Have you missed us? Cause we’ve sure missed you! We’ve been thinking hard about the games we’ve been playing and have finally come up with our Top 5 Games of 2017! I know you’ve been waiting for this all year.
As we individually rank our top 5 games of 2017, here are some criteria we both followed:
1. The game was released in 2017. This is according to BGG stats on release date, so we’re relying on their accuracy. (That means, please don’t blame us if we mess up!)
2. We’ve played this game in 2017 (with a few minor exceptions where we played the game in 2018 as well). This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of great games released in 2017 that we unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to play. So if your favorite from 2017 isn’t on here, it may be because we haven’t played it yet.
From there, we created our own criteria on how we ranked our games. We look forward to hearing your comments on our top games of 2017, and want to know what was on your top list of last year?
AMBER’S DICLAIMER: Much like last year, I had a VERY hard time trying to decide what games were my top 5 from 2017. I won’t explain all the painful details, but please know that I’m not saying these are the GREATEST OF ALL TIME GAMES OF 2017, but the ones I liked the most. Plus, you can look forward to me tearing this list apart at the end of the year!
Amber’s Honorable Mentions: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 & Charterstone
I know, I know, there are TWO honorable mentions?! These games I really liked but just didn’t quite make the cut. PL: Season 2 just didn’t hype me up quite like Season 1 did (or some of the other games on this list, as a matter of fact). We haven’t had a chance to play as much Charterstone as I’d like as it was released late in the year and I had very important Arkham Horror LCG games to finish, thank you very much. So there’s the quick and dirty of it.
Ethan’s Honorable Mention: Werewords
I wanted to call this game out specifically, because in just one year, it managed to become my most played game over the three years that I’ve been logging my plays. It certainly helped that games play in 5-10 minutes, but I think it’s pretty telling to how much fun a game is that when we start playing, we end up playing it 10 or more times in a row. I even got to introduce it to some of my non-gamer family over Christmas, and while they initially had some apprehension towards the different hidden roles, after just one game they caught on and also wanted to play it another half dozen times! So Werewords gets an honorable mention for how easy it is to play as a quick and fun word game.
Amber’s #5: Unlock Series
Escape Room in a Box type games were VERY popular in our household this year (as you can see from this blog post) and the Unlock Series were no exception. I loved these games because they’re super accessible and allow gamers of all different types to play. Unlike other Escape Room board games, you do not destroy any components in these games, so when you are finish they are easily passed on to a friend so that they can enjoy it as well. The only downfall to these games is that once you’ve played it, you cannot play it again (unless you have a REALLY terrible memory), which puts it down a few spots on my list.
Ethan’s #5: Lisboa
Lisboa is a heavy Euro game from Vital Lacerda, who is no stranger to heavy Euro games (Co2, The Gallerist, Kanban). This game takes place in Lisbon after it was hit by an earthquake, flood, and fires, all in a relatively short period of time. Players are competing to clean up and rebuild the city, currying favor along the way with the king and other nobles. As is the case with a lot of great heavy games, the actions in Lisboa are deceptively simple — on your turn you play a card from your hand and use it to take one of the actions associated with the King, Marquis, or Prime Minister. However, there is a lot of complexity outside of that action that makes it a brain burner. My favorite part is that instead of a player aid, each player gets a small booklet describing the actions and special tiles all in great detail. And as is the case for some of Lacerda’s other games (the Gallerist in particular), the components are all top notch, up to and including the box insert. While we’ve only played this one once so far, yours truly just got a copy for Christmas, so I’m sure it’ll be seeing a few more plays this year, at least!
Amber’s #4: Magic Maze
I will fully and ashamedly admit that when I first heard of Magic Maze, I immediately brushed it off. What little I’d heard of the game seemed childish and unfun, which could have been me projecting my feelings about mazes in general. But during a meetup, I game a group of four quietly pouring over tiles, tapping a large red meeple in front of each other frantically and sighing in relief when they could turn the timer over. I took a few seconds to watch and knew I had to dig my fingers into this game. Simultaneously playing as four different characters, players must work together to move these characters around the mall, find their weapons, they go out their respective exits. The game is fast, quiet, stressful and exciting, and I absolutely cannot wait to play it some more.
Ethan’s #4: Magic Maze
The premise of Magic Maze is, frankly, a bit ridiculous. Four stereotypical fantasy heroes — a warrior, ranger, elf, and dwarf — lost all of their equipment, so they need to run into the local shopping mall, steal their favored weapons (simultaneously as to cause the most chaos to escape in), and then make it out quickly before the guards can catch them. However, the gameplay of Magic Maze, while about as chaotic as its premise, is a ton of fun. Unlike in most games, players don’t control one of the heroes but rather a direction the heroes can move in, and possibly a special action as well. For example, if you have the card with the arrow pointing North, you can move any of the heroes that direction, but in order for them to move any other direction, the player who controls that direction will need to do that. And since players can’t talk during most of the game, there’s a big red pawn you can set in front of someone to indicate that they need to do something, but they’ll need to figure out for themselves what that is. I love cooperative games, and games with limited communication (like Hanabi), so adding in a frantic real-time element seemed to be a no-brainer. This game works pretty well at all player counts, even those greater than 4 where one or more of the directions is controlled by multiple players. In those instances it can be funny to see two people reaching for the same pawn and nonverbally trying to concede control to each other. I haven’t played any of the more advanced scenarios for Magic Maze yet where the rules get more and more convoluted, but there is still plenty of time this year to do so!
Amber’s #3: Meeple Circus
At no time will I ever deny that I am not completely sold by the most ridiculous things. Okay, that sentence didn’t make much sense even to me. What I mean to say is, I’m very easily amused. So when all of a sudden during a meetup I hear circus music, I had to whip around and find out what was happening. Meeple Circus is a great new dexterity game where players must wow the crowd with their gravity defying circus acts. Watch out, however, because you need to be quick and the audience is picky! Besides the wonderful companion app, Meeple Circus is a different kind of dexterity game than I’m used to playing. I’m not the best at “flicking them up” or “flipping ships,” but I sure do know how to stack, a skill very necessary to play this game. This felt like a more grown up version of Animal Upon Animal to me, while still being family friendly. This game is currently impossible to get, so if we’re friends and you have this game with you, watch your game bag!
Ethan’s #3: Sagrada
This game of dice drafting and window crafting made it to #3 on my list for this year. Sagrada is quick to teach and easy to learn, and everyone I’ve played it with thus far has seemed to really enjoy it. The game is simple enough — each round roll enough dice for everyone to get two, with one left over. Then, players take turns drafting the dice and placing them into their windows, with a few restrictions, such as adjacent dice not being allowed to have the same color or number. The fun of the game comes from the puzzly aspect of placing the dice in your windows without leaving any gaps while trying to match the patterns up with the end game goal cards and collecting as many of your secret color as you can. The game can be a little cutthroat, as it does allow for a bit of “hate-drafting”, but since you have to be able to put the dice you pick to good use, it’s more common to pick the dice you really want early and possibly inadvertently mess the other players up. For bonus points, Sagrada is a really pretty game, with the colorful dice and window boards, so it’s pretty easy to garner interest from passers-by, and if they stop to try it out, they’ll discover that it’s a lot of fun too!
Amber’s #2: 3 Secrets
Who here loves to people watch? I’m not a big fan of crowded places, but when I happen upon a lot of people I like to sit back and make up stories about their lives. You never know what types of secrets they’re hiding, but it sure is fun to make a guess. In 3 Secrets, you get a snapshot of a stranger’s life and must question the facilitator to try to guess the stranger’s three secrets. Watch out, because these secrets may not be what they seem. This game can take a very dark twist and the secrets can be unexpectedly gruesome, so I wouldn’t necessarily call this a family game. However, if your friends have a slightly twisted sense about them, this may be a good game for your group.
Ethan’s #2: Exit/Unlock Series
This is the one entry on my list that isn’t just one game, but rather encompasses the entire Exit and Unlock! series of “escape room in a box” games. As you may have inferred from our review of these games, I’m a big fan of the escape room game genre. And while I believe some of the Exit games game out in late 2016 (at least in Germany), I wasn’t aware of them until this year, and there were some of them released this year as well. You can see our review on escape room games for a lot further detail on my thoughts, but the summary is that I love puzzles and real life escape rooms (and computer “escape the room” games), so being able to replicate that experience in a tabletop format has been great! There are more of these games slated to come out this year, and I can’t wait to try them all out when they do!
Amber’s #1: Werewords
What do you get when you mix social deduction with 20 questions? You get Werewords, of course! This was definitely our group’s “hot game” of the year with over 30 plays from summer 2017 to January 2018. This game is very accessible to new players (as Ethan wrote in his honorable mention) and overall just a super fun game to play. While I can see this game being replaced in a year (or sooner depending on the new hotness), this game has provided us with a lot of fun in 2017 and is my top game of the year.
Ethan’s #1: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
The top of my list is the highly anticipated follow-up to the former #1 on Board Game Geek, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. Season 2 is a bit of a departure from the base Pandemic game, but with enough familiar elements that veterans of base Pandemic or Season 1 shouldn’t have too much trouble jumping right in. This game takes place 74 years after the events of Season 1, and the players are some of humanity’s last survivors, living on floating Havens in the seas and oceans of the world. Rather than diseases adding cubes to the board to represent different infections, players deliver grey supply cubes to the cities on the grid, which are removed when a city’s card is drawn in the infection step. The other main departure from Pandemic is that most of the board starts blank, with only about a dozen locations available at the start of the campaign. Players have to explore the world to be able to travel further inland to find new cities and other surprises waiting for them. The exploration aspect was what made me like this game more than Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, but they’re pretty close in my mind as unforgettable gaming experiences. I liked how the game was a lot more non-linear, as you could explore and unlock content in any order, and it was really more customizable in how you could do certain things (I don’t want to give too much spoilery information away). Because of that, I feel that two groups’ completed Season 2 boards would be much more different than any two Season 1 boards. What I didn’t like about the game was that the last few months of the in-game year felt a bit rushed, story- and objective-wise. I suppose it was to ensure that everyone had enough time to explore and complete the other main objectives in the game, but it just felt like October and November had a lot to accomplish in not a lot of time, though maybe that in itself was thematic, as it led to a very climactic game end in December.