It’s almost the end of March which means it’s time to talk about the best-selling board games, comics, and manga for February. Better late than never, right?
Bestselling Board Games for February 2021
Here to Slay: Warriors and Druids
TeeTurtle — makers of novelty t-shirts, reversible plushes, and board games– released Here to Slay in 2020 and the Warriors and Druids expansion in February 2021. Here to Slay was a good seller last year so it wasn’t a surprise that its first expansion was a big hit.
Marvel Champions LCG: Quicksilver
Number two on the list is another expansion. Marvel Champions is the newest addition to Fantasy Flight Games’ Living Card Game engine, a line that includes Arkham Horror, Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. Quicksilver was the latest expansion.
Ticket to Ride
The only title from the original evergreen trio of Catan, Pandemic and Ticket to Ride to hit the list in February. The staples tend to slow down in the post-holiday season but Ticket to Ride was still hot even as the weather stayed cold.
Hmmmm…maybe the aforementioned trio should become a quartet…
Codenames Deep Undercover
To the best of my knowledge, the naughty version of Codenames was only available south of the border at Target stores. In February 2021, dirty Codenames came to Canada.
I rolled up sales of the original game with its expansions in order to get it on this list. Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.
Matt Leacock , the designer of Pandemic, brought the simple mechanics of that game to family-friendly themes with Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Sky. Forbidden Desert was back in fashion in February.
Grounded for Life
When I was a wee lad I distinctly remember not being allowed into my grandmother’s living room one evening because the adults were watching a movie called Jaws. I sooooooo wanted to see what was going on. I wonder if there are wee lads out there now wondering what the adults are doing around the kitchen table with that game of white and black cards. Why is dad blushing? Why is mom cackling? Why did Uncle Jim’s new girlfriend leave the house suddenly? Why did grandma say neighbour Jim is going straight to the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks? Give the youngsters a taste of safe rudeness with Grounded for Life.
One of the most popular two player games over the years has been Lost Cities. The version we stock now is the latest version, which includes a new, sixth expedition.
Bestselling Manga for February 2021
There were no stand-out graphic novels / trade paperbacks this month in terms of multiple sales so I’ve focused this list on manga. Titles are listed; not individual volumes. Manga are listed based on the total number of volumes sold for the month.
This long-running volleyball themed manga has been around for nine years but it has never enjoyed much success in ComicReaders until last year when it suddenly exploded. A wider popularity in North America means it was hard to get on the shelf, but in early 2021 we were able to start stocking its run. And then most of them sold.
Attack on Titan
Did it end? I think both the manga and the anime have ended or are ending but I don’t want to look because I’m behind in both and I want to avoid spoilers. Sometimes when a series is about to end or does end we see an increase in interest as people look to finish their run or finally want to see what the fuss is about.
My Hero Academia
The only thing surprising about this is that we sold more Attack on Titan and Haikyu. My Hero Academia has had some availability issues so that likely played a role.
I started scaling back One Piece because it has slowed down in recent years but here in 2021 its on people’s minds and the volumes are flying off the shelves. This might have been higher on the list had I had more on the shelf. I am trying to remedy that in March.
Here is another classic back in fashion.
This list might be prejudiced toward manga with a large number of volumes so let me mention a series that has had a lot of interest in 2020 and now 2021 but does not have as many volumes as the above powerhouses. Goodnight Punpun. 7 volumes. Solid manga. Not for the kiddies.
Bestselling Comics for February 2021
Lots of familiar faces on the best-selling comics for February. Read our January 2021 list to get some commentary on the titles listed below.
Amazing Spider-man Fantastic Four King in Black X-Men X-Force Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Last Ronin Venom King in Black: Gwenom vs Carnage Star Wars Justice League Symbiote Spider-man: King in Black
We may have been restricted as to the size and breadth of our play groups, but board games continued to be in demand during the first year of the pandemic. Getting a continuous supply of the hottest board games is not an unknown challenge but it was even more so with distributors working with skeleton crews, delays at printers and shipping for some brand new games, and some regions being fully locked down for periods of time.
The list below is comprised of the 20 bestselling board games at ComicReaders Downtown for 2020. These games were purchased in-store or via curb-side pick-up. ComicReaders appreciates those who shop and support local businesses before, during and after the pandemic.
1. Wingspan / Wingspan European Wingspan was not readily available throughout the year and whenever we did have it in stock in quantity it still did not last long. What appears to be a busy game is, in fact, a not-too-difficult to grasp board game that can be enjoyed by players with varying board game experience. The theme of birds in their habitats certainly has attracted a lot of people to this game. The European expansion was released near the end of 2020 and it cracked the top 20, too, but I’ve moved up alongside the original.
2. Azul Azul is now a family of games, with new themes on similar mechanics, but the original continues to be the one in highest demand. When it was released in 2017 it had the usual new, hot game availability issues, but in 2020 it was readily available throughout the year. A visually striking game with high end components, Azul has easy to understand rules and the right mix of clever scoring and forward thinking to make it a bestseller each year since its release.
3. Pandemic This one surprised me. We’re in a pandemic. Doesn’t this game hit too close to home? But maybe that was the appeal this year. Pandemic is still a solid cooperative game 12 years after its original release.
4. Codenames Just One is the most accessible word-based group game, but Codenames continues to dominate that genre. The original Codenames enjoys the #4 spot on this list but also in circulation are other versions, including Codenames Duet, Codenames Pictures, Codenames Simpsons, Codenames Marvel, Codenames Disney, and Codenames Harry Potter.
5. Catan There’s just no stopping Catan.
6. Exploding Kittens / Streaking Kittens / Barking Kittens A family-friendly bestseller expanded in 2020 with Barking Kittens. The expansion Streaking Kittens and the original Exploding Kittens were on the top 20 list, too, but I’ve stuck them together in #6 to make room for a couple additional games.
7. Trial by Trolley The naughty group games are always popular around the holiday season. Trial by Trolley is a new entry in this genre at ComicReaders Downtown.
8. Carcassonne Here’s another game that shows no signs of slowing down. I’m not surprised, of course. It has been a favourite in my house for 15 years. The large number of expansions keeps the game fresh, too, even though most of them were not available at all during 2020.
9. Kingdomino This great game for the whole family is worth a look if you’ve not yet heard of it. We sold out during the holiday shopping season but both Regina ComicReaders expect to have it again near the end of February 2021.
10. Cards Against Humanity For years we couldn’t get Cards Against Humanity. When one of our Canadian distributors started carrying it I wrestled with how much we should stock because surely the local market was already saturated because of online sales. #10 on the bestsellers list proves there were still more people out there that like their games dirty….and I don’t mean mud dirty. And controversial. And full of cuss words. And with zero design.
11. Root When a game is in demand but often out of stock for months at a time I’ll order from multiple sources to better improve my chances of getting the game when it available. With Root, all those orders were fulfilled at once and I found myself thinking, “Oh man. I’ve over ordered.” This is a complex game with a sizable sticker price. But they were all gone by the end of 2020.
12. Dutch Blitz ComicReaders Downtown might sell 4 copies of this game from January to October. The bulk of the purchases are from November to December.
13. Joking Hazard More bad words. More naughty. More controversy. But now in comic form.
14. Disney Villainous This one surprised me. Licensed games have a history of being a theme slapped onto some less than spectacular set of game mechanics. Disney Villainous by Ravensburger, however, is solid mechanics on a theme sure to attract players. The result is a bestseller. It has expansions, too! And a new Marvel version.
15. Just One This was a game that people were telling us they were playing with friends over Zoom.
16. Patchwork Our one and only pure 2-player game to make the top 20.
17. Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride is another perennial bestsellers.
18. Gloomhaven This monster of a game continues to sell well. Fully immersive campaign.
19. Jaws Oh man this makes me happy. Ravensburger, which released Disney Villainous, gives us another strong theme on well designed game mechanics. This game has two phases. In the first, the shark menaces swimmers and avoids capture. In the second, the players are on the sinking ship and battling the shark in the climatic finale.
20. Scooby-Doo Betrayal at the Mystery Mansion A family-friendly Scooby-Doo theme version of Betrayal at the House on the Hill.
Exit The Game There are a lot versions in the family of games known as Exit The Game. If the sales of all those titles were combined into one score then Exit The Game would have hit the top 20.
Keyforge If sales from one “board game” family were combined into one total then Keyforge would have been the #1 game on this list. What is most interesting about that is the majority of those purchases was before March 2020 because we still had in-store gaming and Keyforge events always enjoyed a large turnout. Sales of Keyforge during the second half of 2020? Almost nil.
Things tend to slow down at ComicReaders Downtown at the beginning of a new year. It takes about a month for the store to recover from the holiday season. Product flows back into the store through January though this year it has been more difficult to get some items (Vallejo paint and hobby supplies and Games Workshop spray primer, for example), and things that are available get here a little bit slower, but I think we’ve all learned that patience is a virtue during a pandemic.
Bestselling Board Games for January 2021
Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings Our top-selling board game was the highly anticipated new expansion for the epic Twilight Imperium. Unfortunately, there were production issues so each customer who purchased a copy from ComicReaders is now waiting to hear the results of an investigation by Fantasy Flight Games as to the extent of the issues in the run and what will be done. Needless to say, we no longer have copies on the shelf and won’t have more until Fantasy Flight Games does a reprint.
Cards Against Humanity This party game staple had another strong showing. If we included the sales of its expansions in our numbers then the family of Cards Against Humanity would have been our top seller for the month of January.
Codenames Duet The two-player version of the evergreen Codenames has enjoyed a renewal during the pandemic.
Pandemic We received a restock of the original Pandemic early in January. I do believe both Regina locations have had to reorder it since. The original Pandemic is still our top-selling cooperative board game after all these years. Accessible, challenging, and now with the added bonus of mirroring the world’s current situation.
Unstable Unicorns Unstable Unicorns has not surpassed Exploding Kittens as the go-to silly family game featuring cute artwork, but it continues to perform well. It is well supported with multiple expansions, a naughty version, and blind-box vinyl unicorns that come with a card you can add to the game.
Catan Every year for the past five years, I swear, we say this is the year Catan will slow down. And we were wrong again.
Under Falling Skies Only during a pandemic would a game you can only play solo make it to the bestsellers list at ComicReaders Downtown. It’s a visually striking game and a challenging one at that. You can set the difficulty to your liking and it comes with a re-playable campaign mode.
Bestselling Graphic Novels for January 2021
Our bestselling graphic novel list is comprised of titles, not individual volumes. We take the combined sales of volumes within a series. This usually means the list is made up of manga, since the most popular manga have many volumes, but we like to include other graphic novels or series of note.
My Hero Academia No surprise here. My Hero Academia is a powerhouse thanks to it also being a hugely popular anime.
Attack on Titan Attack on Titan is set to wrap soon, but sales continue to be strong as people pick up volumes or dive in for the first time. The final season of the anime is underway, too.
Boruto A sequel of sorts to the always popular Naruto.
Danganronpa This title built up some serious steam in the back half of 2020. We were caught by surprise, to be honest. We didn’t have enough copies on the shelves and the distributors ran out. We got volumes back in stock in early January and they’ve been movingly steadily.
My Hero Academia: Vigilantes A side series to the popular main title also enjoys a healthy readership.
Gideon Falls volume 5 The final volume of Jeff Lemire’s Gideon Falls hit the list. Gideon Falls is a creepy journey filled with stunning visuals.
Bestselling Comics for January 2021
Our list of bestselling comics is comprised of titles and not individual issues.
Dark Nights: Death Metal The heavy metal inspired alternate version of the DCU has been popular in all its iterations. Death Metal was the latest miniseries, the final issue of which debuted in January 2021.
Amazing Spider-Man Spidey has been a bestseller for years and usually enjoys the top spot on the list.
X-Force / X-Men / X-Factor Jonathan Hickman orchestrated a revival of the X-Men and its titles and it appears as if the quality shall continue in 2021. X-Force, X-Men, and X-Factor are the top three titles. If you are interested in what Hickman has been cooking you can get in on the action by reading the Dawn of X trade paperbacks.
Avengers This Marvel flagship title continues its successful run.
Fantastic Four Marvel has brought the Fantastic Four back into the limelight after years of doing next to nothing with the family.
Venom / King in Black We are lumping the Venom title alongside the King in Black miniseries because they are closely connected. Writer Donny Coates has really become a powerful influence within Marvel. Well earned, too.
The Eternals A return of The Eternals just in time for the upcoming Marvel movie.
Once & Future This is the only comic not from DC or Marvel to crack the list. In Once & Future, folks try to prevent the return of King Arthur. Jumping onboard this series in comic form is not recommended. Check it out in trade paperback to get caught up.
There are many games designed with solo play in mind. Some of these games are 1-player only. Some are multiplayer games that come with solo modes. And some are multiplayer games that have unofficial solo rules that have been created by and embraced by the gaming community.
Not all solo gamers are solo. I am a member of a family of four and yet I enjoy solo gaming. For me, solo gaming offers quiet concentration. I approach solo gaming as a puzzle to be solved. I also enjoy the meditative nature of moving board game bits and shuffling / handling cards. You’ll notice most of my personal favorites are card-driven games.
This list was compiled by me from a mix of personal experience, feedback from fellow local gamers, and a few choice bits taken from the annual list of best solo games as compiled by users of BoardGameGeek.com.
MY PERSONAL PICKS
Star Realms Frontiers
Star Realms started as a solid 2-player deck-builder, but has since evolved into Star Realms Frontiers, which is the Star Realms game packaged with enough content for up four players. It also comes with a number of 1-player challenges. Some are more difficult than others, but each is a unique challenge, not just an escalation of difficulty within the same challenge. If fantasy is more your flavor then give Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar a go.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
This cooperative fire-fighting game has been a bestseller at ComicReaders for several years. My son when he was younger would play it solo, taking turns with the different firefighters in an effort to rescue people (and pets) from burning buildings. Years later when I got involved in solo gaming I thought about this game, did some research, and found some unofficial rules on BoardGameGeek.com. I like to run this game solo with 3 firefighters. You pretty much play it the same way you play with a group but with way less table talk. This means all the bad decisions you make are your own. After every firefighter takes its turn you have to activate the fire. I find the limited, focused actions of the firefighters and the maintenance of the fire itself quite meditative. Lots of cardboard bits to move around the board. And it is still an excellent thematic experience. I do enjoy a game that manages to execute its theme.
The expansion for Paper Tales is needed in to play solo. This is a drafting game (think 7 Wonders) but it is tight like borscht in that the game plays in only 4 rounds. The game also has an aging mechanic– basically, cards you draft last for two rounds at the most. This means you have to not only adapt your strategy based on the cards being drafted but also on the fact that some of those cards are not going to be around to help you in later rounds. When I first learned Paper Tales had a solo mode I thought how in the holy heck does one play a drafting game solo? The way is rather slick. You draw cards, draft one, and the remaining cards are set aside. You do this again– draw some cards, draft one, set the rest aside. The cards set aside eventually become the “hand” of the enemy you are competing against. I love this because I get a sense of what I’m going to face when the enemy’s turn takes place, but it is frustrating because if a card I don’t really want is going to really help the enemy then I sometimes feel like I have to take it to deny the enemy. As with the original game, the whole solo experience takes place in only 4 rounds. There are different levels of difficulty in the solo experience. I’ve won the easiest level only once out of a half dozen plays.
There is a lot of game variety in this small box game. The game box says 1-player but this official solo experience is basically you playing against a “dummy player” which has its own set of actions and cards that you have to manage on its behalf. This is NOT the way to play The Harbour solo. A member of the gaming community developed an unofficial 20-Move Solo Challenge. It had been around for a few years when I discovered it so feedback on BoardGameGeek has refined it into a great solo experience. A game of The Harbour ends when a player buys four buildings. In the 20-Move Solo Challenge you have 20 turns to build four buildings. If you do, you score your points. Now reset and try to better your score. I built my four buildings on my first attempt of the challenge, but I’d always buy the cheapest building available, so my score was not very impressive. Each time I play I try to do better and better. The kicker is due to the large number of buildings available in the game the game experience is almost always different in some way each time I play.
The Lost Expedition
If I’m feeling particularly strong I’ll tackle The Lost Expedition in which you are trying to discover a lost city in the heart of the Amazon. Resources are limited. The dangers are plenty. Every decision feels like a bad one. You have three explorers but you only need one to reach the lost city alive. (Thank the stars you don’t have to get back out of the Amazon!) This is a great thematic experience, but it’s hard on the nerves. There are ways to make this game even more punishing. I should mention you can play this game cooperatively, which is difficult and fun, and two people can play it competitively, which is difficult and fun as you each lead a team of explorers.
Legendary Encounters: Alien
I think there are ways to play every Legendary deck-building game as a solo experience. The official solo rules for Alien came with its first expansion but even before that people were playing multiple hands in order to play by themselves. The official solo is my go to game for a thematic, longer playing, full on meditative experience in solo play. It’s a deck builder so I’m constantly moving cards, reading cards, making decisions about cards, shuffling cads, discarding cards. I can think of few things more focusing then the riffle of cards as I stare down the wet, prickly maw of a xenomorph. The theme is nailed. I somewhat reluctantly picked up the newest expansion which features elements from the Alien Covenant movie. I’m not a fan of anything beyond Alien 3, but I wanted more cards to move around.
Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities
This mouthful of a game has two of my favorite things: a theme you can really get into and great tactile elements. The theme is gladiatorial combat in a fictional version of ancient Rome. The tactile elements are the heavy poker chips that represent the combatants and the coloured dice you chuck to resolve combat. Before Chip Theory Games had their big hit Too Many Bones, they had the series of games Hoplomachus. The Lost Cities is the first one I picked up based on a stellar review from a ComicReaders’ customer. In the solo experience, you use gladiators and your champion to fight bosses, criminals, and arena beasts over three rounds.
This War of Mine
This is, I think, the most thematic and most depressing game I’ve ever played. It’s a board game simulation of surviving in a city under siege. I played this as a multi-player experience and though I can’t say it was “fun” I can say it was an excellent experience in immersive board gaming. You can play this solo quite easily but the game itself is not easy. It’s a long game experience, too, but it comes with a slick “save” mechanic. Don’t fly solo if you are worried about intense emotions. Maybe not the best game to play during a pandemic, but then again sales of the board game Pandemic spiked when the coronavirus crisis kicked off.
Sherlock Consulting Detective Agency
With a close attention to detail and lots of physical props to read and consider, Sherlock Consulting Detective Agency is an immersive game where you try to solve cases by scouring newspapers and other props for clues. A more tech savvy individual might consider Chronicles of Crime as a solo mystery-solving experience.
One of the best-selling heavier strategy games at ComicReaders is Terraforming Mars. It also comes with a solo mode. I do believe this is one of my business partner’s favorite solo games and it’s on this list because he’d probably give me heck if it wasn’t. (I like Terraforming Mars with multiple players. I have not played it solo.) In 1-player mode it is my understanding that you need to achieve a certain level of points in the three resources of oxygen, temperature and water. It’s an engine building game so you get to move a crap tonne of bits around the board. Lots of planning and careful decisions required.
For me, this is the “original” 1-player only game. It is a lean deck-builder. It might seem dated to some these days but ya’ gotta give this not-so-old-classic its props.
Spirit Island. One of the best cooperative experiences can be played solo.
Mage Knight. I read on BoardGameGeek that solo is the only way this game SHOULD be played.
Aeon’s End. I’ve played this cooperative deck-builder as a multiplayer game. I can see how this would be a good solo experience, but I like to fiddle with Alien cards instead.
Arkham Horror LCG — Lord of the Rings LCG — Marvel Champions LCG . The LCG stands for Living Card Game. Different themes. Similar core game mechanics. Card driven solo experience, but not a deck-builder.
Viticulture. A heavier strategy game with a solo option. If you don’t want to terraform Mars perhaps you can immerse yourself in wine country. Actual wine optional.
Nemo’s War (2nd edition). A member of the ComicReaders South team is digging the heck out of this heavily themed solo experience.
Wingspan. One of the most popular games in recent years can be played solo.
Hostage Negotiator. Dark theme. Solo only. Save hostages. I own it and all of the expansions released so far. It is difficult for me to recommend this one because of the theme. That said, the theme is NOT as immersive as other thematic games on this list, which is why it only gets an honourable mention.
Dawn of the Zeds. I’ll be honest here and say I had not heard of this game. It has gone through three printings, I think, and is an annual favorite on the best solo games list on BoardGameGeek. Zeds means zombies, so if Zombicide as a solo experience is too much of a table hog for you then consider the Zeds.
One Deck Dungeon. Play it solo or play it as a two-player game. Chuck dice. Allocate dice. Try to fight your way through a dungeon. I find this one a challenge.
Ganz Schon Clever / That’s Pretty Clever. Same game with two names. Chuck dice. Assign dice. Try to get your engine running to chuck more dice and score more points before the game ends. A slick little puzzler. Play. Reset. Try to do better.
Tiny Towns. A new game that has proven to be popular that I did not know had solo rules until I started to research this list. I’m going to end with Tiny Towns even though there are many more solo gaming experiences to be discovered. Tiny Towns is a good reminder that some multiplayer games have solo rules. Check your own collection and see what solo experiences you might have waiting for you. (Chad Boudreau)
Note: BoardGameGeek.com currently has more than 1,300 games listed as having a solitaire experience.Also, this article in its original form first appeared on ComicReaders Downtown’s Facebook page in April 2020. I made some changes to the article when I posted it on the Web site.
I had a long-time customer tell me the other day that Flash Point: Fire Rescue has become his go-to game for co-operative play. This was a big announcement because for years his favorite co-operative game was Pandemic, a game many of you readers will know as an excellent co-operative game.
But, you know, I think he might be right…
In Flash Point: Fire Rescue, players are members of a firefighting brigade. The game board is a map of a home— like a detailed blueprint. Around the outer edge of the board outside the home are numbered squares representing the street, sidewalk and lawn. At the beginning of the game, firefighters arrive on the scene of a fire. Inside the home—the exact location unknown—are a number of occupants. Players win by rescuing a predetermined number of occupants. Players lose if four occupants are consumed by the flames or if the building becomes structurally unsound and collapses.