My top games in 2016
Maxim Van Bossche
Belgium
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A word in advance. I started making this list in December 2016. And then... never really finished writing it. So now, 6 months late, I will publish it. FINALLY. Why bother still? Well, I find it enjoyable to see myself and my tastes evolve over time. As such these snapshots are still interesting to me. The list had already been assembled in December, it was just some filler explanation that I never finished writing.

---

The year's almost over so time to make some meaningless top 10 lists! Yes!

The process I followed this time is quite simple. Pull up all the games I played this year. Filter out those I don't care to rank (this speeds up the process a ton). Then input it in a ranking tool. Normally I’d then shift the result around based on subjective criteria but I purposefully didn’t do so this time. Don’t worry, I’ll probably complain a bit about this later on. And let me repeat once more that I’m only considering games that I actually played this year!
I am the primary game provider for my group so, besides simply how much I like the game myself, there are two questions I asked myself when comparing games. Which one am I more likely to bring to a game night? Which one am I more likely to "want to play right now"? Of course, if I like a game well enough, then these considerations are usually moot :3
This directly means scores will be impacted by factors like strict vs loose requirements for player count, whether it is easy to teach or not, how easy it is to recall these rules without having to relearn the game every week, just general rules clarity, how it impacts other people playing near you (usually negatively, think noise), etc.

I plan on adding some extra stuff after the top 10: a quick rundown of the other 11-50 games from this year. The top 10 when only considering games that were released this year. A comparison with last year's top 10.
And... that should be enough rambling?
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1. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2543]
Maxim Van Bossche
Belgium
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Top released this year:
10 - Oceanos
9 - Tiny Epic Western
8 - 51st State Master Set
7 - Codenames: Pictures
6 - Dream Home
5 - Dale of Merchants (2)
4 - Kanagawa
3 - Millennium Blades
2 - Scythe
1 - BattleCon: Fate of Indines

I lot of these games only made the cut because there wasn't all that much released this year that I'm all that fond of. Also, I still haven't played some of these and am (as clearly seen here) quite hopeful they'll be great.
But... bit of a bummer year? I mean, my top game is "Battlecon 2016".
 
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2. Board Game: Asgard [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1904]
Maxim Van Bossche
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50 - Imperial Settlers
48 - Ninja Taisen
47 - Patchwork
46 - Pixel Tactics
45 - Splendor
44 - Lewis & Clark
43 - Flick 'Em Up
42 - La Isla
41 - Asgard
 
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3. Board Game: Raptor [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:321]
Maxim Van Bossche
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40 - Darkest Night
39 - Kashgar: Händler der Seidenstrasse
38 - Castles of Burgundy
37 - The Palaces of Carrara
36 - Netrunner
35 - Lords of Waterdeep
34 - A Game of Thrones: the Board Game (2nd edition)
33 - Simurgh
32 - Colt Express
31 - Raptor
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4. Board Game: Kanagawa [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:522]
Maxim Van Bossche
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30 - Suburbia
29 - The Ancient World
28 - 7 Wonders
27 - Blood Bowl: Team Manager
26 - Tokaido
25 - Melee
24 - Shadowrun: Crossfire
23 - Dale of Merchants
22 - The Pillars of the Earth
21 - Kanagawa
 
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5. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:58]
Maxim Van Bossche
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20 - Ghost Stories
19 - Super Motherload
18 - Glen More
17 - Glass Road
16 - Millennium Blades
15 - Among the Stars
14 - Troyes
13 - Orléans
12 - Seasons
11 - Roll for the Galaxy
 
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6. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
Maxim Van Bossche
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Heyo! It’s Concordia!
Let me come clean first. This probably does not actually deserve the #10 spot. I’m currently pretty hyped on the game due to a good SUSD review, getting a new copy for a price I’m very happy with and a very fun, and very recent, session. Pretty much the formula for me rating a game highly. So hurray for the first game on this list to instantly reveal the inherent bias towards recently played games, an inherent flaw in these kinds of lists. But hey, I tried to be as fair as possible and take factors like these into account.
Now on to the game itself. The setup is super quick. The board is different each game but set up in such a manner that it’s still balanced. It is so easy to teach the game. Playing the game well also means you’ll actively be working towards ending the game so it doesn’t run overly lengthy. Optimal meta-strategies aren’t obvious after a single session, etc. These are just some of the reason that really sells the game for me and my group.
It is slightly heavier than I expected. However, I feel like the weight is a direct result of being insufficiently familiar with the deck. Oh, and don’t forget to thin the deck. Too many cards for too few players really slows the game down. Which is contrary to my expectations, but hey.
Also really happy that, despite the box being a lot longer than standard, it still fits on my shelves without sticking out.
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7. Board Game: Scythe [Average Rating:8.30 Overall Rank:7]
Maxim Van Bossche
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Scythe actually made it to the top 10? Huh…
So yeah, it’s a pretty fun game. Initially I backed the project due to the Stonemeier reputation. Then I upped the pledge for the metal coins. And then for the fancy components. And hey, I like artbooks, might as well spend a bit more, right?
So yeah, spent way too much. Don’t regret it though. I do really like artbooks and I once tried making my own custom components. Let me tell you, the price people ask for nicely sculpted components is really worth the saved time, effort and frustration.
That being said, I’m not raving mad in love with Scythe. It looks intimidating enough to scare people off (symbols, man. They are great once you get it but it’s such a barrier to entry). So much so that it’s kinda hard to teach. People see the boards and lose all motivation for learning the game. And my group doesn’t spend all that much time on board game media so there’s no hype to motivate them either. Moving on… The expansion factions are so reliant on the tokens. Most mecha abilities are also just not very exciting. And the game sells itself with a great theme that… doesn’t really translate fully to the gameplay. Super powered, intimidating mecha? You mean my tugboats? Hey man, they help my people spread all over the land. Awesome. There’s more of course but I‘m sure you’ve already heard all of it from the detractors.
What does the game do well? Well, it offers satisfying gameplay based on simple mechanics. Having the harvested resources be present on the board has such an impact as well. Big fan of the Factory. Nicely thematic and so fun to customize your available actions. The Factory cards may have my least favourite art though. But back to positive stuff. Varied factions are fun. You also have varied… economic/societal/whatever boards but these just don’t feel as awesome as the faction boards. Oh, and let’s not forget the way they managed to make the game flow. From your first, hesitant, steps, safely confined within your own borders, to finally getting across that river and suddenly being able to zip all over the map thanks to tunnels, to finally spreading as much as you can all over the board in a desperate bid to hold on to as much territory as you can. The mechanics support the gameplay to alter the way you play, to have you form different (personal) objectives. And yes, this isn’t unique to Scythe. But it does this very well. The inability to grasp this is also the main cause I’ve seen of people not winning. They see me spreading all over the land but don’t see why I’m doing it because another player is close to ending the game? Welp, you just threw the game.
Oh, and before I forget. Having the expansion races have an extremely different starting position (not hemmed in by rivers) is such a cool idea.
So in summary. I like the game. It does a lot really well. Still surprised to see it score so high on this list. Should get to painting them figures.

EDIT: Mid 2017 Maxim here. Figures still unpainted. In fact, my figure backlog grows while my "painted" stack... doesn't.
 
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8. Board Game: Cyclades [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:129]
Maxim Van Bossche
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Oh man, Cyclades is such a blast.
Some pretty simple bidding mechanics to get the action flowing, loads of interplay and some monsters to spice things up. I have only played the base game so far and am already sold. It has… four more expansions as well? Hades, Titans, Monuments and C3K. Can’t wait.
If there’s any downside to this game it’s the combat resolution coming down to just a dice roll. There’s plenty of mitigation though so I’m ok with it. Also, the threat of war is usually a bigger factor than the fights themselves.
And yes, I’m a sucker for the theme. I’ve found a paintjob tutorial to make the minis look like statues and this will enhance it even further!

The game's easy to teach. Demonstrate a round and everyone gets it. Show them some cool stuff and they'll use it against you that very game. Cyclades creates "Moments of Cool" like few gmes do.
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9. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:37]
Maxim Van Bossche
Belgium
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Tzolk’in was quite the surprise. I first played it online, looking for a game to play with Lisa. One test game and I was sold.
Tzolk’in is a gentle game where you only have two possible actions. Placing workers and removing them. The gentleness disappears quite rapidly however once you start delving into all the possible strategies. The expansion also adds a lot. From individual player powers (awesome) to tempo-changing/strat-upheaving prophecies. I haven’t tried the latter yet but they are probably awesome for more experienced players.
Let me just end it there. I’m far from an expert at this game. In fact, after checking some online results, I can quite definitely say there’s a lot left for me to learn.
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10. Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:40]
Maxim Van Bossche
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The game with the crazy player powers!
Marco Polo is a game where you score points by fulfilling contracts and establishing trade houses alongside the trading routes. This sounds dull and more of yet the same old gameplay. However, Marco Polo offers a bit of a fresh wind. First of all you have the aforementioned player powers, combined with some very solid dice placement. On top off that you have some very solid Euro stuff. Resource management, restricted pawn spots, chunky decisions and plenty of points being thrown all around.
In order to maximize player interaction/conflict of interest most powers will veer you towards a travel-oriented playstyle. A simple thing but it works.
The result of all this is a very fun, rather relaxed, game of hoarding camels and some minor cursing at your fellow players.
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11. Board Game: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:380]
Maxim Van Bossche
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Ah Ashes… this game makes me sad. Whenever I think what this could’ve been…
After seeing the success of Netrunner, playing it a bit and discovering my friends weren’t really into it, I was ready to enjoy a good card game again. Ashes quickly became my favourite. Similar enough to Magic to satisfy the urge to play that again but with a qmoother mana curve to quickly get into the action. Gorgeous card art. Fun, easy to pick up mechanics. And so on.
However, new Ashes releases got delayed. A lot. Partially due to a takeover by Asmodee and partially due to what seems to be insufficient know-how on international distribution. Even now it’s barely recovering.
As such, I’ve lost a lot of my Ashes hype. I still like the game and am slowly collecting the new releases. But I find it hard to really get back into the Ashes hype moodset. Truth be told, no matter how excellent your game is, any blemish will quickly make it fall off people’s radars. And badly managing a product with loads of potential is a major blemish.
That being said, I’d buy an artbook ASAP. Boardgame artbooks are becoming more and more of a thing thanks to Kickstarter and I love it.
 
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12. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:278]
Maxim Van Bossche
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Just like Tzolk’in before it, this is a game I fell in love with after my first online play.
I’m not even sure just what it is I love so much about the game. It’s a very strong mix of mechanics well representing the theme, nice components and very solid mechanics. You sail down the Nile, having to choose between taking it slow and steady, making sure not to miss any opportunities, or racing for those super valuable spots. However, there’s no going back upriver!
Very solid. I also quite like how you train your workforce, with the overseer functioning as a joker to supplement weaker workers or make that push for some really big projects.
You could say there’s some take-that in the game due to stuff like drying up your grain fields, nabbing those important upgrades, etc. However, they always feel like they’re the result of your own actions. You chose to spend those actions picking up more and more, like the greedy slave owner you are. IF this means the opposition can take advantage of that and ruin your day? Welp, you could’ve gotten there in time to stop him. But you were too greedy…
Excellent!
Also, bonus points for outstanding graphic design.
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13. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:8]
Maxim Van Bossche
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The grand example every young Euro strives to be. I sadly have a hard time getting it to the table thanks to this reputation. Players in my group, perfectly capable of handling even heavier games, shy away from this one.
But even then, those rare occasions you get to play Terra are a blast. So many varied races, so many strategies, such interplay between everybody and just so many lovely components. A feast for the eyes, hands and soul.
Everyone in our player group is pretty much at the same level of player skill. A definite bonus since really experienced players could probably handle us with ease. What can I say, we like to play new stuff as well.
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14. Board Game: Argent: The Consortium [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:471]
Maxim Van Bossche
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My favourite worker placement game.
It’s a table hog. The box holds more content than you’ll ever find the time to play. Speaking of time, the game’s pretty lengthy as well. A person that spends no time on revealing the objectives can snatch a lucky win out of nowhere. The mini stands are kinda unreliable.
And so on and on and on.
But, let me repeat, Argent is my favourite worker placement.
To appeal to the most common denominator, let’s just translate this to the Harry Potter setting. You’re one of the professors. Let’s say Flitwick (I can’t remember McGona… miss cat-shifter’s exact name). The Deputy Headmaster position will be vacant soon and the Headmaster is notorious for not really giving a crap. You’d be perfect for the position. I mean, Snape might do fine. Hagrid as well. But Umbridge? And that new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher is also vying for the spot? No, no, no. That won’t do. Obviously you’re the only valid candidate after all! So gather your trusted students, prepare some wicked spells and prepare yourself for the fiercest game of magical outmanoeuvring you’ve ever participated in.
If that hasn’t sold you yet then this might. Argent is the most sandbox-y of any worker placement I’ve ever played. It leaves you the freedom to explore, extort, injure, recruit and hoard. The objectives are strict but there are many to strive for. You’ll be riding meteors into classrooms, banishing your students out of reality just so they wouldn’t have to waste time on being injured and staring at the stars as inspiration to research powerful new spells.
All this being said, it’s admittedly possible that Argent is for the players that have played a lot of worker placement games already. We have seen a lot of cool stuff before but now we’re ready to take it to the absurd.
Also, I love the Indines universe. It’s the [b]BattleCon]/b] universe and it’s awesome. The excellent artwork (which you sadly don’t get to see enough of in this game) is a very nice bonus as well.
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15. Board Game: BattleCON: Fate of Indines [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:1175] [Average Rating:8.23 Unranked]
Maxim Van Bossche
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Yep, still this lil’ gem on #1. Well, with all these expanions I can hardly call BattleCon little anymore, can I?
BC: Fate is a solid addition. The Fate Gauge system is a solid step up from the old Finisher/Pulse system. The portable board/cards are very handy and it’s a godsend to just be able to give every fighter their own complete set. Not that the old system was that much more setup but still. Just so very convenient.
The set is affordable and comes with a decent amount of new characters. I’m especially fond of the new Shapeshifter. A pity her action board is just a tad bit too small.
Anyways… I’ve sung BattleCon’s praises long enough now. It’s the best 2p game I’ve ever played. The artstyle is fantastic, there is a near unending amount of content for it, the gameplay is fantastic and always tense, the game thrives on turn-by-turn meaty decisions, and so on.
People, play this game. You won’t regret it. Especially since they have made 8 free PnP fighters available!
 
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16. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2543]
Maxim Van Bossche
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And now, for the grand finisher... a comparison between 2015's top 10 and 2016's top 10!

Quick summary:
2015:10)7 Wonders 9)Imperial Settlers 8)Patchwork 7)The Ancient World 6)The Voyages of Marco Polo 5)Argent: the Consortium 4)Seasons 3)Terra Mystica 2)BattleCon 1)Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
2016:
10) Concordia
9) Scythe
8) Cyclades
7) Tzolk'in: the Mayan Calender
6) The Voyages of Marco Polo W
Our first repeat entry after a whole slew of games new to the top. And for a good reason. The Voyages of Marco Polo is a great game and is still fun to play a year later. They have released a mini expansion with more (mostly meh) characters, a small random mechanic and... that's pretty much it. The base game is, however, strong enough to carry us through.
5) Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn SSSS
A big fall for Ashes to nobody's surprise. The game is still fun but the lack of new content to keep this cardgame fresh really hurt it. Let's hope for better in 2017 or it'll be RIP Ashes.
4) Egizia
3) Terra Mystica W
Defending his spot, Terra Mystica is here to stay.
2) Argent: the Consortium NNN
A spectacular rise for Argent! Perhaps it is due to a general fatigue of seeing the same old mechanics being utilized in the same manner over and over again, but this fresh wind will invite you to stop for a while and just enjoy yourself.
1) BattleCon N
Despite getting to play it far less than I'd want to, BattleCon just keeps worming it's way deeper and deeper into my heart. It's just such a brilliant design. Such solid gameplay and with an amount of variety that will keep you satisfied for a long while. If I ever meet someone who as actually played every character, I'd congratulate them for a job well done. Then challenge them to a fight, happy to finally have found an opponent again.
The Indines universe has quickly become one I love.

And what general observations can we make?
Well, I for one am happy to see this list feature a lot of great, but older, games. While this is largely attributed to these games being available online for em to try out for free, it wouldn't have been possible without a great design and/or solid mechanics for these games to fall back on.
Other games have fallen off, largely due to having played them often enough to get a little fatigued with them. Looking at you, 7 Wonders.
Beyond that... kinda similar tastes, just different games to represent them. I'd say this list says I like sold gameplay, nice components and great artwork. And despite how harsh these criteria may sound, my shelves still overflow. I can't complain. I have more good board games than I have time to play them.
 
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