As the Table Turns: Essen Spiel Edition and More Board Game News
Coming off the massive Essen Spiel in Germany, here are all the latest and greatest pieces of news from the board game world.
This month’s edition of our board game column is going to be a little different than usual because it’s Essen Spiel season. One of board gaming’s biggest conventions took place over the weekend in Essen, Germany, and I spent most of the last few days watching coverage of the con from afar. Below are a few of the most interesting games I saw. That said, it’s important to remember that there are hundreds of games at the Spiel, so my apologies if I miss one of your favorites.
Clank! Legacy Acquisitions Incorporated
Arguably one of the bigger board games coming out at the tail end of 2019, Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated continued to capture hearts and minds at Essen. I keep hearing heaps of praise being dumped on the new legacy version of Renegade Game Studios’ deck-builder. I’m not a huge fan of the new IP being slapped on the product, but I might just have to pick this one up. Deck-building is one of my favorite genres and I’m always down for a good legacy game. Plus, I’ve heard from most reviewers that this is a legacy game you can continue playing after the story. That’s something most legacy games claim, but not many actually manage to pull off. If I have a fun, custom Clank! game in the end, that makes the purchase much easier.
Suburbia: Collector’s Edition
Somebody hold me. This 15-pound behemoth of a collector’s edition is just too pretty. Gorgeous tiles. Handy game trays. Metal coins. Even a giant tile tower! Basically, they’ve just taken one of my favorite games and made it ten times better. If you haven’t already played Bezier Games excellent city-builder, well, you should probably try out the normal edition before dropping over $100 on this edition. That said, I cannot wait to someday soon pick this one up.
Friedemann Friese is one of the quirkiest designers in board gaming. The green-haired creator has produced all-time greats like Power Grid, while also continuing to churn out odd, yet intriguing titles that nearly all begin with the letter “F.” Fast Sloths is one of his latest games and it looks like a ton of fun. You play as sloths racing around an animal resort. Of course, being sloths, you don’t actually run yourself. Instead, you use other animals to help ferry you to your destination. Think of it kind of like a classic pick-up-and-deliver game, except in Fast Sloths, you are the cargo. This is the kind of inventive design I come to Friese for, and he seems to have really knocked this one out of the park.
Terramara looks like one of those incredibly meaty worker placement games that I am destined to only admire from afar. The game gives you tons of options to build your strategy around. Personally, I love seeing a board ripe with opportunity; however, my game group usually isn’t up for games like this. Case in point: we’ve played exactly one game of Caverna because it was an information overload. So, if your group swings a little heavier, pick this up and enjoy it for me! You play as the chieftain of a Northern Italian clan in 1500 B.C. As you work your way through the game, you’re trying to become the strongest clan and claim dominion over your rivals.
Wayfinders is a colorful new worker placement/push-your-luck game from the team at Pandasaurus Games. Honestly, I’ll give almost anything from Pandasaurus a try because their games have such a great table presence. Obviously, visuals aren’t everything; however, it sure is easier to get people to play a game that looks this fun sitting on the table. Hopefully, the gameplay is just as charming as the art.
Last Bastion is a re-theming and slight re-imaging of Ghost Stories. The original game is one of the harder co-op experiences available in board games and many have complained about the manual being tough to grok. This new version switches the ghost hunting theme to a medieval one and streamlines much of the game. I like the old theme quite a bit more, but I am a fan of how they’ve made the game much easier to learn. Anyone looking for a challenging game to play with friends should give Last Bastion a look.
I have to be honest, Crusader Kings the board game might not be a good adaptation of the popular video game. However, when I saw how they’re using bag-building to simulate getting a new heir to your throne, I was sold immediately. As you complete various actions in the game, you’ll add traits to your bag. Then, when creating a new heir, you’ll randomly draw from the bag to help decide their strengths and weaknesses. Is the game around that mechanic good? Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter, as I’m picking this up just for how much I love this idea of birthing offspring from a random bag draw.
Iron Forest was only available as a demo at Essen, so you won’t be seeing it on store shelves anytime soon. That said, this is a campaign flicking game from the creators of the excellent Ice Cool. I don’t know if I ever thought I’d hear those words in that order. Flicking games are dexterity-based, where you’re using your fingers to flick pieces around the game board. Usually, these are fun, family games that are perfect for kids. Iron Forest is somehow adding a campaign to the proceedings and I absolutely have to know more.
Atlantis Rising: Second Edition
Atlantis Rising is yet another worker placement game for the list. This one is co-operative, with you and up to five of your friends working together to save Atlantis. The board looks great and I love the addition of variable player powers. Any game that adds the option for players to start the game with differing abilities is worth a try for me. I haven’t played the original Atlantis Rising, but this might be coming to my shelf very soon.
Detective: Season 1
Portal Games’ Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game came out in 2018. It was a solid mystery-solving game that forced you to use the internet to solve the different crimes included in the base game. It was popular enough for Portal to put out several mini-expansions over the past year, and at Essen, the team announced Detective: Season 1. Basically, what they’ve done is make the original game much more family-friendly and shortened down the playtime. Going from two to three hours to 90 minutes makes this a more attractive package for groups wanting to spend an evening solving crimes.
As mentioned, these weren’t the only great games at Essen. Other games like Cooper Island, Glen More II: Chronicles, Sarah’s Vision, Maracaibo, and many, many others were also getting a ton of buzz at the con. With that said, one thing is clear: there has never been a better time to be playing tabletop games.
Kickstarter Games to Watch
The Kickstarter section is a little light this month. Essen takes up most of the news, but most of the big projects that we talked about last month are now wrapping up their campaigns. That said, there are a few big ones you might want to give a look.
I’ll be honest, this is mainly on the list because of the artwork. That doesn’t mean the game is necessarily bad. It’s just that the art in Darwin’s Choice is incredibly beautiful. The actual game sees players trying to create an animal species that is “as optimally adapted as possible”. As biomes and events change the landscape, you’ll need to alter your species to keep up. It sounds a bit like a more involved Evolution, which is a game I love.
Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge
Sub Terra is an intense co-op game where you work together to explore a cave, retrieve a treasure, and escape as fast as possible. This upcoming sequel adds a “new objective-driven puzzle to solve” and ten explorers who come with their own set of abilities. The game’s designers also streamlined the gameplay loop and improved the final moments of the game. This seems like a perfect addition for a group looking for a new co-op puzzle to dig into.
Top of My Table
I will continue to go back to Gloomhaven until my group finishes the 90-odd quests included in the game. It is, without question, a top-three game all-time in my book. The mixture of excellent card-based gameplay and innovative legacy elements makes it a must-play even with its high purchase price. There are rumblings that we might be getting Gloomhaven II news at or around PAX Unplugged in December. I could not be more excited.
That’s it for this month. Next month might be a little light on board game news. That said, check back with us for any news and a preview of December’s PAX Unplugged.