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  • Writer's pictureInstant Game Night

Top 10 Games I'm Looking Forward to Playing in 2021

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

Welcome back to Instant Game Night, I hope everyone had a great New Year's holiday. I, like so many others, am very happy to have said goodbye to 2020. I am looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and with that fresh start, I am also looking forward to playing a number of new games in the new year. Today, I wanted to talk about my top 10 games I'm looking forward to playing this year.

Before we get into the list, I should mention that you are very likely to see some older games on this list. That's because, as you might know, I am still a relative newcomer to the hobby. I only started building my collection back at the beginning of 2020, so in addition to wanting to try all the hot new games of 2021, there is also a substantial other, older games I am just as excited to try. So, with that in mind, let's get into the list:


10. Fort

So, I know I just got done saying that I'm not looking to chase every hot new game, but sometimes you just can't resist. And Fort's cute theme, great art, and streamlined mechanics are irresistible for me. Plus, my goal for 2021 is to focus more on lighter weight games that I can play with family and friends, so I am very much looking forward to seeing if Fort can live up to the hype for me!

9. Dice Forge

I have a feeling this game will become a bit of a guilty pleasure for me once I finally own it. I have heard very mixed reviews about Dice Forge, a game that came out in 2017. However, I can't get past the uniqueness of crafting your dice and adding new, better sides to your dice to increase the odds of a favorable roll. Many people said the game wasn't very deep and didn't offer a lot of strategic depth. But as someone who primarily games with amateurs, this is fine with me. There is nothing wrong with a game that you can sort of “switch off” your brain for and just enjoy the experience.

8. Targi

My wife is my primary gaming partner and, as such, I am always on the lookout for a great 2 player game for us to enjoy together. And Targi has been heralded as one of the best 2 player games of all time. And after watching several reviews and playthroughs, I tend to agree. I will have to wait and see, but Targi seems like one of the best value to box size (and money) that exists in the board game world. I hope to soon find this out for certain!

7. Chinatown

I am going to go out on a limb and say you aren't going to find Chinatown on many people's lists nowadays. This game originally came out in 1999 and it is one of those classics that I just have not gotten around to yet. The main reason I am excited to try it is that my family's personality is perfect for negotiation-type games. In fact, the thing I enjoyed the most about Catan was the playful ribbing during trade negotiations. Many times, we spent more time haggling over trades in Catan than actually playing through the game itself.

So after learning more about the game and reading that it was one of the definitive negotiation games, I knew this would be one we would have to try out as a family. I am really looking forward to getting a copy of this game!

6. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

What else can I say about this game that hasn't already been said? I have seen so many rave reviews for Jaws of the Lion that I simply cannot ignore it any longer. I count myself as one of those gamers who never thought Gloomhaven would be accessible to me, due to the theme, complexity, and lack of people to play the game with. But with Jaws of the Lion, you have a game that is accessible in so many ways. It would be a crime to not take this opportunity to jump into the Gloomhaven world. In fact, my younger brother was just talking about wanting to get into it. Seize the day!

5. Honey Buzz

My dad has been a hobby apiarist for a number of years now, and I am always on the lookout for a good bee game to play with him. Up until 2020, seemingly the best option out there was Hive, a very abstract game that just didn't speak to me. Then, this year came several Bee games, the most interesting of which to me was Honey Buzz.

There is a lot going for this game. Of course the theme is a winner for me, I love the idea of a bee economy where they sell the honey they produce. Next, since this is an Elf Creek game, you know the components are going to be absolutely top notch. Speaking of top notch, the art I have seen for this game has been fantastic. Then when you look at the mechanics of this game, you actually have what seems to be quite a lot going on but nothing that is overly complex to grasp. And all aspects of this game seem to fix with the theme perfectly. Of yes, and of course having a solo mode does not hurt!! I can't wait to try out Honey Buzz.

4. Red Outpost

This is another game I can thank Tom Vasel for adding to my buy list. This 2019 game immediately caught my attention with its theme. A secret Soviet space mission has sent colonizers to a far away planet to build a community utopian society. You take on the role of one of this community's leaders, with your goal being to optimize the productivity of the colony while at the same time keeping your workers happy and in good spirits. The mechanism of this game that really sold it for me was the twist it puts on worker placement – none of the workers are exclusively controlled by one player. Rather, you take turns controlling the workers throughout the game, trying to maximize their productivity while not lowering morale too much. After all, the last thing you want in a communist paradise is unhappy citizens!

This game seems to check every box for me – a great and well integrated theme, a unique mechanism, good artwork, and a solo mode. This is one I am certainly looking forward to!

3. Furnace

Here is yet another new game that I am excited about. I first learned about Furnace from the Dice Tower when Tom Vasel did his review. I was interested in the game then but it didn't move into my “must buy” list until I wanted the Dice Tower live playthough during Spiel Digital. I was so impressed with the smooth play and the speed in which the game progressed. This strikes me as a game that does not overstay it's welcome whatsoever, but at the same time offers some meaty decisions. I am also a big fan of the bidding mechanism in Furnace, where if you don't win a bid on a certain card, you still get some sort of a reward for bidding. This adds a layer of strategic thinking that I am sure I will enjoy.

All in what is quite a small box game that will play quickly. Really looking forward to getting my hands on this one!

2. Lost Ruins of Arnak

The Lost Ruins of Arnak is another one of those hot, new games I just can't resist. I will own this game in the coming months and I am very confident that I will enjoy it based on the reviews and playthroughs I've watched.

There is so much to say about this game. First off, I love the theme of archaeological exportation. Secondly, I am a huge fan of worker placement as well as deck building. Combining those two together? Color me intrigued. When you add in stunning art work, a beautiful game board, and what I hear is a phenomenal solo mode, there is just no way I can resist this game and nearly a 100% chance that I will love it.

Now, just to wait for the game to get a wide distribution so I can pick up a copy at a reasonable price......

1. Canvas

Canvas will forever hold a special place in my heart as the first game I ever backed on Kickstarter. As I mentioned in the intro, I am a new gamer. And as a new gamer, there are so many great games from the past 10 years that I have been focused on playing and “catching up” as opposed to backing the latest hot game on Kickstarter. But, when I heard about Canvas and saw the prototype of the game, I knew I had to dive in. One of the biggest things that makes a game stand out to me are unique mechanics or components. You will see that trend continue throughout the rest of the list.

With Canvas, the thing that pulled me in was the transparent cards. In this game, you take on the role of an artist in an art competition. You are collecting art cards, which are transparent cards with an incomplete painting on them. But, when you stack three cards on top of each other they create a unique looking painting, which you then sleeve and place on an easel, scoring points based on the icons displayed on your painting. Each card has a set of icons, so the order in which you layer the cards is crucial to the scoring, which also changes each game.

I have yet to receive my Kickstarter copy (should be arriving any day) but I am very excited to open up the box and give this game a go. I will be sure to report back my thoughts on the game once I've had a chance to try it out!

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this list of the Top 10 board games I am looking forward to playing in 2021. Check back to the site later this year for an update on where I am at with this list and my thoughts on whether these games lived up to the hype.

Until then, happy gaming!

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