A good lightweight game should be light in almost every possible way: inexpensive, portable, colorful, pleasantly themed, quick-playing, low complexity, and playable at any skill level.
The Diamond Climber Awards are in their 4th year, and with each year we’ve grown and changed, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Because our team has such a wide and diverse taste in games it was tough this year to come to a consensus on a single game that really fit the category. So this year we’re presenting multiple picks for Best Light Game, written in the words of each author who loved this category. We feel this will better represent the breadth and diversity of the games on the market, and offer a more genuine selection for our readers.
So without further ado here are the games from 2021 that slid as easily into our lunch breaks as they did our game nights.
I have endless amounts of time for tile drafting and tile-laying games. This was this year’s most enjoyable time, and even managed to get past my dislike of games about “nature.”
Lost Cities: Roll & Write
There are no *bad* games in the Lost Cities series, but Lost Cities: Roll & Write is the best since the original. It plays quickly, it’s tense, there’s tempo control for players to futz around with, the dice choices matter not only for you but for your opponents as well, and it’s fun. No notes.
While providing a fun and engaging experience, Lost Cities: Roll and Write is easy to teach and play and lasts just long enough to not overstay its welcome. This big game in a small box will keep you coming back for more.
Combining excellent artwork with excellent-er combos (trust me, it’s a word), Wild Space continued a brightly-colored streak of great production and experiences published by Pandasaurus Games. The screen-printed wooden spaceships—a promo included with the game for those who purchase Wild Space online—add a little extra flavor for an already fun experience, and stringing together combos with gorilla scientists, lizard weapons specialists and/or owl computer programmers for a couple of big turns each game is a blast. You can play this game with a 7-year-old or join 4 friends who are seasoned gamers. Wild Space has become the 30-minute jack-of-all-trades filler for recent game nights!
This “push-your-luck with auctions” card game is an excellent follow-up to 2019 Diamond Climber Winner “Point Salad.” It has just the right combination of a simple rules set and interesting choices, which make it a perfect fit for Best Light Game.
RATS: High Tea at Sea
Bob Pazehoski, Jr.
No game has come to the living room more frequently this year than RATS. This little roll-and-write is the definition of a light game. It is a print-and-play that costs whatever the buyer is willing to pay, with proceeds going to charity. It teaches in a couple minutes, it plays in 15-20. It is a strange little ride that involves asking polite questions and, if done right, wearing a fancy hat. It is a low-consequence game that is bound to contain a few great laughs.
All on 1 Card
I was browsing the “shelves” of Amazon.de when I came across Alles auf 1 Karte (All on 1 card) and decided to give it a shot; and boy I’m glad I did. There were very few games in 2021 that I played more than this one, including with my kids, and my extended family over the holidays. All on 1 Card is the perfect game to break out if you’ve only got 20 or 30 minutes to play. The gameplay is dead simple: one player rolls all 5 dice, up to 3 times, then everyone marks those colors on just ONE of their cards. But if you can’t write ALL of them on your card, you can’t write ANY of them. Finish 3 out of 5 rows on your card and you score some points, fill the entire card and score a bonus! I just taught you how to play All on 1 Card!
For me, Cartographers is a fantastic game driven by three things: polyomino shapes, my own terrible artwork and monsters drawn in really annoying places by ‘kind’ opponents. Cartographers Heroes ups the ante with monsters that actually start acting monstrously and heroes you can draw to defeat them. Honestly, it makes a great game even better and for the price point, compact size of the box and ability to play with as many people as you have sheets of score paper, it’s an absolute gem.
Dive may not be the world’s most complicated game, but few games make the most of their premise in the way that Dive does. The concept of racing through unclear waters to reach the bottom is instantly understandable, with only a handful of extra scoring rules to add depth to the gameplay. Additional components can add even more replayability to keep this 20-minute race fresh. Above all, Dive’s clever use of transparent cards to represent the ocean’s depths creates an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts.