2020 in Review
New year’s is just around the corner…
On December 31st we will likely be pouring a glass of champagne, or some other beverage of choice, to cheers the arrival of 2021 with the people close to us.
There are a few theories that attempt to explain our custom of clinking glasses when participating in toasts. Some people trace the tradition back to early Europeans who thought the sound would drive away evil spirits. Other explanations say that by clanking the glasses into one another, wine could be sloshed from glass to glass, thereby serving as a proof the beverages had not been poisoned. Maybe, others claim, the “clink” served as a symbolic acknowledgment of trust, eliminating the need to sample each other’s’ drinks to prove them untampered. My personal favourite is the theory that we enhance the experience of drinking by adding extra senses. In addition to smell, look, touch and taste, we now also have the sensation of sound and the feel of the vibrations.
This concept could easily be translated into the experience of board games. Why, for example, do we love games so much that include dice? I believe it is because they give us a 3-dimensional sensation that goes beyond the gameplay itself. When we pick them up and shake them, we feel them, and when we throw them, they make a sound. We might even feel the slight vibrations of the table. Take a card game as a further example. Some people use card holders that allow them to place their hand of cards on the table instead of holding them. I tried it and I don’t like it. Why? Because there is something about actually feeling and moving the cards in your hand that is important to the enjoyment of the game. These examples show that the tactile elements of any game enhance the immersion by triggering more of our senses. We don’t just play the game; we can actually experience it physically.
This very simple idea carries a lot of weight. Especially in light of a year that has been dominated by social distancing and virtual forms of communication or entertainment. There are plenty of options available that allow us to talk to our loved ones through our computer screens, but it is not the same, is it? The same applies to virtual games. There is a never-ending supply available to us, but it somehow does not replicate the experience of sitting around a table over a ‘real’ game. The lack of those extra dimensions simply ‘flattens’ the experience.
2020 has been a tough year for most industries, and the board gaming world is no exception. Trade shows, conferences and gaming events have been cancelled all around the world. Factories shut down and supply chains dried up for a while. Despite these challenges there were still saw plenty of new titles that entered the market. In fact, board gaming as a hobby has been embraced by a whole new audience of people who were looking for new ways to interact with the people in their household, or who wanted to improve their mental health by stimulating their minds in new ways.
As we are about to enter a new year, I hope that all of us will be able to rebuild ourselves and the relationships with the people around us. Maybe a good game can help to us to ease that transition. Happy New Year everyone!
Here are some of this year’s new releases that stood out for me.
3-7 players, ages 10 and up
The rules of this game are easy. The gameplay can be thrilling. This game is all about staying calm under pressure.
The active player in a round must answer verbally the questions asked by their left-hand neighbor while they “write” answers to the questions asked by the right-hand neighbor. They must use seven letter dice to “write” three- or four-letter answers. At the same time another player flips a 30-second sand timer four times, allowing two minutes to answer as many questions as possible. At the end of that time, they multiply the number of answers given for the questions from the left and from the right to determine their score. How good are we at multitasking? This game will help us find out…
2 players, ages 10 and up
Once in a while I encounter a game that is very simple in its ruleset but yet offers a real interesting depth of gameplay. This is one of them.
Each turn, the active player selects one of six stones and places it on an empty field. One player is trying to make groups of the same color, while the other is forming groups of identical sea creatures, with players having the ability to move a stone before placing a new one to form new swarms. The larger the group, the more points it’s worth, and whoever scores the most points wins! Elegant design and highly addictive.
2-5 players, ages 5 and up
Go, go, go! The three magicians Conrad, Mila, and Vicky rush out of the dark castle to escape a nasty wizard. They reach the mysterious castle lake, but wait, what’s happening? As if by magic, Conrad, Mila, and Vicky are repeatedly held back — or even driven back toward the castle…
In this co-operative game, players need to cover the right cards to free the three magicians from the mysterious spell. Only by working as a team can you reach the safety of the shore and escape the castle!
A visually beautiful design that offers a lot of fun for even the youngest of players.
1-5 players, ages 12 and up
In this deeper strategy game, each player is a powerful, unique noble vying to succeed the Timeless King as the true ruler of Dünya. Players command their workers, execute stratagems, and expand the provinces in their domain in real time to gain resources and move up the four victory tracks: power, prestige, popularity, and legendary achievement.
Players must use actual time as a resource in managing their strategy to best their opponents, using time on different action types and balancing it with time spent planning and analyzing. The winner will be the player who manages and invests their time most effectively and who builds the best engine, not the player who acts the quickest.
5-99 Players, ages 13 and up
I have long been a big fan of Wits & Wagers and this newest addition to this game line does not disappoint. Wits & Wagers is a trivia game you can win without knowing trivia and enjoy without even liking trivia. That’s because it’s not a trivia game, it’s a betting game. This game is about making wild guesses, and then betting on which of your friends made the guess that will be closest to the right answer. The riskier the bet, the higher the payout.
This edition offers all new questions which are both funny and surprising at times. There are also more places to bet: Bet on Red or Black to cover three different guesses. Like in Vegas, you one can bet on a group of guesses to take a less risky bet, allowing players to grow their chip stack even when they don’t know the best answer.
Here are my top suggestions for new 2020 games:
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