The Opinionated Gamers “Best Of” 2017



Well, another year has passed, and there is much to be thankful for.  The writers here on the blog have taken some time to write about their favorites for the year.   

It’s been a busy year for us… We’ve added a Twitter account as well as trying to crosspost a bit to Facebook, but don’t worry – the focus here is still on the blog and the written reviews!



Now – onto the individual “best of” lists from our bloggers.  There really is no criteria or instructions given – each writer here has simply made the lists to highlight whatever they felt was worth talking about!  Hopefully they will be an interesting read for you – the lists may also help you figure out how your tastes align with some of our writers to help you gauge future reviews/comments that you see here on the Opinionated Gamers!

Chris Wray


My 10 Favorite Games of 2017 (In Order)


  1.  Clans of Caledonia
  2.  Werewords
  3.  Codenames Duet
  4.  Century: Spice Road
  5.  Majesty: For the Realm
  6.  Azul
  7.  NMBR 9
  8.  Indulgence
  9.  Caverna Cave v. Cave
  10.  LYNGK


My 5 Favorite Expansions of 2017:


  1.  Cities of Splendor
  2.  Ticket to Ride France & Old West
  3.  Agricola Artifex Deck / Agricola Colors Expansions
  4.  Fabled Fruit: The Limes Expansion
  5.  Terraforming Mars Hellas & Elysium


Best Compilation:

Carcassonne Big Box 6


Best “Deluxe” Version of a Game:

War of the Ring Anniversary Edition


Dale Yu


Top 15 games that I played in 2017 (in alphabetical order)

  1. Azul
  2. Biosphere
  3. Century: Spice City
  4. Decrypto
  5. EXIT games from Kosmos
  6. Finished
  7. Heaven and Ale
  8. Majesty
  9. Millennium Blades
  10. NMBR9
  11. Paper Tales
  12. Photosynthesis
  13. Rajas of the Ganges
  14. Sagrada
  15. Wendake


Top 7 food objects eaten at game conventions in 2017

  1. Spiral Potato
  2. Spiral hungarian tube bread
  3. Norwegian Smash!
  4. Bone marrow plate from Savor in Niagara Falls
  5. Doner pide from Sakura in Essen
  6. Himmel und Aad – a German blood pudding…
  7. 40 different types of Gummi things that Linc always has at the BGG booth


Jonathan Franklin


Top 3 Small Games (alphabetical)

Codenames Duet

The Fox in the Forest

Voodoo Prince


Top 3 Expansions (alphabetical)

Runebound 3rd. Ed: Unbreakable Bonds

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium

Xia: Embers of a Forsaken War


Top 3 Below the Radar (alphabetical)

Circle the Wagons

Kingsport Festival: the Card Game

Paper Tales


Top 3 Unplayed & Looking Forward to Playing  (alphabetical)


Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade expansion

London (second edition)


James Nathan’s 2017 List:


111: Games played in November

1: Month in which I’ve ever played more than 111 games

6: New-to-me cases to be included in Detective: City of Angels (one of my favorite games of 2015) when it releases in 2018

2: Essen booths that were on my priority list, but were unstaffed at 10 AM on Thursday

256: Unique games played

47.69: Pounds of checked luggage brought home from Essen

41.5: Median games played per month

5: Different states gamed in

1: Number of times I told you the wrong name for Makaka/Blue Orange’s upcoming “Baiam”

2: Conventions approved in the 2018 family budget

183: Games played in 2017 which I had not played before

1: Number of times I thought it would be a good idea to put a batch of in-progress croissants in my car and drive them across town to bake while we played games

8: Games abandoned before their natural conclusion

Fünf: Number of different Friedemann Friese games played

2: Essen booths that were on my priority list, but were unstaffed at 10:30 AM on Thursday

0: Number of times I lost to Jason in Chinatown in 2017

100: Percent of states that I visited in which I also played a game

40: Games played more than once last year, but not even once this year

10: Dominion expansions before I had to draw the line

21.8: Percent of games played on Wednesdays

0: Times the designer of my favorite game of 2015 has responded to my tweets about his now seemingly abandoned prototype

530: Games played

0: Number of times I lost to Jason in Chinatown in 2016

2,266: Different artists listened to on Spotify, lest you think I’m only like this with games



P.S.: I thought of a way in which I’m comfortable sharing my feelings on 2017 releases in list form.  In the interest of whose-opinions-do-you-dear-reader-align-with, here are two lists.  The first, is games which I rate higher than average amongst the OG crew, and the later is games I rate lower than average amongst the OG crew.  My theory, is, that it is less critical to know what games I liked the most in a year, but, rather, which ones do my opinions differ more greatly from some sort of average.  


Titles I like aberrantly more than average:



Raja of the Ganges

1920 Wall Street

Panic Mansion


Mini Rails

Destination X


Titles I like aberrantly less than average:


Sebastian Fitzek Safehouse


New York Slice

Minute Realms



Lorna’s Favorite Games Published in 2017 List (in no particular order):


Magic Maze


Emperor’s Choice

Sheep ‘n’ Sheep

Gaia Project


Fox in the Forest

7th Continent


Nmbr 9


Joe Huber


The nine 2017 releases to enter my collection (out of 95 played):


El Dorado – I’ve not been a big fan of deck building games; what helps El Dorado for me is that the ability to use any card for cash mitigates the luck of the shuffle, and the focus on racing takes the emphasis away from deck building.


Emperor’s Choice – For me, this is an even more enjoyable game than Yokohama, as the theme (the brutal but effective rule of Qin Shi Huang in uniting China) comes though exceptionally well.


Finished! – Solitaire games have rarely entered my collection, and don’t have a record of staying there.  But Finished! will, I believe, prove an exception.  Sorting is an interesting activity, and the game is straight-forward enough to pull out and get back in to quickly.  When I first played this in 2016, it moved immediately onto my buy-when-available list.


Heaven & Ale – What I might like most about Heaven & Ale is the combination of “move as much as you want” with no loss of turn for doing so.  The choices in the game are fascinating, and I’m becoming convinced that it has staying power, too.


Jump Drive – By taking elements from Race, Jump Drive took some of the ideas from The City and made them far more interesting to me.  Like Race, I expect my plays of Jump Drive to come in bunches – but I very much look forward to them.


Nmbr9 – I am generally well inclined towards multiplayer solitaire games, and this is a fine one – and somewhat unique in its approach.


Nusfjord – I’m not generally drawn in by big games from Rosenberg – but this one held enough appeal that I gave it a try.  And I’m very glad I did; the reduction in resources makes for a nice, tight game, which works better for me than most of his big box designs.


Q.E. – It wouldn’t be one of my lists without a more obscure title, I suspect.  But my enjoyment of Q.E. has nothing to do with its obscurity; it’s a great design, that solves the game auction issue of players being able to track how much money everyone has – by giving everyone as much money as they want.  Great filler.


Sheep ‘n’ Sheep – Hayashi’s games always interest me, but I generally have more success with his bigger designs.  Sheep ‘n’ Sheep is a definite exception – it’s a very clever small game, with the only drawback being that it’s a bit difficult to teach.


Nine new-to-me in 2017 games that impressed me in some way – just not enough to join (or stay in) my collection:


Aloha: The Spirit of Hawaii – I picked this up from the prize table at Great Lakes Games in the “you must pick something” round.  Having just visited Hawaii for the first time, it was a logical pick.  But I wasn’t expecting much from the game – and it surprised me, offering both a more thematically interesting and mechanically interesting game than I had expected.  The mechanisms weren’t ones of great personal interest; otherwise I might have held onto it.


Destination X – Given my enjoyment of Länder toppen! last year, this was a natural.  And I enjoyed my two plays – but in the end the deduction wasn’t quite interesting enough, and the questions too specific in some cases, to be a game for my collection.


Dungeon Time – There are a number of folks I pay attention to for their suggestions and recommendations; not all of the games will be for me, but they’re great at finding interesting games.  Frank Branham is one of these folks, and I actually played Dungeon Time with him, after he described it as “speed cooperative Mamma Mia”.  And – he’s right.  And it works.


Fear – I could pick out any of the Fast Forward games, really, but in many ways this one impressed me the most.  None of the games are quite what I’m looking for from the concept – but the concept is great, and I enjoy all of them.


Fold-it – Dan Blum always has interesting games to try out, and while I was a bit concerned about this – it’s brilliant.  Really, fantastically brilliant.  Unfortunately, it’s also inherently limited; by the folding rules of the game, there are a limited number of puzzles possible – but solving each of those puzzles is a joy.  It’s a game I would have been disappointed not to try – and hope to play again, at least until the puzzles run out.


Istanbul das Würfelspiel – There’s a challenge in creating an interesting dice game; that challenge is multiplied when trying to create a dice game version of a board game.  Too similar to Yahtzee, and there’s no reason to play it.  To divergent from the board game, and the title feels contrived, made to sell the game rather than because there’s a real connection.  Istanbul das Würfelspiel avoids either of these pitfalls; the sense of the board game is maintained, but the game feels original and provides interesting and unique decisions.

Keyper – While I enjoyed Keyper (if not so much as Breese’s next release), what really impressed me were the folding boards; while they don’t offer an endless number of choices, they provide sufficient options to provide real decisions.


Noria – Unlike Keyper, I didn’t care for Noria much at all.  But I loved the rotating discs; I’d love to see a game more to my taste made from the mechanism.  So Noria’s on my “wait a few years, then buy cheap copies to create a new design with” list.  Not a long list, and not all of them ever reach the cheap copy state.


World’s Fair 1893 – The mechanisms of World’s Fair 1893 are – a bit pedestrian.  Everything works, but there’s nothing all that innovative.  But the theme – and particularly how it is carried into the cards, and the wide variety of historic information they include – is so good that I gave the game three tries before letting it go – and I’ve added a book or two on the subject to my wishlist instead.


Every single expansion and/or promo item to enter my collection in 2017:


Nmbr9 Starting Tiles

Nmbr9 Extra Tiles


Nine 2017 releases that weren’t for me – but you should probably look into:



The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game


The Palaces of Mad King Ludwig


River (sic) of the Ganges


Santa Maria

Spirit Island


Mark Jackson


I’m pretty sure there will be new entries to this list (thanks to Christmas), but Mr. Wray inspired me.


My 7 Favorite Games of 2017


  1.  Dungeon Alliance (prototype – was supposed to be released this fall but got delayed to early w2018)
  2.  Jump Drive
  3.  Clank! In! Space!
  4.  Downforce
  5.  New York Slice
  6.  Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
  7.  Codenames Duet


Likely entries: Pandemic Legacy Season 2, Alien Artifacts, the 2F Fable games


BTW, Dungeon Alliance is by Andrew Parks and owes a great deal to Core Worlds as well as classic dungeon crawl games. There’s a deck-building element as well some Mage Knight-ish puzzle elements.


My 3 Favorite Expansions of 2017:


  1.  Runebound: Unbreakable Bonds
  2.  Clank! Sunken Treasures
  3.  Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black


Likely entries: Fabled Fruit: The Limes Expansion, Nations Dice: Unrest, Pursuit of Happiness: Community


My 8 Favorite New-To-Me Games of 2017:


  1.  Adrenaline
  2.  Runebound 3rd Edition
  3.  Space Cadets: Away Missions
  4.  Android Netrunner
  5.  Flamme Rouge
  6.  Team Play
  7.  51st State: Master Set
  8.  Codenames Duet


Simon Neale


My top 10 games released in 2017:


  1. Heaven & Ale
  2. Gaia Project
  3. Majesty
  4. Transatlantic
  5. Sagrada
  6. Noria
  7. Clans of Caledonia
  8. Valletta
  9. Magic Maze
  10. Century Spice Road


Andrea “Liga” Ligabue


My favourite games of 2017.


I still have to play some interesting titles (like Chartestone, the 7th Continent and Transatlantic) enough to rate but I’m sure I would love … Here a list of title in alphabetical order


  • A Handful of Stars
  • Barenpark
  • Bunny Kingdoms
  • Century Spice Road
  • Dragon Castle
  • Gaia Project
  • Heaven & Ale
  • Majesty
  • Runewars miniature game
  • Unlock


The best games played with my family


This is the list of the most played/appreciated board games I have played with the different members of my family this year. We are used to play sometimes all together but also I’m used to play a lot with each one of the member.


Serena (my wife)


  1. Bruges
  2. Dragon Castle
  3. Rondo


Caterina (my 16 year old daughter)


  1. Innovation
  2. Bunny Kingdoms
  3. Thebes


Francesco (my 11 year old son)


  1. Star Wars: Rebellion
  2. Memoir ‘44
  3. Runewars & Scythe


Craig Massey


There are still a rather large pile of 2017 releases to try, so this is a list in progress as there are likely a few more keepers yet to be discovered. I played close to 90 new games throughout the last year with most of those being newer releases. In alphabetical order, here are the games that struck my fancy in 2017 the most and provided a great time at the game table. They are going to find permanent shelf space in the collection going forward.


  • Azul
  • Clans of Caledonia
  • El Dorado
  • Heaven and Ale
  • Jump Drive
  • Transatlantic
  • Voodoo Prince


Alan How


My favourite games from 2017 cover a wide range of types and are listed in alphabetical order. I tend to like heavier games but increasingly games that provide plenty of story in them. Most of these games it is the game systems that drew me in, but the games with an asterisk also provide the great narrative.


7th Continent*

Aeon’s End





Gaia Project


Heaven and Ale

John Company*



Mystic Battles Pantheon*

Nemos War



Pulsar 2849

Spirit Island*

Sword & Sorcery*

Time of Crisis*

Too Many Bones*

Warfighter: the WWII tactical combat card game




Expansions that have pleased me by adding to the base game. I have added an asterisk to expansions that I will always add to the base game when playing again.


Aeons End War Eternal though it’s also a complete game

Concordia Aegyptus


Scythe expansions*

Spirit Island

The Colonists expansion

Too Many Bones extra characters*

Xia Embers of a Forsaken Star*


Introductory games

These are easier games to play that I’ve played with gamers and non regular gamers with some success.



Bohnanza Duel

Century Spice Road

Dragon Castle

El Dorado

Majesty for the realm

Numbr 9

Pioneer Days

Tournament at Camelot

Word Domination


Greg Schloesser


I still have a LOT of Essen releases to play, so in no way would I consider my list to be finalized.  I am confident it will change many times before it is finalized … which will likely not be before Essen 2018!


Top 10 Games of 2017



Pioneer Days



Heaven & Ale




Cottage Garden


There are SO many I have not yet played, including Keyper, Biosphere, Photosynthesis, Rajas of the Ganges, Santa Maria, Clans of Caledonia and many more.



Favorite New Games

I’ve gotten a slow start on the Essen titles this year, so there’s still a bunch of interesting sounding games I’ve yet to try (and most of the ones I have tried have only been played once).  So this list will probably change significantly in the months to come.  But as the year draws to a close, here are my favorite new games from 2017.

  1.     Heaven & Ale – Wonderfully designed, with very tight mechanics, a unique objective, and gameplay that doesn’t feel similar to anything else out there.  Really looking forward to exploring this some more.
  2.     A Handful of Stars – Only played once, but really liked it.  Has Wallace finally placed the terrific ideas from A Few Acres of Snow into a quality, functional game?
  3.     Codenames Duet – Just as good as the original, a brilliant and challenging test for two players.  I wish all spinoffs were as good as this one!
  4.     Clans of Caledonia – Clearly inspired by Terra Mystica, but it plays quite differently.  I think it’s a little less challenging, which, for me, is a good thing.  With more plays, it might well rise to near the top of this list.
  5.     Riverboat – The design is reasonably abstract, but the whole thing is so smooth and clever that it doesn’t feel like an abstract.  I’m not sure I’ve tried another game that plays quite like it.  Another success for Kiesling.
  6.     Caverna: Cave vs. Cave – Maybe Rosenberg’s most successful job of converting one of his big box designs into a 2-player game.  Plays quite differently than the original, but there’s still plenty of choices and scope for skillful play.
  7.     Merlin – Classic Feld, with an interesting dice-based mechanic.  Lots of objectives that can be pursued.  I’ve yet to figure out which are the right ones, as I haven’t come close to winning yet, but I’m enjoying the struggle to become competent!
  8.     Whistle Stop – This is a train game with a different feel and that’s not easy to accomplish in this crowded genre.  Lots of variety, lots of choices, but the game never feels overwhelming.
  9.     Valetta – This is the level of deckbuilding I can handle and the fact that it’s tied to a game board (of sorts) also helps me grasp things.  Plays very fast.  Perhaps my favorite Dorra design and that’s saying something, since he’s been cranking out quality games for 25 years!
  10. Pioneers – Nicely conceived middleweight:  not too hard, but not too easy, either.  It rises above being just the required companion to Merlin.  A welcome return to form by Emanuele Ornella.

So far, nothing from the year’s crop of games has truly excited me, although Heaven & Ale is close.  But it’s still awfully early, so several of these games could still reach that stage and there’s plenty of other titles that might do it as well.  So far, though, the year has provided a lot of good games, but not many great ones.

Favorite New Expansion Played

Lorenzo il Magnifico: Houses of Renaissance – This is also my only new expansion played!  But even so, there’s a ton of stuff here, so those who wanted more variety or more mechanisms from the wonderful Lorenzo will not be disappointed.

New Game with Which I’m Most Out of Step with Other OGers

Azul – It is a much loved title with most of my fellow writers.  But prior to trying it, I suspected it would be too abstract and not intricate enough for my tastes and that’s just how it played out.  I wouldn’t mind playing it if the rest of the table really wanted to, but I would also be just as happy never to play it again.  That’s me, Larry the Rebel!

And finally,

Least Favorite New Game of the Year

Lisboa – Okay, hold off on the tar and feathers!  Obviously, this is not a bad game.  But as much as I want to love the designs of Vital Lacerda, they just don’t work for me.  They feel as if they are complex for the sake of complexity and that really seems to be the case in particular with Lisboa.  Consequently, I didn’t enjoy my one game of this at all.  Maybe I’d change my mind with more plays, but life is short and there are lots of games I do like, so why torture myself?  Sorry, Vital, but a glance at Lisboa’s ratings on the Geek shows that you’re crying all the way to the bank, so I’m sure one negative impression won’t do you too much harm!

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Opinionated Gamers “Best Of” 2017

  1. huzonfirst says:

    I finished Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 over the Christmas break, so let me add that to my top 10 list and take off Pioneers. Season 2 wasn’t quite as great as Season 1, but we still enjoyed it and it gave us another roller-coaster ride. Really looking forward to Season 3, which, supposedly, will be the last game in the series.

Leave a Reply