So I’m definitely slacking compared to last year, where I had the entire thing done by 1/2, but I’m rolling into this almost a week later which is just my life, now.
2017 was kind of a bummer year in a lot of ways, but, I mean, the games were pretty good, so let’s focus on that. To that end, I’d like to talk about another 10 great games from 2017 (as well as some honorable mentions). You may see some pictures from games I haven’t reviewed, yet, which is kind of a bonus! You get to see some of the photos here, first.
Might as well start with those, yeah?
Honestly, I forgot to put Coldwater Crown on my list originally because I played it at Gen Con 2016 and so it was in my mind as a “2016 game”, which is patently false, since it was still in development. This awesome fishing game was uh, reel fun to play and art from Beth Sobel really complemented a fun theme and made for an excellent game overall. If you haven’t tried this yet, well, check out my review and see if it’s a game you’d enjoy! I highly recommend it.
This one really surprised me since it came out so close to the end of the year! It’s a fun bluffing and bidding game and my friends and I have had a wonderful time with it. I’d say it’s the most fun once everyone knows how to play, as it plays quickly and aggressively. It gets even better when you’re just a bit tired, as you can’t quite remember if you bluffed or if you bet based on other people’s bets that you’ve now bumped and the question becomes are you bluffing, double-bluffing, triple-bluffing, or just deeply confused? Honestly, hard to say. But it’s a super fun game (as I mentioned in my review), so, I’d recommend giving it a whirl! Just watch out for the crowns; kind of sharp.
Oh, Word Domination. I’m a huge fan of this game, as it’s got a great theme (cheesy supervillains), awesome gameplay, and I pretty much love all word games. Its only real flaw is that it’s probably best served as a two-player game unless you have groups that can avoid the analysis paralysis that comes with a bigger board (or if you want to play cooperatively, which is a really cool variant to try, as well). I’d highly recommend it for fans of word games (or people who love thinking about grids in a complex manner). I also got around to reviewing it, as well.
I mean, first and foremost, Herbaceous is a beautiful game. Again, Beth knocks it out of the park on the art, and this game is a beautiful statement all its own. (I’m particularly a fan of the shade used on the background of the Terragon card, but I could talk about color choice all day). If that alone were the game, it’d be a solid conversation piece, but it also adds in a really nice, super easy-to-learn gameplay experience (and an absolutely addicting solo mode) that’s a huge success all-around. Usually when people who are looking for a game that’s good to teach their friends who haven’t played many games, I’d recommend this one, but it’s also strategic (and fun) enough to appeal to more experienced gamer groups. The art alone makes me want to see more of what’s going on in the “Herbaceous Universe” (I assume we’re doing shared game universes now), and I’ve said as much in my review (which is one of my first ones of 2017!).
When I talk about beautiful games, I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t mention Sagrada. I’m a huge fan of the color scheme alone, but the theme of making stained glass windows makes for a very good-looking game the whole time you play it. Plus, it’s also a lot of fun! There are some interesting decisions to make during the dice draft and there are a variety of variable scoring options to shoot for, meaning that each game will be a pretty different experience from start to finish. Naturally, I’d love to see an expansion come along with some new stuff (and I’m sure, given how out-of-print it’s been lately, people would jump at the chance to get on board for a repeat), so hopefully that’s in the cards for 2018. It’s a nice, thinky gateway game that reminds a lot of people of Sudoku, as you need to be mindful of what you place relative to what your options are and make sure you avoid mistakes, if you can. For more information about it, check out my review!
Rhino Hero: Super Battle
I mean, it’s a game about stacking a ton of cards up and then they eventually fall down. It’s incredible. Rhino Hero: Super Battle was one of my Gen Con Misses in that I comically did not understand the appeal of it until I saw people playing it, and by then it was too late (and still seems to be too late to get one of those sweet capes, which is very sad). Sure, the Movement Die is kind of silly and makes the game occasionally frustratingly random, but the actual act of building up the towers gives players a lot of freedom and flexibility, especially when you modify the starting conditions (move around the bases) or play on the more complex sides. All in all, it’s a wonderful game for all ages that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s definitely one of the highlights of my year. Review coming … soonish.
Fog of Love
Fog of Love was another surprise — I have a sort-of soft spot for heavy-narrative games, such as Near and Far and Above and Below, but I hadn’t tried something that was so roleplaying-heavy (outside of my frequent D&D misadventures). Fog of Love challenged me to try a different route — rather than battling monsters or roleplaying local community meetings where I have to convince the town to overlook that I forgot to file an environmental impact report before I worked on developing the facade of a local temple (which is itself a long story), I had to try and make a complex emotional relationship work. And sometimes we did! But sometimes we didn’t. If you’re looking for a game that’s definitely not like any game you’ve played before and you don’t mind an emotional rollercoaster, Fog of Love is super interesting. For more on it, check out my review.
Werewords was exactly the game I was looking for. I love the One Night series, but I find that teaching the roles (and finding the perfect combination of roles for your group) is a lot of complexity and overhead that honestly ends up slowing down game night. Weirdly, the social-deduction-favoring group that I used to attend isn’t much for One Night and insists on only playing Avalon, which … is part of the reason I stopped going. Anyways, this isn’t about One Night. Werewords is a departure from that, focusing on a more twenty questions-style game but adding in a light hidden traitor element as you try to figure out which player was specifically being unhelpful on purpose (as opposed to most of the other players who are just unhelpful accidentally). It’s honestly a delight to play and was / still is one of my favorite party games to break out (along with Anomia, although Werewords supports more players). If you need a good intro party game that’s fairly light on social deduction, Werewords is a smash hit! For more information, I reviewed it a while back.
Speaking of games with narratives, Spy Club makes my list for 2017 despite not releasing until 2018. The best part about making a list is that my ruleset for such a list can be ~needlessly arbitrary~, which is all kinds of a good time. Maybe it’ll make the 2018 list too? Who knows? Anyways, you play as a local group of kids who are investigating small-time mysteries in their hometown, only to catch a whiff of an even bigger mystery that may be afoot. Using what is being called a Mosaic System (essentially a highly modular campaign), you can play 5 consecutive games with the game increasing in complexity each time as you try to solve the Master Crime. Honestly, it’s a really good time, it’s super fun for all ages, and it’s … sort of what I’ve come to expect from Foxtrot? I mean, they just consistently put out great stuff. Once it hits retail after Kickstarter, I’d strongly recommend checking it out. It’s just that good. If you want to know more about it before then, check out my review.
Mars Open: Tabletop Golf
Oh, Mars Open: Tabletop Golf, the tabletop mini-golf game I’ve always wanted. It’s very similar to Ice Cool in a lot of ways which, in my mind, is perfect. They’re sort of different the way The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are different, though. Ice Cool really beckons you to play a whole game so that everyone can be catcher, whereas Mars Open you can set up a hole, play a quick one, and either keep going for as long as you want or call it quits after one. I’d say that Ice Cool also benefits from a certain zaniness that Mars Open tries to avoid, as it’s more of a challenge to hit the hole (and you don’t get favorable bounces like you would with your penguins). Either way, to let it stand on its own merits, it’s a very, very fun game. Lucky shots about, there’re a bunch of holes, and you can even build your own. As I mentioned in my preview, the worst thing about it was that I had to send it along to the next previewer so I can’t play it right now, which is frankly a shame. I’d highly recommend it if you like dexterity games, but if you want to know more about it before it arrives at retail, I previewed it a while back.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Pandemic Legacy as a series needs no introduction, naturally. It was already on my 2016 in Review for being a solid game, and Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is no slouch. No spoilers, but, if you’re looking for a solid cooperative experience to follow-up your group’s completion of Season 1, this is an interesting spin on both Pandemic and Legacy games. I think it’s more difficult, but there’s some contention around that idea, so your mileage may vary. I may even end up reviewing it some day!
I mean, it’s Illimat. It’s a super-neat card game with a super-weird aesthetic and I’m totally here for it. Essentially, you’re playing cards into “fields” in order to harvest them and impress Luminaries who will then grant you boons for impressing them with your farming skills. It’s one of the few board games short of Mars Open: Tabletop Golf to really make use of the box, and I’m here for it; I just wish stockpiling were a bit more straightforward for new players. If you want to have all the experiences of finding a game in your grandparents’ attic but also want a neat card game with some cool mechanics, Illimat is a great game! I’ll have a review up for it in the next few weeks or so.
Mystery of the Temples
This is a cool game that I haven’t said much about, but honestly it’s one of my favorite games that I played last year. You play as a group of cursebreakers traveling between various temples trying to … well, break the curse. As with Sol: Last Days of a Star, this game prominently features moving in a circle, one of my favorite things, and some incredible art to boot. It’s probably my favorite pick-up-and-deliver game right now, even if it’s currently only available as an import from its publisher, Emperor S4 Games. I don’t have a review written up yet, but I will in the next couple months. If you’re looking for a game with impeccable art and a cool spin on a great mechanic, I’d highly recommend Mystery of the Temples!
Sol: Last Days of a Star
I mean I only ranted about Sol: Last Days of a Star a few weeks ago, tops. Trying to escape the sun before it supernovas, you play as up to five races who have to push this star as close as they can to disaster without immolating yourself in both the coolest and obviously last explosion you’ll ever see. All the while, you’ve got this game that honestly really perfectly encapsulates the sort of somber meditative experience of what I imagine floating through space must be like. If you want to know more of my thoughts, I reviewed it, but I would overwhelmingly recommend Sol: Last Days of a Star! It’s a hell of a game.
Near and Far
Of course Near and Far is on my list. In my mind (and in my review), Near and Far is a near-perfect fusion of the storytelling mechanics and world of Above and Below with the exploration and sense of discovery you find in Islebound, and it’s better for having the experience of both of those games. Sure, it’s a pain to set up, but once you do you might as well spend the day exploring the lives of Grear or the Shardling or any of the other characters in either a long-form campaign or in a smaller, more manageable Character Mode experience. Hey, if you hate narratives for some reason, you can even play it Islebound-style and go full Arcade Mode. That said, if you think that you’re looking for an admittedly-slightly-weighty narrative game with some cool mechanics, I’d super recommend Near and Far! It’s fantastic.