Best Board Games of 2021
Thanks to actually getting to a boardgame convention in the middle of the year, and also having an awesome group of designers to play games with, I managed to play about 40 new (to me) board games in 2021.
Here is a quick rundown of some of my favourites.
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.
The original Gloomhaven has always seemed appealing to me. However, the sheer size was enough to cause me some hesitancy in taking that leap.
Enter Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.
This game has essentially the same rules as the original, but in a more digestible format. It achieves this by slowly introducing the rules through 5 scenarios that serve as in-game tutorials. This is similar to modern video games, where you learn as you play. It is a great way to get you actually playing the game sooner, rather than needing to fully comprehend the entire rule book up front.
As a co-op game, it suited playing it with my 10 year old. During lockdown, we were able to work our way through the entire campaign over a few weeks. The ability to level up your characters in different ways, and also adjust the difficulty of each scenario, gives this game a lot of replayability. It was my most played game for the year, and loved every minute.
Before I had even finished my first play of Flamme Rouge I knew I had to own this game. Full disclosure, I also bought the Paloton expansion at the same time.
It is a race game - at first glance reminiscent of some classic roll-and-move games of the past - set in a bicycle race. This familiar feel makes it very easy to learn. I've taught it in a couple of minutes, and by the second turn new plays know exactly what to do. However, the simple rules hide the wonderfully fun interaction between player decisions when you get moving.
The Paloton expansion raises the maximum player count from 4 to 6. It also introduces additional cards for non-player riders which can be used in a solo game, or added to fill out the field at lower player counts. With the varied track tiles including hills, breakaways & cobblestones, Flamme Rouge is fantastic fun that can be played over and over.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
This bag building game of brewing strange concoctions in a pot is a family favourite. The rules are easy: draw ingredients at random from your bag and add them to your pot. You can keep adding, provided you don't draw too may cherry bombs, or you pot will explode. It is classic push-your-luck in a fun format.
One of the best parts of this game is that you don't need to wait on other players. You can draw your ingredients in your own time without holding anyone up. Once everyone has stopped brewing, work out scores and buy new ingredients for the next round. It is easily demonstrated in a few minutes and details can be taught as you play.
There is a lot of variations in the rules to make new games interesting. The rules for individual ingredients can be selected from the range provided. There is also another variation that can be played by flipping over your pot (personal player board) and using that side.
This is a prime example of maximum fun from minimum rules and components. Skull is a great game to take out in a casual setting that can be play with anyone. The rules are super simple and all the enjoyment comes from the interaction between the players. Good bluffing and reading your opponents are keys to success. But even if these are not your strong points, it is still loads of fun watching your friends get caught out.
I'll usually describe my favourite games as fun or challenging. Mainly due to the exceptionally evocative theme, The Grizzled sits firmly on the challenging side.
Set in the trenches during World War 1, you play as a group of soldiers co-operatively trying to survive the threats presented to you and pass you mission. It is brutally difficult, as the subject matter would suggest, but it is a highly rewarding experience.
For anyone looking for an immersive co-operative experience with beautiful artwork, I cannot recommend this enough.