Top 10 games I played for the first time in 2017

I'm Meeple Lady, and I love board games.

Top 10 games I played for the first time in 2017

Top 10 games I played for the first time in 2017

Two thousand seventeen was wonderful, eventful, insanely busy, sometimes rage-inducing, and now peaceful and calm because I’m really looking forward to 2018 — on to better and bigger things, right?  I’m grateful for the support of my friends and family, and the board-gaming love from all you guys! Thanks for being amazing and for letting me share my board-gaming adventures with all of you.

But before we get started on my top 10 list of games I played for the first time in 2017, I do have two honorable mentions: Whistle Stop and Fire in the Lake. Both were worthy contenders — for different reasons — in a year very full of gaming.  Whistle Stop is a pick-up-and-deliver train game that is strategic yet won’t burn your brain, like with some other train games. And with Fire, it’s a gorgeous and highly strategic war game that’s my new favorite COIN by GMT Games. So now on to my top 10 list …

10.  Shiba Inu House

Building these adorable doghouses is fun! But you have to be fast.

Shiba Inu House by Renegade Game Studios gets a million points for its super adorable artwork. It’s also really fun, fast-paced and reminds me of all those childhood games of Spoons. You’re competing with other players to be the first to build doghouses. Three cards make up one doghouse — the dog, and the left and right walls. Your deck is double sided, so the game is a pattern-recognition race.

As the rounds progress, you have to build two or three doghouses, which can get complicated. Sometimes the left wall you need is sitting behind the card you’ve placed in another doghouse. This game has been a giant hit every time I’ve taught it. I’ve even started naming the dogs, such as the Cha Cha dog, the swirly butt dog, and the lazy dog.

9. Azul

Azul has excellent components and is a great puzzly game.

Azul is a puzzly mosaic of beautiful tiles made by Plan B Games. You’re tile drafting and filling lines in order to score points on your wall. The components are gorgeous, and the game is strategic enough for even heavy gamers, who can totally hose you with tiles that won’t fit in your tableau and give you negative points.

As the game continues, where you place the tiles becomes more limited, and the choices become more difficult. There’s also something supremely satisfying about placing your tile in an optimal position and scoring a bunch of points. It’s also easy enough to teach new gamers, who are always drawn to how pretty everything looks.

8. Nippon

Nippon is an area-control, economic game that has an interesting action-selection process.

So this game is from 2015, but I only played it this past year — and I can’t believe Nippon and I never crossed paths before! You’re trying to build industries in 19th century Japan and gain influence throughout the country. The interesting thing about this is that to take an action, you select one of the randomly placed worker meeples at the top of the action-selection area. But the more colors you choose, the more expensive your workforce will be.

Each player can only take up to six actions before consolidating, which means losing unused resources and returning the workers back to the bag.  Thus, there are difficult decisions to be made about what action you want to take, and which workers are available on the board, and balancing all of that out before consolidating.

7. Sentient

Sentient was a huge surprise to me and slipped into the top 10 at the last minute.

Sentient, also made by Renegade Game Studios, sneaked in at 11th hour and blew me away. I was completely unprepared for how much I would really like it and how clever the game is. Game play goes for three rounds, with four actions each. You’re spending your agents to collect cards from the factory and bidding on area control for investor tokens. When you collect your card, you place it in your tableau. At the top of your tableau are five dice that you roll at the start of each round.

When you acquire a card, you place it in between two dice on your tableau. That card can affect the value of the dice touching it on either side. The card itself will only score you points if you can satisfy the math equation or value that’s printed on it. This is how the game gets really thinky in a great way.  You’re trying to maximize your points for the round by manipulating the dice to your advantage. Meanwhile, you’re trying to gain control of factory areas to pick up those investor tokens, which are multipliers for VPs depending on which types of cards you take.

6. Altiplano

Altiplano is a great game by the designers of Orleans. Plus, who doesn’t love alpacas?

I got a chance to play Altiplano at BGG Con, and I was not disappointed. This game is a bag-builder, designed by the guys who did Orleans, one of the top games I played in 2016. It has an added complexity though of being able to access locations to activate an action you programmed.

You’re trying to gain resources to deliver goods, store them in your warehouse, or trade them up for higher-valued goods. There’s a lot that’s going on, and it takes some getting used to where different locations are in the center of the table, which is random every game. Plus, that alpaca is just adorable. I can’t wait until this hits the U.S. in wider release. I’m totally picking up a copy.

5. Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate is such a great game. Super mean, but great nonetheless.

Fun fact: I have such a love/hate relationship with Food Chain Magnate, made by Splotter Games, because it’s so good yet oh-so punishing. Don’t let the cute burger and pizza pieces fool you; this game can totally make you cry. When you’re making $5 in a round while another player is making over $100, yes, tears will flow. The key is do to what everybody else does, but also to do things differently. Righhhhht.

I first played this game back in January, so it still satisfies my list for games I played for the first time this year. You’re the head of a restaurant empire but to get your customers into your door and sell them food, you need to make hires, market to neighborhoods and be able to provide specifically what customers are looking for. If an opponent changes that demand, then it’s that much harder to get those customers back into your restaurant. There are also bonuses that disappear once somebody claims them.  Lastly, the components are excellent, and I love that everybody has a “menu” of the available workforce and actions you can take during your turn.

4. Clans of Caledonia

I love how Clans of Caledonia has many different clans and variable board setups.

I first played Clans of Caledonia at BGG Con, and, man, is it good. Plus, there’s whiskey! Always a bonus in my book. Players represent different clans trying to build, trade, upgrade and export. As you place more items off of your player board and onto the main board, your production or income levels go up. There are also dairies, bakeries and distillaries that you can process your basic goods into upgraded higher-value goods.

There is also a market from where you can trade goods and affect a good’s price depending on if it’s sold or bought. Lastly, you can fulfill export contracts by spending goods. But the more of a type of good you export through a contract — either cotton, tobacco or sugar cane — the lower value that good will be. Simply put, the less an item is exported, the more valuable it is at the end of the game.  So you want to fulfill contracts to gain points but you don’t want to keep shipping the same item and flood the market.

3. Lorenzo

Lorenzo Il Magnifico is magnificent. It’s a crunchy, shorter eurogame.

Lorenzo Il Magnifico is excellent, and even more surprising is this tight eurogame is made by CMON. In a tight 6 rounds, players are collecting resources, buildings and moving up the faith or military track, while carefully choosing which family members to send out each time, because each family member’s value is different in each round. Plus, how harvesting and production is done in the game is interesting, and it’s so satisfying when you are able to combo that process by building out your tableau wisely.

In the end, you get victory points based on how your fill out your tableau, collecting characters, moving up the faith track, and scoring end-game cards. ‘Tis magnificent.

2. Agra

Agra is a huge and heavy game. There’s a main board, player boards, plus the imperial board.

Agra is a ginormous beast. There’s a main board, a player board and the imperial board. You’re placing your workers on the main board to produce resources or process resources, and your player board holds your farmers, which determine how many resources you’re building. Meanwhile, you’re giving resources to the king to please him or fulfilling contracts that notables are asking for down the river.

Your action can also be altered by using meditation points before you start your turn, as well as using a secondary action anytime during your turn. But the most brain-burnery part of this game is that you can’t activate a location you’re sitting in until you’re kicked off, or unless you medicate and pay for your worker to stand back up again. It’s bonkers, but in a good slow-burn kind of way. But things will start to make sense about halfway through the game, and you’ll be glad you played it.

1. Lisboa

And here we are at No. 1: Lisboa, which should come as no surprise to those on Twitter.

So if you follow me on Twitter, it’s no surprise that Lisboa, by Eagle-Gryphon Games, is my No. 1 for the year. I love, love this game. I played it for the first time at Rincon Games in Tucson, and loved it to much that I played it again later that evening. That’s commitment, friends, because this is not a short game by any means. It also shows how much head-over-heels in love I become when I find something I really like. (Insert heart-eye emojis and purple hearts here.)

It’s a game by Vital Lacerda, his best one to date in my opinion. It has area control, set collection, card drafting and tile placement. You’re helping Lisboa recover an earthquake, tsunami and fires destroyed the city in 1755. You’re clearing rubble, building ships, getting permits to build public buildings, and setting up shops so that the city can prosper. What the game comes down to is its multi-use cards. You can either tuck the cards into your player display to reap benefits, or play cards into the middle to meet with the king, marquis or master architect. Those two main actions — tuck or play — spawn into a whole bunch of other actions, and it’s so super crunchy. And as with other Lacerda games, there’s an option to follow another player’s main action, if you have the right favor and resources.

Well, that’s the end of my list, folks. Let me know what you think. And finally, have a wonderful new year and here’s to even more gaming in 2018! I have some new projects that I’m planning to launch soon, and I’m super excited for them. Stay tuned!


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