2020 was a year like no other. But despite the stress of Covid and the cancelled events, fragmentation of gaming and social groups, forced closure of gaming stores and general uncertainty, board games continued to be released and provided a welcome distraction for a lot of us. Thankfully 2021 promises some awesome new board games to watch out for, and here are a selection:
Joe Packham – Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles
The game I’m most eagerly awaiting in 2021 is... actually two games ha! But I can get away with it because they come in one epic package. I am of course talking about Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles episodes 1&2. Perseverance gains my prestigious anticipation award for many reasons.
Firstly it’s from the publisher and design team behind my all-time favourite heavy euro, Anachrony. Next, it’s two standalone games with different mechanics and objectives but set in the same universe. Episodes 3&4 are currently in pre-production too. Incredibly all episodes will be playable in a non-legacy campaign mode with decisions made in the first episode affecting the next and so on. As if that wasn’t enough Perseverance has 40 custom dice and hundreds, yes hundreds of miniatures! Lastly but by no means least it has dinosaurs! Funky alternate dimension colourful dino’s no less.
The Castaway Chronicles follow the crew and passengers of the ultra-luxury cruise ship, Pearl of the Seas. What starts out as the holiday of a lifetime soon turns into a life or death struggle. Caught in a fearsome storm the hapless vacationers are marooned on a strange island. When they come face to face with their new neighbours they realise that was no ordinary storm. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!
The games will use dice drafting and dice placement as our heroes attempt to shelter on the hostile beachhead and survive in the aftermath. Episode 2 set slightly later in the timeline will add hex tile-laying into the mix as our stalwart survivors set out to explore further inland and discover the truth of the mysterious island.
Honestly, I am ridiculously excited for this one. This is one of the board games to watch. If you're unfamiliar with Mindclash games you must check out their ultra thematic brand of heavy euros with Anachrony, Trickerion and Cerebria.
Will Moffat – Marvel United
Yes, 2020 was a… Year! With the mysterious virus spreading and the future unknown I went online for some board game relief and noticed another chibi-laden Kickstarter. CMON are the company I credit with initially bringing modern board gaming to my attention and my collection is now littered with their big-box extravaganzas! Marvel United came to Kickstarter in February and at the time I was not a Marvel fan.
I even proudly stated to people that the only Marvel film I had watched was the first Iron Man film, and yet for some reason, I backed Marvel United for $1 based solely on the amazing chibi-style miniatures that are familiar to me through Arcadia Quest, Masmorra and Starcadia Quest.
Thanks to the Marvel United Kickstarter my interest in Marvel was piquing as the first lockdown took hold. I watched the whole of the Marvel film collection during that lockdown. Aside from the Hulk film, which I had been advised not to bother with!
By the time the Marvel United pledge manager came out, I exponentially upped my pledge and went in heavy with the base game, Kickstarter extras box, and the Black Panther, Infinity Gauntlet and Sinister Six expansions at a time when my finances were screaming at me! And yet I still regret not adding the Thor, Spiderverse and Guardians of the Galaxy expansions to my pledge!
The base game itself has seen release in the US, and I’m happy to say reviewers are lauding the game as “surprisingly” fun. It has a lot more strategic depth than many assumed. I see a lot of similarities to Pandemic: The Cure. Each game of Marvel United players works in a team consisting of Marvel’s finest. These include Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, to name a few. Using their unique player decks to bring down one of the many Marvel villains! While in Pandemic The Cure the players are combating a selection of diseases using their unique dice pools.
Whatever 2021 brings, Marvel United will be a highlight!
Tora Leslie – Cascadia
Ahhhh, that first, fresh scent. The opportunity to take a leap into the unknown. A time to start something new, and so many board games to watch!
Whilst you may be thinking I am talking about lofty life ambitions and well-meaning resolutions for 2021, I’m actually zeroing in on something far more exciting; the chance to crack the seal on a new release board game!
Despite the tumult that was 2020, it was a pretty good year for game releases with Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, Eclipse: Second Dawn of the Galaxy, Fort, Calico, and Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun all crashing onto the scene and settling high up on the Boardgamegeek rankings. And, thankfully for us, 2021 looks to be no different!
One game which I am particularly cheek-squeakingly excited to play is Cascadia, designed by Randy Flynn, illustrated by Beth Sobel, and published by Flatout Games. Touted as a “puzzly tile-layer of habitats and wildlife”, for 1-4 players, this dual-layered hex heavy habitats themed offering looks to be set to follow in Calico’s footprints, hitting that sweet spot where gorgeous design, versatile gameplay, and strategy intersect.
Having pledged on the inaugural Kickstarter campaign day last year, the project updates have been regular and enticing, including a backer-exclusive invitation to try the game on a print and play basis. Well,they didn’t have to ask me twice! Initial plays demonstrate that this is a game which is easy to learn but tricky to master and can be either calm or dilemma driven as your own decisions become harder based upon your opponents’ moves.
Furthermore, solo gamers will not be disappointed; emulating a two-player game through the core drafting mechanic, it is suggestive of an addictive “just one more try” response that is going to be hard to resist!
On this basis, with hopes high and excitement brimming, I think Cascadia is going to be a 2021 game which brings new and experienced players to the table and keeps them coming back for more!
Callum Price – Nemesis: Lockdown
Gaming in 2020 was certainly an experience, but luckily it was accompanied by some fantastic releases. On Mars, Gloomhaven: JOTL, Fort and Mariposas to name a few notable ones. Smashing games that made time fly and made for some superb gaming sessions. But what will 2021 bring? Well, for me, there's one game I'm excited about. Nemesis: Lockdown.
Nemesis is a suspenseful, exciting game of treachery, deception and cooperation. I'd never experience true semi-cooperation until I got my teeth sunk into this meaty experience. Coupled in with variable play and exchangeable enemies, it'll make for an experience that keeps on giving. Nemesis: Lockdown is both an expansion and a standalone game.
Like any game destined for a truly "lost in space" theme, in this expansion you're on Mars. In a secret base, no less! It's going to feel far more claustrophobic in the tiny corridors, and with a new threat to take on, you'll need your wits about you.
This sequel to the original keeps what made Nemesis amazing at its core. Private objectives and the "option" to cooperate, but not the obligation. And semi-cooperation by the shed load! There's also the new mechanic of controlling the electricity's flow. Removing it from certain areas causes more danger, and adding it to others gives more options. The Martian base is also multilevelled, introducing elevators and new floors to flee to. But, my favourite aspect of this is how it interacts with the original.
Nemesis's original fiends, foes and friends are not gone, nor are they forgotten. You can integrate the Intruders, Voidseekers and Carnomorph enemies into Lockdown! You can even torture those poor survivors of the Nemesis experience by throwing them into the Martian base and have them struggle to survive.
I personally love the fact this instalment ensures the core holds its longevity whilst contributing to its expansion's experience! And I cannot wait to betray my friends and leave them hopeless and miserable on Mars. Or worse, at the mercy of whatever abomination is hunting us this time!
Rob Wright - Deep Space D6 Armada
In the midst of the multiplying lockdowns of 2020, I found myself lacking when it came to playing board games. I turned my doleful gaze towards the world of solo board gaming. There were a few more than I had anticipated. But one title that caught my eye and certainly one of the board games to watch. Deep Space D6 Armarda!
For there, on the Starter of Kick was a new game – Deep Space D6 Armada, and it looks even shinier than the last one. It’s still a crew build and dice placer, but now you can customise your ship with implements of destruction, fly to alien planets and even play with friends… when we can play with friends again.
Whereas the look of the original Deep Space D6 was very much ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ this new improved version 2.0 looks more like Wipeout, with its bold colour schemes, striking fonts and after-club cool design. Very nice. It also has that ‘R-Type meets Star Trek’ feel to it, with its planetary system hopping and ship modding feel – we come in peace (shoot to kill).
The co-operative element also means that it’s a friendly game. After the general meh-ness of the last year, I think the world could do with more bright, bold and friendly games. Armada certainly looks like it could be all of these things. So set the controls for the heart of the fun and engage!