The best new board games 2021, with great recent games for all budgets

Looking for the top new board games? Here's what's fresh out of the box for your enjoyment

Best new board game 2021 Cubitos in play
(Image credit: AEG/Pegasus Spiele)

There's never been a better time to get into new board games. The hobby is growing massively every year, and more and more people use them as ways to get together and have fun in real life, rather than just via WhatsApp or Facebook.

As a result, more new board games are being released than ever before – every month brings interesting, colourful, rich games with engaging themes and intriguing ways to play. So how do you keep up with which ones are worth playing? That's what we're here for – we'll collect the new games you most need to know about in this list.

You can read on for our full run-down of the new board games you should add to your collection, but here's a quick cheat sheet of some of the best choices for different groups:

  • Best new board game overall: What Next?
  • Best new board game for families: Cubitos
  • Best cheap new board game: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

We'll be updating this list regularly with brand-new board game releases, and dropping out games as they get older, though the cream of the crop will graduate to our list of the best board games overall, as well as our list of the best cheap board games, and best two-player board games.

Best new board games 2021: the list

Big Potato Games What Next box

(Image credit: Big Potato Games)

1. What Next?

The best new board game for gripping and silly cooperative play

Specifications
Players: 1-4
Playing time: 20-60 minutes
Suggested age: 10+
Reasons to buy
+Fun genre blending+Huge variety in play+Fun party game vibe
Reasons to avoid
-Not everyone finds dexterity games fun

This clever co-operative title combines adventure stories, puzzle-solving and dexterity play into one glorious package. After choosing your quest from one of three in the box, players take turns reading out the card text, then the group discusses which option to take next, like a “choose your own adventure” book. Unlike those classic books, the choices you make in What Next? lead you into an astonishing variety of mini-games.

Some of these are simple, like throwing and catching the card that gave you the challenge. Many involve the pool of fun components included in the fold-out box, such as the puck-push, where you have to flick a disc a specific distance down a track, or feeling for particular shapes in a bag. 

Fail, and you'll often be required to add pieces to the Tower of Peril, a stack of irregular foam shapes. If it tumbles, it's game over for the group, ensuring that each addition thrums with tension. The variety and creativity on display in both the challenges and the adventures, which feature items to collect and difficulty spikes, is amazing, ensuring plenty of replay value even when you've mastered the skills to succeed.

Cubitos board game


(Image credit: AEG/Pegasus Spiele)

2. Cubitos

The best new board game for families

Specifications
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 30-60 minutes
Suggested age: 10+
Reasons to buy
+Fistfuls of dice to roll+No two games are the same+Bizarre theme and fun art
Reasons to avoid
-Limited interaction between players

If you like dice, you’ll love this, which not only features fistfuls of tumbling cubes but even has dice-shaped playing pieces. Your goal is to push your orthogonal avatar over the finish line of a race before your competitors. To do so you'll need to roll movement faces on your pool of dice. Other faces generate income which you can then use to buy dice for yet more rolling enjoyment, and hopefully movement, on following turns.

There's a catch, of course, which is that many dice faces are blank and you can re-roll these… at the risk of losing the lot. If you ever come up with all blank faces from a roll, your turn is over. If not, you get to spend your faces and, once you've started adding new dice to your pool, many of them come with special abilities that you can look to combine to give yourself the biggest boost.

Instead of fixed effects, each colour of dice is matched to a card that you can switch out between games. This gives a huge potential range of different effects, ensuring that no single strategy can dominate. With its wacky theme, bright colours and exciting play, Cubitos is a race for the whole family.

Destinies board game box and components

(Image credit: Lucky Duck Games)

3. Destinies

The best new board game for deep adventures

Specifications
Players: 1-3
Playing time: 90-180 minutes
Suggested age: 14+
Reasons to buy
+Competitive adventure with solo option+Fantastic figures and art+Very clever skill system
Reasons to avoid
-Randomness and app can limit tactical options

Since the advent of cooperative games, fantasy adventure titles have tended to go that way instead of the old, competitive model. Destinies is a welcome return to that world, with each player choosing a character and setting forth into a fantasy world to try and fulfil one of the two destiny goals listed on the back of their character sheet.

It's an app-driven game which means you have a digital companion on your laptop or phone that reveals the world and handles encounters for you while you move and explore. This means the game can play fast and simple, allowing you to focus on the strategy and the stories that emerge from play. In fact, the app tracks so much that it can feel like a video game at times.

The core of the game is the smart skill system. When confronting an encounter you roll two dice plus as many "effort" dice that you want from your pool. The catch is that once used, those dice only return to service once per turn. It keeps everyone balanced on the classic seesaw of rewards now against problems later. You can also play solo, with the app adding time pressure to keep you competitive.

The Crew Mission Deep Sea

(Image credit: Kosmos Games)

4. The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

The best cheap new board game

Specifications
Players: 2-5
Playing time: 20 minutes
Suggested age: 10+
Reasons to buy
+Familiar type of game with new co-op twist+Loads of variety in how you play+Small and cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Very similar to original The Crew, if you own it

The Crew, from 2019, was a very novel cooperative card game. Based on common trick-taking games like Whist or Hearts, instead of racing to see who could win the most tricks, it challenged players to win particular cards in a particular order to pass each mission. Given the common rules of the genre, such as trumps and following suit, that's no simple task. What made it far more interesting is that there were major limitations on when players could talk about the cards in their hands.

The original did an amazing amount with this very simple framework, resulting in a fascinating game of nudging, winking and logical deduction. Now this sequel ups the ante by going down into the deep sea. On the dive it picks up some smart new design in the way the game assigns goals to the players.

Instead of just having objectives tied to single cards, Mission Deep Sea has goals of varying difficulty, so you're never sure how many you'll need for each mission. And they vary hugely, including trick totals, tricks in a row and multiples of a given suit or number. Offering dozens of missions, it's a masterclass in doing a whole lot with very little, as our full The Crew: Mission Deep Sea review explains.

Descent Legends of the Dark box and components

(Image credit: Asmodee/Fantasy Flight Games)

5. Descent: Legends of the Dark

The best new board game for epic dungeon delving

Specifications
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 30-60 minutes
Suggested age: 10+
Reasons to buy
+3D scenery and detailed figures+App-driven campaign offers hours of fun+Easy to learn but hard to master
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Best with fewer players

While the price tag on this cooperative dungeon-crawling campaign is certainly high, you can see the value as soon as you open the lid of the curiously cubic box. Inside there are sheets of stunning 3D cardboard scenery, which you need to construct yourself. And beneath that are trays of perhaps the most detailed plastic miniatures ever to grace a board game. 

As amazing as it looks on your tabletop, this cardboard hoard is only half the game. The other half lives on your phone or computer in a free app. This functions as a kind of 'games master' for your group, instructing you to lay scenery and place monsters as you explore. It also handles a lot of the admin such as tracking damage, leaving you free to enjoy the strategy of card management and luck of dice rolling.

Cards are two-sided, with different effects on each side, and you'll need to manage switching between them alongside movement and positioning in tactical battles. But beware: if you flip a card it also loses any accrued effects, good or bad. With each adventure linking into a grand campaign, featuring crafting and inventory management between quests, Descent should keep you going for a long time – perfect for winters at home.

Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower

Matt has been writing about and reviewing tabletop games professionally for over a decade and playing them since he could talk. He's also the author and co-author of three books on the subject. He writes about video games, too, and his other hobbies include hiking and cooking.