Inspired by Dan King’s anticipation list, here’s a list of some things I am excited about for my very first Spiel:

  1. 7 Wonders Duel by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala – My wife and I have been doing most of our gaming 2-players these days. This is a two player (!) civilization game (!!) by two of my favorite designers (!!!). Needless to say, it has already been preordered for local pickup, so it won’t be taking up luggage space, but it is certainly my most anticipated game of the show.
  2. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization by Vlaada Chvatil – Lately I’ve been getting into heavier games. Civilization building is my favorite of the pantheon of over-saturated board game themes (trading in the Mediterranean, Roman senate, zombies, trains, Tolkien rip offs) and while everyone always spoke highly of TtA, it was always with some “buts” as qualifiers. This new version seems to attempt to address some of these buts and I’m willing to give it a go.
  3. The Prodigal’s Club by Vladimir Suchy – Sometimes a good theme is enough to make me go all in before completely understanding the mechanics. In The Prodigal’s Club, you play English noblemen who are trying their best to destroy their own reputations, political standing and finances. Early reviews are good, so it’s a safe preorder to pair with my Through the Ages, also from Czech Games Edition.
  4. Food Chain Magnate by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga – The heavy boardgaming hoi-polloi rave about a few obscure publishers. One such publisher is Splotter Spielen who makes somewhat ugly, expensive, long games. This is one that I probably wouldn’t pick up under normal circumstances, but it seems so perfect for my first trip to Spiel to pick up something super German-boardgamey. The art has a great retro 60s vibe. I don’t know if I will like the game or if my group will even be into it, but Splotter games do hold their value well, so it seems to be an economically safe bet.
  5. Catacombs – I’m a dexterity game fan. Flick ’em Up is getting a good deal of play and love from my shelf. Catacombs is a Dungeons and Dragons (see overused themes) dexterity game where attacking is done by flicking components around a board.  I missed out on the initial print run of Catacombs and they went and made everything look and play a whole lot better, from reviews. I should have been in on the Kickstarter for this, but I just missed it somehow. Reports are that there will be extras at the publisher’s booth at Spiel. Hopefully there will be an English copy by time I get there.
  6. Hanabi: Die Bonus-Plaettchen by Antoine Bauza – Word on the strasse is that Abacus Spiele is giving away a free (!) expansion to Hanabi! Hanabi is one of my favorite games from the last few years and something to bring it back to the table with no risk at all is a no-brainer.
  7. Brettspiel Adventskalender by Frosted Games – An advent calendar that contains exclusive mini game expansions for every day in advent. People think I am a crazy collector, but I have only a few of the games. I figure I can sell off the ones I will never use. But let’s be honest: it will be an excuse to get some of the included games. I’d buy this just for the Fields of Arle and Splendor expansions alone.
  8. Antarctica by Charles Chevallier – This was an undre-the-radar one for me, but a recent BGG preview piqued by interest. It is an area influence game that works based on rondel movement mechanics. I’m intrigued enough to give it a try.
  9. Flick ’em up: Stallion Canyon by Gaetan Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis (phew!) Flick ’em Up isn’t even in the hands of everyone who wants it and Pretzel is pumping out an expansion. It doesn’t contain a lot of material, so I am hoping for a low price tag. But it has five new scenarios and you can shoot people off horses using wooden ramps, so it’s a given that I’ll be getting it. Whether it will be at Spiel or when I get back home remains to be seen.
  10. The Bloody Inn by Nicholas Robert – The categories for this game on BGG are “Economic” and “Horror” which seems like a singular combination. In this game, you play innkeepers who murder and bury your guests when the time is right to maximize what you can steal from them and get away with it. Of course, you have to find places to store all of the bodies, so it looks like it will become farcical quickly. Sounds good.

Close: The Pursuit of Happiness by Adrian Abela and David Chircop – Worker placement is one of my favorite mechanics. Building up a person’s life is only loosely different from civilization-building. However, there will be a very limited amount of these at Essen and there hasn’t been a rules release or much information on what decisions you make in the game, which gives me pause.

Close: Prime Time by Elad Goldsteen- I was razor-close to backing this on Kickstarter. It looks great, but I read too many nasty reviews of the creator’s earlier Kickstarter problems. I was also a little dissuaded by how loosey-goosey it seemed the creator felt about what was going to be in the KS edition and what would be shipped later. It didn’t give me a lot of confidence that the game was done. If I see it at the show, I’ll probably pick it up because it did look pretty up my alley.

Close: Nitro Glyxerol by Luca Borsa and Andrea Mainini – One thing that I know I’ll be on the lookout for at the show is a game that has components that I will not see in any other game. Nitro Glyxerol is about shaking beakers to get cubes to land in the spot in a particular order. There’s a press your luck mechanic as you can settle for smaller chains or shake to go for longer ones. I normally shy away from real time action games, but this one looks really clever.

Why Not

There are a few other games that are getting a lot of buzz that I probably will be skipping at Essen in order to wait out reviews and/or pick them up stateside:

  • 504 by Friedman Friese – I have opinions on this despite (obviously) never having played it. First, as a game design theory person, I am deeply intrigued on how the dynamic and aesthetic systems emerge given randomized mechanics. If it does not work and is just a quirky idea, I will not be surprised. I imagine just sorting and finding the right bits will be a challenge in itself. And I find that if I play a game twenty times, then it starts to feel like a lot. If I play this 20 times, I might see each module twice. Will that even be enough to understand the game? If it does work completely, then it is going to challenge tons of entrenched philosophical notions of analog game design. I do look forward to a review of a new Euro ten years from now that says “This is just game #149”.
  • Time Stories by Manuel Rozoy – I love time travel as a theme but did not enjoy Tragedy Looper. Time Stories looks promising, but I am worried about getting a play group together and exhausting the game. I’m going to wait for some hands-on reviews here since it will be available states-side. If it is a problem, I see no reason why I won’t be able to get it in a trade in a year.
  • Ticket to Ride UK/Pennsylvania by Alan Moon – I do love me some Ticket to Ride and a Pennsylvania map hits me in the childhood region. The UK map looks heavier than a normal TtR game which gives it a hook that previous map packs seemed to have lacked. I’m interested but do not need it right away.
  • Pandemic: Legacy by Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock – When this was first announced, I was certain it would be an instabuy. The legacy concept was innovative, but was popularized on the comparatively crummy mechanics of Risk. Combining that innovation with the tension and excitement of Pandemic seems like a Peanut Butter/Chocolate marriage. Yet the longer I wait, the less excited I am. Will I have a steady group that wants to play? What happens if I exhaust the game? We always lose at Pandemic. What happens if we have a loss spiral? I’m going to take a wait and see approach with this as well.
  • Porta Nigra by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer – I’m not a big K&K fan, but this looks like a solid Euro. The theme isn’t strong but the building pieces look like an interesting touch. If it wasn’t being distributed in the US by Stronghold, I’d probably pick it up at the show, but I can wait and get it later.
  • Blood Rage by Eric Lang – The Dice Tower folks’ glowing praise of this game has me very interested. I haven’t really liked any of Eric Lang’s stuff, but I’m willing to give this a try. However, I don’t know if it is fair to categorize this as an Essen release.
  • Mysterium by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko – I am super excited for Mysterium, having played the Polish predecessor at Dice Tower Con this past summer. It’s preordered and is technically a GenCon release, so while it is probably #2 on my anticipated games list, it’s not something I’ll be looking for at Essen.