
There isn’t much that can be said about Carcassonne that hasn’t been said before. I love how it can be a friendly, casual game or a competitive, cutthroat experience. I love the simplicity of a turn – place a tile, and then a meeple on that tile if you wish. Each game plays out differently. This game also does expansions well. They each add a simple rule to the game that is easy to fold into the base game. One of my favorite gaming experiences was playing Carcassone with every expansion available at the time. It was so big we couldn’t play it on a table. We played it on the floor. This game has stood the test of time and is still fun each time it hits the table. Thanks for sticking around, Carcassonne.
Serenissima is the biggest riser on my list this year – up 19 places. It’s a game that you don’t hear much about and that is a shame. I really appreciate a game that perfectly simplifies a subject without losing the interesting decisions inherent in that subject. Serenissima is one of these. It is a game about shipping goods around the Mediterranean – how cliche. Your boats each have five slots that you can either fill with goods or sailors. More sailors means a faster and stronger boat but fewer goods. More goods means a slower, weaker boat but more profit from delivering them. This is such an interesting push and pull. And that’s not all the game brings. The rondel it uses is awesome. Combat is simple but strategic. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t heard of this game – check it out!
I really appreciate when a game’s mechanisms evoke the feeling of the theme. Lords of Vegas does this so well. Yes, there are dice. There is randomness in the game. But that’s exactly how Vegas should feel. Try your luck, roll the dice. You may just come up big. Lords of Vegas is my choice for people who know Monopoly. There is real estate, dice rolling, property development and paper money – which I replaced with poker chips. It is an accessible and fun combination of luck and strategy – yes, the two can coexist. If you want to play Vegas, this is the game for you.
7. INIS [BGG | Last Year: -]
A new game on my list! I really do enjoy the drafting mechanism and this was the first thing that drew me to Inis. Combine that with area control and objective-based victory this game has a lot going for it. This game is chock full of interesting decisions in the cards you draft to how and when you use them. And then there is the conflict in the game. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does it has a big impact on the game creating temporary alliances to keep someone else from achieving their victory conditions. And all of this can be had in a reasonable amount of time. Great game!
6. ANACHRONY [BGG | Last Year: – ]
Another new game to my list! Anachrony was one of my only purchases this year and it was well worth it. I was looking for a deeper worker placement experience and this one fits that bill. I love the decision tension in how many Exosuits to power for a round of play. It also hits the time travel theme so well in the way you “borrow” resources from the future that you have to pay back or suffer paradoxes in the timeline. Very cool. The only reason I can see this game falling on my list some in coming years is the time it takes to play.
TIME Stories is still one of the coolest game experiences I have had. I love opening up a deck and seeing what surprises lie within. I was a big fan of choose your own adventure books growing up and this game gives a very similar feeling. I really want to play games with a narrative arch over several games. Legacy games are a little too long for this stage in my life but TIME Stories hits a sweet spot for me of 2-3 games. I can keep a group together for this long. It didn’t see much play this year which is why it fell a few places. I hope to change that soon.
The oldest game on my list but still one of the strongest. Usually genre-defining games are the simplest but El Grande – the elder of area control games – breaks that mold incorporating multiple interlocking systems to achieve its greatness. I think every good game has give/take decisions in it – you have to forego some benefit to get another that is equally important. In El Grande, this is layered through the bidding for turn order and action selection mechanisms. The higher you bid, the fewer pieces you will have to place on the board. The more pieces you actually place on the board the less powerful action you can take. Every decision is a trade off of something important. And it all comes together so well.
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Scythe is a game that brings a unique take to the 4X genre. Instead of a sprawling game like many Civ or 4X games become it remains tight the whole time. I really enjoy objective based game endings and the star system that Scythe uses is one of my favorites. It allows you to see progress in the game without knowing exactly how much time is left to min/max. You have to take each turn as if you will have another. The popularity system in the game is a great way to take into account the people of the areas you are fighting over which is usually lacking in these types of games. All of this means it retains its spot in my rankings this year.
Eclipse is up a bit in my rankings this year due to the increased play time it saw. And I got to play it with both Bryan and Gary (which means is saw a big upswing in our overall rankings this year). This 4X may be older than some on this list but remains one of the first Euro/Ameritrash hybrids that did it right. Advance your tech and arm your ships to best counter your opponents. Explore new areas of the galaxy to find needed resources. But above all, manage your economy and expansion well or risk your empire crumbling under its own weight before you can dominate your opponents. This game does so much so well.
With another year at the top of my rankings the only thing that can take this game down is time or lack of play. Simply put, I love it. Everything about this game sings the OT. The game makes great use of a “worker placement” system of placing your leaders to move troops and go on missions. Combine that with a great round tracker that builds tension as the game progresses and the hide and seek aspect and you have a the ultimate power in the galaxy. I’m really looking forward to trying out the expansion and the changes it brings.
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