Our Most Anticipated Tabletop Games Of 2017
2016 was a great year for board, card, miniature, and role-playing games. Look no further than my recent column on the best releases of last year, all of which were in tight contention with dozens of other worthy projects that deserve acknowledgment. There’s every reason to believe that tabletop gaming will continue its trend of innovation and overall excellence in the new year; there are already dozens of games vying for attention.
Here are some of the most compelling projects to keep your eyes on over the course of the next 12 months, listed alphabetically, including deep strategy games, cooperative adventures, and even some intriguing possibilities in the RPG sphere.
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
One of the breakout hits of 2016 was Scythe, an intricate strategy game set in an alternate history of 1920’s Europe. The same designer, Jamey Stegmaier, is exploring a decidedly different game style with Charterstone, a worker placement game for 1-6 players that changes every time you play it. Players compete to improve their charters and build structures, which become action spaces in a shared village. Each session, players acquire permanent rewards and add new stickers to the board, evolving the fate of the village over the course of a 12-game campaign. After the “legacy” elements are complete, the game remains playable, but your board and gameplay will be different from the village of a different gaming group.
First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet
Publisher: Portal Games
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is a well-deserved favorite for many board gamers, offering an intriguing mix of survival, cooperation, and discovery for a team of island castaways. Designer Ignacy Trzewiczek returns to the same core play concepts of his earlier game in this sequel, but players instead get to take on the role of astronauts on Mars, trying to survive the harsh and otherworldly landscape. This time, much of the heavy-lifting of the rules and game management is accomplished through an accompanying digital app, which should resolve one of the few complaints leveled at the original – Robinson Crusoe had a lot to keep track of. If all comes together, this could be a triumph of storytelling and challenging decision-making, and a benchmark for how digital components can enrich the tabletop experience. Want to learn more about the original Robinson Crusoe? Here's our write-up.
Flick ‘Em Up: Dead Of Winter
Publisher: Plan B Games
Take two of the most entertaining games of recent years from completely different genres, and mash them together. That seems to have been the philosophy guiding this promising release from the recently established Plan B Games. Flick ‘Em Up is a dexterity-based game of Old West combat, in which lawmen and outlaws duke it out by physically flicking bullets and dynamite across the table in an attempt to knock over opponent figures. Meanwhile, Dead of Winter is a deep and rewarding narrative-focused game about a community of survivors eking out an existence after the zombie apocalypse. It remains to be seen exactly how the two will be interwoven in this new standalone release, but it’s a good bet that players are going to get to flick shotgun shells into roaming zombie hordes at some point.
Next Page: The reveal of the final name for the upcoming Godfather board game, and Monte Cook's potentially groundbreaking new role-playing game
The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire
Prolific designer Eric M. Lang (Blood Rage, XCOM: The Board Game) tackles the classic film in this lavish homage to the definitive mafia tale, revealed here for the first time with its new final name. Players control competing crime families in New York City, and all your assets must be carefully controlled and deployed to gain power, from your army of thugs to your wife, and even your heir. Early details on the game include features like drive-by shootings, shaking down businesses, and the bribing of officials, among other fun thematic nods. Art and presentation for this project looks amazing, and sets the tone for a dark and richly imagined competition in which 2-5 players compete to claim the most money and become the titular Godfather.
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
Monte Cook Games has been a treasure trove of imaginative design and setting ever since its founding, crafting excellent role-playing experiences through games including Numenera, The Strange, and No Thank You, Evil!. That trend is aiming to continue with Invisible Sun, an elaborate new RPG of surreal fantasy, in which players control characters that perceive the mystical and occult secrets that lie behind the veil of normal modern life. The game focuses on depth in both character creation and development, aiming to rival traditional entertainment forms like movies and novels for involving personalities and conflicts. Invisible Sun is also being built with an eye toward gameplay that unfolds both in large group scenes at the table, but also in between sessions, during which time smaller groups or even solo characters might have side scenes or flashbacks. Monte Cook’s latest brainchild promises to be targeted at experienced player groups, and is likely to cost a pretty penny, but few RPG projects on the horizon appear as innovative or surprising.
It’s hard not to get excited by the potential for this sprawling dungeon crawl adventure. Dozens of detailed miniatures help bring this classic RPG-inspired board game to life – a signature feature of CMON’s publishing line. Players work together to explore and conquer huge interconnected dungeons formed of modular tiles, so each scenario can feel distinct. That concept has been done before, but the most exciting element of Massive Darkness is the approach to character customization over the course of a session, allowing each hero to develop distinct skills, all while enjoying a rich and visually striking fantasy quest.
Runewars Miniature Game
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Runewars has previously existed as an excellent army war game, in which players control unique fantasy factions across a modular board that depicts a vast nation. The new miniatures game zeroes in on actual battles between the competing factions. The game is set to include 48 unpainted figures ready for customization, split between the main human and undead factions of the Runewars universe. A fascinating action dial system allows players to shape not only what actions each unit takes on their turn, but also allows for modifiers that change how that action affects your opponent. And a streamlined movement system (seemingly borrowed, in part, from the excellent X-Wing minis game) keeps combat brisk. For those with the space and time to invest, this may be a new big contender in the minis space.
Next Page: Paizo catapults its role-playing universe into the future, and a fascinating twist on escape room puzzles
Pathfinder has been a major player in the tabletop RPG scene ever since Paizo split from D&D to craft its own evolution of the definitive fantasy game. The new game Starfinder leaps thousands of years into the future of that Pathfinder universe, and takes players onto interplanetary journeys that meld magic and technology. Wildly imaginative races and classes promise to set Starfinder apart from its pure fantasy predecessor, and early art is evocative and beautiful. For a detailed interview about this new standalone science/fantasy RPG, check out my conversation with James Sutter.
Publisher: Space Cowboys/Asmodee
Not every great game on the horizon is big and complicated. Unlock! is a cooperative puzzle card game that pays homage to the “escape room” concept, challenging all the players to work together and figure out solutions over a time limit. Played in tandem with a digital app, each scenario set of 60 cards (each sold separately) has its own theme and concept, but they’re united by gameplay that demands that you combine the right cards to solve particular problems. Pick the right combo, and the game progresses, but the wrong combo penalizes your score and the whole thing must be completed in a time limit. Unlock! has the potential to be a highly accessible game for mixed groups of players, and its puzzle-focused play is intriguing.
Publisher: Days of Wonder
The colorful components and gorgeous art are eye-catching, but it’s the clever gameplay loop of Yamatai, from designers Bruno Cathala and Marc Paquien, that hold the greatest potential. Players navigate an archipelago of islands situated in ancient Asia, trading goods and constructing buildings to earn the favor of the illustrious Queen Himiko. The game has a constant give and take between the different pathways to prestige points, and looks to be an early pick to watch for fans of pure strategy affairs. If you're looking for a headstart, Days of Wonder has already posted the rules, available on the game's official site.
Can’t wait for all the great stuff coming in 2017? You may wish to peruse a selection of some of the best tabletop games of 2016. Are there other tabletop games you’re excited about in 2017? Let me know your picks in the comments below, or drop me an email or tweet to share a game you’d recommend we feature on a future installment of this column. For a complete listing of Top of the Table installments, click on the banner below.