2017 was a great year for tabletop games, and we spent a lot time to play them. As usual, the release schedule for board games tends to lean towards the last months of the year, so we couldn’t get everything we wanted to play on the table. This is doubly true for Eurogames, as the Spiel show in Essen, Germany, came even later in October this year than usual.
That said, we love the list we came up with. Here are, in no particular order, our favorite games of the year. Let us know your favorites in the comments, and on to another great year of cardboard, cubes, cards and miniatures in 2018.
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Isaac Childress, Cephalofair Games, 1-4 players, 90-150 minutes, age 12+
Currently not available
Possibly the biggest board game of the year, Gloomhaven drove a huge wave of hype to surf to the top of both the strategic and thematic “top games” lists on Board Game Geek. Gloomhaven finally made its way to Kickstarter backers earlier this year, and the response was so overwhelmingly positive that a second round of crowdfunding raised nearly $4 million for the second printing.
But is it good? God, yes. Gloomhaven blows fresh air into the downright stale campaign co-op dungeon crawler genre by avoiding dice and instead letting players plan their moves and attacks through ingenious card play. Eurogame strategic mechanics combine with sword and sorcery to create that holiest of all sacred games – a deep strategy title with a compelling, immersive atmosphere. Legacy elements change the game as you play, and there’s so much content crammed into the (giant) core box that it feels like a game that’s seen years of expansion. An award. Read our review here.
Michael Kiesling, Plan B Games, 2-4 players, 30-45 minutes, 8+
$35 on Cardhaus
Azul will have to compete for next year’s Spiel des Jahres gaming awards in Germany. The game defines “elegance” with its minimal ruleset, beautiful presentation and fast turns. It also turns out to be great fun—Azul is my most played new game of 2017.
Based on Islamic inspired Portuguese tiles called azulejos, this pure summary involves collecting sets of similar tiles and placing them in rows on your personal game board. When a row is completely filled, one of the tiles moves to the square pattern on the right, collecting bonuses depending on placement and for completing rows and columns. Turns are fast and every set of tiles you pick creates both problems and opportunities for other players. Get tired of the basic game and there is an advanced variant on the back of the player boards. Michael Kiesling, the creator of the criminally overlooked Sanssouci (among many other well-regarded designs), seems to have another hit on its hands.
R. Eric Reuss, Greater Than Games, 1-4 players, 90-120 minutes, age 13+
$59 on Amazon
We saw for the first time Spirit Island at this year’s Gen Con, but due to limited availability of the game, we were only able to get our hands on a copy recently. After a handful of sessions I can report that I am head over heels for this game.
Spirit Island is like a cooperative reverse-Catania that plays like a weird and wonderful mashup of Pandemic and Magic. Instead of playing as settlers building villages and roads on a new island – a theme common to board games – you take on the role of the elemental ghosts who have to protect the island’s various landscapes from those pesky invaders. , which are controlled by the game itself. The island’s natives are there to help you fight back when they can, but it’s mostly up to you and your teammates to destroy the settlers’ burgeoning cities, removing the plague they introduce as they ravage your pristine land , and get more and better powers to help you on your way.
The gameplay is powered by cards and as the game progresses you get more and better powers and sow more and more fear in the hearts of the invaders. Drive them away to win. In addition to the great theme, the game brings a lot of strategic depth. While most co-op games tend to be at the light to medium strategy level, Spirit Island is a meaty, heavy euro. The game’s eight ghosts play very differently from each other, so the replayability is very high. Take a quick look for our review.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Rob Daviau & Matt Leacock, Z-Man Games, 2-4 players, 60 minutes, age 14+
$64 on Amazon
The sequel to the semi-official best board game of all time may not quite live up to the platonic perfection of its illustrious ancestor, but it’s still a great game. In short, you and three comrades will team up to try to revive the embers of humanity, 71 years after a deluge of deadly diseases swept the world, in a familiar but different reinterpretation of the classic Pandemic ruleset. The old format should be familiar to most people by now, but it is what makes it Season 2 So immersive: Every round your group plays counts towards the story, so every loss or setback brings the planet closer to its plague-ridden end, while every victory snatched from the jaws of defeat brings another unexpected small bonus unlocks.
In total, you’ll play 12 to 24 games that represent the course of a year, with the board and your characters changing each time as you unlock stickers to represent growing or declining populations, new skills, or scars picked up on the job. This time, you’ll start with a small play area: the known world is the east coast of America and western Europe and Africa, plus the three mid-Atlantic safe havens from which players spread dwindling supplies to prevent the disease at bay. As you progress and explore more of the world, you expand the playing area and your horizons by literally pasting pieces of the world onto the board. Without giving away the plot, there’s real fun in all the ways the designers let you unlock more goodies. Read our review here.
Peter Wocken, Floodgate Games, 1-4 players, 20-40 minutes, age 14+
Currently not available
Making real stained glass windows may not sound fun, but it is pure enjoyment in the world of sagrada. In this dice game, players take turns choosing dice from an available pool, then inserting those dice into the “window” they are building on a personal player board. The boards themselves dictate where certain dice can go – only red dice here, only 2s there – while the game has its own global placement rules.
The trick is to combine these placement restrictions with the dice presented in a given round to maximize the number of points based on the four different scorecards that make up each deck (three of these cards are public, while the fourth is private to each other). player). Because this can be difficult, the game also offers “tools” that can change some of the rules – for a fee. sagrada plays fast, looks beautiful on the table and is a satisfying, low-line thinking experience. Highly recommended for gamers who like to solve beautiful puzzles.