In August 2019, my wife and I welcomed our first daughter Phoebe into our lives. It was a wonderful, magical time. It was a huge adjustment at first, but after a few months, we really started to feel like we had developed a good routine.
And then, ya know, COVID.
After that, my wife was pregnant again, and our second child Josiah arrived in August.
So for the past 2 years and some change, I understandably haven’t gotten to play all that many board games in person. Most of my gaming has happened online through platforms like Board Game Arena and Tabletop Simulator. I’m very thankful that these opportunities exist, as I’ve gotten to try out games I may never have experienced, or at least without having to add yet another title to my “shelf of shame”.
So with all of that, I’ve actually gotten the chance to play about 30 games that were released in 2021. Now that’s certainly not a tremendous amount, but it’s more than I might have expected. And from that list, I’ve come up with 5 games that I would say are my top 5 from the year.
The Market: a pocket game – You want to play Splendor but only have like 10 minutes and don’t want it to take up too much space? Then you should check this one out.
Tumble Town – Dice aren’t just for rolling anymore. Now you can build a whole Western town out of them!
#5: Super Mega Lucky Box
That Bob Crowell. He’s always talking about how wonderful games are. He gets so excited about so many titles that it’s hard to tell what’s actually good and or not. We should all aspire to talk about and love people the way that Bob talks about and loves board games. 🙂
So anyway, Bob was talking about this game after Origins this year, and when I looked at it, I thought he must be joking. I mean, it’s just Bingo, right? There’s nothing groundbreaking or exciting happening here.
But he kept talking, and he said something about how my students would love it, and that just forced me to get a copy. When I brought it to the table with a few students a couple weeks later, they were as hesitant as I was.
Then we started playing, and we started to realize that there were some decisions to be made here. Not a ton, but just enough to feel like you were impacting the gameplay. And after a playthrough, we all wanted to go another round.
Super Mega Lucky Box is a game that would work very well as a filler with casual and veteran gamers alike. It could be the start to a game night, or maybe even a “palate cleanser” at the end of a long night where you want just one more quick one. It’s like Bingo, but it’s more than Bingo. And it’s pretty fun.
I didn’t know anything about Destinies when I visited Ryan early in 2021, other than that Ryan and Bob wouldn’t stop talking about it. After my playthrough, I definitely understood what all the hype was about.
The game plays like a video game RPG, with players exploring a fantasy world as different characters that have different objectives and victory conditions. The game is supported by an app that does a great job of telling a story as you go along. It was lots of fun to explore the different areas of the game, gathering important information and items along the way and strategizing what my next steps would be.
The only reason that this isn’t higher on my list is the theme. I’m honestly tired of fantasy games, and I don’t think I’d ever get this one to the table with my regular gaming group. However, it sounds like this is a gaming system that Lucky Duck plans to utilize more in the future, so I’m hoping that games with different themes will be released in the near future.
#3: Art Decko
This game was originally released as Promenade in 2019 by our friend Ta-Te Wu. I got the chance to try that game out, and I immediately fell in love with it. The game puts you in the shoes of an art collector, seeking to increase the value of your collection. You do this through purchasing more of a particular type of art – thus increasing its demand and its value – or featuring artwork in different galleries.
What I really love about this game is how well it addresses the issue with starter cards that I see in so many other deck-builders. Usually, the cards you start the game with end up being almost worthless. This doesn’t happen in Art Decko, since you start the game with paintings that are always increasing in value. The other starter gold cards have special abilities that you can use if you trash them, thus allowing you to easily remove them from your deck when the time is right.
I’ve already introduced this game to Ryan and Adrian in the past few weeks on Board Game Arena, and they’re big fans. I hope many others will check it out soon and realize what a very well-crafted game Art Decko is.
#2: PARKS: Nightfall
I was a big fan of the original PARKS when it hit tables a few years back, and many other people felt the same way. But hey, that’s what happens when you have beautiful artwork and components plus smooth mechanics with easy-to-learn rules.
But let’s just get to the point – PARKS: Nightfall is probably my favorite expansion ever. In my recent review, I said that I couldn’t see playing PARKS without it in the future, and I stand by it. It fixes problems I didn’t even realize existed, and it adds in features I didn’t know I wanted.
If you own PARKS, you really need to get your hands on this expansion. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
#1: Burgle Bros 2
I was just getting into hobby board games in 2015 when the original Burgle Bros hit Kickstarter. I remember being so excited about the game during the campaign. There wasn’t another game like it. Burgle Bros had beautiful artwork. The story behind it was great, challenging players to rob a bank without getting caught. The mechanics were unique and fun, using interesting mechanics for the guards and for breaking into the safe. But most of all, the game was just REALLY cool.
It was the first print and play version of a game that I ever printed out and tried to play (tried being the key word here). I finally got my hands on it at a board game flea market a few years later, and I’ve brought it to the table as often as I could.
So you can imagine my excitement when a sequel was announced, and I was able to get my own copy that arrived a few months ago. And to my delight, all of the original magic is still there, with some extra awesomeness thrown in. I love the double decker tower, even if mine refuses to stand up straight. I’m a huge fan of the new mechanics, like chips and bouncers. The new finale mechanic – which adds a twist to the gameplay as soon as you crack the safe – gives each game a unique feel. But most of all, I love the campaign mode that’s been added. I would be down to go through the whole thing in a day. Anyone want to join?
I’ve made known my love for Tim Fowers and his games many times in the past, and this is yet another title that doesn’t disappoint. Here’s hoping we can get enough ideas together for a trilogy?