The first month of the new year is just about finished and while everyone is looking ahead with a fresh perspective, we think it’s a good idea to look back and see where we were. 2017 was a great year of gaming for us and provided a great Top 5, but do these games still bring us as much excited as they used to? Read below to find out!
Amber’s #5 – The Unlock Series
Plays in 2018: 2
Ahh, the Unlocked Series. While these games are absolutely beloved, the “one and done” nature of the games don’t allow for good replayability. But, they keep releasing new versions, so of course we picked them up and gave them a try. This year, we were able to play “A Noside Story” and “Tombstone Express,” which provided a few new mechanics and an exciting race to the end. Since Space Cowboys has been able to keep new fun stories and mechanics, I’m sure we will continue purchasing and enjoying The Unlock Series for a while.
Ethan’s #5 – Lisboa
Plays in 2018: 0
I’m starting off my list with some sad news, in that I haven’t gotten a chance to play Lisboa again since 2017. Our gaming last year was very diminished compared to the previous years (for reference, I logged 776 plays in 2017, but only 475 in 2018), and heavier games were hit the hardest. While I still really enjoyed playing Lisboa, and I enjoy playing all of Vital Lacerda’s games (we’re hopefully going to be able to play CO2 this Friday, and will be getting Escape Plan from Kickstarter later this year), I’m not sure if I’d still rank it so highly just because of how hard it is to get to play. And that is mostly a function of our gaming groups — one of the groups mostly meets on weeknights at a mall gaming store, and when we have to be out of the store by 8:15 (now 7:45 with winter hours), there isn’t always time for a big, multi-hour game. I’m hopeful that I can do some more heavy gaming this year, with Lisboa being one of the games I most want to play again, but if I were re-making my top 5 list today, it unfortunately probably wouldn’t have made the cut.
Amber and Ethan’s #4 – Magic Maze
Plays in 2018: 10
Amber’s Review: Magic Maze was a game I was unsure about in the beginning, but loved immediately after playing it once. Although we both took an extreme liking to the game, there were a lot of copies floating around our gaming group, so we decided we didn’t need it in our collection. I’m so thankful we were still able to get quite a few plays of the game in thanks to these lovely people and still found joy in playing it each time. I think the relatively quick nature of the game and it being a co-op brought it out to the table quite a bit for our group and I hope that it keeps coming out!
Ethan’s Review: On the flip side, Magic Maze is a game we played a bunch last year despite not owning it. This game is still a ton of fun, and even new players are able to catch on to its idiosyncrasies pretty quickly. One thing that I’ve come to find interesting is in how Magic Maze deals with the alpha gamer problem in cooperative games. Because players can’t talk for most of the course of the game, it is a pretty good way to literally shut up an alpha gamer. However, there are a few moments when players can talk with each other and discuss the game, and in those brief periods of time, you almost need someone who can effectively lay out the situation, what needs to happen next, and how to achieve that. I definitely still think Magic Maze is a cool concept, even among the field of other co-op games with limited communication (Hanabi, The Mind, etc.) and will likely never turn down a chance to play it.
Amber’s #3 – Meeple Circus
Plays in 2018: 3
Anytime I see the name “Meeple Circus,” I can’t help but to get circus music stuck in my head. After many fun plays in 2017, we decided to add a copy of Meeple Circus to our collection, but I’ve found that sometimes with really fun, thematic games, sometimes you have to just be in the mood to play them. It seems this happens especially with dexterity games, where you need to make sure you have enough space around the room or that there’s enough table space so that no one accidentally bumps your masterpiece. There is also a sort of hesitance with some players to try out dexterity games and I’ve heard a few reasons as to why: I’m no good at dexterity games, there’s little strategy, it’s more of an activity. None of these reasons have kept me away, however, and I’m excited to keep playing this game and trying new dexterity games into 2019!
Ethan’s #3 – Sagrada
Plays in 2018: 2
Sagrada is a great game of dice drafting and window drafting where there’s a constant puzzle of trying to fill your stained glass window while getting the most of the end-game bonus cards. I really like puzzly games involving spatial reasoning, where you need to figure out how to best fit things into a certain space (such as Patchwork or Bärenpark), and Sagrada scratches that itch well. Each round you have to figure out which of the dice in the common pool will help you the most while fitting into your color and number restrictions. With the recent 5-6 player expansion (which I haven’t tried out yet) and an upcoming trilogy of expansions that add more cool things, I’m sure Sagrada will be hitting our tables a lot more in 2019!
Amber’s #2 – 3 Secrets
Plays in 2018: 4
It seems like we have a game with us wherever we go, so having a more portable game to keep us busy between activities is fantastic! Insert: 3 Secrets. This game not only has a small complete footprint, but with gameplay consisting of only cards, there is plenty of room to play this game while you’re out and about. That is, except the themes of this game can get a little morbid. While viewing the scene and description on the card, players must ask yes or no questions to the facilitator to try to discover the three secrets from the card, however, these secrets usually involve murder, mayhem, or some other sort of illegality, making it a little interesting to ask some of these questions in public, so be warned! We also picked up a copy of Dark Stories 2, which has nearly identical gameplay to 3 Secrets with similar morbid themes. While only gaining 4 plays of 3 secrets, we’ve logged 21 plays of Dark Stories 2, making me believe we’ll be playing this one for a little while yet.
Ethan’s #2 – Exit/Unlock Series
Plays in 2018: 5 Total
“Escape Room in a Box” games are still in vogue in our gaming world. We actually just played another new Exit game this past weekend, and have a standing order with our FLGS for any new Exit, Unlock, or Deckscape games that come in. Even after going through a lot of these games, they are still able to challenge us with new puzzles and keep things fresh with new twists and surprises. Our high esteem for these games is definitely not going anywhere soon, and if I were making this list again, I’m sure they’d be rated just as highly.
Amber’s #1 – Werewords
Plays in 2018: 68 (including Deluxe)
This game was a hit with our group when first introduced in 2017 and continues to be a hit to this day. We can’t bring Werewords to the table without playing it at least 3 times, if not not 5-10 times in a night! The introduction of Werewords: Deluxe brought some interesting new mechanics to the game; the so close and way off tiles have changed the way both villager and mayor characters give answers to players and new roles have shaken games up a bit. There will be no taking this game away from OUR gaming group, as long as there are words to guess, we’ll be trying to get them!
Ethan’s #1 – Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Plays in 2018: 0
Due to its nature as a legacy game, we haven’t played Pandemic Legacy Season Two any more since completing it in 2017 (in fact, our board and some of its components have been shadowboxed and are now hanging in our game room). Even still, it remains as one of my favorite and most memorable gaming experiences of the year. Without spoiling anything, the campaign of exploring, discovering new areas, the story with its plot twists, and (for us) the climactic final game where we won the campaign by the skin of our teeth are hard to recreate. Even with new legacy games coming out like Ultimate Werewolf Legacy and Betrayal Legacy, both of which we’ve started, it’s hard to beat the Pandemic games where our legacy journey started. I know a lot of people, especially recently, have been coming out with their dislike of Season Two, and in retrospect I did enjoy Season One more (contrary to my feelings at the time shortly after finishing Season Two), but it was still an amazing and fun experience that I’m glad we got to play!