If party games like What Do You Meme are a light appetizer, then strategy board games are the main course: a juicy, 36 oz tomahawk steak.
2017 was a great year for strategy games, with Gloomhaven headlining our top 10 list.
Gaia Project is the sequel to the popular game Terra Mystica.
And according to the users of BoardGameGeek, it may be even better than the original.
Both games remind me a bit of Civilization in that you must balance multiple objectives and determine the ideal time expand territory or develop economy.
Of course instead of playing the role of an ancient civilization, you are terraforming planets.
Before buying I would suggest reading this excellent review from Shut Up and Sit Down. The short is that just because the game is bigger and possibly better does not make it necessarily preferable to the original.
I am a child of the 80’s, so I recall fondly the choose-your-own-adventure books where you were theoretically in control of your character’s fate.
Gloomhaven is much the same way: you and your playing group dictate how the game progresses over multiple sessions; or if you have nothing to do all weekend, perhaps you could make one excessively long marathon session.
Twilight Imperium: 4th Edition
Given that it appears on this list, it is no surprise one of our authors listed Twilight Imperium 4th as one of the best sci fi board games of 2017.
For two decades, Twilight Imperium, ever increasing compared to the prior edition, has delighted players.
This game, though, is not for the feint of heart; or, in gaming terms it is not for a casual gamer. If your play group does not like massive games, then keep this one on the shelf.
There are infinite–not exactly, but there are enough that you are unlikely to ever replicate a game–number of board configurations and starting clans.
Experienced players from the third edition will notice that the game has been a bit more streamlined than its predecessor (e.g., no more technology tree). For new players, this will make the game much easier to learn.
Pandemic Legacy Season 2
The game’s descriptions starts: The world almost ended 71 years ago.
Like other games in the series, you are one of many who remain after the plague; you must now work with other globetrotting supermedics in this epic cooperative game to continue surviving.
And the art and theme does as well as possible to immerse you into that setting. I won’t go as far as to say you will feel like you’re fighting off a plague, but it keeps you engaged.
As a legacy game, your personal game experience will differ from other play groups; also, it limits the replayability to a certain degree. However, by all accounts, you will enjoy this one enough to justify the price.
You can get a first-hand look at Spirit Island from a review on our site
But to summarize the main points from Bergen’s review:
- Beautiful game with quality components
- Intricate, enjoyable game but plan on at least a couple plays before you begin to feel confidence in rules
- Dynamic game with replayability
- Plan for some time before and after session to the game set up and put away.
Clans of Caledonia
Clans of Caledonia lets you imagine yourself as a 19th century Scottish clansman competing with 1-3 other players–or against yourself in solo play–to be the most economically successful clan.
I understand if Scottish economics (in any era) puts you to sleep, but this game offers a deceptively challenging gameplay, which coupled with unique yet balanced clan characteristics, makes Clans of Caledonia quite the enjoyable game.
It may take a few playthroughs to get the hang of everything, but the ability to customize your strategy depending on your clan and the modular board (16 different configurations) makes the game enjoyable on replays.
Whereas in Pandemic Legacy Season 2 players are the remaining remnants of human civilization following a plague outbreak, in Anachrony you enter a world devastated by an explosion in the 26th century.
Anachrony is a perfect game for those who enjoy worker placement since it is technically a two-tier system: you must travel to get resources but only once you an exosuit which can protect you.
The theory behind the game is simple: gather enough resources, travel through time to deliver them to a past Earth, and evacuate the current capital before a explosion similar to the prior catastrophic event occurs.
Ananchrony has everything you would expect of a highly rated game: good/great components (the miniatures are great!), a well-executed game archetype that enhances the theme, and excellent replayability.
One word of warning: the game can be rather complicated, so this would be best for a serious night of gaming.
If you want to read more about the game, then check out this great review from Wolf’s Gaming Blog or the summary at the end of the review over at Geeks Under Grace.
Lisboa is perhaps my favorite game on this list because it is based on reality: the catastrophic events (earthquake, tsunami, and fire) that happened in Lisbon, Portugal on November 1st, 1755. Adding to the realism is the fact that you play on a real map of Lisbon.
Game designer Vital Lacerda does an excellent job of encapsulating these events into not only a playable but enjoyable game.
In Lisboa, players assume the roles of nobility who influence the reconstruction and development of Lisbon in the aftermath. In the course of the game you will collect wigs–whoever has the most at the end of the game wins–by exerting the most influence over the re-shaping of Lisbon.
A combination of the realism, artwork, and gameplay depth makes this game worth owning. However, as with several other games on this list, this one requires a gaming group willing to take the time to understand the rules and deeper strategy of the game.
Near and Far
I have compiled this list by largely looking at user reviews on several different websites; however, I previously created a top board games of 2017 list, which had Near and Far ranked #1.
Why the difference?
It may be a function of how each list is compiled; or perhaps board game bloggers have a greater appreciation for Near and Far than the general public.
Or, one could just look at it from the perspective that it does not matter; just as long everyone recognized Near and Far as one of the best games to be released in 2017.
Charterstone is a village-building legacy game, in which players occupy a shared village and compete to accrue the most victory points over the course of the game.
Since this is a legacy game, the game evolves over time with permanent changes made to the game board.
The changes, in particular new card and abilities unlocked through opening crates, adds excitement and complexity to the game, which is especially welcome during the early portions since they can be a bit boring/tedious. However, generally speaking the later parts of the game is worth the time.
Stonemaier once again delivers a game with quality artwork and components. The gameplay delivers enough to provide a worthwhile experience. The story is not as engaging as others on this list but overall it would be a great addition to a game collection.
Given that this is in the bottom of our top 10 strategy board games is a testament to just how great the year was for board games overall.