I’ve played a few 2017 release games, not many but enough for me to rank up the top 10 games. Though it’s not really justified because of the log plays and other stuffs but it’s my top 10 (from my opinion). Feel free to disagree and discuss. Here are my top 10 list in countdown order
#10. EX LIBRIS
Lets start with Ex Libris, the board game for librarians (or anyone). It is a worker placement game in the setting of arranging books in alphabetical order. The theme is unique (though not that really attractive for gamers and to be honest I also didn’t have this game on my radar at first. But once I realized that the game has different unique workers (with special abilities and unique shapes), I started to find out more. Upon research I found one unique worker that made me just “wow”! It was gelatinous cube (which unlike other wooden meeples, it is a cube made from plastic resin in a transparent green color). That made me want to get the game. I bought it though it was quite expensive for what it’s worth. Played it and turned out it’s a simple game. The goal is to build / arrange your own library of books. In order to do that you need to get the books by assigning three of your assistants to different locations. You need to arrange them based on alphabetical order, the stability of your shelf and your collection of prominent, focus and banner books. I found the game to be somewhat a race to collect books but rather multiple solitaire in form and without tense or climax. I do have some grimes about the game, though those are still acceptable.
#09. DICE FORGE
This game is very innovative. It’s not the first that uses dice customization mechanic, it applies the same concept from older game called Rattlebones, which players can swap sides from the dice to get different effects. The dice in Rattlebones seemed like a side mechanic not the core of the game, but here they made that as the core of the game. Players will constantly roll and modify their dice. It has a very beautiful box cover (oh yes I have to mention it). The game is simple and plays rather quick (30-60 mins). On a player’s turn, all players roll dice and get resources. The active player either buy a card or buy die faces. The game ends after a number of rounds and the final scoring takes place. The dice use innovative system and have great quality materials. There are some strategies to go for in the round, most of the cards are useful and important if you can get them all compatible with your strategy. The game is very suitable for casual players, newbies and gamers alike. It would be better if they gave a small lever to remove the dice’s face, because without it, I sometimes find it difficult or hurting my fingers.
#08. LONDON (2nd Edition)
I haven’t try the first edition but it was already on my wishlist / radar for quite a long time because of the designer alone (Martin Wallace). I like Brass and some of his games, so this one is also interesting to try. Luckily I had not get the first edition when this one was released. In my opinion, the second edition has a very artistic cover artwork, if not the illustrations on the cards are already beautiful. I like the game very much, it’s a tableau building game with a twist. When I tried it for the first time, I felt a classic Euro game within this game and it’s a very good thing. It’s been quite a while to get that classic feeling from Euro games nowadays if you know what I mean. It’s simple, has easy rules and simplified components, but the game offers depth decision making and strategies. Of course the replay values seems low due to the nature of the cards (all of them are used in a single game). I wonder if the game has randomizer system like deck building games, where not all cards are used in a game. This one definitely a keeper.
#07. NEAR AND FAR
After Above and Below, Near and Far was one of my two anticipated games from Red Raven Games (another one is Empires of The Void II). It claims to offer more depth to the strategy and exploration aspects of the game instead the storytelling in Above and Below. I felt intrigued, Above and Below is great, it gives immersion to the game play with the storytelling aspect but that is it, it’s a bit too simple for my gamer’s soul. So having another game with the same spirit but offers more complexities and depths with different variants of game play, my expectation was high. For this game’s sake, I bought the game a bit pricey and to be honest I was a bit disappointed. Don’t take me wrong, the game is good, it’s interesting and I would still enjoy to play it in future to come. But I expected more from this one, the campaign system doesn’t really rewarding from play to play, aside from the story, players in the end just compare / tally points from all maps. Not sure there’s a connecting story from one map to another and character / player progression, though there’s a skill / talent that can be purchased, but I think it’s not that much big of a deal from scenario to another. And there’s a character progress variant, haven’t try this one, but I don’t think it offers enough to significantly increase the game play experience. But of course I like this one better than Above and Below, still offers deeper and more complex game. I like how Ryan considers the adventurers’ compatibility to be played with Above and Below.
#06. RAJAS OF THE GANGES
For me Village was good, just good. But it didn’t leave me such impression that I should own the game. So the designers then released Rajas of The Ganges, which also gave similar visual appearance with this one, classic Euro games. At first I wasn’t really hooked on the game, but I decided to give it a try. My biggest concern was the racing mechanic. Yup, of of my most undesired mechanics in a board game, racing game. This game though it looks like the usual Euros, this one hides that racing scoundrel in those two point trackers (fame and money). Though it seems that players collecting points throughout the game, the reality is that these points are just progress. Yes the ugly truth, you try to get your two markers on the tracks meet or overlap each other in order to win. This will trigger the game end, although there’s a possibility for other players to catch up that would lead to tie breaking to determine the winner. But when finished my first play, I was hooked, not very hooked, just ok hooked. I like it, interestingly engaging and feels like Euro engine building, maybe because of the tile laying, dice rolling, worker placement and set collection aspects that overshadowing the racing element, who knows. The important thing is I feel rewarded when playing this the game, that’s what makes me to like the game. This game feels very similarly like The Voyages of Marco Polo, though it’s quite different.
#05. PULSAR 2849
I had to include this into this list and kicked out Flatline to eleventh place. Just managed to play this game in early January and I was very surprised on how good this game is. It has very simple and common mechanic that can be find in other games, but the combination and formula make it a perfect and interesting game. The dice drafting and initiative order are brilliant, with interesting ‘exploration’ aspect in the game where you place stations throughout the the star system and claim pulsars. How the designer balanced the dice selection is so damn amazing. In general you will want high value dice, but to gain them you need to pay with energy / initiative markers. These two aspects are important and giving away loosely for higher value dice would really hurt you in turn order and energy bonus aspects. More of it, deciding which die not to take also affecting players in during action phase because players can copy the leftover die using a bonus die. Played the game back to back and even I was lost to my wife, I was so furious and couldn’t figure out how to win it, I want to play it again and again. Try with different number of players and different strategies. There are so many actions in this game, even how bad your dice are, you can always take actions. Gyrodynes are important, it’s the soul of engine building from the game. Though other things could also help you. The tech tree and goals would determine game’s objectives. The game is played in 8 rounds, with each round players will choose 2 dice per player. This means basically each player gets minimum 16 actions plus potential 8 actions from the bonus die. The implementation of the bonus die is kinda unique, since there’s a limitation that a player can only use at max a single bonus die in each round, but the source to get it and actions to use it are so many. And looking back, this game was designed by Vladimir Suchy, the man behind Shipyard (Last Will if it matters), one of our favorite games (me and my wife). For this we expected at least this could match Shipyard, and turns out, it is way better than Shipyard for me.
#04. THE 7TH CONTINENT
Okay I had a very high hope for this one, backed the Kickstarter project of the first edition instantly. I was hooked with the storytelling concept of the game. The game is likely similar or adapt the same concept like T.I.M.E Stories, where players must figure out the case / or you might call it as scenario / puzzle to be able to finish the game (successfully). There’s an element of surprise in the game which is no longer a surprise once you finally able to experience it. Unlike T.I.M.E Stories, this game lies heavily in cards as main components while T.I.M.E Stories also involves dice roll for success check. Card laying exploration game that form the map and action cards that come into the game with hand management mechanic. There’s a push your luck element too as the success parameters for actions, which is very simple and traditional but looks quite interesting. Though once you finish / complete a curse the replay value just almost gone, the thing is that to complete one curse you need to play it several times. You will figure out where to go and what to do after consecutive plays, this gives you play logs for just one curse. And my biggest admiration to the game is the amount of story related element that was poured into the game itself. It perfectly grabs the feel of the game and how it can feel different in each play because of the ever-changing environment. Of course there are fixed things, like the map. That place will always be there forever, not gonna change from play to play. But the event or situation will be different, maybe yesterday you met a grizzly bear, today you find what’s left of that bear is only it’s corpse. I find this element to be very interesting. You wouldn’t know what lies ahead. Of course it’s not perfect, I found some flaws in the game, but it still a very good game.
Here is another Vital Lacerda’s games that worth to be praised. The Gallerist was the first game of this scale that made me want to collect His series, like Vinhos. Now I own three of them. Not a fan of the publisher (Eagle Gryphon Games) with their KS projects, but hey I still admire their production quality and standards and also Vital’s amazing games. Though I struggled to like Vinhos (maybe it’s because of the theme), turns out I like Lisboa. It’s not tied with The Gallerist in my opinion, but of course the number one is still Kanban. Unfortunately it’s not in the same series as Lisboa and the likes. There are so many things going on in this game. I had troubles with my first play, dissecting the rules from that rulebook. I must say that it’s not the best rulebook I ever encountered. But finally it paid my efforts full. Love the synergy of the game, the visual presentation is stunning, though it might be overwhelming to some point. This is by far the most beautiful Lacerda’s games aesthetically in my opinion. But I think it’s not really thematic. In this game, players will try to be the best influential noble who contributes efforts to rebuild the desolate city of Lisboa from the triple disasters back in the day. The game is long as usual, around 3 hours play with 4 players. It’s broken down into 2 ages where players will need to rebuild stores and public building, trade routes, relationship with prominent figures and also the church / cardinal as well as producing goods. Unlike The Gallerist, Lisboa is more focus on card plays, the tableau building by building your portfolio is really essential. There’s no worker placement mechanic as it is found in The Gallerist, though by looking at the game components, there are workers / meeples. Just like most Vital Lacerda’s games (I think all of them) the game consists of simple actions. During your turn, choose to play a card. That card can be played differently, either play the card into your portfolio or to into the Royal court. If you choose to play it into your Portfolio (tableau) you resolve the effect first and then get to choose one of the two available action, trade with the nobles or sell goods. If you choose to play it into the Royal Court, you can visit a noble’s office or sponsor an event. When visiting the noble office, your opponents may follow the action. Each action may provide certain benefits for you to gain prestige points in the bigger picture or longer run instead of short term or immediately. Player interactions are tied in the building site and ships where they will compete or look for opportunity to score and claim the best choice.
The components are definitely top notch as expected from Eagle Gryphon Games, thick card board material as a standard, nice linen finish cards and amazing-working plastic trays that hold the components inside the box, one issue thing usually occurs is that some complaint their player boards are bowed, must have something to do with the dual layer finishing.
Oh man, I love everything about this game. I own the Leader Box from KS and it’s huge as well as heavy. It’s definitely a big game, fully loaded with many great components inside. Lets just say that it is a box of delight. I was one of the backers that immediately jumped to back this KS. Mainly because it’s from Mindclash Games. I was very satisfied with their work in Trickerion. After took some research on the game I was immediately on board. I love the theme, it’s deep heavy Euro game with strong theme. Totally epic. There aren’t many games with this theme. It fulls of cool stuff like exosuit miniatures, variable player powers, interesting time travel mechanic, the use of multi-layered workers and etc.
When I unboxed the game, the box was full of good stuffs, after punched the tiles out, the card board wastes didn’t help to loosen up the contents inside the box. It’s still fully packed and heavy. I like how fierce the worker placement can be during the game, fight over resource management while need to execute your plan in timely manner in order to complete super projects and other things. There are several different strategies you can after to get most points. Some modules give more variation and different feels, such you can modify your exosuits and go explore the outer world, while more details and challenge on the timeline and having neutral exosuits that can be bought each round with different abilities. There are so many things.
The one and only, Gloomhaven. I was so excited when this game launched in Kickstarter several years back, 2015 if I am not mistaken. The game is epic and full of great things. It’s weighed almost 10 kgs (9.7 kgs precisely). I fell in love with the game instantly. The main reasons are because it’s a very thematic theme, with original contents and a breakthrough of the common RPG background. You won’t find any elves or orcs or trolls here. All the characters are new and made just for this game from the scratch. The designer, Isaac Childress poured his dream, efforts, ambitions and total dedication into this game. He is practically one-man-army behind Cephalofair games. He made a new universe and it also used for another game after this one, Founders of Gloomhaven (a very different game but still within the same universe). I backed this game more like a gamble because though I really love this kind of game at heart, my wife doesn’t. She had a very skeptical opinion on the subject and constantly states her dislike but didn’t deny the opportunity to try. So with half of her feet out of the door, I pessimistically but hopeful, asked her willingness to try the game. When the game arrived (after it was delayed in post office), I was so excited, the box was huuuge, my biggest game in my collection no doubt about it. Sadly it arrived in bad condition (the box had tears all around the edges). I punched the game together with my wife and my arms felt so tired. There are so many components inside the game.
I immediately jumped into the rulebook, learnt the game and played a campaign with my wife. I was blown away with how awesome it is. There are so many brilliant things in the game, how the combats resolved and the cards played are amazing. At first there are only a handful of characters that can be played, but as you progress through the campaign, you would unlock more new characters, not only with different abilities, but also different play styles. Though it has the same genre with other games of the same category, the game is dice-less, meaning it uses no dice in any part of the game, which commonly used by other games in the genre for combat / battle resolutions, skill checks, etc. It uses interesting deck building (sort of) for the modifier cards as the character progresses. There are lots of things going on within the game and you can say the rules are fiddly, which I think any game couldn’t evade this kind of issue while maintaining interesting and engaging game play. When players choose a scenario within a campaign they will embark to the location from the city of Gloomhaven, which there will be Road event (this could be good or bad) that in a way affecting players condition before the scenario, so there’s the element of surprise.
After that, within the scenario, players and monsters will take turns based on the initiative order decided by the cards they play. Players choose 2 cards for the round to use the top part and bottom part and decide which initiative they use to determine their character activation. Despite the game is a cooperative game, there are secret information within players, this is one of the many reasons why the game is interesting. Players cannot reveal the initiative value they choose to another, only just a hint whether it’s high or small to keep decisions more interesting and have impactful consequences. Without the full information, players’ actions are not entirely effective because the situation changes based on the turn order. Monsters also have initiative that shown as part of its Ai system. When revealing initiative, a card will be drawn from specific deck for each type of monster, this will determine the initiative value of that monster and the action that they will do on their turn. I find the monster Ai to be very clever, every type of monster has different deck, this shows how different they are based on each type characteristic. These situations come into the game more like a puzzle that players must face and solve to complete the scenario.
Battle are amazing, aside from the ability cards that show the base value of the action, players and monster also have a modifier deck specifically designed for that character (monsters use a single modifier deck) which can be modified as the character progressed based on the character sheet. So there’s no way characters have the same deck composition. This is truly amazing because it reflects their behaviors or attack styles. In addition, each character also have personal goal, given from the beginning, that will determine their involvement within the campaign. Once that character complete that goal, that character is retired and unlocks something (events and new characters). Players must stop using that character and choose another character to continue playing. There’s an interesting approach towards the game progression in overall. Players are forced to make changes so that the game is dynamic, not only in term of general campaign but also how each scenario plays out. Characters also advance their levels by spending XP gain from scenarios. Advancing levels does mainly to increase HP and unlocking new ability cards that players can choose to keep. Higher level cards have more powerful abilities but each character has a hand size of ability cards that they can carry on a scenario. So even if they managed to unlock lots of cards, they need to choose which ones work best in a given scenario, which I think it’s very amazing! The hand size also works as timer, since in most scenarios, players will race against time, which are their hand size. Once their hand runs out of cards, they will be exhausted and out of the scenario. Luckily in this game, you can still complete the scenario even there’s one or more player eliminated (dying or exhausted) as long as one character still remain to complete.
I must admit, there are many amazing things about the game and the easiest way to do that is to sit down with me and let me walk you through all of it by playing the game. But the game also has its own downsides. I own the first edition and though the game is so freaking amazing, I am kinda disappointed by the weaknesses or errors happened during the first edition. The box is too thin to handle the component weigh, but I do plan to get a custom box made for this game, still waiting for possible expansions. Also the actual HP and XP trackers failed to work, so I need to get Dial tracker add-ons for it. You need to commit time and space and gaming partner to finish the whole campaign. The time it takes to set up and tear down the game is equal to play a session of medium Euro game (lol). And to end this, it beats Eclipse as my number one game of all time.
We start with Flatline from Renegade Games Studio. It’s a real-time cooperative dice rolling game with the same setting of FUSE, the sequel from the same game designer, Kane Klenko. It still involves the same dice rolling mechanic as FUSE, but different implementation. In FUSE, players constantly roll their dice until they found the side they’re looking for, but in Flatline, players only roll their dice one time in each round and then allocate them to different places. At first I wasn’t really interested on the game, mainly due to its cooperative genre. But of course when I checked upon the game components, the first thing that caught my attention were the dice. No doubt the dice looked very attractive, colorful custom dice and they’re plenty. I love it, always a sucker for dice fest (especially customized). So I decided to get it and my first play was a blast (even it’s only a 2-player game). I was pessimist with the tension of the game play regarding players assign dice to many different places within a certain time limit. Before playing the game I thought it’s not a big deal and we can deal with it pretty easily, oh boy I was wrong. Okay player count does matter, with more players the game feels more chaotic because the communication between players just clash into each other. It’s fun, full of tension, lots of shouting, frustrations and totally freeze your brain from thinking straight.