This list might be a bit late, but I can’t help it; I was playing board games. The point is 2017 was a good year for board games, and being just one person I missed so many amazing games, but I did catch some good ones, too. All in all I reviewed over twenty games in 2017, and played quite a few more, so here’s a list of my nine favorite games that I played in 2017. Do note the wordage, there; these aren’t all 2017 releases, just games that I got around to playing and reviewing that year.
We’re kicking off with a game that I’m in the process of writing a review for, and failing miserably because sweet baby Jesus, there’s a lot going on! Lisboa is the latest game from genius Vital Lacerda, and is about the rebuilding of Lisbon in the 1700’s following a series of natural disasters that left the city in ruins. You’ll be visiting nobles, constructing new buildings, selling goods and even dealing with the Church in this deep, wonderfully thematic game. The problem is that writing about Lisboa is incredibly tricky as all the systems are interwoven, but hopefully I’ll get there. Eventually. Maybe.
Trickerion: Masters of Illusion
This one is a 2015 release that I reviewed near the start of the year, and I’m glad I did. This worker-placement game has a fantastic theme of magicians putting on shows, and its gameplay is simply stellar. Having to pick where workers will be heading near the start of the turn combined with the action-point system creates a really interesting dynamic. It’s Trickerion that led to me reviewing another game on this list from the same company…
From the minds that created Trickerion came Anachrony, a game about a looking threat and the use of time travel. This clever worker-placement game isn’t as good as Trickerion in my eyes, but it’s still great in its own right. The time-travel mechanic is essentially the same as taking a loan but its wrapped up in an awesome thematic idea of your future-self sending resources back in time for you to use, and then there is the concept of workers needing to use suits to travel to the main city, meaning you have to power up suits at the start of the round, leaving less room to alter plans later.
Catch the Moon
Sometimes simplicity is good, especially when it comes to this little dexterity game which feels like Jenga, except better. You just roll a die and then place a ladder atop a growing pile of other wobbly ladders. Before long you’ve got an elaborate structure reaching for the sky, with several displays of physics-defying placement. This is the kind of game you can enjoy drunkenly with friends or perfectly sober with your family. Or drunkenly with family and sober with friends. Who am I to judge what you need to do to survive family?
Here’s another fine example of simplicity. Santorini is a beautifully simple game that you can learn in minutes, and then play for a lifetime. In fact, no, simple isn’t the right word. No, the word I want is elegant. It’s elegant in how it’s easy to understand mechanics come together to create something with surprising depth, a depth that is only made better by the various God powers that introduce fun twists into the gameplay. You move, you build, and that’s it. And did I mention how beautiful it looks?
Raiders of the North Sea
Another game that I’ve had for a while and that should have gotten reviewed before 2017 waved goodbye forever, but honestly I’ve been slacking when it comes to the board game reviews. Anyway, Raiders of the North Sea is a fantastic worker-placement game that I’ve been enjoying immensely. The artwork is stunning, and the gameplay is just as good, tasking you with putting together raiding parties and then sending them out to terrorize innocent folk in the name of treasure and victory points. Keep an eye out for my full review, but I can tell you now it’s getting a recommendation.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Board Game
I’m not attempting to say that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer board game is mechanically the finest example of the medium that was released in 2017. However, as a bit of a Buffy nerd the game really clicks with me, and I spent many happy hours commanding the Scooby gang around Sunnydale, staking vampires, fighting demons and conquering the Big Bad. It helps that underneath the theme lies a solid, if unspectacular, board game that’s quite easy to learn, making it great for fans of the show and just board game fans in general.
For a game that has giant mechs there sure isn’t that much combat in Scythe, the huge table-hogging beast from designer Jamey Steigmeir, the same guy that created Viticulture, a game that I love. Aside from the fact that you might need a whole new table to play it on Scythe is a hell of a game that combines area control with base building, worker placement and a progression system. It doesn’t hit the mark with everyone which is why I ended up giving my copy away as my group of friends just couldn’t get into it, so now I’m relegated to staring at pictures of it and contemplating the sadness of life.
I watch a lot of movies and TV shows when I’m not playing video games or board games, so the idea of a board game about TV shows is pretty damn appealing. The Networks is all about running a TV network, slowing acquiring new shows, actors and advertisements in order to grow your audience and earn cash. It’s a simple game that delights in letting you put on a lineup of absurd programs which mock real-life, and yet there’s still a nice layer of strategy in knowing when you to swap out shows in your line-up.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Arkham Horror is a huge, complex, fiddly game, but Arkham Horror: The Card game attempts to distill its essence into a simple, straightforward card game, and does it rather well. The base set feels like it could have done with a bit more content, but as a solo game it’s absolutely great fun and I loved customising my character’s deck over time. A whole host of expansions have been released, so in 2018 I’m planning on playing catch-up by buying a load of them, locking myself away and then only coming out every couple of days to grab food and ramble about Cthulhu.
Categories: Opinion Piece