jmoline's Top 50 Games - 2017 Edition
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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This is my second annual Top 50 games list.

Last year, I tried using the index card method that Tom Vasel talks about, and it worked fine. This year, I did basically the same thing, but I used PubMeeple's ranking engine, which can be found here: http://www.pubmeeple.com/board-game-ranking-engine/.

After the current Top 50, I talk a little bit about what fell off the list, and what games are making a case to be added to it.

Comments are welcome. I hope you enjoy!

Last Year's List
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1. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:220]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
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Rank: 50
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 3(+3)


I've only been able to play this a few times so far. It's one of those games that everyone at my weekly meetup enjoyed playing, but never seems to get back to the table. I really enjoyed it, though, and I think my wife will also when I get the chance to play it with her. The game is punishing, but it's punishing to everyone, so we can all laugh about our misfortunes. The design is elegant and the action selection is interesting. I really hope to play this a lot more in the future.
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2. Board Game: Parade [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:688]
James Moline
United States
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Rank: 49
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 24(+1)

24 plays in and I still haven't decided how much of this game is luck vs skill. I love playing it, though! It's a bit AP prone, as you're probably going to do the mental math on every card in your hand to determine the best play. It plays pretty quickly in spite of that, though. It's easy to teach, which is always nice, and the choices are actually pretty interesting. Do you play this card and take some cards to try to lock up a majority, or do you play this other card so you won't have to take any cards at all (but maybe regret not having that card later). Fun game (pretty art, too).
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3. Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:421]
James Moline
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Rank: 48
Position Last Year: 46(-2)
Total Plays: 15(+1)

What I said last year still sums things up well.

Last year I wrote:
Fuse has been getting more table time, recently, but when it comes to frantic, cooperative dice rolling, Escape: The Curse of the Temple is still my favorite. I think the theme and the variety are what tip the scales. We haven't even played yet with some of the expansions we own (I'm excited about the unique player powers).
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4. Board Game: Uchronia [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:2068]
James Moline
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Rank: 47
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 5(+5)

Ah, multi-use cards. I've never played Glory to Rome, so this is the closest I've gotten to that game (I have Mottainai sitting on the shelf waiting to try, too), and I think it's pretty great. The theme and art aren't bad, but aren't particularly exciting, either. The gameplay is really pretty great, though.
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5. Board Game: Mansions of Madness: Second Edition [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:22] [Average Rating:8.21 Unranked]
James Moline
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Rank: 46
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 3(+3)

This game is probably the furthest down the theme-over-mechanics that I'll ever go. I love the way the app allows you to explore, and I really like the way the story emerges as you play (as opposed to knowing up front what you need to do). I think some of the random events are just over the line for me, in terms of good story telling vs bad mechanism, though. If I were watching a movie, some of the "you suddenly hallucinate that the room is moving and end up spraining your ankle" would be very fitting to the atmosphere. In a game, though, it just feels like forced difficulty. That said, it doesn't ruin the game for me or anything, and I'm looking forward to exploring more scenarios.
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6. Board Game: London [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:262]
James Moline
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Rank: 45
Position Last Year: 45
Total Plays: 6(+0)

Osprey Games is releasing a new edition for this one, and I think it's going to vastly improve the 2 player experience. Hoping to pick it up and give it a try. We loved the base game, regardless, so even if the new edition is only marginally better, it will still be nice to have an excuse to push to play London again.

Last year I wrote:
I like London for a lot of reasons. Multi-use cards are pretty much always going to perk my ears up, and while this game's implementation is pretty simple, it still conveys that tension that I love. I also just love London (the city) and its history, and this game is surprisingly thematic and interesting in the way it works with that theme. We don't play it as often as I'd like. We use a 2 player variant from here on the geek, and it works well enough, but I don't think it's as good as it would be with 3 or 4 players. Hopefully, we'll get to try it some day.
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7. Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:169]
James Moline
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Rank: 44
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 1(+1)

I do love me some dry Euros. Lorenzo Il Magnifico is a really interesting worker placement game. I enjoy the way the value of your workers is determined, and I like the engine building and how the running of your engine is determined by the worker strength. I thought the replayability might be hurt by the fact that you always see all of the cards, but after playing, I don't think that will be the case. The leader cards help with that a lot, too. I think my wife is going to like this one quite a bit.
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8. Board Game: Stockpile [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:284]
James Moline
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Rank: 43
Position Last Year: 50(+7)
Total Plays: 6(+3)

This is one of the few auction games that I can regularly get my weekly game group to play. I still really enjoy it, but I would also say that I'm not very good at it. Mastery of the supply phase continues to elude me.

Last year I wrote:
I only recently discovered Stockpile, but I really, really like it. The unique player powers and hidden information are right up my alley. I'm still trying to figure out how to play the supply phase well, but I'm enjoying the mistakes and triumphs I've had there. I don't know if this will move up or off the list next year; it's too soon to say how much staying power it has. There is an expansion out there, but I frequently buy expansions only to see them rot on my shelf, so the game may have to stand on its own. We'll see if it can.
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9. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:37]
James Moline
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Rank: 42
Position Last Year: 43(+1)
Total Plays: 8(+0)

I've really been wanting to get back to this one. In a Meeple Realty AMA a while back, they said they were going to be releasing an insert for this and I'm really looking forward to that, because I think it will help me get it to the table more.

Last year I wrote:
Tzolk'in suffers a bit from being a game that you have to be familiar with to do well. I've played it 8 times, so that shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, it turns out that there always seems to be sufficient time between my plays that I have forgotten just enough of the strategic lessons I've learned to be back near square one. I really like the game, though, and I hope to one day figure out how to do well at it.
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10. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:34]
James Moline
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Rank: 41
Position Last Year: 26(-15)
Total Plays: 2(+0)

I didn't get to play Brass at all this year, but I'm super excited for my copy of the new edition to arrive, because I know I'll be able to get it to the table.

Last year I wrote:
One day, I might be good at Brass. That goal is somewhat complicated by the fact that, right now, my only real opportunities to play are at Dice Tower Con every year. I've been tempted to buy it a few times, but I know I don't have the group to play it regularly. For now, I'll continue to schedule an annual game, and be happy with that.
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11. Board Game: Blood Rage [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:21]
James Moline
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Rank: 40
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 5(+5)

When I traded for Blood Rage earlier this year, I did it mostly because I wanted to try it. I assumed that I'd play it once or twice and then trade it away again. Instead, it has captured both my mind, and the mind of my regular weekly meetup. I can pretty much always get it played if I want to, which is a pretty rare thing for the people I play with. I haven't felt a need to pick up any of the expansions yet (other than the 5th player), and I still look forward to exploring it more.
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12. Board Game: Mysterium [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:152]
James Moline
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Rank: 39
Position Last Year: 42(+3)
Total Plays: 18(+5)

I think the thing I find most interesting about Mysterium is the fact that, unlike with Dixit, the game doesn't seem to need constant injections of new art to keep it fresh. I have the one expansion, and I'll definitely be picking up the next one, but even though we might recognize cards as ones we've seen before, we always seem to have fresh eyes for them. The game is simple, but challenging and fun. It's not for everyone, but only a very small few of the people I have played it with disliked it.

Last year I wrote:
I was never a huge fan of Dixit. I love the art, sure, but when you boil it down, it's pretty much just a clever spin on Apples to Apples, which is pretty far from being one of my favorite games. Mysterium took that clever spin, and built a game around it in a way that I find fun and interesting. The Asmodee edition added a controversial betting mechanism that I actually really like. The game can still suffer when one player isn't quite in sync with the group (something that ruined Dixit for a few people I know), but the cooperative nature of the game helps with that. The final, all or nothing round can also be a little disappointing if you lose, but the game is really about the journey.
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13. Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:66] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
James Moline
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Rank: 38
Position Last Year: 37(-1)
Total Plays: 3(+1)

I don't really have anything to add to what I wrote laster year. I did pick up the expansion, so I'm looking forward to doing these cases a little more often now.

Last year I wrote:
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is the mystery game I always wanted Clue and Mystery of the Abbey and others like them to be. Those games set themselves up to be mysteries, but they're really just deduction games. There's nothing wrong with that. I love logic puzzles. But I always knew that the only way to make a truly interesting mystery game, you would have to make a game with spoilers. SHCD does that really well. So well that I've been hoarding the cases. An expansion is coming, though, and I'm really excited for it. Maybe it will be enough for me to step up the pace with the cases in the main game.
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14. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:28]
James Moline
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Rank: 37
Position Last Year: 31(-6)
Total Plays: 2(+1)

I got to play Power Grid this year! I really enjoy this game, but it struggles to get to the table. Still, I'm happy to play it when I get the chance!

Last year I wrote:
There are a few games on this list that I have only played once. You could definitely make the argument that I have not played them often enough to rank them at all, much less in my top 50. I made the same argument in my own mind, but decided to rank them anyway, just because this list is a snapshot, and these are the games I want to play. Power Grid is the first example of this, but it's also a good example of why I'm including these games on the list.

Power Grid is an amazing game. The rules are simple enough, but there's so much depth there. I've only played it once, and everyone I played it with enjoyed it. It's possible that future plays will reveal something about the game that makes it fall in my estimation, but I don't think that's likely to happen. The only problem with Power Grid is that I don't get to play it. There's something about the art that my wife finds oddly disturbing, enough that she has never wanted to try it. So, the only opportunities I have are on the extremely rare occasion that I'm planning a game day without my wife.
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15. Board Game: Signorie [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:628]
James Moline
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Rank: 36
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 2(+2)

What's Your Game has really shot up my list of favorite publishers this year. Signorie is a really great dice drafting game. I has a nice engine building element (which seems to be a hallmark of the What's Your Game games that I love). The theme is, well, whatever, but the decisions are more than interesting enough to make up for my ambivalence on that front. I recently acquired my own copy of this, and I'm looking forward to seeing what my wife thinks of it.
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16. Board Game: Sol: Last Days of a Star [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:1767]
James Moline
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Rank: 35
Position Last Year: -
Total Plays: 2(+2)

I've only played Sol: The Last Days of a Star a couple of times, and I'm not entirely sure about how much replayability it will have for me. For now, though, I'm happy to see this make my Top 50. The engine building is really interesting, and the orbit element adds a really nice twist. I'm still thinking about things I'll do differently next time I play, which is definitely a sign of a good game for me.
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17. Board Game: The Manhattan Project [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:214]
James Moline
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Rank: 34
Position Last Year: 36(+2)
Total Plays: 5(+1)

This is still a great worker placement game, with a lot of interesting twists. What I said last year still sums up my thoughts pretty well:

Last year I wrote:
There's a hint of sentimentality in this pick.

My wife's father was a phsyicist who worked at the Los Alamos National Labs. A couple of years ago, when I first watched rahdo's run through of The Manhattan Project, I knew it was a game we would enjoy, and I was particularly intrigued by the personality cards in the Second Stage expansion. I decided to take advantage of how small and close knit our hobby is, and I sent the designer and publisher messages here on BGG. I told them I was planning a gift for my wife, and I wanted to make her father one of the personalities in the game. The publisher very generously sent me a print and play copy of the expansion that I was able to use to make a personality card that fit in with the original design. The designer worked with me to make a unique ability for her father that fit in with the work that he had done, and didn't unbalance the game. Her family also helped me quite a bit by telling me about the man himself (I never had the privelege of meeting him). They also asked that I not publicize him, so I never posted any pictures of the final product here, which I do feel a bit bad about.

Anyway, the game itself is really good, and I really do enjoy it, so it's not entirely a sentimental pick. I don't think it works very well with only 2 players, though, which means we don't get to play it nearly as often as we both would like.
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18. Board Game: Five Tribes [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:51]
James Moline
United States
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Rank: 33
Position Last Year: 24(-9)
Total Plays: 9(+2)

What I said last year still stands.

Last year I wrote:
I was leery of Five Tribes after watching Rahdo's thoughts on it. I knew it was a game that my wife and I would mostly play just the two of us, and I thought we would agree with him that the turn order bidding with 2 players would be irritating.

It turns out, though, that we both like it just fine. For 90% of the rounds, we just alternate turn order, then, when it really matters to us, we duke it out and one of us gets an epic double turn. Really, though, the turn order bidding just isn't that big a part of the game.

The meat of the game is in that weird, pseudo-mancala action selection system. And that is just a really fun little puzzle. The expansion is great, too, and adds to the fun of the game without adding too much complexity. I actually think it's best with 2, just because the AP would get to be a bit much with more.
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19. Board Game: Jórvík [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1611]
James Moline
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Rank: 32
Position Last Year: 49(+17)
Total Plays: 8(+3)

Last year, this item was The Speicherstadt. I replaced it with Jorvik, because that's the version I own now, but they are pretty much the exact same game. This game has the distinction of being one of the few auction games (Stockpile being the other) that I can occasionally get my weekly meetup to play. Luckily, it's a really good one!

Last year I wrote:
On its own, I would expect The Speicherstadt to drop off the list next year. I really like it, but it has a bland theme and is a little too difficult to get to the table. It might have a rescuer, though, in the form of Jorvik, a reprint that (if rumors are true) will include the expansion right in the box. Really looking forward to playing that one.
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20. Board Game: Dark Moon [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:743]
James Moline
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Rank: 31
Position Last Year: 48(+17)
Total Plays: 12(+1)

Well, it definitely did go up (possibly because I haven't gotten to play it as often as I'd like), but my group has kind of moved on from it. I'm thinking about picking up the expansion to see if that revitalizes it.

Last year I wrote:
Dark Moon is the go to hidden traitor game in my regular game group right now. It's fast playing and easy to teach, and the more we play it, the more I enjoy the meta that is building up within the group. I expect this one to at least hold steady, and possibly go up.
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21. Board Game: Doom: The Boardgame [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:804]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Rank: 30
Position Last Year: 30(-)
Total Plays: 8(+1)

Even though they are pretty different games, this entry is for both the older version and the version that got released this past year. They are both great games, and I have enjoyed my plays of them equally. The newer edition plays a bit more quickly, and feels a little more balanced, but loses some of the strategic elements of the original. Really looking forward to playing them both more.

Last year I wrote:
A buddy of mine picked up a copy of Doom at the flea market at our first Dice Tower Con 4 years ago. This is the first game of this type (dungeon crawly, tactical miniatures) that I had ever played, and I was immediately hooked. I love the discussion of tactics that it inspires. It's hurt a little bit by how difficult it is (I don't think we've ever won against the invader). I also don't usually like one vs all games, but we've never had a problem deciding who would play the invader with this one, which helps. I'm excited to try the new edition of this that's coming out. It sounds like it might actually be even better.
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22. Board Game: Francis Drake [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:331]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Rank: 29
Position Last Year: 25(-4)
Total Plays: 1(+0)

I actually acquired this game in a trade this year in the hopes of getting it to the table. We'll see if that works!

Last year I wrote:
I've only played Francis Drake once (and a year and half ago at that), but I've been thinking about it ever since. The theme is fun, and the components are amazing. The mechanics of the game present really interesting decisions. If it played better with 2 people, I would have picked it up by now. As it stands, there is a copy of the game floating around my group, but the timing has never worked out to give it another go.

I really enjoy the pseudo-rondel of the preparation phase and then determining the best utilization of the supplies you managed to get. The game has a lot going on, and while I think it leans more Euro, I think it can also appeal to non-Euro gamers, as well. Hoping to get to play this again.
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23. Board Game: Argent: The Consortium [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:471]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Rank: 28
Position Last Year: 18(-10)
Total Plays: 3(+2)

Everything I said last year still stands, right down to the difficulty of getting it to the table Great game, though!

Last year I wrote:
If you like variety, Argent: The Consortium is the worker placement game for you. In just the base game, there are so many possible combinations of action spaces that I think it would be pretty unlikely that you would play the same game twice. On top of the variety, though, there's a great theme that feels at least a little like Harry Potter. There are multiple worker types that allow you to accomplish different things when you use them. There are a bunch of secret goals, and while you can peak at some of them, you're not likely to discover all of them, so you won't necessarily know what everyone else is working towards.

I really like this game, but its size and the number of bits makes it a little difficult to get to the table.
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24. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Rank: 27
Position Last Year: 35(+8)
Total Plays: 8(+1)

I still haven't tried the expansion for this. I was able to introduce it to my group, and at least a few of them liked it quite a bit, so I'm hoping it will get to the table a bit more.

Last year I wrote:
Concordia is a difficult one for me to articulate why I like it. It should be easy. I mean, everyone seems to like it, and I'm sure my reasons aren't terribly unique. I like the deck building; I like the resource management. It's not an exciting game, really, but it does what it does really well.

I have the Salsa expansion, and I'm very excited to try it. I haven't yet had the opportunity, though.
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25. Board Game: La Granja [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:111]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Rank: 26
Position Last Year: 4(-22)
Total Plays: 5(+3)

This fell quite a bit, but I still love the game. It's really just a matter of only really getting to play it with my wife (my other regular groups are less interested), and our game time has been kind of sparse this year.

Last year I wrote:
Multi-use cards, resource conversion and management, goal scoring, dice drafting... La Granja is really a hodgepodge of great mechanisms, but they all work really well together! This is really very much like a game by Stefan Feld, and, at least for the moment, I enjoy it more than any of Feld's designs.

The core of the game is really in the cards. Each card has 4 different possible uses, and choosing between them is usually pretty difficult. I love the tension of wanting to get an order going, so that I can score points, but needing more fields to produce, or wanting to improve my ability to make deliveries or get more money. On top of that, though, there's a nice logistics puzzle that you have to solve.

La Granja has really captured my interest, and I'm pretty much always excited to play it.
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