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  • Writer's pictureAndy

My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of 2021

Updated: May 20, 2021

2020 may have been a difficult year for all of us, though for me, 2020 was an exceptional year for gaming. I received my first Kickstarter games like Folklore and Etherfields, which have been very enjoyable so far, and have definitely shown that I have an affinity for campaign games. With 2020 being such a great gaming year, I have very high hopes for 2021. That being said, here are the five games that I am most looking forward to in 2021:

Number Five

Any Gloomhaven fans out there? Who am I kidding, that includes the vast majority of us board gamers. Here is a better question—did you finish all of Gloomhaven? The Expansion too? Did you play Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion? If you are like me, then the answer is, no, not yet, but we are working on it. If you are fans of both Gloomhaven and Jaws of the Lion, then I have good news for you. There are aspects of both of these games in Frosthaven (designed by Isaac Childres and published by Cephalofair Games). Jaws of the Lion introduced scenario books and Frosthaven has adopted this feature. Scenario books make getting this game to the table easier; no more hunting down map tiles in between games. Everything is much more fluid. The classes in Frosthaven are more unique and complex than in Gloomhaven. This will create a completely different experience when compared to other dungeon crawlers. The loot system has also been updated. Rather than collecting goods whenever you loot, you could possibly gain resources to craft with, or ingredients to brew potions. You will not be just donating to Frosthaven simply to gain prosperity, but to protect it and prepare it for winter, when the game gets substantially more difficult. There is definitely more emphasis on the actual city than in Gloomhaven. During the game, buildings within Frosthaven can become damaged and will need to be repaired, and retiring heroes can permanently improve the city.

Was Gloomhaven too short for you with its 96 scenarios? How does 150 scenarios sound? The writing is more immersive, the events more meaningful with less obvious decisions, and a different situation depending on the current season. It looks as though they have taken an absolutely epic game and added a whole new level of depth for players to enjoy and really get into the story of the character they are playing. Unfortunately, this game has been delayed, but Kickstarters are expected later this year, with the retail version expected early next year. This gives our group a little more time to finish Gloomhaven before our next deep dive into Frosthaven.

Number Four

If you are fan of Mystic Vale, Edge of Darkness, and of course pirates, then it is highly likely that you will like Dead Reckoning; a game designed by John D. Clair and published by AEG. Dead Reckoning is a card building game, with area movement, and area majority/influence aspects to it (not to mention a cool cube tower in the form of a ship used for combat). You will be performing actions on your turn with the ultimate goal of gaining coins. Whoever has the most combined coins on their ship, in their treasure chest and from achievements at the end of the game, wins! On your turn you can take various actions like playing cards from your hand, using actions from your played cards, loading/unloading your ship with cargo and coins to/from your warehouse or one of your islands, setting sail, Moving your ship, gaining advancements (card upgrades), gaining control of islands, constructing a building, exploring the sea, trading with or attacking merchant ships, attacking other players’ ships or controlled islands, and claiming achievements.

First of all, I love pirate themed games, especially when the game play along with the components all fit the theme. As in Mystic Vale, you have a set number of cards in your hand. These cards aren’t just cards, they are your crew! Also, just as in Mystic Vale, you will be upgrading your cards with advancements that will sleeve in with your current card, increasing the actions available for you during future turns. However, unlike Mystic Vale, your crew also have levels. At the end of each of your turns you get to level-up a card in your discard pile or on the bottom of your deck. This level increase improves the base ability of that crew member. This adds such a nice touch to the theme and gives the feel that each of your crew is an individual character that you get to develop.

Now, I am not big on area control games, but this seems to implement the area control in an interesting way. First, with influence. Once a player has control, they can build buildings to improve both its gold production and its defensive capabilities. The most unique of the great thematic components is the dice tower…or rather, a cube tower. The tower is shaped like a ship and the cubes come out of the side, simulating cannonballs being shot from your broadside cannons. During combat you toss yours and your opponents colored cubes and resolve the space that each cube lands on. The side that gets the most crowns wins the battle.

This Kickstarted last year, and I am hoping that the expected delivery date does not change too much. If this sounds like a game you’d enjoy, and didn’t get a chance to join the Kickstarter, it should be available early next year.

Number Three

The Evil Dread Warlock Zargon has come. He has gathered his forces and now threatens everything that is good. This is the exciting remake of the original Hero Quest board game. It is up to four heroes to rise up and defeat Zargon and his minions before the world falls and is covered in evil and darkness. Hero Quest is an adventure board game for up to five players, four taking on the role of hero, and one as the Evil Zargon.

First of all, I love the original Hero Quest, and as well as a facelift, Hasbro has definitely improved the game. There are three new characters to play, the Druid, Warlock, and Bard are unlocked as stretch goals. Hasbro has also made female versions of the original four characters. Some of the monsters and names of monsters have changed due to licensing issues (such as Chaos Warriors being replaced with Dread Warriors), but these are very minor changes. The original two expansions (Return of the which Lord, and Kellar’s Keep) will be available plus, as some of the stretch goals, three new quest books will be added. All of the miniatures have been remodeled and all of the terrain has been upgraded from the original release.

Those of you who have listened to the Meeple Nation podcast or read my bio know that this game is one that is close to my heart. This is the first non-conventional board game that I played, and was the hook that got me into board gaming. I love the improvements that have been made, and the added content looks amazing. I can’t wait to play as Zargon and take my group through some exciting adventures.

Number Two

Descent: Legends of the Dark is a fantasy dungeon crawler game for one to four players. You will start as a new hero just beginning your journey to become a legend. As in the previous editions of Descent each hero has their own play styles and abilities. Where Legends of the Dark differs from its predecessors is the fact that the game is designed around the app. I played second edition primarily with the app, and I am very excited that not only is the app still a part of the game but is now the way the game is played. It appears that there will not be an option to have a character to play as the overlord (time will tell), so if this is a feature that you enjoyed in Journeys in the Dark first and second editions, you may be disappointed; though I’d highly recommend the app. Game play has also been completely overhauled. The number of actions have moved from two per round to three per round. A new action type, the Ready action, flips your hero or equipment cards to unlock new abilities. Those of you who are fans of 3-D terrain in your dungeon crawler games, I have great news! Descent Legends of the Dark comes with 46 pieces of 3-D terrain, along with 40 beautifully sculped hero and monster miniatures. Overall, the changes look great and I am greatly anticipating getting this game to the table; though I am a little less excited about the $$ I will likely spend on this game over the next several years.

Number One

Okay, I am sure everyone is ready for this game to come out just so I will stop talking about it on Meeple Nation. Merchant’s Cove is a heavy asymmetric Euro-style game for one to four players, designed by Jonny Pac, Carl Van Ostrand, and Drake Villareal, and published by Final Frontier Games. Each player is a merchant who produces and sells unique types of goods and is competing to sell their goods to customers who come into port on six different ships and to gain the sponsorships for the different faction halls. Customers range from bards, warriors, wizards, nobles, and rouges (which will give you corruption (negative VP at the end of the game). When a boat is filled, it is assigned to a dock. There are three different docks in the game, Bazar Pier; Plaza Pier (2 boats); and the Black Market Pier. Any customers left on unfilled boats are moved to their faction halls, on the main board, based on their class; Warrior’s Lodge, Wizard’s College, Bardic Academy, Ivory Tower, or Lair of Shadows. Each player will play as one of the various available merchants; the Blacksmith, the Chronomancer, the Alchemist, or the Captain with the base game, or as the Oracle, the Inn Keeper, or the Dragon Rancher with the expansions. Each player’s board is unique and has an asymmetric mini game that will add a high replay ability factor to the game (which, of course, is the most exciting part of the game). Players take actions on their individual player boards in order to produce large and small goods of varying colors. Each action uses up time on the time track located on the main board, and the player farthest back on the time track will indicate the current active player (much like Glen Moore and Nova Luna). You sell goods to customers of the matching color, so you must pay attention to which customers are being placed on the ships. Each player will have their own small individual rulebook to explain the unique rules for their merchant.

The blacksmith uses dice to build weapons and armor; the alchemist uses marbles as ingredients to create potions (definitely a Potion Explosion feel to it); the Cronomancer moves around their board along with their assistant, time traveling to find relics and artifacts to sell at the market; the captain spins the arrow on their compass and follows it in search of fish and treasure. To avoid making this blog far longer than it already is, I will not go into the merchant’s mini game boards for the expansion, but I recommend checking this game out for more info. Merchant’s Cove looks to be one of the most unique games I’ve seen. I love the asymmetric aspect of it. The artwork is beautiful. The game mechanics for turn order, which may allow the same player to take multiple turns in a row, can create some challenging decisions on which actions to perform and when to do them. The amount of work that went into planning the game mechanics to balance all of the merchants, I am sure, was pain staking and I truly hope that the folks at Final Frontier Games have successfully pulled it off. This is one that I know will be played many times at my game table simply for the chance to get a taste of the different gameplay styles for each of the merchants, to possibly to master a few of them, and hopefully because it will be an incredibly enjoyable playing experience.

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Douglas Stewart
Douglas Stewart
Apr 19, 2021

Nice list Andy. Frosthaven and Descent are on my list as well.

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