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Nick’s Top Picks – Top 10 2017

Top 10 of 2017 - Ethnos

Let's be honest, you are probably going to disagree with me here. That's okay, we can't all be right and I most certainly am. Joking aside this list isn't meant to be divisive, more a reflection of what got played and how much. I spent a lot of the year catching up with older games too so this might not include some of the hotness!

Having said that a couple of honourable mentions first. I was very taken by the second edition of London. Plugging in to my love of engine building games it's a beautifully constructed game. Altiplano just falls shy of the top 10 as I still like Orleans a tad more. I look forward to seeing how future expansions might tip this balance.

Lastly, Flip Ships is a huge amount of fun with it's co-operative flicking take on space invaders. Yes it is a one trick pony but the pony is a beaut. Onward to the top 10 list!

10 - Massive Darkness

Massive Darkness was not my first CMON game, but it was my first CMON Kickstarter. What an experience that was. A box the size of my house arriving for just the base pledge. Which is all good and well, but if the games shabba it doesn't help much.

Well I'm glad to report that the game plays well and kept my six-year-old playing for a total of three hours on one day and he asked to play more! Your standard dungeon crawl is elevated by the use of darkness and monster spawns, and of course the component quality is off the chain.

9 - Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire

If you look at the rest of my collection this would probably be the biggest surprise! Shadespire led me to do something I'd never done before - enter a Games Workshop shop. It was well worth it. Although I did have to clip out models and construct them (cleverly they all pop together with no need for glue). The gameplay itself is skirmish based, but with added objectives that cannot be ignored.

These objectives give you the chance to earn glory which is the end game victory point and a way of upgrading your war band (the name for your team of figures). The game plays super quick, which each player only getting 12 activations per game. On top of your activations you also get to play ploy cards to give you the edge. Shadespire is well worth a look.

8 - Tournament at Camelot

I have a soft spot for trick taking games and it's my considered opinion that Tournament at Camelot is one of the best. Adding unique player powers and health to the genre works supremely well. On top of that there is a great catch up mechanism, which allows the most damaged players to take extra power cards, and be the first to activate their second player power.

The game initially seems like it will take a while to play but rounds play nice and fast and the game has a nice flow. The cards a big tarot sized affairs and look great. This is a game that should definitely get more love.

7 - Barenpark

Patchwork is one of the games that my wife will play with me, Barenpark has replaced it for me. In Barenpark, 2-4 players will attempt to build their bear park using the Tetris like pieces available. When you place a piece you will, hopefully, cover up some icons that direct you to which pieces you can take next.

This simplicity makes the game accessible and saw it become a proper hit with my family over Christmas. The theme is very loose and simple but optional achievements add more strategy to the game and I recommend you include them from the beginning.

6 - Guards of Atlantis

You may have heard me talk about this one before, and that's because I consider it to be a genuinely overlooked game. Guards take the form of a MOBA game with two teams of players facing off against each other to push the other team back into their home area. Everything is resolved through card play, no luck of the dice. Players take a hero and the minions of their team and go to war.

Minions are not directly controlled, but you must manage the opponents minions to be successful. There is a bit of a steep learning curve to the game and until you are familiar with how the heroes play then an odd player count is hard work. But this is a fantastic game and much better than other MOBA board games available.

5 - The Cousins' War

This small box two player game is much bigger than it presents. Using a map of England with only three areas players will bluff, fight and push their luck in order to control the majority of the map. With only 17 cards included in the game it's amazing how much gameplay is packed in. Each round you will play these cards in a variety of ways, for their powers or to take general actions.

The snag is that some cards will trigger powers for your opponent. At the end of each of the five rounds a battle will take place using some dice bluffing mechanics. Find a friend you know well and you will come back to this game time and time again.

4 - Viral

I like a lot of different genres of games, so it appears. Area control is right up there and Viral does a couple of things that make me love it. First is the routing, or how you can move your viruses around the board. The board itself shows the organs of the body, grouped into different zones. To control a zone you don't need a majority instead you need to have a virus in each organ.

This makes each placement and movement vital. Each player can only influence two zones a round, and then wait a round until they can directly influence these zones again. Once you understand these mechanics Viral is a delightful game of moves and counter-moves as you try and get the most points across the body.

3 - Whistle Stop

Whistle Stop originally reeled me in with it's art and palette. I just had a feeling it would be a game that I would like. With a lack of pick up and deliver games in my collection this may have been folly on my part, but thankfully not. Whistle Stop sees you route planning you way across a developing board as you try to pick up resources and fulfil contracts, buy stocks and, of course, score points.

There are multiple ways to score points and rushing your train across the board to get a quick score and reward is as valid as methodically collecting the resources and grabbing stocks. It's very thinking but an easy teach and explain.


2 - Azul

Recent hotness Azul has been another hit in the Welford household this Christmas. Abstract to it's core, it sees you drafting, often meanly, tiles to fill your own player board. However you can't go throwing those tiles on willy nilly. Instead you must move them across one at a time by first filling up rows of varying length to the left of your mosaic.

Another easy to play and explain game that ranks higher than Whistle Stop due to the ease of playing it with non-gamers, meaning it hits the table more often.

1 - Ethnos

Number one for the year is Ethnos, the ugly, beautiful beast. Employing a Ticket to Ride like card collection mechanic with a hugely variable set up is pure genius. When ever you want to place your oddly coloured influence on the board you must play one more card than the current influence leaders tokens already there. These cards also give you points at the end of the round.

The first round starts of pleasantly enough but soon becomes a ticking clock as the first of the three dragons is drawn and you realise you have limited time to influence things. Play for points now or set up for the master stroke later? A delightful game that happily plays 2-6 players.

There we have it. Will 2018 top this? See you next year to find out!

Nick can also be found at Board, Deck & Dice