2017 has been quite the year. A brutal one politically, a busy but fulfilling one personally, and a lot of fun board game wise! As I did last year, it’s a lot of fun to go back over the many games I’ve played this year and pick out my favourites. I must admit, this has probably been one of the most enjoyable articles I get to write!
Now, this isn’t a list of the best games released in 2017 (although several on this list were). I simply haven’t had the chance to play most of the big releases this year yet, after all, Essen was only two months ago! So instead, I have chosen this list from the games that I have reviewed over the course of this year. That means it includes some older releases and I’m OK with that. The point of this article is to celebrate some of the fantastic games I’ve been lucky enough to play this year. And since they have all been reviewed at some point, you can click on the headings to see my more comprehensive thoughts elsewhere on the blog.
Now, I hope you enjoy the list, and have a wonderful Christmas/new year/holidays! Creaking Shelves will be back in January!
Of course there are a few games that I absolutely loved and wanted to mention again, but that I couldn’t quite fit on the list. It’s already too long! Those titles, which absolutely deserve your attention, are Mystic Vale, Capital, Costa Rica and Valeria Card Kingdoms. Right! On to the top 10… ish.
OK so I know Top 10’s are more traditional but I simply couldn’t escape (!) mentioning the Exit games. I love escape rooms and transferring that puzzle solving experience into a small game you can play at home was a great idea. From what I’ve experienced, the Exit games are the best implementation of the genre so far. The puzzles in Exit: The Secret Lab were superb and I’d love to finally get round to playing some of the others.
An exceptional small box, 2 player war game, this distilled some of the best elements of Twilight Struggle’s card play and added them to a combat mechanic I absolutely adored! Liars Dice, as combat, is just brilliant! It brings to the fore the dirty tricks and unexpected turns of battle and gave this game a truly special something. This also comes from a relatively small UK publisher so absolutely deserves some extra attention!
Trapped on a beautiful but empty planet… you thought. Because worryingly you are Not Alone here in this all vs one game of out thinking your opponent. The humans need to hide, the monster needs to hunt them and wear down their will until they are simply absorbed into the planet. It’s a chilling set up to a thrilling game that comes in a satisfyingly small box. Well worth your time hunting this one down.
My most recent review on this list is a fairly simple, slightly abstract, train game that just manages to do everything right! The game is a perfect puzzle that crafts your experience over the entire length of the game, let’s you show off with fantastic and imaginative plays, and gives you all the scope you need for interacting with the other players around the table, without it getting cripplingly mean. A real hidden gem.
I love negotiation games and New Angeles is an incredibly enjoyable negotiation game. Set in the murky world of android Netrunner, stabbing your friends in the back has rarely felt so thematically appropriate. The wheeling and dealing sustains it through a potentially punishing 3 hour play time. It’s probably the game on this list that I would be least able to recommend anyone try, but it absolutely earns it’s place on this list by never compromising on its vision of being an all or nothing negotiation game.
The first of a surprisingly large number of co-op games on this list is stranded on Mars. The First Martians is a box full of content, a whole planet’s worth to explore! And surviving this coop is hard enough work that I’ll be battling to overcome all the challenges of Nasa’s first Mars mission for quite some time to come! There aren’t many games that really capture the feel of a movie, but First Martians really leaves you feeling like you’re in The Martian.
Also, check out our comparison video with Robinson Crusoe!
A Feast for Odin was my first ‘serious’ Uwe Rosenburg game. A giant box with a sprawling array of options and a central space filling puzzle that is a wonderful focus for the insane worker placement centre fold. It’s a game I want to find time to explore in more detail, to try out the various online solo scenarios, to get to grips with all the occupations. And I want to do this because the core game is such a perfectly unsolvable challenge. A truly great achievement from one of the masters of the genre.
Honestly, any of the top 5 could have been my number 1 game this year! After thoroughly enjoying Pandemic Legacy Season 1, the second season was always going to be highly anticipated in my house! The fact that the resulting game is, in my opinion, better than the original in many ways, both fixing the minor quibbles I had with the first and refreshing the core system in an interesting way, means it totally deserves it’s spot on this list. The reason it’s not higher? I simply haven’t played it as much as some of these others, and deep down I know it can’t last forever. But I’ll certainly enjoy it while it does!
There are no shortage of Lovecraftian games in this hobby of ours. You’d think a fan of such stories would be spoilt for choice, and yet none have ever felt like they captured, or even had any idea of what it would mean to be a Lovecraft-inspired game. Cthulhu merely adds a green tinged veneer to most of these titles, but not Arkham Horror The Card Game! An incredible blending of theme, great writing, and clever mechanical tricks brings the game to life. The situations you experience can be as close to scary as a board game can get, the choices you make leave you to deal with truly terrible consequences! This all sits atop a solid and challenging co-op, or solo, game. I can’t wait to play this some more, and only wish the LCG nature of the game didn’t make it so expensive to experience.
For someone who has always considered themselves more of a euro gamer, I’m kind of surprised to see how few traditionally euro games have made it on this list! It’s been a year of very interesting games. Great Western Trail fits solidly into the category of euro game! A giant soup of mechanics and opportunities with only the thinnest hints of theme. And it all blends into a perfect gaming experience! Every decent sized gaming weekend I’ve had over the past year has featured a game of this and it has been an absolute highlight every time. Considering I reviewed this back in February that is an incredible achievement. (A little sad that, in many ways, but that’s reviewer life!) After 10 games I still feel like I’m playing a different way almost every game and I’ve still not gone 100% focused on any given strategy. Just crazy good.
Board Game Geek’s newest number 2 is also my number 2 game if last year! Gloomhaven is the game I’ve played the most of this year, with some 20-30 evenings spent playing this massive dungeon crawler. I’m honestly amazed by what it’s achieved. It’s an incredible dungeon crawler, a peerless game of tactical combat, and the most ludicrously generous box for content I know of in board gaming. It’s greatest achievement though is in bringing me and 3 others, 2 of whom I hadn’t met before, together regularly for an entire year. We have literally forged a party in the finest tradition of role playing games and I now have 3 more friends than I otherwise would have had! Not bad for a box of cardboard.
When I started thinking about this list, I did not expect Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective to be top of this list. In all honesty I had forgotten that I had even reviewed it. But that was in fact it’s strength. It’s a game that has been an ever present part of my life since I got the old Ystari edition a couple of years ago as a present for my now fiancée. The 10 cases there have long since been completed, on quiet date nights with a bottle of wine, sitting in the sunshine outside European cafés on holiday, at dinner parties with friends. It is even a game we have been able to play with my parents who would never play a hobby board game with me! Each of its cases is a treat that I look forward to, not just because of the excellent writing, the brilliant puzzle, or the chance to maybe, just maybe, prove ourselves to the great Sherlock Holmes. I look forward to it because more so than probably any game I’ve owned, I know I will be sharing it with the people that I love. And that is why it belongs at the top of this list!
What have been your favourite games this year?