29th Dec2017

Matt’s Top 10 Board Games of 2017

by Matthew Smail

2017-top-10-bgames

2017 has been a big year for not only board games, but also for Nerdly’s coverage of them – we expanded our remit to cover as many games as we can, and thanks to the addition of Board Games Editor Matt we’ve done just that! With that in mind, here’s his rundown of the Top 10 board games we’ve checked out in 2017 and some we hope to review in 2018…

10 – Star Wars Rebellion

2017 has been a big year for Star Wars, thanks largely to a combination of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, but also because of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II and a whole raft of board games and other merchandise. Whilst Star Wars Rebellion was actually released in 2016, it has experienced something of a slow burn in terms of popularity, thanks largely to the way that it allows players to create their own Star Wars story on a grand scale, within the existing structure of the Star Wars canon. A two player strategy game played over an hour or two, Rebellion has the Rebel player hiding their base on one of the many systems in the Star Wars universe whilst the Empire moves powerful fleets around in order to find it and put an end to the

9 – Twilight Imperium IV

2017 marked the release of the long awaited fourth iteration of Twilight Imperium, perhaps the most famous (and notoriously long) space opera ever built from cardboard and plastic. With literally tens of playable races to choose from and a number of minor tweaks to the game itself, plus lots of content from the expansions that accompanied Twilight Imperium III, there is no doubt that Twilight Imperium IV represents considerable value. Twilight Imperium IV is an explore, expand, exploit and exterminate (4X) game that allows players to build a modular, semi-randomised galaxy that must be dominated through combat, diplomacy, deception and technological supremacy. Supporting up to six players and lasting for the best part of a full day on most occasions, Twilight Imperium IV won’t be for everyone, but it is nonetheless one of the most deeply rewarding modern board games available.

8 – Century: Spice Road

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Plan B Games have presented quite the surprise package this year, with very different but equally compelling abstract hits in the form of Century: Spice Road and Azul. Whilst I love both of these games, the one that has become a firm favorite both at home and across all of the other groups I play with is undoubtedly Century. A game of trading spices, Century: Spice Road has players drafting cards and then playing them to draw spices and trade them up. With their caravan stocked with relevant spices, players then use their goods to fulfill contracts, which in turn become victory points. Century is clean, simple and cost effective, allowing players of all ages and abilities to get involved.

You can find our detailed review of Century: Spice Road here.

7 – The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire

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Whilst I flippantly likened The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire to Monopoly in my original review, I do genuinely believe that the game has the mainstream appeal of the money-grabbing classic, whilst at the same time, it features a number of interesting systems and features for the modern gamer. Up to five players each act as one of the mafia families depicted in the original movie, with the aim of the game being to shakedown business in order to gain as much money as possible, which must then be placed in a metal suitcase that denotes the players privately held stash. A number of interesting and thematic mechanics exist within the game to keep things interesting, making it one of my favorite games to play with casual gaming friends and family.

You can find our detailed review of The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire here.

6 – Dark Souls: The Board Game

dark-souls-box

Fans of the popular FROM Software videogame rejoiced in 2016 when the Kickstarter for Dark Souls: The Board Game went live. Almost a year later and the full retail release was launched, allowing everyone to experience Steamforged Games physical interpretation of this iconic series. Thankfully, it’s a fantastic adaptation that captures the looping gameplay, stiff challenge and imaginative boss design of the video game series, whilst also creating a similar level of tension. Dark Souls: The Board Game features some of the most impressive miniatures I’ve ever seen in a game, which also gives it tremendous board presence.

You can find our detailed review of Dark Souls here.

5 – Civilization: A New Dawn

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Marking our final board game review of 2017, Civilization: A New Dawn offers a 4X strategy experience that is a complete contrast to Twilight Imperium IV. Firstly, it is set on terrestrial Earth rather than in space, but it also plays at a much faster rate, with four player games clocking in at somewhere between sixty and ninety minutes. A New Dawn uses a Focus Bar system that keeps turns quick and simple, alongside a modular, semi-random board and a simple visual representation of expanding nations. The lack of expensive miniatures allows simplified combat and to keep the cost low, which makes Civilization: A New Dawn a very strong choice for fans of the videogame or historical and exploration themes in general.

You can find our detailed review of Civilization: A New Dawn here.

4 – Pandemic Legacy Season 2

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Whilst perhaps not as well regarded as Season 1, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 remains one of the most compelling gaming experiences of the year. In Season 2, the players learn that the world as we know it has ended, thanks to the failure of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC’s) to eradicate the four viruses during Season 1. A legacy game that takes place over a single in game year and offers around twelve to fifteen games based on an average group, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 offers some of the most interesting legacy aspects seen in the genre so far, whilst changing the base Pandemic mechanic sufficiently that players will feel as if they are having a new and different experience.

You can find our detailed review of Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 here.

3 – Terraforming Mars

A euro style game that blends the cooperative goal of making Mars into a habitable planet with the competitive idea of being the most successful corporation to do so, Terraforming Mars has been a runaway success during 2017. Players take turns to undertake projects which in turn raise the temperate, the oxygen level and the sea level towards their ultimate goal. Resources must be produced and spent in order to do so, and the game presents players with the constant challenge of how to score the most points for themselves whilst also considering how positive actions they take might offer opportunities to their opponents. A fairly heavy game, Terraforming Mars succeeds because of the way it links mechanics and theme together in a superb way.

2 – Near and Far

A storytelling game that offers players several ways to play and even more ways to score points that delivers fast, enjoyable fun for the whole family, Near and Far is easily the best all rounder that I’ve played this year. For those who want a longer game, the campaign mode has you covered and side stories enable further exposition. Alternatively, single games offer a more instantaneous fix of mining, treasure hunting, bandit stomping and high adventure. Playing Near and Far is always a pleasure thanks largely to a generous box full of beautiful pieces and some of the game even acts as a mini expansion for sister game Above and Below.

1 – Gloomhaven

Perhaps the most generous box of board game pieces ever assembled, Gloomhaven is the dungeon crawler that sets out to do it all and, in almost every regard, succeeds. It features an almost unlimited number of possible scenarios scattered across a highly variable campaign that is (for all practical reasons) infinitely different from one player to the next. Aside from the generous components and the superbly crafted structure, Gloomhaven also offers unique and interesting mechanics. Combat, for example, is handled by a deck of cards that reduces in size as characters fatigue, whilst elsewhere when a character achieves his or her objective, they may retire and be removed from the game, only to return as an NPC in later missions. Whilst certainly a heavy game which demands a huge investment of time from players, Gloomhaven has changed the game (pardon the pun) and remains a prime example of how far board games have come in a very short space of time.

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