For the fifteenth year since we joined the hobby, we are not attending the Internationale Spillage at the Messe in beautiful Essen, Germany. Our streak remains intact!
But what we are doing is poring — again — through W. Eric Martin’s excellent Spiel Preview on Board Game Geek. The task? Whittle down 1186 games (as of October 1) to a manageable list of games to try and buy at Essen.
Here’s our latest list of games we probably would have checked out at the booths for a potential purchase at Essen 2022:
I can tell you right now the number one game that I would buy at Essen Spiel, and it’s Tiletum. It’s got Luciani and Tascini, two of my favorite Italian designers. It plays in about an hour, especially for two players (or so I have heard). It uses the classic Italian dice-in-other-ways mechanics that I love. And it’s a game about getting rich in the Renaissance! Plus, I’ve been reading a lot of reviews from friends who have already played, and it sounds right up my alley. This one would be coming back on the flight with me for sure.
Yep, some games come home with me strictly because of the setting. I love classical music, and the idea of being asked by Mozart’s widow to finish the Last Requiem is absolutely a delicious backdrop for me. Plus, Devir has been kickin’ it lately with some absolutely homerun euro offerings. My sweet spot for euros is the “90 minute euro” and Lacrimosa fits that to a ‘T’. This would definitely be number two or number three on my list to buy, especially because friends that I trust have already given it a thumbs up.
I am not familiar with Albi as a publisher, but I like the setting in Balada, their Essen release. It looks like the game had a late 2021 release and is finally making it to retail in Europe. Everyone’s favorite character in the Dragon Reborn series has to be Thom Merrilin, right? How about an entire game for one to six players that plays in only twenty minutes all about bards recording the most famous deeds of other adventurers? Sounds intriguing.
Designer Fabio Lopiano has consistently put out games recently that I have enjoyed. Ragusa was one of our favorite engine building games two years ago. Zapotec is crunchy and short, but growing on me with each play. Calimala and Merv are on my “really want to play” list. But, Autobahn might be even more enticing to me because I am intrigued by a game that can recreate the building of the German road system after World War II. Hand management games are always fun for me, even if it takes me a while to get the hang of the strategy. If I were at Essen Spiel, this would probably be the first game I’d check out at Alley Cat Games’ booth.
Next up is Revive, from Aporta Games. The design team behind this game has made so many cool games that we love in the Gumbo: Bad Company, Santa Maria, Capital Lux, etc. Add in an interesting setting where humans are re-merging 5000 years after the fall of civilization, and it’s a must see for me. It looks like a good solid medium weight euro, with some deck management, and it plays from one to four players in about 90 minutes according to the ratings.
Sometimes, I see a game on the list and without knowing a lot about it, I just go with my hunch. Blue Orange Games consistently puts out good games that are smooth to play and easy to introduce to our high school game groups. Disc Cover has a theme that I think we would all enjoy playing on a casual basis. It’s a party game, which is a style that works great at our game club, and players have to match music disc covers with music. Everybody’s a music / design critic! It has a good play count of up to eight players and only takes twenty minutes, so this is one I would definitely want to see and take home.
Daryl Chow was one of the most thoughtful guests that we have ever had on Gumbo Live! I loved how his design mind worked, but also how he is really an evangelist for the Asian gaming scene. I don’t know a lot about Dirty Money, but I would definitely pick up a copy to support Capital Gains Studio and Daryl, but also because the setting catches my eye. We play as animals in the game representing loan sharks and tax cheaters bent on laundering their ill-gotten games through legitimate means like art works. It sounds like a pretty simple card game with some good player interaction. I’m in.
One of the surprise hits for me and SneauxBunny last year was Savannah Park, from the design team duo of Kiesling and Kramer. It had a simple, bingo style rule set, but the puzzle of trying to maximize the placement of the animals on your board next to the water holes, and the fact that you could vary the set up at the start, made this one of our most played games on our date nights. So, Kiesling and Kramer are back with the “next step” up from Savannah Park, this time setting it in North America. That’s all I need to put this second on my list.
Can I tell you a secret? I’ve never played a Vladimir Suchy game that I didn’t love. Okay, I’ve only played three (Pulsar 2849, Underwater Cities, Praga Caput Regni), but I love all three. Throw in this interesting box cover, where a tattooed woodcrafter is carving up a giant six-sided die? I mean, laissez les bon temps rouler, right? But there’s a little bit more that fits my bill — it plays up to four players in about an hour or so, has some great art by Michael Peichl, and promises a game of engine building and dice manipulation. That’s enough for me.
Seriously, I am a pretty easy person to sucker into checking out your game. Worker Placement? Check. Tile laying? Check? Building some famous monument or city? Check, check. Dice Toy Labs had me at the cover and the short description on BGG. Yes, I am that easy to spot. It’s a city building style game that is likely going to reward the most efficient player, meaning I will finish last in my games but have a blast doing it. Kudos also to naming the board game company, “Dice Toy”.
You knew I would put this one on my list. I LOVE the Decktective series. It’s the one escape room style game that my wife will never turn down. We usually try to take a fall trip to the beach with my brother and his family, and if I have one, I will pull out the latest Decktective and make it a great little family night around some food and wine, trying to solve the next case. The Decktective series is honestly my favorite of all of these style games, and I wish more people knew about them here locally. This one is set in a casino, and like all the rest, the initial cards build out a diorama that you have to really study because it will likely contain clues you need to solve the mystery. Love it!
We’ve already established that I like games about cities. (It seems like half of the reviews on this blog are about ‘city games.’ So, finally a publisher who knows what I like leans into the whole “city state” thing and just publishes a game called “City State”? You had me at “city”, Giochix. Citta-Stato is another 90 minute euro (with gorgeous art from Reavers of Midgard artist, Yaroslav Radetskyi) that uses bag building to help you build a wealthy City-State. Plus, it supposedly gives each player unique starting power, something me and Jerod really dig.
This one is for Bradly, who loves Roman Empire games, too. Mebo Games published one of my favorite little euro games, Caretos, a few years ago, and they have a unique style and design sensibility that I like. Yes, Caretos wasn’t the perfect game, so I’m not expecting a “10/10” here, but I am curious to see what designer, Joao Quintela Martins does with a “one hour wonder” all about building the Roman temple of Evora.
One of the highlights of any big con is getting a chance to pass by the Oink Games booth and see what they have to offer this time. Town 66 looks like one that would come home with me. It’s got some tiles to manage, by placing them in ways on your six-by-six tableau. Usually, these games are all about playing and scoring the most points, but there’s a twist here — you are trying to be the first to rid your hand of the tiles, so it’s optional if you draw a new one at the end of the turn. But if you don’t draw, you just might find yourself stuck and unable to get rid of the rest of the tiles in your hand! That’s a juicy decision each round, and one that I would definitely like to try.
Are you going to Essen Spiel? Let me know what you are interested in buying (or what you bought and demoed!) I will live vicariously through you.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ from Board Game Gumbo
(Edit: corrected a misspelling of W. Eric Martin’s name).