Reviews

Year in Review – 2017

Overview


This Year in Review will be a little different from last years installment.  It was quite the endeavor that I honestly didn’t want to step into like I did last year.  This year will be a bit briefer and will be more about the players and the games.  I will be talking about my general thoughts on 2017, stats, my top 5 games of 2017, and finally my current top 20 games of all time.

Let’s get started!


Thoughts on 2017


We have one great year with multiple victories for the group.  We had an epic Grand Con experience with many new players that attended from the group.  Our new game night locale has been a successful transition and developed a new friendship.  All the little details added from the previous year like drink holders and gaming storage has been great from a logistical standpoint.  These have all went very well and I hope will continue in next year.

We may have hit a turning point also with the games that we play at game nights.  Through the past 3 months, the games that consistently seeing more plays are the heavier games.  This becomes apparent when looking at the total plays of each game played but you will see this data shortly in the following segment.  I’m excited to see these changes that the group is evolving into heavier gamers and are excited on the same level that I am when these titles come out.


Statistics


   Basic Stats

Total Logged Plays 397
Different Games Played 171
New Games Played 36
Total Players 89
Locations Played 15
Time Spent Playing Games 236 Hours or 136 Days (Roughly)

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Player Counts

2 Player 21%
3 Player 28%
4 Player 31%
5 Player 13%
6 Player 4%
7 Player 1%

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Days of the Week Played

Monday 7%
Tuesday 4%
Wednesday 13%
Thursday 3%
Friday 4%
Saturday 4%
Sunday 62%

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Top Played Games (Above 5 Plays)

Game Total Plays Total Time Played (Approx) Number of Players Played
Splendor 15 10 Hrs 23
Terraforming Mars 14 7 Hrs 21
Kanagawa 12 6 Hrs 14
Ticket to Ride 9 9 Hrs 27
Flash Point: Fire Rescue 7 4 Hrs 22
Kingdomino 7 4 Hrs 9
Artifacts Inc. 6 3 Hrs 7
Century: Spice Road 6 3 Hrs 13
Clank! 6 3 Hrs 9
Cottage Garden 6 3 Hrs 7
Diamonds 6 3 Hrs 20
Imhotep 6 3 Hrs 17
Potion Explosion 6 3 Hrs 5
Sagrada 6 3 Hrs 11
Scythe 5 15 Hrs 11
Near and Far 5 13 Hrs 6
Lords of Waterdeep 5 8 Hrs 12
Deus 5 3 Hrs 8
For Sale 5 3 Hrs 15
Orleans 5 3 Hrs 8
The Lost Expedition 5 3 Hrs 4
World’s Fair 1893 5 3 Hrs 13

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Top 25 Players (10+ Recorded Plays)

Player Total Plays Total Different Plays Win Percentage Win Chance*
Kyle D. 271 149 45% 32%
Esther K. 135 74 42% 33%
Ramon R. 107 81 46% 30%
Thomas R. 64 40 24% 25%
Eric B. 62 42 40% 32%
Kate H. 61 34 18% 26%
Andrew H. 58 42 36% 27%
Eric H. 58 42 28% 29%
Bryan A. 53 41 18% 27%
David N. 49 39 28% 31%
Sophia M. 41 29 35% 29%
Amanda S. 41 29 48% 28%
Matt L. 40 22 5% 27%
Joe C. 32 26 25% 28%
Jessica P. 22 19 45% 27%
Blake P. 22 21 20% 28%
Candis H. 18 15 33% 28%
Jordan T. 18 15 17% 24%
Abby H. 14 10 28% 26%
Gary T. 13 12 7% 22%
Steve M. 13 10 33% 32%
Matt A. 12 10 58% 27%
Mike R. 11 10 22% 28%
Kate G. 11 10 18% 31%
Caroline H. 10 8 18% 25%

*Win chance is calculated based on the number of players (or teams) in a play.  Ex. 4 Player game would result in a 25% win chance.  If the game is cooperative or you played solo, a win chance of 50% is assumed.


My Top 10 Games of 2017


This list is comprised of my favorite games I’ve played that were released in 2017.  Unfortunately, there are a couple games that I own that were released in 2017 that I simply haven’t had enough time to formulate an opinion on which will be covered in the honorable mentions right now.

Honorable Mentions

Pandemic Legacy Season 2

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I’m sure that this will crack this list but at the moment I haven’t played it enough to appreciate it fully.  It is a game that unless you play the entire game then your not going to fully appreciate it’s offering.  I cannot add this to this list due to this reason.


A Feast for Odin

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This is a massive game made by one of my favorite designers, Uwe Rosenberg.  I have no doubt that this one will make it onto this list once I get more than one play.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes it on to my top 25 games of all time if not even my top 10.  My feelings on this are that high but I want to be fair and give it another play before I give it my full assessment.  I’m sure this will not be the last time you hear from this game.

My Top 10 Games of 2017


10.  Illimat

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This one surprised me quite a bit.  An abstract card game with suited cards doesn’t really grab my attention these days but this one was put in front of me and taught.  I walked away excited to give it another try.  I’ve played it since and my attention has faltered.  This is a solid game that deserves a second look.  It can be random at times but will have your brain cooking in no time.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


9.  Majesty: for the Realm

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I had a chance to play this small card based engine building game at our local convention called Grand Con.  This one really caught my attention without knowing anything about it beforehand.  the gameplay is simple enough but then ramps up very quickly with the points.  I’m not surprised in the least bit as it’s made by the same designer of Splendor.  Engine building games seem to be in this designers wheelhouse.  I really liked this one.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


8.  Seikatsu

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This is another game that I played at our local game convention.  The art and graphic design in this game are beautiful.  The gameplay is very engaging as each move not only affects your score but also the other players at the table.  It’s engaging without being overwhelming.  My only issue with this game is that it plays best with 3 and fumbles a bit on the 2 and 4 player variants.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


7.  Caverna: Cave vs. Cave

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Caverna: Cave vs. Cave is an action selection, tile placement game specifically for two players.  This one strips Caverna down to the core element of building out your home cave without all the farming and nonsense.  Who needs it!?  It plays fast and gives you a bit of the Caverna theme though it doesn’t really carry the same semblance anymore.  The unfortunate part of this game is that in each game you will see all the possible actions you can take which I feel makes the replayability suffer.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


6.  Valletta

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Resource management meets deck building in Valletta.  If this sounds weird then your not alone.  It plays very smooth and quickly as your acquiring resources needed to build structures which will grant that player specialist.  These specialists are the cards in your deck which help you gather more resources. These specialists are not quite as diverse as I would like which I feel will hinder its replayability.  In spite of that, this one is quite fun and something I’m looking forward to playing more of in the future.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


5.  Ex Libris

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A worker placement game that has players competing to create the most prestigious library in all the land.  This game definitely gets high marks for the original theme and that theme is carried throughout this game.  Each worker placement area is thematic to the medieval setting along with the unique powers that each player will receive.  Even the books that you place in your library all have unique titles.  This must have been a burden to develop and one that I will see a lot of play in the future.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


4.  Whistle Stop

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Train themes are no stranger to the gaming community.  Here is another one to add to the collection.  This one has an interesting mechanic of pickup and delivers with train routes that are variable due to the players controlling it through tile placement.  The artwork is a fun and light style with a pastel palette but don’t let that fool you when it comes to gameplay.  It’s quite the challenge and one that rewards multiple plays.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


3.  Dinosaur Island

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Jurassic Park meets a board game.  That’s exactly what you will get when you bring Dinosaur island to the table.  Every aspect of running a dinosaur theme park is at your fingertips.  You will manage the security of your dinosaur attractions, the concession stands, genetic research, and the park visitors just like your John Hammond.   I love the different game lengths as well which should be an amazing tool when teaching this game.  The short game is the perfect length to get your head around the mechanics and the longer games will really let you deep dive into this world.  Go make some dinosaurs!

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


2.  Sagrada

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I really feel like this is a collection essential.  Who thought building stained glass windows could be so much fun?  Simple to play and understand that has a well thought out difficulty that ramps up as the game progresses.  The game even possesses different difficulty levels that the players can self-employ to give themselves a challenge.  I really like this one and I cannot recommend this enough.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


 1.  Near and Far

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This is the sequel to Ryan Laukat’s Above and Below with a continuation of that game’s storyline.  I would have to say that this is his strongest game for me to date.  It’s beautiful and streamlined in gameplay.  Everything is well thought out and works well.  The storybook element is it’s the strongest feature that will have each player engaged.  It even has several modes of play that caters itself to all player types.  My favorite game that I played this year and probably one of my favorite games ever but more on that later.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


My Top 25 of All Time


 

2017’s line up of games has definitely made an impact on my top 25 list.  I have several other games that I’m excited to try that I haven’t played yet from 2017.  We have lots to unpack here so let’s just get right into it.


25.  Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark

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I’m terrible at dice games so I love it when games don’t severely punish you for having bad luck.  Discoveries give you choices depending on what you roll.  In Discoveries, players will be moving through the undiscovered West and mapping the territory.  Each die has faces that will help your party move through the landscape and converse with the natives.  The artwork is beautiful and the gameplay is evocative.  I really love its simplicity and will always have a place in my collection.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


24.  Scoville

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Making chili in Scoville is the theme here.  Sounds innocent enough until you start to realize the type of game you are playing.  This game is full of blocking and tactical play that one should never forget or it will be their demise.  The game comes with some great components like various color peppers that are placed on a garden board.  then players will move their farmer across the community garden in a grid movement fashion collecting these peppers.  This is surprisingly difficult and takes a lot of forward thinking.  One can never be too careful when bean farming.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


23.  Cottage Garden

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A good puzzle is always a good time killer.  It can be quite the relaxing experience and be fulfilling once it’s all together.  This game takes that feeling and places some rules on it.  Cottage Garden is much like its predecessor, Patchwork, and makes it a 4 player experience instead of a 2 player one.  you will be attempting to fill garden plots with flowers and other sundries you would find in a garden. Each will provide you with points and will help you finish more garden plots.  The point system here makes the experience challenging but never strays from its original concept of being a relaxing puzzle experience.  It’s one game that you can take home to mom or dad and play with.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


22.  Sagrada

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2017 was quite the year for new games.  Lots of great titles and lots of new favorites and this is no exception.  Sagrada has been a hit for our game night that has already seen quite a bit of play from veterans to newcomers.  I won’t bore you too much (if I haven’t already) as I already covered this a bit but I will repeat that this needs to be in your collection.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


21.  Mice and Mystics

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This reminds me of a child’s bedtime story played out in a board game.  Actually, the narrative that the game follows is a story being read to a child.  Mice and Mystics is a storytelling game that plays very similar to Roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons.  The big difference here is complexity.  this is far simpler to learn and to teach.  It doesn’t suffer from this but I feel benefits as players don’t get caught up in maximizing their play and simply focuses on the amazing story.  I won’t spoil any of that for you but it’s something that you should experience.  this is especially true if you have children interested in the games your playing.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


20.  Five Tribes

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I don’t play many of the classic games anymore.  I just feel like there are better games out there to be played.  That doesn’t imply that their purpose is not still obvious.  In fact, one of my favorite games, when I was younger, was the game Mancala.  I loved the simplicity of the mechanics and how what you did directly affect your opponents decisions and game state.  That “push and pull” aspect drives Five Tribes in its gameplay.  The modular board is set up like a grid where every meeple on a particular portion of the board is moved to the next adjacent portion.  Every subsequent move beyond the first requires that player to drop one of the meeples in hand.  Once completed with this movement then the player takes the action associated with the section of the board.  this game has immense depth with its possibilities.  Some players even tend to get lost in it and suffer from “analysis paralysis”.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


19.  Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition

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When I say that games really need to immerse their players in an experience, this is exactly what I’m speaking about.  This is the first digital required game that I have and I don’t regret it one bit.  In fact, I can’t imagine this game without it.  The game will require that you have a phone or tablet to run the narrative of the game and the events that happen.  The based game comes with several scenarios to play that vary in complexity and time.  Every time we have played this game has been an event that all players have loved.  It can be a burden to get to the table as its dependent on the app that runs it so you need it to be quiet.  Also, the time demand can be very excessive.  I’ve yet to play a game that lasted under the 2-hour mark.  I wouldn’t let that deter you too much as the fun to be had far outweighs any of its determinants.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


18.  Above and Below

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I would have to call this game the first game in the storytelling games from Ryan Laukat.  This one really established Red Raven Games as a narrative driven game developer.  The game comes with a storybook that will be used anytime the players will go out on an adventure.  The cards in the game will tell the players what story to read and the player gets to decide what actions to take in the story.  They then claim the rewards or punishment accordingly.  Each game has such vivid and imaginative art that it speaks to the players and helps drive the narrative.  I would almost go as far to call it ethereal.  It’s really a masterpiece of sorts.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


17.  Bohnanaza

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This was one of the first games I got when I started the hobby so it holds a very special place in my heart.  That alone would not have this game on this list but since its a very sound game as well then it makes it to number 17.  Bohnanaza has players building up a bean farming empire by planting bean cards and trading with the other players at the table.  I find this title to be very ruthless and engaging at the same time.  Each player will be making deals with other players for the bean cards in hand but what really places emphasis on the trades is the hand restrictions.  The players must keep the cards in hand in the exact order in which they came into them and cards in the front will be forced to be played at the start of their turn.  This gives the game a tense negotiating style that never seems to get old for me.  Another classic from Uwe Rosenberg that I won’t soon forget.

Click here to see rules and gameplay! 


16.  Castles of Mad King Ludwig

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As a kid, I used to draw extensive home designs on graph paper that had a wide assortment of rooms with various functions.  I don’t think I was alone here if I’m not mistaken.  Castles of Mad King Ludwig puts a game on top of that theme.  Players will be building a maddening castle with no logic as its layout but will make complete sense as far as scoring.  Each room upon completion will have an effect that will help the player along.  This game has many mechanics to wrestle but at its core is a game about building a castle.  Nostalgia alone will have this on the table more than most.  I love this game!

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


15.  Alien Frontiers

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Dice rolling games can be frustrating but this one manages to stay my frustration with options.  The game has each player rolling dice that are their workers.  These workers can be placed on several sites across the board that perform different tasks.  The results of your roll dictate where you can place these dice.  There is never a game where I can’t make some progress each turn which makes this one a great addition to my collection.  The 1950’s space art style gives the game a very nostalgic and vintage feel that is unique to a game of this ilk.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


14.  Prodigals Club

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Prodigals Club had me with the theme, which is ridiculous, but it also comes with an engaging gameplay too.  Players are tasked with losing three aspects of your life that include your wealth, your local election, and your good name.  These all need to be accomplished in tandem as your score ends up being the goal you performed most poorly.  The card art is hilarious and really captures the aristocratic high society.  I’m always excited to explore new challenges and opportunities that this game provides.   If you’re up for the challenge of this difficult game then I recommend you check this one out.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


13.  Stone Age

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A true evergreen in my mind.  This title is a great entry for anyone new to the hobby.  It provides some insight on how modern board games operate while still remaining easy to teach, learn, and enjoy. The worker placement and set collecting aspects of this game are deep enough that my interest in mastery has emerged.  I’m still finding much enjoyment out this title even after all these years of playing it.  It has slipped in its ranking over the years but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate this one.  If you don’t already have this game then I strongly recommend that you get one.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


12.  T.I.M.E Stories

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This game takes 2-4 players and knocks them on their mental butts and asks if you want to do it again.  Time Stories is a narrative campaign style game that plays in sessions.  Each session is one story that your time cop buddies have to solve before time runs out.  You can have multiple attempts to solve the case but each attempt will hurt your end score.  Each attempt you make will also allow you to take different paths than your previous attempt which will result in new information and results.  It’s kind of like a “choose your own adventure” book as a board game.  I would tell you more but that may spoil the amazing story here.  Each expansion is a new story that you have to solve which makes this game a bit expensive to get into.  This would probably be higher on the list if I could play the scenarios more than once but such is life.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


11.  Flash Point: Fire Rescue

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This is your childhood fantasies played out on a table.  Who didn’t want to be a firefighter when they were a kid?  Saving lives and putting out the fire is the name of the game here and it isn’t much else I can say about that.  This is a cooperative game experience that can be very difficult to manage if you don’t consider your teammates.  If you have a new game group with people your not familiar with then this would be a game I would recommend.  It’s my favorite cooperative game I’ve played to date (Spoilers!).

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


10.  Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

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Another campaign game, like T.I.M.E Stories, that can only be played in its entirety once.   This one takes the original game of Pandemic and adds an element of consequence.  Each action and decision you take could have lingering effects on later games.  These effects could have you rip up cards, add stickers to the game board, or even change a rule for future games.  In this way, the game has an evolving play style and narrative that the players need to follow and adapt to.  I love the concept here but once finished then you really can’t play it again.  In fact, I placed the game board in it’s changed state on my wall as decor.  That aspect really takes it down a few steps on this list but still one I love to relive in my head.  I’m excited to continue our plays of Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 which is happening now.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


9.  Nippon

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Econ 101 is a box.  It doesn’t sound fun at all but like anything that is hard but rewarding will have you asking for more. Nippon is set in Japan which is looking to move into the modern industrial age.  The players are Japanese Zaibatsu looking to gain influence and power through this change.  This one has an interesting action selection mechanic that rewards players for taking certain actions and making you pay more for taking others.  There is also a lot to consider when you’re looking at the board as there are different product markets you can break into in different areas of Japan.  It’s almost staggering trying to explain the vast possibilities of this game so I will end this by saying just watch it played and good luck on your first attempt.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


8.  Deus

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Tableau building is one that I have a lot of fun with too as I love the cascade-like effect of its play style.  There is something very visceral and rewarding when everything seems to come together seamlessly.  This game is one of my simpler tableau building games on this list but it doesn’t lose anything as far as enjoyment.  All the cards in this game a color suit that when played trigger all the other cards that share that color suit.  This results in a wonderful domino effect that just breathes excitement.  My only issue is the theme and art direction seems to be tacked on superficially.  It’s of little consequence for me as the gameplay really promotes itself above this hurdle.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


7.  Terraforming Mars

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The amount of replayability this tableau building game has is staggering.  The game comes with 233 unique cards that represent technologies that are used to terraform Mars.  I’ve had yet to play a game that I haven’t discovered something new and exciting on these cards.  Seemingly ends possibilities will definitely keep this game coming to the table and has quite the following at game night.  There is one caveat to my recommendation is that you get some third-party player boards that are available.  The production of this game leaves a slightly bad impression but it’s something to consider and research.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!

Click here for some player board solutions!


6.  Orleans

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I’m a big fan of deck building games which speaks to my history as a Magic the Gathering player.  This doesn’t use that game mechanic but does expand upon it.  This is a bag building game that has players adding new workers they acquire into a bag.  They pull those workers out of this bag to be placed on future turns.  It plays very similar to a deck builder but plays out very differently.  I love the concepts here and one mechanic that I love to explore.  The art style here is wonderful too taking its influence from French Gothic Art of the time period in which this takes place.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


5.  Near and Far

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I covered this a bit in my favorites from last year and it has broken into my top 25 of all time.  I really can’t speak highly enough of this title.  The story element alone is wonderful fun but it also pairs with a very engaging gameplay as well.  This one is always on my mind for game nights and I look forward to playing the full campaign that comes with the game.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


4.  Euphoria

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The themes that come from designer Jamey Stegmaier have always seemed to hit the mark for me.  Winemaking (Viticulture), 1920’s Europa (Scythe), and this one which is a dystopian cityscape where a ruling force controls the masses.  It’s evocative and immersive with it’s 1950’s Retrofuturism art style and almost humorous narrative it paints through card text and imagery.  The game is very dense as well with a worker placement mechanic that utilizes dice that hinders your play and makes decision making difficult.  There are lots of variabilities here as well and I’m excited to see the new expansion that is set to come out this coming year.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


3.  Caverna

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My love for this game can be traced back to my love for games like SimCity and other simulator type games.  I play at your own pace and do whatever you want with your play space.  This is probably the most sandbox-like experience I have in my collection.  You start the game with a patch of forest and a side of a mountain that you can mold into your personal cave home and farm.  The game really branches out in diversity from there as it comes with a 5-pound box of components for your farm.  Lots of depth and potential here that I love to dive into even now.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


2.  Scythe

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Area control games are really not my favorite game mechanism.  I can’t really put my finger on why exactly.  I imagine it has something to do with my frustration with my shortcomings with its gameplay.  I don’t like that I’m judging the mechanic based on my abilities but that’s all I can come up with.   Scythe finds a way to take area control and make it different.  It feels more like a resource management game that really uses the concept of aggressive expansion as the last resort.  The art and world build are stunning and beautiful.  I could see this turning into an entire series of novels or graphic novels.  The story behind is deep enough to imagine it.

Click here to see rules and gameplay!


 1.  Viticulture / Tuscany

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I cheated a little here and placed a game here with its expansion but this is my list and I’ll do what I want.  The reason for me adding in the expansion as I feel this is needed to fully appreciate Viticulture.  The expansion comes with a new board to use which makes gameplay all the more enjoyable and engrossing.  It comes with an assortment of modules that you can add to make the game as dense as you like.  I’m not sure this would be in this position without this expansion.  I love the theme of Viticulture as I live in Traverse City and wine is something we do here quite well.  The whole experience of the vineyard is captured in this box and is a joy to play.  It always brings up all the thoughts and feelings of my visits to a vineyard which I love as well.  Wine lovers and board game enthusiasts should get this immediately.  You will not be disappointed.

Click here to see rules and gameplay of Viticulture!

Click here to see rules and gameplay of Tuscany!


Some of the Game Group’s Favorites


Eric B.

Scythe

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Caverna

Kate H.

Terraforming Mars

Lords of Waterdeep

Shakespeare

David N.

Lords of Waterdeep

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Illimat

Thomas R.

Stone Age

Valletta

Medieval Academy


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