With less than a month to go until Essen Spiel, it’s time once again for me to gather together a list of the 10 board and card games that have caught my eye out of the 600 or so (you read that right – 600) being released at the show this year.
I’m super excited to have Empire Engine coming out in German this year from Pegasus Spiel, while I’m also incredibly nervous about having ten or so publisher meetings in the book to show off prototypes of three games I’ve been testing all year – finger’s crossed!
But as much as I’ll enjoy seeing Empire Engine on the shelves once again, and the thought of maybe more of my games hitting the show next year, I’m just as excited about coming home with another suitcase full of games. So having gone through the entire list (I know…), these are currently the most likely to be on the train home with me.
My Essen Spiel 2015 Top 10 anticipation list*
Dodgy rulebook aside, Antarctica is ticking so many boxes for me and will probably be my first port of call on day one of my Essen trip.
First up, it will be discounted for the show (down to €30); second, the publisher (Argentum Verlag) was responsible for one of last year’s surprise hits for me (El Gaucho) and generally has a good track record; third the game has both interesting looking rondel and weather mechanisms; and finally, it has really great artwork.
Ystari is another publisher I can generally trust. At €40 Shakespeare is at my high end for price (I go for quantity at Essen!) but it looks like a great mid-weight euro game and will possibly be my ‘big’ purchase.
I’m not sure it’s offering anything sparklingly original, but the unusual theme; the tension of competing for limited resources, and the pacing of scoring very much appeal.
3. The Bloody Inn
Another interesting looking game and another publisher I can trust – this time Pearl Games, who published my game of the year last year (the still brilliant Deus).
The Bloody Inn has a great theme – you’re knocking off your guests for fun and profit – and a fantastic art style, while costing just €25. The mechanisms of this little card game also look as if they’ll throw up plenty of tough decisions while keeping the atmosphere tense.
4. Inhabit the Earth
I’ve sadly arrived pretty late to the R&D Games party, with my first experience being the excellent Keyflower. Their 2015 release sounds really interesting – a typical mass of mechanisms that will hopefully blend together beautifully. I’ll definitely be getting a play of this one.
5. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
Released by euro stalwart Lookout Games and with art from the legendary Klemens Franz, Isle of Skye seems to mix up key mechanisms from both Carcassonne and The Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
I love tile placement games and like the idea of putting values on tiles that other players might then buy, as used in Ludwig – even if it was poorly implemented in that game. So even at just €30 this will need a test run, but I have pretty high hopes for Isle of Skye as it looks like having a much better take on that mechanic.
Coming from way off in left field, Lignum is a two-hour euro from an unheralded publisher (Mücke Spiele) and designer – and at €45 the price is far from appealing. So why is it here?
The game takes the ‘walking down a road’ mechanic from Tokaido – a nice idea in a dull game – and adds worker placement to the mix. This could be a great mix and it looks really promising – but I’ll definitely be after a demo.
In this sea of euro games I thought I’d better throw in something lighter – so here’s a cheap (€25) 30-minute push your luck card game. Celestia reimplements old game Cloud 9 and looks really cool, with great components and a few new twists on the original game. Pre-orders are signed by the designer and have a €2 discount, but I’m going to want a demo before I commit as it could be just a little too basic to bother with.
My surprise hit from Essen 2013 was CV from Granna and this year they’re back with another cheap (€25), light game – the terribly titled CVlizations.
Once again it has great art from Piotr Socha and looks like a fun game; this time centring on cards rather than dice. But it seems like there could be way more luck than judgement going on, making it a bit too insubstantial, so I’ll be looking to grab a demo.
9. Steam Works
This two-hour Tasty Minstrel release from Cambridge designer Alex Churchill is one I got to play once at the Cambridge Playtest Meet Up group. Steam Works is a really thinky tile and worker placement game – a proper brain-burner, but in a good way.
TMG is a publisher you can trust and it looks like they’ve done a great job on the artwork and components. However it sounds like it has changed quite a bit since I tried it, so I’ll still be looking to try before I buy.
10. The King Is Dead
I’ve popped this one in last place here because it is both an old game and an insta-buy, so isn’t getting my juices flowing as much as when I saw it was coming to Essen a while ago.
The King is Dead is a re-theme of brilliant old abstract game King of Siam, but instead set in the UK. The new artwork looks brilliant and there is an interesting variant thrown in for those already well familiar with the game – and of course the map is different. And to top it all, it’s just €24 euro. Sold.
Bubbling (just) under
Stronghold Games are doing the English version of The Golden Ages, which looks like it might actually be that 90-minute civ game many of us have been waiting forever for. This is definitely one I’ll be looking to get a play of.
Porta Negra looks like the pick of three good looking euros coming from Pegasus this year (alongside My Village and Mombasa). I think I’ll be spending a fair amount of time at their booth getting demos of these and I’m sure at least one will come home with me.
And finally Quined Games are bringing 2012 release Xanadú to a larger audience – an interesting looking small box card game that seems to pack all the punch of a bigger worker placement euro game; with plenty of player interaction thrown in.
* All games claim to run between 50-90 minutes unless stated
Grand Austria Hotel looks like it will be a winner (Lookout).
Do you think? I read the rules to Grand Austrian Hotel and nothing at all about it grabbed me – I couldn’t see a single thing it was doing in a new or interesting way. It didn’t sound ‘bad’. but at the same time it didn’t sound in any way interesting to someone who ha played a lot of light euro games.
I can vouch for Golden Ages – terrific game.
Excellent. Hopefully I can get a game of it and if that’s good I’ll probably pick it up – looks right up my street.
Nice list, Chris. Based solely on theme, I’ll keep a look out for Shakespeare, The Bloody Inn and Isle of Skye.
Are you going to Essen this year?
I was embarrassingly unfamiliar with most of these, though they all sound great. Will need to carve out some time to demo a few of these. Based on your info, I’m most eager to try the Bloody Inn.