Spiel des Jesse 2021

It’s that time again! Time for my annual look back at the games that were new to me in the previous year. Thanks to COVID and a new baby, I didn’t get to play nearly as many games this year as I wanted to this year, but it was still a decent amount. Most games seem to have been new to me, especially with 17 reviews that I did. But this is my 12th year doing this post, and I always enjoy looking back and reminding myself what got played. So here we go, all the new to me games for 2021, with some brief thoughts and my patented (patent not at all pending) Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale rating.

  • Ada Lovelace: Legacy of the Analytical Engine – I was already a fan of the PNP Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician. This legacy version of the system was also quite fun and challenging. YEAH!
  • Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena – You’re arranging doors to score points. It’s very colorful, and a pretty decent puzzle. YEAH!
  • Animo – This is a Bible-based TCG, which I’ve heard is a lot like Pokemon. It was enjoyable, though a lot of the Bible stuff seems a bit tacked on. YEAH.
  • The Artemis Odyssey – The new reprint of Ad Astra, which I have never played. I liked this one quite a bit, and my friend who played it with me thought it scratched an itch he didn’t know he had. YEAH!
  • Black Sonata – A solo game about finding Shakespeare’s legendary Dark Lady. A really ingenious way of presenting deduction. Wonderful game. YEAH!!!
  • Disney Villainous – I’ve heard a lot about this and finally got to play. Verdict – not great. Our two-player game took entirely too long, I can only imagine the torture of a six-player game. MEH.
  • Don’t Rock the Boat – My daughter got this for her birthday. It is very reminiscent of Riff Raff, and feel like that game is better balanced. MEH.
  • Dragomino – This year’s Kinderspiel des Jahres winner, and one my daughter got for her birthday. We like it a lot. YEAH!
  • Dragonwood – A fairly simple push-your-luck game that helps kids learn probability. It’s fun enough. YEAH.
  • Duffers – A deck-building game where you’re playing rounds of golf. The solo mode is not good at all, but multiplayer works pretty well and was fun. YEAH.
  • Finished! – A solitaire game from 2017. It’s really nothing more than sorting cards into chronological order, but it’s hard. I really like it a lot. YEAH!!!
  • Fish Club – My daughter got this for Christmas last year. It’s a pretty basic game – you drop fish in the top, and you can get five to touch. It’s fun enough for a kid’s game, but for me it’s a MEH.
  • Flip Ships – It’s fun and challenging, though I don’t know how much play it would get if I actually owned it. YEAH.
  • Floriferous – A game about a casual stroll through a garden, as you pick up flowers and try to score points. Very well done. YEAH!
  • Harsh Shadows – A solo game where you’re trying to catch a spy. It’s pretty good, though I wish there was a bit more variation in it. YEAH.
  • Herbaceous – We played the Pocket Edition, which my understanding is that it’s the same game as the original. It’s a really unique take on set collection, and pretty fun. YEAH!
  • The Isle of Cats – Polyomino placement on a boat with cats. And it’s a fantastic game. I especially appreciated the family mode that was included and worked really well. YEAH!!!
  • Kombo Klash – This is a very fun tile placement game where you’re trying to get the right combos to score lots of points. YEAH!
  • Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition: I played the original MoM years ago and didn’t particularly like it. I got this in my first ever math trade, and have played through one solo scenario. Lost horribly, but it’s a vast improvement on the original. YEAH!
  • Mariposas – A game about migrating butterflies. It works pretty well, though it felt a little more abstract than I wanted. YEAH-.
  • Match ‘Em Up – This is a memory game where you’re trying to remember where things are. For what it is, it works, though it can be quite frustrating. MEH+.
  • Mia London and the Case of 625 Scoundrels – An observational mystery game that was nominated for the Kinderspiel this year. I like it. YEAH!
  • Mind MGMT: This hidden movement game was quite a hit. I still haven’t played outside of the training mission, but I’m really looking forward to it. YEAH!!!
  • Photosynthesis – Another game I got in my first math trade this year. I like it, but I don’t like it as much as I thought I would. YEAH.
  • Regicide – Most people seem to be really positive on this one. I really didn’t like it. BLEAH.
  • Robin of Locksley – A good resource management game where you’re bouncing around like a Chess Knight, trying to collect the right stuff so you can advance. YEAH!
  • Roll Camera! – This is a dice placement game about making movies, and it works really well. I love how you can build your scenes and tell the story through storyboards. YEAH!!!
  • Tiny Towns – A block placement game where you’re trying to get certain patterns in order to build your town. It’s quite good. I wish I’d gotten to play more than once. YEAH!
  • Turf War – Poorly written rules in this game had me absolutely hating my first play. Once I got the right rule, it improved the game significantly, though the take that element is still not for me. MEH.
  • What Do You Meme? – It’s an Apples to Apples knock-off my sister-in-law got for Christmas. Mildly entertaining, but too limited in the pictures provided and the cards included. BLEAH.
  • Whirling Witchcraft – A game about making potions is not new, but the way this does it, by passing ingredients and trying to overflow your neighbor’s workbench, is a lot of fun. YEAH!!!

And now, it’s time for the nominees for the Spiel des Jesse. Awarded since 2014, this award is given to the best new-to-me game I played in the calendar year. This year’s winner will join Argent: The Consortium (2014), Colt Express (2015), Burgle Bros (2016), Clank! (2017), Azul (2018), Rhino Hero Super Battle (2019), and Roll Player (2020) in the Spiel des Jesse Hall of Fame. Nominees have to show a high standard of fun, and have to have been played by my for the first time in 2021, AND I have to have played them at least twice. Which means something like Tiny Towns is ineligible because I only played it once. Without further ado, here are this year’s nominees!

  • Black Sonata – John Kean, TGG Games, 2017
  • Finished! – Friedemann Friese, Stronghold Games, 2017
  • The Isle of Cats – Frank West, The City of Games, 2019
  • Mind MGMT – Jay Cormier/Sen-Foong Lim, Off the Page Games, 2021
  • Roll Camera! – Malachi Ray Rempen, Keen Bean Studio, 2021
  • Whirling Witchcraft – Erik Andersson SundΓ©n, AEG, 2021

All in all, a pretty diverse set of games. But this year’s Spiel des Jesse goes to

image by BGG user TheCityofKings

To me, The Isle of Cats had everything I needed in a game. It’s got a solo mode, a family mode so I can play with my 6-year-old daughter, and a competitive mode that’s pretty challenging. The polyominoes appeal to my Tetris background, and the cat illustrations are pretty great. I love the way it deals with drafting, and it’s just overall a fantastic game. I’m happy to add it to the pantheon, but I did play some really great games this year, and really, any of the nominees would be welcome.

That wraps up 2021 (hooray!). My next post is going to be my look forward to the next year, and I’m looking forward to telling you some of my plans. Thanks for sticking with me through this year, and I’ll see you soon!

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