2017 Top 25 10-6 (Brandon Kempf)
10. NMBR 9(17 plays) - A card and tile version of Tetris. That’s really all that this is, and it works wonderfully. In what seems to be a bit of a pattern, these puzzle-y type games have really hit me kind of hard this year and NMBR 9 was the most puzzle-y of the puzzles. It’s a simple enough game, you have tiles of numbers 0 thru 9 times two and you have cards for 0 thru 9 times two. On a turn someone draws a card and you place that tile on the table, the rest of the game goes the same, one card, matching tile. The tiles themselves are not whole and are shaped, much like Tetris pieces, and they fit in different ways. You are trying to get the puzzle built as high as you can. Only rules are, when you build on top of other tiles, a tile has to be on top of two different tiles below it and you can’t build over blank spots. Base level is worth nothing, next level up each tile is worth face value, next level 2 times face value and so on. After you place all 20 tiles, points are tallied up and the highest score wins. One of the first things I asked when playing NMBR 9 is what prevents me from doing the exact same thing that you do, or anyone else playing does. The reply, “Well, I wouldn’t play with you then”. That’s an old Sid Sackson quote, or so I’ve heard. Someone should have created this game ages ago, but they didn’t and Peter Wichmann did in 2017.
9. WereWords(32 plays) - I don’t think I’ve ever had a game get over 30 plays as fast as WereWords did. It hit here at the end of June, and by Mid-July we had these 32 plays in. Set in the One Night Ultimate Werewolf world, this 20 questions style game where you are trying to guess a word that only certain people will know. The brilliance of this is in the app that runs the game much like One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It lets you pick the word and it acts as the moderator through the game, letting the players concentrate on trying to figure out the word and trying to figure out which of the other players are werewolves because that’s what the Villagers want to do, you want to find the Werewolves who also know the word, but they don’t want to give it away. A wonderful twist on an old favorite with a new, modern twist.
8. Codenames Duet(12 plays) - Take Codenames and twist it and contort it until you have a two player cooperative version, who would have thought that it would work? Some have just called it a variant of Codenames and I can see this, but honestly, Codenames Duet has become our go to Codenames, because it stands up so well on it’s own. It gets rid of some of the chaos of the original by shrinking down the player count, and gives it a more personal feel as it is you and your partner vs the game. Codenames Duet can be played with more people than 2 and it still plays as a wonderful cooperative experience.
7. Downforce(6 plays) - So the second Restoration Games title here is the wonderful auction, gambling and race title, Downforce. This one is not one of Kerensa’s favorites, I’ve yet to find a racing game that she likes, but Downforce is absolutely wonderful. From the auction where you buy your, cars to start the game, to the racing which is fast moving and really well done and then the gambling that happens three times a race. When a player passes a yellow line everyone gets to bet on who they think is going to win the race. Finish the race, winnings are added up, both for race finishes and for betting, subtract the amount you spent on your race team and the winner is the one with the most money. Races are tight and fast and while I know that some people complain that the track is prone to bottlenecking in some of the turns, that’s part of the joy of racing. You have to plan your attack well and just realize that others have some say in where you end up on the track due to everyone moving everyone else’s cars. The fantastic table presence really helps as well as it just looks like a fun racing game.
6. Topiary(6 plays) - The newest game on the list and if I am being completely honest here, possibly my biggest surprise, a wonderful, wonderful surprise. I have a review coming for this in the next couple weeks, but needless to say if you see it at #6, you know that I really liked it. It’s a simple premise, you have a 5x5 board of tiles facedown, except the one in the middle and you are placing visitors to this Topiary Garden around the outside, either in straight lines down the tiles or diagonally. The visitors at the end are going to score points based on how many Topiaries they can see from their viewpoint. The Topiaries vary in size from 1-5 and so in order to view them your meeple will try to arrange the tiles in ascending order. When you place one visitor, you pick up one tile in that row and look at it and replace it either with the one you just picked up or one of the three in your hand, face up to the board. Easy to teach, fun to play and it really enables the players to be as interactive with each other as they are comfortable with. You can really throw a wrench into a visitor’s view if you want to. Kudos to Renegade Games for picking up this wonderful little game that easily could have been missed, and kudos to Fever Games for originally publishing it. Danny Devine has designed a wonderful little game here that brings me back to one of my 2015 favorites, Arboretum.