The best board games of 2021 have been chosen

The American Tabletop Award winners for 2021 have finally been announced.
cascadia american tabletop awards

The American Tabletop Award winners have officially been announced, with a number of excellent new board games being showered with accolades in the Early Gamers, Casual Games, Strategy Games and Complex Games award categories. Despite numerous warehouse-based delays for board games since 2020, there’s been a number of excellent titles from across the industry – and it’s great to see these games formally recognised, particularly in a year of such hardship.

If you’re looking for your next big board game adventure, you should definitely check out any of the winners below.

Best Early Gamers Board Games

happy city best board games 2021
Image: Gamewright

The winner of the Early Gamers award was Happy City, a miniature city-building game designed with players of all ages in mind. Gameplay is fairly simple and easy to learn, and allows players to build out a gorgeous urban landscape by placing cards on a field. Happy City is also phenomenally pretty, and features excellent artwork that makes each locale pop.

Finalists for the award included:

  • Crash Octopus – a fast-paced flicking game where players must rescue cargo from a giant octopus
  • Kabuto Sumo – a coin-dropping game where players wrestle rhinoceros beetles
  • Block Ness – a segment-placing game of Twister featuring interlocking sea monsters
  • Hammer Time – a hammer-knocking game where players must carefully extricate diamonds from a mine

Best Casual Games

cubitos best board games 2021

The winner of the Casual Games award was Cubitos, a luck and strategy game where players compete in a literal race by rolling dice to advance on a field. Players can level up by purchasing new dice, or use special abilities to blitz the track – but they must also exercise caution, or they’ll overshoot the mark and lose their advantage.

Finalists for the award included:

  • The Crew: Mission Deep Sea – a co-op ‘trick-taking’ card game where players search a deep sea cavern
  • Whirling Witchcraft – a potion-making card game where players are witches competing to create the ‘best’ recipe
  • 7 Wonders: Architects – a strategy building game where players complete major architectural wonders
  • Summer Camp – a summer camp simulator where players complete activities and collect merit badges

Best Strategy Board Games

cascadia board game
Image: AEG

The winner of the Strategy Games award was Cascadia, a hex-based tile-laying game set in the National Parks of the Pacific Northwest. As you travel through this strategy and puzzle game, you’ll build out a unique terrain and populate it with wildlife in a quest to create a thriving and beautiful landscape.

Finalists for the award included:

  • Furnace – a euro board game set in 19th century Europe, and starring industrial corporations building their wealth
  • Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game – a plant-breeding game where players collect data on pea plants
  • Hadrian’s Wall – a strategy game where players construct forts in ancient Rome and gather renown
  • Brew – a dice-rolling game where players must regain control of nature by brewing potions

Best Complex Board Games

lost ruins of arnak
Image: Leah J. Williams

The winner of the Complex Games award was Lost Ruins of Arnak, an exploration-based game where players must travel through a mysterious ruin, defeating creatures to earn points. Along the way, players must upgrade their travelling party, purchase new tools and earn items as they travel deeper into the far reaches of the mysterious Arnak.

Finalists for the award included:

  • Bitoku – a forest exploration game where players must gather yōkai spirits and earn transcendence
  • Origins: First Builders – a civilisation-building game where players must develop a thriving land
  • Sleeping Gods – a campaign-based survival game where players must explore exotic islands
  • Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile – an adventure game where players guide the course of ancient history

For a quiet night in with board games, you can’t go wrong with any of these excellent picks.

If you’re looking for other recommendations, check out the GamesHub lists of the best party board games, solo board games, story-based board games, and co-op board games.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.