top of page

NERDZ GARAGE Top Ten of 2020

The year was filled with challenges and unpredictable, but one comforting prospect was plenty of time to play games.

During the year we backed more games, play tested more games, and carved out time to work on the design of our first video game.

We thank the designers, publishers, and FLGS for being the Sancho to our collective Don Quixote's.

10. Oak and Iron Core Box Game

A tabletop miniature game set in the age of pirates, grand ships of the line, in which you can engage in fleet battles or small squadron actions.

Oak and Iron is a straightforward to learn and teach the game, with specific mechanics for movement and combat. We love miniatures, and this game provides them! There is a deeper level of tactics and strategy, that make it an enriching experience. The Core Box gives it a vast amount of replayability, but many expansions to build on.

Oak & Iron: Core Box

Rule the seas in the age of fighting sail in these tactical miniatures combat game.

2 Players |Playing Time: 45 minutes |Age: 12+

Designer: Mike Tunez

Publisher: Firelock Games

9. Tapestry Plans and Ploys

We found Tapestry’s expansion to be well balanced and boosted the replayability of the core game. It is compelling to watch the different personal game style/attitude/ goals, players take while playing the many paths to victory points. The tension that builds at the last round is exhilarating.

*Odd note- we seemed to follow the track of the board that is closest to us.

The expansion adds fresh changes in Civilizations and Landmarks.

There are seven new Landmarks in the fine Stonemaier fashion, are charming components and artful. My favorite strategy is to fill my civilization and so pleased to so many new Landmarks.

The new Space tiles! My hubby always gravitates to space and was thrilled to see the new addition. It is as if it was made for us! You will want to race down the Exploration track to get draw one of those tiles.

The new Tile Bag solves the problem of how to draw the tile reasonably. Clever clever-clever.

We enjoy everything in the Plans and Ploys expansion.

1–5 Players | Playing Time: 90–120 Min |Age: 12+

Artists: Andrew Bosley Sculpts: Rom Brown

8. Alice is Missing

This game is an entirely immersive experience!

Solitude. Mystery. Truth.

Alice is Missing A Silent Role-Playing Game

Mysteries. Love them. Especially mysteries in games. Usually, at the big reveal in a puzzle or a story, we give a squeal or "Oh!" of surprise. The twist - Alice is Missing is an immersive experience played almost entirely through text message; the reveal is bursting with wide-eyed expression and maybe a few tears.

Once you have found Alice, you have collectively created a movie of a night in Silent Falls. Rather than scripting encounters, the Clue Cards give direction, and the players spin the web. Will they work well together? That is what makes this replayable by bringing new personalities. They are five personas to choose from, and we decided to gender-bend our initial game. We had one player who took the role as comic relief, one who steered towards the hero, and one who took it a bit dark, but we came from (and yes) and made the story work.

You can with a group around a table or they have a version of Roll20 to the game that shares the cards' delivery if you are not all in the same place. We utilize Roll20 for our D&D sessions, and it is a straightforward and effective way to share pertinent information and boost the narrative.

Alice is Missing has an intriguing storyline, impeccable soundtrack, and an encompassing gritty experience.

The Nerdz Garage relished getting lost in the layers of the game.

Designed by Spenser Starke

Art by Julianne Griepp and Caleb Cleveland

Published by Hunters Entertainment – Renegade Games

7. Pandemic Legacy Season Zero

Work together during the Cold War to prevent a Soviet bio-threat. 1962. The Cold War continues as a new threat looms on the horizon: a deadly new Soviet bioweapon called Project MEDUSA. You and your fellow medical graduates have been called up to the CIA for the critical mission of investigating and preventing its development. Travel the world using carefully constructed aliases to move swiftly between Allied, Neutral, and Soviet cities. As your complete objectives over 12 months, each success or failure will bring you closer to the truth.

We love legacy games, especially when the designer pulls the mechanics and storyline, and they do!

Players develop characters and alias and are sent on a mission, and if you succeed, there are spoils for the lucky; if you do not succeed, try again.

We felt the plot twists and turns were smart and enthralling. The components and rulebook, and top-secret files were top notch.

2–4 Players | Playing Time: 45–60 Min | Age: 14+

Publisher: Z-Man Games

6. Pandora's Box

At the heart of Greek Mythology is thrilling tales of action, drama, Jealousy, and weakness.

Pandora's Box Card Game exemplifies all these qualities. Color us impressed from the first play.

Pandora's Box is the inaugural game from the three siblings that put rivalries aside to join and build their company. The deck consists of eye-catching Greek Gods with artwork reminiscent of ancient Greek mosaics transformed into modern allegories. They are delightful. As mortals, our goal is to appease the Gods by matching the same God card, completing all four columns, avoiding curses, and getting locked and getting the lowest score.

Easy to learn and endlessly entertaining to play, Pandora's Box Card Game is more than a party game. The outbursts and synergy of the Curse and Lock/Key cards make for enterprising gameplay.

Unpredictable player sabotages the competition can bring on squabbles, and if this occurs, the game designers believe that we have created a true Greek God Success Story.

Ages 7+ | Playtime: 15 Minutes | Players 2-10

5. Antematter the Board Game

Spinning a tale of intrigue, extortion, grease monkeys, speakers of lies, and giggle juice… that's right, Boozehounds Smugglers.

ANTEMATTER combines tabletop strategy and poker in a one-of-a-kind space board game, pitting you against competing adventurers controlling a band of smugglers that have a hankering to Loot the Conflux then burn fuel over to the joint to partake in a labyrinthine poke.

There is a deep and compelling Lore section for each faction that brought interesting and boisterous interactions in gameplay in the rulebook. The cards though vastly diverse still were very balanced. The Lore backstories are well thought out and included tips and tricks that were highly beneficial. It combines a sizable amount of strategy and sabotage in both components of the game -plunder and poker.

It does take a moment at first to jump from space looting to space poker; however, the Crew Cards skillfully bridge them together. Antematter feels timeless that we would want to play it now and years from now, and the game would feel fresh.

The random movements of the Planets were a brilliant mechanic and wholly changed each game.

The card detailing are very well thought out, and the art is an idyllic blend of Gatsby and Space Cowboys.

We had a roarin' good time!


A sci-fantasy mashup of strategy and Texas hold'em.

3–6 Players | Playing Time: 45–120 Min | Age: 12+

Publisher: Bardshark Games –


4. One Hundred Torii

The game is tile placement with a focal point of set collection. Building out the garden in a shared play area could have been cutthroat; however, our games were gentle and calming. (Now is an excellent time for this game!) The movement was clean, and the Torii mechanics are smart.

It is steeped with strategies that quickly evolve as the game nears the last turn.

We found One Hundred Torii, a delightful game with plentiful choices that never led to a bad turn.

We fully utilized the Gardner and Poet meeples more than the other visitors. Towards the end of the game, acquiring enough tokens to pay the Gardener and Poet cost was a ploy that we recognized each other planning.

Grabbing the last large tokens before the opponent could be challenging and depending on the luck of tiles drawn.

Closing the paths is a simple way to snag some Journey Points.

We found One Hundred Torii, a delightful game with plentiful choices that never led to a bad turn. Pairing the game with Traditional Japanese Music, Koto & Shakuhachi Lullaby, made the experience better than therapy!

One Hundred Torii

Designers: Eduardo Baraf and Scott Caputo

Artist: Vincent Dutrait

Publishers: Pencil First Games

Ages: 8+ | Players: 1-4 |45-60 minutes

Category: Abstract Strategy

3. Cowboy Bebop Space Serenade

We aim to misbehave and thought we had played all the space cowboy-themed games. Lady luck was on our side when the Guide for Bounty Hunters popped up on gaming social media. It had been a while since we watched the groundbreaking sassy and smart anime Cowboy Bebop. It takes place in a flawed and contentious universe. The characters have depth, and all actions have repercussions. Episodic stories that glide through ardent music and slick artistry. Japanime games captured the soul and spunk from the show thoroughly.

Cowboy Bebop: Serenade is a semi-cooperative deck-building game for 1-4 players. You are tasked to play one of the shrewd crew members on The Bebop and commissioned by the Big Shot to hunt criminals on Mars, Earth, and Ganymede. Eventually, you cross paths with Vicious, and the outcome of this battle determines your victory or his escape.

This game is easy to teach once you get through the rulebook. It may seem like a light game; however, it can get surprisingly cutthroat as the jobs on the Big Shot dwindle, and Vicious is around the corner, and the players turn on each other to score big before time runs out. The Nerdz Garage team is utterly competitive and did not manage the semi-cooperative gameplay. This did not detract from the experience. We enjoyed the seamless adaption from the anime that felt as if you were romping through the episodes. The variety and combination of the Common deck have lent to variability. After multiple games, there were new combinations made to build a contrasting deck.

Innovative additions were the Appearance effect on some of the Criminal cards. The random reshuffling of the Purchase draw cards could be frustrating and comical at the same time. The baddies in the Criminal cards felt fair and balanced.

The Vicious appearance though expected, was still relished. It did feel a bit too easy for a big battle was hoping it was more challenging. Our misreading of the rules, that if Vicious escapes, then we all lose, was a house rule kept. That peril gave the game an intriguing conclusion for the Nerdz.

Nerdz Garage enthusiastically recommends turning up the jazz and pursuing the bad guys in Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade.

See you Space Cowboy!

3,2,1 Let's Jam!

Tank!" by Seatbelts

Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade

1–4 Players | Playing Time – 30–90 Min |Age: 14+

2. Wingspan Oceania Expansion

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion focuses on birds in Australia and New Zealand. This expansion includes new player mats and a new food type, allowing players to explore different strategies in this new environment. It also has new bonus cards and more end-of-round goals, and a new color of the egg.

The new food source, Nectar, has various abilities. Each player starts with a Nectar, and players can get more through the bird feeders' dice. These are wild food and have upgrade actions when used and collected by the player mat. End of the game, players scores points for having the most Nectar in each habitat. However, at the end of each round, used nectars go back to supply.

Even when you lose a game, you still feel accomplished, and that is the beauty of Wingspan.

Wingspan Oceania continues to inspire.

The vibrant (adorable) bird cards of Australia and it has to be noted, the time and effort put into each card. The illustrations are stunning, and the factual information: what they consume, their habits, Wingspan, and their bonus actions are related to that individual bird.

It is strategic without being maddening. There are many roads to build a good engine. I have stressed that the first rounds are vital; however, lately, my luck of the draw has lacked in the first round, and I had to pivot. It was the third round when my habitats started to produce. Oceania brings a more balanced and more good-natured game. The new expansion has plenty of bird powers to level the playing field by assisting other players like yourself.

Wingspan European Expansion added exciting variations of existing mechanisms to the game; however, Wingspan Oceania Expansion successfully boosted the competition with smart mechanics and powers.

Nerdz Garage found Wingspan Oceania delightful with boundless choices. Pairing the game with Birds of Australia's National Parks

by Wild Eden Nature Sounds, made the experience better than therapy.

Wingspan Oceania

Gameplay 1-5 Players |Playing Time 40-70Min |Age: 10+ | Play Type Engine Building

Designer Elizabeth Hargrave |Artist Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, Beth Sobel

Publisher: Stonemaier Games

1. Sorcerer City

We are wizards tasked to use our magical powers to rebuild the Sorcerer City every year. Gain and reshape your district over five years, but time is limited to gain the most money, influence, magic, and Prestige.

Wait! Look out for the Monsters that infiltrate your city and cause havoc!

There is tile drafting and a brilliant time crunch mechanic that keeps the adrenalin pumping the whole game. Just when you have relaxed and caught your breath, a new round begins, and the timer kicks in, and suddenly you cannot remember your strategy, and a goblin lands on your city tiles and aaahhh…. Oh, and did I mention the monsters? Liches, Goblins, and Skeletons Oh My!

We like a heavy game or a massive tabletop roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons any day of the week. Sometimes, there is just time for a quick (er) game that you can just jump into. Sorcerers City fits that bill and the game we had played the most in 2020.

There is some luck involved, but with the timer (app on the phone with theme music!) the strategy builds each round!!! The best coins ever- they interlock!

For the Nerdz Garage- Sorcerer City is the perfect game!!!

1–6 Players | Playing Time: 45 – 60 minutes. | Age: 14+

Designer: Scott Caputo

Artist: Lina Cossette, David Kegg, Damien Mammoliti

Publisher: Druid City Games

Nerdz Garage Top Ten TV Shows

10. Keeping Faith – BBC

9. Deadwater Fell – BBC

8. Schitt’s Creek- CBC

7. Queens Gambit – Netflix

6. Better Things – FX

5. Afterlife – Netflix

4. Ted Lasso- Apple TV

3. Killing Eve – BBC

2. Mythic Quest – Apple TV

1. Mandalorian - Disney


Let’s be honest; there is still a bit of drama when we play.

Sit Down -Grab a Drink – Join the Game

Suzzan Smith


New Year - New Dice!! 10% Off with CODE Nerdz10

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page