Top 50 Games - 2017
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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My top 50 games 2017

Another great year of gaming in the books. Again, I so enjoy the labor of love, if you will, in making these Top 50 games lists. Because it's one thing to say, "Oh, this is one of my favorite games," but it's another to actually sit down and rank all the games you've played. Now, I totally understand how ranking games can be somewhat arbitrary. I rate some party games pretty high, but they're not going to rank higher than a deep strategy game with the same rating.


My top 50 games continues to be fluid, in that entries shift around quite a bit from year to year. There's also usually a couple of new games that skyrocket towards the top like Twilight Imperium and Power Grid this year. But given a years worth of thought it balances out. For example, I once had Mission Red Planet in the top 10, and now this year it left the list entirely. And that's not to say it's a bad game, far from it, I still greatly enjoy it (I view it as my contribution to the groups Mars themed games ). It's just that the games I love are the ones I can play again and again. And that's what I've really set out to do with these lists. Is to find games that continue to shine after repeated play. Some games loose their allure after awhile. And that's ok. I don't expect every game to be flawless.


It's interesting looking at pasts top 50's because in years prior there have been certain genres that can define the lists. One year I got heavily into abstract games, then card driven games, ect. This year I don't feel like there's anything too dominant. Which makes me happy because I consider myself an omni-gamer and enjoy a wide variety of games in different themes, genres, and mechanisms.


GAMES THAT LEFT..........GAMES THAT WERE ADDED
King of New York............Twilight Imperium
Ora and Labora...............Power Grid
Liars Dice......................Terraforming Mars
Onitama........................Through the Ages
Mission Red Planet..........Pathfinder
Lost Cities......................A Feast for Odin
Mage Wars.....................Baseball Highlights
Lords of Scotland............Santorini
Quadropolis....................Tzaar
Istanbul.........................Bora Bora
A Game of Thrones..........Tak
Pandemic: The Cure........El Grande
Terra Mystica..................Caylus
Royals...........................Concordia
Chimera........................Energy Empire
Hive.............................Innovation
Dvonn...........................Robo Rally
Traders of Osaka............Fauna
Medina..........................First Martians
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1. Board Game: Impulse [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1160]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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It's time for a new #1. The only reason this wasn't at the top of the list last year was because I played it during the last week of the year in 2016. I put it in the top ten at that point because it was such a fun experience. But I wanted to give it a whole year to see if it was just a one hit wonder. Happy to report that is not the case. I've played Impulse several times this year and it keeps getting better. Carl Chudyk is the master of multi-use cards. The strategic decisions you make vary greatly from game to game. It handles different player counts very well. And the mechanism that the game is named after, the impulse, where players have to potentially give good actions to their opponents while doing it themselves, provides the perfect amount of tension. Eagerly awaiting the beautiful 2nd edition!

 
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2. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:52]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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It's been some time since I've actually played the physical copy of Dominant Species. But the memory of the times I have played it keeps it this high on the list. This game has a TON of working parts; area control, worker placement, card drafting, tile placement, variable player powers, ect. And what's great is how all these actions make thematic sense.

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3. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:36]
Matthew Pearson
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Nebraska
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One of the enjoyable aspects of the hobby is exploring a designers game pedigree. In particular with Uwe Rosenberg's big box games, we see how he uses similar concepts in his games but tweaks them in different ways. Le Havre is one of his best. It’s thematically immersive and is hugely replayable.

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4. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:11]
Matthew Pearson
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Nebraska
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Stephen Feld's Castles of Burgundy still remains his best work in my opinion. I consistently pull this one off the shelf, and have yet a bad experience. Every action offers a benefit which the players must decide what is best for them at any given moment.

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5. Board Game: Pyramid Arcade [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked]
Matthew Pearson
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Nebraska
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The most played game in my collection. Granted, Pyramid Arcade is a collection of 22 different games played with the same pieces. But what sky rockets this to the top is one game in particular; Homeworlds. Homeworlds, is the definitive "space chess." It's an abstract, intergalactic, space game of annihilation! I would pay to watch Spock and Data play this! Chess like, in that it's perfect information with no randomness. And the only one you can blame for loosing is yourself.

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6. Board Game: Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition [Average Rating:8.96 Overall Rank:38]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Ever since I've gotten into the hobby I've heard of Twilight Imperium. But it always intimidated me from the length of play, the complex rules, cost, ect. So glad that these supposed deterrents did not effect my game play. This was one of the best experiences I've had from one single play. At one point I said, "I've never been this happy being so overwhelmed." At first glance, one would assume this is just a dudes on a map game where the most aggressive player wins. Not the case. This is more of a negotiation game rather than a straight combat game. We played for seven hours and at no point did I feel bored. The player interactions were so good. Can't wait to play again.

 
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7. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:101]
Matthew Pearson
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Nebraska
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When Cosmic Encounter bombs, it is quite the miserable experience. But when you get a group that gets into it, oh man is it great! Now understand every game is group dependent in a way, but you need the right group for Cosmic. You can't play this with people who refuse to interact. Hard to believe this game is 40 years old now.
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8. Board Game: Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:798]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Love, love playing this with my wife. The more we've played it, the more competitive we are in it. And that has been a really fun thing. I love sitting down to a game and playing the hardest I can with someone doing the same thing.

 
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9. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:159]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Seasons still ranks very high for me. It has been slowly climbing my lists over the years and for good reason. This game rewards continued play. And that says something about a game. I relish the strategic/tactical decisions I get to make from game to game.

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10. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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A couple of my friends have raved about this game since I've been gaming with them. This had always intrigued me because of how highly it was ranked. But I gotta say, the cover and even board art always deterred me. Not that I would refuse to play it, but I would never seek it out. Let this forever be a lesson in not judging a game by it's cover. WOW, this game was so good! Yes it gets a little math'y' at the end, but not overbearing. Friedemann Friese clearly a master of game design.

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11. Board Game: Mottainai [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:763]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Speaking of lackluster themes and artwork that isn't my taste. The gameplay of Mottainai keeps me coming back time and time again. I don't know how to explain it, the more I play the more it feels like I'm discovering new combos and card interactions. I love being dealt that first hand and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with it. Huge learning curve though. I don't like teaching this to new people unless they're in it for the long haul.

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12. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:126]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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In the same vein as Seasons in that the more I play, the better I get. I love the idea of deck building that can happen before the game, though I have yet to try it. I enjoy the different strategies that the different civilization factions provide. This game is based off of 51st State and I have played it. The main difference is that in 51st state players are all playing off of one shared deck. I really enjoyed 51st State, but the unique factions decks in Imperial Settlers gives it the win.

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13. Board Game: Stockpile [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:282]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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I've never done well at this game, but that in no way has hindered my enjoyment of it. Some stock market games can come across as dry, but Stockpile is the exception. It has such clever thematic ties like insider information, and the various player powers that alter game play.

 
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14. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:15]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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I finally got a chance to play Agricola this last year, which is what Caverna is based on. And I really liked it. While they're very similar in gameplay, there's also a lot that's different between the two. The sheer variety from the occupation cards in Agricola is staggering. But in the end, Caverna won out because it didn't feel as punishing as Agricola.

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15. Board Game: Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:427] [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Another two player game that requires a dedicated opponent. And to it's detriment, requires some financial investment from both players. But, the gameplay is very smooth. The decision of when to attack and when to block is so fun. And add to that all the different abilities that characters bring to the game, and there is endless replayability here.

 
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16. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:58]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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I really like the speed of this game. There is really no downtime because players are taking turns simultaneously. At first it may seem like it's just multiplayer solitaire, but you need to pay attention to what your opponent(s) are doing so you can piggyback off their actions. Great tactical fun.

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17. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.38 Overall Rank:5]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Oh man does this live up to the hype! I love the card drafting choices you have to make here. Players get into that wonderful problem of having too many great options to do.

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18. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.63 Overall Rank:3]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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It's long, it's complex, and it's so good! A very appropriately named game. Your civilization starts out in antiquity, but you must advance it into the modern age. Rather than have a board with a map of the world or some competing real estate, your empire consists of cards you played into your tableau.

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19. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:397]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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Terry Pratchet's Discworld is one of my favorite IP's, so that is probably why Discworld stays so high. But the gameplay is great too. Players are all playing to achieve their secret win condition before anyone else. And with experienced players, you have to make you moves not look too obvious that others won't block you from winning.
 
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20. Board Game: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:286]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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I shouldn't even like this game. I shouldn't want to spend hours and hours advancing through a campaign. And yet, I find myself wanting more! I always respect what roleplaying games do, but the few times I've played them, I'm always left scratching my head wondering what it I'm supposed to be doing. This system is so simple. You roll dice and check stats. But finding a band of characters that work well together and discussing our plan of action makes this one of my surprise hits. And there is enough content out there to last my group quite a long time. I sure hope Piazo brings Starfinder into this system.

 
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21. Board Game: A Feast for Odin [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:30]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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I get a kick out of teaching this game because I get to see how wide their eyes get when I launch into the explanation. "There are over 60 actions for you to take and on your turn you pick 1." The viking theme is a little loose here, but hey, it's got to be themed with something. The whole tetris/puzzle nature of this game keeps me coming back to it again and again.

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22. Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045 [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:367]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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I have very little interest in baseball. And seeing it translated into a board game did nothing for me. But it's by one of my favorite designers Mike Fitzgerald. He designed Mystery Rummy, so I thought I'd give this a chance. So glad that I did. By far my favorite deck building game. Games are a back and forth battle!

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23. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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This doesn't get requested much, but I relish the opportunity to play it again. It's strange that I like this so much, because players can get really hosed in this one. There is so much that is outside your control, yet I want to see how good I can do. When playing I find myself having a conversation that goes like this, "So move already......that was a really good move."

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24. Board Game: Vikings [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:308]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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If it's pretty much an abstract game, why not put a cool viking theme on it? Simple rules with great gameplay decisions of when to buy at the right time.

 
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25. Board Game: Santorini [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:74]
Matthew Pearson
United States
Nebraska
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The look of this game just pulls you in. The 3D structures and the bright colors just begs people to gather around it. What makes it one of my favorites is the god cards players get that determine their strategies. Each one has a game breaking ability that you must utilize wisely.

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