2020 – Game of the Year Nominees

Join us as we review the 2020 Game of the Year nominees for Meeple Mountain’s 3rd Annual Diamond Climber Board Game Awards.

We always save the best for last, and just like every year, the nominees for Game of the Year are the best. They have beautiful artwork, clever and compelling gameplay, and satisfying choices, and each of them deserves the chance to win, and to be on your shelf. But there can be only one. Check back on Friday, February 19th when we announce the winners of the 3rd Annual Diamond Climber Awards.

Dune: Imperium

I was introduced to the amazing world of Frank Herbert’s Dune in the early 80s; thanks to David Lynch’s now-dated movie of the same name. With its political machinations, hard science fiction, and compelling storyline it captured my teenage attention. I went on to re-read the book many times over the intervening years, but never really discovered an interest in any of the Dune board games until Dune: Imperium. A deck-building, worker placement game centered around the world of Arrakis, the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, the Fremen, and the Padishah Emperor? All in less than 2 hours? He who controls the gaming table, controls the game!

Publisher: Asmodee Italia, Dire Wolf, Geekach Games, Lucky Duck Games, sternenschimmermeer
Designer(s): Paul Dennen
Artist(s): Clay Brooks, Nate Storm

The Shores of Tripoli

The Shores of Tripoli is an entry level card driven naval wargame set in the early 1800s, focusing on the conflict between the US Navy and the Barbary pirates. In The Shores of Tripoli one player will take the part of the United States, battling against pirates of the North African coast, while the opposing player controls Tripoli. This game features both political and military maneuvering in a game where each player only plays a single card each turn. The Shores of Tripoli has beautiful detailed artwork and graphic design, streamlined and impactful gameplay, and might be your first wargame if publisher Fort Circle Games has anything to say about it.

Publisher: Fort Circle Games
Designer(s): Kevin Bertram
Artist(s): Cat Bock, Marc Rodrigue (II), Matthew Wallhead

Project L

Project L is a rapid-fire engine-building game featuring Tetris style tiles. Collect shapes to add to your personal tableau, upgrade those shapes or lay them down to earn points and even more shapes. Simple and abstract? Yes. Satisfying? Absolutely! Project L also has amazing double-thick cardboard with cutouts for your shapes, minimal and modern graphic design, and the tetris shapes are made of extremely tactile plastic similar to the tiles from Azul. If you asked me to mix and match some of my favorite mechanisms to come up with a perfect game, all for me? You might wind up with something like Project L.

Publisher: Boardcubator
Designer(s): Adam Spanel, Jan Soukal, Michal Mikeš
Artist(s): Jaroslav Jurica, Pavel Richter

Watch our video review of Project L.

Lost Ruins of Arnak

Every child of the 80s secretly wanted to be Indiana Jones; traveling the world, going on dangerous adventures, finding hidden treasures of the ancient world. Lost Ruins of Arnak mixes all that, along with a healthy dose of worker placement, deck-building, and killer artwork. Over the course of the game players will explore the ruins of a once-great civilization at the center of an uncharted island. Lost Ruins of Arnak allows players to make tactical decisions via worker actions, artifacts, and card play. Lost Ruins of Arnak might just be your next adventure.

Publisher: Czech Games Edition, DiceTree Games, HeidelBÄR Games, IELLO, MINDOK, Rebel Sp. z o.o., White Goblin Games
Designer(s): Elwen, Mín
Artist(s): František Sedláček, Jakub Politzer, Jiří Kůs, Milan Vavroň, Ondřej Hrdina


Something about the illustration on the cover of Calico draws you in…a dozing kitty, a sun-drenched quilt, and you want to find out more. But it’s when you open the box and discover a wickedly clever tactical puzzle in quilt form that you’re hooked. In Calico players are designing quilts for their favorite furry four-footed friend to lay on. And who knew that cats could be so demanding, they require you to adhere to a variety of patterns and arrangements so that they can be completely satisfied. Draw tiles from a shared pool and place them onto your nascent quilt. Match colors, patterns, or both, to create pleasing groupings to earn points. Calico features wonderful artwork, a rich color palette, and gameplay that will keep you coming back for more.

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group, Flatout Games, Lucky Duck Games
Designer(s): Kevin Russ
Artist(s): Beth Sobel

Read our review of Calico.

Related board games

About the author

Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor in chief of MeepleMountain.com, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.

1 Comment

Click here to post a comment

  • Following along with the MM 2020 Nominations has certainly been entertaining! It already seems like a great decision to streamline to 8 unequivocal and accessible categories this year. I have to say that MM does a superb job of explaining the criteria for consideration, carefully evaluating each nominee’s core elements (mechanisms/theme/production), and how they come together to produce the experience of play.

    Looking back over the first 2 years of awards, I noticed that the ‘Heavy Strategy/Euro’ winner was not only omitted from the ‘Game of the Year’ nominations, but each year an alternative nomination represented the category. In 2018, Coimbra was substituted with Architects of the West Kingdom and Key Flow, and in 2019 The Taverns of Tiefenthal bypassed Paladins of the West Kingdom. In 2020, Dune: Imperium is the only game nominated for both ‘Heavy Strategy’ and ‘Game of the Year.’ Will the trend continue? I for one will not be surprised if On Mars, Merv, Tekhenu, or Paris outclasses Dune: Imperium.

Subscribe to Meeple Mountain!

Crowdfunding Roundup

Crowdfunding Roundup header

Resources for Board Gamers

Board Game Categories