PyroFrog’s Game of the Year – 2017 Edition

As I look around my office and review the list of games I’ve played this year, I was honestly surprised to see that the vast majority of things I’ve gotten to the table were from 2016 and a few from 2015, while only a handful of games and expansions were from this year.

A quick peek at part of my office. Those holes on the left shelving unit are where the conspicuously absent Winner of my Game of the Year should be. (Yeah, yeah, cute monsters, I know… They’re the last remnants of the nursery this used to be.)

Over the last few years, and especially since I started writing for Epic Slant 3 years ago, my game nights have always been a “Flavor of the Week” event. While it wasn’t uncommon to play a game 2 or 3 times in a night so I could feel comfortable sharing my thoughts on any given game, most don’t make a return appearance and fewer still make it to the table for a third evening.

The Criteria

So, there is where I decided to take a closer look at the games of 2017 – Which games did we play the most and what am I most excited to get back on the table?

Of course, there are other games from 2017 that I certainly look forward to sharing with you in the near future, including: Plague Inc, Fate of the Elder Gods, and (of course) Gloomhaven. However, those haven’t seen as much play yet as the four games I wanted to mention today, for one reason or another.

Games Worth Noting

These first two games are major licenses brought to the board game medium. These are both really fun games in their own right and they meet my criterion. However, they couldn’t really compete with some of the blockbuster titles released this year… but they are definitely worth your time to check out.

Harry Potter and the Game of Yesteryear

It may have been published last year, but the new Monster Box of Monsters adds a bunch of new gameplay and new character cards to spice things up!

While this post is focused primarily on games released in 2017, one title that has probably seen the most play as well as the most exposure to friends and family would be the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Deck Building Game. Since I got it late last year, this game has traveled with us to local game nights and events and down to southern California for the holidays.

With the release of its first expansion, The Monster Box of Monsters, this game is still going strong and is a game we are always happy to lose to when we get together. This expansion adds a new playable character to the game’s roster, Luna Lovegood, as well as a new Villain type (monsters), new mechanic for removing cards from your deck, new events, and even updated cards to make the monsters in the core game compatible (and improved) with the expansion.

Mario What!?

Ok, I expect to lose some nerd cred on this one, but hear me out. This year saw a whole crazy resurgence of a game which has been debated and bemoaned for years! While practically every other month Monopoly gets some new rebranding and a moderate design change, in its history, there haven’t been too many complete overhauls of the system… And this is more likely a convergence of the new mechanics introduced through the various iterations along with a strong theme than a reinvention of the game. But this is a game I can enjoy with my 5 y/o as well as other adults that doesn’t take over the entire night/afternoon. And it is one of those games that has been played often in my house, not only on game nights (since we play it as a family.)

All in all, this is a really fun version of Monopoly that should appeal to many new and returning players. It is simplified and streamlined but manages to add even more randomness to an already luck/dice driven game (for better or worse.)

As a friend recently pointed out, Monopoly Gamer is closer to Monopoly Junior than classic Monopoly, since it has a smaller board, much simplified money system (only 2 denominations), 2 properties per color group, no houses or hotels to build, and a few other streamlined features. Added are the Power up dice and Super Star space on the board, unique character abilities for each character, and Boss Fights…

Yup, that’s right, instead of waiting until all players are knocked out (spoilers: you can’t bankrupt in this game), you need to be the player with the highest point value when the last boss is defeated. Boss Fights are triggered every time someone passes go, so you can imagine that the game can be pretty quick. So, with the time issue and player elimination mechanics removed, This game is actually really fun and has a “Mario Party” feel to it, which I’d say is a pretty good thing.

A Close Contender

Many of you may have some experience with one of the numerous versions of Zombicide. Now, a good number of the gamers I meet with regularly absolutely enjoy the game, and they’re always excited to get it to the table. Personally, while it’s a fun game, it doesn’t excite me because I’m looking for something more. I want choices and to feel like I’m creating a character and customizing it the way I play.

CMON always does a great job with their trays and character inventory/skill setup. Here, you see my character card on the right with the class sheet on the left.

Thankfully, Massive Darkness came along and gave me a taste of what I’d been craving. It started to scratch an itch for a great dungeon-crawling adventure board game. So much so that when this game arrived, we simply couldn’t get it to the table fast enough… in fact, we didn’t even wait for a full-fledged game night to try it out.

Notice the light and dark spaces on the board, they enable your character to hide and for the use of special abilities and skills.

The miniatures from CMoN are top notch (as you’d expect) and Massive Darkness gave me the character customization and progression I’d been waiting quite a while for. I really love the use of light and dark spaces on the map tiles which force you to strategically plan out where you want to stand or attack from, as some spaces will give you added abilities or stats, while the same spaces may also bolster your foes.

I also really appreciate that, when you draw a monster card to populate the rooms you’ve just opened or to see which wandering monster you’ll encounter, you also draw a treasure for them. If it matches the type of attack that the foe utilizes, they get to equip it and add any bonuses or abilities to their attack or defense. This is just another way that they have incorporated more variety into the game, ensuring that the same monsters still have a unique feel each time you encounter them.

The one things that Massive Darkness is missing would be the overarching story to immerse players into the world. There is a campaign players can use and I’ve no doubt we’ll see a steady stream of DLC, expansions and user generated content. At the end of the day, I love the game but I still want more…

We have a Winner!!

And then Folklore: the Affliction was delivered and nothing else has hit the table since. It’s as if the universe said, “Oh, he wants a more immersive story, meaningful decisions, character progression and loot while also getting to feel like he’s part of an action/adventure roleplaying game? I have something for that.”
Remember when I said I used to have flavor-of-the-week game nights? Well, this game changed all that and we have since set aside at least 1 Friday each month (often more) so that 5 of us can get together and continue from where we left off… and we love every bit of it!

One of the characters booklets gives you a brief backstory and two paths which influence how the character will play and what skills are available as he levels up.

Folklore has much to offer when you look at all the options for creating your character and leveling up. You can choose to follow your character’s unique starting skills and abilities or change things up. Also, each character also has 2 story paths (origin backstory) that you choose between at the start of the game and which will impart certain abilities/restrictions on your character as well as influencing the available choices as you level up. And to further differentiate the character options, each character also has a list of things that only they can do at the various venders and service locations.

 

An Encounter with the Colossal Dark Oak (optional figure shown) is ended quickly by our adventurers.

Encounters and Skirmishes make up the bulk of the combat in the game. Skirmishes are quick battles where the players need to land as many hits on the enemy as fast as possible or risk taking damage from attacks. Encounters are much more tactical, involving movement on the board and utilizing the full range of items, abilities, companions, rituals and blessings to, not only defeat your opponent, but also to explore the environment, progress optional story events and search for more powerful equipment and items to help the party survive the many perils in store for them.

 

So many cards!

Finally, the game is presented by the Story Books, each one has numerous stories with multiple chapters to complete. Think of them like mini-campaigns, each one taking 1+ hours… at least on paper, we’ve found that it takes us significantly longer than that to finish each one, but we’re also not in any kind of hurry to finish all of the story options. What’s great about the stories is that each one is read aloud to the group, as if you had a DM or Storyteller, at various points, there are opportunities to make decisions which may impart story markers which impact the story progression or reward you receive later on. Other events include “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” style moments or require the group to roll dice to see what happens next. These moments give a bit more replayability to adventures and also encourage discussion amongst the group. They also allow for a bit of roleplaying—Do I make this decision as I feel it should go? Or based on how my character would perceive it?

There are many other features of this game: Road/Off-Road Events, Tarot Cards, Ability Cards, After-Death Gameplay, World Map Travel in the base game which all add so much to the game. This isn’t even counting the expansion content (which is definitely worth getting) which adds things like: New playable characters, More map tiles, Storybook II, Rumors (side-quests), World Events, and more.

Folklore: the Affliction is easily my choice for my 2017 Game of the Year. There is so much content and it has given us the experience that we’re looking for in a satisfying cooperative roleplaying board game. The game is in need of some clarifications, but those are already being addressed in the new edition and update content coming in 2018.

While Folklore isn’t the first game that I’ve actively looked forward to playing each time we get together, it is a satisfying experience, each time we play. This is the only game I’ve played where, if one player misses a session, we meet up in between game nights to play them through the section they missed and catch them up. Folklore: the Affliction is like playing a Dungeons & Dragons (or other tabletop RPG) game where the game runs itself and all players are an active part of the story. It is engaging, exciting, and overall, one of the best experiences I’ve had with a boardgame. While not widely available at retail right now, there is a reprint in the works which makes many options more accessible, revises the rules and some of the cards, and will be out this July. (Pre-orders may be available directly through the Greenbrier Games Pledge Manager.)

Until Next time… Happy Gaming and have a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year (or whatever has you celebrating this season.)
~ PyroFrog
@PyroFrog | Epic Slant Press LLC Blog

PyroFrog is a gamer through most every medium as well as a father, novice blogger, hopeful game designer, and hopeless Kickstarter supporter. His blog is dedicated to gaming news and tends to focus on interesting and high value opportunities. He regularly organizes game nights where he and 3-8 friends frequently try out new games, playtest new IP's and enjoy popular favorites.

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