Top 50 Games of 2017 (30-21)

norerolls top 50 2017

Welcome to this year’s top 50 games list in which I list my personal top 50 games at this point in time.  My choices are not limited to games from this calendar year, but instead represent my current thoughts on the top 50 games out there.  Next year, some of the games featured may move up and down as my opinions change and I get the chance to play more games or revisit old favourites.

This series will comprise 5 posts, each covering 10 games as we work down from number 50 to number 1.  We’ve already covered games 50 to 31 in part 1 and part 2, so let’s get down to business with games 30 through 21!

30: Android: Netrunner


Previous Position: 17 (-13)

Year: 2012

Designers: Richard Garfield, Lukas Litzsinger

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2 players in ~45 minutes

Oh, Android: Netrunner, how conflicted I feel.  First of all, it must be said, the game is fantastic.  It’s a perfect example of an asymmetrical card game, as both players are essentially playing completely different games and having very different experiences.  One is building and protecting server to push their agendas, whilst the other is probing and attacking those servers to undermine those agendas.  It works well and, personally, I prefer the former role, rather than the latter.  The game is not the easiest to pick up, but it’s worth the effort as it is just fantastic.

Then there’s the constant march of new content.  That’s great for those who are playing competitively, but when it comes to the pack cycles, I’m done.  I’m just done.  I may pick up the boxed releases, as these seem a more focused approach to casual collecting and playing, but I’m done with the LCG format that I once lauded as a good system.  If I were playing regularly with a competitive group, I’d be all over it, but casual, infrequent play, it’s just not worth it.  Still, great game!

29: Discworld: Ankh Morpork


Previous Position: 32 (+3)

Year: 2011

Designer: Martin Wallace

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~60 minutes

One of the few games from last year’s list that has seen an improvement in position, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork fills a quite unique niche in my collection.  It’s the only area control game I own that does not rely on combat mechanisms to gain or maintain control.

The game doesn’t need a deep knowledge of the Discworld to be enjoyed, but fans of the book series will definitely get more out of this game as it is packed with references to the novels.  I mean, it’s fun to match up characters and their personalities and stories to the icons on their cards, nodding as you see that the designer has put some thought into ensuring that the function of each card matches the character depicted.  The attention to detail is a big plus for this game, and without some knowledge of the series you would miss out on this.

The game is now out of print and is selling for ridiculous prices, but if you do see a cheap copy floating around, I’d really recommend picking it up.

28: Pandemic


Previous Position: 25 (-3)

Year: 2008

Designer: Matt Leacock

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~45 minutes

This is the default cooperative game, and it seems to have really taken off in the past few years, with many expansions, spin-offs and alternative versions.  The expansions add twists to the original game, but there are also region-specific versions, such as Pandemic: Iberia and spin-offs such as a Cthulhu mythos version.  There is also a legacy version, where your performance from game to game has a lasting impact on the board.  The only version I have other than the original is Pandemic Legacy, but this has yet to be opened, so this entry is based on the original Pandemic.

Despite being almost 10 years old, Pandemic isn’t really showing its age.  The current edition looks beautiful and delivers a great, if sometimes tense, cooperative experience.  As with any cooperative game, alpha gamer complex can be a problem, but that’s really down to your group to police.  The ability to vary difficulty level be including or not including epidemic cards in the deck helps keep the level of challenger appropriate, and the various player powers means that each person can make their own unique contribution.

As I mentioned earlier, I feel that I may be going off co-op games a bit, but Pandemic will always have a place on my shelf and it’s largely maintained its place on this list, moving down only a couple of spaces since last year.

27: Descent: Journeys in the Dark


Previous Position: 23 (-4)

Year: 2012

Designers: Daniel Clark, Corey Konieczka, Adam Sadler, Kevin Wilson

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-5 players in ~120 minutes

Earlier in this list, I wrote about a game called Super Dungeon Explore.  Really, Descent is similar to that game in many ways.  The basic processes are broadly the same and the “unique” dice are very similar.  Like, really similar.  Like, nearly the same.  What sets these games apart is that Descent uses a set of modular dungeon tiles to create different maps to facilitate different missions.  The aesthetic is also different, with Descent using a traditional fantasy aesthetic that is probably broader in appeal than the chibi style of Super Dungeon Explore.

Descent is a great dungeon crawl that has a ton of expansions to add new playable characters, monsters, dungeon tiles, scenarios and more.  This is probably the best pure dungeon crawl in my collection at the moment.  We’ll see how it does next year, once my copy of Gloomhaven arrives…

26: Battlestar Galactica


Previous Position: 18 (-8)

Year: 2008

Designer: Corey Konieczka

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 3-6 players in ~120-240 minutes

This is a game that probably needs a retheme.  I love Battlestar Galactica, both in board game and TV formats.  Hell, I even liked Caprica.  The thing is, the show ended in 2009.  The IP is stagnating and although the show is still really good, it’s not one that I’m aware of young people seeking out.  Basically, the further we get from 2009, the less relevant the IP that is supposed to be a major selling point for the game.

That said, the game is good – great, even.  The core of it is a cooperative game with a hidden traitor where players work together to protect the ship, protect the fleet, defeat the enemies (Cylons) and eventually make that final jump that will take their ship, their fleet, their civilisation home.  It’s about working together and managing resources, but with the knowledge that you are probably being undermined by a spy on the ship.

The game works well, but it needs a retheme.  I’ve been told that New Angeles, based on the Android IP, reimplements many of the best ideas from Battlestar Galactica, so I hope to play that in the coming year to see if it’s a worthy successor.

25: King of Tokyo


Previous Position: 19 (-6)

Year: 2011

Designer: Richard Garfield

Publisher: Iello

Plays: 2-6 players in ~30 minutes

King of Tokyo is Yahtzee with monsters (Kaiju).  It’s really that simple.  It works well because there’s so little to it, but what is there is so well themed.  The Power Up expansion is great because it takes the functionally identical monsters and gives them a unique deck of powers to set them apart.  Great for kids and can be cutthroat with groups of experienced gamers.  The biggest difference between these two groups is that the latter spends a lot more time focused on the upgrade cards.  That’s not a problem or a criticism, but just an observation.

The sequel to this game, King of New York, does not make the list this year.  I initially considered lumping the two together, but I just don’t like King of New York as much.  It’s a good game, but it adds a lot of extra stuff and a little extra complexity to the formula.  It succeeds in making all of the dice results interesting, but it’s just not as elegant as the original King of Tokyo.

24: XCOM: The Board Game


Previous Position: New to the list!

Year: 2015

Designer: Eric M. Lang

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~90 minutes

I like games which give each player a really unique experience, and XCOM delivers on this in spades.  Each player takes on a different role within the base, managing research, managing troops on missions, taking command of communications and satellites or providing logistical support.  This means that each player is having a completely different game, which I love.

The game is also guided by an app, which barks out order and plays the opposing forces.  This is the first game I’m aware of where this was done well, and FFG has produced a few really good ones since.  It maintains the pace of the game and keeps things very tense and harried.  I expected to dislike the app, perhaps from a slightly snobbish point of view, but I ended up liking it and it’s opened my mind to the concept as a whole.

23: Forbidden Stars


Previous Position: 13 (-10)

Year: 2015

Designers: Samuel Bailey, James Kniffen, Corey Konieczka

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~120 to 180 minutes

Taking elements from the Starcraft board game, Forbidden Stars is a space strategy game based on the Warhammer 40,000 IP.  The games has stuff I really like and some stuff I really don’t.  The combat is one of those areas I dislike.  It is not very intuitive and it can drag a bit, especially in comparison to how smooth and easy the rest of the game is.

The order system is my favourite thing in this game.  Each tile consists of four squares and has a space in the middle for orders.  Players take it in turns to place 4 orders onto these spaces.  They are then resolved.  Because the orders are stacked on the spaces, they are resolved in reverse order, as the first order placed will be on the bottom of the pile, with subsequent orders stacked on top and therefore being resolved first.  That was badly worded, but I’m struggling to word it better.

This opens up a lot of potential strategy in how orders are placed, as suddenly you are not only trying to optimise your own play, but you are also trying to ensure your orders are played at a good time.  You might also try to use your orders to disrupt another player’s game by delaying their orders from being executed by leaving yours on top for as long as possible.  This works really well and is the highlight of the game for me.

The minis are cool too, though!

22: Blood Bowl


Previous Position: 14 (-8)

Year: 1986

Designer: Jervis Johnson

Publisher: Games Workshop

Plays: 2 players in ~180 minutes

It’s great that Games Workshop has brought Blood Bowl back, and the new set and new models are all fantastic.  I’ve not gotten around to painting any of the new miniatures yet, but I’m still having a good time with my Pro Elf team:

bb elves

It’s nice that they didn’t make any real changes to the rules and it’s still the game we all love.  I’ve played a few games on the new board, and a huge amount on my old ones.  A couple of year ago, I got three teams painted up, which is great as my old models were less than acceptable in terms of painting.  I now have Elves, Skaven and Dwarfs painted up and I need to start on the new models.

Putting nostalgia aside and looking at the game objectively, Blood Bowl is a bit dated and can be a little clunky in places, but it’s still very fun and madcap.  It’s best played with a sense of recklessness and disregard for the wellbeing of your players.  I’m sure you could make some sort of link to real American Football there, but I’m not a sports guy.

The game is fun, works really well as a league/campaign and is stuffed full of nostalgia for those who grew up with GW.  It takes a little longer to play that it probably should and can be a bit frustrating when a match snowballs in favour of your opponent.

21: Dread


Previous Position: 16 (-5)

Year: 2004

Designers:  Nathaniel Barmore, Epidiah Ravachol

Publisher: The Impossible Dream

Plays: 3-6 players for, like, however long it takes. RPGs, yo!

As you’ll see elsewhere on the list, I like RPGs which are light on rules.  I feel that too many rules get in the way of the natural flow of collaborative storytelling and make for a less entertaining game.  Dread uses a Jenga tower in place of dice and has no numerical stats for characters.  It is intended to be used for horror games, and this comes across really well as the Jenga tower helps to build tension.  Early ability checks are passed easily, but you know that the group is heading towards the point where the tower will fall and a player character will die.

I’ve played this a couple of time and I love it to bits.  It’s quite situational and is not suited to campaigns at all, but for one-shots, it’s fantastic.

See you next time for part 4, featuring games 20-11


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