Though 2020 has been a tough year, one thing that kept us going was board games and the new releases that came out despite the pandemic. Walk down memory lane with us as we recount 5 of the best new games from 2020.
This standalone storybook campaign game I lovingly call “mini-Gloomhaven” was undoubtedly one of the best new releases of 2020. While we all suffered through the long lockdowns (plural), this 25 scenario campaign, designed to be more beginner-friendly than its heavyweight predecessor, was the perfect thing to play with roommates and partners to keep the days rolling. With its easy setup, thanks to the storybook maps, and its gradual tutorial, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion left its mark on board gaming in 2020.
This big box strategy game from the master of heavy board games, Vital Lacerda, graced our table this year with brain-melting complexity and a demand for our table’s real estate. The board is, quite frankly, ginormous and the brainpower tax immense, but I say all this with the utmost respect because On Mars is a cerebral experience. Though from afar this game might just look like a bigger Terraforming Mars or a mishmash of mechanics, the tight weave of those mechanics is what grants On Mars a spot on this list.
A common complaint with my most adored deck-builder, Dominion, is how it can slog with any more than 2 players. You can spend the entirety of everyone else’s turn just sitting there, thinking, “...is it my go, yet?” But like a breath of fresh air, Fort is a deck-builder that thrives on player interaction. In Fort, players are kids trying to make friends, eat pizza and build the best fort. But with its thematic mechanics where you can claim other players’ friends if they don’t play with them, or benefit from the actions they noisily and publicly play (as kids do), it solves many of the issues that deck-builders suffer from. And with that iconic artwork by Kyle Ferrin (also the artist for Root), Fort was a small but mighty 2020 release.
The new butterfly-themed light strategy game from Elizabeth Hargrave, designer of the sought-after Wingspan, released in 2020 to once again bring unique and original themes into board gaming. Taking place over three seasons, in Mariposas, whose name constantly evokes nostalgia for the Barbie movie with a similar name, players will guide monarch butterflies from Mexico across northern America and back again, evolving through multiple ephemeral generations. Like 2019’s Wingspan, 2020’s Mariposas is a gateway game with a sophisticated theme and gorgeous production.
And now for the wildcard of the list—it’s the late 2020 release, Mysterium Park, a lighter version of its 2015 counterpart. With its simplified setup and smaller box, in many ways Mysterium Park is Mysterium-lite. At its core, gameplay is the same, with one player as the silent ghost and the others as investigative psychics to whom the ghost can only communicate through cryptic (but gorgeously illustrated) vision cards. By retaining the heart of Mysterium but placing it in a smaller, easier to pick up package, the elegant theming of Mysterium can be appreciated anywhere by anyone.
And there we have it! Five of the best new board games of 2020! What do you think? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!