Everything Board Games’ Best of Lunar 2017

As the year was coming to a close, the Everything Board Games review team started looking back at 2017 and the work over the course of the year which included:

  •  96 Giveaways
  • 166 Winners
  • 170 Reviews 

We owe a debt of gratitude to the Everything Board Games community; everyone who read a review, entered and shared a giveaway, or watched a YouTube Live interview with a designer – thank you. We could not have done this without you.

We also began thinking back on the board games that defined the year, and stood out to us as the best of the best of 2017. We each compiled our lists of the best games we reviewed (and for the new reviewers, simply played) and discussed these games and how we would best share our thoughts.

But as I (Nick S.) began looking at my list, I could not help but to glance under the Christmas tree and notice the Sagrada-shaped box, and the Azul-shaped box, and the I-may-not-know-which-scenario-but-I-know-that-it-is-an-Exit-shaped box.

It was at this time that a crazy idea popped into my head. The type of crazy idea that tip-toes the fine line between “so crazy it just might work” and “so crazy that my cohorts will think I’m crazy”.

Knowing (hoping) that some of those games under the tree would make my top ten list after I had a chance to play them, and that everyone in my house is Korean and would be recognizing the Lunar New Year complete with hanboks and bibimbap in just a few weeks, I thought, What if our “best of 2017” reflected the Lunar Year, rather than the calendar year?

I floated the idea out to the group, and to my surprise, here we are. Without further ado, we present the Everything Board Games Reviewers’ Best of Lunar Year 2017.

Nick Shipley’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Sagrada
2. Azul
3. Mole Rats in Space
4. Photosynthesis
5. Campy Creatures
6. NMBR 9
7. Codenames: Disney Family Edition
8. Starving Artists
9. Gadgeteers
10. Kiwetin

Sagrada gets the nod over Azul because of the solo variant, but one of my favorite lesser-known games of 2017 was easily Campy Creatures by KeyMaster Games. The art is fantastic, and it is a game that I have enjoyed showing off as much as I have
enjoyed playing. Everything from the box, to the individual cards, to the
inserts all stand as an homage to the campy monster movie films and will tug
at the nostalgia heart-strings of players of a certain age.

Nick Shipley – Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can follow what Nick is playing by following him on Twitter @ndshipley.

See Nick’s reviews HERE.

David Jensen’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Kiwetin
2. Witches of the Revolution
3. Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game
4. Ladder 29
5. Polemic
6. Armor & Ash
7. Knot Dice
8. Collectors and Capers
9. Wizard’s WARdrobe
10. Shadow Strike Melee

Several fun party games and card drafting games made the cut. Expedition brought with it a fun and welcoming introduction to role-playing games. Witches of the Revolution, a cooperative board game with a historical theme, nearly edged out the win. But it was Kiwetin, the pioneer creation of Flyos Games, that stole the top spot. Its lightning-fast gameplay, gorgeous art and components, and ever-changing board means that this game will always be welcome at our table.

David Jensen – Editor and Reviewer

David has tried his hand at everything from warehouse work and washing dishes to delivering pizza. Now, he’s trying his hand at writing creatively and working as an editor for a start-up literary magazine. When he’s not busy procrastinating, he’s running tabletop game sessions for friends and family.

See David’s reviews HERE.

Rodger Moore’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Champions of Midgard Valhalla/Dark Mountains 
2. Dinosaur Island
3. Wasteland Express Delivery Service
4. Gloomhaven
5. Ethnos
6. Photosynthesis
7. Dragon Island
8. Chimera Station
9. Assault of the Giants
10. Wartime
This year was certainly an exceptional year for gaming and it was extremely difficult to narrow my list down to my top ten. I could have easily made a top twenty, or even thirty for that matter. It was a great year of what I considered gateway games that were easy to teach but had amazing depth to them, and many of them did not even make it into my top 10! The ones that did were Ethnos and Photosynthesis. It was also a year of some very clever game design as well with my number 10 pick in Wartime from Wizkids in which it is a real-time strategy game that uses sand timers. Amazing fun! Champions of Midgard was my top pick, however even though it was due to expansions which made it an entirely new and  fantastic experience. One final note on Gloomhaven not being higher on my list is that is was just due to less play time. I plan on changing that in the future.   

Rodger Moore – Kickstarter Content Manager

I am in the education profession as a part time teacher (spent 19 years previously in the classroom) and majority of the time I am the IT/Tech coordinator at my school. I am currently working behind the scenes to develop lessons and techniques for teachers to use board gaming in their classrooms (I will release more information in the future). I have been an avid gamer all my life. I got into board gaming in the late seventies starting with many fantasy and war games (I still own many of the ones I started with and they seem so much more involved than the iterations today). I got back into board gaming in 2012 by joining a local meet-up group with which I am very involved with to this day. I help with a local convention called RAGECON which we put on every June. I love the interactions and escape that board gaming provides. Most people I have encountered like games and find it is a great way to meet new people and get to know them. My wife (just got married last April) shares the passion for gaming as I do. She will play anything! I hail from Northern Nevada and am a native.

Benjamin Kocher’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Champions of Midgard
2. Torres
3. Gearworks
4. Blueshift
5. Dwarven Smithy
6. Gruff: Rage of the Trolls
7. Cthulhu Wars: Windwalker Expansion
8. Longhorn
9. Doodle Quest
10. Gyrating Hamsters

Champions of Midgard was the very first game I reviewed for Everything Board Games and, thankfully, it wasn’t the last. I love Champions of Midgard probably more than I should (and yes, the expansions are brilliant as well). That being said, I want to take a moment to talk about a different game on this list: Gearworks.
Gearworks surprised me. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from it initially, other than it looked pretty neat. Once I got into it and started understanding the mechanics of it, Gearworks had me in the palm of its proverbial, steampunky hand. It was a unique twist on area control (which I’m already a fan of), and quite Sudoku-esque in nature. Despite being absolutely horrendous at mathematics and numbers in general, I have always liked the number puzzle Sudoku offers. Likewise, Gearworks provided a puzzle similar to Sudoku, but this puzzle was constantly changing through player interaction, unique mechanics, and as all good steampunk games should have, moving gear parts. It’s relatively simple to pick up and understand, and is a wonderful game for gamers of all skill levels.
Honorable mentions go to Dwarven Smithy for its card crafting creativity, and Blueshift for its sci-fi adventure of space exploration, battles, and dominion.

Benjamin Kocher – Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He’s a freelance blogger and budding game designer. As an avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin’s reviews HERE.

Delton Perez’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Gloomhaven
2. Ethnos
3. Tiny Epic Quest
4. The Climbers
5. First Martians
6. Wildcatters
7. Alien Artifacts
8. Sagrada
9. 7th Continent
10. Agra

Honorable Mention: The Ruhr
Honorable Mention: Herbaceous

I was one of the lucky folks who received Gloomhaven early in 2017, and immediately fell in love with this for many reasons. It has a complete system and solid gameplay, whether solo or with multiple players. Both story and characters progress as you play. Additionally, this gave me a fantastic opportunity to play with my daughters and grow a world together with them. Now, Ethnos came up a very close second, with extremely solid gameplay. The differentiator for me and my play groups, though, was in the appearance. Let’s be honest, the color scheme applied to the board is extremely boring and drives people away before they get to enjoy this great game.

Delton Perez – Reviewer

Delton Perez is a FLGS owner with two locations in Puerto Rico. Originally from Boston, he currently lives in the wilds of Ohio, where he currently resides with his family. By day, he is a Retail Consultant working in New York in the Fashion Industry, but by night, meeples, dice, and cardboard take over. Delton also runs a gaming organization based in Northeast Ohio that focuses on running game nights at libraries, schools, and churches on a scheduled, monthly basis. At times, Delton has even been able to sleep, though proof has yet to be found.

See Delton’s reviews HERE.

Dave Merrell’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Hafid’s Grand Bazaar
2. Kingdom of Aer: Kingmaker
3. Lisboa
4. Brass Empire: New Canton
5. Danger Suit
6. Dragoon Rogue and Barbarian Expansion
7. This Belongs in a Museum
8. Argle Bargle
9. Burst My Bubble
10. Sky Heist

They say hindsight is 20/20. I gave Lisboa the highest number of “super meeples,” but as I look back at the multiple games I reviewed in 2017, it doesn’t fit in the top spot. Yes, I reviewed one of the grand daddies of 2017, but the nod has to go to two lesser known games.

Purists would likely pick Lisboa; it’s heavy, deep, there are multiple paths to victory, it looks amazing, and the pure heft and size of the box is unbelievable. But if you truly enjoy a hobby that ranges all levels of society, Hafid’s Grand Bazaar is a gem that you need.

Hafid’s is a game that also had multiple paths to victory, but it also is fast to learn, quick and involved to play, and leaves the player feeling satisfied and happy. The theme is admittedly different, but it actually works. It is a game that will always get pulled out when the group or family comes over.

Dave Merrell – Review Manager and Reviewer

Dave is a Professional Structural Engineer who specializes in Zip Lines and Challenge Courses. When he’s not swinging in the trees (or sharpening his pencil) he’s playing games, most often with some or all of his five kids. Dave lives in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.

See Dave’s reviews HERE.

Alexa Chaplin’s Top Ten of 2017:

1. Sagrada
2. Yamatai
3. Flatline
4. Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
5. Herbaceous
6. Fugitive
7. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
8. Campy Creatures
9. Mint Works
10. Word Domination

I have to give an honorable mention to Bahoochie! which is more or less a Top Trumps reskin but delightfully Scottish and hysterical to play with the kids, and another to the reissue of Stop Thief which uses an app instead of a Merlin-like voice box!
Nick discussed my #1 choice, the elegant Sagrada, above. My #2 game is the beautiful Yamatai from Days of Wonder, which has an interesting movement and set collection mechanic and is a delight to play. My #3 is the pulse-pounding sequel to Fuse, the patient-saving, frantic dice-tossing Flatline from Renegade Games, which took the timed pressure of Fuse and bumped it up a notch with even more interesting decision-making tossed in. My #7, Pandemic Legacy, might rise higher in my estimation as time goes on, but so far we’re only two months in.

Alexa Chaplin– Reviewer

My name is Alexa. I’m a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I’ve loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We’ve played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids. In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun. You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!

See Alexa’s reviews HERE.

Brody Sheard’s Top Ten of 2017:

1. Coldwater Crown
2. Beasts of Balance
3. Farlight
4. Space Race: Interkosmos
5. TMNT: Shadows of the Past
6. Valeria: Card Kingdoms
7. Coma Ward
8. Sunset Over Water
9. The Witching Hour
10. 10 Minute Heist

I’d like to highlight Farlight on my list as I feel like more people need to know about this game. I usually like a game more if I’m good at it and win a lot when playing it. When I play Farlight, however, I rarely win, but it seems to always trigger an area in my brain where I have to think about so many things to do well in it, and I love games like that. Farlight uses a betting mechanic that includes a false bet where you can throw off your opponents. You are also making your spaceship more powerful through the cards you get and build, but watch out, because when you make yourself limited on what type of cards you can place on your ship, you will soon realize how fast the others are becoming more powerful and going on more and better missions than you. I’d encourage you to check out the game if you haven’t heard of it, or don’t know much about it.

Brody Sheard – Outreach Manager

Brody Sheard played board games with his large family growing up. He continues with his love of games by teaching his family, local gaming guild, and friends about new and exciting games. Brody believes that board gaming keeps your mind healthy while also having fun interacting with others.

See Brody’s reviews HERE.

Stephen Guilk’s Top Ten of 2017:

1. Trench
2. Planetarium
3. Raiders of the North Sea: Fields of Fame
4. Santorini
5. Gloomhaven
6. Charterstone
7. Larklamp
8. Raiders of the North Sea: Hall of Heroes
9. The Thing
10. Consentacle

My shelves saw quite a few notable additions this year. Larklamp gets the award for most innovative. It uses a lantern with replaceable panels to make a board out of light and promises regular additional games for their subscribers. The games are cleaver and fun, but a little light for my taste. They are good fillers, and the lamp is a cool decoration between games. Raiders of the North Sea (with its expansions) was the most replayed. It’s a beautiful worker placement game with solid mechanics that is sure to hit the table many more times in the years to come. Planetarium, the elegant light/medium-weight strategy game where you carefully adapt planets by crashing stuff into them, didn’t get nearly the publicity it deserved. Trench got the number one spot because it was one of the few games I think people will still be playing three-hundred-years from now. It doesn’t rely on minis or gimmicks; it’s simply a brilliant abstract game that pits two minds against one another on an even playing field.

Stephen Gulik – Reviewer

Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.

See Stephen’s reviews HERE.

Nicholas Leeman’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Ethnos 
2. Shifty Eyed Spies
3. Farlight
4. Clank! In! Space!
5. HeroTec
6. Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa
7. Infected
8. Photosynthesis
9. Moons
10. The Wizard Always Wins

Ethnos takes the top spot by a wide margin this year. While ugly, and perhaps only very tenuously thematic, the gameplay and replayability put this game into a class by itself. There’s rarely a game night where Ethnos isn’t asked for by name. Two of the top 10 games this year are Target exclusives (as far as I know), and both are really, really solid in their own right. Shifty Eyed Spies is worth a long look to replace your usual party games, and The Wizard Always Wins is a delightfully fun palate cleanser. Moons is probably the best trick-taking game you’ve never heard of, and Farlight earns the number three spot by virtue of the fact that it combines a whole stack of mechanics into one game that still manages to play at a decent time and takes full advantage of theme.

Nicholas Leeman – Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He’s also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas’s reviews HERE.

Dane Trimble’s Top 10 of 2017:

1. Vikings Gone Wild 
2. Queendomino
3. 5-Minute Dungeon
4. Hotshots
5. Quests of Valreia
6. Photosynthesis
7. Tiny Epic Quest
8. Dice Forge
9. Rebles of Ravenport
10. Heroes and Tricks

Honorable mentions include Kaiju Crush, British Vs Pirates, Incantris, Herbacious, Pocket Ops, Gadgeteers, Mole Rats in Space, and Monsters in the Elevator.

When first tasked to come up with my top 10 from 2017, I thought surely I haven’t even played 10 games released this year. Well, to my surprise I have played quite a few and was very impressed by many if not all of them. Vikings Gone Wild tops my list for last year as I am a huge fan of deck building, engine building, and fun art. I have the Guild Wars expansion with desires to pick up the others. And I am now eagerly awaiting the Masters of Elements Kickstarter.

There are also many games I wish I could have played from 2017 like Sagrada, Gloomhaven, Charterstone, and the list goes on and on. Hopefully I can get caught up in 2018.

Dane Trimble – Owner

Dane is an Advertising Manager for a national magazine by day and a husband, father of four, and board gamer by night (and mornings). He has a passion for board games and believes board games help bring families closer together while providing kids a unique way to learn many diverse skills. And he thinks they are down right fun!

See Dane’s reviews HERE.

With the current growth of the industry we are expecting 2018 to be even bigger and better with new inventive mechanics and stellar production values; tabletop games are going to a whole new level. We here at Everything Board Games are also excited for 2018 with even more reviews, giveaways, and new content.

Thanks for all your support!

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