As the Table Turns: The 11 Most Anticipated Board Games of 2020
There are so many board games slated to come out in 2020, it's almost overwhelming. Here are a few great games to make sure you keep on your radar.
I know, I know. We’re well into 2020 already. Why is this list just coming now? Well, dear reader, there is a perfectly valid reason outside of “life got busy.” You see, even with the increasing importance of Kickstarter in the board gaming hobby, most of the big boys are still coming out later in the year. A lot of this has to do with most of the major gaming conventions happening in the back half of the year, but there’s also the logistical hurdle that comes with the Chinese New Year. Many of the factories that board games are made in shut down during that time, which makes it slightly easier to get a game on the boat for shipping later in the year. And, with how devastating the coronavirus has been across the world, those delays could hit even harder this year.
So, sure, I’ve been incredibly busy in the first few months of 2020. However, most of these board games weren’t going to be coming out soon anyway. So, below are a few of the board games I have my eye on for 2020. Obviously, I only have a small sample of the many board games releasing this year. If your personal favorite doesn’t make the list, you have my deepest apologies. Also, keep in mind that, to some degree, these games making the 2020 window is still a bit up-in-the-air due to the ongoing global pandemic.
That said, here are some great games to keep on your radar later this year.
Listen, I’m a sucker for worker-placement games. There’s something about that particular mechanic that will always draw me in. I think it has a lot to do with the countless different strategies that can develop within your group after you play a game ten or more times. What wasn’t apparent on your first play can quickly become your opening move. But then your opponent notices you’ve been doing that the last few games and starts to block you, forcing you to develop new strategies. It’s remarkably fun and a mechanic everyone needs in their game library.
Enter Alma Mater. Sure, its art isn’t the greatest and the board does look a little intimidating at first. However, the theme of running your own university is something that almost anyone can get into. My grandma has no interest in slaying orcs or fighting zombies. But you best be assured that she would love hiring a top-quality faculty to help her produce the finest students in the land. For me, Alma Mater is a game to watch because its unique theme makes it stand out in the crowded marketplace. It also doesn’t hurt that publisher Eggertspiele has been knocking it out of the park lately.
Ankh is the next game from the star-studded partnership between designer Eric Lang and publisher CMON Limited. The game has yet to come to Kickstarter, but when it does, expect it to be a massive success. Of course, because it hasn’t come to Kickstarter, it’s very likely it will miss the 2020 release window. That said, when Eric Lang and CMON get together, you have to pay attention. Their previous work on Blood Rage and Rising Sun resulted in some of the best-received games in the industry. It’s hard to see Ankh being much different.
Of course, with the game still in its early stages, we don’t know much about it just yet. However, given the previous games, it seems safe to assume that they will have world-class miniatures and fun, non-random combat. Personally, I’ll probably just stick with Blood Rage, but I’ll still be keeping an eye on Ankh when it hits Kickstarter later this year.
The original Burgle Bros. features players trying to move through a three-story building, cracking safes along the way. It was a great family co-op game when it launched in 2015, and the sequel looks even better. In Burgle Bros. 2, your team of thieves is now trying to “take down a string of casinos.” Each player starts the game as their unique character, which means you’ll all have your own sets of gear that you can use to turn the tables in your favor. And, as it’s all the rage these days, the sequel contains sealed content that you access as you successfully complete missions.
If I’m honest, one of the biggest reasons I’m excited about Burgle Bros. 2 is the art and components. I mean, you should just go look at their Kickstarter page. If you spend 10 minutes over there just drooling at that box, I’ll completely understand. The team at Fowers Games worked with Gametrayz to make those beauties and they’ve really outdone themselves. Hopefully, the gameplay is just as nice.
If you want to talk about board games that have stood the test of time, it’s hard to find a better candidate than Cosmic Encounter. The game first launched in 1977 and, unlike most of its contemporaries, it’s still well-regarded to this day. And now, it’s jumping in on the ongoing two-player craze to deliver a Duel version of the timeless classic.
Cosmic Encounter Duel is a bit of an odd one. After all, one of the best parts about Cosmic Encounter is the deception involved in negotiating with your fellow players. You’re constantly trying to convince someone to help you fight off another player, and that particular brand of gamesmanship doesn’t seem like it would translate well to a two-player game. That said, the design team includes Frank Brooks, the brain behind Fury of Dracula Third Edition. I’ll follow that guy anywhere.
Similarly to Burgle Bros. 2, a relatively large portion of my excitement for Gatefall comes down to the art. I mean, look at that puppy! Penny is the most adorable little post-apocalyptic fighter the world has ever seen. The actual game looks like a miniature driven wargame, which is a genre I usually nope out of real quick. However, the designers are also implementing some light deck-building into the battles. Deck-building you say? Well, now you have my attention.
I probably won’t be picking up Gatefall myself. It’s just not the type of game my game group likes to play. So, while I’ll only be admiring the excellent artwork and miniature design from afar, you should think about picking it up if you have a group that’s into wargames. After all, how can you resist those cute puppy dog eyes that surely rest behind Penny’s awesome goggles?
I’m not obsessed with Gloomhaven! You’re obsessed with Gloomhaven! Okay, maybe I play a little too much Gloomhaven these days. Maybe it’s been set up on my kitchen table for the last few months just on the off chance that someone will come by and want to play a game with me. Maybe I’m counting down the days to Frosthaven’s (the upcoming sequel) Kickstarter release like it’s my job.
The thing is, if there’s any game deserving of my single-minded obsession, it’s Gloomhaven. It is the best experience you can get today in board gaming. The only issue is that it’s an absolute bear to set up and get started. Fortunately, the team at Cephalofair is bringing Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion to a Target near you. This streamlined version of the game will serve as an excellent way for casual players to experience Gloomhaven’s world-class game design. If you’re scared off by the 22-pound box that is the original, please, do yourself a favor and pick up Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion when it launches later this year.
Give IDW a classic IP and watch them turn it into a great board game. They’ve more than proven their aptitude with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and their upcoming Batman the Animated Series adaptation looks equally great. However, the one I’m most excited for is Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game.
The game is a fully cooperative take on the first Metal Gear Solid video game. You play as either Solid Snake, Meryl, Otacon, or Gray Fox in the various campaign scenarios. Each character comes with their own special set of skills to tackle what the team calls “a highly dynamic A.I. system”. They’re also touting “sandbox gameplay” that lets you tackle each mission in several different ways. IDW really impressed me with the system they put together for their TMNT game. If they can similarly capture the feel of MGS, this could be a major hit for the publisher.
Legacy games are all the rage these days, and, while we’re about to talk about the granddaddy of them all, Oathsworn is one of the new kids on the block hoping to add something new to the market. The game decimated Kickstarter last year, raising nearly two million dollars over the course of its campaign. Honestly, it makes sense. After all, if you backed it at the middle tier, you’re getting over 102 miniatures in your gigantic box. Seriously, I hesitate to say Oathsworn puts Gloomhaven to shame in terms of the sheer amount of content, but it’s close. Hopefully, the gameplay stands up just as well.
Oathsworn mixes push your luck, dice-based combat with massive boss battles. You’ll also have to manage various cooldowns during fights, making each encounter sound involved and complex. Personally, Gloomhaven has killed dice-based combat for me, but everything else here looks absolutely exquisite. I’m not sure if it will topple Cephalofair’s baby off my table; however, Oathsworn certainly looks poised to try.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 3
Here’s the big one, folks. Before Gloomhaven came a-knockin’, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 held the top spot aboard the Board Game Geek charts. And it deserved those high marks considering how completely the game turned the board gaming world upside down. Sure, Rob Daviau had success turning Risk into a legacy game; however, it wasn’t until he partnered with Matt Leacock that he truly took things to the next level.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 was a revelation when it hit the table. The game is still one of the best examples of the depth and story-telling that’s possible within the legacy framework. The third season has been heavily teased at various game conventions over the last few months and a Gen Con release seems like it might be in the cards. That said, we don’t really know much about the game just yet. Of course, I kind of like it better that way considering how much discovery plays a role in the first two games, being the masterclasses they are. Hopefully, we get a release date in the coming months.
Ryan Laukat is another designer that I will follow pretty much anywhere. Both Near and Far and Above and Below were instant hits with my game group. It’s hard to imagine a world where Sleeping Gods isn’t equally beloved. The game is a cooperative exploration game with a strong focus on its multi-game spanning campaign. To some degree, I’m starting to feel a bit of campaign fatigue these days; however, Sleeping Gods has one thing most other games don’t: Ryan Laukat’s art.
Seriously, even if I hated his design, I would consider buying Laukat’s games just to display it on my table. For my money, he has the best art in the business and the fact that he does both the game design and the art by himself is bonkers to me. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you don’t want a heaping helping of Laukat-flavored tea, I don’t know if we can be friends. Well, that got weird. Moving on.
Yet another million-dollar Kickstarter project for superstar publisher CMON Limited. At this point, the company’s mastering of the Kickstarter pitch has become a bit of a joke. Not in the way that we’re all laughing at them, but in the way that they’re consistently laughing their way to the bank with comically large bags of money. Trudvang Legends basically ticks all the boxes you need for a wildly successful Kickstarter in 2019/20. Gigantic, gorgeous miniatures? Check. Elements of a legacy game? Check. Countless Stretch Goals to unlock? Super Check.
For me, the most intriguing part of Trudvang is that the game board physically changes as you play. However, unlike stickers in games like Pandemic Legacy, these changes aren’t permanent. You can go back and replay the game several times over, as things change on each playthrough. If it sounds ambitious, it’s because it is. If you’re looking for an epic board game to spend your winter playing, Trudvang Legends might just be for you. Look at that. I didn’t even mention Gloomhaven in this entry!
There you have it. Eleven great-looking board games to put on your radar for 2020. Of course, this is far from the only games worth a look. If you’re interested in diving even deeper, I’d suggest checking out the list that the Board Game Geek forum has put together. It has tons of other board games you might be interested in. Also, keep in mind that many board games are announced and released around conventions. While some of those are still up in the air due to COVID-19, it’s safe to expect that some of the biggest board games of 2020 haven’t been announced yet. Make sure to stick with DualShockers for all your board game news.