Last year was a tricky customer for most of us. Every time we thought we were going to catch a break, 2020 decided to smash us back into submission. For most of us, it marked an increase in spare time and a decrease in socialising. The first created much more gaming time, whether it was time saved now our commute to work was 3 steps from bed to desk, or if it was the time saved by not going out for food, drinks, or coffee.
The restrictions on household mixing and socialising curtailed our playing of many games this year. We simply cannot get those higher player count games to the table this year. More games were moved to video call or played at low player counts.
Despite the absolute mess that was 2020, there were some excellent games released. I have assembled a merry band of bloggers to curate our list of the best games of 2020. There is a diverse mix here of heavy and lighter weight games, and a mix of mechanisms and themes. Hopefully something for everyone. So, what is the best Board Game of 2020?
By Hannah Blacknell
I wanted to go for a slightly different choice. King of Tokyo is, compared to many of the games featured, a very light game. This Dark Edition is a better version of the original King of Tokyo. In this game, you roll dice to get wickedness points, victory points, health, smack-attacks, and lightning bolts to buy power-up cards. In Yahtzee-style, you can select dice to re-roll up to twice to get exactly what you want. Or in my case probably what you don’t want. You battle your monsters with the aim of the game to stay alive long enough to amass 20 victory points to win.
The artwork in this is a perfect comic book style, with monsters that are not quite King Kong and Godzilla, but ‘The King’ and ‘Gigazaur’. The artwork here is brilliant with little splashes of colour really popping in the mostly black and white landscape of the game. Also, the artwork for the Dark Edition is great, and the components are brilliant. It is refreshing to see standees that look good. These feel chunky and I think are better than having intricate minis in this game. The game needs a comic book feel that miniatures just cannot deliver.
The Dark Edition adds the Wickedness Track which offers you the chance to get some amazing special abilities or one-time bonuses. To move up the track though you need to roll 3 1’s or 3 2’s so you are choosing to take the lower victory points to try and get the wickedness power-ups. This adds so much to the game, I have heard many say that it is like the original but with the Power-Up expansion.
Basically, my opinion is that this game is a great all-out battle between friends with a cool presence on the table and a few interesting choices to be made. So if you fancy a light silly dice chucking battle, then give this one a whirl.
By Tora Leslie
2020 was full of game-related firsts for me; first board game purchase, first Kickstarter pledge, first board game blog for Zatu, and first IKEA Kallax board game shelving construction (because, well, all those fantastic games need a worthy home!) to name but a few!
Deciding which of last year’s games in my inaugural collection would take the top spot was therefore teeth-grindingly difficult! I prepared myself for an internal tussle; donning my metaphorical mouth guard and gloves ready to fight it out for the championship board game belt. But, as I stood in front of my (now far more orderly!) shelves, my eyes went straight to one box. One cosy, inviting, hug-inspiring box; Calico, a gorgeous, puzzly, abstract tile-laying game designed by Kevin Russ, illustrated by Beth Sobel, and published by AEG Games.
As any reader of my previous Zatu review will know, I adore Calico and not just because I love cats! Abstract? Tick! Tile laying? Tick! Strategic? Tick! Spatial? Tick! Versatile? Tick Tick Tick! It is a practically purrrfect game for me and its release last year could not have come at a better time. Whether I am seeking out a game that crunches my cerebellum like a cracker in a parrot enclosure, or one which holds me close as I snuggle up to my board, collecting buttons and giving cute kitty-cats comfy spots on my quilt, Calico delivers.
It is as versatile as it is beautifully and cleverly designed; working well at all player counts (thanks in no small part to a progressive solo campaign), and offering both competition and relaxation depending upon mood. And so, despite my collection including some board game bangers from last year, like catnip to a Cornish Rex, Calico is unequivocally my best board game of 2020!
By Sarah Carpenter
There were some great games released in 2020 and I was fortunate enough to play several that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some particular highlights for me include Aqualin, New York Zoo and Ride the Rails. However, my favourite game of 2020 has to be My City, designed by the one and only, Reiner Knizia.
My City is a legacy game in which players build and develop their own personal city. The game is made up of eight chapters, and each chapter consists of three episodes. Each episode takes about 15-20 minutes to play, so you will have no problem playing a full chapter within 60-90 minutes. One of the reasons I love My City is how much I always wanted to play it. It was never a chore to play three episodes in one sitting.
In fact, we could easily have played chapter after chapter, but made sure we didn’t because we wanted the experience to last – surely the sign of a truly great game!
In general, during each episode players turn over the top construction card and then place their matching building piece on their game board. At the end of the episode, players score and lose points depending on how and where their buildings have been placed. Then players make changes to their game board and playing pieces that carry over to future episodes.
Every chapter of My City has its own sealed envelope. It contains new rules and materials that will change the game (I won’t spoil the surprises!) I thought that each chapter built on the previous one, without ever becoming too complicated or losing what I had previously enjoyed.
I loved the whole My City experience – it always felt exciting and a treat to play. Luckily, even after all 24 episodes have been played and the legacy game has finished, there is an eternal game that can be played over and over. I really hope I find an equally exciting and enjoyable game in 2021.
By Thom Newton
Normally, I favour a small, well designed and balanced game over a huge sprawling box of nonsense filled with dice and miniatures. I’m not saying I don’t like that too, anybody who has seen my Kickstarter backer history could attest to that. I just tend to prefer tight mechanisms over chaos and chance. That’s why it is a bit out of character that I’m going to say that the Project: Elite remake by CMON is my best board game of 2020.
Project: Elite is a real time combat game where players will take on the role of one of 6 over the top soldiers. You have been tasked to deal with an alien invasion the only way they know how. Shooting things and blowing stuff up. Now, I’ve played a lot of these squad-based tactical games, on computers and cardboard, and this one feels very different. Whereas most of these games are about tactically positioning your squad to work together to defeat your enemy, the real time aspect of Project: Elite tips that on its head.
You’ll be rolling dice as fast as you can to take your actions. You use these dice to move, re-load your weapons, shoot, search for things and interact with your objectives. These dice can also cause your enemies to advance on you though. This means you are forced to react rather than meticulously plan. There are still tactical elements to the game.
Different weapons and soldiers have different abilities which suit them to different situations. But the fact that you are constantly watching the battlefield for small changes that you can exploit keeps you 100% engaged with the action. The time limit on rounds and the fact you only have a set number of them to complete your objectives also helps to keep everything frantic.
This is to say nothing of the plethora of boss monsters that come in the base box. The selection of missions that are available or the two maps that can be used. Add on to that a healthy selection of expansions. You have a lot of content to play with.
By Kirsty Hewitt
If you know me, you may have been subjected to my ramblings about how much I love Paladins of the West Kingdom from Garphill Games. So I was naturally interested in Viscounts of the West Kingdom. But, would it live up to my expectations?
The turns in Viscounts are simple. Play a card, move the number of spaces indicated, carry out an action. There are four different actions, which allow you to gain either resources or victory points. Of course, the more victory points you get, the more you have to pay for the action.
This is where the cards come into play. These set out how far your character can move, and has a symbol or two, showing one of the resource types printer on them. These act as a discount for the number of resources of that type you need to take an action. Add in a rondel system, and you have a clever and crunchy game. There are some tough choices to make and plenty of options for points.
Even the end of the game trigger is interesting. At the start of the game there are two piles of equal sizes with debt cards in one and deed cards in the other. Over the course of the game you will gain debt and deed cards as a result of certain actions. As soon as one pile is empty the game is over. The player who has flipped the most of the other type of card wins, leading to an interesting push and pull between the stacks as players race to flip as many cards as possible before the game ends.
The mix of worker placement with hand management is new, fresh and a lot of fun. I am pleased to say that Viscounts lived up to the hype. The title earned its spot as my favourite game of 2020.
Our round-up of the best board game of 2020 list is a mixture for sure! That is of course the benefit of getting five different opinions. Unfortunately for my bank balance, there are a couple who have sneaked their way onto the top of my wishlist.