Board Games

My Top 10 Favorite Board Games in 2021

Since I became a board gamer, I have played dozens of board games with my family and friends. It is a hobby that has changed the way I interact with family and friends in a positive way, creating many treasured memories. I decided to share my own top ten board games list just like I did in 2020. These top ten games are ones I would love to get to the table whenever possible. They are amazing and I would fully recommend them.

Here it is:

#10: King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is a dice-rolling game where you play as a monster, robot, or alien and fight to control the city of Tokyo. Anyone who loves comics will enjoy this comic-book style brawling game.

Each turn, you roll dice and can re-roll a couple times to optimize your roll according to your strategy. You either roll numbers for points, hearts for healing, claws for attack, or energy for buying special powers. For the numbers, you have to roll three of the same to get any points. Special powers include growing an extra head to get an extra die and many others.

The player who occupies Tokyo gains extra points each round, but cannot heal while in Tokyo. However, their attacks hit everyone outside of Tokyo. Eventually, the player in Tokyo usually has to cede Tokyo in order to heal.

There are two ways to win. One way is getting to 20 points. The other way is to kill off all of your competition. Almost every time I have played, the game ended when only one player was left standing.

I love the comic-book vibes and the colorful theme of this game, but the gameplay is also very fun and competitive. A good game all around!

#9: Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker-placement game. In this game, you play as one of the Lords of Waterdeep, each of which has a secret objective. No one but you should know who your Lord of Waterdeep is.

You gain points by completing quests, and can sabotage your opponents or get ahead of the game with Intrigue cards. You can also build shops that give you bonuses when other players shop at them.

To complete quests, you must use cubes which represent people and influence. Completing quests usually is the most important way to gain points and win the game.

I like this game best with its expansions, which create an added element by offering a corruption track. You can take profitable actions if you are willing to gain corruption, but it can have disastrous consequences at the end of the game if you don’t find a way to remove the corruption.

#8: Castle Panic

Castle Panic is a cooperative board game where players work together to protect their kingdom from monster hordes. Even though players win or lose together, only one player can be the best monster hunter, and that person becomes the overall winner. This creates a friendly spirit of competition in this otherwise cooperative game.

This is one game that is fun even though the players frequently lose. This is either because there is particularly competitive person at the table or because the amount of monsters is just overwhelming. The game presents a real challenge and winning feels like a real victory.

Even though this is one of my favorite games, my family doesn’t play it often because they don’t like it as much as I do.

An honorable mention here would be My First Castle Panic, a simpler version of the game that I play with my 5-year-old and 3-year-old sisters. It is just challenging enough to be interesting even for older members of the family

#7: Wingspan

Wingspan is a competitive game where the goal is to collect diverse species of birds on your wildlife reserve. The artwork in this game is stunning to say the least. It a very well-designed game thematically.

This is another game where you can take on a variety of strategies based on your preferences. You can try to broaden the species of birds on your reserve, accumulate eggs on your cards, and try to achieve your secret goals. Of course, it is best to do all of these things, but often one of these becomes the focus of your game. There are also objectives for each round you can complete to gain extra points.

This game is beautiful, enjoyable, and rewarding to play.

#6: Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven is a cooperative, dungeon-crawling game. However, it is shorter than most dungeon-crawlers, so my family is able to get it to the table more often. Gloomhaven also relies on cards instead of dice-rolling for combat, which is unique for dungeon-crawlers.

Each turn, you choose two cards from your hand that constitute your actions for that turn. The deck of cards you have to choose from gets smaller over the course of the game, so there is a limit to the amount of time you can spend in the dungeon before running out of actions. This adds to the tension of the game but does not take away from the enjoyment.

In this game, you play through many scenarios and have choices about which missions to undertake. It is like a stream-lined version of Descent with an interesting story line and several gameplay differences, which is why it’s my #6.

#5: Mechs vs. Minions

Mechs vs. Minions is another cooperative game that plays campaign-style. In it, you play one of four possible Yordle characters whose primary objective is to keep minions from overrunning the base and creating an assortment of problems.

One of the most creative aspects of this game is that you pretty much program your movement with cards. Each turn you add a card to your programmed movement. When you get hit by a minion, you have to add a damage card to your programmed cards, which can really mess you up.

When this programmed movement goes right, it can allow you to skewer or trample a lot of nasty minions. When it goes wrong, it’s hilarious.

For example, I once did a 90 degree turn to the left, then turned back 90 degrees to the right. Following that, I shot randomly while striking nothing, spun around, and ran into the side of the board. All while hordes of minions were approaching.This game is enjoyed by me, my sisters, and my dad.

Honestly, the programmed movement is my favorite part of the game and why this game made #5.

#4: Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter is a zombie game, and I hate zombies.

Why do I still love the game? Well, it’s a tense cooperative game with an awesome thematic design that even I can appreciate. The scenarios presented by the game pose actual moral dilemmas that make decisions difficult. That is why it is called a Crossroads Game.

Furthermore, like Castle Panic, everyone either survives or dies together, but even if you survive, the real winners are the ones who complete their secret objective. Last of all, there is occasionally a hidden traitor, whose goal includes causing the others to lose the game.

Sometimes, just making it through the round and managing to feed everyone is the best you can do.

Each player controls a faction of survivors that can scavenge, contribute to the stockpile, clean up camp, and complete other actions to progress the game. What actions you can take is based partially on the luck of a dice roll, which makes sense because even survival is based partially on luck.

As you might guess from the title, Dead of Winter is set in the middle of winter. Thus, in addition to infections from zombies, players risk frostbite in they venture from camp.

Overall, this game is well-designed, tense game of survival.

#3: Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness is an adventure and exploration fantasy game that can be very challenging. It is completely cooperative and operates using an app in addition to the board, cards, and miniatures. My family uses a tablet for the app, which has creepy music and many interactive features.

Mansions of Madness is all about mystery, horror, and choices. Who will you accuse of murder? Time is running out, do you explore more or move forward? Will you risk insanity or death?

The mental puzzles you have to go through at times are rigorous. And the pressure to hurry at times is strong, amplified by the eerie music and the fast pace of the plot.

I love this thematic game and find it challenging but rewarding.

#2: RWBY: Combat Ready

In RWBY: Combat Ready, players can each choose a character from the anime RWBY: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang, or Penny. Each of these characters have unique fighting styles and decks.

In the base game, you can play against one of three villains: Roman, Cinder, or Adam. In addition, you will be fighting against groups such as Roman’s Henchman, the White Fang, or the Grimm.

At the beginning of each duel with the villain, one player starts at the beginning of the Hero Fury Track. The villains starts at the beginning of the villain track. Supporting players can choose to assist or combo with the main player, using different abilities on their cards accordingly. Or they can take out one of the lesser villains such as a henchman or Grimm.

The game is a series of high-stakes, challenging duels in a cooperative, beautifully designed game.

#1: Terraforming Mars

My absolute favorite game ever is Terraforming Mars. Part of that is the theme – it’s such a cool idea. Preparing Mars for settlement by gradually making it possible for life to inhabit the red planet – genius! The board and cards are well-designed, and some of them are even humorous.

You can take actions such as civilizing the board with cities and greeneries and using space event cards, action cards, and general cards. The strategy you take on depends partially on your corporation – for example, you might focus on making investments in titanium or megacredits, the currency of the game.

The reason I love this game so much is that even when I lose, I feel that I have achieved so much that it doesn’t even matter – it’s still a ton of fun.

Out of the expansions, I can only recommend Prelude. I have the other expansions, but I cannot say they improve the game at all. They simply make things more complex.

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