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No, regrettably I am not lucky enough to be going to Essen Spiel. This trip, or pilgrimage to Mecca for me,  would be amazing but it just doesn’t fit into the budget.  I attend Origins and Gen Con but the 4,266 miles is just too far to travel. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get excited in October about all the new and interesting games that will be making their debut at this far away paradise of gaming! I have poured over the list on Board Game Geek prepared by W. Eric Martin (thank you kind sir!) to find the games that are most interesting to me out of the 160+ games on that list. I found plenty I would be interested in playing and owning but paired it down to my Top 10 games that I am most anticipating. I have copied descriptions from either Board Game Geek or from the publishers sites for each of the below games and then added my editorial comments at the end of each entry along with some pictures of the game boards, components and box art. Here is my list:

10. Sail Away – Mattel Games

sail-away

In Sail Away, the players are a gang of Caribbean merchants of questionable repute who are racing to load their ships with goods from the local islands, then ship them out — all the while hiring pirates and using any means necessary to get ahead of the competition.

The object of the game is to earn the most points by launching ships, collecting gold, and completing objectives. Players take turns placing crates on resource-producing islands. When all the spaces on an island are full, all players with crates on that island transfer those crates to their ships. Once you have filled a ship with the required resources, you can launch it. The launched ship provides points as well as unlocking various single-use abilities.

Players can also place pirate crates. Pirate crates can be used to muscle in on your opponents’ resources as well as activate dastardly pirate actions such as stealing resources or earning a fee each time a ship is launched. The game ends when a player has launched five ships. Players earn bonus points for completing public and secret objectives. The player with the most points wins.

sail-away-pieces
Beautiful plastic pieces!

I love Pick-up and Deliver games and this game appears to do that mechanic with some set collection and of course, any time you are dealing with merchants with questionable repute (isn’t that just code for Pirate?!), some pirating! I love games with pirates and this one looks fun to me. I also am intrigued by the beautiful little plastic pirate pieces pictured above. Yo, Ho, Ho, and a bottle of rum! I am a sucker for a game with good components!

9. Chariot Race: Das große Wagenrennen – Pegasus Spiele

chariot-race

Masses of people awaiting a spectacle… scorching afternoon heat… sweaty equine bodies nervously yanking their harnesses. There it is, the starting signal!

Dashing ahead with your chariot, slowly at first, but quickly gaining speed… circling the spina in the center of the arena to complete the first lap. The next corner comes closer. Glancing back, one of the chariots is already far behind, and just ahead another chariot’s speed is too high for the corner, sending the vehicle crashing into the wall and out of the race. Only a single chariot blocks your path to victory, so it’s time to get uncivilized. Steadily you balance the javelin in your hand, waiting for the other charioteer to come into view…or should you just overtake him and throw caltrops in his path?

In Chariot Race: Das große Wagenrennen, players participate as charioteers in a great race in ancient Rome. Use the dice to complete two laps on the dusty arena’s circuit and be the first to steer your chariot over the finish line. On a player’s turn, if they have gained enough Favors of Fortuna, they can repair their chariot. Depending on the chariot’s speed on the previous turn and its current condition, the initial speed is determined, which defines how many of the five dice will be rolled during the turn. Each face of the six-sided dice allows a different action: Gain new Favors, increase or decrease speed, change lanes, or attack opponents (either directly by hurling javelins or indirectly by dropping caltrops in their path). If the first roll is not satisfactory, the player may call on Fortuna to influence the dice, as long they have her favor. Once the result is set, the player moves their chariot forward according to the final speed they achieved and may then take actions against their rivals.

However, breakneck racing and ramming are not without risk. If two chariots collide, they both take damage, and cornering at a wild gallop is not recommended. The further the safe speed is exceeded, the more damage is caused to the vehicle – which might fall apart in the middle of the arena if the driver is too careless, resulting in their elimination from the race.

This game looks interesting to me for several reasons. First, I like that it is quick and can be played in 30-40 minutes and I also like that is plays 2-6 players. Second, this game could be a battle royale and be very fun and fast paced. I also love custom dice and the 5 custom dice pictured on the back of the box look amazing! If you notice from the description text above, players can directly attack their opponents with thrown javelins or by dropping caltrops on the track. This game just looks fun! Sometimes it is good to simply turn off your brain, get into a theme and have fun.

chariot-race-components
Picture captured from the online rulebook on Pegasus Spiele’s website. Look at those cool chariots and especially the custom dice!

8. Yokohama – OKAZU Brand/Tasty Minstrel Games

yokohama

Once Yokohama was just a fishing village, but now at the beginning of the Meiji era it’s becoming a harbor open to foreign countries and one of the leading trade cities of Japan. As a result, many Japanese products such as copper and raw silk are collected in Yokohama for export to other countries. At the same time, the city is starting to incorporate foreign technology and culture, with even the streets becoming more modernized. In the shadow of this development was the presence of many Yokohama merchants.

In Yokohama, each player is a merchant in the Meiji period, trying to gain fame from a successful business, and to do so they need to build a store, broaden their sales channels, learn a variety of techniques, and (of course) respond to trade orders from abroad.

I love games that are economic based and also enjoy games with card drafting and set collection. Plus, Tasty Minstrel Games has recently done some really great games that I have enjoyed immensely like Orléans.

yokohama-board
Lots of information to keep track of in Yokohama.

7. Inis – Matagot

inis

Inis is a game deeply rooted in Celtic history and lore in which players win by being elected King of the Island (Inis). Players can try to achieve one of three different victory conditions:

  • Leadership: Be the leader — i.e., have more clan figures than any other player — of territories containing at least six opponents’ clans.
  • Land: Have your clans present in at least six different territories.
  • Religion: Have your clans present in territories that collectively contain at least six shrines.

Over the course of the game, players also earn deeds, typically chanted by bards or engraved by master crafters, that reduce by one the magic total of six for any condition. While one victory condition is enough to claim the title of King, a game of experienced players usually has a tight balance of power, emphasizing the leadership of the capital of the island.

At the start of each round, players draft a hand of four action cards (with 13 action cards for three players and 17 for four players) during the Assembly. Action cards not played at the end of one season are not held for the next. Players also have access to leader cards for the territories that allow it and where they were elected leader during the assembly. Each Assembly reallocates those cards. Finally, they collect “epic tales” cards that depict the deeds of the ancient Irish gods and heroes, like Cuchulainn, the Dagda, Lugh and many others. These will be kept and used to inspire the clans and achieve extraordinary feats…under the right circumstances. The cards provide a variety of actions: adding clans, moving clans, building/exploring, and special actions.

Careful drafting, hand management, bluffing (especially once players understand the importance of passing their turn), good timing, and a precise understanding of the balance of power are the keys to victory. After a discovery game you’ll be ready for a full and epic game, where an undisputed will be king by the Assembly for his merit and wisdom.

While Inis has “dudes” that are “on a map”, it’s a beginner’s mistake to play this as a battle game because eliminating other clans reduces your chances of scoring a Leadership victory condition. Peace among different clans, with or without a clear territory leader, is the usual outcome of a clan’s movement. Battles will occur, of course, as the Celtic clans can be unruly and a good player will listen to his clan’s people (i.e., his hand of cards). That battle aspect is reflected in the clan’s miniatures representing warriors. Woodsmen, shepherds and traders complete the set of twelve minis for each player; these occupations have no impact on the game, but give it flavor.

This game is beautiful and there are many great miniatures! A little drafting, a little hand management, tile laying, bluffing, what is not to like in this amazing looking game from a great company that has a track record of making great games like Cyclades and Kemet.

inis-board
The tiles are absolutely beautiful looking in Inis.

6. Sola Fide: The Reformation – Spielworxx/Stronghold Games

sola-fide-box-cover

Despite earlier attempts, Martin Luther started the Reformation in 1517 with his “Ninety-Five Theses”. Luther criticized the selling of indulgences and stated that the Catholic doctrine of the merits of the saints had no foundation in the gospel. The “Protestants” soon incorporated doctrinal changes such as Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. These changes turned out to be not only theological, but also influential in the Reformation in other ways: the rise of nationalism, the Western Schism that eroded people’s faith in the Papacy, the perceived corruption of the Roman Curia, the impact of humanism, and the new learning of the Renaissance that questioned much of traditional thought. The Roman Catholic church responded with a counter-reformation initiated by the Council of Trent.

In the two-player game Sola Fide: The Reformation, by the renown design team of Jason Mathews and Christian Leonhard, players attempt to install Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire or try to prevent it, battling the Holy Roman Empire’s Imperial Circles.

I have always had a fascination and interest in the history of the Reformation and this game has my interest! From a great company comes this historical based 2-player game that uses area control/influence and card drafting to wage battle, both theological and spiritual, between the Catholics and Protestants.  I am always attracted to the yellow-orange boxes that Stronghold Games has started to use in games such as La Granja, Terraforming Mars and now Sola Fide. We shall see if this game lives up to my expectations!

sola-fide-map
Imperial Circle #9.

 

5. 7 Wonders: Duel – Pantheon – Repos Production

duel-pantheon

A pantheon from several civilizations — including Greek, Egyptian, and Middle-Eastern — gets added to 7 Wonders: Duel in Pantheon, with each god having its own power to help you or hinder your opponent.

During Age I you collect mythology tokens — which allow you to choose which deities have a place in the Pantheon — and offering tokens, which help you court those deities. Then, during Ages II and III, you can activate a god or goddess in the Pantheon instead of taking a card from the pyramid. To do so, you pay whatever that god or goddess demands from you in offerings, then place it next to your city.

With Isis on your side, you can use a card from the discard pile to construct one of your Wonders for free. Zeus, whose nod determines what happens and what does not, enables you to discard any single card from the pyramid that you want as well as any mythology or offering tokens on it. The Phoenician goddess Tanit, whose people were renowned for trade, fills your coffers with twelve pieces of gold. Enki, the Sumerian god of crafts, technology, and creation, lets you choose one of two progress tokens. Minerva’s ability to keep the conflict pawn from entering your territory may not instantly bring you victory, but it can save you from military defeat.

What’s more, instead of adding three guild cards to the deck for Age III, you add three of five Grand Temples. Each Grand Temple belongs to a different Mediterranean culture, and if you have the favor of a god or goddess from that culture, you can build the temple for free. For example, having Isis by your side enables you to build the Egyptian temple; with Enki, you can build the Mesopotamian one. These temples are worth 5, 12, or 21 points depending on how many you build.

7 Wonders: Duel – Pantheon also includes two new Wonders: the Sanctuary (which for the cost of 2 coins lets you reverse turn order) and the Divine Theater (which grants points and easier access to the gods).

I love 7 Wonders and 7 Wonders: Duel and am sure that this expansion, with the addition of God Cards, will add another layer of depth and strategy to an already amazing 2-player game.  With 7 Wonders, the addition of the Leaders, Cities and Babel expansions added new mechanics and cards to choose from and I look forward to trying out this expansion.

duel-pantheon-god-cards
The new God Cards in 7 Wonders: Duel – Pantheon.

4. Solarius Mission – Spielworxx

Solarius Mission

In the distant future, the home planet is overpopulated and riots loom. The only solution seems to be to advance into space and to settle planets. Several technically advanced nations emphatically try to put this into practice.

Under the name of Solarius Mission they begin a project to explore other planets, build space stations and conduct interplanetary trade. Who is able to use the technical means available and to fulfill the vital Solarius Mission?

With their space ship, the players explore far away planets, develop new technologies with their tech dice, and send settlers into space. They try to prevent space contamination.

Solarius Mission is a very eclectic game – it is important to think ahead and to optimize the personal strategy. Who acts especially prudent, will be who wins in the end?

Solarius Mission is a tactical and strategic civilization game in a pulp science-fiction setting, with a dice-draft, dice manipulation, and resource-management mechanism. It can best be described as a mid-weight euro-style game.

I did an interview with Andreas “ode.” Odendahl on this game in August and I have been looking forward to it’s release ever since. I love dice games and this game is best described as #DiceinSpace.

solarius-mission-components
I love dice but am concerned about having to sticker these dice in Solarius Mission.

 

3. Jórvík – eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele/Stronghold Games

jorvik-box

For several decades during the Viking age, parts of England were occupied by the Norsemen. Under their influence, one of the larger cities turned into a flourishing center of trade and craftsmanship. The Vikings called the city and its surrounding kingdom “Jórvík”, which is today known as the city of York.

In the game Jórvík, players assume the roles of Viking jarls. They gather prestige points by trading goods, holding big feasts, funding pillages, commissioning craftsmen and hiring soldiers to defend the city against recurring invasions. The player with the most prestige points wins.

The game is a re-design of Die Speicherstadt (2010). In this game, players acquire cards from a card display through a simple yet brilliant worker placement and bidding mechanism to build up their trading empires. Jórvík includes two versions: A base game that is equivalent to Die Speicherstadt, and an advanced game that equates to Die Speicherstadt including its expansion Kaispeicher.

This game is a repackaging of a previous Stefan Feld design but I am a huge fan of Feld and own many of his games including Bora Bora, Trajan and Aquasphere and love to play many others owned by members of my group including Castles of Burgundy and Luna. I love Viking themed games and look forward to taking this game for a spin.

jorvik-cards

2. The Oracle of Delphi – Pegasus Spiele/Tasty Minstrel Games

oracle

“For once, Zeus, Greek god of thunder and sky, is in high spirits. Hence, he decides to offer a generous gift to a worthy mortal and invite him, or her, to his realm, to Olympus. To determine a sufficient candidate, Zeus hosts a competition for his entertainment. Twelve legendary tasks are imposed upon the fearless participants: to erect graceful statues, to raise awe-inspiring sanctuaries, to offer capacious offerings, and to slay the most fearsome monsters. The first participant to master all the posed assignments wins the favor of the father of the gods himself.

Indubitably, you will not pass up this golden opportunity, so you clear your ship and rally your crew to follow on the trails of legendary Odysseus through the dangerous waters of the Aegean. But how could you find the righteous path onward? There is but one who can help you. Visit the mysterious oracle of Delphi and let her answers guide your ways.

In Stefan Feld’s new game The Oracle of Delphi, the player’s ships travel across a large variable game board of hexagonal tiles showing islands and the surrounding waters. Each player aims to reach certain islands to perform the twelve tasks given by Zeus: e.g., to collect offerings of different colors and to deliver them to corresponding temples, or to slay monsters of a specific type (and color), all of which can be discovered on the islands.

In order to execute these color-dependent actions, you are given three colored dice each turn, the so-called “oracle dice”. Rolling the dice (at the start of the turn) is equivalent to consulting the oracle, whereas the results represent her answers. The answers determine which actions you will be able to take, but you will always have three actions per turn. However, a slight divergence from your fate is often possible.

In addition to the oracle, you can request support from the gods and you can acquire favor tokens, companions, and other special abilities that will help you win the race against other competitors.

Differently equipped ships and the variable set-up of the game board will offer new challenging and interesting strategic and tactical decisions with every new game of The Oracle of Delphi that you play.

As mentioned above, I love Stefan Feld games and this one looks very interesting as it returns to 2 of his major design elements, that of dice allocation and use as your workers as well as the presence of the dice rondell.  I am also a fan of the theme and how the dice rolling represents the visions of the Oracle and guides your future. This game is sure to be a big hit and I cannot wait to roll those bones to determine my fate!

oracle-player-board
Player board showing the dice rondell used in The Oracle of Delphi.

 

1. Great Western Trail – eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele/Stronghold Games

Great Western Trail Box.jpg

America in the 19th century: You are a rancher and repeatedly herd your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. This earns you money and victory points. Needless to say, each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. However, the “Great Western Trail” not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail. Also, it might be a good idea to hire capable staff: cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your very own buildings, or engineers for the important railroad line.

If you cleverly manage your herd and navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of Great Western Trail, you surely will gain the most victory points and win the game.

Alexander Pfister has designed some great games recently including Mombasa, Broom Service and Isle of Sky. This game is most likely his next good game design and I want to make sure I am able to play it.  I also love the western theme with cowboys, cattle, and the railroad and would love to see other games use this great theme.

There you have my Top 10 List of Most Anticipated Games from Spiel. Do you agree or have your own thoughts on your Top 10 games? If so, post in the comments and we can discuss.

-Grant