Scott's Top 20 Games (2017 Edition)


Hey Guys, Scott here with my top 20 favorite games. Let’s jump straight in.

20. Escape the Aliens in Outer Space  - This game is a simple hidden movement game with the added twists of social deduction and special powers. It plays like a bunch of people fumbling around in the dark trying to murder each other. I would recommend a max player count of 5 and a claustrophobic map.

19. Race for the Galaxy - This game is easy to pick up and learn, plus the only components are cards and a few player aids. Despite the simplicity there, it adds depth with the different paths you can take in building your tableau, like military expansion, development, and going for max consumption points. The simultaneous action selection rewards players with extra efficiency if they can predict the opponent’s choices.

18. Roll for the Galaxy - Much like Race this game offers simultaneous action selection and a variety of tableau building options. What pushes this ahead for me is the puzzle like nature of assigning your dice workers and the game feel of placing them on projects and buying the workers back into your cup.

17. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong - This is a great social deduction party game that you could easily teach your family. It moves along at a brisk pace with only 3 rounds and a time limit for presenting your case to make an arrest. This game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and allows for back to back plays so other people can get a chance to try different roles.

16. Tales of the Arabian Nights - This game is best played with the goal of enjoying the journey rather than reaching the end. The winner is mostly arbitrary so instead treat it as a group choose your own adventure that can create some great stories. I think 3 players here works best to eliminate downtime.

15. Whitehall Mystery - This is my favorite hidden movement game. It is a small box game with only a few components and a ton of replayability. The streamlining of this game from Letters to Whitechapel means that it hits table more frequently and doesn’t drag, instead it stays tense with the killer going from location to location with no break.

14. Lords of Waterdeep - This is a great entry point for people getting into worker placement games and still has something to offer for people who would normally play a heavier game with the expansion. The fact that this game has player interaction with intrigue cards, and buildings that function as new worker spots, helps to keep it fresh. This along with the D&D theme, great art, and quick play time make this a game a variety of people can enjoy.

13. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition - This is my favorite of the arkham files games. Out of all of them, this one brings the theme through the most successfully. The game app is wonderful. The narration and music help to set the atmosphere and it helps to automate many tasks that would normally make a game like this very fiddly.

12. Cosmic Encounter - Oh how the mighty have fallen, not long ago this would have easily made my top ten. However, recent playthroughs have marred this game for me. This game can still be tons of chaotic fun with political maneuvering and interesting alien powers. However, Cosmic Encounter giveth and Cosmic Encounter taketh away. Sometimes someone may get stuck with a lousy experience and depending on the players it can end up getting drawn out. I suggest 5 players max and play with sharks for the best experience.

11. Rex: Final Days of an Empire - After reading about the Dune boardgame, I knew I had to play this. This is an epic area control game with politics, unique powers, and tense, mind game filled battles. Nothing else needs to be said.

10. Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant - This game has the longest name of all time but it is a ton of fun. Each player is trying to run their economy as efficiently as possible using their resource converters, but each player needs to trade for their inputs. Each round has a timed open negotiation period where people make promises and trade goods freely. The races are all very unique and players can work to balance the game by embargoing winning players. Play this with sharks.

9. Alchemists - This is a good worker placement game but it is an amazing thematic game. The connected app and the player screens with the cauldron make for a flavorful experience that makes you feel like a crazed alchemist testing new potions on unfortunate undergrads. If you love deduction with your euros then you will love this.

8. Mage Wars Arena - This is a beast of a customizable card game. I think it plays best 1 v 1 but it can be played with teams as well. Each player picks a mage like a druid, necromancer, or wizard, and builds a custom spell book. Each turn you draw 2 cards of your choice. Players are managing their positioning, mana supply, and cards in hand to gain the advantage. Lots of depth and customization.

7. Blood Rage - This is a lighter area control game but it is still one I find myself coming back to. The minis are high quality, the games don’t take to long, and it is easy to teach. Even so, there are quite a few different strategies and combos to exploit and there is plenty of counterplay and hate drafting that can mix things up.

6. Scythe - This is a great engine building area control game with great art, theme, and production quality.  While some of the factions are definitely stronger than others, the difference is not overwhelming. The combat also adds some more player interaction than you would normally see in this type of game and gives players the opportunity to block and otherwise hinder their opponents.

5. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn - This is my favorite living card game. For the relatively small card pool, there are a ton of options in building a deck. The way combat works and the way rounds play out make it so it is possible to disrupt your opponent. Many card games suffer from linear aggressive strategies being too strong. While making your opponent react to you is still strong, other strategies are plenty viable here as well.

4. Clockwork Wars - This is an epic 4X game that never got the love it deserved. This game has a random tech tree, a modular hex board, asymmetric player powers, and simultaneous deployment. In order to do well in this game you need to be able to predict what your opponents’ moves will be and plan accordingly. The game has objectives to fight over and prevents snowballing by removing units that are on the scoring tiles from play. If you can find it you should buy it.

3. Forbidden Stars - This game will burn your brain and the combat will make you sweat. You need to manage your technology, get new combat cards, recruit units, expand and exploit new worlds, and of course fight your enemies for your objective markers. This game uses an interesting mechanic where players place command tokens in a stack in the different areas. The last token in is the first one out and if none of your tokens are on top you get skipped. This means you have to plan out your entire turn and predict where your opponent will want to place their commands.  The combat uses dice and combat cards where the dice rolled are based on unit strength and some cards have synergy with certain units. You could make an entire game based just around this portion of the game.

2. Gloomhaven - This game is the king of the hotness for a reason. I can never play another dice chucking dungeon crawl again. The euro based card play for actions and the fact that everyone takes their turn at the same time is genius. It prevents quarter backing and makes trying to work together interesting. This game has solved every nitpick I could have with a co-op game and man this game has a lot of play in it.

1. Pax Renaissance - Boy this game was difficult to learn. Even after learning it I had no idea what would be a good move to make, but I was instantly hooked. This game is so smart and it is the heaviest game in the smallest box. This game is over a 4 in weight on BGG but regularly plays in under an hour. It has each player playing a Renaissance banker influencing the events in Europe. The art and flavor text on the cards are very thematic and interesting to anyone who enjoys the time period. It seems opaque, there is so much counterplay and so many choices to make but so often your turn is just buy a card play a card, or use the cards in your tableau. The fact that you only get 2 actions help keep things moving through the analysis paralysis, and you can really do a lot with 2 actions. Buy this game before it goes out of print.

Scott Alberding