With the convention now just a few weeks away, I’ve put together this list of my Top 20 Essen Spiel 2021 games. I’ve been through to look at around 400 titles so far (thanks to the Tabletop together Tool) and narrowed it down to these, my top targets.
Of course, there will be loads more great games at the show and who knows what I’ll actually end up loving or hating. But these are the games that had the personality to make me want to definitely take a closer look. So please remember that as you look through the list. I have read the rules, watched a video, or read a pre-release review. Please don’t take these as recommendations.
don’t know much/anything about Essen? You can check out more details in my Essen Spiel 2021 preview. This post is purely going to be about the games. And it’s also going to largely be games that ma be a little more obscure, or less talked about. Because it’s often the hidden gems that really win me over at the show. Finally, I’d pay no heed to the age ranges. Many publishers put higher numbers on to avoid having to pay for expensive children’s games checks.
Essen Spiel 2021 games – under 60 minutes
- Almadi (2-5 players, ages 10+). A simple yet restrictive tile-layer with clever, brain burning scoring makes this look right up my street.
- Bad Company (1-6, 8+). Use your gang (dice actions) to pull off heists (complete cards) while staying ahead of the police (or instantly lose).
- Furnace (2-4 players, ages 12+). A short and classic-feeling engine-builder, fuelled by a series of auctions where the losers get cool compensation effects instead.
- Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1-50, 10+). Cool looking flip-and-write with gorgeous art and some nice looking nice push-your-luck touches.
- Matcha (2, 10+). Smart looking two-player game of bluff, where players secretly play then reveal cards in the hope of winning bids to make sets.
- Neko Harbour: The Card Game (2-4, 12+). Beneath a cute penguin theme hides what looks like a clever, thinky, drafting and planning card game.
- Neoville (2-4, 10+). A typically simple and elegant Phil Walker-Harding design, where players try to optimise a 4×4 tile grid to score points.
- One Card Wonder (2-6, 8+). A light but thinky engine building, hand management and set collection game with asymmetric player abilities – all in a 15-minute experience.
- Twinkle (1-4, 8+). Cool looking abstract dice game where you build constellations to score points in various ways (depending on dice colours).
- Winter Queen (2-4s, 10+). Collect crystals to match patterns and score points in this interactive abstract strategy game.
Longer games (over an hour)
- Ark Nova (1-4 players, ages 14+). A typically complex euro game from Feuerland Spiele. It’s card driven, with a clever action selection mechanism to manage.
- Betwixt & Between (1-4, 14+). Clever and thinky tile layer, where players collect resources and place them in patterns to trigger spells ands abilities.
- Bitoku (1-4, 12+). Stunning looking euro using cards and dice as actions, gathering resources and points while improving your hand cards to more powerful ones.
- Messina 1347 (1-4, 12+). Build up the city and collect resources, while saving people from the plague. All the fun of the 14th Century…
- Pessoa (1-4, 10+). A hand management and worker placement game with a nice theme (the Portuguese poet). Much like the man himself, it has some crazy but interesting ideas.
- Settlement (1-4, 10+). Players draft tiles (terrain/buildings) and cards (artefacts/heroes) to build then activate their settlements in this territory building euro.
- Shinkansen: Zero Kei (1-4, 10+). Collect cards to build up your bullet train, with each new carriage adding another ability or action – while also adding to your network.
- Squaring Circleville (1-4, 12+). A rondel-style euro action selection game, where players ‘build’ in areas to gain majorities (for scoring) and improve their actions.
- The Specialists (1-4, 14+). Use dice to recruit your ‘specialists’, putting together the perfect team to pull of the heist (via cascading skills and set collection).
- Witchstone (2-4, 12+). Route building, an interesting domino action selection system, while making patterns with resources to trigger effects. all in a wizardy environment.
Some bigger Essen Spiel 2021 games also on my radar
Some classic franchises are getting milked a bit more this year – but they all actually look really interesting to me:
- Azul: Queen’s Garden (2-4 players, 45-60 mins, ages 10+). This fourth version of the brilliant Azul changes things up with players needing to build their board, as well as collecting pieces to fill it. While also retaining some scoring/placement aspects from Summer Pavilion.
- Kingdomino: Origins (2-4 players, 15 mins, ages 8+). This looks like a cute revision of the base game, with a few extra rules. I’ve not been overly taken by the previous iterations, but the original Kingdomino is an absolute classic.
- Sobek: 2 Players (2 players, 10-30 mins, ages 10+). I enjoy the original Sobek – a light set collection card game with some clever ideas. This two player version is also set collection, but this time in the form of a card grid. you can play it now over at Board Game Arena.
- Welcome to the Moon (1-6 players, 30 mins, ages 10+). I really enjoy the original Welcome To, but haven’t been overly impressed with the expansions of the Las Vegas version. But this has a campaign mode, alongside other big changes from the original.