Joel's Top 30 Games (2017 Edition)


Hey everyone!  Here is my top 30, as of 2017 (and a bit of 2018 technically).  Enjoy!

30. Captain Sonar - Probably my favorite large group cooperative game.  My favorite position is the radio operator.  Hilarity ensues if alcohol is involved.

29. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong - Great large group game with just the right balance of social deduction and actual deduction.

28. Sidereal Confluence - Interesting blend of engine building and negotiation mechanics.  Looking forward to mining more from the asymmetrical races.

27. Tyrants of the Underdark - Nice blend of deck building and area control.  Many avenues to score victory points, including trashing cards at the right time, scoring additional points.

26. Paperback - The first “pure” deck builder on the list.  Really enjoy the spelling aspect of this one.

25. Hardback - Similar to it’s older brother Paperback, the spelling interests me.  However, this seems to balance the game much more with the different genres of cards, paving the way for more synergy.

24. Race for the Galaxy - The pinnacle of tableau building with cards, but not as high on my list.  Feel like I should like this more than I do currently.  Next year I have a feeling this will have moved significantly.

23. Roll for the Galaxy - For some reason, I have had a better experience with this version of the tableau building games.  The dice mitigation feels more customizable.

22. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn - The only LCG in this list, and an interesting one for sure.  The dice as a resource feels very unique.

21. Gloomhaven - Everyone knows this game and is probably wondering why it is not higher on my list.  It is just not really my genre as much.  I do really enjoy it and expect it to climb, as it is the best dungeon crawler I have ever experienced.

20. Haspelknecht - The first in the Thomas Spitzer series on the coal industry.  A very good medium weight Euro on mining and extracting coal.

19. Yokohama - The network building and interesting timing decisions in this game make me look forward to playing it every time we do.  Love the variability in the setup of this game.

18. Forbidden Stars - The only other area control game on the list and feels like a space epic.  Not really into war games, but have a unique attraction to this one.  You will start to notice a common theme in my favorite games.

17. Anachrony - This is one of my favorite themes in games.  Time travel has always fascinated me in movies, books, TV shows, and etc.  My score on this on the podcast was a bit higher just based on the theme, but the mechanics are not quite up to the same standard.

16. Terraforming Mars - While the component quality is lacking, this tableau building game is one of the best, if not the best.  I also really enjoy the specific theme of preparing Mars for colonization.

15. The Climbers - Fun abstract about climbing to the top and forcing your opponents to the bottom.  Clever moves will push you up and keep your fellow climbers from moving up along with you.  Great table presence.

14. Tak - Exceptional abstract that really tasks your brain to think critically and strategically.  The possibilities in games are endless.

13. Arboretum - My favorite abstract with the hardest decisions.  The trees on the cards are beautiful and you never know which ones to keep.  Your hand size is never big enough.

12. Dinosaur Island - The new kid on the block with a fantastic theme that takes me back to my childhood of Roller Coaster Tycoon.  I’ve also recently been fascinated by ARK: Survival Evolved, so this just hits nicely on all levels.  Nice medium weight worker placement game.

11. Spirit Island - Currently my favorite cooperative game with a fantastic feeling while playing.  The synergy of working together always comes through really well.

10. Star Realms - One of my favorite deck builders with a unique twist of fighting each other rather than just building your engine or fighting an AI.  The synergy of the different races are very interesting.

9. Terra Mystica - This has been a long lasting love of mine, and would continue to be, if it weren’t for its younger brother coming in with a theme that speaks more to me.  However, Terra Mystica had to come first, and I will always have respect for it, which is well deserved.  The strategic choices in this game are unparalleled.

8. Vinhos Deluxe - Vital Lacerda’s designs are pure genius, and Vinhos is no exception.  This entry is technically only for the 2016 Reserve edition, the streamlined version, but that is enough to put it in my top 10.  I have a feeling it could surpass the other Vital game on this list with the 2010 Vintage complexity.  Like most Vital games, it is all about the tactics and timing, and which wines you want to produce, sell, export, and show at the fair will determine your fate.

7. Lisboa - Vital Lacerda again, what more is there to say?  The second on this list, and won’t be the last as soon as I can play anymore of his games.  This tactical Euro never disappoints.  Finding the best way to rebuild the city of Lisbon while pleasing the nobles and their decrees (the end game scoring bonuses), will have you scratching your head on where to even start.

6. Food Chain Magnate - Splotter Spellen has a fantastic design team, and I am saddened that this is the only game of theirs that I have the luxury of including on this list.  However, it is a fantastic one to include.  That feeling when you perfectly plan your turn and undercut your opponent on their own marketing gives you a feeling of pure ecstasy.

5. Letters from Whitechapel / Whitehall Mystery - The purest hidden movement games.  They will always be at the pinnacle of hidden movement for me.  The deduction and feel of the game even draw me in.  I have always been fascinated by detective shows, and this engages that in full force.

4. Gaia Project - Building on the success and design of Terra Mystica, Gaia Project promised to be better, and it did not disappoint.  It scratches my itch for space games while also being a pure engine building game.  There is very little player interaction to muddy the waters that are your strategy.  The best player will often win, but the asymmetrical player races really add to the variability and replayability of this game.  The tech track and terraforming really push this game above Terra Mystica for me.

3. Arkwright - The heaviest game on the list, and no doubt one of the greatest.  This business simulation game of commodity speculation really put your math skills to the test.  The player that is most willing to do the math for each decision will undoubtedly win.  Tread lightly, but once you do, pure enjoyment will follow if math and Euros are some of your favorite things.

2. Thunderstone Quest - Hands down the best deck builder I have ever played.  This includes any version I have played, but I have played Quest the most, so it is the one I’ve listed here, as it is also the most well designed.  The epitome of deck builders to me and what all should strive to achieve.

1. Alchemists - You have heard Nick and I rant and rave about this game.  I fell in love with it just from hearing about it, and then I played it and was in a state of pure bliss.  Any game with a true logic puzzle, particularly combined with a fantastic worker placement implementation, embodies everything I want in a board game.  If only I could somehow add some deck building...

Joel Moser