As Christmas approaches and another year comes to a close, I reflect back on my favorite standout games of 2017. This is not a top 10 list of new games this year, nor my all-time favorite games list. These are games that personally impacted me this year, no matter when they were original published. Why did these games impact and thus stand out for the year? As I share about my standout games of 2017, I hope you will gain some insights into why I am so passionate about freelancing and gaming.
Chaz Marler of Pair of Dice Paradise spoke of Ekö a couple weeks before I headed to Europe to visit friends and attend ICCM Europe 2017. He mentioned how much he loved the abstract game but couldn’t find it in the US and had to order it from France. The game sounded intriguing, and since I was going to be visiting France during this trip, I decided to seek it out and actually found a copy of it at Fairplay in Mulhouse. When I saw it in the store, I really wanted to purchase it but decided to pass because I wasn’t sure about fitting the large box into my luggage and the expense. I purchased a smaller game at the time instead. Later at the end of ICCM Europe, I was honored for my years of serving on the leadership team of ICCM Europe, as this was my last time attending the event for the foreseeable future with work and life changes. As part of this honoring, they surprised me with a gift, and it was a copy of Ekö. Apparently my friend Jacob Coon, stating he needed to go back to the car for his coat, actually ran back across Mulhouse to the store, purchased the game, then hid it in the trunk of the car. So I happily left some things behind from my luggage in Europe to bring this wonderful game home. Now each time I see this game I have wonderful memories of my time working with ICCM Europe, and it instills a desire in me to someday make it back to that event in the future.
This has become my family’s standout game of the year since we first played it at Gen Con. My wife and I both grew up watching Bob Ross and his “Happy Little Clouds” on PBS. I always found him relaxing and fascinating to watch. When we heard about this game being available at Gen Con 2017, we knew this had to be on our wish list for the con. We stopped by the booth and instantly fell in love with the game after the demo. It felt like you were watching Bob Ross paint. What solidified our love of the game was when we pulled it out at our first-ever The Tavern Gen Con Meetup and played it with friends. We all loved it, getting into reading the Bob Ross quotes (like “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”) and really enjoying the simple but strategic game play. This game brings up happy nostalgia of growing up, fond memories of friends at Gen Con, and is just fun to play every time we pull it off the shelf.
Also at Gen Con this year, my wife and I have a memorable game. I worked on Flamme Rouge for Stronghold Games, and we decided to attend the release party. Neither Angie nor I had ever attended one, so it was so much fun to hang out the with the Stronghold staff, celebrate the release of this great game, play through the game with new friends (and win my first game of it…always a fun memory). Growing up in Indiana, I have seen the movie Breaking Away numerous times and have enjoyed biking myself, just not competitively. The game is a lot of fun to play, a joy to work on, and now I have these wonderful memories of the release party atmosphere. But that said, no one should see Stephen Buonocore in bike shorts…that is a memory I wish I could shake from this game, but it definitely makes it a stand out for 2017.
I have never had a freelance project get me laughing so hard that I started to cry, thus having to stop working until I calmed down. Then it got me laughing and chuckling numerous times while working on the project. The dog curses that might be overheard in a tavern really set me off giggling to the point I couldn’t work for a while. Don’t get me wrong, Pugmire is a serious fantasy rpg about anthropomorphic dogs, cats, badgers, and rats. Pugmire is from the perspective of the dogs while future books will be from other animals’ perspectives. It is a well built rpg with a fascinating theme that I cannot wait to get to the table and run some one shots in, perhaps a campaign someday. It has a perfect mix of serious fantasy gaming with a wink of humor to keep it light and fun. While building the comprehensive index for this book, I just kept chuckling and laughing at the charm and wit of the writing style. Definitely my stand out RPG for this year. Are you a good dog?
Over the past year, I have gotten to know the guys at Fallen Dominion Studios, meeting them first at their booth at Gen Con 2016. I had read about their upcoming post-apocalyptic sandbox game, Fallen Land, so I planned to seek out their booth at Gen Con. As it so happened, their booth was just around the corner from the Modiphius booth I was working, so I had lots of time to chat with them and learn more about the game and the company history. Fallen Land has been a labor of love for Jon Lonngren and his friends. After Gen Con, I backed the Kickstarter for the game and often spoke with Jon about its development, marketing, and publishing. It was so exciting to see the game finally released to the backers and to stores this year, and it has been receiving some wonderful press. So happy for all the guys at Fallen Dominion Studios.
How does an out-of-print game from 1979 make it on my list of standout games in 2017? This was a grail game for me that finally made it into my collection this year, which I found at Noble Knight Games. What made it even more special, this copy of the game had not even been punched yet. It had shelf wear, but the previous owner had never played the game, so I got to feel like I was opening this game again for the first time, even with all these years it has weathered. I played this back in high school and was so happy to finally acquire my own copy. I never got into Diplomacy, and though I find Risk fun as an area control game, Dune really got my attention as a blended political, bluffing, negotiation, and area control game with its unique rules for alliances and the amazing theme of the Dune novels from Frank Herbert. I am putting serious thought into crafting an insert for this game and upgrading some of the components to take this amazing nostalgic game and make it really stand out on the table. The gameplay and theme are still amazing, it just shows its age in the visuals. Finally picking up a grail game really makes it stand out for 2017.
What games stood out for you in 2017, and what made them stand out? I am curious what makes games special to you.