2020 was probably the single worst year for anyone to dive into the board gaming hobby. Yes, there are apps like Table Top Simulator and Tabletopia. Yes, there are games that can be fairly easily implemented over Zoom. Yes, there are digital versions of board games. But it feels odd to play something that is designed to be a social activity virtually instead of physically. Nothing compares to the tension, delight, frustration, and a myriad of other feelings and emotions that board games elicit from us when surrounded by friends and enemies (in a gaming-sense, that is).
Since this is my first foray into the world of board games, I can't compare the offerings of 2020 with those in previous years. I have heard professional reviewers praise this year as superior to 2019, and others derail 2020 as paltry compared to its year-old competition.
In no way have I personally played enough 2020 games to justify a top-10 list. I haven't even played ten new games from our soon-ending year. However, I thought it appropriate to list the games released this year in North America that I have played, share some quick thoughts, list some that I purchased but have yet to play, and some that have stirred up my interest.
2020 Games I've Played
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
This is the 2020 offering that continually brought me back for seconds, thirds, etc. I had never played Gloomhaven, or any campaign-type game for that matter. But while I was in the middle of the story of Tainted Grail with some friends, I decided that I wanted something similar for myself. So, I gladly boarded the hype train and was glad I did. The ramp-up style introduction offered a great way to learn the nuances of the game and the story book approach makes setting up a much swifter affair than its chunky predecessor. Still, it requires a time investment that I can't always pay. But when I do, the experience is wonderful.
This small card game packs a lot of fun. The rules are super simple and the gameplay is quick. Each player begins with ten cards, but must choose two to keep. These cards go into up to three gardens that the player makes, but can only be placed if a card is higher than the highest card already in a garden or lower than the lowest card. The point system seems like it will be time consuming at first, but it happens much faster than you might imagine. I can see many future game nights with this charmer on the table.
Gods Love Dinosaurs
First of all- dinosaurs! This is wonderful multi-layered puzzle that anyone can play. The wooden pieces are charming and the game play is elegant. It is so enjoyable building up your ecosystem with plenty of prey items for your predators so you can make more dinosaurs. And there is something so painful in having to let a dinosaur die because you didn't properly plan for it to feed. So, so good!
Unmatched: Cobble and Fog
Unfortunately, I've only played this one once, and it was over within two minutes. The card play seems like it will be a fun and interesting. The minis are really cool- particularly the Invisible Man, but I think the boards are kind of plain. The insert is worth noting as it's amazing! Can't wait to bring this one back out!
Other 2020 Games I Own
Waiting for a larger group to play. I know that it can be done remotely, but I'd prefer the experience to be as natural as possible. Probably the one I want to play the most.
In the Hall of the Mountain King
I love games with a polyomino aspect. Most reviewers rave about the cascading resources element of this game, but are less sold on the digging tunnels part. That's a part I'm very interested in, so I expect this one to be a hit. Resisting an urge to obtain the upgraded pieces.
I am one that has a history of Spades and Hearts. Trick-taking games with my family have had mixed results. Hoping that this well-regarded game might change that.
This was a Christmas gift from a friend. It wasn't something I was originally interested in, but I enjoy deck building games, and the concept is fun. Plus who doesn't love it that toys and pizza are your resources?!
A dexterity variant of the roll and write genre. The various "mini games" take a little time explaining, and I haven't mastered that art just yet, but it seems to have tremendous potential. Flicking offers some enjoyable chaos, and the mini games in the different quadrants offer interesting decisions.
2020 Games I'm Interested In
Dwellings of Eldervale
This one seems to have a lot going for it. Worker placement games seem all the rage, and I love games that have some sort of combat element, especially if giant monsters are involved. It's colorful, grandiose, and an epic scale. Sign me up!
Isle of Cats
I already mentioned that I enjoy polyomino games. This one seems to be one of the best. Plus, cats!
I've never played a Stefan Feld game. When looking at pictures, I haven't really wanted to. Bonfire changes that. It's a looker worthy of this shallow gamer to try.
Lost Ruins of Arnak
Speaking of a looker- this one is simply gorgeous. Deck building worker placement with an exploration theme lifted straight from a Steven Spielberg script. There's a reason this one seems sold out everywhere.
This one comes down to dice and a pretty presentation. This is the one I'm least interested in, but fun gameplay can definitely cause it to rise.
Which games of 2020 did you find enjoyable? Which ones are you desperate to play? What do you think of the games on this list?