Board Game Gumbo: Most Anticipated Games of 2021

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, finishing up our look back at 2020 with a look ahead to 2021. When you are the editor of your own website, you can make nonsensical statements like that, so let’s forget about the disaster that was 2020, and look forward to the juicy gaming goodness that will be Next Year.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of the games we cannot wait to be delivered or available next year. Note, some of these games represent experiences I have already had either during play testing or Kickstarter previews, so I’m pretty predisposed to liking some of them. Take that with a dash of Chachere’s:

HOOP GODZ

Excitement for Hoop Godz should come as no surprise if you follow me on social media. Every time I play this game I marvel at how simple, yet intuitive, yet kinetic the design is. Kudos to Board Game Brothas for distilling the essence, the flow and speed of street ball into a board game. If you are a fan of Hamu Dennis’ art like I am, and you are watching with interest Omari Akil’s development as a designer, then you will be very pleased with Hoop Godz

AFTER THE EMPIRE

From newly published designer (and friend of the Gumbo), Evan Halbert comes a tower defense game like none other I’ve played. It’s a euro, it’s ameritrash, it’s got luck and skill smashed together, and it is a roller coaster ride of emotions.

We did a ton of previews and playthroughs of this game during the Kickstarter, but I cannot wait to put my hands on the real thing.

LEGENDS OF SLEEPY HOLLOW

Oh Sleepy Hollow, this will be the last time hopefully you are on this list! We are at the finish line, Greater Than Games tells us, and we should have our copy of this beautifully illustrated and modeled ode to Washington Irving’s classic sometime next summer. We did a full Kickstarter preview if you want to check out the earlier version, and we got an update recently from one of the designers, Matt Riddle. I will drop everything and play this solo all the way through the first week it comes in. Pinkie promise.

WHALE RIDERS

I have only a handful of Knizia games under my belt. In fact, I can probably rattle them off easily: Ingenious, Babylonia, Tigris & Euphrates, Medici, Blue Lagoon, Llama, Quest for El Dorado, Lost Cities, and I’m probably missing a couple more. But, his designs always intrigue me, as they generally only have a few rules but there is such a beautiful depth to the game play. Whale Riders looks like it combines beautiful production with a kind of trippy whale riding theme and a puzzle that admittedly looked a little familiar in the Kickstarter but still appealed to me because of the shorter play time. Can’t wait to play it.

MANDALA STONES

I did not rank these — but if I did, this would probably first among equals. I’ve played Mandala Stones from Board & Dice three times already, but all alone. I’m telling you, this game is made to be touched, the pieces to be moved, the board state to be studied from different angles, and you need human eyes to stare at when contemplating your next move.

There’s only two choices each turn, but that A-B switch is just so hard to flip! (Or should I say “Filip”?) Tight, intuitive, and treacherous, Mandala Stones feels like a classic abstract euro that’s been around forever. It will file Ingenious right out of my collection, I’ll bet.

STUDIES IN SORCERY

This one is probably guaranteed to make “best travel game” somewhere next year. Weird Giraffe Games’ releases keep getting better and better, and that’s a progression of sign, design, and development that you want to see out of a smaller publisher.

If you like tiny little engine building, where you get to rev up the engine quickly and run it, Sorcery has that, plus it has a pretty cool vaguely Harry Potterish theme. Throw in a tiny dash of luck, and a small footprint (at least in the box) and you have a great game to take to your hotel in Gulf Shores next vacation. Check out our playthrough preview here, our review on Gumbo Live!, and our interview with the designer here.

LAWYER UP

Fresh off the heels of falling in love with Watergate, that tight two person tug of war with a great historical theme, we discovered Lawyer Up from the Maximum Apocalypse krewe. I hesitated, since I was not really a fan of Maximum Apocalypse, but wow was I pleasantly surprised by our plays of Lawyer Up online. This game is like a tug of war, if the rope went in multiple directions and your opponent could tickle you while you held on to the rope and kicked him in the shins at the same time. If you have any interest in courtroom themes, or love two player card games, or heck, you are just a walking, breathing, vaguely humanoid person, you should play Lawyer Up when it’s available.

VENICE

Another game I have already played — multiple times! From Braincrack Games comes another game featuring David Turczi, who has designed everything recently including the set pieces for The Mandalorian, the rDNA mapping for COVID-19 vaccines, and a road map from your house to your favorite diner. (Kidding!) Throw in Andei Novac, a designer who has a lot of games under his belt that I want to play, and even a game I used to love (Simurgh!), and I should already be seeing smiles on your face.

If you don’t mind a longer game experience than your typical Splendor/Century Spice Road/Race for the Galaxy engine building experience, and you want to see the engine run against a spatial format around a beautiful representation of Venice, then conveniently, Venice does both. Venice was supposed to be out in 2020, but I believe it will hit retail next year. Check out our live play of Venice for Braincrack Games with Sagan and Don at UKGE here.

CARTOGRAPHERS: HEROES

Hereos is the expandalone that you did not know you needed for Cartographers. Trust me, this really works. It does what every expansion should do — it gives you more of what you want. There are more maps, more cards, more actions, and the tricky puzzle of knowing when to play your hero on your map to prevent DAVE FROM WRECKING MY MAP. I mean, of course, anyone wrecking your map by placing a monster in just the wrong way.

To me, it turns Cartographers into something interesting but not necessarily necessary, instead something I want on my shelf to play with friends who don’t like themeless randowriters. (They are dead wrong by the way.)

NANGA PARBAT

Oh yes, we love our little abstract games here at the Gumbo, and who is the King of the Filler Game? Dr Finn is, and this may be one of his most beautiful and puzzliest yet. Nanga Parbat is all about triangles on triangles, and moving pieces on the board to get the best spots for you while forcing others into taking the least optimal spots (or giving you better turns). Like all of his games, it is relatively easy to teach, but has a little crunch, and there will ALWAYS be that one turn where you stare at your player board and wonder how you got yourself into this mess. Keep thinking, there’s an answer in the puzzle somewhere, and make sure you try Board Game Arena’s Nanga Parbat version while you wait for copies to hit the market.


So that’s our list of the most anticipated games of the year, at least from the Gumbo view. Hopefully, I see you around the gaming table and we try a few of these together! If you are curious, we also posted our Top Six and Next Six way too early games-of-the-year lists. We also posted our Jambalaya awards, basically games that didn’t make the top twelve but were the best in their categories! Until then, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo 

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