Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, taking a look back at 2020. We have already covered this week our top twelve favorite games of 2020 here in part one and part two, but there’s more to gaming then just what’s the best of the best. Let’s look at a jambalaya of other categories!
Best New Expandalones
2020 was arguably one of the best years for people expanding their plays of games they already own. During the early part of the summer, my family gave me Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion for my birthday. We played the first few scenarios right before one of my military sons was called up for COVID-19 duty, and hopefully we will get back to it soon.
But before he left, we played it every night. For the boys, there was plenty of adventure and dungeon crawling, and for me, there was plenty of theme and puzzles. I’m so looking forward to finishing up this campaign.
Honorable mentions: Cobble & Fog (Restoration Games, UnMatched series), Call To Adventure: Stormlight Archives (Brotherwise Games) and Perfectly Wretched (Disney Villainous)
Best 2020 Game That I Own That I Haven’t Played Yet
How’s that for a subjective category? Yes, there are still a few games that I have yet to get to the table from 2020 that I feel pretty sure would have made my list somewhere. Top of the heap for me is Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North: Barbarian Hordes, which should get an award just for longest name.
My nephews and I play Empires of the North all the time on TTS, since we cannot physically get together, and I have had a copy of Barbarians since it came out but no one around to try it. Words cannot express how much I am ready to play this new expansion to one of my favorite all time games.
Honorable mentions: The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games), Super Skill Pinball (WizKids)
Most Unusual Theme
This was a no brainer for me. Cosmic Frog is a game that I normally would not even consider — it’s a direct player confrontation, luck filled super powered persona game with the strangest theme in gaming: players place as two mile high frogs devouring the world and spitting out onto their player boards for points.
But did I mention that it was a blast to play?
Honorable mentions: Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby
Best Straight Up Expansion
Here I am looking for stuff, stuff that you can stuff into a beloved game and make it better. These are the cardboard bits and dice and tiny boxes that amp up a game. First one that came to my mind was easy — Smartphone Inc.: Status Update 1.1 is not only the best expansion I played this year, it is one of the best expansions I’ve played in the past ten years.
Didn’t like the two player version of the original? Got ya covered. Thought there was not enough variety in the tech upgrades? No problem. Hated the original component trays? Join the club, but you won’t hate them any more! Want just more cool stuff for your cool smartphone inspired game? More, more, more!
Honorable mentions: Downforce: Wild Ride! (Restoration Games) and Wingspan: Oceania Expansion (Stonemaier Games).
Best Travel Sized Game
Full disclosure: Josh Lobkoweicz is one of the developers in the industry I most admire. But even without knowing Josh on a personal level, his company Travel Buddy Games has a mission — making great games in tiny little packages that you can easily travel the world and play. His first offering was Keith Piggott’s The Great Barrier Reef Card Game, and it was a doozy.
It is hard to believe someone could pack such a brain melting puzzle AND have beautiful components AND have sneaky player interaction all in one tiny package. But they did, and it’s your…can’t help myself here…passport to fun!
Honorable mentions: Dealt! (Amigo US release) and Dizzle (Stronghold Games)
Best New To Me Games
Hands down. Don’t even need to caucus or debate this issue. After years of hearing about this game on The Dice Tower podcasts, we finally played Thurn & Taxis. Please understand, I am a card-carrying member of the Gateway & Filler Games Group on Facebook, I absolutely adore 45-60 minute easy to teach games that still pack a punch, most of the games I purchase year-in-and-year-out are Gateway+ games, and most of the people outside of Gumbo Game Night that I play with only want to play that style of game.
So yeah, Thurn & Taxis is perfect for me. It wants to be Ticket To Ride’s older brother, but found out that just living on the same block doesn’t confere blood relation status. It’s really TtR++ on a modded frame, with Shimono brakes. It’s everything I want in a family weight game, because I can play it solo, I can be a little mean, I can try out different strategies, I can play it with three or four or five with ease. I absolutely and completely see why it was a Spiele nominee, and I want a copy of it in my collection.
Honorable mentions: Lords of Vegas (nipping at Thurn & Taxis heels, by the way), Papayoo, Lockup: A Roll Player Tale, Wavelength, and Xia: Legends of a Drift System
We have one more entry into our best of 2020, way too early editions, to geaux: Most Anticipated Games of 2021. We also posted our top twelve favorite games of 2020 here in part one and part two). Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo
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