2021 was an… interesting… year boardgamewise. I played 57… things… for the first time according to BG Stats. 12 of them were expansions, so 45 new games, then.

Other key figures:

  • 7 of my top 10 most played games of 2021 were new-to-me games. (2/10 in 2020, 8/10 in 2019, 9/10 in 2018, 8/10 in 2017.)
  • 57 of 131 things played were new-to-me. (42/140 in 2020, 98/189 in 2019, 77/144 in 2018, 64/116 in 2017.)
  • My H-index increased to 9. (8 in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017.)
  • Number of days with games decreased to 145. (168 in 2020, 187 in 2019, 175 in 2018, 107 in 2017.)
  • Estimated hours played kept quite stable at 244, though. (243 in 2020, 345 in 2019, 269 in 2018, 208 in 2017.)

Enough numbers, here’s my list of noteworthy new-to-me games from 2021. (As usual this is not really my favourite nine games, but rather a kind of optimal games library of games I played in 2021. Horses for courses.)

Filler games

On last year’s list I had a mission based cooperative trick taking game with a space theme called The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. This year I have a mission based cooperative trick taking game with a space deep sea theme called The Crew: Mission Deep Sea The theme, or setting, if you want, is as pasted on this year as the last, but this follow up game adds to the replayability by mixing up the mission structure. (The two games are similar enough, but if you only have room for one The Crew in your collection, I think it should be the underwater one…)

Favourite mechanism: I’m still amazed at how the author, basically, has expanded upon the team play of Bridge and brought it (back) to the masses, by creating an evolving collaborative trick taking game where everyone is on the same team…

I played Downforce for the first time on BoardGameArena during one of the semi-lockdowns of 2021 and it was great. (Even greater was to get, and play, a physical copy for my birthday!) Super-simple and streamlined rules with very tense kind-of-thematic gameplay of racing and betting makes this a perfect filler for most ages.

Favourite mechanism: I love the fact that it is card based and you sometime have to gamble by moving cars that you have no interest in moving just to try to jostle “your” cars into better positions…

Gateway games

Drafting meets spatial Tetris style puzzles and cats(!) in the first game in the gateway category in The Isle of Cats. I’ve played both the “proper game”, the family variant and the solitaire variant and they all play great, methinks, and cater to different audiences.

Favourite mechanism: I’m always a sucker for variable turn order, and I like that you basically need to push your luck in drafting cards in order to get an earlier slot.

Looking at the list of games that are new to me this year, I realize that I have lots of follow up, or second takes of games I’ve enjoyed in the past, and the next one on my list, Welcome to the Moon fits snuggly into that category… This game follow the general mold of the excellent “Welcome to”-universe, and sits somewhere between Your Perfect Home and New Las Vegas in complexity… The game contains eight different levels to play as a campaign (with or without a branching storyline from a choose your own adventure style accompanying booklet) or as standalone scenarios for 1 to 6 players. Some of the levels might be a bit same-ish, but they do spice things up and fits the narrative. One of my favorites is, actually, the first level, as it feels like a real moon-race and eases new players into the mechanics nicely.

Favourite mechanism: I like the fact that the authors have spun 8 different games out of, basically, the same gameplay loop and components…

Gateway+ games

The first of the two Gateway+ games on my list, Expedition to Newdale, is a board game adaptation of Oh My Goods! by Alexander Pfister. I’ve been a fan of the “original”, especially with the Longsdale in Revolt story expansion and especially as a solo game, for some time, and it keeps coming back to my table. It is a perfect travel game since it is basically just a deck of cards – or two. The bigger box brother is less portable, and continues the story element from its predecessor, but also adds a new decision space with, for example, maps.

Favourite mechanism: A detail I enjoy here, that has changed from its predecessor, is the more controlled randomness in the draw of “resources” used each round. It makes it ever so slightly more controllable and in this slightly more involved game – with rather few rounds, this is a welcome change.

Next up is the one of the most hyped games of recent years; Lost Ruins of Arnak. On paper it sounds like a mouthful being a mix of deck building, worker placement, resource management and multiuse cards – with race elements, but it feels really streamlined once you’re in it. The Indiana Jones-ey theme and the amazing production quality adds to the mix.

Favourite mechanism: The game is full of well implemented classic design elements, but something I really appreaciate is the elegant, tiny, tweaks the designers have done to the deck building mechanism to balance the fact that you go through your deck fewer times than you might do in other games.

Solo games

Like last year, there are only two of the games on this list that I haven’t played (and enjoyed) solo. Here are a couple of my favourites in the category, though.

I got The Gallerist with my On Mars kickstarter in 2020, but I didn’t get it to the table before early 2021. It is the oldest and lightest of my Lacerda-trifecta (Lisboa, On Mars, The Gallerist), but it still packs a punch. As a solo game, I might even prefer it to the rest with it’s ultra-streamlined dummy player.

Favourite mechanism: Like any medium-heavy Lacerda game this has systems within systems, but what I like the most in this one is the push and pull of how the meeples move around the board. A fascinating system of passive agressive player interaction…

I’ve dabbled way too little in the Anno series of video game, but the 1800 iteration might be my favorite, so when I heard that Martin Wallace was working on a board gameification of it I was very intrigued. Anno 1800 was finally released in France in 2021 and Mr Wallace didn’t dissappoint. Admittedly, I have mainly played it solo, and especially the excellent campaign crafted by Stephen Hurn. (Sadly only published in German by Kosmos (with an unofficial translation published on BGG. (Will there ever be an official English (or French) one?)))

Favourite mechanism: The fact that this is a city builder game with resource management and engine building, but the end condition is taken from good old card games – get rid of the cards in your hand…

Enthusiast game

Another game I’ve mainly gotten to play the solo variant of, is my favourite game discovery of 2021 – some 5 years late to the party – A Feast for Odin. A great, surprisingly thematic, Uwe Rosenberg game about doing viking things like trading, hunting and playing Tetris. Jokes aside, I actually really apreaciate the puzzly element of this, and, somehow it feels more fitting (pun intended) to the theme than it should… (Rumour has it that Super Meeple will release the Norwegians expansion here in France this year. I can’t wait!)

Favourite mechanism: There’s not really one mechanism here that I can call my favorite, but I think the fact that the game feels so sandboxy and every time you play you can try doing different things, makes this super enjoyable.

So, there you have it. My “Ludoteca Ideale” of 2021… I can’t wait to get either of these ones back to the table! Now for some honourable mentions!

Honourable mentions (sorted alphabetically)

  • Agropolis – A solitaire (or coop, but really, I think it works best as a solitaire) wallet game that borrows quite a bit (a lot/everything) from it’s predecessor Sprawlopolis.
  • Air, Land & Sea – Great duelling micro game with some excellent push your luck and bluffing elements.
  • Biblios: Quill and Parchment – A perfect lunch break dice chucker version of Biblios. Part of me likes this one even better than it’s older sibling due to the more relaxed and less memory oriented game play…
  • Cities: Skylines – The Board Game – After the nice surprise of the Minecraft boardgame in 2019 and Rhado’s glowing reviews, I was curious about this one, and it didn’t disappoint. A nice coop version of one of my favourite video games.
  • Dragomino – A nice simplified version of Kingdomino. My favourite game for smaller kids of 2021.
  • Eiyo – A small solitaire fighting game with some nice twists.
  • Food Chain Island – Another solitaire wallet game. A breezy puzzler from the ever so prolific Scott Almes.
  • It’s a Wonderful Kingdom – A follow up to the excellent It’s a Wonderful World. This time in the shape of a duel. I’ve only played the solo variant – and it arrived rather late in the year, so this might end up on a best list of next year… Stay tuned.
  • Mariposas – Elizabeth Hardgrave’s follow up to Wingspan didn’t quite live up to the expectations, but it is still a fun little game of butterfly migration…
  • MicroMacro: Crime City – Coop crime solver in the veins of Where’s Wally. I really like the way time works in the game – like a cubist painting we experience different points in time at the same time.
  • Mysterium Park – A less fiddly, and slightly lightly and shorter, version of Mysterium.
  • Regicide – Another coop fighting game – with slight deck builder elements – that you can play with a standard deck of cards. (Or order a fancy edition directly from the publisher.)
  • Skulls of Sedlec – Another wallet game. An excellent puzzly card-drafting game with a graveyard architect theme…
  • Tiny Epic Pirates – The latest Tiny Epic game from Scott Almes is a kind of mashup of Merchants & Marauders and his own Harbour. I’ve only played a couple of times, with max 2 players, but I suspect it would be better at higher player counts.
  • Tokyo Highway – One of my best looking games I played in 2021. Dexterity game about building, well, highways in Tokyo like some kind of reverse Godzilla. (Or, oftentimes, the real deal…) Based on a true story, it would seem.
  • Trek 12: Amazonia – Another follow-up game from Cathala and co-author. This time they are revisitng their excellent roll and write Trek 12 (one of last year’s honorable mentions) and are mixing things up just enough. (You might not need both game in your collection, though…)
  • Troyes Dice – I have admittedly not played the “real” Troyes (I really should), but the dice version was one of the best (webcam-friendly) roll and write discoveries of 2021.
  • Underwater Cities – Probably the best new discovery not among my 9 selected games…
  • Unlock!: Kids – A great app-less implementation of the escape room series targetting kids!
  • Zombie Teenz Evolution – Slightly heavier, if you can use such an adjective here, than Zombie Kidz, but still with plenty of stickers-unlocking and legacy elements.

The games I look forward the most to play in 2022

  • Darwin’s Journey – I have Kickstarted this (a long, long time ago) – let’s hope it lives up to the hype… and that it arrives this year…
  • Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition – A streamlined mashup of Terraforming Mars and Race for the Galaxy? Count me in!
  • Dune: Imperium – Arnak in space with spice?
  • Ark Nova – Zoo Tycoon: The (medium-heavy euro) Boardgame?
  • Fjords – Philip Walker Harding revisiting the modern classic from the late Franz-Benno Delonge. (Kickstarted)
  • The Nano9Games: Railways, City Planner, and Empire – I do like my nano games… (Kickstarted)
  • My Island – Knizia’s follow up to My City. Can this be a competitive legacy game that works?
  • Expansions to:
    • Viscounts of the West Kingdom
    • Architects of the West Kingdom
    • Railways of the World
    • On Mars
    • Lost Ruins of Arnak
    • Maracaibo

From earlier years:

The Castles of Tuscany, The Search for Planet X, Under Falling Skies, Praga Caput Regni, Pipeline, Watergate, Parks, Cooper Island, Barrage, Spirit Island, New Frontiers, Blackout, Gugong, Teotihuacan

Shelf of shame/opportunity

  • Crystal Palace

Also, for reference, here’s my list from 2020.

All new-to-me games played 2021

Name Year Rank Average Weight Age 🕐 👥
15 Days 2020 6044 6.67788 1.8667 14 20 1-4
A Feast for Odin 2016 22 8.18608 3.855 12 120 1-4
A Fistful of Daisies 2020 Not Ranked 6.66667 0 6 20 2-4
Agropolis 2021 1343 7.44581 1.8 8 20 1-4
Air, Land, & Sea 2019 512 7.48107 1.7284 14 30 2-2
Anno 1800 2020 295 7.77435 3.1658 12 120 2-4
Apocalypse au Zoo de Carson City 2017 15657 5.79842 1.1429 12 15 2-4
Biblios: Quill and Parchment 2021 4579 7.01977 2.1667 14 40 1-4
Circle the Wagons 2017 1141 7.10507 1.625 8 15 2-2
Cities: Skylines – The Board Game 2019 3041 6.63023 2.3265 10 70 1-4
Codex Naturalis 2021 1153 7.24014 1.7887 7 30 1-4
Cube Duel 2020 Not Ranked 6.87222 0 10 0 1-2
Downforce 2017 371 7.32951 1.7371 10 40 2-6
Dragomino 2020 2044 7.09645 1.0816 5 15 2-4
Eiyo 2020 5683 6.85281 2 14 20 1-2
Expedition to Newdale 2019 1396 7.42756 3 12 90 1-4
Exploding Kittens 2015 3572 6.04689 1.0923 7 15 2-5
Food Chain Island 2020 1550 7.25957 1.3548 8 15 1-1
Golems 2020 7752 6.42213 1.75 14 20 1-2
Hellapagos 2017 2339 6.62607 1.2727 8 20 3-12
It’s a Wonderful Kingdom 2021 1327 7.45543 2.6 14 60 1-2
Lost Ruins of Arnak 2020 29 8.09232 2.8913 12 120 1-4
Mariposas 2020 1279 6.89048 2.187 14 75 2-5
MicroMacro: Crime City 2020 214 7.58886 1.1148 12 45 1-4
Mysterium Park 2020 1158 7.14416 1.4815 10 45 2-6
Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition 2021 1649 7.63316 2.0625 8 30 1-4
Regicide 2020 774 7.51721 1.9506 10 30 1-4
Skulls of Sedlec 2020 1409 7.46915 1.3214 8 20 1-4
Star Wars: Destiny 2016 578 7.46926 2.2907 10 30 2-2
Star Wars: X-Wing (Second Edition) 2018 523 8.10374 3.0877 14 45 2-2
The Crew: Mission Deep Sea 2021 36 8.28265 2.046 10 20 2-5
The Gallerist 2015 64 8.04135 4.2629 13 150 1-4
The Isle of Cats 2019 112 7.78882 2.3477 8 90 1-4
Tiny Epic Pirates: Deluxe Edition 2021 Not Ranked 7.20955 2.7143 14 60 1-4
Tokyo Highway 2018 Not Ranked 6.90387 1.3871 8 50 2-4
Trek 12: Amazonia 2021 5880 7.63453 1.3333 8 15 1-50
Troyes Dice 2020 1635 7.07183 2.2963 12 30 1-10
Underwater Cities 2018 43 8.08115 3.6145 12 150 1-4
Unlock! Kids: Detective Stories 2021 3104 7.86693 1.75 6 60 1-4
Unpublished Prototype 0 3267 6.91795 2.5325 0 0 0-0
Valeria: Card Kingdoms 2016 540 7.45766 1.9844 13 45 1-5
Welcome to the Moon 2021 303 8.06926 2.4268 10 30 1-6
Zombie Teenz Evolution 2020 1344 7.79286 1.4615 8 25 2-4

Expansions

Name Year Rank Average Weight Age 🕐 👥
Carcassonne: Expansion 2 – Traders & Builders 2003 Not Ranked 7.61243 2.0641 13 60 2-6
Circle the Wagons: Lone Cowboy 2017 Not Ranked 6.70648 2 8 15 1-1
It’s a Wonderful Kingdom: Promo Pack 2022 Not Ranked 7.06667 0 14 60 1-2
Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium 2009 Not Ranked 7.92914 3.0732 12 60 1-6
Skulls of Sedlec: Monstrance 2020 Not Ranked 7.6868 1.75 8 20 1-1
Star Realms: Command Deck – The Alignment 2018 Not Ranked 7.62864 1.6667 12 0 2-4
Star Realms: Command Deck – The Alliance 2018 Not Ranked 7.68909 2 12 0 2-4
Star Realms: Command Deck – The Coalition 2018 Not Ranked 7.68339 1.6667 12 0 2-4
Star Realms: Command Deck – The Pact 2018 Not Ranked 7.74509 1.6667 12 0 2-4
Star Realms: Command Deck – The Union 2018 Not Ranked 7.6933 1.6667 12 0 2-4
Star Realms: Command Deck – The Unity 2018 Not Ranked 7.73112 2 12 0 2-4
Star Realms: Crisis – Heroes 2014 Not Ranked 7.04662 1.9535 12 0 2-6
Star Realms: United – Heroes 2016 Not Ranked 7.31975 1.8333 12 0 2-2
Star Wars: X-Wing (Second Edition) – Servants of Strife Squadron Pack 2018 Not Ranked 8.23018 0 14 45 2-2