5 Innovative Board Games in 2017
Every year, hundreds, in not thousands of new tabletop games hit the market. Unfortunately, many of these titles will only register as a tiny blip on the radar of our hobby. Those that do enough to take notice, will usually fade to the background as the “cult of the new” moves on to the newest game to capture their attention.
However, I was pleasantly surprised this year by a handful of games where the designer wasn’t afraid to take a risk. In an age where we are inundated with yet another worker placement game or a “dudes on a map” miniatures game, I’m glad to see that fresh ideas are still working their way into our hobby.
Now 2017 isn’t quite over yet, so game designers may still have a few surprises left for us. But they’ve got competition already. What follows are 5 games with fresh, unique ideas. They went beyond the cube pushing euros or the bling of fancy mins. Hopefully these games help inspire others to take similar risks.
5 Innovative Board Games in 2017
Earlier this year, the Kickstarter campaign from Cephalofair games delivered a MASSIVE box. Inside was a pile of tokens, boxes, tiles, and scenarios. Gloomhaven is a “legacy” style, fantasy campaign board game. Legacy style, first pioneered by Risk: Legacy, has players opening up sealed boxes, writing on the game board, placing stickers, and tearing up cards. You truly do customize the game as you play. While you can only place the Gloomhaven campaign once thanks to these mechanics, expect to put in hundreds of hours if you are going to see all the content. You will be taking your fantasy hero on adventures until you accomplish their life goal, which sends then into retirement, allowing you to open up a new, sealed hero box to find someone else to adventure with.
2. Escape Room in a Box
While the escape room genre isn’t really anything special at this point, Escape Room in a Box is definitely different from the usual fare. Most of the early comers to this genre simply offered cards and puzzles to simulate the escape room experience, the designers of this game took a different approach. Their escape room game not only includes the usual puzzles and challenges, but also includes physical locks and other equipment. That’s right, someone was finally able to replicate the tactile experience of being in an actual escape room by giving players physical objects to work with. I’ll avoid any spoilers, but having real locks definitely makes a difference.
While the gameplay in Raxxon isn’t wholly innovative, I wanted to bring attention to it because of the unique way the publisher is distributing it. Raxxon is a game about trying to contain a spreading infection in a city. It’s a cooperative, card base, action point system that’s was surprisingly fun. But what’s really unique about it is how you get the game. Originally, you couldn’t just go to a game store and buy it. You have to be invited by someone who already owns it. Publisher Plaid Hat Games decided to create a little, thematic experiment. They sent the game out to a few, select people who got to play the game. Those people were then allowed to invite a handful of other people to buy the game. And from there it spread, just like an infection. A month or so later, the game was released into normally distribution channels, but it was a really creative way to do a pre-launch.
1-4 PLAYERS • AGES 12+ • 45-60 MINUTES • $50
4. This War of Mine
This game is based on the video game of the same name (recently appearing in a top 10 list of ours). If you’ve played the video game you can probably guess that This War of Mine is not a cheery game. You and your fellow players control a group of survivors in a war ravaged city. You are not heroes, you are not soldiers, you are just ordinary people struggling to survive. Players don’t even control their own character, but as a group, you make decisions for what happens. The game is very thematic, even depressing at times. Yet it also creates a really immersive experience. This War of Mine also teaches you how to play as you go, letting you forego reading pages of rules as it explains everything you need to know as you play. This was a conscious decision by the publisher to help simulate the uncertainty and the unknown of a person in that situation.
5. 7th Continent
This unique card game has players waking up on an uncharted island (continent?) and must figure out how to life the curse that has been placed on them. 7Th Continent is all about exploration (and maybe also the story). The game comes with over 1000 cards and a few different scenarios. The turn structure in the game is also very fluid as there are no set player turns. You can take one turn, and then the next player can go, or you can take 50 turns in a row before the next player takes theirs. As it’s a cooperative game, its up to the players to decide how to proceed. However in my opinion, never before has a tabletop game so thoroughly captured the spirit of exploration. As some games can take over 8 hours to finish, 7th Continent includes a handy save system so you can come back and resume your game at a later date.