I played a lot of board games in 2016. Not as many as some people...

but a fair number. I think my total of games played face-to-face was 87 or something like that.

As explained in the first part of this Top 10 list, these are the top 10 games that I played in 2016. They are not necessarily games that came out in 2016, but ones I played this year.

They do not include any games that I only played online or on iOS. I must have played the game at least once face to face to include it.

Without further adieu, here's the top 5!

 

5) Pandemic: the Cure

 

I have only played the original Pandemic, with the cards, once. It was ok. I enjoyed it, but am not driven to play it again. 

For some reason, the dice version of this game just blows me away.

You're still trying to cure four diseases as you travel the world, but the dice game just intrigues me like the original never did.

Each player is given a role, such as Dispatcher or Containment Specialist, and each role comes with its own set of dice.

The world is divided into six regions, with all players starting on Region 1 (North America). On your turn, you roll your dice, and they give you various abilities (or you could roll a biohazard symbol, which you can't re-roll and which advances the biohazard track, which is bad).

You can reroll as much as you want to get the dice you want, as long as you don't roll biohazards. A ship allows you to move to an adjacent region, a plane to any region. A syringe lets you "treat" one disease die that's in your region, etc. Each role also has a special die result as well, such as the Dispatcher's helicopter which lets her move anybody to any region once, at any time (even on their turn). 

You can then try to cure a disease if you have enough dice contained to roll 13+ on them. 

Once you're done with your actions, you pull a number of disease dice equal to the number on the biohazard track (I told you they were bad) and roll them. You place them in the regions that you rolled, and if there are four or more of any one colour dice in the region, an outbreak happens. The extra dice move to the next region, which could cause more outbreaks. Move the outbreak track up one for each outbreak, and if you reach 8, you lose! If the biohazard track reaches the end, you lose! If you run out of disease dice in the bag, you lose!

There are so many ways to lose this game, but only one way to win: cure all four diseases.

This game doesn't take a lot of time to set up and there is a lot of player interaction. I just love it, as it's difficult but not so difficult that it discourages you from playing (we've won about 40% of the time). It does depend on the roles a little bit, as some work better with others. A bad combination can sink you.

But it's easy enough to try it and see how the combination works and then reset it once you lose.

I'm anxious to get the expansion (Experimental Meds) to the table, as I haven't had a chance yet.

But this is a phenomenal game.

 

4) The Prodigals Club

The Prodigals Club is a sequel to Last Will, and the latter game can even be included as part of the former.

In this game, you and your friends are trying to make yourself as loathed as possible in up to three different areas of VIctorian England society: Money, Politics, and Social (you don't have to play with all three, though doing so is the best)

You start out high in each area, but through playing cards and doing various actions, you can affect your standing, hopefully all the way to the bottom!

Socially, for example, you are trying to lower your status with four different friends.

You want these levels to be as low as possible. Politically, you want your vote total to be very low, or even in the negatives. And financially, of course, you want to be broke, or as close to it as possible.

The trick is that you can't concentrate on just one area, because your final score is the highest of your three scores. So if you plunged your social status into the negatives and your vote total into the negatives, but you still have 50 pound markers, then your score is 50 and you're not going to win.

I love the intricacies of how the cards play off of each other. Some cards will affect all three areas, some give you a choice. You can place helpers on your play area that will cost you (which is a good thing) something from one of the areas.

It's kind of a complicated game, or at least it looks like it. But when you're in the middle of it, it is quite intuitive and we managed to play a good game with 5 people even though none of us had really played it before (I had played it once, months ago). 

It's always a lot of fun, and that's why it's in my top 5.

 

3) Firefly

As you can see from the picture, Firefly is a table hog. That's why it doesn't get to the table that often.

And I can't even say it's a great game, but the reason it's in my top 3 is because it's just so damned much fun to play! It helps if you're a fan of the Firefly universe, but it's not necessary.

In this game, you choose a leader and a ship, and then you're going around the 'Verse doing jobs, getting paid, misbehaving and trying to fulfill the goals of the story card that you've decided to play.

Some story cards have a series of goals that you have to do, others are just getting to a set amount of money, but they're all fun. You have to put together a decent crew and set of gear, which you can buy at supply planets. Jobs from the various contacts will get you money, assuming you don't botch the job and get a warrant. 

The board is quite expansive (the base game is fine, but the two expansions that add to the map make this game much more fun to play), there are tons of decks of cards to shuffle, and setup can be a real pain.

But in this case, I don't care. I love trying to put my crew together and do some jobs. It's just a lot of fun.

Some say the game is too long, and it can be if players are trying to misbehave before they have the crew/gear for it. But game length can be mitigated by efficient playing, such as looking at the discard pile of where you're shopping before it's your turn. Or having the next person play while you're finishing your buys. 

This game has very few "meh" reactions. You either love it or you hate it.

I love it.

 

2) Castles of Burgundy

Castles of Burgundy is a Stefan Feld classic. Basically, you are trying to build up your fiefdom (or whatever you want to call it) and score points while doing it. Each player rolls two dice, and then in turn order, they either take a tile from the area of the board matching one of their dice. Or you can spend a worker (if you have one) to adjust a die up or down, one pip per worker. Say you want that Castle that's on the "2" area, but you only have two "4s". You can spend two workers to get that Castle.

You can hold up to three tiles on your area, but eventually you have to spend a die to move one of those tiles to your fiefdom, into a space with the same number as one of your dice. As you fill areas of the same colour, you get points.

You can also sell goods that you have obtained by placing water tiles, and you get points for that. You get bonus points tiles if you are the first (or second) to fill all spaces in your fiefdom of the same colour, no matter where they are (there can be two or three yellow areas, for example)

Basically, you can get points for just signing your name.

(your player board)

But it's just such a fun game for me. It has dice, so there is some randomness, but the ability to adjust the dice helps with that. While there is no direct player interaction, you can see their board and their dice, so you could conceivably take a tile that somebody else wants. That's why turn order can be so crucial (you move up on the turn order track when you place a water tile, and the track determines who goes first next turn).

You're never going to fill your entire board, so you have to prioritize. Where do you want to go?

Stefan Feld designed games are often called "point salad" because everything you do gets you at least some points. That's kind of the case here too, though it's not as bad as some others.

This is a classic for a reason. It's easily the second favourite game I've played this year.

 

1) Viticulture

Who knew that a game about wine-making could be so fun? I wouldn't have thought it, as the first time I heard about it, I said "nah, I'll play something else."

But one day, early in the year, I got roped into playing it.

And I won.

And I found that I was really enjoying myself. Not just because I won, but because the choices this game offers are so delicious.

You are in charge of a vineyard in Italy, and you are trying to...get the most victory points (Empty Chair: "No, way! Really?")

You get victory points by making wine and fulfilling wine orders, and also through play of the various visitor cards.

Each turn is divided into four seasons. The first season, you choose turn order by deciding what you want to get. You can get a free victory point, but that will put you up to 6th in turn order that turn and that can be harmful in getting what you want done. You can get a vine to plant, or you can just make sure you go first but you don't get any other benefit.


Then in the 2nd season, you place a worker in a space that will let you do a number of things: plant a vine, sell a vine field, maybe do a winery tour to make a little money, play a Summer visitor card, or build one of the structures to put on your vineyard board to help you get things done.

In the 3rd season, you get to choose either a yellow or blue visitor card off of the draw pile.

In the 4th season, you can turn your vines into grapes, make wine, play a blue visitor card, hire another worker, etc.

Turns continue until somebody reaches 20 points.

I really like this game because it's one of the few worker placement type games that I can win.

Ok, there's a lot more to it then that, but it does help.

There are so many avenues to victory, and so many interesting choices that you have to make. You have a pool of workers that have to spread over both seasons, so in the first one you have to budget. What do you need to get done in order to get your wine-making engine going?

Or are you just going to rely on cards and winery tours? That can be profitable, with the right cards and buildings.

But will it be enough?

Don't go into this one thinking that it's all wine-making. The card play in this game is very important. If you ignore it, you will lose.

This is one game I will play any time it's offered.

And what can be a better choice for #1?

 

So, do you play board games? What are some of your favourites? What do you think of these 10?

Let me know in the comments, and see you on the other side of the table!