Well, Andrei has already shared his list with you, so I think it’s time for mine. I do play quite a lot. This year I have played so far 831 plays of 382 published games and about 70 prototypes. I am always craving for novelties so I’d rather play a game that I don’t know. To be honest, only 38 titles got to my table five or more times in 2017 and only three 10 or more times. That probably tells you what kind of a gamer I am. Taking that into consideration, it is extremely difficult for me to pick only 5 games to be named the best ones in 2017, but I promise, I will do my best.
Number 5 is… well, actually ARE, because I’m cheating a bit, placing two titles here – but on the other hand they’re expansion! The title goes to… Terraforming Mars: Hellas&Elysium as well as Terraforming Mars: Venus Next. Terraforming Mars has become one of THE games, as I’ve finally give it a well deserved “10” on Board Game Geek – and both expantion played their part in making me do that. First was the double map that gave us even more replayability with the new awards and titles and I have to say that it was a refreshment well needed. We all know Terraforming Mars is a great game, but as I’ve explained in the beginning – I always look for the new. Having a reason to put the game back on the table was one thing, but having two sides of the map made play the game twice in a row during one evening – and that almost never happens. That gave 0.5 to the 9 that Terraforming already had. The Venus came with the new fat deck, two new tiles (one for title and one for award) and changed the momentum of the game slightly, making it finally a “10” – my fourth one ever. Having said that, I have no doubts – both expansion simply need to find place in my TOP5.
Number four is quite surprising – at least for me, as I’m not a big fan of wargames. But Wartime: The Battle of Valyance Vale gives me too much fun not to mention it. It is a fast, tactical skirmish game that introduces real time to the gameplay in such a witty and innovative way that it simply took my breath when I had a chance to play it for the first time. During the game you take charge of a few units – for example Orc archers and warriors. Each unit is represented by several discs placed on poles. You can move them around the map, attack the opponent’s armies, set ambushes and drain blood from the enemies of your clan. The trick is that you have several hourglasses at your disposal – every time you perform an action with a unit, you have to place an hourglass by it – and from this point on you can’t touch them! Not until the sand goes through. I know it sounds quite abstract, but in reality it really does work, bringing unimaginable emotions and tension to the table. You make your moves and sit their literally watching the seconds flow – and the game takes only 10 minutes – there is a separate hourglass measuring it. The box is full of different armies, terrains, units, hourglasses, providing high replayability and hours and hours of fun. Wizkids has done a tremendous job with this one and I am pretty sure they will lure into our magnificent hobby hundreds of new gamers using Wartime.
Number three goes to The Sanctuary: Endangered Species, a game that shocked me with the seemingly impossible: it introduces innovation to… worker placement. Yes, you heard me well, the author has actually invented something new regarding this well used up mechanism. During the game you have two meeples and you place them on a line of cards – always on the top half. After everyone placed their meeples we perform actions – each of your workers will perform its main action (the one on the top of the card) and all the bottom action it can “see” to its right and left. Other meeples or the end of line of cards block its sight, so placing the workers is a really important decision process that will influence your entire turn. The rest of the game is gathering resources and changing them into VPs – by feeding your animals, enlarging your sanctuary and performing other, less significant actions. The game plays really well in all configurations from two to four players and brings this fantastic feel of refreshment, accompanied by the urge for another play. I am expecting Mr Wojtkowiak to bring us even more joy in the future, cause if somebody enters the Designers Room with such a splash, their next game do raise some proper expectations.
Ok, meet Number Two. World, let me present you… Reworld! This is one splendid game. Divided into tow parts, changing mechanisms inbetween, throwing tens of decisions at you and putting you under proper time pressure as well as most of the points you will get from the race all the players are engaged in. Some people claim it’s ugly, but I can totally feel all the Battlestar Galactica, Earth 2 and all others in this one. The main board is this huge mothership from which you’re desperately unloading terrapods to your terraforming ship. You need to do that in proper order or be forced to dump some of the goodies in the cold and dark space. After you’re done you start moving the terrapord on the planet and founding new cities which are New Essen, New Atlanta, New Brisbane and so on – I love it! Your head will most probably burst during the first play, but no worries, the satisfaction when you planned correctly is comparable only with frustration when you fail to do it 😀
OK, number one is probably not a great surprise. The Oscar goes to… Clans of Caledonia! I don’t remember anygame that brought me so much pleasure. A eurogame designed with such precision that it can shame some well established designers – and it’s apparently done by an absolute debutee! You can feel Terra Mystica in there, but also Uwe Rosenberg’s ingenious engine-building, Stefan Feld’s point salad and Kramer and Kiesling’s innovative approach to scoring mechanisms. It’s absolutely brilliant, plays really well both with two and four players and its replayability? Phew! I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that nobody has ever discovered Mr JouJou’s talent before – to such an extent that I’m prone to doubt if it’s not an pseudonym of some other designer – or a group of them! Whatever the truth is, I want to salute Karma Games for finding this jewel, that reached already 112th place in BGG ranking and I expect it to hit the first ten in a matter of weeks. All hail Karma!