Dylan's Top 5(ish) Games Played in 2017

Author: Dylan Shearer   Date Posted:2 February 2018 

Well I guess it's my turn to round my my top 5 from last year. Surprisingly, working in the store didn't leave me with a lot of time to actually play games last year but I managed to slip a few in. So, let's get to it.

Scythe: Wind Gambit

Scythe has always been one of my favourite games. A light strategic 4X game with near-zero downtime? Yes please. But now there's Airships? Oh yeah! The Wind Gambit expansion is actually two expansions in one (the airships and the alternate end conditions) but the Airships is the piece that really made this game pop this year for me.

The airships, when played normally, throws the same abilities out to every player and it improved the game but everyone doing the same thing really just gives more advantage to some factions over others (see the Ferry Ability and every faction but the Nords). What really made this expansion shine is when we played the advanced rules, giving each player their own abilities. Oh my gosh, what chaos! One player was trolling the Factory space requiring us to pay resources to move through it, and combat was constant as another player had the ability to retreat to their airship so parking it just outside of the factory meant everyone else had to get really strategic on their unit movement and placement.

I thoroughly recommend playing the advance rules for the airships. It adds so much craziness to game.

Fallout: The Board Game

Pedro already mentioned this in his Top 5 of 2017 but I have to throw it on my list too. It's a relatively simple game that provides a fun narrative-based experience in a box. It's like a choose-your-own-adventure book… except everyone's competing to choose the next path.

If you're looking for a physical version of the Fallout video games, this isn't it (and I'd be very excited to see a physical RPG rulebook complete with the SPECIAL system) but, if you're looking for a game that is about making your way through the wasteland with all the quirkiness and unforgiving danger of the Fallout series, this will scratch that itch.

The minis are well sculpted. The gameplay, despite the explanations being typically verbose in true Fantasy Flight fashion, are easy to understand and explain once you get going, and the character leveling system is quite a fun little quirk to the game.

Terraforming Mars

I really didn't want to like this game. After getting a few of my own games out to the world, I could not understand how a $100+ game could get away with being filled with mildly edited stock photography and creative commons/public domain images as their artwork. But then I played it. Wow. I understand now.

Terraforming Mars is a Euro-style improvement game that has engine-building mechanics thrown in for good measure. You and your fellow players are working together to terraform Mars into a habitable planet, but you are also competing to see who is the best at this terraforming schtick.

What makes the game memorable though is how it trains you towards making better actions. Every time you play, you walk away running through simulations in your head working out how you could have done better. Each game becomes a competition not only with your other players, but with your previous playthrough… which again sits in the back of your mind as you think about how you could improve again, all the time scratching away at your resolve, constantly asking you if you're up for another run at Mars.

Magic: The Gathering

What?! A TCG/CCG on a Top 5 list? What is this madness? But hear me out. Wizards of the Coast killed it in 2017 with their flagship game, not just in their standard releases, but also their supplemental products as well.

To begin with, let's talk about the standard stuff. Last year saw Wizards learn from a lot of their mistakes and change up their formula. The Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, and Hour of Devastations sets were pretty standard affairs. Pretty much every option of colour-pairings worked when put together and the draft environment steadily improved throughout the year, but, at the end of the year, Wizards tried something a little different, and released Ixalan.

Now, Pirates vs Vampires vs Merfolk vs Freakin Dinosaurs?! YES PLEASE! But there was more behind the scenes here. For the first time, Wizards focused on building creature tribes rather than colour-pairings into the set. Instead of having trying to work 10 different pairing elements into the set and having maybe 2 or 3 of them work decently, they built 4 elements based around a creature type and made sure they all worked very well together. It wasn't perfect, and nothing usually is when you take a risk like this, but man did it change up the draft format that we run here at Vault for the better. The new Rivals of Ixalan set from January has further improved the draft environment so, if your keen to check it out, make sure you hit on of our Friday Night Magic events.

Next, the supplemental stuff. Wizards dropped a lot of supplemental product this year. There was Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, Explorers of Ixalan, Modern Masters 2017, Iconic Masters, and not one but two Duel Decks. But the two left off the list there are the ones I want to talk about.

First, there's Unstable. The third in the Un series, Unstable is a silver-bordered set designed to be played separate from regular magic (hence the silver border). This set included wacky rules like running around the room giving everyone high-fives, having you play a game of Hangman during your match, or even asking someone in the room to join your team for the rest of the game.

This set also introduced new mechanics like Augment, where you splice two creatures together, and Contraptions, an extra deck of weird inventions that can be cranked at the start of your turn for special effects.

What stood out to me was this may have been still been Magic, but it didn't need to be. This set was designed to play amongst itself and, because of this, it could easily become its own product outside of Magic. I really hope that Wizards realises this potential and either builds a small product line around the Unstable set, or at least allows other publishers build more games in the weird and wonderful world of Bablovia.

Finally, there's the Commander 2017 release. Again, Wizards shied away from the standard colour breakdown of the set and instead opted for famous or favourite tribes within the brand, bringing all new commanders for Cats, Dragons, Vampires, and Wizards. There isn't much to say apart from well done. These decks have great value inside for $50 a pop (At the time of writing this, Teferi's Protection from the Vampire deck currently sits at around $15AUD for the one card) and the power-level straight out of the box is phenomenal for being an entry point into the format. I still regularly pilot the unmodified Dragon deck to victory amongst our Commander crowd.

Warhammer 40,000 - 8th Edition

Alright alright. Yes Pedro had this one too but hear me out. I was moving away from Warhammer in June last year. I was dipping my toes into the world of Warmahordes and was looking at expanding its presence within the store… and then 8th Edition dropped. I'm hooked again.

8th Edition took the bloated rule set that had been piling up with band-aids since 5th edition in 2008, and threw it out the window. The game was overhauled, with the removal of Universal Special Rules, Armor Facings and a revamped Psychic Powers phase. The rules were condensed down to just 14 pages (which you can download from the Games Workshop website) and the game became leaner, faster, and brutal.

Not only was I back in, but I started collecting the new dedicated Death Guard forces as well. The models being produced by Games Workshop right now are astounding and, despite losing some of the customisability found in their previous iterations, it's opened up the design space to create more dynamic posing and sculpted effects on the models. I can't wait to see how the game improves over the next 12 months as the last of the updated Codexes are released and the Warhammer community can finally grow with some easy-to-learn rules.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Everything else I played (seriously, there was a lot of great games released last year)