2017 Top 25 5-1 (Brandon Kempf)
5. Whistle Stop(3 plays) - Around here we still love, Ticket to Ride and we still love Carcassonne as well. So when a game comes along that reminds us of both a bit, it really has an unfair advantage and also some may say, unfair expectations. Rarely does a game live up to them the way that Whistle Stop does. In reality, the only thing similar to Ticket to Ride here is the fact that it is trains and you are building train routes, and the only thing similar to Carcassonne is that you are laying tiles to build out the train network. Everything else kind of diverges away from those two. Whistle Stop is ultimately a race, it’s a race to get your trains across the map to the west in the most efficient way possible, while collecting resources and churning those resources into victory points. Along the way you will have some very rudimentary stock play, you have some really fun resource management, some fun player powers, if you pick them up, and ultimately a really good time. Personally, I love the color choices, but I can see how others might have some issues with them, but that’s about the only issue I can find at the moment.
4. Memoarrr!(8 plays) - The silliest of the games on this list and I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that Memoarrr! ended up this high on the list, but I can’t deny the joy and downright competitiveness that this game has brought to the table. How a game, that is at its core “just a” simple little memory game, makes people so ultra competitive is absolutely boggling to watch. For more on how to play this one, check out my review, otherwise I will just ramble on about how much fun I’ve had and you won’t understand what they heck I am talking about. I don’t know about North American distribution on this one, but it is available via Amazon.de for a reasonable amount. Also, could this surprise us and be an SDJ nominee? I don’t know, I think it is almost too light for the SDJ but lacking the toy factor to get a Kinder nomination, so who knows. It deserves either one.
3. Sentient(4 plays) - So, the fifth Renegade Games title on the list and my favorite one from 2017. At its essence, Sentient is really just a puzzle that you have to figure out each round, a puzzle that changes each round due to the dice. You have roll those dice at the beginning of each round and then you have cards that you will buy to place in your tableau that will adjust those dice to the left and right of that card, hopefully they will adjust in the way that you need. It really shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it’s pretty flawless from what I can tell in my handful of plays. There is the puzzle to solve, there is some area majority bonuses as well, all in all a really well done game from J. Alex Kevern and Renegade Games. I’ve gotten over the cost of this one, although when I first purchased it, that was a bitter pill for me to swallow. I still think that’s what is hurting this one, more so than game play, because it’s good, damn good.
2. Azul(16 plays) - If you listen to the podcast, and if you follow me on Twitter, Reddit or Board Game Geek, you know how I feel about Azul. Which is why I am surprised that it sits at number 2 instead of number 1. Michael Kiesling has so many wonderful designs out there for us to play, it was weird for me to see most everyone falling in love with one of his designs for the first time, and I’m hopeful that Heaven & Ale will elicit the same feelings. In this, the year of the puzzle game 2017, this was the epitome of that puzzle. A wonderfully interactive set collecting, tile laying puzzle. The game would have been fantastic with cardboard, but Plan B knocked this one out of the park with the production, with those tiles that may look like Starbursts, but in reality are a wonderful abstraction of actual tiles. I absolutely love this game, even if I do only win it 25% of the time. Of note, we do play with the Joker Tiles about every other play, and we have still never played with the “free for all” side of the player boards, we’ve felt no need to even try those yet. This will be nominated for SDJ if the distrubution is out there and I believe that it is, given the fact that Plan B owns Eggertspiele now.
1. Majesty For the Realm(16 plays) - Which brings us to this, the surprise number one game for 2017. I’ve got a full review for this coming, and I wanted to have that full review up before Z-Man finally got it here in the US, but honestly, I’ve been having too much fun playing it, to write about it. This is Marc André’s follow up to Splendor, we’re going to forget about Barony here. I liked Splendor for about 10 plays, after that, I grew very tired of it. So I didn’t go into this expecting world shattering fun, but honestly, Majesty hasn’t been too far off. In all, this is a simple card drafting/set collection game where each card you bring into your Realm, activates the power of the building that they work in to make money, and the object of the game is to be the Realm with the most coins at the end. You draft cards(workers) from the public offer by paying for them in that Smallworld/Century Spice Road/Firenze method where you pay something to each card to the right of the card that you want. It works wonderfully and Majesty plays like a well oiled machine. To give a bit more variability, each card in your realm has an A side and a B side. The sides offer different powers and different ways to get more money, they even suggest that it’s possible to mix and match the A & B sides, but we haven’t even tried it that way. I think part of the joy I’ve had with Majesty is trying to combat what some perceive as a soldier strategy, which while powerful, it most certainly can be overcome and how each game plays will also differ based on how the cards come out. Not every card is in every game, especially in the lower player counts where you only use 6 or 14 of the first era cards. Every game plays just a bit different. The only flaw we can think of is that the game for some reason didn’t come with any 5 denomination chips, you have 1s, 2s, 10s, 50s & 100s. So you will constantly be making change, which, now that I mention it, may be part of the fun as well. This could be, and I stress could be, a wonderful expanding game, as evidenced by the extra space in the box and some playtesters reporting on some buildings that they played that were not included in the base game.
So as you can kind of tell, 2017 was the year that I re-discovered the joy that is family style/gateway gaming. I played a few heavier titles this year, but ultimately, I found my time around the table being spent playing more of these 30 minute to 1 hour games that pack an awful lot of punch into a shorter play time. We’ll also notice that only 5 of these titles were Kickstarter games, and only 3 of those were games that I myself backed on Kickstarter. This is a pattern that I’ve seen coming over the past couple years. While I think there are a lot of fantastic games coming via crowdfunding, I still think that the care that some, and I stress some, not all, retail publishers take makes them stand taller. There are Kickstarter companies that do the same thing, but I think most are kind of rushed, just due to the nature of crowdfunding.
A few stats for 2017 before I end this.
2017 published titles played - 74
Total plays of 2017 published titles - 258
Different titles played in 2017 - 198
Most plays - Werewords(32)
The people I played most with(in order) - Kerensa, Gabby, Chris, Brad, Chris M., Kate, John & AnnaBeth
I played 10 Games, at least 10 times
I played 26 Games, at least 5 times
Time spent playing The Colonists - 22 hours(3 games)
I am really looking forward to 2018. I think there are a lot of great games coming and more importantly I think that there are a lot of great games already here.