Geek Toys17 Best New Board Games (Updated!)

17 Best New Board Games (Updated!)

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The board game industry continued to flourish in 2018, continuing the golden age that started about a decade ago. Brass: Birmingham revived a classic with a new map and reworked rules. Eric Lang’s Rising Sun followed in the footsteps of Blood Rage with its detailed miniatures and quick, nerve-racking combat. Root by Cole Wehrle proved that a wildly asymmetrical game can feel like four games in one and still come together for an engaging cutthroat experience.

With over 3,000 games released since 2018, there’s a good chance 2021 will see just as many new titles, if not more. There’s a mix of games from veteran and first-time designers, and themes seem to be moving away from the more traditional genres of colonization and conquest in 2021, for the most part.

Whether you’re looking for a quick party game, a legacy campaign to play with a dedicated group, or a strategy game that plays within an hour, there’s a good chance you’ll find something for you in 2021.

Here’s the list:

See Also: Co-Op Board Games


New Frontiers

Designer: Tom Lehmann
Artist: Martin Hoffmann and Claus Stephan
Release date: January 25
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Players: 2 to 5
Playing time: 45 to 75 minutes

The classic Race for the Galaxy is reimagined as a board game (as opposed to a card game) in New Frontiers. Tom Lehmann borrows some elements from Puerto Rico, with the blessing of Andreas Seyfarth, to create a game with the elements of two of the most beloved strategy games out there.

New Frontiers puts each player in charge of their own galactic empire by developing technologies and colonizing planets. This is a game with much more of a table presence than Race for the Galaxy or Roll for the Galaxy, as the worlds and developments are cardboard tiles that arrange nicely in your empire mat. In addition, the goods cubes are chunky plastic crates that look a bit like candy.

The primary similarity to Puerto Rico is the action selection phase, in which the active player chooses an action with all other players may perform in turn. However, the designer points out that New Frontiers will stand out from both Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy as a tableau-building game with a unique feel.

Buy it here


Designer: Jerry Hawthorne
Artist: Jimmy Xia, Tregis
Release date: January 31
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 60 to 120 minutes

In Comanauts, players enter the mind of the brilliant Dr. Martin Strobal, who has fallen into a coma. He is the inventor of the Mobius Ring, a device that would have provided humanity with unlimited energy but instead has gone wrong and is sending out massive amounts of radiation. Dr. Strobal is the only one who can set things right, and the comanauts must carefully navigate his complicated mind to bring him back. The players will journey through eleven “Comazones,” seeking the inner Demon preventing Dr. Strobal from returning to consciousness.

Comanauts is a spiritual successor to Stuffed Fables, also designed by Jerry Hawthorne, and uses the Adventure Book system. The board is a book with multiple pages, allowing for an ever-changing world for the players to explore. This system works well in Stuffed Fables, and with Comanauts, gamers who may not have been keen on the stuffed animal theme can enjoy a more serious (but no less imaginative) setting.

Buy it here


Victorian Masterminds

Designer: Antoine Bauza and Eric Lang
Artist: Davide Tosello
Release date: February 1
Publisher: CMON
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 45 to 60 minutes

This is a game whose theme is as eye-catching as its designer power-duo. Eric Lang is best known for Blood Rage and Rising Sun, and currently serves as the Director of Game Design at CMON. Antoine Bauza is known for designing 7 Wonders, 7 Wonders Duel, and Hanabi.

Victorian Masterminds explores a London thrown into turmoil after the death of legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. Villains can finally be villains, without the hindrance of conniving figures like Holmes. Each player is one such villain attempting to complete missions by traveling around Europe to build contraptions and cause destruction. But the Secret Service is out to put a stop to the madness, and only the most cunning villain will win.

The post-Sherlock Victorian steampunk theme sounds like a ton of fun, and with two legendary designers behind the wheel, Victorian Masterminds is sure to be a blast.

Buy it here



Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Artist: Natalia Rojas, Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, and Beth Sobel
Release date: March
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Players: 1 to 4
Playing time: 40 to 70 minutes

It’s not often that you see a bird game—sorry, board game—with a scissor-tailed flycatcher on the cover.

Elizabeth Hargrave’s debut, Wingspan, gives each player (in the role of ornithologists) the opportunity to attract a variety of birds to their aviary. Different birds will allow for different actions and effects, allowing you to build up an engine and create combos. You feed your birds by putting custom dice into a dice tower, and colorful (and delicious-looking) egg miniatures can be collected.

Wingspan offers a refreshing theme and stunning artwork that stands out in the ocean of colonization and fantasy games. Finally, a board game for birders!

Buy it here

Ganz Schön Clever (That’s Pretty Clever)

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Artist: Leon Schiffer
Release date: March
Publisher: Stronghold Games, Schmidt Spiele
Players: 1 to 4
Playing time: 30 minutes

With the roll-and-write genre (which uses disposable paper boards and dice as the central mechanic) more popular than ever, it’s no surprise that Ganz Schön Clever has risen to the top with its addictive and punishing puzzle. In March, a North American edition is finally on the way.

Wolfgang Warsch has a knack for packing a simple yet intriguing game into a very small (and affordable) box. 2018’s The Mind was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, and Ganz Schön Clever was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres, so it’s safe to say that Warsch is on a bit of a roll.

In this dice game, one to four players are rolling six colored dice and choosing which ones to write in the matching colored areas on their score sheets. Filling out your sheet can unlock abilities and make for combos and major points. This is primarily a game of striving to play as efficiently as possible and beat your high score—which is exactly what makes it so hard to stop playing.

Buy it here

Astro Drive

Designer: Mikko Punakallio, Max Wikström
Artist: Sami Saramaki
Release date: March
Publisher: Stronghold Games,
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 20 to 30 minutes

Another intriguing release from Stronghold games is Astro Drive, designed by Mikko Punakallio and Max Wikström.

Each player is piloting their own high-speed spaceship, avoiding obstacles and choosing just the right moment to boost in this cosmic race. The “board” is made up of cards with obstacles like planets, asteroids, and black holes. On your turn, you play a card and can move your card a certain number of spaces forward and side to side. The player who pilots their ship with the most agility and speed wins the race.

With a board reminiscent of Stronghold’s Space Cadets, this tiny game has a great table presence and looks like a fun little race through the stars.

Buy it here

Helios Expanse

Designer: Shawn Richard Macleod
Artist: Henning Ludvigsen
Publisher: Greenbrier Games
Players: 3 to 5
Playing time: 45 to 60 minutes

Shawn Richard Macleod’s debut tackles familiar territory: space exploration and conquest, or 4x. Helios Expanse is a one-hour game, attempting to pack a thorough experience of exploration, colonization, resource harvesting, and combat into a digestible block of time.

Macleod set out to make a shorter game that would appeal to both casual and hobby gamers. Helios Expanse can be taught in less than five minutes, as its core mechanics are fairly simple, according to the publisher.

This is an ambitious design, and it will be interesting to see whether Macleod succeeds in creating a short and simple 4x game that still provides players with complex decisions and strategies. If he does, this could be a big game for 2019.

Buy it here

Bad Maps

Designer: Tim Armstrong
Artist: Matt Paquette, Kristen Pauline, and Peter Wocken
Release date: March
Publisher: Floodgate Games
Players: 3 to 5
Playing time: 30 to 60 minutes

This light programming game of pirates, treasures, and misleading maps gives players a chance to make their very own (questionable) treasure maps.

Designed by Tim Armstrong, Bad Maps puts each player in the role of a pirate captain creating a map for minions to follow. The minions obey these maps, following instructions to hopefully avoid obstacles like pits and find the treasure.

Each player earns points for the distance of specific minions from the treasure. Whoever racks up the most points from their bad maps is declared the winner.

Buy it here


Wacky Races

Designer: Andrea Chiarvesio and Fabio Tola
Artist: Giovanna BC Guimarães
Release date: April 26, 2019
Publisher: CMON Limited
Players: 2 to 6
Playing time: 10 to 15 minutes

CMON is giving the deluxe miniatures treatment to a surprising franchise… Wacky Races.

This is a game that speaks for itself. Players take the role of the racers from the show, choosing from characters like the Slag Brothers or Penelope Pitstop. On your turn, you play a card indicating the terrain type you will move to. But you have to navigate the traps laid by Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley as you struggle to keep your lead.

One race lasts just 10 to 15 minutes, and a longer championship mode is also available. The miniatures look lovely, and the short playtime make this sound like it will be a quick and hectic little game.

Buy it here




Designer: Brendan Stern
Artist: Diego L. Rodriguez
Publisher: Atlas Games
Release date: May
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 20 to 40 minutes

In his debut game, Brendan Stern puts each player in the role of a spellcaster who is heading to the godsforge to collect the invaluable resource known as Etherium.

Godsforge is played simultaneously, with each player rolling dice and playing cards to attack the player on their left and defend from the player on their right. These cards are revealed in any order and are paid for with dice and veilstones. These cards introduce either Spells or Creations, which give damage, protection, and effects in different ways.

After one player has been defeated, the remaining players start taking damage each round until one player is left to claim the Etherium for themselves.

Buy it here


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic

Designer: Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello
Artist: Ian O’Toole
Release date: June
Publisher: Osprey Games
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: ?

Fantasy fans may want to keep an eye on this upcoming board game adaptation, which puts players in the role of novice magicians looking to improve their craft in the world of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

In this game of magical forces in 19th Century Europe, each player is a character from the novel traveling from city to city as they gather power to take on the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair.

Not much is known about this game, but from what we know so far it sounds like it will be a race to become the player strong enough to take down the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. Hopefully it includes enough of the book to please fans while entertaining newcomers as well.

Buy it here

TBA 2019

Machi Koro Legacy

Designer: Rob Daviau, J. R. Honeycutt, and Masao Suganuma
Artist: Noboru Hotta
Release date: Spring 2019
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 30 to 45 minutes

The next game getting the Legacy treatment from Rob Daviau is Machi Koro, which Daviau is designing with J. R. Honeycutt and the original game’s designer, Masao Suganuma.

The description from the publisher sums up the game pretty well:

Machi Koro Legacy features the same gameplay as Machi Koro. You are still rolling dice, you are still collecting income, and you are still racing to build landmarks — but then you unlock the [censored] and you start earning a little extra income by [censored], and then you start to explore the [censored] and you have to make a choice between [censored] and [censored]. Even if you aren’t in contention to win a given game, you still have [censored] to set up exciting [censored] for the next one. And then the [paragraph deleted]…

Machi Koro Legacy features a ten-game series that tells a complete story set in the world of Machi Koro in which player choices create a unique gameplay experience.

If you enjoyed the original game, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one. Though it also sounds like this would make a great first Machi Koro experience if you have a dedicated group willing to play through the whole campaign.

Dead Man’s Cabal

Designer: Daniel Newman
Release date: Spring 2019
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 45 to 90 minutes

One thing’s for sure—there’s never been a game with the same premise as Daniel Newman’s Dead Man’s Cabal.

From the publisher:

You’ve conquered death.   The master of all 9 dimensions of space time.  Reality bends to your every whim and desire. You are the absolute best there ever has been.  A Necromancer at the top of their game.

The only downside is no one likes you.  On account of creeping around with dead bodies and the lack of sunlight.  But who needs friends, when you can make them?

Dead Man’s Cabal is a new mid-weight strategy game from Daniel Newman, with game development from industry-legend Jonathan Gilmour (Dead of Winter, Dinosaur Island).   In Dead Man’s party 2-4 players will compete to bring the dead back to life so that you can throw a party with actual… you know, guests.

The gameplay is a clever interplay of a unique action selection mechanism that allows players to choose both a private action followed by a group action, requiring tense decision making on the timing of the different phases of the game.   Collect bodies, crystal skulls, runes and bring the dead back to life. Simple enough, but triggering the action in just the right order requires careful planning to make sure you aren’t helping your competitors more than yourself.

Dead Man’s Cabal includes 40 3d rendered crystal “skull” miniatures, 35 “bones” 3d rendered currency and 1 cow skull Ossuary marker.  Because, the game is super metal.

Buy it here

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea

Designer: Tony Boydell
Artist: ?
Release date: Summer 2019
Publisher: Matagot, Surprised Stare
Players: 1 to 5
Playing time: 45 to 120 minutes

Tony Boydell, known for Snowdonia and Guilds of London, explores 19th Century Darjeeling in a game of trains, tea, and trade.

Each player is managing their own tea empire as they create a network of rails, hire workers, and harvest tea to create a thriving network. By placing workers (which can be motivated with a bit of Chai), players strive to create the best tea network and score points based on how much they contributed to the building of the Darjeeling and Himalayan railways and how splendiferous their tea gardens are.

Wizard Words

Designer: Jeff Lai
Artist: Dominique Ferland
Release date: TBA 2019
Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Players: 2 to 6
Playing time: 6 minutes

Jeff Lai’s Wizard Words is a simple and fast-paced cooperative word game with a twist: you’re all wizards dealing with hexes as you give one-word clues.

In order to climb the wizard ranks, players will give each other one-word hints while recalling past hints and navigating challenging hexes.

This little word game plays in just six minutes—a great sweet spot for a quick time-filler at game night.

Bad Bones

Designer: David Files
Artist: Aoulad, Alexander Brick, and Oliver Mootoo
Release date: TBA 2019
Publisher: Sit Down!
Players: 1 to 6
Playing time: 30 to 45 minutes

First-time designer David Files pits players against each other in Bad Bones as they vie to have the last tower standing in an unending onslaught of undead foes.

Every player has a tower in the center of their board which they will defend by building walls and hiring heroes to fight off the undead and maybe send them toward someone else’s tower.

Turns are simultaneous, and up to six can play this charming tower-defense game with a healthy dose of spite.

Walls of York

Designer: Emiliano “Wentu” Venturini
Artist: Sabrina Miramon
Release date: TBA 2019
Publisher: Cranio Creations
Players: 2 to 4
Playing time: 30 minutes

In Walls of York by Emiliano “Wentu” Venturini, players are competing to create the best layout of walls around the city of York to defend from Viking raids. The King will only choose one design, so each architect must plan and build carefully to attract his attention.

Players place 3D plastic wall pieces on their boards as they construct their defensive layouts. But which type of wall you place is determined by a die roll. After the first age, the Vikings will attack, forcing players to rebuilt in the second age. Whoever has the most coins after the second age is declared the best architect of York.

Buy it here

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Peter McPherson
Peter is a writer, reader, and board gamer from Upstate New York. Board game design consumes most of his time and brain, and he enjoys making his friends and family test his latest prototypes. He and his girlfriend run a book review blog at, and he can be found on Twitter @PeterLMcPherson.

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