Board Games 2021 Review

As we begin to shape our blog, we thought it might be fun to share some of our hobbies with you while looking back on our 2021.  Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll discuss the joys our many interests have brought us.

Today, we’ll dive into the wonderful world of board games.  While both of us have a long history with tabletop and board game adventures, we’ve created a bit of a feedback loop that only encourages us to delve deeper and deeper into our shared passion.  Chaos may have had a head start over Confetti into the wider world of boardgames, but she quickly caught up.

Now we’re a couple with an ever expanding game library that probably should be culled, but never will be.  Our game room is a mess.  After discovering legacy games at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020, we lost control and have since completed all the Pandemic Legacy games, conquered Gloomhaven and its sequels/spin-offs, and are quickly checking off many other legacy and campaign games.  We’ve been to PAX Unplugged and look forward to returning one day and hopefully attending other gaming conventions once our new baby isn’t quite so new.  For better or worse, 2021 also marked the start of us logging our gaming sessions.  

If you’re interested: here’s are our stats as of Dec. 11th, 2021:

You’ll notice a drop off during the second half of the year, but that’s what pregnancy and a baby will do to you.

Now we’ll both take a moment to share our top three games of the year and our thoughts.  We agreed not to discuss our picks or reasonings beforehand in order not to influence each other.  As you can see below though, there was some overlap in our thinking.

Confetti #3: The Initiative

This game was given to me by one of my closest friends, who also happens to be a board game aficionado. She knows how much I love puzzles and figured that a campaign board game centered around them was bound to be a win; she was 100% right.

We played through the Initiative campaign as a foursome. Chaos and I then completed all of the post-campaign puzzles… and beyond. The Initiative provides a variety of challenges, which vary in difficulty while maintaining a solid game system underneath. Is it anywhere near the most difficult puzzle game we’ve ever played? No. In fact, I described it as very family friendly on a puzzle facebook page recently. However, the campaign was full of fun surprises and the post-campaign stuff was enjoyable to work through. I’d definitely play a sequel if one came out!

Chaos Thoughts: The Initiative would have been in my top 5 for 2021.  I enjoy fun puzzles and the narrative kept the forward momentum strong.  Would definitely recommend.

Chaos #3: Marvel United

Board games and comics are both areas where I probably spend too much money.  Smash them together and my wallet cries even more.  Fully Kickstarting Marvel United and its sequel Marvel United X-Men may not have been the best investment financially, but it has been paying off in fun.  

One of my favorite aspects of games is variability and with the dozens of heroes and villains, Marvel United offers plenty of variety to keep the game fresh.  The villains change the feel of the game the most.  Stopping Kingpin’s master plan is different than trying to stand up to Rhino’s charge which is different from attempting to outlast Dormammu.  The game even offers challenges such as a mini-campaign building up to Thanos or the ability to take on the entire Sinister Six at once.

Marvel United reminds me a lot of Pandemic.  It’s a fun, light co-op game, but if you don’t play wisely and make the most of your turns, you’re not going to win.  The challenge level is great and the game even offers ways to turn the difficulty up and down.  And again, I get to play as a huge collection of Marvel characters, so what’s not to love?

Also, the plethora of fantastic minis have given me even more bang for my buck as I’ve started painting them.  (Hush!  Don’t mention I’ve had to spend even more on paints, primers, and brushes). 

Confetti Thoughts: Marvel United feels deceptively simple until you suddenly die. This happens a lot especially with four players, when a bad turn or two can make a huge difference. This makes quarterbacking tempting, but try to resist the urge. The painted minis make it a lot more fun. I hope Chaos eventually gets around to painting them all.

Surprise! We both picked it!

Confetti #2: Quacks of Quedlinburg

If I could only play one board game for the rest of my life, it would probably be Quacks of Quedlinburg. I love pretty much everything about it. I also got the upgraded Board Game Geek pieces last Christmas, which has increased my enjoyment by 1,000,000%. If you have never played with the upgraded pieces, you’re missing out. I make no money from this statement – the upgraded pieces are just that good.

Quacks itself is so enjoyable to play. It’s light enough that we can teach it to anyone, but the strategy is interesting enough that our friends who enjoy heavier games are still willing to play it. I always laugh when everyone around the table is calculating the statistics of their bag trying to decide whether to keep pulling ingredients to put in their pot (it’s even better when their pots then explode anyways). The variety of potion books makes each game feel different and I enjoy trying out all the different combinations… even if everyone else always yearns for the blue scrying book.

We haven’t bought the Alchemists expansion yet, but I’m hoping it’s under the Christmas tree.

Chaos Thoughts: Read my section on Quacks.  ‘Nuff Said.

Chaos #2: Quacks of Quedlinburg 

Sadly, this game contains no ducks.  What it does have though is easy to pick up rules and an addictive push your luck mechanic.  Build the best bag of ingredients and don’t blow your pot up! 

Over the last year or two, we’ve introduced this game to friends and family and have converted almost all of them into Quacks lovers.  We’re not even surprised any more when they tell us that they bought a copy for themselves after playing with us.  Some of them even bought the upgraded tokens to make their game a little nicer (they’re worth it).

Quacks also provides for my love of variety by including numerous spell books to switch up what the different ingredients do.  Quacks is fun no matter what your gaming level and its rat tails (catch-up mechanic) helps everyone feel like they still have a chance of claiming the final win.  Quacks perfectly balances skill vs. luck, and is a great addition to any game night.

Confetti Thoughts: Haha, we put Quacks in the same spot and wrote almost the same things. Great minds!

Confetti #1: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

I originally bought The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine for Chaos based on all the awesome reviews I was seeing on board game reddit. We played through all of the missions together with our trusty helper J.A.R.V.I.S during the height of COVID19 in 2020. We loved it so much that we immediately bought another copy and gave it as a birthday gift. We’ve since played all of the missions again as a group of four. I’d play it again if I could find another group of people to play it with me. 

I was anxious for Mission Deep Sea to get released in the US… and then I watched forlornly as Amazon delayed and eventually cancelled our order. We finally got a copy in the mail shortly after our son was born. Chaos and I played through the campaign in our bleary, sleep exhausted state when our son had his days & nights switched. While I’m sure our campaign score suffered, I look back fondly on the experience. It was nice to have something familiar and beloved to play during a time of such extreme change. 

We recently started playing through the campaign again in a four-player group.  Some of the mechanics were changed for Deep Sea, especially with the task assignments. Overall, I’m pretty neutral on the changes. I loved the original and I loved Deep Sea. I do think the changes in Deep Sea makes it difficult to compare campaign scores across multiple playthroughs – every campaign feels unique in a way that Planet Nine just doesn’t. 

I don’t think KOSMOS has announced another game in the series yet, but I’ll buy it as soon as they do. 

Chaos Thoughts:  Whether it’s the vast reaches of space or the depths of the sea, the cooperative trick-taking of the Crew is fun.  I enjoyed the new mission set up but it did create quite the swing in difficulty.  Sometimes a couple higher level challenges proved easier than a horde of low level tasks.  Here the narrative really just gave an excuse to play a solid game.

Chaos #1: Marvel Legendary: A Deck Building Game

Honestly, I’m pretty biased towards this game and it would probably rank as one of my top games every year since I first started playing it back in on New Year’s Eve 2012.  If you can’t tell from our stat breakdown, I’m a big Marvel fan and so the game’s theming already goes a long way to win me over.  However, what has kept me coming back for years and play after play is the variety and challenge the game provides.  (There’s the v-word again)

Yes, I’ve poured more money into this game system than I care to think about but it’s been worth it.  The hundreds of characters and villains make the possible scenarios feel endless and that’s before factoring in the scheme twists which change the end win and loss conditions, and other mechanics.  I love playing Legendary, but it’s just as fun for me to try to set up a unique scenario or to recreate a storyline from the comics or current tv shows/movies.  My setups may be a little unbalanced or broken at times, but that just adds to the challenge, which is great because Legendary never feels like I’m throwing myself against a wall constantly, but each win still feels special and earned.

As much as I love the MCU movies, Legendary tends to stick closer to the comics, which as a comic reader and fan, it’s nice to have them represented amongst the flood of MCU related products out there.  

Don’t be surprised if Marvel Legendary remains one of our top played games in 2022… and 2023,2024, and beyond.    

Confetti Thoughts: Overall, I am a Legendary fan and Chaos is always happy to set up a scenario which makes it easy to pick up a game on busy nights. When I can get a good system going with my cards, it’s magic (such as a few nights ago when I got an awesome bystander point accrual system working). If I had to pick only one Marvel game though, I personally prefer Champions.

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