Top 10 Games from Essen Spiel 2019

I love Board Game Con season, especially the big ones when tons of new games are being brought to the market. In the weeks leading up to Spiel…during…and soon after, I consumed a hefty quantity of content related to many, many, many of the new board game titles.

This week, my Top 10 list will be from games featured at Essen Spiel 2019. Now, this could easily be a top 50 or even 100 list — so to narrow down my focus, I am specifically highlighting 10 games that I had never heard of until Spiel talk began. Thus, from this American’s perspective, these are brand new games to my world as of October 2019 — and they look / sound really fun.

This list is also not going to be a countdown, but simply an alphabetical listing of the top 10 games hitting my ‘Excitement Button’ that I learned about from Essen Spiel 2019 coverage –> my focus will be to provide thoughts on a core mechanism or twist about the game that looks fun.

#1 – Aristocracy, Tasty Minstrel Games

In Aristocracy, your game board (pictured above) will be full of face-down tiles. On your turn, you flip a few over and then choose one visible resource to claim. The resources you did not choose, will remain face-up. The next player will then flip over a few more and make a resource choice. Now, while only choosing one resource, you get to claim all the visible tiles of that resource. I love the idea that what you DON’T choose could become beneficial to your opponents, plus the decision-making of whether to take a desired resource or another one that is in greater quantity.

There are also plenty of objective completion elements to be aware of in hopes of obtaining bonus points. Aristocracy is expected to be released this week (or soon after).

#2 – Foothills, Lookout Games

Foothills is a 2-player game in the Snowdonia line. Now, I have never played Snowdonia…my research on the game didn’t spark my interest enough. That said, this 2-player take on the game — Foothills — looks more up my alley. One of the elements that I’d really like the chance to “get my hands on” is the game’s take on action selection. From my understanding, every player has five action cards available at any time (A – E). Once an action is performed, that card is flipped over and the backside provides an alternative action….when it is performed, you guessed it…flip back over. Because of this, the ability to perform a perfectly timed action will be dependent on making sure it is available when you need it.

Furthermore, there are moments when these action cards can be “consumed” for victory points. When that happens, another card replaces it. I believe every action letter (A through E) has three cards available. The front side is the same, but the flipped, back side will be different on each card.

The flow of the game seems quick, but crunchy and I’m a fan of this fluctuating market of actions that will be available. Foothills is available now.

#3 – Humboldt’s Great Voyage, HUCH! and R&R Games

Humboldt’s Great Voyage looks like a wonderful take on the mancala mechanism. Each turn, when you pick up the markers in a particular space, you will then drop off those markers along the route, but this board is not a simple circle/oval, but a multi-branching path. Thus, the key to which group you pick up and what path you take will be based on how much color-coding you can manage. If you can drop off a marker at a matching-colored circle, you will earn tiles/goods that will help you achieve your goals. Great Voyage looks to have some decent depth to it, but the core mechanism alone is enough to get this new title to the table! Humboldt’s Great Voyage should be available mid-November.

#4 – Majolica Painting, Blue Magpie Games

Majolica Painting is a new flip-and-write game. And as you can see from the picture above, it is a VERY colorful game. On each turn, a card gets flipped over that will have a color sequence (green – blue – yellow – green, for example). Players will then need to color in that pattern on to their individual sheet. You can choose which square to start in and the next square to complete the pattern must be orthogonally adjacent. Of note, each square on your sheet can actually be used twice, painting in either the inside portion, or the outside corners. You won’t always be able to — or want — to complete a sequence. Thus, each turn provides the ability to paint or to pass. If you paint, each card has an objective. If your painting meets that objective, then you will unlock a scoring condition on your sheet.

At the end of the game, everyone will get points based on the longest paths they can make for each color (and remember each square could potentially hold two paint colors). Players will also tally points based on the bonus conditions that they were able to unlock during play.

Majolica Painting looks like a wonderfully unique take on the Flip/Roll-and-Write genre that looks to perfectly blend heavy, thought-provoking decisions each turn with a peaceful, calming, and beautiful core mechanism of play. I’m not sure on a release date for this title.

#5 – Miyabi, HABA

Miyabi is a pentomino-drafting / tile-laying game for victory points. Each time a tile is drafted, there will be a resource/landscape item that needs to be placed in the same column as the chart shows. You will then score points based on the number of squares that tile consists of… TIMES … the ‘floor’ or layer # the tile is placed on. If you played NMBR9, then this concept will sound familiar. With Miyabi, though, you have more control over what you draft…where it goes…and how you get to build your landscape to maximize your point-scoring. Another, light-weight, fun looking game that should have some good ‘crunch’ to it. Miyabi should be available in December.

#6 – Porto, MEBO Games

In Porto, the goal is to help build the houses in the city of Porto, Portugal. To do so, you have two potential actions to perform on a turn. First, you may draft construction cards. There will be five available, with number values of 1, 2, or 3, in different colors (matching the colors of the buildings that can be constructed). When drafting, you can choose cards of a maximum value of 3. So, you could take a single 3-value card or maybe a 2-value and a 1-value. Your other option is to build — which requires two cards be played. One of the cards played will determine which color floors you will add to the board. The other card let’s you know how many floors you can construct. So, if you play a Red-2 and a Purple-3, you could either build 2 purple floors or 3 red floors.

When building, you can score points in a variety of ways (which I love!!) –> points for starting a building, potentially points for finishing a building, points for the height of the building after your placement, and points for each floor that horizontally neighbors one you just constructed. [In Porto, buildings are constructed as to share walls, so helping create adjacent floors is valuable!] There will also always be four objective cards you can attempt to complete on a turn that can provide further scoring. Then, at the end of the game, each player will have two private objectives (love me some secret goal cards!) that can add to your final point value.

Porto looks like a really fun game of building up houses, that is not too complex, but provides great decision-making as each player will try to maximize each turn without providing easy-scoring opportunities for opponents. I am not yet certain when Porto will become available.

#7 – Robin of Locksley, Rio Grande Games

In Robin of Locksley, two players will compete to see who is the greatest ‘Hero of the Forest’ during the time of King Richard the Lionheart’s capture. To do so, your Robin pieces will move around the board (utilizing the movement of a knight in Chess) to steal loot from the wealthy. Which treasure is picked up every turn will help build treasure collections that will be needed to inspire your bard to tell your tale. Around the outside of the board, there will be twenty goals that need met. On a turn, your bard can move forward a space if either the player’s tableau satisfies the criteria OR a treasure collection of 3 or more is turned in for a coin. [In other words, your bard will perform by either being impressed…or paid.]

The “Robin” who can inspire their bard enough to make two trips around the board and complete the final objective will be the winner and hailed forever as Robin of Locksley. The timing of when to work towards completing an objective or just trading in treasure for a coin to keep moving seems like a great decision point. Robin of Locksley is expected to be available early November.

#8 – Rollecate, Gam’inBIZ

Rollecate is a quick, 15-minute train-track-laying, dice-rolling game. The goal of the game is to finish with the least amount of points in your hand+discard pile at the end. To avoid adding cards, you will need to provide enough track for Rollecate, the Dutch train, to keep moving safely. Beware — the higher value card you play (which keeps those points out of your hand), the more dice you will have to roll for train movement. Blank sides equal no movement, but marked sides will advance the train one card. If you are required to move the train, but it has hit the end of the tracks, you will be penalized with adding more cards to your pile.

Thus, you can see there is definitely a push-your-luck element to this game. Ideally, a player would love to end their turn with the train being advanced to the end of the track (without going over!) to help keep the pressure on your opponent during his/her turn. I am very hopeful to find this game in the future and see just how it feels to play. I am not currently aware of when Rollecate will be available.

#9 – Solar Draft, Tasty Minstrel Games

In Solar Draft, players are competing to build the best planetary system around your sun. On each turn, you can draft a card from the market, draw a blind card, or play a card to your tableau (your planetary system). You will be done when you have eight planets played. The key, though, is to try and maximize your system to give it the highest possible value. Each planet card has its own scoring rules. Thus, when you decide to play a planet will be important based on its scoring criteria. In fact, you may discover that one of your planet’s scoring rules has become less advantageous as your system grows.

In those cases, you can choose to ‘terraform’ your planet. To do this, discard a card and then play a new planet on top of the old one. There will also be moon cards that can get played behind a planet and meteor cards as well. This looks like a fun twist on tableau-building, with a light-hearted space theme to go with it. Solar Draft is expected to be available mid-November.

#10 – T-Rex’s Holiday, Blue Magpie Games

T-Rex’s Holiday. First off, this is not a dinosaur game. 🙂

The designer has a cat named T-Rex, for whom the game is named after. So, it’s actually a cat game. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?!

This is a new roll-and-write game from Blue Magpie Games. In it, your sheet will have four distinct areas with places to write numbers. On each player’s turn, they will roll the three custom dice secretly. Two of these dice will then be revealed and each player will then write the numbers from those two dice anywhere they would like on their sheet. Then, the third die is revealed. That die has to be written in a specific section based on the number. Thus, if you are aware of what could really spoil your opponents’ plans, you can be sneaky with your die selection.

Each section on your sheet will have some different guidelines for scoring: filling up an area with the same number, completing a train with increasing numbers…or with decreasing, filling in an area with a specific sum of numbers. The strategy to this game looks intriguing and I suspect it will take a few plays to figure it out and start earning high scores. Nevertheless, T-Rex’s Holiday looks like a fun roll-and-write and one that may earn you some glares from your friends. 😉 I am not sure when this game will be available.

Well, there you have it folks…10 new games out of Essen Spiel 2019 (of a 1,000+) that I would love to get to the table and experience. Any of these that stand out to you? Feel free to comment below or chat with me over on Twitter.

For more board game top 10 lists, reviews, and discussions please follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1 and YouTube

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