Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Board Games of 2021… we may have reviewed them too!
We might have called it our ultimate guide, but this isn't about us saying which games are better than others! Our reviewers are players first and foremost, with over 100 years of combined gaming experience, and want to share their most loved games from those that we've bought, backed, and played in 2021. Of course, where we have reviewed them we will link to our original review.
So WHAT are our top games of 2021?
Mr Chris -
I have played and backed some awesome games this last year (2021), but I would have to say that the ones at the top for me start with Evil Corp, a board game based on evil corporate billionaires who consider themselves above the law. It has depth and replayability. This is without a doubt going to be a new gateway game that is easy to learn and teach. In case it helps, a "gateway game" can be the game that gets a "non-gamer" to play "real" games. I would introduce this game to my parents, need I say more?? You can enjoy our full review by clicking here.
Secondly, another game to make it into the list for 2021 has to be Trekking the World by Underdog Games. It is a board game that helps you share your greatest memories and dreams of travel, and you can check out my full review by clicking here. This highly replayable game offers rich images and simplicity. Underdog Games have also just announced their new game Trekking Through History, which I am excited for. I have been advised that while "Trekking" is in the title, the mechanics are all unique to this, so I am eager to get my hands on this game ready for 2022.
Finally, I must say that Radlands by Roxley Games has made it to the list. This post-apocalyptic dueling card game was kindly donated to us by Nemesis Games who follow us, and are active on our Discord channel . I absolutely love this card game! The artwork is stunning and it's a first for me to not need to sleeve up as the cards are nigh-on indestructible. We will be reviewing this very soon, so watch this space!
The Rules Lawyer -
So 2021 has been a weird year for me with games, and to be honest with all the chaos caused by the pandemic I'm not even sure when I backed or received some games and the lines between 2020 and 2021 are very blurred for me. So I'll restrict my favourites to a couple of recent acquisitions.
Firstly, Mantis Falls, this little Kickstarter from Distant Rabbit Games was backed way back at the start of the pandemic, and their production has been plagued by delays due to the chaos of international shipping over the pandemic. But we have finally received it and have loved our first few playthroughs. Watch this space for our review coming soon! The quick highlight, and why we backed this game is that it's a hidden agenda game (which we love), but for a lower player count. Indeed the game is restricted to only two or three players. It's finely balanced and well produced and just dripping with theme. They've done a great job!
The other game for me... was from an impromptu day trip with Dino-Girl and our trip to Travelling Man York where I finally picked up my copy of Nemesis by Awaken Realms, a game I had been coveting and resisting for some time. For a game that so clearly rips off a well-established IP, they've done a great job and while now released quite a long time ago I'm super happy to now have a copy in my collection.
The Word-nerd - LLAMAS!!! My favourite game of 2021 was P'achakuna by Treeceratops, which the hubby and I backed through Kickstarter. He instantly knew that I would love it, so had backed it straight away ... although I did have to persuade him when it came to the pledge manager that yes I absolutely did need both the black and the white plush llama... I love that it is a solid two-player game that is beautiful, hexagon-based, and has llamas...
The brightly coloured, handmade cloth bags are a gorgeous addition especially as they support the Luz De Esperanza foundation, helping young people in a poor district of El Alta. A game that involves manipulating tiles or resource collection will always go down well with me, and this game is definitely no exception. You can check out my full review here.
Mr Dan -
My best games of 2021.... were probably not even from 2021! But I only got a chance to play them this year, so I'm counting them!
I think my top gaming moments of the year are Aliens : Another glorious day in the corps by Gale Force Nine LLC and Not-Aliens *cough* I mean Nemesis, the only game to make me have a crisis of conscience!
Aliens was a nostalgic blast through one of my favourite ever movies. We played through a whole campaign, reliving key scenes from the film in some kind of bizarre parallel universe where the main characters died and the extras of the movie managed to survive!
Nemesis is dripping in theme (and alien goo) and was such a tense, memorable experience. I was playing as a Scientist and a selfish winning objective and fully intended to blow up the ship and escape on my own, but in the end the rest of the players helped and protected me so much, I felt indebted to them and stayed to help them achieve their goals. In the end... I ended up dying for it though, thanks karma! But it sure was fun!
Hello my fellow Geeks and Geekettes, Dino-Girl here. You will be super surprised to know that my favourite games of 2021 are not in fact dinosaur-themed, as I've actually been a little disappointed in some of the dino-based games I have received from Kickstarter this year.
When it comes to card games, my favourite by far was Snapshot by Paperboat Games. Everyone at DOALG absolutely fell in love with it after getting to play it at this year's UK Games Expo. We were privileged to get a prototype copy ahead of the Kickstarter launch, and have since got our hands on the super shiny real thing. Yes, it beat Happy Little Dinos! If you want to know more, head over to my review by clicking here.
I love a Role-Playing Game (RPG) and enjoyed a fair few over the course of 2021. The one I loved the most was Partners by Tin Star Games. It's for two players who take on the realm of murder mystery . I was delighted to be able to review a sneaky copy ahead of the official Kickstarter launch, and when the actual book arrived it was so adorably tiny and cute! It is the perfect game to get your creative brains going, and it isn’t just a game for two players (or a few additional newbies or shy players), it is also a really useful writing tool. Learn all about Partners in my full review by clicking here.
My fave board game was Evil Corp, a game sure to feature in many a game and nibbles night of 2022 as we all try and take over the world muahahaha! Simple and brilliant gameplay of devious strategising, and also a fun-shaped box.
It was hard to narrow it down, but the games I most enjoyed playing in 2021 were:
Lost Ruins of Arnak from Czech Games Edition (the makers of Codenames), a one- to four-player game that brilliantly combines worker placement and deckbuilding
Dune Imperium from Dire Wolf, based on the universe that Frank Herbert created, and another cunning blending of deckbuilding and worker placement
Beyond the Sun from Rio Grande Games, a semi-cooperative engine-building game in which players compete to truly reign supreme in new worlds as Earth begins to die
Obsession from Kayenta Games, set in Derbyshire England, players build a deck of Victorian gentry, renovate their estate and manipulate an extensive service staff.
Fleet the Dice Game from Eagle-Gryphon Games
Canvas from R2i Games
Furnace from Hobby World International
You've read all the way down here? Okay, I'll make it quick! There are three games this compilation of 2021 releases would be incomplete without:
The difficult second board game has ruined many, but Sinister Fish - who graced us with a Let's Talk Board Games in September - built upon the excellent Villagers with city building Streets this year. Streets has all the things that made Villagers great, but not as heavy on the rules, making it more accessible to simply pick up and play with gamers of all experiences. But there's plenty of strategy for the more cunning player, or a solo player mode for all your isolation needs. With a clean design and a bright, friendly art style, it's a happily uncynical game, despite being about a booming high street in 2021 which, well, the less said about that the better.
Even so, 2021 was a year where it became possible to w̶o̶r̶k̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶n̶t̶ party again, and coming to the party was A game about WEE WHIMSICAL CREATURES and trying to identify them after someone makes noises. Do I need to say more than the title? My word count says no. But it's great fun, budget-friendly, and it's nice to have something in a clear plastic bag that isn't a used swab. If you really connect with your noisy creatures in this game from Stuff By Bez, the line drawing style means you can get even more enjoyment out of colouring them in.
And finally: my last game purchase of 2021 was actually a gift for someone else, but it did make an excellent gift choice (if I do say so myself). Escape room in a box experience Exit pushed its usual boundaries by releasing a 2021 advent calendar, each day holding a different puzzle that builds up to the conclusion of a 24-day long adventure story. It's a great idea, well-executed, and something I think other legacy games should be inspired by; especially since it was popular enough for Kosmos Games that they're planning to release another advent calendar for Christmas 2022.
If you want more to look forward to from 2022, later this month we'll be introducing you to the releases we can't wait to receive! In the meantime, we'd love to know what your favourite games of 2021 were and what you thought of this list, comment down below.