There’s no denying that 2016 was one of the best years in board gaming ever. So many good games were released last year that 2017 had some incredible shoes to fill if it wanted to live up to the greatness of the year before. Fortunately for board gamers everywhere, 2017 saw the release of some incredible games, including one game that may be the best solitaire game we’ve ever played, and another that may just be one of the best board games of any type period that lets itself down with some shoddy production values.
Here’s the list of nominees (and here’s the list of nominees for all categories):
- Assault of the Giants (Our Review)
- Nemo’s War Second Edition (Our Review)
- Quests of Valeria (Our Review)
- The Expanse (Our Review)
Without further ado, here’s what you, the readers, chose and our list of winners for the Board Game of the Year Award for outstanding design in tabletop gaming.
Reader’s Choice – Quests of Valeria
Daily Magic Games makes great games, and Quests of Valeria is no exception. We’re not surprised that this game has resonated with our readers, especially since it feels so rewarding to play. Although we are a bit surprised that this game took down some of the juggernauts on this list in our reader vote, and it did so by a fairly wide margin. That goes to show you just how good of a year 2017 has been for board games. Every answer on this list is a correct answer.
Assault of the Giants
From our review:
Assault of the Giants is a great example of the new breed of dudes-on-a-map games that shine a bright light on how creaky and rusty games like Risk have become. The game looks like it’s all about combat, but each Giant race has their own goals and motivations, and combat is more a means to an end rather than the driving factor behind the gameplay. You certainly can wage war in this game, but you will almost certainly lose to other players who take a more goal-oriented approach if you only focus on fighting. Each Giant race feels unique, and the asymmetry between the different races’ motivations, mechanics and goals keep the game interesting from play to play. The card-play is the highlight of Assault of the Giants, providing a crunchy and satisfying strategic layer to a game that is already full of positioning, posturing, and tension.
2017 rekindled my love for dudes-on-a-map games, and Assault of the Giants was the best of the bunch by far. The game takes the asymmetry of the Giant factions and runs with it, providing each with their own motivations and goals. Just like the classics that came before it, you can throw down and get into fights in the game, but there is so much more to do in Assault of the Giants than simply fight. If you’ve always enjoyed this style of game but longed to do more than simply fight, then Assault of the Giants should be on your radar.
Quests of Valeria
From our review:
Quests of Valeria is a fun set collection game that really does feel like Lords of Waterdeep was distilled into a card game, and is worth a look for players who like Lords of Waterdeep and for players who don’t like certain aspects of that game. Quests of Valeria is doubly worth a look if you haven’t played Lords of Waterdeep, because both games provide a satisfying sense of progression and gain. Like the other games set in the Valeria universe, Quests of Valeria’s theme is fairly thin, although the art is consistent and stylish. The symbolism on the cards will be familiar to veterans of the other Valeria games, but can be a bit cumbersome to learn for new players. Once players have it down pat, it’s fun to build your tableau of Citizens in order to complete quests, and even more fun when you manage to fire off a powerful combination of effects
It turns out we aren’t the only ones who like Quests of Valeria. The game is incredibly satisfying, giving players rewards for their actions at every turn. Quests of Valeria provides a gameplay experience that really does feel like a streamlined version of the classic Lords of Waterdeep, but it does it in a sleek, easy to transport package that can be played just about anywhere.
Third Place – The Expanse
From our review:
The Expanse is a tense, considered experience. Every card you take, and every action that you perform effects your opponents in at least some way, and often in a major way. The decision of which card to take, and how to use it lends every single turn weight, as you have to balance what you want to do versus what that action will allow your opponents to do in response. The Expanse is an excellent game for players who like to directly interact with their opponents in ways that don’t involve combat, and while there is some abstracted combat in the game, The Expanse focuses more on choice, positioning and making the most out of the options available to you at any given time. It’s very rare for one player to get an outright, insurmountable advantage in The Expanse as long as everyone is paying attention, and it has an excellent catch-up mechanism for the player with the lowest score, which keeps the the game running at peak tension levels through to the end.
If you like games that pit you against your friends at every step, provide huge amount of crunchy tension, and make you consider every action you take carefully, then The Expanse is for you. Ever choice you make is interesting for every player, because every choice made often has consequence or opens up new options for the other players. The Expanse excels at keeping players engaged, even when they aren’t actively taking a turn, which is a feat unto itself.
Second Place – Gloomhaven
This is the first time that a board game has made our list that we haven’t reviewed. There’s a good reason we haven’t reviewed Gloomhaven in that the game takes dozens of sessions to work your way through and discover all that it has to offer due to its unique blend of role playing, euro game mechanics, dungeon crawling, legacy elements, and storytelling. Gloomhaven has been an undeniable hit and currently sits at #2 on the BoardGameGeek rankings, but there are a few things about the game that kept it from taking our award this year, not least is the fact that we haven’t finished it and still have a ton of content to unlock and discover. Balanced against the excellent gameplay in Gloomhaven is the fact that the components range from shabby to outright terrible (in the first edition that we have anyway) and, even though the game is amazingly fun, it just misses taking home the gold.
Winner – Nemo’s War Second Edition
From our review:
I’m absolutely enamored with Nemo’s War Second Edition. While it is a dice-driven game it’s structured in such a way that your decisions, not the luck of the dice, are what drives your successes and failures. The four different Motivations that you can choose from really do make the game feel different from game to game as each requires it’s own approach and focus, and the amount of component randomization ensures that even games using the same Motivation won’t play out the same way twice. Regardless of the path you choose to take during any one play of Nemo’s War, the game is satisfying, involved, interesting and thematic. Each play feels like a grand adventure, and this game has rocketed towards the top of my Personal Favorites list, as well as my list of Best Board Games of 2017.
Nemo’s War is one of those games that we were excited to play before we got our hands on it and it still managed to exceed our expectations. The game is varied, exciting, robust, and intelligent, and it sets a new bar for solitaire gaming. If you’re a fan of solitaire board games or you are the least bit interested in trying one out, then look no further. Grab a copy of Nemo’s War as soon as you can.
What did we miss? What did we get wrong? What did we get right?