My Top 5 Most Played Games of 2020

Amidst the climate of COVID-19, gaming with others has been especially difficult. Groups that might have met regularly had to postpone, reschedule, or attempt to rig up some way to play over the internet. It wasn't easy.

Imagine if this was your first year, neck-deep in the hobby like me. All these amazing games with nary a gamer to enjoy them with. My family has been most gracious to engage in a game or two with me at times, but many of the more weighty games have remained on a shelf. This is why my plays, which I began counting near the end of March, skew toward the lighter, more family-friendly side of things. However, I would think that is endemic of the pandemic.

So, here are my top five played games of 2020 so far.

But first!

Just Missed Out- Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded
Grey Fox Games
Ages 10+
Plays: 12

This dice-chucking game of survival and mowing down hordes of the undead has truly become a family favorite! Each character comes with a set of three abilities that can only be used if the dreaded zombie-head shows on two or more of your dice. 

Zombies constantly lumber toward you. Steadily. So, you'll need more than luck (of the dice) on your side. Players need to collect "loot" cards to prepare for a massive wave of the reanimated. Save "followers" who will help you or potentially (most likely) hurt you, but give points for end-game scoring. All while dealing with the deadly Mutant Zombie!

The game ends when one of the following occurs:

  • Your group finds the town line
  • The mutant zombie has no more health
  • One of the players die
When one of those situations takes place, the player with the most "leadership" points wins! The fun this game provides never dies.........


Let's continue with my top 5 most played games of 2020.

Number 5- Ice Cool
Brain Games
Ages 6+
Plays 14

Remember high school? All of those students ditching class in order to make a run for the vending machines to get a snack or three. I wasn't one of them. I was as straight-laced as they come. 

But, in this bizarre and ultra-fun game, you play a penguin student in a penguin high school and you are hungry. So are your friends. Unfortunately, one of your arctic acquaintances has switched sides and is now the hall monitor trying to catch you cutting class before you can collect all of your tasty snacks.

Players flick, yes, flick their penguins through a high school campus in order to get all three fish treats. But if they are caught by the hall monitor- another player's penguin, they are out of that round and cannot score any more delicious fish. No more fish equals no more score cards. When all players have been captured, or when one player has collected all three fish tokens, the round is over. 

Everyone gets a shot (or two) to be the hall monitor. Once this has occurred, the game is over. Count up points given by the score cards, and whoever has the highest total value is pinnacle of penguins!

Number 4- Tainted Grail
Awaken Realms
Ages 14+
Plays: 16

Darkness doesn't creep in- it storms in. It extinguishes the light of the sentry-like menhirs whose vigilant watch protects the villages from monstrosities and wyrdness. As these watchmen pass on into darkness, the citizens of these decaying hamlets are overwhelmed by insanity, hunger, and death.

Tainted Grail is about as different from the wintry warmness of Ice Cool as it could possibly be, both in tone and in scope. This is not a game that you sit down and play for an hour and declare a winner. No. This is a massive campaign where players work together for 50+ hours. 

My personal experience in this game has us with a few chapters remaining and have already exceeded the fifty-hour mark. The dark-Arthurian tale has us intrigued with its engrossing narrative and clever combat system. Encounters are difficult, but once you have built your combat deck and figure out how the cards work off of each other, there is definitely a satisfying, thoughtful flow knowing when to play which card to best utilize your hand. Combat used to be a chore- something to avoid at all cost. Now, it's a highlight of the play session.

Number 3- Arboretum
Renegade Games
Ages 8+
Plays: 17

A lovely, tense, nerve-wracking battle of tree farms. That's what Arboretum is. The soothing and stunning artwork's peaceful vibe hide a claustrophobic, but elegant card game of dire decisions and catastrophic consequences.

Players begin with seven cards in hand. On your turn, you must draw two cards, play one card, and discard one card. You will score sets of cards that begin and end with the same tree type that are also in numerical order. However, you will only score that arboreal species if you have the highest card total remaining in your hand for that particular tree. 

I've only played this game with two players, so I can't comment on what it feels like at three or four players. With two, every choice you make- whether draw your two new cards from the deck, your draw pile, or your opponent's draw pile (or some variation thereof), which tree to plant that turn, and which tree to discard- is excruciating! I love it!

Number 2- Silver and Gold
Pandasaurus Games
Ages 8+
Plays: 19

As a teacher, I know how satisfying it can be to make x's with a marker. Ok, I'm kidding! But writing x's in this game is a ton of fun!

Each player explores two islands at a time. A card is flipped over revealing a shape. Players then mark out the same shape (turned, mirrored, etc) on one of their island cards. Maybe they marked out a red X- they get to mark off another square of their choice. Maybe they marked out a coin- they get to document that coin on their score sheet (and discovering four coins will get you a bonus- if you hurry). Maybe they marked out a palm tree- they gain a bonus equal to the palm tree they marked out plus any palm trees showing in the four islands awaiting exploration.

While it is simple, there is strategy to be unearthed below the surface. Do you go for the high-valued islands or collect those littered with coins? Do you take advantage of scoring palm trees, or will you focus on island bonuses? Personally, I like to collect and multiply those island bonuses, but you can literally win with any strategy, so long as you mark your island well and have a little bit of luck on your side.

Silver and Gold is so easy that my five-year old can play without help. It's so much fun that she consistently requests it! Highly, highly recommended!

Number 1- Coup

Indie Boards and Cards
Ages 10+
Plays: 75

I only bought this small card game because I had a little bit of birthday money left on an Amazon gift card. It has been a superb investment- about $0.16 per documented play. 

Why has it been played so much? Well, it comes out every single family game night for multiple plays. It's one of, if not the only game that my fifteen year old will play. I played it with my son and his fiancee- they went out and bought it. I played it with my brother and sister-in-law- they went out and bought it. Actually they bought Coup: Rebellion G54 (and I'm not counting the documented plays of that one with the total above), but they want the original as well.

It's quick, fast, and interesting. The rules are simple, but the mechanism interesting. Fifteen cards. Five roles, each with unique abilities. Eliminate your competition. But everyone could be anyone. Those two furtive cards could be any of the five roles, and they very likely will. 

"So, you're saying you are the Duke and the Captain?"

"That's what I'm saying."

Next turn:

"I pay my three coins and assassinate you!" Followed by a coy smile and a muffled chuckle.

"But you said last turn you were the Duke and Captain?! Now you're saying you are the Assassin?!"

"Call me out, if you don't believe me!"

Pure fibbing fun!

Once everyone understands what each role is able to do, games go by lightning quick, even with four players. This one has been played so much, I think I might need to get a replacement soon. AND they're sleeved!

Those are my five most played games so far in 2020. What are yours? Leave them in the comments below! If you have tried one of my most played, what did you think about it? 


  1. Buddy!! I don't think I've ever played a game that many times! (Coup). Like you this pandemic messed up all my gaming groups and while I have had decent gaming I haven't had the chance to play a more complex or heavy game. Definitely feel you. Most of the gaming I've done has been light or medium-light games at the most. The one that has been a huge success is Take 5 and have played like 10 times in the last few months. As for the games in your list, have not played tainted Grail and ice cool but love all the others. Hopefully we all can get some more gaming back to our lives soon.


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