I don’t know that a year has EVER been any more anticipated than 2021. I suspect this year WILL be better, but I think it’s going to take some time to get going. But we can always look forward to what’s coming down the pipeline, right? I do a post like this every year, and each year, I also like to look back and see what I was anticipating from the last year. In 2020, I was looking forward to Aegean Sea, Almanac: The Dragon Road, The Crew, Dead Reckoning, Dominant Species: Marine, Frosthaven, Gangster’s Dilemma, Imperial Struggle, Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile, and Return to Dark Tower. Of those, I have played exactly zero (which is pretty typical for me even in a non-pandemic year). But of those, only The Crew, Gangster’s Dilemma, and Imperial Struggle have even been released yet, so I wouldn’t have even had a chance to play most of the titles.
Anyway. Let’s see what’s out there for 2021.
Aqua Garden (totsuca chuo, uchibacoya) is a game about stocking an aquarium. The game has a time track, and you’re going through the process of buying fish, advertising, and putting fish in the right tanks. The game is produced in Japan, and Kickstarted near the end of last year. I didn’t hear about it then, but I really like the look of it. The coolest part of it is the fish meeples (or “seaples” as I saw them referred to). They are really cool, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about the game.
Cartographers Heroes (Jordy Adan/John Brieger, Thunderworks Games) is a sequel to 2019’s Cartographers, a roll-and-write game set in the Roll Player universe. Like its predecessor, in this one, you’re building a map and trying to score points. It introduces heroes that can destroy monsters, monsters with persistent effects, and new ways to score. I just got the original for Christmas, enjoy it, and am looking forward to seeing how this one works.
Fairy Tale Inn (Remo Conzadori/Paolo Mori, CMON) is a game where you’re trying to populate your inn with fairy tale characters. When you pay for these characters, you slide them into a vertical board that’s kind of reminiscent of the board in Connect 4. Characters then give money based on where they are, with each type giving cash in different ways. It looks cool. There’s not a lot of information yet, just some pictures and the BGG description, but this is something I want to keep an eye on.
Hanamakoji: Geisha’s Road (Eros Lin, EmperorS4) is a sequel to 2013’s Hanimikoji. In this one, you’re trying to get five famous geishas to visit your restaurant. Again, there’s not a lot of information, but as I just played Hanamikoji for the first time in 2020, I’m interested to find out more here. It seems to be more of a thematic sequel than anything – it’s by a different designer, and mechanically looks like it’s completely different. But I’m interested.
Lawyer Up (Samuel Bailey/Mike Gnade, Rock Manor Games) is a courtroom simulation where one player is the prosecution and the other is the defense. The first phase of the game is discovery, where you’re going through the evidence and picking out what you think will win the case for you. Then you have the actual trial, in which you are trying to influence the jury to your side. I love the theme of this, and I’m interested to see how it does when it comes out.
Namiji (Antoine Bauza, Funforge) is a sequel to Tokaido that features similar gameplay – you’re moving down a track with the last player in line always going next. Instead of traveling down a road, however, you’re fishers in boats. There are different actions, but it overall seems similar to Tokaido, which is a pretty great game. So I want to see what happens next.
The Shivers (Andy Logan, Pop Fiction Games) is a mystery game kind of in the tradition of escape room games and RPGs. There’s a series of mysteries for you to solve (eight episodes), and each one takes place in different locations. The locations in this game, however, are pop-ups. The game is quite beautiful, and I’m curious to see how it works.
Skyrise (Sébastien Pauchon/Adam Wyse, Roxley) is based on 2008’s Metropolys. It’s an auction game, which normally doesn’t interest me, but the way it’s treated here is very cool. Each player has the same set of 13 buildings, and you are placing them, outbidding your opponents in order to leave your mark on the map. Additionally, there are scoring conditions to meet, so you’re trying to strategically position your buildings as well. I have played Metropolys once, and liked it a lot. It is commonly cited as one of the ugliest games in existence, but with a Roxley production, that’s sure to change.
Wonderland’s War (Tim Eisner/Ben Eisner/Ian Moss, Druid City Games/Skybound Games) is a Wonderland themed game from the team that brought us The Grimm Forest. It’s a bag game, where you’re drafting units for your cause, and fighting a war once your tea party is done. The art is beautiful, it’s an interesting theme, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they weave different stories into this one.
So those are just some of the games coming out in 2021, and the ones that I just pulled out to talk about. For me, I’m just hoping to be able to play more in 2021. I’m holding out hope that this pandemic will be over soon and we can get back to playing together. But there will still be plenty of stuff to talk about, so keep tuning in. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!