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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our one and only pure 2-player game to make the top 20.
17. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is another perennial bestsellers.
This monster of a game continues to sell well. Fully immersive campaign.
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.
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.