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Top 50 Games of 2017 (20-11)

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 had part 1, part 2 and part 3, so on we press with part 4, covering games 20 through 11…

20: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)

twilight-imperium-3

Previous Position: 4 (-16)

Year: 2005

Designer: Christian T. Petersen

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-6 players (more with expansions) in ~180 to 240 minutes

I know fourth edition is out, but it’s third edition that I own.  The reason I’ve not updated to the latest edition is one of ratios.  Namely, the cost vs. likelihood of getting this onto the table.  The game itself is fantastic and although it appears daunting, it’s actually not too bad.  It really looks worse than it is from a logistical standpoint.

That said, I’ve not managed to get Twilight Imperium onto the table this year at all, but I do remain hopeful.  The game is good.  It’s deep, and it’s epic, and it’s intriguing, but there’s no denying that the size that so defines the game can be a negative factor, as well as a positive.

Once you’re over the hurdle of getting enough people to commit to enough time, and have bought a table big enough for the game, the hard work is over and you can sit and enjoy a really good experience.  The game is sprawling and there are so many different routes you can take to success that it allows you to really be creative, rather than going through the motions of following a specfic ‘correct’ and ‘optimal’ course.  This is a crucial measure of a good game.  I just wish I could play it more often.

19: The Resistance

TheResistanceThirdEdition

Previous Position: 20 (+1)

Year: 2009

Designer: Don Eskridge

Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards

Plays: 5-10 players in ~30 minutes

What a simple game!  Really, it’s just a few coloured cards to show faction, a handful of tokens to indicate current player, mission progress and membership of a mission team and a pair of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ chits for each player.  But with these simple components, Indie Boards & Cards have created a fascinating little social deduction game.

This is a real entry-level game that is easy to pick up and yet, The Resistance has had real staying power from me.  It’s moved negligibly up my list this year, but the real takeaway is that it’s not slipped, even as new games have come along.  It’s very dependent on the group you play with, but each group will also give you a very different experience.  I suppose this means you could think of new players as expansions, and I’m fine with that.

18: A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)

game-of-thrones-board-game

Previous Position: 10 (-8)

Year: 2011

Designer: Christian T. Petersen

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

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

Has anyone else had real A Game of Thrones fatigue?  I mean, it’s everywhere now and although I enjoy the show, the books, this game, the card game and the tile collection game, I’m just a bit burnt out on dragons and black leather and dire wolves and semi-pornographic descriptions of chicken legs and ale.  Maybe it’s just me.

The game is really good, though.  It’s an area control game where the goal is to take over castles and keeps, allowing you to raise armies and continue your conquest of further castles and further keeps.  The game also features resource management, as you’re limited in how many armies you can muster and must carefully consider how to use the tokens generated by the land you control.  Your order tokens are also quite limited, forcing you to take a variety of different actions in your turn.

This is another game where the group you play with will change your experience considerably.  Some groups will be quiet and focused, whilst others will be wheeling and dealing, offering and break alliances left, right and centre.  Try it with a few different groups and see what sort of approach you want.  Also make sure to try out different factions, as starting location makes a big difference to how you play.  My favourite faction to play as would definitely be the Baratheons.

17: Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries

ttr scand

Previous Position: 11 (-6)

Year: 2004

Designer: Alan R. Moon

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Plays: 2-3 players (2-5 in standard Ticket to Ride) in ~30 to 60 minutes

Really, I’m including all version of Ticket to Ride in this entry, but this is the edition I’ve been playing the most this year.  Ticket to Ride is often seen as the standard gateway game, and it really is a fantastic set collection game.  It’s simple and accessible but also really engaging.  The fact that each edition is so beautiful is a big factor in my love for this series.  Heck, I now own 5 boxes of this and am keen to pick up a few more of the maps.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries uses most of the rules introduced in Ticket to Ride: Europe, except for the use of stations.  The TTR: Europe rules add a little more complexity on top of the original Ticket to Ride rules.  Usually, as with Carcassonne and Catan, I feel that such additions are unnecessary and take away from the elegance of the original design, but in this case the addition of tunnels and ferries works really well and genuinely adds to the game.

Apart from miniature wargames and certain collections of RPG books, this is the game I probably own the most of, which should tell you that I hold this series in very high regard.

16: Warhammer: Age of Sigmar

AoS Main Book EPUB Tablet Cover

Previous Position: New to the list

Year: 2015

Designer: Credited to Games Workshop

Publisher: Games Workshop

Plays: 2 players in ~40 to 180 minutes

In 2015 Games Workshop released their new edition or Warhammer that completely did away with their old background and with ranked up units.  The game was completely different from the ground up.  It also included rules where you were given bonuses for putting on accents, dancing, shouting things out and so on.  This was offputting on a number of different levels.  Not only was the overall change quite jarring, but longtime fans were genuinely mourning the death of the Old World.  Plus the dancing rules were infuriatingly stupid and were a massive lapse of judgement from Games Workshop.  I, like many, was not interested.  I was happy with Malifaux and other games, anyway.

Cut to summer 2016 and the General’s Handbook was released.  This gave us the matched play options that Age of Sigmar had been missing, giving points values for each unit and turning it into a proper, structured miniature war game.  Great!  It was early 2017 that I actually caught up with this, putting together a little army to use at a club slow grow league:

tzeentch1

It was a lot of ufn to get a new army painted up and to be back into Warhammer.  The new game ran very smoothly and I was very impressed.  This ties in with a big revitalisation of Games Workshop and I’m delighted that the cool company I know from my childhood seems to be coming back.  Unfortunately, I still have a ridiculous amount of Skaven to finish off…

15: Cosmic Encounter

cosmic-encounter

Previous Position: 5 (-10)

Year: 2008

Designer: Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Bill Norton, Peter Olotka, Kevin Wilson

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 3-5 players (more with expansions) in ~60 to 120 minutes

Cosmic Encounter is great but, for me, suffers from an interesting and perhaps unfair problem.  I love the expansions to this game as they add yet more cool alien powers and other features, building up more variety and options within the box.  Thing is, as all of these extra cards and tokens are added to the box, it becomes all the more daunting to actually break out and play.  There’s just so much in there, and it does make it harder to sort through on the table when prepping a game.

This might be unfair, as the game works well with just the core box and the expansions, although cool, are not really needed.  At heart, Cosmic Encounter is a negotiation game with a very simple set of rules.  Each of the playable alien races break these rules and specific and unique ways.  These powers are now always balanced, but that’s ok, as player reaction, negotiation and cooperation (or not) are the checks against this imbalance.  If you are dominating with your specific alien power, expect the other players to team up against you.  It works well, especially after each player has already played the game at least once and generally knows how the whole thing works.

The game has fallen by 10 places since last year’s list, but I think a big chunk of that is from burn out.  I played this game a lot in 2015 and 2016 and have moved onto other games this year.  I still love Cosmic Encounter and will keep playing it, but there are other games I have enjoyed more this year, and others I would still seek to play before this one – as good as it may be.

14: Codenames

codenames

Previous Position: 9 (-5)

Year: 2015

Designer: Vlaada Chvátil

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Plays: 2-8 Players (ideally 4) in ~15 minutes

Enjoyable and occasionally infuriating, Codenames is a delightful little game that, like so many of these dinky little boxes, manages to wring a lot of game out of only a few simple components.  Codenames could just as easily be played with some scrap paper and a few different coloured pens.  I have played Codenames this way, but you should still buy it from CGE because Vlaada Chvatil deserves some of your money.  He may well get a lot of your money as more and more editions of this are getting released, with Disney and Marvel versions now out.

The question for me is whether I prefer the regular version of the game or the pictures version.  They’re both good, but are a bit different.  I think that people give a wider variety of clues when looking at a grid of words, and a narrower selection when looking at a grid of pictures.  It’s a bit like how people who enjoy books are often disappointed when their favourite titles are translated into films.  Theatre of the mind’s eye and all that, y’know?

Codenames is another game I can play with any group and have played with a huge variety of groups.  I’m always keen to try this one with new people, as I find it fascinating to watch them come up with clues.  This is a quality it shares with Dixit, and is one that I very much enjoy.

13: Coup

coup

Previous Position: 7 (-6)

Year: 2012

Designer: Rikki Tahta

Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards

Plays: 2-6 players in ~15 minutes

Coup is best.  There is so little to it, and yet the discussion and deliberations it provokes are so satisfying and fun.  So, much like Coup itself, I’m going to keep this pretty minimal.  Yeah.

12: Blood Rage

blood rage

Previous Position: New to the list

Year: 2015

Designers: Eric M. Lang

Publisher: Cool Mini or Not

Plays: 2-4 players in ~60 to 90 minutes

See, if I had done this list in the summer, I reckon this would have made its way into the top 10.  By the summer, I’d had a fair few plays under my belt and was trotting this out onto the table at least once a fortnight.  And then I didn’t.  I cooled on this game relatively quickly, possibly due to early burnout, or frustration with a couple of aspects that put me off.

That seems to be a negative start, but I really rate Blood Rage.  It’s a solid game that I will happily play whenever someone shows the slightest interest in playing it with me.  I like the card drafting (it’s my second favourite game for card drafting) and how you upgrade and improve your clan.  The minis are cool (hah!) and I love how the monsters and neutral monsters work.  It’s a little disappointing, actually, that going for these monsters is rarely the best course of action, but I still find myself going for them as I enjoy it.  And each build is different, depending on how the card drafting goes, so sometimes it works out.  The game is fun, pretty and has entered the list at quite a high position to reflect these qualities.

11: Malifaux (Second Edition)

malifaux-2e-core

Previous Position: 8 (-3)

Year: 2013

Designer: Matt Anderson, Nathan Caroland, Justin Gibbs, Eric Johns, Mack Martin

Publisher: Wyrd

Plays: 2 players in ~90 minutes

It’s great, but a little surprising that we’re 4 years and several books into the second edition of Malifaux and Wyrd haven’t ruined it yet.  That’s not a dig at Wyrd, but look at other games.  Spartan’s various games were ruined by lack of support as they spread their attention over their too-damn-many games.  Warmachine and Hordes were ruined by Privateer Press who then put out a third edition that came pre-ruined and which they are now having to patch up in supplements.  Games Workshop pre-ruined Age of Sigmar and have spent the past year fixing it and getting to a point where I can genuinely call it good.  The fact that Malifaux is still good is really impressive.

And yeah, the game rocks.  The models are fantastic and some of the new ones, such as the Titania box, are really impressive.  The gameplay is really good, too.  The system using cards instead of dice and the ‘cheating’ mechanism represent a breath of fresh air, whilst the dynamically generated scenarios and objectives keep the game varied and, again, fresh.

I just wish I could settle to paint my many, many unpaint Malifaux models.  Self-discipline, man.  I’d love some.

2 thoughts on “Top 50 Games of 2017 (20-11)

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