The tabletop gaming world has seen a year of innovation and design excellence, with dozens of stellar projects to discover. It’s challenging to narrow down to just a few standouts; this year’s selections attempt to target the most innovative, artistically rich, and elegantly designed games that rolled out to players over the last 12 months.  

Many of the best releases of 2017 boasted intricate “legacy” elements, allowing groups to carry over storytelling and add new game elements from one session to the next. Other projects had abstract, single-session strategy designs that felt inventive and surprising. Still others managed to capture the spirit of existing fictional universes, and translate them into stunning game concepts. 

Flip through the pages of the article to see some of the best the tabletop scene had to offer in 2017. The first half of the article includes dedicated board, card, and miniature-driven games, listed alphabetically. The second half of the article focuses on some of the most intriguing tabletop role-playing products of the year. Enjoy!

The 7th Continent
Publisher: Serious Poulp
Who’s it for? Invested explorers in for a lengthy expedition

Inspired by the “weird” pulp fiction of the early 20th century, The 7th Continent is a story-driven adventure and exploration game built to be played over many interconnected sessions. You and your fellow explorers bear a mysterious curse, and only by discovering the secrets of a lost land can you hope to survive. Wildly innovative, and just as punishing to its heroes as the Lovecraftian stories it emulates.

The 7th Continent can be played solo or cooperatively, and feels like a choose-your-own-adventure, but with significant strategic decisions, skill checks, and visual elements mixed in. The game also features an elegant system for saving your game between sessions, getting you back into the action quickly the next time you play. For more, read our complete review

Publisher: Plan B Games
Who’s it for? Artistic tacticians 

This stunning yet accessible game casts players as tile-laying wall artists in service to the Portuguese king. Take turns choosing gorgeous resin tiles to fill out your wall, scoring for smart collection and placement. Abstract and beautiful, Azul’s brisk playtime is matched by high replayability.

Azul mixes a drafting mechanic (as players purchase tiles from the available supply) with an intriguing placement challenge, as your board has only limited spots for any given tile. The dynamic becomes more complex the deeper into the game one goes. Azul appeals to player groups who enjoy planning and an indirect theme, and repeated plays reveal the depth of the many paths to victory. 

Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Who’s it for? Enterprising village builders 

There’s not much to your tiny village as your first game of Charterstone begins. The real joy is watching the game board grow and secrets get revealed over many sessions. Players compete to place workers and build new structures across the charming and colorfully illustrated landscape. After a dozen games, your village is complete, and your copy of the game remains playable, but completely different from any other copy.  

Charterstone is a change of pace from Stonemaier’s recent smash hit, Scythe, which was included in last year’s list. While drastically different settings, both games feature compelling strategic decisions and gorgeous (if very different) art styles. The great appeal of Charterstone is the increasingly complex board, as new spaces are getting added all the time, leading to ever harder choices about how to proceed. I also appreciate that Stonemaier is offering a “recharge pack” for the game, letting you reset your copy and play the entire campaign again, if desired.

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