We’re rolling now, with tomorrow being the big reveal of our number one games of the year. For today, you’ll have to settle for our second best games but you should know that I’m all warm & fuzzy because I got to use the word “penultimate”. That doesn’t happen very often.
Through the Ages
I don’t know whether I need to explain why Through the Ages merits its spot as my second-favorite game of 2017, or how it could possibly fall short of number one. It’s a masterpiece of tablet board gaming, thematically communicating information so well that a heavy cardboard experience just flows. I am reminded of a story about Taoism, in which an old man threw himself into a deadly whirlpool, only to ride around a few times and pop back out unharmed. He was said to understand the ways of the pool so well that he could work with them, rather than trying to force the current to obey his will. The designers at Czech Games Edition seem similarly attuned to the vagaries of the human mind, and I like that metaphor better than the one which would put CGE in the role of the butcher who never need sharpen his knives.
Diablo on your phone? Not quite, but Rogue Wizards is close enough to have kept me glued to my iPhone for hours upon hours playing this turn-based, dungeon-crawling, spell-slinging gem of a game. Combat is fun and tactical, the graphics are great, and there is oh so much loot. Rogue Wizards is a free game, but a single and reasonably priced in-app purchase turns it into a premium game with advancement on par with the Steam version.
- Rogue Wizards for iOS Universal, free
- Rogue Wizards for PC/Mac via Steam, $3.75 (on sale)
- Rogue Wizards for PC/Mac via GoG, $7.50 (on sale)
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild revitalized a stagnating series and ruined the rest of the open world adventure genre for me. By doing away with conventions that were holding 3D Zelda games hostage, Nintendo made one of the most compelling games I’ve ever played. Breath of the Wild rewards experimentation by doing away with arbitrary restrictions that lead to “game logic”. Need to cross a small chasm? Cut down a tree nearby to create a bridge. Or use your magical time-stopping power to freeze a rock, beat the crap out of it, hop on and fly across the gap thanks to the accumulated force of your attacks. Or start a fire and ride the updraft with your paraglider. Or go and do something else, since the game doesn’t care what, how, or even when you do it. The actual story of the game suffers a little as a result—it’s hard to write a story that will still make sense if a player misses huge chunks of it. But I’m okay with that, because the stories I wrote myself are the ones that will stick with me years from now.
Race for the Galaxy
When Goko arrived with their dreams for an online Dominion way back when, part of that deal was they had also gobbled up the rights for Race for the Galaxy. When Goko fell apart, we thought that probably signaled the end of a digital port, especially considering the game was nearing its 10th birthday. We were wrong, and wrong in a huge way. Not only did Race make a surprise appearance on mobile and Steam this year, but Temple Gates did everything right with the port. Fantastic UI, multiplayer system, and incorporating the brilliant AI designed by Keldon Jones all combined to make one of the best board/card game ports ever.