Thanks to a global pandemic, 2020 was a great year to stay at home and play board games. I logged approximately 575 board game plays over the last 12 months and had the opportunity to played at least 100 different games. Just like the times, my Top 5 list features games that are all over the map. My hope is that this list will possibly introduce you to some new favorites as well as shine a spotlight on games, designers and publishers that provided me and my family a little fun in the midst of the muck. Without further ado – here is my 2020 Top 5 Board Game List!
— Brian, Editor, UnfilteredGamer.com
5. Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
Board & Dice | Designed by Daniele Tascini & Dávid Turczi
1-4 Players | 60-120 Minutes
In Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun, you join forces with these Pharaohs to lay the foundation of the Temple of Amun-Ra. Balance your actions from the base of the giant obelisk, Tekhenu while honoring the gods and gathering necessary resources to bring honor to the Egyptian civilization.
This think-y puzzle requires careful planning and efficient choices wrapped up in a cool theme with some great components. I love dice drafting, but Tekhenu offers tons of additional choices and options – always keeping things interesting. The games giant rotating obelisk may have put this one over the top.
4. Whistle Mountain
Bézier Games | Designed by Scott Caputo & Luke Laurie
2-4 Players | 60-90 Minutes
In Whistle Mountain, you’re managing a fleet of hot air ships, building strange and amazing machines, training workers and gathering raw materials in an effort to build a bigger and better company than your competitors. As you build your machines higher, the snow begins to melt and the rising water levels could be disastrous for you, your resources and your workers.
Whistle Mountain is a fun, imaginative puzzle with variety, quality components and satisfying mechanisms. From simply piecing together the polynomial scaffolding structure, building your personal resource engine, carefully placing new machines, drawing bonus cards and championing your workers to victory, this game has tons of diversity to keep you engaged. Featuring 17 different starting abilities, each game will be a completely new adventure with new paths and roads. The actions aren’t overly-complicated, but stringing together quality choices can lead to big rewards and hugely satisfying endings. Whistle Mountain is one of the most creative games of the year and easily one of the best.
3. Detective: City of Angels
Van Ryder Games | Designed by Evan Derrick
1-5 Players | 30-150 Minutes
Set in 1940’s Los Angeles, play as a detective working your way through a series of cases exposing the seedy underbelly of the glamours location. Travel across L.A., interviewing suspects, searching locations and revealing clues to solve the case. Along the way you’ll often find a bribe or two doesn’t hurt.
Detective: City of Angels is an AMAZING production. The components are engaging and each cases storyline really immerses you in the time period. Cases always feature twists and turns and will require hard evidence to solve the case. Detective can play solo or as a group. In group play, one player acts as the Chisel working against the team of detectives to misguide and build doubt in their case. Players can gain leverage over the chisel and suspects by calling them out when they’re not so truthful.
2. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
KOSMOS | Designed by Thomas Sing
2-5 Players | 20 Minutes
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a cooperative, trick taking car game for 3-5 players. Throughout the game your crew will take on a series of 50 mission with diverse objectives you solve together. The 40 card deck is divided amongst the player with one player designated as the commander for that mission. The commander begins by choosing one of the task cards assigned to that mission. Each task is a card that player must collect during that hand. Each mission features a changing number of task cards and missions tokens challenging the way the players approach the game and achieve objectives.
The Crew does a fantastic job at taking a simple idea and creating something that’s accessible, challenging and enjoyable for a group of players. I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of trick taking games, but the Crew does it in a way that’s fresh and fun. This is a game that works for gamers and party goers and everybody in between.
H@ll Games | Designed by Stefan Feld
1-4 Players | 70-100 Minutes
As forest dwelling gnomes, you’ve always relied on the great bonfires of the nearby cities to provide light and energy. The lights haven’t burned like they used to and recently they went out completely. Traveling to the city only leads to more questions – deserted aside from one Guardian of Light and she won’t speak of what happened there. The only thing she will say is that the guardians have withdrawn to the surrounding holy islands. By showing them your good will, perhaps the Guardians will return to light the bonfires and bring life back to the land.
Bonfire is a great combination of challenging decisions, engaging components, beautiful artwork and a really good time. There are so many things to do in Bonfire and amazingly it all works together rolled into a tight ball that requires efficiency and planning. I could contrast this with other games I’ve played this year full of big ideas that ultimately fell flat. Bonfire does everything well.