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Our Ten Most Anticipated Board Games of 2021

A new year begins, and the new board games list grows a new. It really is an endless cycle, isn’t it? A veritable ourobous of cardboard and missed chances. But we still wanted to point out some of our favorite new games coming this year. There are way too many games for this list to be authoritative, and we suggest you check out the voting at BoardGameGeek to get an idea of what we couldn’t include and see if your list was different. This wasn’t easy, and it took a week of revisions to get it even in this form, but if you pick up any game this year we think one of the following games should be the one that you get. Some were Kickstarted last year and ship this year, while others have been announced but aren’t released yet by their publishers.

Dinosaur World

Pandasaurus Games

Dinosaur World

Sort of a mix between Zoo Tycoon and Jurassic Park but as a BOARD GAME! Set in the same world as smash-hit Dinosaur Island, World places you in charge of a theme park featuring small, feathery birds.

No, you’re managing dinosaurs of course! Specifically, you’re drafting and allocating workers in order to improve your park and then going on a jeep ride to experience it. Not only does it expand on many of the cool things featured in Dinosaur Island, it also features some breathtaking art from Kwanchai Moriya and Andrew Thompson that transports you to not only a world of dinosaurs but a much darker place: the early 2000’s.

Oath

Leder Games

Oath game box

When Cole Wehrle and Kyle Ferrin come together at Leder Games, something magic is happening. We spoke with Cole a little while ago about the game, and since then our excitement for the game has only grown. Truly one of the most unique ideas for a game we’ve seen, Oath purports to be a “game that remembers.” Not really a legacy game as such, each game of Oath has an effect on the last as hundreds of years pass from game to game. The players truly shape the game as they play, and we absolutely cannot to how that idea plays out on the table.

Canvas

Road To Infamy

There’s something nice about games that are just…pretty. And when it comes to Canvas, that might actually be an understatement. The impressionistic paint strokes are breathtaking to behold. Plus it does a good job integrating its artistic theme into the gameplay, as you layer pieces of a painting onto a clear canvas in order to create a truly unique final product. But it’s not just something more simple like a tableau builder, as the composition of your art is itself a puzzle to be solved. A little more low stakes than other games it makes up for it with charm and shelf appeal.

Creature Comforts

Kid’s Table Board Games

Creature Comforts

Something for the families that often get left off of these lists (lot of unmarried dudes voting on these usually), Creature Comforts appeals to the universal love for tiny animals doing human stuff and being cozy. In fact, this might actually be the coziest game ever considering the win condition of the game is to literally create the coziest den for winter. The art is sweet and timeless and the mix of dice rolling, resource collection, and worker placement will probably appeal to even the least cozy people.

Lizard Wizard

Forbidden Games

Lizard Wizard board game

The first game to follow Raccoon Tycoon (a game we love) Lizard Wizard is a similar game of economics and management, but instead of managing trains and such you’re managing MAGIC! You spend the game as a wizard (who is also a lizard) vying to be top dog of Astoria, and you have to beat your opponents to get there by recruiting familiars, gathering reagents, researching spells, and building the coolest wizard tower ever.

Unmatched: Marvel

Mondo Games/Restoration Games

Marvel Unmatched board games

This one is kind of a cheat since there’s FOUR Marvel-themed games coming out this year in the Unmatched series. They are:

  • Redemption Row – featuring Luke Cage, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight
  • Hell’s Kitchen – featuring Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye
  • Teen Spirit – featuring Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and Cloak & Dagger
  • For King and Country – featuring Black Widow, Black Panther, and Winter Soldier

We’re obviously the most hyped to get to play as Ms. Marvel and Ghost Rider, but it’s also gonna be exciting integrating these Marvel characters into the other released Unmatched sets. Squirrel Girl vs. Velociraptors? Big Foot vs. Daredevil? Robin Hood vs. Bullseye?! The possibilities are endless!

Europa Universalis: The Price Of Power

Aegir Games

Europa Universalis board game

We’ve been hyped for this game for literal years, and it looks like it’s finally going to happen this year thanks to an insanely successful Kickstarter and a lot of hype. Unlike Crusader Kings, which adapted the video game into something a bit different thanks to the medium change, EU will be translating the digital gameplay into the real world fairly smoothly. Aegir put a lot of work into capturing the scale of a game that spans hundreds of years and thousands of miles. 4X board games are a sleeping giant on the strategy side of things, and Europa Universalis will definitely show more people what the genre can do on the tabletop.

Snallygaster Situation 

Renegade Game Studio

The Snallygaster Situation board game

A co-op game based on Renegade’s Kids on Bikes RPG, this game has you do what all rovind bands of slightly feral children do: solve mysteries! The kids will travel around town to rescue their friend and beat the monster (and avoid the Feds) in a game that looks about as close to Stranger Things as you can get.

Cascadia

Flatout

Cascadia board game

The final 2021 game we got some info on early in its run, Cascadia is an absolutely gorgeous game all about the nature of the Pacific Northwest. A tile laying and token drafting game, it tasks you with creating the best ecosystem you can for the various critters that run around the arboreal forests of the titular region. Painstakingly researched and beautifully illustrated by Beth Sobel, this will probably be yet another hit for the folks at Flatout.

Dead Reckoning

AEG

Dead Reckoning board game

Remember what I said about 4X games? Well if EU doesn’t get people on board with the genre, then Dead Reckoning just might. It’s pirate themed, which is always the best, and features a unique “card crafting” effect where transparent cards are placed into sleeves to help you craft you improve and shape your crewmates as time goes on. From there, you and your scurvy sea dogs must work to control as much of the sea as possible while fighting off your fellow players and the dangers of the open sea. Probably one of the more ambitious titles to come from AEG, who have already been putting out interesting games for a while, it’s definitely on our list to drudge up out of the depths this year.

Images via their respective owners

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  • Fiction writer, board game fanatic, DM. Has an MFA and isn't quite sure what to do now. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Indianapolis.

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