The year 2021 is drawing to a close. Time to look back on the year. An exciting year lies behind us, not only in the boardgame scene. Many new players have joined, the community is growing, not only on Instagram, but also on all other social media channels. Be it that new exciting podcasts are created, in which enthusiastic players talk about their passion, or just an interested exchange of opinions in the many forums. We personally enjoyed watching this happen in 2021. We wish for 2022 an equally exciting year, many new enthusiastic players, new podcasts to follow, "old" podcasts that continue, a diverse exchange of opinions in the forums, Instagram etc.. And of course many many new games. This leads me to the question:
What was my highlight of 2021? My favorite boardgame of 2021?
The question is not quite so easy to answer. There were many great new games that came out in 2021. I would like to mention Robin Hood, Cascadia, Witchstone, Dune: Imperium and Paleo as examples. Plus a not quite inconsiderable number of expansions that came out in 2021. As you can see, it's not that easy to define. I have intentionally named five games as examples that are firstly strongly represented on social media and secondly that I like to play myself. Because they are simply damn good games. In order to get closer to my favorite game of 2021, I should perhaps first explain what a good game is for me.
First, quite clearly the design. If it doesn't appeal to me, I'm not convinced. Second, the gameplay. Of course, it must run smoothly, must not have "errors" in the flow or ambiguities in the instructions. But most important for me is the theme. If the theme of the game doesn't appeal to me, it doesn't matter if it's great designed or has a super gameplay. Theme, but what does that mean? It means when a game tells a story, or has a historical background, or is set in a science fiction world like Dune: Empire. Well, then it won me. Such things as mechanism interest me only secondarily. In my opinion it doesn't matter if it's a worker placement, area control or trick play - it has to be fun. That's what it's all about, it has to engage every single one of us. Whether it's prehistoric times, the county of Nottingham, you're part of the great gathering of witches and wizards, or you're looking for Spice on Arrakis. You decide, you choose your world. So what's my favorite game of 2021?
It is clearly Gutenberg by Granna (2021).
Why? Quite simply because it is about the letterpress. An invention in the history of mankind that changed a lot and gave expression to revolutions. Which created fantastic worlds that every person in the world could and still can experience through letterpress. Without printing we would have no newspapers, no books, no rule books for board games. In Gutenberg, anyone can take on the role of an early letterpress printer. Optimize its production and at the same time, through patrons, build the largest printing house. The game is completely without violence. In fact, it is a peaceful game. Which has become rare. You see my decision was made because of the theme. My passion for history caught up with me. Besides that, Gutenberg is really very well done in terms of material quality. There is no plastic in the game at all. The material is high quality, such as the wooden block letters. You can really print with them and produce your own letterpress. Which, again, I personally find very charming. Well, Gutenberg is the absolute highlight of 2021 for me. Oh yes, by the way, without letterpress printing there would be no Reformation.
But how does it work?
The first thing to say is that for me it's not a classic expert game, as it's advertised on the packaging. For me it is a connoisseur game, a family game. In my opinion, it is not "hard" enough for an expert game. An expert game is characterized by its complexity, by the difficulty of winning a round. In comparison with Robinson Crusoe, for example, one of the most difficult games I know, Gutenberg cannot keep up. Rather, it is a really successful, yes, family game. The object is to outdo your opponents, the other letterpress printers. You choose tasks that have to be fulfilled, logically there are easier and harder ones. It depends on how you plan your move. First, behind the hidden tableau, the action markers are distributed to the five different actions. Be careful, whoever starts first has the fewest action markers. The last one has the most. After hidden distribution, it is a matter of who has the most action markers on one of the five categories and this may begin. This is a very exciting mechanism. You really have to pay attention to what you want to choose. What task you want to accomplish and how (you think) your teammates have distributed their action markers. This is crucial. Depending on how you are ranked, you can choose your task first, or last. The last one has then only the possibility to fulfill the tasks that are left. Very exciting. Basically, it's just a matter of making the right decision, completing your tasks, and figuring out what your opponent is up to. After all, you are letterpress printers - a little competition with other letterpress printers never hurt.
A very exciting, for me, connoisseur family game. It is very complex in its various action and interaction possibilities and at the same time very easy to understand and play. Choose actions, prepare actions, execute actions and move on to the next one. Quite casually formulated. Can be played quite wonderfully with children from 10 years, as it is stated on the packaging. At this point it should be mentioned, I have tried it both in four player mode and in two player mode and must honestly admit that I find it no worse only in two player mode. The game lives from its interaction, the more the better. This is not lost in two player mode in my opinion.
I would like to emphasize that the game does not use any plastic. All game pieces are either made of wood or cardboard. I find that really remarkable in terms of sustainability. Especially compared to other games that use, well, a lot of plastic after all. Even the storage boxes are made of cardboard. Ok, to be honest, the game does not win a beauty prize. Really not. It is very simple. The illustrations are worth seeing. It's perfectly designed for the theme, but it's not really a beauty. I think it fits into the time. But well, you have to decide for yourself. Just as you like Gutenberg.
Well, what else can I say?
I as a lover of history. With a certain passion for such topics, can only recommend it. I can also recommend it to anyone who wants to play a really successful, fluid game about one of the most exciting historical eras. Whether with family or friends. It always plays the same - fluidly.
Finally, I have nothing else but to wish you a happy new year. May your wishes and dreams for 2022 come true. And of course good gaming. May the dice be with you.
Yours Stephan of Rauccius