This year was a mixed bag for my top games list – there are some new entries but the top two spots stayed the same. Most of the list is comprised of games that were on the list in 2016 but either moved up or down a few spots. I am unsure of whether I’m not exposing myself to enough new games or perhaps I’m just pretty set on what it is I like in a game. I tend to think it’s the latter, as I feel like this is a strong list that contains some very good games that bring me great joy to get to the table. Here is my top 10 of 2017:
10. TERRAFORMING MARS [ BGG | Last Year: -]
I don’t have as many plays of this as I’d like to, but the plays that I have gotten in have been great. They’ve been enough to propel this into the bottom spot on my list and ensure that I’ll be looking to play it quite a bit in 2018. It’s excellent card-based engine building kind of drew me in, and I really enjoyed how the end game conditions play out as well as the idea that certain cards can only be played when the terraforming process has reached a certain point. There seems to be quite a bit of tension and tough decisions to make as well as responding to the actions of the other players as they take up valuable spots on the board.
9. NIPPON [ BGG | Last Year: 8]
Nippon moved down a spot from last year, but I still enjoy this tightly designed melding of worker placement and area majority mechanics quite a bit. This is one game in which I truly do feel that I never have enough time or resources to do everything I want to. The way in which the various sets of colored meeples you take on your turn affect your cost when you consolidate and the tension between when you decide to do so and not wanting to lose any money or resources when you do is fantastic. The area majority aspect of the game also ensures that you are paying attention to what other players do on their turn as the back and forth on the map is often quite drastic in the later part of the game.
8. MADEIRA [ BGG | Last Year: 4]
This game dropped several spots from last year but still manages to edge out Nippon as well, although just barely. It’s fairly crunchy, can be punishing and I almost always find myself questioning my last move. I love it. In particular, the way that your strategy can pivot based upon the crown request that you pick up and the way the resources some of the territories provide switches mid-way through the game, nas well as the tension of trying to figure out how to achieve your goals using the dice you have that round push this game onto this list for me.
7. RUSSIAN RAILROADS [ BGG | Last Year: 5]
Playing some fairly intense games of Russian Railroads via Board Game Arena in 2017 pretty much ensured this game would appear on my list again. I love being able to customize my own player board and this game does one of the best jobs of allowing that of any I’ve played. The worker placement spots that require multiple workers or a worker and coin are very cool and can lead to some tense decisions as you try to figure out if it really is worth those workers or one of your hard-to-come-by coins. I don’t see this one leaving my top 10 anytime soon.
6. ORLEANS [ BGG | Last Year: -]
The more I play Orleans, the more I like it. The game uses a bag building mechanism for the worker selection, which players will then use to carry out various actions on their boards. While the game seems to have quite a bit of randomness initially, there are a variety of ways to mitigate it and manipulate which workers are in your bag at any time. With a variety of paths to victory and ways to optimize your own board via building add ons I feel like this one has a ton of replayability.
5. THE GALLERIST [ BGG | Last Year: 3]
Aside from it’s unique theme of discovering and promoting artist in order to sell or display their works for prestige, The Gallerist stands out due to it’s excellent production quality. Graphic designer and artist Ian O’Toole hit this one out of the park. While not as heavy as people often suggest it is, this is a crunchy game with quite a few things to keep track of as you discover new artists, but and sell works of art in one of four mediums and attempt to come out on top as the richest gallery owner. Deviating from the standard worker placement recipe, players can kick one another out of a spot, but in doing so will allow the player who was kicked out to potentially perform a bonus action. My favorite aspect of the game is the promoting of artist as well and the buying and selling of their artworks. This game make Vital Lacerda a designer that I pay close attention to.
Eclipse hits so many of the right notes for me with it’s cool sci-fi setting, 4X gameplay, technology tree and ship customization. Underneath the hood is a tightly designed euro style game system that helps players keep track of their sprawling empires with a clean, easy to understand player board. I really love the push and pull of what I want to achieve very turn and the limited resources I have to do so. Pulling discs off your board to claim new tiles and perform those extra actions feels great until it comes time to pay the bill. Everything you need to know about your empire can be gleaned with a glance, but the decisions you’ll be making aren’t so simple. Combat in Eclipse uses dice, but researching new tech and upgrading your fleet will allow you to limit the effect of the randomness both defensively and offensively. I see this as the area most likely to cause a game to bog down, but it can also lead to some fun moments when a player gets just the right role to achieve a hard fought victory.
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3. SUBURBIA [ BGG | Last Year: 7]
Suburbia is one of those games that I want to play again almost immediately after I’m done playing. Your borough begins simply, but as you lay down more tiles and those tiles start interacting with others in front of you and with those of the other players things start ramping up. Add to that the economic and point engine you need to be balancing at all times, especially early on, and the game has some serious teeth. It moved up several spaces from last year’s list and whether or not it moves down next year I fully expect that this game will be on my list for quite some time.
2. LE HAVRE [ BGG | Last Year: 2]
Here we are back again at my number two spot and it’s the same as last year. Le Havre is just that good. It’s harvest or “feed your workers” mechanic is a little easier to accomplish than in Agricola, but it’s still there and still provides quite a bit of tension. Sometimes you have to burn a turn in order to accomplish something you have to do rather than what you’d rather do, but if you plan it right it’s usually pretty easy to take care of it as you work on your other tasks. And you will have your hands full, gathering resources, converting those resources to higher quality resources and selling those for a profit assuming you’ve built a ship or two along the way. The variety of buildings on display and the different actions they allow you to take keep this game interesting.
My number one spot stayed the same as well. Agricola is just a great game. There is a tension to this game that seems to feel just right as you can never quite do everything you want to do. With everyone competing for the often scarce resources and action spaces you often have to fall back to a plan “B” or otherwise adapt your strategy as competition gets fierce for the worker placement spots. It can just be tough to do everything you need to do before each harvest, and that’s why some people don’t like this one. For me, however, that tension just pushes this game up to the spot of my favorite game. I find it fun to try and build the most efficient engine and come out on top. Win or lose, I enjoy the struggle to overcome the challenges the game and the other players throw at me. It will take a truly great game to topple Agricola from my number one spot.
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