Ratings: People's Choice Top 20 of 2020

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#20. The Fox in the Forest Duet

In the two-player, co-operative trick-taking game The Fox in the Forest Duet, players team up, helping each other move through the forest. Collect all the gems before the end of three rounds of play, and you win!

To set up the game, place gem tokens on the designated spaces of the game board and the team tracker token in the center of the movement path. At the start of each round, shuffle the deck of thirty cards — which contains three suits, each numbered 1-10 — and deal each player a hand of eleven cards. Reveal one card as the "decree" card to determine the trump suit. For each trick, one player leads a card, and the other must follow suit, if possible. The winner of the trick moves the team tracker toward them a number of spaces equal to the number of fox footprints on the cards played. If the tracker lands on a space next to a gem, the players collect one gem. If the tracker would move off the end of the path, return the tracker to the center of the path, then add a forest token to one end of the path, reducing the number of spaces upon which you can move (with you sliding gems next to this covered space next to the new end of the path).

The odd-numbered character cards have special abilities when played, allowing the trick winner to move the tracker in the direction of their choice or to ignore the footprints on one of the played cards so that you can land on just the right spot. One character allows players to exchange one card with each other, while another allows a player to change the decree card.

At the end of a round, you add five gems to designated spaces, add a forest space to shorten the path, then receive a new hand of eleven cards from a freshly shuffled deck. Collect all 22 gem tokens, and you win. Run out of time or head off the end of the path with no forest spaces in reserve, then you can just keep running in defeat or shuffle the cards and start the game anew.

7.2
2-2 Players
30 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 1.7

In the two-player, co-operative trick-taking game The Fox in the Forest Duet, players team up, helping each other move through the forest. Collect all the gems before the end of three rounds of play, and you win!

To set up the game, place gem tokens on the designated spaces of the game board and the team tracker token in the center of the movement path. At the start of each round, shuffle the deck of thirty cards — which contains three suits, each numbered 1-10 — and deal each player a hand of eleven cards. Reveal one card as the "decree" card to determine the trump suit. For each trick, one player leads a card, and the other must follow suit, if possible. The winner of the trick moves the team tracker toward them a number of spaces equal to the number of fox footprints on the cards played. If the tracker lands on a space next to a gem, the players collect one gem. If the tracker would move off the end of the path, return the tracker to the center of the path, then add a forest token to one end of the path, reducing the number of spaces upon which you can move (with you sliding gems next to this covered space next to the new end of the path).

The odd-numbered character cards have special abilities when played, allowing the trick winner to move the tracker in the direction of their choice or to ignore the footprints on one of the played cards so that you can land on just the right spot. One character allows players to exchange one card with each other, while another allows a player to change the decree card.

At the end of a round, you add five gems to designated spaces, add a forest space to shorten the path, then receive a new hand of eleven cards from a freshly shuffled deck. Collect all 22 gem tokens, and you win. Run out of time or head off the end of the path with no forest spaces in reserve, then you can just keep running in defeat or shuffle the cards and start the game anew.

7.2
2-2 Players
30 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 1.7
Not available
at the moment
#19. Beyond the Sun

Beyond the Sun is a space civilization game in which players collectively decide the technological progress of humankind at the dawn of the Spacefaring Era, while competing against each other to be the leading faction in economic development, science, and galactic influence.

The game is played over a variable number of rounds until a number of game-end achievements are collectively claimed by the players. The winner is the faction with the most victory points, which are obtained by researching technologies, improving their economy, controlling and colonizing systems, and completing various achievements and events throughout the game.

On a turn, a player moves their action pawn to an empty action space, then takes that action. They then conduct their production phase, either producing ore, growing their population, or trading one of those resources for another. Finally, they can claim up to one achievement, if possible.

As players take actions, they research new technologies that come in four levels. Each technology is one of four types (scientific, economic, military, commercial), and higher-level technologies must match one of the types of tech that lead into it. Thus, players create their own technology tree in each game, using these actions to increase their military strength, to jump to different habitable exoplanetary systems, to colonize those systems, to boost their resource production, to develop android tech that allows growth without population, and more.

8.0
2-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.1

Beyond the Sun is a space civilization game in which players collectively decide the technological progress of humankind at the dawn of the Spacefaring Era, while competing against each other to be the leading faction in economic development, science, and galactic influence.

The game is played over a variable number of rounds until a number of game-end achievements are collectively claimed by the players. The winner is the faction with the most victory points, which are obtained by researching technologies, improving their economy, controlling and colonizing systems, and completing various achievements and events throughout the game.

On a turn, a player moves their action pawn to an empty action space, then takes that action. They then conduct their production phase, either producing ore, growing their population, or trading one of those resources for another. Finally, they can claim up to one achievement, if possible.

As players take actions, they research new technologies that come in four levels. Each technology is one of four types (scientific, economic, military, commercial), and higher-level technologies must match one of the types of tech that lead into it. Thus, players create their own technology tree in each game, using these actions to increase their military strength, to jump to different habitable exoplanetary systems, to colonize those systems, to boost their resource production, to develop android tech that allows growth without population, and more.

8.0
2-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.1
Not available
at the moment
#18. Honey Buzz

The bees have discovered economics. The queens believe that if they sell honey to the bears, badgers, and woodland creatures, they will find peace and prosperity. Spring has arrived and it's time to build the hive, find nectar, make honey, and, for the first time ever, set up shop.

Honey Buzz is a worker bee placement game where players expand a personal beehive by drafting various honeycomb tiles that grant actions that are triggered throughout the game. Each tile represents a different action. Whenever a tile is laid so that it completes a certain pattern, a ring of actions is triggered in whatever order the player chooses. A tile drafted on turn one could be triggered up to three times at any point during the game. It all depends on how the player places their beeples (bee+meeple) and builds their hive. After all, in the honey business, efficiency is queen.

As you continually expand your hive, you'll forage for nectar and pollen, make honey, sell different varieties at the bear market, host honey tastings, and attend to the queen and her court. There's only so much nectar to go around, and finding it won't be easy. Players will have to scout out the nectar field and pay attention to other players searches to try to deduce the location of the nectar they need for themselves.

7.9
1-4 Players
45-90 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.7

The bees have discovered economics. The queens believe that if they sell honey to the bears, badgers, and woodland creatures, they will find peace and prosperity. Spring has arrived and it's time to build the hive, find nectar, make honey, and, for the first time ever, set up shop.

Honey Buzz is a worker bee placement game where players expand a personal beehive by drafting various honeycomb tiles that grant actions that are triggered throughout the game. Each tile represents a different action. Whenever a tile is laid so that it completes a certain pattern, a ring of actions is triggered in whatever order the player chooses. A tile drafted on turn one could be triggered up to three times at any point during the game. It all depends on how the player places their beeples (bee+meeple) and builds their hive. After all, in the honey business, efficiency is queen.

As you continually expand your hive, you'll forage for nectar and pollen, make honey, sell different varieties at the bear market, host honey tastings, and attend to the queen and her court. There's only so much nectar to go around, and finding it won't be easy. Players will have to scout out the nectar field and pay attention to other players searches to try to deduce the location of the nectar they need for themselves.

7.9
1-4 Players
45-90 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.7
Not available
at the moment
#17. Oceans

Three years in the making, Oceans is a stand-alone game in the award-winning Evolution series. With over 120 works of art, 40 scenarios cards, and more than 100 unique trait cards, Oceans is the most ambitious project North Star Games has ever tackled.

Theme

Oceans depicts the boundaries between the known world near the ocean’s surface, and the mysteries lurking in Earth’s deepest unexplored region. Enter a vast, underwater cosmos: a mysterious interconnected world of sharp teeth, glowing eyes, and black ink, where your survival depends on your ability to adapt to the unknown.

The foundation of the oceanic food chain are billions of one-celled organisms called phytoplankton that capture the sun's energy through photosynthesis. Every other species in the ocean is a predator, each bigger than the next, all the way up to the dreaded Apex Predator. And even bigger than Apex Predators are enormous Whales that gently swim through the ocean scooping up everything in their path. This ecosystem mimics the known world near the surface.

But there is more if you are willing to dive deeper...

Oceans also includes a deck of 100 unique power cards called The Deep that represents the unknown. These powerful cards break the seams of the reality you've come to accept, ranging from astonishing things found in the ocean, to the fantastical Kraken or Leviathan.

Gameplay

Oceans is an interactive engine builder, where players evolve their species in a continually changing ecosystem. Players must adapt their interconnected ecosystem to survive against the inevitable march of time (Aging), as well as a multitude of predators looking for food.

During the first half of the game, players use traits from a deck of Surface cards to modify their species. With only 12 Surface traits, it’s easy to wade into your first game without being overwhelmed by new cards. These traits were chosen for their rich thematic interconnections, providing synergistic card play that mimics an oceanic ecosystem. The Surface traits bring stability to the game environment.

During the second half of the game, players can use power cards from The Deep to disrupt the stability. With over 100 unique traits in The Deep, players will slowly discover game-altering traits over the course of many games. These traits were designed to evoke wonder and disbelief - to spark your imagination as you consider the fantastic synergies that are possible in Oceans.

Additionally, there are 2 randomly chosen scenario cards that activate and deactivate at various points during the game. The scenario cards impact the basic tenets of gameplay, encouraging people to vary their play style and strategy each game.

The Evolution Series

Oceans is a stand-alone game in the Evolution series, but it's a vast departure from other games in the series. The turn structure has been simplified, the game play is much more forgiving, and the web of interconnections has increased dramatically. Whereas Evolution has the feeling of a traditional back-and-forth battle game like Magic: The Gathering, Oceans has the feel of an interactive engine builder where everything is interconnected, and where your engine must continually adapt to a changing environment.

Join the Oceans Discord community for rule questions, strategy discussions, and to get involved in future playtesting.

https://discord.gg/GMaDycjKBV

7.6
2-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 2.8

Three years in the making, Oceans is a stand-alone game in the award-winning Evolution series. With over 120 works of art, 40 scenarios cards, and more than 100 unique trait cards, Oceans is the most ambitious project North Star Games has ever tackled.

Theme

Oceans depicts the boundaries between the known world near the ocean’s surface, and the mysteries lurking in Earth’s deepest unexplored region. Enter a vast, underwater cosmos: a mysterious interconnected world of sharp teeth, glowing eyes, and black ink, where your survival depends on your ability to adapt to the unknown.

The foundation of the oceanic food chain are billions of one-celled organisms called phytoplankton that capture the sun's energy through photosynthesis. Every other species in the ocean is a predator, each bigger than the next, all the way up to the dreaded Apex Predator. And even bigger than Apex Predators are enormous Whales that gently swim through the ocean scooping up everything in their path. This ecosystem mimics the known world near the surface.

But there is more if you are willing to dive deeper...

Oceans also includes a deck of 100 unique power cards called The Deep that represents the unknown. These powerful cards break the seams of the reality you've come to accept, ranging from astonishing things found in the ocean, to the fantastical Kraken or Leviathan.

Gameplay

Oceans is an interactive engine builder, where players evolve their species in a continually changing ecosystem. Players must adapt their interconnected ecosystem to survive against the inevitable march of time (Aging), as well as a multitude of predators looking for food.

During the first half of the game, players use traits from a deck of Surface cards to modify their species. With only 12 Surface traits, it’s easy to wade into your first game without being overwhelmed by new cards. These traits were chosen for their rich thematic interconnections, providing synergistic card play that mimics an oceanic ecosystem. The Surface traits bring stability to the game environment.

During the second half of the game, players can use power cards from The Deep to disrupt the stability. With over 100 unique traits in The Deep, players will slowly discover game-altering traits over the course of many games. These traits were designed to evoke wonder and disbelief - to spark your imagination as you consider the fantastic synergies that are possible in Oceans.

Additionally, there are 2 randomly chosen scenario cards that activate and deactivate at various points during the game. The scenario cards impact the basic tenets of gameplay, encouraging people to vary their play style and strategy each game.

The Evolution Series

Oceans is a stand-alone game in the Evolution series, but it's a vast departure from other games in the series. The turn structure has been simplified, the game play is much more forgiving, and the web of interconnections has increased dramatically. Whereas Evolution has the feeling of a traditional back-and-forth battle game like Magic: The Gathering, Oceans has the feel of an interactive engine builder where everything is interconnected, and where your engine must continually adapt to a changing environment.

Join the Oceans Discord community for rule questions, strategy discussions, and to get involved in future playtesting.

https://discord.gg/GMaDycjKBV

7.6
2-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 2.8
Not available
at the moment
#16. Fort

Fort is a 2-4 player card game about building forts and following friends.

In Fort, you're a kid! And like many kids, you want to grow your circle of friends, collect pizza and toys, and build the coolest fort.

By doing this cool stuff, you'll score victory points, and at the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins! Your cards not only let you take actions on your own turn, but also let you follow the other players' actions on their turns. Will you devote yourself to your own posse, or copy what the other kids are doing?

But be careful as your carefully constructed deck might start losing cards if you don't actually use them. After all, if you don't play with your friends, why should they hang out with you anymore?

—description from the publisher

7.3
2-4 Players
20-40 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.4

Fort is a 2-4 player card game about building forts and following friends.

In Fort, you're a kid! And like many kids, you want to grow your circle of friends, collect pizza and toys, and build the coolest fort.

By doing this cool stuff, you'll score victory points, and at the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins! Your cards not only let you take actions on your own turn, but also let you follow the other players' actions on their turns. Will you devote yourself to your own posse, or copy what the other kids are doing?

But be careful as your carefully constructed deck might start losing cards if you don't actually use them. After all, if you don't play with your friends, why should they hang out with you anymore?

—description from the publisher

7.3
2-4 Players
20-40 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.4
Not available
at the moment
#15. Unmatched: Cobble & Fog

In battle, there are no equals.

Unmatched: Cobble & Fog features four new heroes for the Unmatched system. Invisible Man uses fog to dart around the board and strike without warning. Sherlock, with the trusty Watson by his side, schemes and calculates to ensure victory. Dracula and the sisters slowly drain you of your power. Jekyll & Hyde uses the former's cunning and the latter's brute strength to win the day.

Unmatched is a highly asymmetrical miniature fighting game for two or four players. Each hero is represented by a unique deck designed to evoke their style and legend. Tactical movement and no-luck combat resolution create a unique play experience that rewards expertise, but just when you've mastered one set, new heroes arrive to provide all new match-ups.

—description from the publisher

8.3
2-4 Players
20-40 Min
Age: 9+
Complexity: 2.0

In battle, there are no equals.

Unmatched: Cobble & Fog features four new heroes for the Unmatched system. Invisible Man uses fog to dart around the board and strike without warning. Sherlock, with the trusty Watson by his side, schemes and calculates to ensure victory. Dracula and the sisters slowly drain you of your power. Jekyll & Hyde uses the former's cunning and the latter's brute strength to win the day.

Unmatched is a highly asymmetrical miniature fighting game for two or four players. Each hero is represented by a unique deck designed to evoke their style and legend. Tactical movement and no-luck combat resolution create a unique play experience that rewards expertise, but just when you've mastered one set, new heroes arrive to provide all new match-ups.

—description from the publisher

8.3
2-4 Players
20-40 Min
Age: 9+
Complexity: 2.0
Not available
at the moment
#14. The Search for Planet X

At the edge of our solar system, a dark planet may lurk. In 2015, astronomers estimated a large distant planet could explain the unique orbits of dwarf planets and other objects. Since then, astronomers have been scanning the sky, hoping to find this planet.

In The Search for Planet X, players take on the role of astronomers who use observations and logical deductions to search for this hypothetical planet. Each game, the companion app randomly selects an arrangement of objects and a location for Planet X following predefined logic rules.

Each round, as the earth travels around the sun, players use the app to perform scans and attend conferences. As they gain information about the location of the objects, they mark that information on their deduction sheets. As players learn the locations of the various objects, they can start publishing theories, which is how players score points.

As more and more objects are found, players narrow down the possible locations for Planet X. Once a player believes they know its location and the objects on either side of it, they use the app to conduct a search. The game ends when a player successfully locates Planet X, and all players have a final chance to score some additional points.

The Search for Planet X captures the thrill of discovery, the puzzle-y nature of astronomical investigation, and the competition inherent in the scientific process. Can you be the first to find Planet X?

—description from the publisher

8.2
1-4 Players
60 Min
Age: 13+
Complexity: 2.3

At the edge of our solar system, a dark planet may lurk. In 2015, astronomers estimated a large distant planet could explain the unique orbits of dwarf planets and other objects. Since then, astronomers have been scanning the sky, hoping to find this planet.

In The Search for Planet X, players take on the role of astronomers who use observations and logical deductions to search for this hypothetical planet. Each game, the companion app randomly selects an arrangement of objects and a location for Planet X following predefined logic rules.

Each round, as the earth travels around the sun, players use the app to perform scans and attend conferences. As they gain information about the location of the objects, they mark that information on their deduction sheets. As players learn the locations of the various objects, they can start publishing theories, which is how players score points.

As more and more objects are found, players narrow down the possible locations for Planet X. Once a player believes they know its location and the objects on either side of it, they use the app to conduct a search. The game ends when a player successfully locates Planet X, and all players have a final chance to score some additional points.

The Search for Planet X captures the thrill of discovery, the puzzle-y nature of astronomical investigation, and the competition inherent in the scientific process. Can you be the first to find Planet X?

—description from the publisher

8.2
1-4 Players
60 Min
Age: 13+
Complexity: 2.3
Not available
at the moment
#13. The Isle of Cats

The Isle of Cats is a competitive, medium-weight, card-drafting, polyomino cat-placement board game for 1-4 players (6 with expansions).

In the game, you are citizens of Squalls End on a rescue mission to The Isle of Cats and must rescue as many cats as possible before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Each cat is represented by a unique tile and belongs to a family, you must find a way to make them all fit on your boat while keeping families together. You will also need to manage resources as you:

Explore the island (by drafting cards)

Rescue cats

Find treasures

Befriend Oshax

Study ancient lessons

Each lesson you collect gives you another personal way of scoring points, and 38 unique lessons are available. Complete lessons, fill your boat, and keep cat families together to score points, and the player with the most points after five rounds wins.

Note: The Isle of Cats: Kickstarter Edition is a compilation item consisting of The Isle of Cats base game and The Isle of Cats: Kickstarter Pack, each of which are available as separate items and listed individually in the BGG database.

8.0
1-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 8+
Complexity: 2.3

The Isle of Cats is a competitive, medium-weight, card-drafting, polyomino cat-placement board game for 1-4 players (6 with expansions).

In the game, you are citizens of Squalls End on a rescue mission to The Isle of Cats and must rescue as many cats as possible before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Each cat is represented by a unique tile and belongs to a family, you must find a way to make them all fit on your boat while keeping families together. You will also need to manage resources as you:

Explore the island (by drafting cards)

Rescue cats

Find treasures

Befriend Oshax

Study ancient lessons

Each lesson you collect gives you another personal way of scoring points, and 38 unique lessons are available. Complete lessons, fill your boat, and keep cat families together to score points, and the player with the most points after five rounds wins.

Note: The Isle of Cats: Kickstarter Edition is a compilation item consisting of The Isle of Cats base game and The Isle of Cats: Kickstarter Pack, each of which are available as separate items and listed individually in the BGG database.

8.0
1-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 8+
Complexity: 2.3
Not available
at the moment
#12. Mariposas

Every spring, millions of monarch butterflies leave Mexico to spread out across eastern North America. Every fall, millions fly back to Mexico. However, no single butterfly ever makes the round trip.

Mariposas is a game of movement and set collection that lets players be part of this amazing journey.

Mariposas is played in three seasons. In general, your butterflies try to head north in spring, spread out in summer, and return south in fall. The end of each season brings a scoring round, and at the end of fall, the player with the most successful family of butterflies — i.e., the most victory points — wins the game.

—description from the publisher

7.0
2-5 Players
45-75 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 2.1

Every spring, millions of monarch butterflies leave Mexico to spread out across eastern North America. Every fall, millions fly back to Mexico. However, no single butterfly ever makes the round trip.

Mariposas is a game of movement and set collection that lets players be part of this amazing journey.

Mariposas is played in three seasons. In general, your butterflies try to head north in spring, spread out in summer, and return south in fall. The end of each season brings a scoring round, and at the end of fall, the player with the most successful family of butterflies — i.e., the most victory points — wins the game.

—description from the publisher

7.0
2-5 Players
45-75 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 2.1
Not available
at the moment
#11. Lost Ruins of Arnak

On an uninhabited island in uncharted seas, explorers have found traces of a great civilization. Now you will lead an expedition to explore the island, find lost artifacts, and face fearsome guardians, all in a quest to learn the island's secrets.

Lost Ruins of Arnak combines deck-building and worker placement in a game of exploration, resource management, and discovery. In addition to traditional deck-builder effects, cards can also be used to place workers, and new worker actions become available as players explore the island. Some of these actions require resources instead of workers, so building a solid resource base will be essential. You are limited to only one action per turn, so make your choice carefully... what action will benefit you most now? And what can you afford to do later... assuming someone else doesn't take the action first!?

Decks are small, and randomness in the game is heavily mitigated by the wealth of tactical decisions offered on the game board. With a variety of worker actions, artifacts, and equipment cards, the set-up for each game will be unique, encouraging players to explore new strategies to meet the challenge.

Discover the Lost Ruins of Arnak!

—description from the publisher

8.1
1-4 Players
30-120 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 2.9

On an uninhabited island in uncharted seas, explorers have found traces of a great civilization. Now you will lead an expedition to explore the island, find lost artifacts, and face fearsome guardians, all in a quest to learn the island's secrets.

Lost Ruins of Arnak combines deck-building and worker placement in a game of exploration, resource management, and discovery. In addition to traditional deck-builder effects, cards can also be used to place workers, and new worker actions become available as players explore the island. Some of these actions require resources instead of workers, so building a solid resource base will be essential. You are limited to only one action per turn, so make your choice carefully... what action will benefit you most now? And what can you afford to do later... assuming someone else doesn't take the action first!?

Decks are small, and randomness in the game is heavily mitigated by the wealth of tactical decisions offered on the game board. With a variety of worker actions, artifacts, and equipment cards, the set-up for each game will be unique, encouraging players to explore new strategies to meet the challenge.

Discover the Lost Ruins of Arnak!

—description from the publisher

8.1
1-4 Players
30-120 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 2.9
Not available
at the moment
#10. On Mars

Following the success of unmanned rover missions, the United Nations established the Department of Operations and Mars Exploration (D.O.M.E.). The first settlers arrived on Mars in the year 2037 and in the decades after establishment Mars Base Camp, private exploration companies began work on the creation of a self-sustaining colony. As chief astronaut for one of these enterprises, you want to be a pioneer in the development of the biggest, most advanced colony on Mars by achieving both D.O.M.E. mission goals as well as your company’s private agenda.

In the beginning, you will be dependent on supplies from Earth and will have to travel often between the Mars Space Station and the planet's surface. As the colony expands over time, you will shift your activities to construct mines, power generators, water extractors, greenhouses, oxygen factories, and shelters. Your goal is to develop a self-sustaining colony independent of any terrestrial organization. This will require understanding the importance of water, air, power, and food — the necessities for survival.

Do you dare take part in humankind’s biggest challenge?

On Mars is played over several rounds, each consisting of two phases - the Colonization Phase ​and the Shuttle Phase​.

During the Colonization Phase, each player takes a turn during which they take actions. The available actions depend on the side of the board they are on. If you are in orbit, you can take blueprints, buy and develop technologies, and take supplies from the Warehouse. If you are on the surface of the planet, you can construct buildings with your bots, upgrade these buildings using blueprints, take scientists and new contracts, welcome new ships, and explore the planet’s surface with your rover. In the Shuttle Phase, players may travel between the colony and the Space Station in orbit.

All buildings on Mars have a dependency on each other and some are required for the colony to grow. Building shelters for Colonists to live in requires oxygen; generating oxygen requires plants; growing plants requires water; extracting water from ice requires power; generating power requires mining minerals; and mining minerals requires Colonists. Upgrading the colony’s ability to provide each of these resources is vital. As the colony grows, more shelters are needed so that the Colonists can survive the inhospitable conditions on Mars.

During the game, players are also trying to complete missions. Once a total of three missions have been completed, the game ends. To win the game, players must contribute to the development of the first colony on Mars. This is represented during the game by players gaining Opportunity Points (OP). The player with the most OP at the end of the game is declared the winner.

8.3
1-4 Players
90-150 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 4.6

Following the success of unmanned rover missions, the United Nations established the Department of Operations and Mars Exploration (D.O.M.E.). The first settlers arrived on Mars in the year 2037 and in the decades after establishment Mars Base Camp, private exploration companies began work on the creation of a self-sustaining colony. As chief astronaut for one of these enterprises, you want to be a pioneer in the development of the biggest, most advanced colony on Mars by achieving both D.O.M.E. mission goals as well as your company’s private agenda.

In the beginning, you will be dependent on supplies from Earth and will have to travel often between the Mars Space Station and the planet's surface. As the colony expands over time, you will shift your activities to construct mines, power generators, water extractors, greenhouses, oxygen factories, and shelters. Your goal is to develop a self-sustaining colony independent of any terrestrial organization. This will require understanding the importance of water, air, power, and food — the necessities for survival.

Do you dare take part in humankind’s biggest challenge?

On Mars is played over several rounds, each consisting of two phases - the Colonization Phase ​and the Shuttle Phase​.

During the Colonization Phase, each player takes a turn during which they take actions. The available actions depend on the side of the board they are on. If you are in orbit, you can take blueprints, buy and develop technologies, and take supplies from the Warehouse. If you are on the surface of the planet, you can construct buildings with your bots, upgrade these buildings using blueprints, take scientists and new contracts, welcome new ships, and explore the planet’s surface with your rover. In the Shuttle Phase, players may travel between the colony and the Space Station in orbit.

All buildings on Mars have a dependency on each other and some are required for the colony to grow. Building shelters for Colonists to live in requires oxygen; generating oxygen requires plants; growing plants requires water; extracting water from ice requires power; generating power requires mining minerals; and mining minerals requires Colonists. Upgrading the colony’s ability to provide each of these resources is vital. As the colony grows, more shelters are needed so that the Colonists can survive the inhospitable conditions on Mars.

During the game, players are also trying to complete missions. Once a total of three missions have been completed, the game ends. To win the game, players must contribute to the development of the first colony on Mars. This is represented during the game by players gaining Opportunity Points (OP). The player with the most OP at the end of the game is declared the winner.

8.3
1-4 Players
90-150 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 4.6
Not available
at the moment
#9. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0

1962 — The Cold War continues as a new threat looms on the horizon, a deadly new Soviet bioweapon, something called "Project MEDUSA". You and your fellow medical graduates have been recruited by the CIA for the critical mission of investigating and preventing its development. Travel the world using carefully constructed aliases to move swiftly between Allied, Neutral, and Soviet cities. Your missions will require you to neutralize enemy agents, acquire specific targets, and set up other CIA agents on location to execute your operations without a hitch. As you complete objectives over the course of twelve months, each success or failure will bring you closer to the truth.

Combatting this dangerous new pathogen is of utmost importance, but it's not the only threat you'll encounter in the field. Enemy agents are taking root in all parts of the world, and it's critical to your mission that you keep them contained before they can escalate international tensions. Luckily for you, you won't be without backup. Coordinate with other covert operatives for assistance and make strategic use of these teams at different locations to clean up the board and keep your eye on your main objectives.

Designed as a prequel, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 does not require you to have completed Season 1 and Season 2 before diving into this Cold War spy thriller. As in the first two Pandemic Legacy games, each time you play brings new cards, rules, and conditions that affect future games. Each alias you create will gain contacts and other assets to execute your plans more smoothly. And, of course, the CIA will be watching and evaluating your performance in the field. Work together with your fellow agents to prevent this new bio-threat — the fate of the world depends on it. Can you save humanity once again?

—description from the publisher

8.7
2-4 Players
45-60 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.0

1962 — The Cold War continues as a new threat looms on the horizon, a deadly new Soviet bioweapon, something called "Project MEDUSA". You and your fellow medical graduates have been recruited by the CIA for the critical mission of investigating and preventing its development. Travel the world using carefully constructed aliases to move swiftly between Allied, Neutral, and Soviet cities. Your missions will require you to neutralize enemy agents, acquire specific targets, and set up other CIA agents on location to execute your operations without a hitch. As you complete objectives over the course of twelve months, each success or failure will bring you closer to the truth.

Combatting this dangerous new pathogen is of utmost importance, but it's not the only threat you'll encounter in the field. Enemy agents are taking root in all parts of the world, and it's critical to your mission that you keep them contained before they can escalate international tensions. Luckily for you, you won't be without backup. Coordinate with other covert operatives for assistance and make strategic use of these teams at different locations to clean up the board and keep your eye on your main objectives.

Designed as a prequel, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 does not require you to have completed Season 1 and Season 2 before diving into this Cold War spy thriller. As in the first two Pandemic Legacy games, each time you play brings new cards, rules, and conditions that affect future games. Each alias you create will gain contacts and other assets to execute your plans more smoothly. And, of course, the CIA will be watching and evaluating your performance in the field. Work together with your fellow agents to prevent this new bio-threat — the fate of the world depends on it. Can you save humanity once again?

—description from the publisher

8.7
2-4 Players
45-60 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.0
Not available
at the moment
#8. Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun

Four millennia ago on the eastern bank of the Nile river was laid the foundation of the Temple of Amun-Ra. Over the course of two thousand years, the temple complex was gradually expanded and became widely known as "The Most Select of Places" (Ipet-Isut), boasting the largest religious building in the world. Today, the site is known as Karnak, located at Luxor in modern-day Egypt.

Join ancient Pharaohs in creating and growing one of the most impressive sites the world has seen, honoring the Egyptian gods Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. You must carefully manage the balance of your actions, preparing for the reckoning by the goddess Maat.

The game board in Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun is divided into six sections, each associated with an Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. In the center stands an impressive obelisk (Tekhenu) that casts its shadow onto different parts of the board. As a result, the area around the obelisk is divided into sunny, shaded, and dark sections, depending on how the obelisk casts its shadow at that particular moment. As the game progresses, the sun's rotation alters which sections are sunny, shaded, or dark.

The game takes place over multiple rounds. Each round, players draft dice and perform actions associated with the value of the die and the section from which the die was drafted. Dice come in five colors, and each die is considered Pure, Tainted, or Forbidden depending on the color of the die and the position of the obelisk's shadow. While you may never draft Forbidden dice, you are free to draft any other die, whether Pure or Tainted.

As you draft the dice, you must consider not only the general availability of dice — if no dice are available in a given section, then you cannot readily perform the action associated with that section — but also which value die to draft. You must also consider the purity of the dice to draft, as you must balance your Pure and Tainted actions if you want to have a more favorable position in turn order.

When you draft a die, you can perform an action depending on the section you took the die from. Each of the actions corresponds to a different Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth and Osiris. Instead of a god action, you can choose to produce, generating resources based on the color and value of the die, but beware of producing in excess of your production capacity, as this is Greed and adds Taint to your balance!

Two scoring phases occur during the game, during which players earn victory points based on the workshops, quarries, buildings, statues and pillars they have built, as well as the happiness of their people and production capacity of their resources. However, players must also keep a healthy amount of resources around to sustain their population or they suffer negative consequences.

7.9
1-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 4.1

Four millennia ago on the eastern bank of the Nile river was laid the foundation of the Temple of Amun-Ra. Over the course of two thousand years, the temple complex was gradually expanded and became widely known as "The Most Select of Places" (Ipet-Isut), boasting the largest religious building in the world. Today, the site is known as Karnak, located at Luxor in modern-day Egypt.

Join ancient Pharaohs in creating and growing one of the most impressive sites the world has seen, honoring the Egyptian gods Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. You must carefully manage the balance of your actions, preparing for the reckoning by the goddess Maat.

The game board in Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun is divided into six sections, each associated with an Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. In the center stands an impressive obelisk (Tekhenu) that casts its shadow onto different parts of the board. As a result, the area around the obelisk is divided into sunny, shaded, and dark sections, depending on how the obelisk casts its shadow at that particular moment. As the game progresses, the sun's rotation alters which sections are sunny, shaded, or dark.

The game takes place over multiple rounds. Each round, players draft dice and perform actions associated with the value of the die and the section from which the die was drafted. Dice come in five colors, and each die is considered Pure, Tainted, or Forbidden depending on the color of the die and the position of the obelisk's shadow. While you may never draft Forbidden dice, you are free to draft any other die, whether Pure or Tainted.

As you draft the dice, you must consider not only the general availability of dice — if no dice are available in a given section, then you cannot readily perform the action associated with that section — but also which value die to draft. You must also consider the purity of the dice to draft, as you must balance your Pure and Tainted actions if you want to have a more favorable position in turn order.

When you draft a die, you can perform an action depending on the section you took the die from. Each of the actions corresponds to a different Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth and Osiris. Instead of a god action, you can choose to produce, generating resources based on the color and value of the die, but beware of producing in excess of your production capacity, as this is Greed and adds Taint to your balance!

Two scoring phases occur during the game, during which players earn victory points based on the workshops, quarries, buildings, statues and pillars they have built, as well as the happiness of their people and production capacity of their resources. However, players must also keep a healthy amount of resources around to sustain their population or they suffer negative consequences.

7.9
1-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 4.1
Not available
at the moment
#7. Dune: Imperium

Dune: Imperium is a game that finds inspiration in elements and characters from the Dune legacy, both the new film from Legendary Pictures and the seminal literary series from Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson.

As a leader of one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad, raise your banner and marshal your forces and spies. War is coming, and at the center of the conflict is Arrakis – Dune, the desert planet.

Dune: Imperium uses deck-building to add a hidden-information angle to traditional worker placement.

You start with a unique leader card, as well as deck identical to those of your opponents. As you acquire cards and build your deck, your choices will define your strengths and weaknesses. Cards allow you to send your Agents to certain spaces on the game board, so how your deck evolves affects your strategy. You might become more powerful militarily, able to deploy more troops than your opponents. Or you might acquire cards that give you an edge with the four political factions represented in the game: the Emperor, the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Fremen.

Unlike many deck-building games, you don’t play your entire hand in one turn. Instead, you draw a hand of cards at the start of every round and alternate with other players, taking one Agent turn at a time (playing one card to send one of your Agents to the game board). When it’s your turn and you have no more Agents to place, you’ll take a Reveal turn, revealing the rest of your cards, which will provide Persuasion and Swords. Persuasion is used to acquire more cards, and Swords help your troops fight for the current round’s rewards as shown on the revealed Conflict card.

Defeat your rivals in combat, shrewdly navigate the political factions, and acquire precious The Spice Must Flow cards to lead your House to victory!

Some important links: The Official FAQ, the Unofficial FAQ, and an Automa (solo and 2p) Overview

8.3
1-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.0

Dune: Imperium is a game that finds inspiration in elements and characters from the Dune legacy, both the new film from Legendary Pictures and the seminal literary series from Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson.

As a leader of one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad, raise your banner and marshal your forces and spies. War is coming, and at the center of the conflict is Arrakis – Dune, the desert planet.

Dune: Imperium uses deck-building to add a hidden-information angle to traditional worker placement.

You start with a unique leader card, as well as deck identical to those of your opponents. As you acquire cards and build your deck, your choices will define your strengths and weaknesses. Cards allow you to send your Agents to certain spaces on the game board, so how your deck evolves affects your strategy. You might become more powerful militarily, able to deploy more troops than your opponents. Or you might acquire cards that give you an edge with the four political factions represented in the game: the Emperor, the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Fremen.

Unlike many deck-building games, you don’t play your entire hand in one turn. Instead, you draw a hand of cards at the start of every round and alternate with other players, taking one Agent turn at a time (playing one card to send one of your Agents to the game board). When it’s your turn and you have no more Agents to place, you’ll take a Reveal turn, revealing the rest of your cards, which will provide Persuasion and Swords. Persuasion is used to acquire more cards, and Swords help your troops fight for the current round’s rewards as shown on the revealed Conflict card.

Defeat your rivals in combat, shrewdly navigate the political factions, and acquire precious The Spice Must Flow cards to lead your House to victory!

Some important links: The Official FAQ, the Unofficial FAQ, and an Automa (solo and 2p) Overview

8.3
1-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.0
Not available
at the moment
#6. Dwellings of Eldervale

Dwellings of Eldervale is an epic worker placement game set in a once lost magical world. Giant elemental monsters roam while dragons, wizards and warriors battle for dominance over 8 elemental realms. Players control unique factions seeking to adventure, battle, grow in power and ultimately dwell Eldervale, shaping it to their vision.

Dwellings of Eldervale blends worker placement, area control, engine building and unique worker units. Players take turns placing a worker in Eldervale or regrouping and activating their tableau of adventure cards. Action spaces include realms key to power: a summoning portal, an ancient mill, the lost fortress, deep dungeons, and a crumbling mage tower and the elemental lands of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, Dark, Order and Chaos! Magic cards grant spells, quests and prophecies to players.

In the end, the players with the most elemental dominance among the multiple paths to victory will reign over Eldervale.

—description from the publisher

Link to Unofficial FAQ

8.4
1-5 Players
60-150 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.2

Dwellings of Eldervale is an epic worker placement game set in a once lost magical world. Giant elemental monsters roam while dragons, wizards and warriors battle for dominance over 8 elemental realms. Players control unique factions seeking to adventure, battle, grow in power and ultimately dwell Eldervale, shaping it to their vision.

Dwellings of Eldervale blends worker placement, area control, engine building and unique worker units. Players take turns placing a worker in Eldervale or regrouping and activating their tableau of adventure cards. Action spaces include realms key to power: a summoning portal, an ancient mill, the lost fortress, deep dungeons, and a crumbling mage tower and the elemental lands of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, Dark, Order and Chaos! Magic cards grant spells, quests and prophecies to players.

In the end, the players with the most elemental dominance among the multiple paths to victory will reign over Eldervale.

—description from the publisher

Link to Unofficial FAQ

8.4
1-5 Players
60-150 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.2
Not available
at the moment
#5. Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters is a Crossroads Game set in a world of fantastical pirate adventure. In it, players take on the role of pirates sailing together on a ship, attempting to further their own personal stories as well as a common goal.

The world of Forgotten Waters is silly and magical, with stories designed to encourage players to explore and laugh in delight as they interact with the world around them. It's a game in which every choice can leave a lasting impact on the story, and players will want turn over every rock just to see what they find.

Forgotten Waters features five scenarios and a massive location book that provides players with tons of choices wherever they go.

—description from the publisher

8.1
3-7 Players
120-240 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 2.1

Forgotten Waters is a Crossroads Game set in a world of fantastical pirate adventure. In it, players take on the role of pirates sailing together on a ship, attempting to further their own personal stories as well as a common goal.

The world of Forgotten Waters is silly and magical, with stories designed to encourage players to explore and laugh in delight as they interact with the world around them. It's a game in which every choice can leave a lasting impact on the story, and players will want turn over every rock just to see what they find.

Forgotten Waters features five scenarios and a massive location book that provides players with tons of choices wherever they go.

—description from the publisher

8.1
3-7 Players
120-240 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 2.1
Not available
at the moment
#4. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

In the co-operative trick-taking game The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, the players set out as astronauts on an uncertain space adventure. What about the rumors about the unknown planet about? The eventful journey through space extends over 50 exciting missions. But this game can only be defeated by meeting common individual tasks of each player. In order to meet the varied challenges, communication is essential in the team. But this is more difficult than expected in space.

With each mission, the game becomes more difficult. After each mission, the game can be paused and continued later. During each mission, it is not the amount of tricks, but the right tricks at the right time that count.

The team completes a mission only if every single player is successful in fulfilling their tasks.

The game comes with 50 missions, with three additional missions published in spielbox 2/2020.

8.0
2-5 Players
20 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.0
Language: 1.2

In the co-operative trick-taking game The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, the players set out as astronauts on an uncertain space adventure. What about the rumors about the unknown planet about? The eventful journey through space extends over 50 exciting missions. But this game can only be defeated by meeting common individual tasks of each player. In order to meet the varied challenges, communication is essential in the team. But this is more difficult than expected in space.

With each mission, the game becomes more difficult. After each mission, the game can be paused and continued later. During each mission, it is not the amount of tricks, but the right tricks at the right time that count.

The team completes a mission only if every single player is successful in fulfilling their tasks.

The game comes with 50 missions, with three additional missions published in spielbox 2/2020.

8.0
2-5 Players
20 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.0
Language: 1.2
Not available
at the moment
#3. Calico

Calico is a puzzly tile-laying game of quilts and cats.

In Calico, players compete to sew the coziest quilt as they collect and place patches of different colors and patterns. Each quilt has a particular pattern that must be followed, and players are also trying to create color and pattern combinations that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also able to attract the cuddliest cats!

Turns are simple. Select a single patch tile from your hand and sew it into your quilt, then draw another patch into your hand from the three available. If you are able to create a color group, you may sew a button onto your quilt. If you are able to create a pattern combination that is attractive to any of the cats, it will come over and curl up on your quilt! At the end of the game, you score points for buttons, cats, and how well you were able to complete your unique quilt pattern.

—description from the publisher

7.8
1-4 Players
30-45 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.2

Calico is a puzzly tile-laying game of quilts and cats.

In Calico, players compete to sew the coziest quilt as they collect and place patches of different colors and patterns. Each quilt has a particular pattern that must be followed, and players are also trying to create color and pattern combinations that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also able to attract the cuddliest cats!

Turns are simple. Select a single patch tile from your hand and sew it into your quilt, then draw another patch into your hand from the three available. If you are able to create a color group, you may sew a button onto your quilt. If you are able to create a pattern combination that is attractive to any of the cats, it will come over and curl up on your quilt! At the end of the game, you score points for buttons, cats, and how well you were able to complete your unique quilt pattern.

—description from the publisher

7.8
1-4 Players
30-45 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.2
Not available
at the moment
#2. Viscounts of the West Kingdom

Viscounts of the West Kingdom is set at a time when the King’s reign began to decline, circa 980 AD. Choosing peace over prosperity, our once strong King began offering our enemies gold and land to lay down their axes. But peace is a tenuous affair. As poverty spread, many people lost faith in his ability to lead and sought independence from the crown. Since finding favour in his courts, our future has also become uncertain. As viscounts, we must be wise and decisive. Loyalty is to be upheld, but gaining favour among the people must be our priority, should there be a sudden shift in power.

The aim of Viscounts of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game's end. Points are gained by constructing buildings, writing manuscripts, working in the castle and acquiring deeds for new land. Players begin with a handful of townsfolk, but should quickly seek out more suitable talents to advance their endeavours. Each turn they will be travelling around the kingdom, looking to increase their influence among the various areas of society. The game ends once the Kingdom reaches poverty or prosperity - or potentially both!

—description from the publisher

8.0
1-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 3.5

Viscounts of the West Kingdom is set at a time when the King’s reign began to decline, circa 980 AD. Choosing peace over prosperity, our once strong King began offering our enemies gold and land to lay down their axes. But peace is a tenuous affair. As poverty spread, many people lost faith in his ability to lead and sought independence from the crown. Since finding favour in his courts, our future has also become uncertain. As viscounts, we must be wise and decisive. Loyalty is to be upheld, but gaining favour among the people must be our priority, should there be a sudden shift in power.

The aim of Viscounts of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game's end. Points are gained by constructing buildings, writing manuscripts, working in the castle and acquiring deeds for new land. Players begin with a handful of townsfolk, but should quickly seek out more suitable talents to advance their endeavours. Each turn they will be travelling around the kingdom, looking to increase their influence among the various areas of society. The game ends once the Kingdom reaches poverty or prosperity - or potentially both!

—description from the publisher

8.0
1-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 3.5
Not available
at the moment
#1. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is a standalone game that takes place before the events of Gloomhaven. The game includes four new characters — Valrath Red Guard (tank, crowd control), Inox Hatchet (ranged damage), Human Voidwarden (support, mind-control), and Quatryl Demolitionist (melee damage, obstacle manipulation) — that can also be used in the original Gloomhaven game.

The game also includes 16 monster types (including seven new standard monsters and three new bosses) and a new campaign with 25 scenarios that invites the heroes to investigate a case of mysterious disappearances within the city. Is it the work of Vermlings, or is something far more sinister going on?

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is aimed at a more casual audience to get people into the gameplay more quickly. All of the hard-to-organize cardboard map tiles have been removed, and instead players will play on the scenario book itself, which features new artwork unique to each scenario. The last barrier to entry — i.e., learning the game — has also been lowered through a simplified rule set and a five-scenario tutorial that will ease new players into the experience.

8.7
1-4 Players
30-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.6

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is a standalone game that takes place before the events of Gloomhaven. The game includes four new characters — Valrath Red Guard (tank, crowd control), Inox Hatchet (ranged damage), Human Voidwarden (support, mind-control), and Quatryl Demolitionist (melee damage, obstacle manipulation) — that can also be used in the original Gloomhaven game.

The game also includes 16 monster types (including seven new standard monsters and three new bosses) and a new campaign with 25 scenarios that invites the heroes to investigate a case of mysterious disappearances within the city. Is it the work of Vermlings, or is something far more sinister going on?

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is aimed at a more casual audience to get people into the gameplay more quickly. All of the hard-to-organize cardboard map tiles have been removed, and instead players will play on the scenario book itself, which features new artwork unique to each scenario. The last barrier to entry — i.e., learning the game — has also been lowered through a simplified rule set and a five-scenario tutorial that will ease new players into the experience.

8.7
1-4 Players
30-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.6
Not available
at the moment

Ratings: People's Choice Top 20 of 2020

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#20. The Fox in the Forest Duet

In the two-player, co-operative trick-taking game The Fox in the Forest Duet, players team up, helping each other move through the forest. Collect all the gems before the end of three rounds of play, and you win!

To set up the game, place gem tokens on the designated spaces of the game board and the team tracker token in the center of the movement path. At the start of each round, shuffle the deck of thirty cards — which contains three suits, each numbered 1-10 — and deal each player a hand of eleven cards. Reveal one card as the "decree" card to determine the trump suit. For each trick, one player leads a card, and the other must follow suit, if possible. The winner of the trick moves the team tracker toward them a number of spaces equal to the number of fox footprints on the cards played. If the tracker lands on a space next to a gem, the players collect one gem. If the tracker would move off the end of the path, return the tracker to the center of the path, then add a forest token to one end of the path, reducing the number of spaces upon which you can move (with you sliding gems next to this covered space next to the new end of the path).

The odd-numbered character cards have special abilities when played, allowing the trick winner to move the tracker in the direction of their choice or to ignore the footprints on one of the played cards so that you can land on just the right spot. One character allows players to exchange one card with each other, while another allows a player to change the decree card.

At the end of a round, you add five gems to designated spaces, add a forest space to shorten the path, then receive a new hand of eleven cards from a freshly shuffled deck. Collect all 22 gem tokens, and you win. Run out of time or head off the end of the path with no forest spaces in reserve, then you can just keep running in defeat or shuffle the cards and start the game anew.

7.2
2-2 Players
30 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 1.7
#19. Beyond the Sun

Beyond the Sun is a space civilization game in which players collectively decide the technological progress of humankind at the dawn of the Spacefaring Era, while competing against each other to be the leading faction in economic development, science, and galactic influence.

The game is played over a variable number of rounds until a number of game-end achievements are collectively claimed by the players. The winner is the faction with the most victory points, which are obtained by researching technologies, improving their economy, controlling and colonizing systems, and completing various achievements and events throughout the game.

On a turn, a player moves their action pawn to an empty action space, then takes that action. They then conduct their production phase, either producing ore, growing their population, or trading one of those resources for another. Finally, they can claim up to one achievement, if possible.

As players take actions, they research new technologies that come in four levels. Each technology is one of four types (scientific, economic, military, commercial), and higher-level technologies must match one of the types of tech that lead into it. Thus, players create their own technology tree in each game, using these actions to increase their military strength, to jump to different habitable exoplanetary systems, to colonize those systems, to boost their resource production, to develop android tech that allows growth without population, and more.

8.0
2-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.1
#18. Honey Buzz

The bees have discovered economics. The queens believe that if they sell honey to the bears, badgers, and woodland creatures, they will find peace and prosperity. Spring has arrived and it's time to build the hive, find nectar, make honey, and, for the first time ever, set up shop.

Honey Buzz is a worker bee placement game where players expand a personal beehive by drafting various honeycomb tiles that grant actions that are triggered throughout the game. Each tile represents a different action. Whenever a tile is laid so that it completes a certain pattern, a ring of actions is triggered in whatever order the player chooses. A tile drafted on turn one could be triggered up to three times at any point during the game. It all depends on how the player places their beeples (bee+meeple) and builds their hive. After all, in the honey business, efficiency is queen.

As you continually expand your hive, you'll forage for nectar and pollen, make honey, sell different varieties at the bear market, host honey tastings, and attend to the queen and her court. There's only so much nectar to go around, and finding it won't be easy. Players will have to scout out the nectar field and pay attention to other players searches to try to deduce the location of the nectar they need for themselves.

7.9
1-4 Players
45-90 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.7
#17. Oceans

Three years in the making, Oceans is a stand-alone game in the award-winning Evolution series. With over 120 works of art, 40 scenarios cards, and more than 100 unique trait cards, Oceans is the most ambitious project North Star Games has ever tackled.

Theme

Oceans depicts the boundaries between the known world near the ocean’s surface, and the mysteries lurking in Earth’s deepest unexplored region. Enter a vast, underwater cosmos: a mysterious interconnected world of sharp teeth, glowing eyes, and black ink, where your survival depends on your ability to adapt to the unknown.

The foundation of the oceanic food chain are billions of one-celled organisms called phytoplankton that capture the sun's energy through photosynthesis. Every other species in the ocean is a predator, each bigger than the next, all the way up to the dreaded Apex Predator. And even bigger than Apex Predators are enormous Whales that gently swim through the ocean scooping up everything in their path. This ecosystem mimics the known world near the surface.

But there is more if you are willing to dive deeper...

Oceans also includes a deck of 100 unique power cards called The Deep that represents the unknown. These powerful cards break the seams of the reality you've come to accept, ranging from astonishing things found in the ocean, to the fantastical Kraken or Leviathan.

Gameplay

Oceans is an interactive engine builder, where players evolve their species in a continually changing ecosystem. Players must adapt their interconnected ecosystem to survive against the inevitable march of time (Aging), as well as a multitude of predators looking for food.

During the first half of the game, players use traits from a deck of Surface cards to modify their species. With only 12 Surface traits, it’s easy to wade into your first game without being overwhelmed by new cards. These traits were chosen for their rich thematic interconnections, providing synergistic card play that mimics an oceanic ecosystem. The Surface traits bring stability to the game environment.

During the second half of the game, players can use power cards from The Deep to disrupt the stability. With over 100 unique traits in The Deep, players will slowly discover game-altering traits over the course of many games. These traits were designed to evoke wonder and disbelief - to spark your imagination as you consider the fantastic synergies that are possible in Oceans.

Additionally, there are 2 randomly chosen scenario cards that activate and deactivate at various points during the game. The scenario cards impact the basic tenets of gameplay, encouraging people to vary their play style and strategy each game.

The Evolution Series

Oceans is a stand-alone game in the Evolution series, but it's a vast departure from other games in the series. The turn structure has been simplified, the game play is much more forgiving, and the web of interconnections has increased dramatically. Whereas Evolution has the feeling of a traditional back-and-forth battle game like Magic: The Gathering, Oceans has the feel of an interactive engine builder where everything is interconnected, and where your engine must continually adapt to a changing environment.

Join the Oceans Discord community for rule questions, strategy discussions, and to get involved in future playtesting.

https://discord.gg/GMaDycjKBV

7.6
2-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 2.8
#16. Fort

Fort is a 2-4 player card game about building forts and following friends.

In Fort, you're a kid! And like many kids, you want to grow your circle of friends, collect pizza and toys, and build the coolest fort.

By doing this cool stuff, you'll score victory points, and at the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins! Your cards not only let you take actions on your own turn, but also let you follow the other players' actions on their turns. Will you devote yourself to your own posse, or copy what the other kids are doing?

But be careful as your carefully constructed deck might start losing cards if you don't actually use them. After all, if you don't play with your friends, why should they hang out with you anymore?

—description from the publisher

7.3
2-4 Players
20-40 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.4
#15. Unmatched: Cobble & Fog

In battle, there are no equals.

Unmatched: Cobble & Fog features four new heroes for the Unmatched system. Invisible Man uses fog to dart around the board and strike without warning. Sherlock, with the trusty Watson by his side, schemes and calculates to ensure victory. Dracula and the sisters slowly drain you of your power. Jekyll & Hyde uses the former's cunning and the latter's brute strength to win the day.

Unmatched is a highly asymmetrical miniature fighting game for two or four players. Each hero is represented by a unique deck designed to evoke their style and legend. Tactical movement and no-luck combat resolution create a unique play experience that rewards expertise, but just when you've mastered one set, new heroes arrive to provide all new match-ups.

—description from the publisher

8.3
2-4 Players
20-40 Min
Age: 9+
Complexity: 2.0
#14. The Search for Planet X

At the edge of our solar system, a dark planet may lurk. In 2015, astronomers estimated a large distant planet could explain the unique orbits of dwarf planets and other objects. Since then, astronomers have been scanning the sky, hoping to find this planet.

In The Search for Planet X, players take on the role of astronomers who use observations and logical deductions to search for this hypothetical planet. Each game, the companion app randomly selects an arrangement of objects and a location for Planet X following predefined logic rules.

Each round, as the earth travels around the sun, players use the app to perform scans and attend conferences. As they gain information about the location of the objects, they mark that information on their deduction sheets. As players learn the locations of the various objects, they can start publishing theories, which is how players score points.

As more and more objects are found, players narrow down the possible locations for Planet X. Once a player believes they know its location and the objects on either side of it, they use the app to conduct a search. The game ends when a player successfully locates Planet X, and all players have a final chance to score some additional points.

The Search for Planet X captures the thrill of discovery, the puzzle-y nature of astronomical investigation, and the competition inherent in the scientific process. Can you be the first to find Planet X?

—description from the publisher

8.2
1-4 Players
60 Min
Age: 13+
Complexity: 2.3
#13. The Isle of Cats

The Isle of Cats is a competitive, medium-weight, card-drafting, polyomino cat-placement board game for 1-4 players (6 with expansions).

In the game, you are citizens of Squalls End on a rescue mission to The Isle of Cats and must rescue as many cats as possible before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Each cat is represented by a unique tile and belongs to a family, you must find a way to make them all fit on your boat while keeping families together. You will also need to manage resources as you:

Explore the island (by drafting cards)

Rescue cats

Find treasures

Befriend Oshax

Study ancient lessons

Each lesson you collect gives you another personal way of scoring points, and 38 unique lessons are available. Complete lessons, fill your boat, and keep cat families together to score points, and the player with the most points after five rounds wins.

Note: The Isle of Cats: Kickstarter Edition is a compilation item consisting of The Isle of Cats base game and The Isle of Cats: Kickstarter Pack, each of which are available as separate items and listed individually in the BGG database.

8.0
1-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 8+
Complexity: 2.3
#12. Mariposas

Every spring, millions of monarch butterflies leave Mexico to spread out across eastern North America. Every fall, millions fly back to Mexico. However, no single butterfly ever makes the round trip.

Mariposas is a game of movement and set collection that lets players be part of this amazing journey.

Mariposas is played in three seasons. In general, your butterflies try to head north in spring, spread out in summer, and return south in fall. The end of each season brings a scoring round, and at the end of fall, the player with the most successful family of butterflies — i.e., the most victory points — wins the game.

—description from the publisher

7.0
2-5 Players
45-75 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 2.1
#11. Lost Ruins of Arnak

On an uninhabited island in uncharted seas, explorers have found traces of a great civilization. Now you will lead an expedition to explore the island, find lost artifacts, and face fearsome guardians, all in a quest to learn the island's secrets.

Lost Ruins of Arnak combines deck-building and worker placement in a game of exploration, resource management, and discovery. In addition to traditional deck-builder effects, cards can also be used to place workers, and new worker actions become available as players explore the island. Some of these actions require resources instead of workers, so building a solid resource base will be essential. You are limited to only one action per turn, so make your choice carefully... what action will benefit you most now? And what can you afford to do later... assuming someone else doesn't take the action first!?

Decks are small, and randomness in the game is heavily mitigated by the wealth of tactical decisions offered on the game board. With a variety of worker actions, artifacts, and equipment cards, the set-up for each game will be unique, encouraging players to explore new strategies to meet the challenge.

Discover the Lost Ruins of Arnak!

—description from the publisher

8.1
1-4 Players
30-120 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 2.9
#10. On Mars

Following the success of unmanned rover missions, the United Nations established the Department of Operations and Mars Exploration (D.O.M.E.). The first settlers arrived on Mars in the year 2037 and in the decades after establishment Mars Base Camp, private exploration companies began work on the creation of a self-sustaining colony. As chief astronaut for one of these enterprises, you want to be a pioneer in the development of the biggest, most advanced colony on Mars by achieving both D.O.M.E. mission goals as well as your company’s private agenda.

In the beginning, you will be dependent on supplies from Earth and will have to travel often between the Mars Space Station and the planet's surface. As the colony expands over time, you will shift your activities to construct mines, power generators, water extractors, greenhouses, oxygen factories, and shelters. Your goal is to develop a self-sustaining colony independent of any terrestrial organization. This will require understanding the importance of water, air, power, and food — the necessities for survival.

Do you dare take part in humankind’s biggest challenge?

On Mars is played over several rounds, each consisting of two phases - the Colonization Phase ​and the Shuttle Phase​.

During the Colonization Phase, each player takes a turn during which they take actions. The available actions depend on the side of the board they are on. If you are in orbit, you can take blueprints, buy and develop technologies, and take supplies from the Warehouse. If you are on the surface of the planet, you can construct buildings with your bots, upgrade these buildings using blueprints, take scientists and new contracts, welcome new ships, and explore the planet’s surface with your rover. In the Shuttle Phase, players may travel between the colony and the Space Station in orbit.

All buildings on Mars have a dependency on each other and some are required for the colony to grow. Building shelters for Colonists to live in requires oxygen; generating oxygen requires plants; growing plants requires water; extracting water from ice requires power; generating power requires mining minerals; and mining minerals requires Colonists. Upgrading the colony’s ability to provide each of these resources is vital. As the colony grows, more shelters are needed so that the Colonists can survive the inhospitable conditions on Mars.

During the game, players are also trying to complete missions. Once a total of three missions have been completed, the game ends. To win the game, players must contribute to the development of the first colony on Mars. This is represented during the game by players gaining Opportunity Points (OP). The player with the most OP at the end of the game is declared the winner.

8.3
1-4 Players
90-150 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 4.6
#9. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0

1962 — The Cold War continues as a new threat looms on the horizon, a deadly new Soviet bioweapon, something called "Project MEDUSA". You and your fellow medical graduates have been recruited by the CIA for the critical mission of investigating and preventing its development. Travel the world using carefully constructed aliases to move swiftly between Allied, Neutral, and Soviet cities. Your missions will require you to neutralize enemy agents, acquire specific targets, and set up other CIA agents on location to execute your operations without a hitch. As you complete objectives over the course of twelve months, each success or failure will bring you closer to the truth.

Combatting this dangerous new pathogen is of utmost importance, but it's not the only threat you'll encounter in the field. Enemy agents are taking root in all parts of the world, and it's critical to your mission that you keep them contained before they can escalate international tensions. Luckily for you, you won't be without backup. Coordinate with other covert operatives for assistance and make strategic use of these teams at different locations to clean up the board and keep your eye on your main objectives.

Designed as a prequel, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 does not require you to have completed Season 1 and Season 2 before diving into this Cold War spy thriller. As in the first two Pandemic Legacy games, each time you play brings new cards, rules, and conditions that affect future games. Each alias you create will gain contacts and other assets to execute your plans more smoothly. And, of course, the CIA will be watching and evaluating your performance in the field. Work together with your fellow agents to prevent this new bio-threat — the fate of the world depends on it. Can you save humanity once again?

—description from the publisher

8.7
2-4 Players
45-60 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.0
#8. Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun

Four millennia ago on the eastern bank of the Nile river was laid the foundation of the Temple of Amun-Ra. Over the course of two thousand years, the temple complex was gradually expanded and became widely known as "The Most Select of Places" (Ipet-Isut), boasting the largest religious building in the world. Today, the site is known as Karnak, located at Luxor in modern-day Egypt.

Join ancient Pharaohs in creating and growing one of the most impressive sites the world has seen, honoring the Egyptian gods Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. You must carefully manage the balance of your actions, preparing for the reckoning by the goddess Maat.

The game board in Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun is divided into six sections, each associated with an Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. In the center stands an impressive obelisk (Tekhenu) that casts its shadow onto different parts of the board. As a result, the area around the obelisk is divided into sunny, shaded, and dark sections, depending on how the obelisk casts its shadow at that particular moment. As the game progresses, the sun's rotation alters which sections are sunny, shaded, or dark.

The game takes place over multiple rounds. Each round, players draft dice and perform actions associated with the value of the die and the section from which the die was drafted. Dice come in five colors, and each die is considered Pure, Tainted, or Forbidden depending on the color of the die and the position of the obelisk's shadow. While you may never draft Forbidden dice, you are free to draft any other die, whether Pure or Tainted.

As you draft the dice, you must consider not only the general availability of dice — if no dice are available in a given section, then you cannot readily perform the action associated with that section — but also which value die to draft. You must also consider the purity of the dice to draft, as you must balance your Pure and Tainted actions if you want to have a more favorable position in turn order.

When you draft a die, you can perform an action depending on the section you took the die from. Each of the actions corresponds to a different Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth and Osiris. Instead of a god action, you can choose to produce, generating resources based on the color and value of the die, but beware of producing in excess of your production capacity, as this is Greed and adds Taint to your balance!

Two scoring phases occur during the game, during which players earn victory points based on the workshops, quarries, buildings, statues and pillars they have built, as well as the happiness of their people and production capacity of their resources. However, players must also keep a healthy amount of resources around to sustain their population or they suffer negative consequences.

7.9
1-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 4.1
#7. Dune: Imperium

Dune: Imperium is a game that finds inspiration in elements and characters from the Dune legacy, both the new film from Legendary Pictures and the seminal literary series from Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson.

As a leader of one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad, raise your banner and marshal your forces and spies. War is coming, and at the center of the conflict is Arrakis – Dune, the desert planet.

Dune: Imperium uses deck-building to add a hidden-information angle to traditional worker placement.

You start with a unique leader card, as well as deck identical to those of your opponents. As you acquire cards and build your deck, your choices will define your strengths and weaknesses. Cards allow you to send your Agents to certain spaces on the game board, so how your deck evolves affects your strategy. You might become more powerful militarily, able to deploy more troops than your opponents. Or you might acquire cards that give you an edge with the four political factions represented in the game: the Emperor, the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Fremen.

Unlike many deck-building games, you don’t play your entire hand in one turn. Instead, you draw a hand of cards at the start of every round and alternate with other players, taking one Agent turn at a time (playing one card to send one of your Agents to the game board). When it’s your turn and you have no more Agents to place, you’ll take a Reveal turn, revealing the rest of your cards, which will provide Persuasion and Swords. Persuasion is used to acquire more cards, and Swords help your troops fight for the current round’s rewards as shown on the revealed Conflict card.

Defeat your rivals in combat, shrewdly navigate the political factions, and acquire precious The Spice Must Flow cards to lead your House to victory!

Some important links: The Official FAQ, the Unofficial FAQ, and an Automa (solo and 2p) Overview

8.3
1-4 Players
60-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.0
#6. Dwellings of Eldervale

Dwellings of Eldervale is an epic worker placement game set in a once lost magical world. Giant elemental monsters roam while dragons, wizards and warriors battle for dominance over 8 elemental realms. Players control unique factions seeking to adventure, battle, grow in power and ultimately dwell Eldervale, shaping it to their vision.

Dwellings of Eldervale blends worker placement, area control, engine building and unique worker units. Players take turns placing a worker in Eldervale or regrouping and activating their tableau of adventure cards. Action spaces include realms key to power: a summoning portal, an ancient mill, the lost fortress, deep dungeons, and a crumbling mage tower and the elemental lands of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, Dark, Order and Chaos! Magic cards grant spells, quests and prophecies to players.

In the end, the players with the most elemental dominance among the multiple paths to victory will reign over Eldervale.

—description from the publisher

Link to Unofficial FAQ

8.4
1-5 Players
60-150 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.2
#5. Forgotten Waters

Forgotten Waters is a Crossroads Game set in a world of fantastical pirate adventure. In it, players take on the role of pirates sailing together on a ship, attempting to further their own personal stories as well as a common goal.

The world of Forgotten Waters is silly and magical, with stories designed to encourage players to explore and laugh in delight as they interact with the world around them. It's a game in which every choice can leave a lasting impact on the story, and players will want turn over every rock just to see what they find.

Forgotten Waters features five scenarios and a massive location book that provides players with tons of choices wherever they go.

—description from the publisher

8.1
3-7 Players
120-240 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 2.1
#4. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

In the co-operative trick-taking game The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, the players set out as astronauts on an uncertain space adventure. What about the rumors about the unknown planet about? The eventful journey through space extends over 50 exciting missions. But this game can only be defeated by meeting common individual tasks of each player. In order to meet the varied challenges, communication is essential in the team. But this is more difficult than expected in space.

With each mission, the game becomes more difficult. After each mission, the game can be paused and continued later. During each mission, it is not the amount of tricks, but the right tricks at the right time that count.

The team completes a mission only if every single player is successful in fulfilling their tasks.

The game comes with 50 missions, with three additional missions published in spielbox 2/2020.

8.0
2-5 Players
20 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.0
Language: 1.2
#3. Calico

Calico is a puzzly tile-laying game of quilts and cats.

In Calico, players compete to sew the coziest quilt as they collect and place patches of different colors and patterns. Each quilt has a particular pattern that must be followed, and players are also trying to create color and pattern combinations that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also able to attract the cuddliest cats!

Turns are simple. Select a single patch tile from your hand and sew it into your quilt, then draw another patch into your hand from the three available. If you are able to create a color group, you may sew a button onto your quilt. If you are able to create a pattern combination that is attractive to any of the cats, it will come over and curl up on your quilt! At the end of the game, you score points for buttons, cats, and how well you were able to complete your unique quilt pattern.

—description from the publisher

7.8
1-4 Players
30-45 Min
Age: 10+
Complexity: 2.2
#2. Viscounts of the West Kingdom

Viscounts of the West Kingdom is set at a time when the King’s reign began to decline, circa 980 AD. Choosing peace over prosperity, our once strong King began offering our enemies gold and land to lay down their axes. But peace is a tenuous affair. As poverty spread, many people lost faith in his ability to lead and sought independence from the crown. Since finding favour in his courts, our future has also become uncertain. As viscounts, we must be wise and decisive. Loyalty is to be upheld, but gaining favour among the people must be our priority, should there be a sudden shift in power.

The aim of Viscounts of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game's end. Points are gained by constructing buildings, writing manuscripts, working in the castle and acquiring deeds for new land. Players begin with a handful of townsfolk, but should quickly seek out more suitable talents to advance their endeavours. Each turn they will be travelling around the kingdom, looking to increase their influence among the various areas of society. The game ends once the Kingdom reaches poverty or prosperity - or potentially both!

—description from the publisher

8.0
1-4 Players
60-90 Min
Age: 12+
Complexity: 3.5
#1. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is a standalone game that takes place before the events of Gloomhaven. The game includes four new characters — Valrath Red Guard (tank, crowd control), Inox Hatchet (ranged damage), Human Voidwarden (support, mind-control), and Quatryl Demolitionist (melee damage, obstacle manipulation) — that can also be used in the original Gloomhaven game.

The game also includes 16 monster types (including seven new standard monsters and three new bosses) and a new campaign with 25 scenarios that invites the heroes to investigate a case of mysterious disappearances within the city. Is it the work of Vermlings, or is something far more sinister going on?

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is aimed at a more casual audience to get people into the gameplay more quickly. All of the hard-to-organize cardboard map tiles have been removed, and instead players will play on the scenario book itself, which features new artwork unique to each scenario. The last barrier to entry — i.e., learning the game — has also been lowered through a simplified rule set and a five-scenario tutorial that will ease new players into the experience.

8.7
1-4 Players
30-120 Min
Age: 14+
Complexity: 3.6