The past year was a great one for board games. In 2017, the industry caught fire and posted huge gains. We ask a few of our members to reflect on their favorite games that were published in 2017. Some provided lists while others pointed to a few of their personal favorites.
Blake’s Top 10 of 2017
#10. Downforce: An excellent strategy racing game with a unique betting/wagering system that gives you multiple options for victory.
#9. Photosynthesis: A beautiful strategy game with a brilliantly implemented theme. It isn’t a copy of anything else and is quite original.
#8. Dice Forge: The game lets you build and customize your own dice and lets every player feel engaged even if it isn’t their turn. Quick to play and easy to teach!
#7. Viral: A family area-control game with a fun and comical theme that stays with you long after you play. The artwork is amazing. It’s a great gateway game.
#6. Azul: A fantastic abstract strategy game that involves pattern building and set collecting. The game components are gorgeous and solid. It literally takes less than a minute to set up the game and it plays great at all player counts.
#5. Magic Maze: A cooperative real-time game with variable player powers. Few games emphasize true team work like this gem. Game variations and random setups mean every new play with a group is a new experience.
#4. Century Spice Road: Card drafting and set collection with a spice-trading theme. Many refer to this game as the “Splendor Killer” in that it plays like Splendor but adds more complexity and strategy.
#3. Clank in Space: Deck building at its finest with a fun sci-fi theme. It is a great family game and provides many tense moments throughout. Too much fun!
#2. Sword & Sorcery: If you love role-playing games in a fantasy-themed world, you must give this game a try. It may not be Gloomhaven, but it is the next best thing!
#1. Near and Far: The best storytelling adventure game released in 2017. The game encourages exploration and it feels like each campaign is very different from the last one. The gorgeous artwork helps immerse you into Ryan Laukat’s unique world.
Jennifer’s Top 5 of 2017
#5. Dice Forge: In Dice Forge, a game published by Asmodee/Libellud, you are competing to earn a seat in heaven offered by the gods. As its name suggests, you literally get to customize (or “forge”) the faces of your dice that give you the resources you need throughout the game.
I was a late bringing this game to the table this year, but it quickly became one of my favorites. My favorite part of the game is the unique dice crafting aspect of it. Initially, the LEGO-like faces can be a bit difficult to snap-off, but this improves with play. This game also has one of the best inserts I’ve ever seen in a game, which helps with quick setup and breakdown. The game plays 2-4 between 30-50 minutes.
#4: Codenames Duet: This is the latest installment in the wildly popular Codenames franchise from Czech Games Edition. In this variant, unlike previous versions of the game, you don’t have to have a large group of people to play with. While the basic elements of the game are similar to the original version, in Duet players must work together to identify agents without revealing the assassin.
I’m always on the lookout for games that work well for 2 players, since my primary gaming partner is my significant other. The original Codenames is one of our favorite games to play with large groups of our friends, but we’ve really enjoyed that we’ve been able to bring this to the table when it’s just us 2. The game plays 2-4 players, and games last between 15-30 minutes.
#3. Ex Libris: As a librarian, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this library-themed game published by Renegade Game Studios was my most anticipated game of 2017. During the game, you play as a collector of rare and valuable books who is vying for the newly created seat in the Village Council of Grand Librarian. The position will only be awarded to the citizen with the most impressive library, and during the game you send your assistants to collect the best books to add to your shelves.
Scoring of the game can be quite complex, but luckily there is a detailed dry-erase “Official Library Inspection Form” board to help players calculate points at the end of the game. While you don’t have to be a bibliophile to enjoy this game- this mid-weight, card drafting game will certainly appeal to all the book lovers out there. The game plays between 1-4 players, and games last between 30-60 minutes.
#2. Sagrada: Interestingly, Sagrada is a game that is quite reminiscent of the top choice on my list, Azul, but instead of tiles, players draft colorful dice. The game is an homage to the famous stained glass windows of La Sagrada Família located in Barcelona, Spain. In this game from Floodgate Games, players build stained glass windows by placing dice on their individual player board grids. Scoring is based on achieving patterns and on placement of dice, in addition to (hidden) individual dice color goals.
This game is one of my favorites of 2017 because of its unique dice-drafting mechanism, gorgeous artwork, and its close tie-in to its overall theme. The game plays between 1-4 players, and games last between 20-40 minutes.
#1: AZUL: While only released in late October at the Essen Spiel game fair, Azul has quickly risen to become one of best board games of 2017. Designed by Michael Kiesling and published by Plan B Games, Azul is a beautiful and unique game that allows players to compete as artisans decorating the walls of the Royal Palace of Évora with Moorish-style tiles.
My favorite games are those that are quick and easy to learn, and Azul definitely falls into that category-while still leaving plenty of room for strategy to create the most stunning Palace wall. The game plays between 2-4 players, and games last between 25-40 minutes.
2017 FAVORITES FROM OTHER MEMBERS
Allison: Magic Maze
Jill: Nmbr9 and Barenpark
Becky: Azul, Barenpark, and Queendomino
Ted: Near and Far, Ethnos, Scythe, and Terraforming Mars
Clair: Photosynthesis, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, and Secret Hitler