The best board games to give away in 2021: Gloomhaven, Arkham Horror, Dune and more


With so much social activity reduced over the past 18 months, classic tabletop games have seen a huge revival, even with the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and the new Nintendo Switch OLED display competing for the attention of consumers. players.

The industry has experienced a creative renaissance in recent years, with increasingly sophisticated table games capturing a surprisingly mainstream audience. Not surprisingly, the themes of the most popular board games often focus on zombie attacks, sci-fi battles, Dungeons & Dragons Style Lovecraftian supernatural fantasies and hijinks. Some popular board games, such as The Lord of the Rings: Voyages to Middle-earth, combine map tiles, miniature figures, and a sophisticated iPad app that handles some of the map and battle management for you.

Personally, I love games that have a connection with video games, either a table adaptation of a video game, or a video game version of a tabletop – and both have become increasingly common. I’m also a fan of 3D printing my own props to enhance games, from token holders to upgraded monster miniatures. If you want to get into this whole universe, start here.

Amazon / Screenshot by CNET

With Dune-mania sweeping the land, now is the perfect time to return to this recently revised and updated version of a classic 1979 board game. In Dune, different factions, including powerful families and guilds, come together. are vying for control of the planet Arrakis. This will appeal to gamers looking for a game with diplomacy and politics, rather than action and combat.

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The game of choice for many Lovecraft fans, with incredible storytelling built around nothing but cards and a few cardboard tokens. The game involves placing location cards on the table and exploring them for clues (while fighting monsters). It’s a “living card game”, which means there are regular versions of card packs with new characters, missions, and enemies. The recently released revised base set bundles pre-made decks for the main characters, making it much faster to play.

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Get those “gonna need a bigger boat” jokes out of your system now. This new clever two-part strategy game is asymmetric, which means that one player is the overpowered super shark, and the other players are hapless humans, who must combine their strategic thinking, skills and resources in order to survive and win. The best feature is the game board, which changes from Amity Island beaches in the first half to Quint’s boat in the second half. (Spoiler alert: it’s gradually being eaten by the shark.)

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I keep this on the list with every update because it’s easily my favorite “modern” board game, with tons of floor tiles you can use to make a haunted mansion, as well as dozens of plastic miniatures. for investigators and monsters. The vibe is definitely classic Lovecraft and this board game actually requires you to use its companion app, which creates the layout, spawns monsters, and even adds sound effects.

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The original and more expensive pioneer is shown below. But Jaws of the Lion is a simplified version for a more mainstream audience at a fraction of the cost, and was easily my new favorite game from last year. The smartest part is that all the tiles on the map are replaced with a spiral-bound book of pre-made maps. The price under $ 40 doesn’t hurt either.

Read our first impressions of The Lion’s Jaws.

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Any discussion of table games has to include Gloomhaven, the (almost literal) 800 pounds. gorilla of the genus. It was originally released in 2017 and is still one of the most talked about table games. Why? Because it comes in a massive 40-pound box, typically costs around $ 120 and can take months to play. Start now and your party could be over by next Christmas.

Digital asmodée

If the big box version of Gloomhaven seems like too much to you, you can get the new version of the video game, which does a surprisingly excellent job of compressing most of what makes the game great into a $ 35 PC game, available on Steam. . The PC version looks like an expansive puzzle game – it’s a combination of picking the right ability cards to play and pressing your luck by drawing more cards from a set of random virtual modifiers. It is brutally difficult at times, but also extremely satisfying.

Fantastic Flying Games

It’s time to restore fellowship. Another board game with a tech twist, it starts with tons of maps, map tiles, and miniatures, but it also uses a free iOS, Android, and PC app, which adds extra narrative content and tells you how to dispose. which map and which monsters to fight.

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