Essen aka ‘The Spiel’ is the biggest game fair in the World. Over 700 games are released there every year, to flood the market for Christmas time and beyond. Its really tough for customers and retailers to try and pick out the ones they think will be hot from such a crowded market. Here are a few that are rising to the top as well as a couple that are about to be released that had nothing to do with Essen at all.
Above and Below
A worker placement game combined with a story telling element. Above you ground you assign your workers to build rooms, get resources and to generally get smarter to make the best village. Below ground you explore caverns and will read paragraphs explaining what has happened to you as you do this and the options available, with certain risks and rewards. Beautiful art and a very original concept.
I’m going to let the Publisher explain this one as its even more unique than the last one and also even prettier!:
T.I.M.E Stories is a narrative game, a game of “decksploration”. Each player is free to give their character as deep a “role” as they want, in order to live through a story, as much in the game as around the table. But it’s also a board game with rules which allow for reflection and optimization. At the beginning of the game, the players are at their home base and receive their mission briefing. The object is then to complete it in as few attempts as possible. The actions and movements of the players will use Temporal Units (TU), the quantity of which depend on the scenario and the amount of players. Each attempt is called a “run”; one run equals the use of all of the Temporal Units at the players’ disposal. When the TU reach zero, the agents are recalled to the agency, and restart the scenario from the beginning, armed with their experience. The object of the game is to make the perfect run, while solving all of the puzzles and overcoming all of a scenario’s obstacles. The base box contains the entirety of the T.I.M.E Stories system and allows players to play all of the scenarios, the first of which — Asylum — is included. During a scenario, which consists of a deck of 120+ cards, each player explores cards, presented most often in the form of a panorama. Access to some cards require the possession of the proper item or items, while others present surprises, enemies, riddles, clues, and other dangers. You usually take possession of local hosts to navigate in a given environment, but who knows what you’ll have to do to succeed? Roam a med-fan city, looking for the dungeon where the Syaan king is hiding? Survive in the Antarctic while enormous creatures lurk beneath the surface of the ice? Solve a puzzle in an early 20th century asylum? That is all possible, and you might even have to jump from one host to another, or play against your fellow agents from time to time…In the box, an insert allows players to “save” the game at any point, to play over multiple sessions, just like in a video game. This way, it’s possible to pause your ongoing game by preserving the state of the receptacles, the remaining TU, the discovered clues, etc. T.I.M.E Stories is a decksploring game in which each deck makes anything possible!
That’s right 504 games in one. The game is divided into 9 modules, and to play you select 3 of them which will determine the theme, play mechanics and winning conditions. A flip book is used to explain how each set works. Modules consist of the following:
Module 1: Pick-Up & Deliver
Module 2: Race
Module 3: Privileges
Module 4: Military
Module 5: Exploration
Module 6: Roads
Module 7: Majorities
Module 8: Production
Module 9: Shares
Its an epic idea and the fact he (Friedemann Freese) got it to work is stunning.
7 Wonders Duel
This is probably going to be the best selling game from Essen. Its a 2 player only version of 7 Wonders which uses many of the ideas of the original game, but not the main one. No card drafting occurs, players take from a display of face-down and face-up cards arranged at the start of a round. A player can take a card only if it’s not covered by any others. Players now trade with the bank and as they get dominance in a resource the cost rises for their opponent. A player can win 7 Wonders Duel in one of three ways. Each time that you acquire a military card, you advance the military marker toward your opponent’s capital, giving you a bonus at certain positions. If you reach the opponent’s capital, you win the game immediately. Similarly, if you acquire any six of seven different scientific symbols, you achieve scientific dominance and win immediately. If neither of these situations occurs, then the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
The Big Book of Madness
Bored magic students open a book they shouldn’t and release a bunch of nasty monsters. A co-operative game in which you must build your element deck to acquire spells and cards to help your fellow players, all the while trying to fight of the monsters who are slowly driving you MAAAAAAAAAAD!
Magic the Gathering on steroids! Its not a CCG, but you will be able to expand it. You only get to play ridiculously powerful cards and don’t need the manna to do it either. Its from the people who brought you Star Realms, but its not Magic, so please don’t play it as such or you’ll be sad.
The big Euro of Essen that is slowly climbing to the top of the pile. In Mombasa, players acquire shares of chartered companies based in Mombasa, Cape Town, Saint-Louis, and Cairo and propagate trading posts of these companies throughout the African continent in order to earn the most money. Mombasa features a unique, rotating-display hand-mechanism that drives game play. Each round players choose action cards from their hand, then reveal them simultaneously and carry out the actions. These cards are then placed in a discard pile, and the previously played cards recovered for the subsequent round. Each company has a double-sided company track, so games will vary quite a lot based on which tracks are revealed and at which companies they are placed.