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Matt's Board Game Back Room

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TIMELY TOPICS - ESSEN release games that look interesting to me & why

-matt s.
United States
Eugene
Oregon
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It must be that time of year to write up an Essen list of interesting games seeing as it's Essen week this week. Of course, I haven't done such a thing before. And, there really isn't a point to it other than sheer interest. Why? Because I'm not going to Essen and likely won't be picking up most of these - at least not for a while if I do.

My friend Lorna will be attending and she always brings back a good pile of interesting games and I usually get to give some of them a go, so I'll just be getting my fix that way.

Anyhow, my interest for games release Essen has generally been pretty low this year up until last week when I finally got the bug to peruse the Essen 2011 Canonical List. After I spent a few hours doing that my interest was starting to increase quite a bit - I was expecting to not find too many games to be excited about but as I read through I kept finding interesting items.

Then, as I started to prepare writing a blog entry about my findings, I ran across the Board Game News list: Spiel 2011 Preview which purportedly had even more games listed and seems to be a more 'official' list, if there is such a thing. Ok, time to spend a few more hours perusing. The interesting thing about this list is it uses a new headings feature that is being added to Geek lists in the impending site redesign; these headings are then designated as publishing companies and their games are then grouped together under them. So, if you like particular publishers you can easily find their newest games.

I then tore through this list and found a majority of them were the same items from the canonical list (there were some I hadn't recalled seeing before), plus some other more obscure titles and/or non-English titles. Ultimately, this seems to be the go-to list this year.

So, as I went through the lists I decided to tag each with an Essen2011 tag so that I could then have a compiled list to work from later. Here's a link to the list in case you're interested. I find tags OK as a feature, but you can't do too much with them as the entries aren't sortable in any way. But, there it is at least.

So, here's my rundown. I have organized them in categories of my interest or into logical groupings by type. The primary grouping is what drew me to them and then secondary either just a property of the game or the element that seemed to grab me. It's hard to explain but you'll see what I mean.

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This section is THE BUZZ - games that were buzzworthy that I also found some interest in. There are OTHER buzzworthy games but the didn't interest me as much (despite looking like good games overall)

The Buzz - Deck Building:
CORE WORLDS
Deck building in space where you work your way from the outer reaches to the inner core of civilized space - terrific graphics, improved gameplay from other deck building games, ability to keep cards in play until needed…

The Buzz - Different:
FLASH POINT: FIRE RESCUE
Co-op saving people in a burning building. Great graphics and interesting gameplay with good amount of variability. I'm not much into co-op play, but I really love the theme and the potential for excitement in trying to save people.

The Buzz - Different:
PRÊT-À-PORTER
Some say this is actually similar to Drum Roll - but putting on a fashion show instead. This one is more economically grounded (in fact was designed specifically that way) but both this and Drum Roll sound interesting for different reasons. I would say this one seems more 'serious' where Drum Roll is more 'fun'

The Buzz - Family Fun:
DRUM ROLL
You are the owner of a Circus and working to put on the best shows - the higher quality shows require better performers. You try to acquire equipment to let your performers perform at their highest. Once you have a successful show you have to decide whether to gain the prestige points or re-invest in making future shows even better.

The Buzz - Village Building:
KINGDOM BUILDER
New game by Donald X Viccarino - NOT Dominion although perhaps feels similar. The theme seems even thinner than in Dominion as this looks to be thinly veneered abstract with cardplay for the actions and more cards for the victory conditions. Lots of variability should still change it up a bunch but it's one I'll want to play before buying I think. Some elements look similar to Strasbourg.

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There are different reasons for MUST HAVE games for me - mostly these are expansions/additions to ones I already have.

Must Have - Deck Building:
DOMINION: HINTERLANDS
No details yet on any of the cards - it is a must have only because I have pretty much everything else. The only problem is that soon people that use my Dominion storage system are going to want new inserts for the cards in this game and that always takes a lot of time to put together.....gotta go, I can hear them beating down my door already!

Must Have - Dicey Fun:
DIE BURGEN VON BURGUND
Yes it came out last year, but only after Essen 2010 so this is on the radar officially for me. Hopefully more copies will become available…

Must Have - Different:
POWER GRID: FIRST SPARKS
Power Grid in the stone age!!!!! It is supposed to play faster than traditional Power Grid but still has the same overall flow, only set in the stone age where you want to expand your tribe to 13 meeples and be able to feed them at the same time. Very nice artwork and awesome meeples make this a 'must have'

Must Have - Different:
TOURNAY
Loved Troyes and, yes, I know this isn't the same sort of mechanic (no dice), but it looks great and suggests similar but different play - I wouldn't want a carbon copy of Troyes anyhow. Looking forward to giving this a go.

Must Have - Expansion:
FRESCO: THE BISHOP'S FAVOR
This expansion provides an extra benefit for completing a tile the Bishop is on. I recently got to play Fresco with all 7 expansions and now I MUST have this to be able to play with 8 expansions!

Must Have - Expansion:
STONE AGE: STYLE IS THE GOAL
One of my favorite games gets an actual full-fledged expansion! I think the title is ridiculous (and others think so too) but love what it does - adds another player color(!), allows for trading in resources to get other resources, and has another way to spend your resources by creating ornaments and jewelry. It also adds new cards and new huts to the mix. I am officially

Must Have - Family Fun:
DUNGEON PETZ
Love the art, love the idea of raising these interesting creatures. I think the kids will love it (and me too!)

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HIGH INTEREST games are ones that I found particularly appealing for some particular reason and likely want to get them in addition to playing them and would be likely to purchase without playing them.

High Interest - Art:
PALA
Color mixing as method of changing color (suit) of your cards in a trick taking/betting card game. Awesome idea! Plus, anything related to Art appeals to me...

High Interest - Different:
MELTDOWN 2020
Save people from being poisoned by nuclear fallout. This is one of 4 of the latest offerings from Cwali. This one I'm interested in giving a go and the theme is unique (although perhaps a bit morbid)

High Interest - Pick up and deliver:
UNDERMINING
Mining in space! It appears to be very configurable giving a lot of game variability, terrific graphics and theme, interactive mechanisms and double-sided board for more options. Work towards achieving short term goals which let you upgrade and eventually complete long term goals.

High Interest - Village Life:
HELVETIA
A Kosmos game from the designer of Glen More and Lancaster. Build up your village in the Swiss alps by using tokens to indicate which actions you will be taking. Actions include meeples getting married, having babies (which then can go to school then become integrated into the village), wake up tired sleeping meeples, and producing goods (among other things) and go to sleep. When producing goods there are simple goods and there are also production chains for complex goods.

High Interest - Village Life:
VILLAGE
Another village life game (duh) but here you are going for prestige in the village. There is an interesting time element and as time moves along your meeples die and go into the register indicating their prestige. In this game, the resources are: Skill, Persuasiveness, Faith, Knowledge, Time, Grain. Also, Plague exists which reduces life of your meeples. Again, you can marry, have kids, move up in society, etc. Something about this game and Helvetia really appeals to me.

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These games all have some sort of COOL COMPONENTS in them. I may or may not want to actually GET them, but they're great to look at.

Cool Components - Abstract:
CUBULUS
Puzzly looking 3D game with simple gameplay and looks interesting with a cage-like structure and balls that you push into it causing them to shift and form new patterns. Plays up 2 OR 3 players equally well.

Cool Components - Abstract:
TRENCH
The designer calls it 'the next big thing' - that we will have to wait to see. It is a Chess-like game abstracting war in the trenches with the board divided into two clear areas and movement is different along the dividing line (the Trench). If anything, it's an eye-catching work of art. I would likely buy this game without playing it if it was a reasonable price, but I'm not shelling out a ton for it without playing it.

Cool Components - Architectural:
CASA GRANDE
Build 3D buildings and get points or bonus points for others building on your builds. Interesting looking 3D construction game like Torres or Arkadia.

Cool Components - Family Fun:
SCHNAPPT HUBI!
This has a haunted mansion that you discover and put together as you go. It contains an electronic device that tells you if there is a wall or not when you try to move a particular direction, then you insert the necessary piece. Move your rabbit through the house to find the magic doors, then chase the ghost, Hubi, out of the house. Looks interesting and fun for the kids.

Cool Components - Family Fun:
SPACE MAZE
Looks a bit chaotic, but that seems to be the fun in this game - escape the maze using interesting mechanic of combining colors along tiles edges to 'mix' them to get the color you need for your alien meeples to move. Very cool alien meeples. Mazes, color mixing and aliens. Sounds like a perfect game to me! This might be one I'd buy without playing.

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This category has games that are being reprinted, expanded or are based on something that's already been around a while. I don't have super high interest in getting them but would like to try them at least.

Something new from Something Old - Abstract:
TALAT
An abstract designed ONLY for 3 players, originally published as Drei (3). It has 3 boards, one betweeon each 2 players. If you move a piece on one board you don'y get to move a pioece on the other. When no captures are possible on a board it is frozen. Once two boards are frozen the game ends and you get points for captures and piece advancements. This game seems to offer something a bit different in terms of abstracts and I'm interested to try it out.

Something new from Something Old - Different:
RISK LEGACY
Risk but with forced meta gaming - you record past results directly onto the game so that future contests will be affected by past results. I'm not sure if this is something I'll go for, but I like the concept.

Something new from Something Old - Related:
NEW SCOTLAND YARD: CRIME SCENE
Race around the city collecting equipment then evaluating the crime scenes and finally perform forensic tests to determine the evidence and solve the murder. I have recently been able to play the original Scotland Yard and, even though this looks like a different sort of game, I am interested to see what it brings to the table...

Something new from Something Old - Remake:
[thing=73421]UCHRONIA[/thing]
Glory to Rome with Dinosaur theme added…apparently theres's some litigation around this so it may or may not be available soon. Note there is also going to be an official 'Black Box' version of GtR with new cleaner/more muted graphics that looks pretty awesome as well.

Something new from Something Old - Remake:
BIOS MEGAFAUNA
American Megafauna but drastically changed. I have been peripherally following the design changes for this game as I am on the AM discussion list, but I have not played it myself. It sounds to be shorter and faster with significantly different gameplay (and yet still maintains it's true-to-science core). This is the first in what will be a 'BIOS' series of games coming from Phil Ecklund.

Something new from Something Old - Reprint:
ANTIQUITY
And there was much rejoicing for this reprint! Until they choked on the $125 USD price tag. It was available for Pre-order from Out of the Box but no longer is now that Essen has arrived. It sounds like some will be available @ Essen and perhaps from the Splotter website after Essen if there is any stock left. I just bought R&B and I don't know that my wallet can afford this as well now I am definitely tempted though....

Something new from Something Old - Rework/Reprint:
FIEF
This game originally came out in 1981, then was re-implemented/re-printed in 1989 as Fief 2. This game is listed separately so there must be something significant enough to make it different. This looks to be a heavy middle ages themed game with alliances and economic engine building. This might not quite be my thing but looks interesting and has terrific artwork as well.

Something new from Something Old - The Buzz:
ALBA LONGA
City/Civilization building game with interesting dice and multiple paths to victory. Uses dice selection, worker placement, combat between player's civilizations and comes with 3 in-box variants for even more playing possibilities. Apparently this won a game design award in 2009 and now is being officially published.

Something new from Something Old - Expansion:
POWER GRID: THE ROBOTS
Play Power Grid with 2 or 3 players using the Robots as an additional 'player'.

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These are games of particular interest to me because of the theme, but I haven't been especially excited by seeing them. I'd love to play them all, of course. You will note a particular lack of fantasy and horror type of games from my list - I guess they just aren't my thing. That doesn't mean they aren't worthy, just not for me. If you have interest in those areas keep this in mind as you will want to peruse the Essen lists yourself for those types....

Theme - Architectural:
CASTELLI
Gather resources and build castles - typical Euro but the resource tiles can be rotated to change distribution which makes for some interesting interactions between players.

Theme - Architectural:
CITÉ
Gather resources and build buildings with special abilities. Partnerships can be formed and trading of resources is crucial to building successfully. Simultaneously play occurs which helps make the games move along quickly.

Theme - Architectural (Are you seeing a pattern here?):
GIZA: THE GREAT PYRAMID
Manage resources and labor to most efficiently build parts of the pyramid. This has elements I like including worker placement and area majority. It also has bidding and cooperation.

Yes, I'm very much into architecture and even went to architecture school for 2-1/2 years. This type of game ALWAYS appeals to me. Always.

Theme - Architectural:
QUÉBEC
Worker placement with unique method of 'cascading' workers when you come out ahead.

Theme - Architectural:
URBAN SPRAWL
Another Chad Jensen 'simulation' game which abstracts out the buildings themselves but have different roles you can earn through 'elections' (evaluation of area majority). There are restrictions as to where the buildings can be placed and special action cards that allow you to break some rule of the game. Anything with city building related activities always appeal to me.

Theme - Area control:
SPACE BASTARDS
Funny name but ultimately actually looks like an interesting area control game - managing the 'relationships' between alien races changes how the interactions of the actions occurs. I think the name suggests some nasty are control going on despite the humorous alien graphics. I might be likely to buy this without having played it.

Theme - Bluffing, Party:
[thing=104559]BANKSTERS[/thing]
The box of diamonds is passed around and you must decide if you will be a thief or not (i.e. take some diamonds out of the box or not). Then the investigator asks questions to determine who the thieves are. Innocent players get points based on the number of diamonds recovered, thieves get points if they get away with stealing. Arrested thieves lose points. Reminds me of Master of Thieves (although the box isn't as cool as the one for that game)

Theme - Deck Building:
FREITAG
Part of Friedemann Friese's Friday (Freitag) project. It is a unique deck building game where you are Robinson Crusoe and his servant Friday trying to gather resources and prepare to battle the two pirates at game end. If you run out of health at any time you lose and you must defeat the pirates to win.

Theme - Different:
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
I really liked Cuba and this game is similar except you are driving around Santiago making deals to collect goods to ship out on 7 different ships throughout the game. With random board setup and ship demand it seems there is a lot of potential variability in the game. As to whether that variability is enough over time is something else to be seen.

Theme - Different:
ALCATRAZ: THE SCAPEGOAT
This is a co-op game where you are trying to Escape from Alcatraz. You must work together to get out of the prison, but then try to leave someone behind who ends up being the scapegoat - bluffing, negotiation, backstabbing, and variable play all make this sound interesting. As I'm not heavy into co-op I'm interesting in trying it but not sure about buying...

Theme - Different:
DR. SHARK
Antonio Bauza (7 Wonders) and Bruno Cathala (Mr. Jack, Cyclades) have worked together to make a different type of 'Dexterity' game - you are a spy and you must literally reach into a 'pool' and 'feel' around for clues. Each clue has a different texture (1 of 4 types) and you need to try to pull out the right kind of clue and avoid the sharks. And you only have 30 seconds to search for clues. I'm intrigued.

Theme - Dragons!:
DRAKO
Asymetrical gameplay with one person playing the dragon and one person a team of 3 dwarve dragon hunters. I'm not too much into fantasy themes but I do like dragons and this looks interesting.

Theme - Economic Engine:
UPON A SALTY OCEAN
Sail and go fishing, then process the fish and get them back to port to sell in the market. Each action, once selected, costs more for the next players to use them during the round so you much choose your actions wisely before things get too expensive. The theme I find interesting and the art is tremendous.

Theme - Family Fun:
EXPOSAURUS
Tile laying game where you are trying to get different sets of dinosaur artifacts grouped together. Theme is light and gameplay reminds me a bit of Mosaix but with a bit more going on with bonuses and such. Love dinosaurs

Theme - Family Fun:
THE IMPOSSIBLE MACHINE
Build a machine to accomlish a task Rube Goldberg style. I LOVE this type of game although I suspect it's fairly light - should be fun with the kids/family.

Theme - Graphics:
HAWAII
This game has a Vikings like player board but there is also shared island where you collect resources to support your villages. The island is tiered so as you work your way across it the benefits increase, take too long and you might miss out on those benefits, but but if you progress too quickly you might miss out on other important actions leading up to that spot.

Theme - Life and Death:
WILDERNESS
An interesting experience type of game where you are trying to escape being eaten/killed while surviving in the wilderness and get out alive. Options for a shorter or longer game along with a configurable board and setup make for potential variety of play.

Theme - Racing:
LAMBORGHINI: THE OFFICIAL RACE GAME
Another racing game. Yea!

Theme - Steampunk:
WIRAQOCHA
Far out there theme. Dice, Steampunk theming with terrific graphics, resource management and worker placement all in one game. It sounds like the game has a lot of subtle gameplay that requires multiple plays to get good at and may be brutal if you have a bad start.

Theme - Village Life:
MIL (1049)
Deeper Euro with similarities to Helvetia and Village but also includes war, soldiers and lineages. Too bad the meeples aren't soldier shaped instead of the traditional Carcassonne looking meeples included in the game.

Theme - Village Life:
WELCOME TO WALNUT GROVE
Carcassonne crossed with Agricola? Interesting. Progress through the years and maintain your ranch, feed your people, etc. Plus there is competition for land and the desire to build similar improvements together for better production.

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Some games look interesting but there's just not much information about the gameplay so I'm WAITING TO SEE what comes out of Essen (or later) before making any decisions on them.

Waiting to See - Abstracts:
SARENA
Requires strategy and bluffing(!?) to win.

Waiting to See - Architectural:
ANIMOCITY
Not a lot has been published about this, but the box looks interesting it looks like you are fighting for control and can steal points from other players. The only thing is it seems like a simpler version of Urban Sprawl so until more information comes out it could go either way for me.

Waiting to See - Architectural:
BIRUDA
City building but with some craziness/random powers so not quite sure. Artwork looks really nice.

Waiting to See - Bluffing/Deduction:
HATTARI
Discover the murderer from between 8 suspects. Plays fast with simple components. I'm always interested in deduction games and this one seems quite interesting and despite what appears to be relatively simple gameplay.

Waiting to See - Card drafting/Set collection:
PAX
Larry Levy is very interested so it must be good.

Waiting to See - Deck Building:
TERRA EVOLUTION
I love games related to genetics and evolution and this seems to go that direction. I'm actually getting to like deck building games and am excited to see where designers are taking them.

Waiting to See - Deck Building:
PERGAMEMNON
Deck building with much player conflict...sounds promising.

Waiting to See - Euro:
TRAJAN
Stefan Feld (I've been liking his recent games) uses a unique 'mancala' type of mechanic to determine what actions you can do and if you get bonus actions if done in a particular way. Other than the mancala mechanic, this could go either way as being a standard Euro or something greater.

Waiting to See - Family Fun:
PICTOMANIA
Pictionary with everyone drawing and guessing at the same time! My kids recently discovered Pictionary so may very well like this, too.

Waiting to See - Graphics:
FORTUNA
Great graphics - start as farmer and work your way up Roman hierarchy. Standard Euro fare or something more?

Waiting to See - Never will happen:
VERITAS
This has been on the Essen list since 2007 and seems to now be put on there as traditional only. - it will likely never see the light of day at this rate, but it's fun to mention it!

Waiting to See - Pick up and deliver:
VINTAGE
Yes, another wine themed game. I haven't played Vinhos or Grand Cru yet, both of which looked interesting to me, and this one looks interesting as well. The only drawback is that it may seem like too many other Euros already out there.

Waiting to See - Puzzly Fun:
PALENQUE
Very little is known but I like the artwork (I like that style)


Well, that's 'it'. I found 60+ games out of 700+ listed as Essen releases (or soon after Essen). That's actually quite a few. Of course, a much smaller subset are Must Buy or of High Interest. Plus, there are so many on the list it's hard to evaluate them all. The buzzworthy and the ones that just stand out due to graphics or components are what I tended to focus on. It will be seen what the Essen darlings and duds really are.

If you have comments on any of these or suggestions for something I missed, I'd love to hear about them - please post as a comment!


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