Mon-Thurs 4-10pm, Fri 4pm-midnight, Sat 12pm-midnight, Sun 12-9pm.
3230 N Clark St Chicago IL 60657   |   (773) 857-1037
Hours  |  
Directions  |   (773) 857-1037

2020 EOY Favorites : Brianna

notebook background with text "brianna's favorite games of 2020* played for the first time this year, not just new!"

Every year we like to highlight our favorite games of the past year. Unlike a lot of year end lists though, we like to talk about not just new games, but games that are “new to me” for the year. So much of the board game hobby can focus on the “cult of new” that older games that are also fantastic and get overlooked after they’re new.



Favorite Solo / Co-Op: Unlock!

For a 2020 list, I have to give a shout-out to the solo games that saved me during the first lockdown of the pandemic when I was stuck alone at home. The Unlock! series of games are like an escape room in a box, using cards and an app to create an immersive experience with loads of logic puzzles. I love timed games and the adrenaline rush that comes with having to think fast – creatively, but still with a high degree of accuracy. Unlike some other escape-room-in-a-box series, I like that these games aren’t destroyed when you play, so you can always pass them on to a friend to enjoy. These games were super approachable and easy to coax family members into playing over the holiday since there’s not a ton of set-up, rules, or deep strategy. My family loved the Star Wars theme of the latest Unlock! release (breaking out of an Imperial Star Destroyer in the second mission was our favorite). We had a blast working together to escape.


Photo by The Ludoquist (UK)

Favorite RPG: Fiasco

As an improviser, I’ve always been “DND-curious” but have just never found the right group of friends to play with. If you’re new to RPGs or don’t have a regular group, Fiasco is a great entry point for beginners. The game is basically to create and improvise a Coen Brothers movie. You’ll choose from a score of dark and zany themes reminiscent of familiar movie genres, from science fiction to film noir. You’re incentivized to have everything go totally wrong or totally right for your characters, so you’ll have to make bold choices.

My first game, I played a former military leader and human counterpart to an android twin sister on a doomed spaceship overrun with xenomorphs and led by religious fanatics. It was a darkly comedic tale of sacrifice, redemption, and familial love. Of course, every game will be totally unique and memorable because of the countless permutations of personalities and scenarios. I could even see some actual movie scripts being generated by this fun and creative improvisational game.


Photo by The Ludoquist (UK)

Favorite Two-Player: Odin’s Ravens

2020 was the year I discovered a long-lost second cousin through a neighborhood Facebook group. Quickly bonding over our mutual love of board games, he introduced me to this great little two-player card game called Odin’s Ravens. Your ravens will race across a track from opposite directions through lovely landscapes, using tricks to slow down your opponent or pull off a shortcut for yourself. Although it’s a hand management game, the strategy reminded me of the classic marble game mancala, a long-time favorite. Odin’s Ravens is a quick play, easy to learn, and easy to transport; the artwork and clever strategy won me over completely. Definitely a new go-to!



Favorite Party / Family Game: Stay Cool!

In celebration of two years at the cafe with Leticia this October, our staff finally got together to play some games! One of our favorite games of the year has to be Stay Cool!. When you’re in the hot seat, you have to multi-task by answering game show-like questions from two people at once – one verbally and one spelled out using dice with letters – all while being timed. Each round gets progressively more difficult, with the hardest level requiring you to flip the timer every 30 seconds (while answering questions!) without being able to see your time remaining. Again, I love the adrenaline rush of a timed game and having to think under pressure. It creates some silly scenarios seeing someone unable to answer simple questions like “what color is your shirt?” because they’re so befuddled under the pressure of focusing on so many things at once! Get ready for loads of hilarity with this fun, challenging game. 



Favorite Strategy Game: Root

I finally got the chance to try this famous asymmetrical game with factions of adorable woodland creatures battling for control of the forest. Each player has to use different game mechanics and strategy depending on their unique animal faction. The learning curve is steep, but it reminds me of real-world conflicts where different groups of people have different goals, motivations, and strategies that you may never fully understand even as you’re fighting. My favorite characters are the Underground Duchy moles from the Underworld expansion, thanks to their engine-building system that lets you set up some great combos for amazing bonuses – plus, you can always retreat back underground when battling gets too intense. Root obviously has a ton of replayability with all the different roles, so it’s definitely one I’ll be returning to again and again to try new strategies and combinations of animal factions!


Most of these games can be purchased at the cafe or online for pickup. At Bonus Round, there’s a game for everyone, and we’ll help you find it!


Mon, Wed, Thurs: 2pm – 11pm

Fri: 2p-12a

Sat: 11a-12a

Sun: 11a-11p