Played games from 2017 Ranked and Commented
Evan Dunn
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This is a geeklist of all the games I've played that have been released in 2017, ranked by how much I've enjoyed them, along with my rating and a copy of my comments for that game.

I have some other geeklists, but I though it would be interesting to see each year of releases isolated to try and understand trends in my tastes. I'll update the list as I play more games or as my thoughts and feelings change.

Played games from 2016 Ranked and Commented

Played games from 2015 Ranked and Commented
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1. Board Game: Calimala [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:1565]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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This game is nuts. It's an area majorities game that gives you very few actions across the whole game, but when you place an action disk, you place it on a space between two actions. You then get to resolve both actions. If later, someone places a disk on top of your disk, they get both actions and then you get both actions again. The same thing happens if a third disk gets placed on top. Then things get even more crazy as if a fourth disk goes on top, the disk on the bottom, rather than activate the actions, goes up to the scoring area and activates scoring for the next unscored criteria. In a scoring tie, ties break in favor of whomever had the most components in the scoring area. The game starts off slowly but then suddenly you have stacks of three disks everywhere, and a cavalcade of scoring commences, and it's your job to be ready for it. This tension is delicious.

Because actions are very limited, players need to be very aware of who is getting free actions and when as a result of their placements. It's marvelous because.it's much more common in euro games for the player interaction to manifest in blocking other players from what they want to do, but here that's flipped on it's head. It is possible that if you have a player who isn't paying attention to the board state that they might cause the leader to run away with things, so I wouldn't necessarily play this with that sort of player. With a group of engaged attentive opponents, this game sings beautifully.

Every once in awhile a magical 60 min ish euro with real depth comes along and makes me very happy, and this is absolutely a member of that club.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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2. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:48] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Evan Dunn
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New York
New York
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A delightful game where your aim is to fill your board with tiles. The center area has little coasters with tiles. On your turn you can take one color of tiles on one coaster, then the other tiles pool into the middle, which becomes a valid place to pull tiles from just like on the coasters. Then you take your new tiles and place them into a preparation row on your board. These rows are all different lengths, and when full will click into place at the end of the round. If you wind up taking too many tiles of a single kind, or tiles you can't place, they will sink to the bottom of your board and hurt your score.

The puzzle is intense, especially watching what other players are aiming for, and trying to both take the tiles you need while not setting up a great move for them. The components are delightful to hold and see. The rules are just the right amount of complicated for a game this length.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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3. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:60]
Evan Dunn
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New York
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In this game, players have to tightly budget their money to construct buildings from their player boards to the central board. Each building either produces a basic resource, or transforms a basic resource into an advanced resource. The resources are then used to either fulfill contract tiles, or can be sold on the marketplace, which shifts the values of the goods each time they are bought or sold. All of this is pretty typical euro faire, but the game shines in a number of exciting ways.

The first amazing thing is that there are three types of resources printed on the contract tiles which have no physical representation. Rather, when you complete those contracts the corresponding type bumps up on the points track. At the end of the game, each resource scores for the player owning it, and the value of the scoring depends on the resource's relationship with the other 2 on the scoring track. Whichever is furthest along scores the least, and whatever players collectively have the least of scores the most. This is a fascinating dance.

Another really fantastic thing is that at the end of the game the player with the highest number of unconnected settlements will score the most points. When you build, you have to either build adjacent to your stuff, which only serves to expand your settlement, rather than make a new one, unless you bump your 'shipping track' which allows you to build across rivers or along however many water spaces. This encourages players to build in a sort of a checkerboard fashion, which also encourages opponents to get up in your face. There's even a bonus you get for building next to an opponent which allows you to buy a good from the marketplace at a discount.

Add to this a special scoring criteria at the end of each round, and fairly well balanced variable player powers, cute components, clear and consistent iconography, and a few other nice gameplay features that add to replayability even more, and you've got a really incredible game.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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4. Board Game: Santa Maria [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:735]
Evan Dunn
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New York
New York
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Santa Maria is a fantastic game where in each of three rounds you can buy a tile and add it to your player board, or spend money to activate one of your buildings on the tiles, or draft and place a die and then activate each building in the column that matches the pip value on the die drafted. Buildings you activated with money don't activate again, and the die used covers the last building activated so you have to plan your board layout carefully. Each player also gets a few dice that are unique to them that activate the row with matching pips. The game only goes three rounds but it is an intense three rounds. People always beat you to the die you want and to grabbing the tile you need because it has the building you want printed on it. There are other game features you have to consider as well such as valuable boat tiles that want specific resources delivered to them, and competing to be first on a track that generates points each round. The gameplay is tense throughout and no matter how good you might be doing you still feel like all your choices were probably bad. Even passing is tense, as when players pass they get to choose amongst a series of important bonus actions to resolve.

The component quality is not great. The boards are somewhat dull in color, and the components, even the nice wooden ones feel a bit thin. Oddly the resources in this game line up perfectly with the Stonemaier Games upgraded resource chests, so I'll be using those for future games. One troublesome thing is that the VP tokens have big smiling pink happy faces on them, which feels at odds with a conquistador theme, although that theme is super pasted on. Regardless, I highly recommend checking this game out.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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5. Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:416]
Evan Dunn
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New York
New York
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I don't generally like race to the finish games, but this one blew me away. The way the game works is each player has three workers, and some number of dice. The dice get rolled, and represent the different resources in the game. Some action spots only require a worker. Others need a worker and then a die of a specific value or value range. Still others require a worker and one or more dice of a specific color, with the pips across all dice needing to total or exceed the requirement. The game doesn't have any inherent die income, so you have to be careful and clever about where and how to get more dice.

The main purpose of the dice is to purchase tiles which get laid into your player board. The tiles have roads that must connect to your starting spot, but which may also connect to the edge of your board which grants you a special reward. We played the advanced game where the printed rewards are pretty dull, but you can get much better ones to replace them through a few ways, which allows you to customize your path through the game in a really compelling way.

The game ends during a round that someone's dollars marker meets their points marker on the oppositely oriented tracks. This means a big money strategy is just as effective as a big points strategy in theory, although you'll want to do some of everything in this game, as each major track has a spot it grants an extra worker.

Turns are pretty quick, there are marvelous combos you can line up with the various rewards, the iconography is consistent and clear. The components look nice, especially the dice. The process of solving the puzzle feels satisfying. When you run aground it's because of your choices as opposed to die luck or being punched by other players. There's some, but minimal player interaction. It's mostly the occupying of action spots you wanted and the taking of the edge of board scoring tiles you needed. I'm very excited about this game, and I'm hoping to play more.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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6. Board Game: Riverboat [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:1540]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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This is a very interesting farming game. The game takes place across four rounds of five phases. At the start of the round, players draft the phase tiles, which indicates they get a small bonus, and will be first to act in that phase. Ultimately what's happening across the game is you send workers to fields on your player board, then draft crop tiles to place into those spots, then remove workers from those planted tiles to take boat tiles and collect bonuses, and then the toughest part of all, the round scoring phase, where each player is allowed to score up to two of their score-able features. Players will automatically get one new scoring feature each round, but there's no automatic income of scoring markers, so getting both a balance of extra scoring opportunities and extra scoring markers is a magnificent puzzle amidst a very satisfying farming game. Throughout the game there is also two intense contests happening. One is the fight to push your harbormaster pawn as far along his track as possible, because boats only score if he has passed them, and only the single player who pushed their marker the farthest gets full value of those boats. The other is there's a substantial number of points available for the player who throws the most workers into the city over the course of the game. Workers standing in the city score one point each during every scoring round, so there's reason to start fighting for this spot early, but fight for it too much and you won't have enough workers available to you during the farmer phase.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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7. Board Game: Nusfjord [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:1060]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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In this game players have seven rounds to try to collect as many points as they can. This is done through worker placement, and a little resource management. The whole resource management structure is stood on only three things. Fish, which comes to you each round depending on how many boats you've built. Wood, which comes to you through certain action spots where the output varies depending on how well you've managed your forest tiles, and money which is also raw points at the end of the game.

The game gives each player a personal board full of empty spots that will count against you if you don't fill them. It also gives you a water track which you fill with boat tokens to determine how many fish tokens you produce each round.

The game is fast, but crunchy. Player interactive, but it has that magical Uwe thing where you still get to be proud of what you built on your little board in front of you at the end. In terms of feel, it sort of takes the tough buildings element of Glass Road, and then adds to it the ability to claim special action spaces for just yourself, and a basic shares system that can allow other players to profit from your income. It's that perfect spot between thinky short and satisfying. I'm amped for lots more of this in the future.

I will say I did play with Paul Grogan's suggested variant for the game, which is rather than have players draw their late-game building cards in the fourth round, and then suffer the wrath of the flipluck gods, we drew the cards in the first round, but were only allowed to build them starting in the fourth round.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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8. Board Game: Pulsar 2849 [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:552]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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This is one of those tight worker placement point engine games. You get two actions per turn, and those actions are dependent on the values of dice you draft from the display at the start of the round. There are also clever ways to unlock a third die each round if you've planned well and lined yourself up properly. There are asymmetric actions on your player boards, different public goals each game, and even different action spots that slowly unlock as the game timer clicks down.

The core of the game however is to not get too distracted by this shinny, because the most action intense activity in the game, claiming and activating pulsar spots on the map, is a process that pays out tons of points at the end of each round. the trick is to efficiently set up your points income while making sure to get that extra action every round.

It's possible that a player who gets a good lead early on might never get caught up to, although the game provides many large one time scoring opportunities which gives you the chance to make up a difference. I'm enjoying the game a lot because it has hits the sweet spot of being excited for your next move while simultaneously knowing you won't get to do half of what you want to do while also being happy with what you accomplished on a previous turn.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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9. Board Game: Spirit Island [Average Rating:8.49 Overall Rank:53]
Evan Dunn
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New York
New York
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This is one of the most interesting co-op games I've seen yet. Each player gets an asymmetric board and starting hand of cards, and then players collectively need to protect their island from invading white meeples. One white meeple doesn't bother anything, but if he is left in place he multiplies, and 2 white meeples in a spot start ravaging the land. The game is marvelously low luck as the white meeples spread fairly slowly and logically, and the only chance element is that of drawing new action cards, which is thankfully a draw 4 keep 1. The player's abilities are very different, and each player is also trying to gather cards with symbols that allow them to perform the free actions on their player boards, so there's really no way to quarterback this game which is a delight for a co-op. The game allows for marvelous combos that let you feel really clever when you pull them off. It also has an extremely variable level of difficulty so you can have the game punch you in the face as hard as you like. I don't know that I could ask for more from a co-op game, which is a genre I usually don't get that excited about.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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10. Board Game: Pandemic: Rising Tide [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:1196]
Evan Dunn
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New York
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I don't have much basic pandemic experience. I have a little Pandemic Legacy experience. Generally speaking Pandemic is not a game or game system that gets me very excited. What brings this game to my attention is the co-designer Jeroen Doumen, who is a part of Splotter Games. Splotter's work always has my attention. So, let's talk Pandemic Rising Tide.

At the start of this game, you populate the whole board with wooden sticks which represent dykes holding back water. Then you flip some cards, and degrade the matching regions by removing dykes. If a region is out of dykes, then instead you add some water cubes. The game starts slow and then gets super intense, as once a certain number of events hit, the water level of the ocean goes up, and if you've lost dykes along the coast, water starts pouring in. In our game we lost due to running out of water cubes to place. I'm excited for my next go at it.

Something I found delightful about this game, other than the fact that the water cubes are this beautiful translucent blue, is that the water flows very logically. A spot with 3 water sets it's adjacent spots to 2 water. Spots with 2 water set their adjacent spots to 1 water. I also think the tools the game gives you to remove water are fascinating. One thing you can do is build a windmill sort of thing, which removes 1 water each turn from a spot the windmill can reach from a chain of contiguous flooded spots. It doesn't work at all if the mill is sitting on dry land. Where to build these things is a really compelling strategy decision.

You win the game when you construct all the buildings, which can be fairly far flung on the board, and when built they activate a strong one time ability. Other than those things, there are enough Pandemic mechanisms shining through that players familiar with Pandemic were able to jump right in and play.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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11. Board Game: Gaia Project [Average Rating:8.71 Overall Rank:13]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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This is a space themed points gathering game. Each player gets an asymmetric faction board and has the task of spreading out across the galaxy map with their structures and grabbing technologies with the goal of getting as many points as possible. Each round has a special VP awarding criteria that triggers for a certain activity, and at the end of the game you score for two special overall criteria that get randomly determined at the start of each game.

One thing I really like about this game is that despite being given player powers that push your towards a specific strategy, you still have a lot of freedom of choice as to how you pursue that strategy thanks to the openness of the map since you can always fly through the space hexes and thanks to the way the tech tracks work. The game has one large tech chart with multiple categories, and as you increase levels you get more income or cheaper abilities.

The components are nice, although my player boards are a bit bowed. The iconography is consistent and after about half a game you no longer have to look icons up in the rulebook.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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12. Board Game: Reworld [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:3593]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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In this game, players are grabbing spaceship parts in the first half, attaching those parts to your ship board, then in the second half of the game, players deploy those gotten tiles from the outside in, into their tableau racing for various firsties bonuses. The tile selection phase is extremely compelling because you do multiple rounds where as players play cards to collect tiles, then the requirements to get other tiles tighten based on the number value of adjacent cards. On top of that, the tile you take clicks into the matching numbered spaceship dock, so you need to be really considering what order you'll be taking the thing apart in, throughout the process of claiming tiles.

I also really appreciated that the second half of the game is a phase where your entire focus can be on claiming first to accomplish x or y tiles. I often get frustrated when games use this mechanism as a way to reward players who are already doing well or as a way to distract you from building your setup. Since here it comes during a dismantle process it feels much more interesting.

One thing however is that the game doesn't appear to have many elements that would result in a varied experience across multiple plays. I don't want to say it has low replayability value because the core experience is enjoyable and I do want to revisit it and see if I can do even better, but if you need any substantial variety in your games I'd say play your friend's copy once, enjoy yourself and then move on with your life. I'll personally likely be struggling to get this back to the table with people who played before for years to come.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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13. Board Game: Bunny Kingdom [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:645]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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Loving this light drafting game. Essentially you do four rounds of drafting 2 cards at a time. The cards either have a location on the grid where you place a rabbit meeple, an endgame scoring criteria, or a building that can be added to where you have a meeple, to increase the scoring for that meeple's grouping. At the end of the round you calculate your score by multiplying the number of castle parapets in your orthogonal chains of meeples times the number of different resources in those spots.

This game does everything right. The drafting 2 cards at a time means you can hate draft your opponents while still getting something nice for yourself. The iconography is clear. The rules are simple and elegant. The components are fantastic. Because every player has a record of everything they do in their discard piles, scoring the end of game scroll cards isn't a bear. There's luck mitigation in the building cards. I've enjoyed this so much, I don't normally play a game three times in one week, but this I have with three different groups and it's gone over wonderfully each time. If you are looking for a 45-60 min light drafting game, give this some serious thought.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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14. Board Game: Majesty: For the Realm [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:818]
Evan Dunn
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New York
New York
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In this game, there is a conveyor belt of cards. Players take turns buying one of the cards, then adding the card they bought to that card's matching building and then activating the ability of the building, which tends to give a better effect the more cards you've stacked under it. This creates some nice tension with the endgame scoring process, where you get points based on how many different buildings you put cards under. The game part of the game is you get a special budget of meeples that you can use to take a card further up the belt, but when you do so you money-up the cards you skipped over. There's also a type of card that attacks other players for not having gotten defense cards, so you need to keep an eye on what other players are going for in that respect at least. This is a nice, light game. One of the things I find most compelling is the way the game keeps you attuned to what other players are up to by offering another end game scoring criteria which is a majority calculation for each type of cards. Good overall, great for a quick meaty filler.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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15. Board Game: Agra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:1086]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
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Agra is a worker placement game where you place your workers on the central board's spaces to produce resources, or on the figures at the top to resolve their special actions. The resources can be sent by various methods to fill orders, which gets you some combination of money and reputation. Reputation then in turn increases the amount you get on future deliveries. I know this sounds like every euro game, but there are a number of things that make this game remarkable.

First, the game is nearly devoid of luck. Every feature of the game is laid out at the very start, so the only thing in the way of you and your path is your own mistakes and the actions of other players. The second is that the game uses a really interesting take on worker placement. Unlike most games where you have to earn new workers, this game gives you a huge pile of workers right at the start. The trick of it is that they don't come back to you until someone else uses that action. If you never used that meeple for the prayer action which I'm not even going to get into, you also get a kicked-out marker that can be spent to preform bonus actions printed on your player board.

The cards when fully fulfilled check to see who delivered the most goods to them, and then they go to that player and provide them with a special ability. The goods have an interesting mechanism where the production buildings have arrows leading to refinement buildings. Once you have the basic goods, and the refinement buildings are constructed, you can resolve an action to move those goods along the arrow making them more valuable in their refined form. Refining these goods also allows for other players to follow you which generated more bonus action markers for the active player.

So ultimately we have a low luck game with a lot of player interaction, that handles worker placement and resource management in a unique way. That enough gets it my recommendation, not even accounting for all the cute ways the game gives you opportunities for clever moves and the way player choices really drive the path of what's available session to session. So then, let me mention the negatives we ran into.

The AP can be high in this game. The graphic design is also not the best. The game comes with this odd angled platform that tracks who delivered what to where, and it's pointless and easily jostled. On the main board, the arrows that track the resource upgrade path are interrupted by the art so that the arrows can be shown going through an underpass or some such, which makes it slightly annoying to track what's connected to where when the board gets busy. There's also a boatman piece that tracks when new cards become available to send goods to, and along the river there are printed indicators as to when he moves. There's a spot where it shows two completed icons which indicates 2 completed cards in total instead of what we thought it meant, which was 2 more completed cards. All this being said, I am actively excited for more plays of this now that I have a sense of the what and the why.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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16. Board Game: Pioneers [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:2585]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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In this game players are spending money to lay down roads, buy tiles full of meeples, and then moving the shared stagecoach meeple into a unresolved spot, removing the colored token, and dropping off a matching meeple in that area. Each meeple type has a special ability when dropped off which is interesting. When a stagecoach token is empty it's worth it's printed points, and at the end of the game you get 1 point per one of your meeples connected through a chain of your roads.

Much of the challenge of the game comes from the tight economy. Players get a base income of $3 per turn, which can be increased to as much as $5 with the right turn order luck and/or planning by picking up yellow spots. On other players turns you have opportunities to drop a meeple after they do in matching color by giving them $2, and you have to also pay other players to traverse road spots they own. This results in a lot of money being handed back and forth.

Starting turn order might be a little bit of an issue with the game, as the randomly distributed tokens might only put one yellow 'income increasing' tile near the start of the map. This might give the player who grabs it a bit of an advantage, but it's hard for me to say if it's actually a problem or not. Overall, I like how you have a limited number of meeples, and so choosing the right carriage to take is actually important. It's also a shortish game, with a little bit of that Steam sensibility to it in the way you can take some advantage of other player's actions by paying them.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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17. Board Game: Near and Far [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:150] [Average Rating:8.05 Unranked]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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Really solid. This felt like a major improvement over Above and Below. The euro elements were better integrated into the adventuring theme, as the worker placementy town visits function as adventure prep. Each player gets a small character sheet, so when you have an encounter, it has the chance of giving you a connecting quest you mark on your sheet for your next encounter opportunity. This gives each player a cohesive plot arc.
The game also gives you a budget of "hearts" which are points you use to either move extra spaces, stake claims on the map for points, or most crucially you can spend them freely to increase your dice results so there's solid luck mitigation.

The other cool thing is in campaign mode, you save your characters session to session, and there's a book of maps where each game you play on a different map until you've played 10 times. Of course the concern there is that you'd need to have a consistent group across those sessions. However, leveling isn't so complicated that we couldn't fudge it and start a new character at the level of the others if we wanted to. If you didn't want that, the game has two other, different modes, "Character mode" which is about completing your own personal plots, and then a random encounter mode for a more similar questing experience to above and below. Each of which has it's own section in the encounter book, so you'll get a different story experience by playing each of the different modes.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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18. Board Game: Transatlantic [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:1330]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
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This game uses a cards hand-building system similar to Concordia as an action selection system. It works well here, but has a very different feel to Concordia. Essentially players are either buying boats, or activating boats to gain money. Money lets you buy more boats, and so it goes. Slowly as the game progresses, older boats get edged out of the board, at which point they score points for you depending on how many tokens matching the boats color are present on your player board, plus a bonus for matching boats that got discarded from the conveyor belt of buyable boats. Once you've played five cards you can play your reset card to get all your old cards back, and then select a new action card to use from a belt of action cards which gets resolved immediately.

There's some interesting tension in the game as to how often you need to get new coal on your boats so that they can activate for money. There are also interesting points where you can buy a house above a boat spot which means you get some points in addition to money when boats activate, so how often do you buy those, vs saving for boats vs buying tokens for your player board to increase the value of your aged out boats. The process of boats getting pushed out of the slots is a little messy, and the rulebook for the game in english is quite poor, but this wound up being a pretty interesting experience. After my one play I don't know that I have a sense of what a good strategy looks like in the game, but I'm interested to see what I can do with more plays.

I will say that this game didn't punch me in the face with awesomeness like Concordia did. This still might wind up being a great game for me, but Concordia was love at first sight. This is something I'll have to grow into or away from. Another play or two will tell.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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19. Board Game: Card City XL [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:3827]
Evan Dunn
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New York
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This is a delightful I split you choose game. The active player takes cards, and then splits them into piles of half faceup and half facedown cards. The other players then get to select the pile they want, and then add those cards to their city. During the placement phase there are tight rules defining what can be placed where, but then if you built well, your building chains will grow if their growth requirements are met, getting you free cards, and increasing your ability to score. Playing the original version of this game unlocked my brain's excitement and love for Town Center, which has very similar rules but a 3-d aspect. I'm so happy the designer looped back around to Card City for this new version, adding many super exciting new modes of play to spice up a game that was far too basic in it's original version. If you want to play Town Center or Small City, I highly recommend picking this game up and giving it a play. It's not only a good teaching tool for those games, this version makes it a solid game unto itself.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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20. Board Game: Noria [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2170]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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This is a really enjoyable stocks game, where in order to buy your markers up the four investment tracks, you need to pay resources. Resources come in two varieties. Basic and advanced. Basic resources are gotten through upgradeable collection actions. Advanced resources require actions to build the matching warehouses and then further actions to supply those warehouses with the matching basic goods. The values of the various tracks can be manipulated through player actions, so watching what your opponents are setting up for, and then hurting the value of those tracks is crucial.

All this is fueled by this fantastic wheel based action system. Each player gets a dial with three rings. In those rings are little circular markers that determine what action happens when you activate that spot in the ring. Your turn is drawing an imaginary line from the central bottom action spot, and then can move one space to the left or right on the middle, and then again on the outside ring. Then you can resolve the actions you selected in any order. After your turn is over, all the rings rotate one position, which means the actions available to you is always changing and of course there are ways to spend resources and actions to further manipulate the wheel.

There isn't a ton of variation to the game session to session. There are a few paths you can take in terms of which tracks you aim for, but the feel of all the tracks comes across as samey. The components aren't great. The cardboard discs you place in your wheel can get accidentally stuck under the wheel piece when it rotates if you aren't careful, which can get annoying. The iconography isn't bad, but it isn't great. For example, the most important number in the game, which is the number that determines your score multiplier on each of the stock tracks is really hard to see against the background art, and there's a track that can be bumped by spending some number of like or unalike resources, but when it says 3 different, what it means is 2 different and one of any, not one of each of all three. I would say the readability of the board is manageable but not great.

All this being said, I do like this game. I like stocks fueled by resource management, and I like manipulating the wheel.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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21. Board Game: Lisboa [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:132]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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This game is overly complicated in that special Vital way, but the parts fit together a little more cohesively than previous games. That's not to say that this game could't use a little streamlining, but I guess if you are into Vital's style of game this is probably your bag. It took me 3/4ths of the way through my first game before I started really understanding the flow and consequences of the different action options.

The game flow is pretty nice. There are a dizzying number of options to do on your turn, but ultimately it comes down to play a card, then do 2 things based on the card you played and where you played it to. The graphic design helps and hurts in different ways. When you need to do something, there's usually an indicator reminding you to do it, however, the board layout and artwork is disorientingly busy. The icons are very small, and the numbers to look up what the icons mean are even smaller. This is also a game where you can expect to still be looking up what icons do even deep into the game, as some icons are used to mean two different things depending on the context of their appearance, and other icons are used only once and then never again.

The player interaction in this game is more about predicting your opponents and trying to piggy back their moves more than it is about actually being able to do much to get in their way and hurt their scores. There are some surprising but minor luck elements of the game such as the order in which endgame scoring cards come out onto the display, and the tokens you start with.

Generally I like the experience of this game. Playing it does wear me out however, whereas a really solid medium euro will energize me. This is probably my favorite Vital game so far, and I'm still exploring what that means for me.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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22. Board Game: Photosynthesis [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:345]
Evan Dunn
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New York
New York
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In this game, players play as trees, who want to grow tall and then fall over for points. Each turn the sun moves, and gives action points to whatever trees can see it and get light. These action points are then spent unlocking components from your player board, planting new seeds and growing existing trees. Nothing can happen when a spot is in the shade, so there's a lot of blocking of other players with strategic growth. The most important thing in the game is once a tree is at the third level, which blocks the most and collects the most sun, and therefor is in it's most valuable state, you can spend points to have it fall over, then you collect a points chip from the pile that matches how deep into the forest it was. The center space is the most valuable, but it's nearly always in shade making it the hardest to grow from. The components are beautiful cardboard-papercraft trees, the rules are easy and intuitive yet this is a brutal game with tons of player interaction.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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23. Board Game: Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:958] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Evan Dunn
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I kickstarted this game so that I could get the new characters to play in Arcadia Quest, since Arcadia Quest is a fantastic game, and the characters from Masamorra are cross compatible. I hoped that this game wouldn't turn out to be garbage but if it was, that would have been ok with me. As a hedge, I made sure to get the extra addon stuff for the game regardless of if it was all cross compatible or not. If this game turned out to be anything, I didn't want to have to hunt down promos or unreleased expansions or god forbid exclusives.

So this weekend, my group gave this game two plays. For play 1 we used the all vs all mode, and for play 2 we did the fully cooperative mode. The game also comes with a longer, all vs all epic mode, but we didn't give that a try.

For those unfamiliar, this game is a dungeon crawler game, where the monsters are printed on dice. When you enter a room, you take monster dice corresponding to the symbols printed on the tile, roll them, and that determines the monster(s) you fight. The base game comes with only a few dice, but the KS had plenty of extra types to use. As a player, what you do is you roll your 6 action dice. Then you can keep whichever you like, and re-roll the rest once. Then you spend the dice as best you can to move around pick things up and punch monsters. The first player who gets to 16 experience points wins, or in the case of the co-op mode, once the players beat the final boss before player turn 21 ends then they all win.

In terms of decision points, and feel, the game is fine. With 4 players, it felt like the downtime between turns was just about as long as I'd ever want it to be. Maybe the downtime between turns sweet spot is 3 players? I really liked the smoothness of the monsters being dice. This got even better when one of the expansions added more types of monsters, and also bags to draw the dice from, so if you are a character who gets a benefit for fighting undead, you can't just chose the 5/6 undead sided die every time. As much as I love the crawlers with tons of minis, the economy of components here really felt fresh and exciting. The illustrations on the dice were maybe a little too detailed for the sake of clarity as to which monster was which, but I give the game huge props for having a full player aid available for each of the 5 players, in terms of what monster's abilities are.

Like pretty much every dungeon crawler ever, the rulebook isn't great. There are game mechanisms printed on the player aid that aren't included in the rulebook. The rulebook isn't organized particularly well, I had to flip back and forth and read and re-read passages to make sure we were getting things right. There are also some rules that feel very ambiguous. We did our best to interpret things, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that even a simpler dungeon crawler can't manage a fully clear rulebook.

My dungeon crawlers consist of Level 7 [Omega Protocol], Myth, Arcadia Quest, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients and Krosmaster: Quest, and I do think Masmorra is not as good as any of those. That being said, Masmorra is flexible both in player count, and in gameplay style (being both co-op and all vs all), and it easily takes at least half the time to play as any of the games above. I'm also pleased at the ability to have a second game to use the Arcadia Quest character minis in. It's overall a good experience, and I think it's a keeper, even though I fully admit that I wouldn't have sought it out if not for the AQ tie in.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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24. Board Game: Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition [Average Rating:8.96 Overall Rank:38]
Evan Dunn
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Solid improvements all around. After rules review, the game took about 1 hour per player which is nice. The changes to the tech tree are very welcome. The way objectives are handled is much more smooth and enjoyable. The components are much nicer. I very much liked the new role cards and their effects. The whole experience seemed much smoother, although I did raise my eyebrows at a few things. The first thing that seemed odd to us was that the game has action cards which are played during the laws phase. The action card essentially says 'accurately predict the way the vote will go and get X'. Then the laws tend to have an effect for those who voted yes and an effect for those who voted no. The rules of the game allow players to abstain. If everyone abstains, then the player with the speaker token chooses a resolution for the law, but since they didn't vote, then they can let the effect succeed or fail without getting/suffering the reward/penalty, and negating the action card's effect. Perhaps we played this wrong, but it felt odd. Another issue is that the action card that cancels someone's action card is still in. I don't know who still thinks counterspells are fun, but I guess those people still work at FFG. Component wise I also feel it's odd to still have custom tokens for all umpteen factions when the triangles and vp markers could just be in the six player colors, and save us all a lot of bits and boxspace.

Again though. Overall good. I am impressed and happy with it. I'm just finding little flaws in it's armor is all. I will play it again, and it will stay on my shelf.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
 
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25. Board Game: The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:3265]
Evan Dunn
United States
New York
New York
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So far I've only played on the Ruhr map, and not the new map that comes on the front side of the board for this edition.

In this game you are trying to get points by placing houses and unlocking technology tiles. This is fueled by getting money from shipping coal down the river, represented by dice. The value of the coal fluctuates as the die face changes up or down through player actions. The locations you deliver to determine which technology tiles unlock at the end of the round. The technology tiles are what allow you to place your houses and amass endgame scoring criteria. Money is very tight in this game, and the game in general is fairly low scoring so getting 1vp per dollar is actually a pretty ideal ratio.

The map itself is laid out in a somewhat confusing manner, but it's manageable. One or two of the icons could have been a lot better, but I've forgiven other games for worse. The board was printed with a fairly uniform lack of vibrancy and contrast, which leads to the colors looking dull and blending visually with the map features. This is unfortunate, since Khole and Kolonie by the same designer has a similar looking map, but looks so so much nicer.

The game gives you a few interesting decisions here or there and is generally an ok game, but it fails to have any mechanisms that get me really excited. You sail your boat up and down the river, back and forth, trying to keep your money level high enough to improve your position, but it feels samey throughout. The game is very low scoring which also pushes it to feel a little bland. There are some places you can put a house that do a +1vp majority scoring at the end, which is pretty meh, but then a tie in those boxes means nobody gets the bonus, which is pretty unexciting. The technology tiles you plan your strategies around run one fewer than the number of players, so you might set yourself up for a tile, and lose it to turn order.

I'm interested to play this more to see if it grows on me. In particular I'm curious about the new side of the board, which seems to have some substantial variation from the version I played.

Art, Iconography and components functional
Clever or interesting mechanisms
Reasonably low downtime between turns with mildly AP players
Multiple plays stay interesting
Low or mitigatable luck elements
Raw enjoyment
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