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Timely Topics - MY ESSEN PRE-PREVIEW - What I'm interested in (and a couple I'm scared of)

-matt s.
United States
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It's almost time for Essen! ... less than a month away!

But, no, I don't get to go and don't expect I ever will get to go. But, I have a couple of friends that are going. And they always bring back a bunch of games to try out. But I still like to window shop anyhow and see what I might be interested in - and eventually get (or at least hopefully get to try out)

I've been picking through the Spiel 2012 Preview list (which is well over 800 games this year!) for a while now and have been tagging games of interest - mostly games that immediately seemed interesting to me, and a couple that 'looked' interesting but probably are not in my range of 'want to have'.

Now, I have other things I should be doing now in my personal life and at least one thing a couple of people have been nagging me about here on BGG, but I figured I'd spent the time looking and wanted to get my thoughts down. Note that more games have been added to the preview list and I just don't have any more time to go through it all again, so there are some others I'm interested in that aren't actually here. Also, I'm biased towards certain games so certain segments may be lacking here. Sorry.

I tend to be long-winded when writing so I'm trying NOT to be here (actually, I think I did pretty good, except that I had a LOT of different games to write about). EDIT: Looking back now I see I still wrote a lot - ah well.

If you want the 'quick list' here's a link to the games I've tagged so far (this may get updated after I post this so you might check back in the future to see any changes)

So, I'm going to group these into a few categories to help qualify my interest. Here goes!

(or at least a LIKELY BUY)

Note that I'm trying to cut back on my game buying and trim my collection as well. No really. In fact, I've sold off 150+ games in the past 2 months.

Still there are some games I might not be able to resist getting.

The Ladies of Troyes - I love Troyes! (although I don't get to play it too often). This expansion adds 3 new character cards (the ladies) that offer alternative options for getting end-game points. You also get:
* The ability to move a guard along the walls to access 16 different activities outside the city.
* A purple die per player which is rolled and cannot be bought by other players - and it counts towards any activity color/die grouping.
* 27!! new Activity cards!!
* 6 new Event cards.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - Terrific art, worker placement and a great theme! Of course, the most interesting aspect is the 'calendar' that progresses through the game as a giant turning cog that, in turn, moves the surrounding resource/action cogs. You place your workers on the cogs and, the further along they get, the more/better resources and abilities you get. This element of time passing in a physical way on the board is very intriguing. I predict I will really like this game...

Keyflower - A new game in the 'Key' series with the original core auction mechanic developed by Sebastian Bleasdale and further expansion of that work by both him and Richard Breese into a full game. A game takes place over 4 seasons with certain tiles only coming available in the appropriate season. Each season new workers arrive on boats and new buildings come available. The innovative auction mechanic is where your are bidding with your workers which new tiles you want to add to your village. Bids can only be made with workers of one color type and the same color must be followed on each bidding tile. At the same time, you must place workers to get special actions, so you must balance the 'bidding' part with the 'action placement' part. When you are outbid you can move those workers to other bids or actions but you cannot break up groups of workers that were used in bidding. Finally, you then get tiles you won and can build out your village. I haven't fully absorbed the rules yet and probably need to see it in action, but it's intriguing and I've always liked all the 'Key' games. Also, I have an interview I am working on with Sebastian that will be published in the near future, so stay tuned. NOTE: Pre-ordered!

Myrmes - Ystari games have generally been interesting games for me. The artwork on this is spectacular and I love the idea of ants building a colony. OK, I already have Antics! and really love the 'hive' building mechanic, but I also always felt there could have been a bit more to the game and perhaps this is it.

The Cave - I used to have a game on my old Atari 800xl when I was a kid called Spelunker. This game brings back fond memories of that. I love the idea of exploring a cave and having it be different every time. Ironically, I'm not particularly fond of the idea of exploring real caves at all - thus, I want this game to be able to do it safely in my own home.

Town Center - An interesting looking puzzly 3D stacking game with strategy. Reviews have been glowing. Unfortunately, 2nd edition (using Lego type blocks) is sold out. Sending email to the designer might secure you a 3rd edition version if enough people show interest. See this thread. I have a friend locally that I believe has it so hoping to maybe give it a go before I decide for sure.

<no image> Bora Bora - Yes I'm a big fan of Feld games. No, there isn't a picture or even much information about this game other than mention of Islands, Gods, Supergods, Villages, People, Shells, Sea Animals, and Tatoos. Still, I must have it! Problem is, it may not be ready until after Essen...

The Great Zimbabwe - A new Splotter Spellen game with network and monument building in Africa. Similar to Antiquity it has a feature where you choose in-game what your victory requirement is which I find very interesting. It's maybe at the lower end of 'must buy' for me, but I really like Splotter Spellen games in general so if I had an opportunity I very likely would pick it up. Thing is, my 'opportunity' is likely also very low since the cost is going to be very high. Maybe I should move this to the 'want to try' section....nah, I can still dream a little, can't I?

Dominion: Dark Ages - Yes, it's another Dominion expansion. I have all the others, so I need this one, too, right? And, it has Donald's favorite card: RATS! Seriously, this does look like a pretty decent set. And the family loves Dominion. So, it is a 'must buy' -- at some point in the future at least.

<no image> Rialto - Another Feld game, this time 'lighter' (if comparing it in weight to Strasbourgis considered lighter) where players select a set of cards (6 known, 2 unknown) and then each character is played during the appropriate sub-phase. The idea is to build buildings, gain influence in districts and then use the buildings to generate points, but also gain points from majorities in the districts. You can also build bridges and gondolas between districts. It actually sounds a little like San Marco but without the 'pie splitting' aspect and with buildings that do stuff. Another that might not be ready for Essen though

Salmon Run - You are a salmon trying to get up the river. Salmon!? Racing!? Interesting take on deck building. This is still on Kickstarter and has reached double the initial goal...but I might still wait until later to get it as I think it will be fun and definitely want to get it, but I don't that I have to be one of the first to get it.

Milestones - This is a new game by Stefan Dorra, a designer whose games I've consistently enjoyed. In this game you are helping colonize new shared territory. Each player has their own personal board with hired workers and action spaces. This board is a sort of rondel with hired workers at the top and action spaces at the bottom and I find this board/mechanic very interesting. You use the various workers to acquire resources then use the actions to build roads and buildings on the board. Finally, there is a castle that, when you reach it you must reduce your resources to 3 AND you lose one of your workers. So, you must plan ahead quite a bit on what you are going to do each go around the board. This game seems to fall right into the type of game I enjoy so I'm really hoping to get my hands on it. Also, I think this game is likely a strong contender for a SdJ award or at least a mention.

These are games that seem to be getting a lot of buzz, although I'm not sure how interested I really am in all of them myself...

Among the Stars - The 7 Wonders 'killer' (even though it doesn't currently play 7?) It's funny, despite having a decent interest in Science Fiction in general, for some reason space games rarely excite me just from the theme. There's no denying the artwork is fantastic in this game. And the comments are glowing for it based on PnP plays saying it is like 7 Wonders with the card drafting, but better/more strategic. I'm interested...but not highly interested myself. I predict this game will be very buzzy after Spiel though. I also predict it won't have impact on 7 Wonders in the slightest.

Love Letter - This is a game with fantastic art themed around The Tempest. The gameplay is centered around only 16 cards!!?? with a hand size of 1, and involves deduction and bluffing. Rounds only take a few minutes, only 15 minutes for a game. It's crazy and its portable and apparently it makes people laugh hysterically.

Fremde Federn (aka Copycat or False Feathers or....) - Friedeman Friese's latest game which is part of the Freitag-Project where he only works on the games on Fridays. It is a game which is both mocking and praising at the same time - it is about trying to become president by leveraging the influence of others. The game itself leverages mechanisms from some of the top rated (on BGG) games using deck building with hand of 5 cards (Dominion), limited setup with action reveal over the course of the game (Agricola), a selection of 10 cards to buy from (Through the Ages), added VP to unused actions (Puerto Rico), and others. It sounds really interesting. But, will it be a top 10 game? If so, will the sequel have to copy itself?

Doctor Who: The Card Game - It's a Martin Wallace game and it is based on the more recent incarnation(s) of Doctor Who. I never have watched that program which is probably why I'm not buzzing about it myself other than this snippet. Initial buzz is that it's got just enough theme/flavor and the card game is decent, but not terrific, as well.

VivaJava: The Coffee Game - I'm not a fan of coffee but this game got a lot of interest on KickStarter earning almost 4 times the initial goal. Try to find the perfect blend of coffee, sometimes working with other players and sometimes going it alone. This game plays up to 8 players, too!

Habani - Another Antoine Bauza game getting enthusiastic reviews. However, it's been out for a while now so not sure why it's on the Essen list. I will admit a cooperative game about creating fireworks displays does sound interesting to me...

CO2 - This is a game about converting from polluting power plants to clean power plants. If conversion is not done successfully, EVERYONE loses the game (this is not a co-op game though). Otherwise, the winner is the person who met their goals and gained the best reputation. This is a unique game theme and seems to have a fairly deep level of complexity to it. It is also getting a lot of attention not only for the game itself but also for the artwork.

Snowdonia - This game by Tony Boydell is also getting a lot of attention. It is a train game of another sort - players are 'working together' to complete the rail connection through the Snowdon Mountains to the summit. You must do the hard work of excavating, building the rails, and contending with the weather. As your own team meets contract goals you get bonuses that get you further along in winning the game. You can also purchase trains that give you extra workers and special abilities.

Orion Inc - This game won the 3rd Annual Greek Guild's Game Design competition getting both the Judge's and Public's award! The initial artwork is really nice. This is a worker placement game of a slightly different nature in that its possible for no one to win the game if all are unsuccessful at meeting appropriate goals (wow, this seems to be the 'new' hot idea in games this year).

Terra Mystica - A game about terra-forming in a fantasy land seems a bit strange to me. There seems to be a lot going on in this game including expansion, resource gathering, terraforming, increasing your abilities, upgrading buildings, etc. I'm surprised to see there isn't conflict though other than indirectly getting into someone else's way. There is a lot of attention for this game, probably due partly to the fantasy theme although the mechanics are a mix of some familiar with some new. I think it will be very popular for a while as there seems to be a lot of variability in the play. It is well produced and does have some interesting elements such as the 'Bowls of Power' where you move power tokens between 3 different bowls based on what you do and these give you special abilities by spending the power tokens in the 3rd bowl. Also, there are 14 different factions that can be in the game, each with their own ability. I guess I'm somewhat interested in trying it, but it might not be one I'd ultimately want to buy.


Urbania - Hand management game where you are building buildings in an urban environment and trying to achieve hidden end-game goals as well as score points along the way. City building/architectural games always appeal to me but the jury is out based on early descriptions. Also sounds like muddled colors might be an issue...

Escape: The Curse of the Temple - I'm not a huge fan of co-ops or even real-time, but this game sounds really fun. Try to escape the temple before time (10 minutes) runs out! Everyone is frantically rolling dice and running around doing things trying to collect treasures and find a way out. All players play simultaneously! Sometimes someone might get 'stuck' in a room and need to be 'rescued' by another player. Sometimes you need to work together to get enough symbols to complete a task. The more I describe it the more I'm inclined to move it to my 'buy' list...

Spellbound - Not the best name for a game (since there are already several with this name) but it's from Fragor Games so you know it will sell out. So, the Lamont brothers? Check! Fantasy Adventure? Check! Deck building? Check! Co-op? Hmmm. Maybe.

Saint Malo - Another game by Inka and Markus Brand (KdJ winners for Village). This time you roll dice and then draw (literally) on a wipe-off player board. Neat!

Qin - Yet another game from Knizia. Seems to be another tile laying game in the vein of T&E where you are connecting province areas of the same color and taking ownership of them. Then, provinces can grow and absorb other weaker provinces. In addition, connecting to villages also allows you to conquer them and take ownership. The scoring is simple in that whomever is able to place all their Pagodas (ownership markers) on the board wins! It is yet another thinly themed Knizia game, but one that sounds like it has potential based on a quick reading of the rules.

Ginkgopolis - A new game by Xavier Georges where you are building a sustainable city. The tricky part here is that everyone plays a card simultaneously, plays an appropriate tile, then passes the card to their left. Thus, not only are you trying to make strong moves yourself, you are trying to prevent your neighbor from doing the same. The information is sketchy beyond that though, but I find the concept intriguing.

Sunrise City - This is a Clever Mojo game (Alien Frontiers) that achieved 2.5 times the funded needed on Kickstarter and looks quite interesting. You are building a city and bidding on areas where you can build. Then you gain points based on what you did. However, there are two score tracks - one for points and one for 'benchmarks'. You don't win with points but with the benchmarks. The key here is you get more 'benchmarks' by hitting specific point values on the point tracker. Love the artwork!

Tahiti - This looks like a beautifully produced pick-up and deliver type of game. You sail around in your long boat picking up resources and bringing them home. Get points at the end for complete sets of resources, plus bonus points for picking up the most of your favorite type (hidden goal).

Fleet - This is a hand management card game with some boardgame elements. It was successfully Kickstarted (yet another common 'feature' of games this year) and I ALMOST bit on it. I think I'll wait to play it. I'm very interested in this due to the beautful artwork and the interesting gameplay. Also, it reminds me of watching 'Deadliest Catch' and so seems timely to that TV show.

Suburbia - Sadly, I missed playing this while Ted Alspach was attending our local EGG (Eugene Games Gala) con earlier this year. It sounded interesting and seemed to get good feedback. In this game you are trying to build up your city to gain higher reputation which then gains you more population (the measure of who wins at game end). There are goals that you try to achieve to further increase your population, plus the buildings will vary from game to game so strategies will have to change accordingly. I'm hoping to get a crack at playing this game as city building is one type of game I usually enjoy quite a bit.


Pyramidion - Hand management card game with a board. And it has Pyramids!

Fallen City of Karez - Wow, amazing artwork (go look!) Dice rolling! Worker placement! Modular board! Might be a Must Buy for me... (Note: You can still get in on a Kickstarter copy if you want via the main game page)

Chicken Caesar -This game was Kickstarted and well funded. Really nice chicken art on the cards. I'm not a fan of negotiation/backstabbing, but if you are....

Nieuw Amsterdam - Nice art, great components (lots of nice wooden bits). Build your colony by trading with the natives, gathering/generating resources, and building businesses in the different districts. Auctions for actions combined with area control sounds interesting.

Medieval Mastery - Well, this was released in 2011 but it's being re-released/re-printed with new art and such. The cover art is fantastic and the rulebook is well laid out. I also like that it has a variable board, variable player powers, and lots of dice (60!) which lends itself to a lot of potential replay-ability. In fact, they state you can play multiple games simultaneously (I presume they mean 2+ tables of the game can be played from one box of components)

Tweeeet - That's 4 E's in TWEEEET in case you're searching for it later....I like Cwali games but this I'm not sure about. Is it a kids game? Adult game? The box art is cute but just OK for me, however the components are really cute!

Fantastiqua - Yet another deck building game with a 'fantasy' type of theme where you are trying to complete various quests. You will encounter creatures that can be 'subdued' when playing cards with certain symbols from your hand, then you can add the creature to your deck to give you additional abilities. The flavor artwork is taken from original pieces by famous artists so looks quite nice for the most part although the iconography I'm not sure about as it seems kind of clip-arty. Interestingly, there are varying levels of play so it can be a 'family' game or a more challenging game.

Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill - This game got some good buzz, but not enough apparently as the Kickstarter funding failed. However, the game is still going to be produced and is accepting pre-orders on their website. I'd really like to try it - I suspect the theme is off-putting for some, but the artwork looks spectacular and those that like the game give glowing reviews. The game is you are a sheepdog trying to get your flock of sheep safely to the top of the hill. You can play actions that affect you OR other players. There is also a wolf that can come out and eat or scare away your sheep. I'm looking forward to trying it and maybe picking up a copy eventually.


Foundation - An interesting looking abstract with simple rules. The pieces look Blockus-y although commentary suggests the game play is more Scrabble-y.

The Great Museum - By Richard Denning (The Great Fire of London) is giving us another 'great' game I like the idea of gathering artifacts to create good exhibits and get scored based on the exhibits. However, it sounds really familiar.....

Connections (aka Kreuz & Quer) - New game by Dr. Knizia. In the vein of Take it Easy! but trying to get the LEAST number of points ala FITS. Rehashes with a twist! I love me some puzzly games though...

Spice Merchant - Commodity speculation game from Korea and has a similar feel to Jaipur in art, but is for 3-4 players and plays like a filler.

Ragami - Players are Guardian Angels helping out people in a city. You can get points in a variety of ways by helping people, helping other Ragami, scaring off demons, etc. You can even move other people's pieces which may (or may not) help them in some way, but may also earn you VPs as well.

<no image> Nehemiah - A different twist on worker placement where labor cards change and, when you activate a card you can activate others in the same row by paying gold but possible better resource utilization. It sounds interesting, but not sure if the religious aspect will turn players off. And, no pics or other reviews and such.

There are a few games I ran across that I feel I need to stay away from for one reason or another...mostly due to scary art or scary theme (or both):

Roll to the South Pole - Honestly, this game really does look interesting. But, the demon dogs on the cover frighten me...!!

Mayan Sun, Aztec Destiny: 500 BC – AD 2012 – Beyond∞ - The end of the world is nigh!

Czech Pub - Do I really need to write why I'm scared of this game??? surprise

Wind Runner - "A race where only skinny people can compete. Problem is, the stadium that holds the race has incredibly strong winds that can blow skinny people like you in directions you don't want to go. Can you win this race against the competitors and the devil winds?" Whaaaaaaaaaat??????

CLASH: Jihan vs. McWorld - I realize the 'original' box art is now rejected, but that is what really scared me the first time I saw it. The title still scares me. The game scares me in general. The tiles scare me, too:
(running away now....)

Well, there are a couple of games that deserve special mention.

First, here's a list of reprints for those that are interested:
Homesteaders (master print edition with upgraded artwork and components), Luna, Crude: The Oil Game, Wilderness (with an actual printing rather than being hand-constructed in limited numbers) and Goa (ok, it already came out earlier this year, but I'm excited as now I can get a copy!). There were a couple of others but they didn't make my list and I'm not going to go looking for them now...

Also, earlier this year I won an early copy of
Madeira from the donor drive for BGG and have been watching the game's information with great interested. Disappointingly, but with hopefulness, it is being delayed as they are re-doing some of the mechanics of the game after having struck on a new (better) idea and did some initial tests to determine, yes, they want to delay the game to re-work it. So, I am eagerly awaiting it's release sometime next year (hopefully).

Well, that's my 'list' of games of interest from Essen 2012. There are SOOOO many new games coming out this year. There's a lot of 'seen that' in the mix, a lot of kids games I completely skipped, and, well, a LOT of deck building variations. Honestly, I'm interested to see where these deck building games are headed as I think there's a lot of potential there. I I know some people are tired/wary of it, but I am not...yet.

And to those of you going to Essen - have fun! Good luck finding the games you really want! Hopefully I've thrown some in here that will make your list just a little bit longer. And, if you want to send any my way that you don't like (or are just feeling generous) feel free! laugh

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