Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The 11 Best New-To-Me Games of 2021

The 11 Best New-To-Me Games of 2021
Plus 32 honorable mentions.

Well, I'm a bit later than usual (things have been really busy this year), but here is my annual list of Top 11 New-To-Me Games of 2021!  This year was especially difficult to come up with a list because we played a ton of  really great games this year.  With gaming resuming with my game group in June this year, for the first time since March 2020, we didn't waste much time on mediocre games.  Almost everything we played was really good!  On top of that, my youngest son really started to get into board games (he was my top gaming partner again this year, with 119 plays recorded with him) and we played a number of really great games with him, too.  So I decided to break up my list into two lists.  You can see my list of Top 5 New-To-Us Kids Games of 2021 for a list of all the kids games I played with my family, and those (mostly) won't appear on this list. 

So happy to be back gaming with friends!
With only half the year for in-person gaming with my game group, my game stats are again pretty low this year (though improved from last year).  This year I played about 60 new-to-me games (up from about 30 last year), including about 10 that I classified as kids games.  According to BG Stats I played 79 new games total, but that includes some prototypes (including some of my own games) as well as a couple that I logged plays for the first time since using BG Stats.  I also played 126 total different games (again, including some prototypes), up from about 84 last year.  So gaming is improving this year, and I just hope things continue to get better.  We'll have to see though (please wear a mask and get vaccinated).

As usual, this list only contains published games that I've played for the first time this year (although a couple I played previously in their prototype form).  So, here are my Top 11 New-To-Me Games for 2021, including 32 honorable mentions, so that's 43 games for 2021!  This includes games played between December 20, 2020 and December 20, 2021, so even though I've played a couple of new games in the last week, those will get considered for next year's list.

Note that this year I will not be sharing a list of best Kickstarter previews and Prototypes.  I only previewed one Kickstarter game (Floriferous from Pencil First Games and it was great) and only attended one Protospiel plus playtested a couple of other Prototypes.  Hopefully next year I'll be back to playing more in-development games!

Also, check out my lists for 202020192018201720162015, and 2014 as well as the Top 5 New-To-Us Kids Games of 2021.

* Indicates I played first as a prototype and then a completed, published version in 2021.

Honorable Mentions in Alphabetical Order:

Architects of the West Kingdom (2018, Garphill Games) - I found this to be an enjoyable worker placement game with some interesting risk/reward decisions and a bit of fun, mild take-that player interaction.  While I'd definitely be willing to play again though, this didn't really wow me enough to specifically ask for it.

ArchRavels (2021, XYZ Game Labs) - I actually helped playtest an expansion for this, but the changes that brought were pretty minor to the overall gameplay (and were pretty early in the development cycle).  I really liked the thematic elements of this, though I found it to be a little fiddly with the resource conversion process (turning yarn into projects, selling projects for points, etc.).  

Big Easy Busking (2020, Weird Giraffe Games) - Big Easy Busking is a uniquely themed game about performing music on the streets of New Orleans.  It has a pretty interesting area control mechanic that I'd love to explore a bit more.  However, I felt that the timing of tipping to restore energy was odd.  Why wouldn't you ever not just wait to tip and gain energy until just before you need to use it?

Camp Pinetop (2020, Talon Strike Studios) - As a Cub Scout leader for the past 8 years I was really interested in Camp Pinetop when it was on Kickstarter, but unfortunately wasn't able to back it at the time.  Last year I found the game at my FLGS and picked it up, but it wasn't until this year that I managed to get it to the table to play.  I really enjoyed it, both thematically and mechanically.  There were a few hiccups and a couple of slightly unclear points in the rules, but this is definitely one I want to play a few more times.

Company of Heroes (2021, Bad Crow Games) - I'm generally not a big war gamer, but Company of Heroes is quite an impressive game.  I only played the basic game and there's a lot more strategy to uncover in this, but the basic game is pretty straight forward and streamlined.  We did have a few questions about movement, particularly on map spaces that seemed to occupy two types of terrain (like on bridges) and had a minor thematic issue with some of the line of sight/targeting rules, but they were pretty easy to house rule.

Cosmic Frog (2020, Devious Weasel Games) - This may take the prize for the weirdest game I played all year.  In it you are space-faring frogs trying to eat pieces of a planet, then regurgitate them into their lair in certain patterns, all while also battling each other and stealing pieces of planet from other frogs' gullets.  The '70s-esque psychedelic artwork did nothing to ease the strangeness... 

Crazy Fishing (2020, Devir) - This was a light, silly card game about catching all sorts of odd fish (and not-fish).  More luck than strategy, but this would be a good family game or party game to play with non-gamers.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (2019, KOSMOS) - This is a cooperative trick-taking game.  Each hand has specific rules and limitations that make it a challenge to complete the objective (usually requiring certain players to win specific tricks or capture specific cards).  The challenges get harder and harder as the game progresses.  If you like trick-taking games this is a very unique take.

Evil High Priest (2018, Petersen Games) - This very nearly made my top 11.  It's a worker placement game set in the Lovecraftian universe.  Each player is an evil priest leading a bunch of cultists in becoming the high priest of Cthulhu.  Along the way you'll collect money, spells, blood, and more in an attempt to build your cult's secret sanctum and avoid raids by the investigators.  There is a ton of player interaction and quite a bit of take-that (which I usually don't care for, but it works well here), but it is all highly thematic and every little detail adds to the experience.  

Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates (2019, Forbidden Games) - In this deck-building race game each player races three pirate ships across the Caribbean, plundering merchant ships, building a pirate crew, and collecting treasure.  The gameplay is fun, but in both my plays I felt like the ability to collect specific types of crates needed to trade in for treasure was very haphazard and left a lot to chance.  It's a fun game that I won't turn down, but I likely won't ask to play it either.

For Sale (1997, Eagle-Gryphon Games) - This is an oldie that has been on my wishlist for a long time, and I played for the first time this year.  It's a fast-playing game that plays in two phases, first by bidding on buildings, then by selling the buildings for the most profit.  This has been a great filler that plays in 15-20 minutes, so we pull it out quite often at the beginning or end of game night.

Gate (2020, Grey Gnome Games) - This mint-tin sized solo tower defense game from Grey Gnome Games is available on The Game Crafter.  It plays in about 15 minutes and is quick to set up, too.  I found it to be somewhat repetitive and luck dependent, but it's a great, fast diversion.  I do wish there were a few more monsters for some variety, but the tin is pretty packed as it is.  It's definitely a worthwhile buy if you like fast, small solo games.

Good Puppers (2021, Asmadi Games) - I only played this once, but would love to play again for the theme alone.  It had interesting mechanics, too.  Essentially it's a set collection game where you're trying to collect sets of dogs that bury bones.  Each type of dog has certain characteristics and chaining together different effects is quite fun.  This is another fast, filler game that I'm hoping my game group gets to the table again soon.

Horrified (2019, Ravensburger) - I love the theme of this cooperative game about classic movie monsters.  I felt that the cooperation was pretty well balanced, with each player having abilities and input that helped the group as a whole.  I also liked some of the puzzles that were presented by the game.  I look forward to playing again, and at some point trying out the American Monsters version.

Kabuto Sumo (2021, BoardGameTables.com) - I'm not usually a huge fan of dexterity games, but this one was quite fun.  Instead of trying to balance stuff or flick something to hit a target, Kabuto Sumo is about trying to push pieces off of a raised platform.  Each player has special abilities and special pieces that interact with the rest of the playing area in unique ways.  This was quite fun!

Legends of Andor (2012, KOSMOS) - We've tried to play Legends of Andor with my family several times over the past few years and earlier this year we finally got to sit down and start working our way through the first adventure over the course of several nights.  Unfortunately though, things got busy and we weren't able to continue.  After it sat out for a few days unplayed I packed everything back up neatly so that we could pick up where we left off.  It's now been 11 months and we just haven't had the time to get back into a campaign.  Someday things will slow down so that we can play campaign games as a family, but I don't know when that will be.

Lost Cities Roll & Write (2021, KOSMOS) - I just picked this up a few weeks ago and it's already become a hit with my game group.  It's super simple to learn, especially if you're already familiar with the original card game, and plays pretty quickly.  This was on my Top 11 list until I remembered a game that I forgot was my first time playing, and this got bumped.  I do want to try this solo.  There is no official solo variant, but I do want to try this one from BGG.

LUNA Capital (2021, Devir) - I'm really not quite sure how I feel about LUNA Capital.  My initial impression after playing was just mediocre, but it keeps working its' way into my thoughts.  It's a interesting combination of card drafting, set collection, and tile laying mechanics that works quite well.  I think my biggest problem with the game is that it felt more mechanical than thematic.  You're building a settlement on the moon, but it never really feels like you're actually building a lunar settlement.  It also sounds a whole lot more complex when learning the rules than it actually is.  I guess I just felt that there were a few disconnects between my experience and my expectations.  This is another I'd like to play again, but maybe not if there's a better option suggested.

On Tour (2019, BoardGameTables.com) - I really wanted to love On Tour.  I like the theme and I've really been loving roll (or flip, or both as the case may be) and writes lately and On Tour seemed like it would be pretty fun.  And it was fun, but it felt just a little too chaotic.  I felt like numbers were getting added to my map with very little strategy early on and then later, as various possible paths and routes started to work themselves out, you were too much at the mercy of random chance.  The very middle of the game is where I felt it worked the best, but the first and last thirds of the game didn't work as well for me.

Orléans (2014, Tasty Minstrel Games) - I could see this becoming a favorite with a few more plays.  It's an interesting mix of bag building, worker placement, and area control that was quite enjoyable.  But there's a lot going on and it took me a while to work out how everything was interconnected and where my strategies failed (and failed spectacularly).  

Raccoon Tycoon (2018, Forbidden Games) - The jury is still out for me on Raccoon Tycoon.  I've played twice now and really felt like there was something missing from the game.  It's essentially an economic game with a pasted on forest critters theme, and I do like the economics engine behind how resources are valued, but something about the game just hasn't clicked for me.  I wouldn't turn down another play, but also wouldn't miss it if it didn't hit the table again.  

Root (2018, Leder Games) - We only got through about half of a game of Root, just enough for everyone to start getting comfortable with the asymmetrical mechanics and overall strategies.  This is another game with a lot going on, and with each faction playing so drastically different, this is one that is likely best for groups that are willing to play the game multiple times in fairly close succession.  I'd love to play this a few more times, but even more than that, I'd love to have the time to play this a few more times...

Sequoia (2020, BoardGameTables.com) - I wasn't expecting much when we pulled out Sequoia, but it turned out to be a pretty solid filler game with some interesting area control and probability based mechanics.  Definitely something I'd be willing to play again!

Seven Bridges (2020, Puzzling Pixel Games) - As a solo game I really like Seven Bridges.  The theme and artwork are great (the designer is also a professional cartographer, so the map is outstanding).  My only issue with the game is that the scoring at the end is a bit fiddly.  There are quite a few different ways to score points and adding everything up is very point-salady.  As a result, playing the game is somewhat challenging to build up a good strategy.  My game group was less impressed with the game because of that fiddlieness though, so it hasn't hit the table for a multiplayer game again.

Skulk Hollow * (2019, Pencil First Games) - I first played Skulk Hollow when I was demoing the game for Thunderworks Games at Gen Con 2018 in anticipation of the Kickstarter.  I've since gotten my own copy (look for a review soon) and quite enjoy the simple, asymmetrical mechanics.  The only issue I have with the game is that whenever you lose it always feels like the game was unbalanced and you never had a chance.  Which is odd because the game is very balanced and I've seen plenty of wins with both sides.  So I'm not sure what it is that makes you feel like your loss was inevitable, regardless of which side you are playing.  It's a great two-player game that I'd love to play more of, but it seems that two-player games are pretty tough for me to get to the table lately.

Squire for Hire (2019, Letiman Games) - I picked this 18 card solo game up in last year's Extra Life Charity Auction and played it a couple of times this spring.  It was a fun, light game about laying out cards in overlapping patterns to score as many points as possible.  I had fun with it and then left it sitting on my game table one afternoon.  I stepped away for a few minutes and came back to find it tattered to shreds with two guilty looking puppies staring at me with card pieces hanging from their jaws.  I wouldn't mind picking up another copy some time, but there's no hurry since I have other small solo games that scratch a similar itch.

Star Wars: X-Wing (Second Edition) (2018, Fantasy Flight Games) - This became my 12 year old son's main obsession in the spring and early summer.  He was playing it constantly with his older brother and when he wasn't playing he was setting up battles on his own.  I played a few times and found it enjoyable, though much better as a two player game than a multiplayer game.

Stuffed Fables (2018, Plaid Hat Games) - A few years ago we tried playing Mice and Mystics with our sons, but we didn't really get into the story.  This year we decided to try Stuffed Fables with our four year old and it went over much better.  Yes, the game is still more about the story and seeing what happens than about strategy, winning, or losing.  But the mechanics are a bit more interesting and the story is quite fun.  Unfortunately, we're only two chapters in because, well, see Legends of Andor above for more about our difficulty in sticking with a longer campaign game...

Vamp on the Batwalk (2021, Jellyfish Game Studios) - This is another trick-taking game with a twist (see The Crew above).  In this one everyone plays as vampires, who can't see their own reflection.  So all the cards are face-out.  You can  see what suits you have, but not the values.  You have to deduce your values based on what the other players are showing.  It's simple, but quite different and pretty fun!

Vinyl (2019, Talon Strikes Studios) - This is an interesting hand management, set collection, and worker placement game with a unique method of bumping workers.  In Vinyl you are making collections of records based on several attributes, like genre, decade, condition, etc. One of the most fun parts of this game is looking at all the fictional album covers and artist names!

Windward (2020, PlayMonster) - I played this right at the time my sons were obsessed with The Wellerman sea shanty about the crew of a whaling ship.  It was timely because Windward is a game about hunting sky whales on a gas giant planet.  Despite the weak attempt to disguise a somewhat off-putting theme with a thin veil of science fiction, the game was fun and interesting.  It did seem to have a bit of a problem with a runaway leader though, with the end game coming on very suddenly.

Wingspan (2019, Stonemaier Games) - OK, so I'm a little late to the Wingspan party.  This 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner is a gorgeous, accessible, fun game.  So why isn't it on my top 11 list?  I played with five players, three of which were new to the game.  That's probably not the game's best player count (I'm guessing three or four is best) and it felt to me like it ran a bit long, outstaying its welcome a bit.  I also didn't like that every single card had small text on it that needed to be read.  I'm sure after a few plays most of the card abilities would become pretty familiar, but we found ourselves squinting at cards across the table or passing them around.  It just slowed down what was otherwise a very tight, streamlined game.  I now have my own copy of the game though, and I really want to play with my wife because I think she'll love it, especially at a lower player count.

And Now for the Top 11 New-To-Me Games of 2021:

11. Just One
(2018, Repos Production) - I don't often play party games, but this one came out this year as a filler when a friend stopped by game night and only had 15 minutes.  Like many "party" games keeping score isn't necessary and you just play until you don't feel like playing any more, so it's perfect for filling in shorter gaps of time.  In Just One one player draws a card and, without looking at it, props it up on a card holder for the other players to see.  The card has 5 words on it and the player randomly chooses one of the words (why it's not six so you can let a die decide, I don't know).  Then everyone else writes an associated word on their card holder with a dry erase marker.  Once everyone has written their associated word the active player closes their eyes and everyone else compares their words.  Duplicates are eliminated and then the active player gets to see the remaining words, using them to try and guess the word on their card.  If they get it they score a point then play moves on to the next player.  For example, in a five player game the word was "acorn".  "Oak" got eliminated because two people wrote that word so the guesser was left with "tree" and "squirrel" and correctly guessed "acorn".  

Just One feels right at home with other, similar games, like Apples to Apples, Snake Oil, and, dare I say it, Cards Against Humanity (this is very family friendly though).  The biggest difference though, is that you don't earn points because a "judge" picked the funniest answer.  More like games like Scattergories or SiXeS, the humor and laughter come from the word associations people make in an attempt to be original.  Just One is perfect to play at family gatherings, with non-gamers, or as a fun filler.  With no real need for points you can play as long as you like.  The only down side to Just One as a party game is that it tops out at six players.  You could probably play with more, but the more players you add the better chance of more words getting eliminated because of duplicates.  But Just One is definitely the best casual party game I've played in a long time!

10. Mini Rogue
 * (2021, Nuts! Publishing) - I first played Mini Rogue as a 9-card print and play game from a design contest on BGG and thought it was a splendid solo dungeon crawler.  So when I heard that Nuts! Publishing picked up the game for publishing I was thrilled, and excited to see how the game would evolve.  And the game really grew!  It's still a small, fun dungeon crawler and I can still see the core mechanics from that original 9-card game at work here, but the mechanics and world have really been fleshed out, especially with the expansion material.  Now you can choose from several characters, you can delve through a dungeon or climb a tower, and there's a bigger variety of rooms, monsters, and characters to explore and encounter.  The game is a great balance between strategy and luck and really gives you a great experience.  The rules are pretty complex, with a lot of iconography that you have to learn and a number of different mechanics depending on different encounters, so my first game was pretty long and rough.  But I immediately wanted to play again and subsequent games went pretty smoothly.  You'll want to keep the rulebook handy as well as BGG access for some clarifications though, especially during your first play or two.  You can also play Mini Rogue as a two-player game, but I haven't tried that yet.

9. Canvas
(2021, Road to Infamy Games) - Canvas may be my most beautiful game.  It even comes with a spot to hang it on the wall from a hook!  Canvas made a huge splash in the board game community earlier this year, and rightfully so, for it's gorgeous artwork, innovative use of transparent cards and sleeves, and smooth gameplay.  Canvas plays quickly, is super simple to learn, has incredible table presence, and has a nice balance between strategy and luck.  Every game has you creating three unique paintings by combining drafted cards, each with different artwork and attributes.  Combine the best attributes to score points based on different criteria each game.  There's an artist in all of us!

8. Rolling Realms
(2021, Stonemaier Games) - Rolling Realms was originally conceived as a print and play game that people could play during quarantine periods of this COVID-19 pandemic.  Everyone plays simultaneously, each with their own set of a handful of cards and only one player needs a set of dice.  So it works great over video calls and any number of players can join in!  In Rolling Realms there are 11 different "realm" cards, one for each other game in the Stonemaier Games catalog, and you play three rounds of nine turns with three random realms each round.  During each turn the two dice get rolled and then players use those two dice to mark off boxes in two of their three realms, gaining resources and points.  Resources can be used to adjust dice values, bend the rules, and even give you extra "imaginary" dice that you can use to mark additional spaces.  At the end of the game whoever earned the most points is the winner, simple as that!  Where the genius of this game comes in is in the realm cards themselves.  Each card represents a different game and each one carries through some elements that make that game special.  For example, the Scythe realm has two rows of boxes.  When you mark off a box in the top row you gain a resource, but when you mark off the bottom row you have to spend a resource (but gain points).  In the Between Two Cities realm you earn points based on the points you earn in your other two realms that round.  And the BGG community has come through with additional cards for dozens of non-Stonemaier games, like Azul, Sushi Go, and even Monopoly!

7. Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
(2018, Portal Games) - My wife and I love solving puzzles and mysteries.  Some of our favorite games to play together are the Unlock! and Exit series games, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and puzzle books like Journal 29.  We also love watching mystery TV shows (we even subscribed to Acorn for a month just so we can watch more British crime mysteries over her Christmas break).  So when she spied Detective at our FLGS she just had to have it.  We've played through the first two cases so far and absolutely love it.  Then we got busy, as usual, and haven't had a chance to return to it.  But we're itching for the chance!  What makes Detective special is the realism in the cases.  You have to look up information in an online "database" that feels like an official police database, visit different locations to gather information, and follow up on leads.  We like how different actions take varying amounts of time, so you can't just follow up on every single lead there is.  That makes it important to decide where to go, and often you have to leave leads behind and not follow up on something that looks promising because you're running out of time.  The only things that we don't like are the same issues with almost any mystery solving game like this.  When we interview people there are often other questions we'd like to ask, but we're limited to the "scripted" questions and answers.  But overall, this has been a great experience and really scratches that itch to solve a mystery.

6. Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition
(2018, Horrible Guild) - Railroad Ink is my top solo game this year.  Yes, it can be played with up to six, but I love playing it solo.  It's small and compact, plays quickly, and offers a new puzzle every game.  I've only played with the disaster dice a few times, preferring the straightforward simplicity of the base game.  But I've played this at home, in the car while waiting for the kids, at a restaurant, and around the campfire.  I've even played with my four-year-old (though he just drew random roads and train tracks on his map).  As a multiplayer game, Railroad Ink is almost as fast since everyone plays simultaneously, so it also makes for a great filler.  

5. Planetoid
(2019, Portal Dragon) - I remember seeing this on Kickstarter and being curious about the game, but I didn't back it then.  But a friend picked it up at Gen Con this year so we played one evening in October and I absolutely loved it.  We went straight to the advanced game, which is still pretty simple and straightforward.  In Planetoid you're mining an asteroid, trying to collect the most valuable sets of minerals and gems, without breaking your ship's systems.  The board is a unique multi-layer board that lets you flip tokens easily to see what you collect, and the mechanics are simple and fun.  This is definitely a game I want to play again and will probably look at adding to my collection soon, especially since it's only one of two games on this list that I don't own.

4. Mölkky
(1996, Lahden Paikka) - This spring I was looking for games that I could play outside that weren't the typical Cornhole, Horseshoes, or Ladder Ball games that everyone is familiar with.  I remembered seeing something about a game called Kubb.  While I was looking that one up I also found Mölkky and ended up getting both games.  I haven't played Kubb yet (it's a bit more involved), but Mölkky has gotten a ton of plays this year!  It's great to play anywhere there's a bit of lawn space (and I've even played in a parking lot and on a cement walkway).  This is great because any number of players can play (it's best with up to about 6 though) and it's more than just trying to get a bag into a hole.  As the game progresses your strategy has to change.  Plus, it's easy to play with anyone!  Even my four year old can play and be competitive, just by having him throw from closer.  If you want a slightly different yard game, this is an excellent option.

3. Welcome To...
(2018, Deep Water Games) - Welcome To... is one of those games that is always on people's top games list, especially during these pandemic times when games that play well over video are so important to so many people.  Welcome To... has often been compared to Cartographers, which is one of my favorite games, and it's a great game in its own right.  Both are different enough that I'm happy to have both in my collection, and I really like Welcome To...  But what it's missing that Cartographers has is that awesome souvenir map at the end.  Welcome To... is more about filling in the right numbers in the right locations, so the final game sheet is much less interesting than the amazing maps that you create in Cartographers.  I still love Welcome To... though, and want to try out some of the expansions to see what else they add to a really fun game.

2. Honey Buzz
 * (2020, Elf Creek Games) - I first played Honey Buzz at a Protospiel event in 2018.  It was pretty rough back then and the final game improved immensely on a number of areas.  The core elements of the game are still the same as what I played, but everything was streamlined, some more was added, a few pieces were moved to an alternative play variant, and absolutely amazing artwork was added to the game.  The final version of Honey Buzz is an outstanding game, both for its appearance and its gameplay.  It combines tile placing with worker placement, engine building, and economics in a smooth playing, super fun experience.  I brought this to a game night and the people I played with immediately went out and picked up their own copy, it's that great!

1. Cascadia
(2021, Flatout Games) - It would take a really awesome game to top Honey Buzz, but I think Cascadia managed to do that for me this year.  I love everything about Cascadia, from the artwork to the components to the game mechanics.  In Cascadia you are drafting tiles in order to create habitats for various animals in the Pacific Northwest.  You'll score points for creating large corridors of the same type of habitat and for placing animals in those habitats in ways to match various scoring rules for each type of animal.  The rules are super simple and only take a few minutes to teach to new players, but there is a depth to the gameplay that can keep even veteran gamers satisfied.  Each game presents a new puzzle to work around and solve as you work to place tiles in the optimum locations.  There is a lot to consider on each turn, but it's not overwhelming and the game doesn't result in too much analysis paralysis, so it keeps moving quickly.  

As you get more familiar with Cascadia you can add in different scoring cards for the different animals, changing up the complexity and interactions to create new puzzles.  Or, if you're playing with younger players or non-gamers, there are simpler scoring methods, too.  There's enough variety in Cascadia to keep everyone engaged and scale it to the desired complexity.  There's even a solo mode!  I've played the solo game a few times now and really enjoy it.  It keeps the feel of a multiplayer game without adding any new components or major changes in the mechanics, so that's great.  I really look forward to playing Cascadia a whole lot more over the years and introducing plenty of more players to the game.

2021 was a great year for gaming!

Well, that's my list for 2021.  There were so many incredible games this year and it was a huge challenge to narrow it down to just these 11.  And I still have so many more games that I know are going to be amazing when I finally get them to the table.  This year I added to my collection some really amazing titles that I haven't played yet, like Roll Player Adventures from Thunderworks Games, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Isle of Cats, Almanac: The Dragon Road, Ducks in Tow, and Seven Wonders Duel.  Plus I still have a bunch of other great games on my shelves that haven't hit the table yet, like Terraforming Mars, The Manhattan Project (actually the whole series), and Agricola.  Not to mention all the old favorites that don't get played nearly enough.  If someone invents a time machine, or one of those remotes that let you pause the world while you get to do other stuff, let me know.  I have a few games I'd like to play with you!

So here's to you all for a wonderful 2022 and have fun playing some amazing games!  Let me know in the comments what your favorite new-to-you games of 2021 were.  Do we have any overlaps?

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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.


  1. I love this list. I've played and loved enough of the games on the list that it makes me want to check out the others

  2. I know about some of the above games from reading reviews and such, but not spending $ right now.