Essen Spiel ’22 Top 10 Hot Games
Alas, I can’t make it to Essen this year. Sad times.
Instead, I’ve had a look through the lists of games being released there and picked my top 10. These are the games that I’m most excited to play for one reason or another. There are some on here you’d expect, and maybe one or two you wouldn’t.
I chose a variety of games, as it would be very easy to just choose a bunch of midweight Euro prettiness. I’ve got for something for two-player only, something for the family, unusual themes, and even a wargame of sorts.
Have a look, and let me know what’s on your list and what I might have missed. Let’s get into it.
10. Basilica (Portal Games)
Full disclosure here – I already have a copy of this new edition of Basilica, ahead of Essen. However, I’ve enjoyed it so much so far that I want to make sure it’s on this list. Essen is board game overload, and it’s easy for real gems to slip through the cracks.
Basilica is a two-player only game of laying tiles, placing builders, and carrying out orders. Between you, you’re trying to build what can only be described as a very colourful cathedral. The theme is paper thin, but it doesn’t matter one bit. The gameplay is fast, cunning, and at times, mean. Full review coming soon.
9. Unconscious Mind (Fantasia Games)
I’ve been very excited about Unconscious Mind since I learned about it while interviewing Jonny Pac. In it, you play as psychoanalysts, followers of Freud, in the early 1900s. You’re trying to analyse dreams and make your clientele happier. It’s such an unusual theme, it really appeals to me.
With Jonny (Merchants Cove) as one of the designers, and boasting the artwork of Vincent Dutrait (Robinson Crusoe) and Andrew Bosley (Everdell), it could turn out to be something very special indeed. Worker-placement, engine-building, multi-use cards – what’s not to like?
8. Turing Machine (Scorpion Masque)
Taking its name from the analogue computer of the same name, which in turn takes its name from computing pioneer Alan Turing, Turing Machine has been slowly creeping up my wishlist. When I first saw it, I was pretty non-plussed. The description of the gameplay, however, has me champing at the bit.
I love a good deduction game, so one which combines a bit of sleuthing with an actual analogue computer? Oh my! I love the look of the gameplay, combining punchcards with what sounds like some kind of random scenario generation. If the boasts deliver on their promise, it sounds like a nearly-endless deduction game, and I can’t wait to try it out.
7. Amsterdam (Queen Games)
I wasn’t going to put Amsterdam on this list for a while, mainly because it’s a remake of an older game. That older game though, is Macao, a game which I used to own, designed by Stefan Feld. The original was a brilliant, beautiful game, and I’m hoping that Queen Games’ re-implementation of it (with Stefan on board) does justice to the original.
It’s a game of hand management, action selection, and pick-up-and-deliver, and as you might expect with Stefan Feld, it’s one which has you thinking the whole way through. I can’t wait to see what’s happened to it in the intervening years.
6. Tiletum (Board&Dice)
Board&Dice have a nasty habit of making very good games. That sounds like a good thing, right? It’s just a matter of finding time to play them all. I’m still not sure whether Tiletum is an official T-game, like Teotihuacan and Tawantinsuyu, but it certainly seems to share a lot of their DNA.
It takes place in the Golden Age of the Renaissance, and pits you in the roles of merchants. You fulfil contracts, butter-up the nobles, and try to build cathedrals. I’ll have a review of Tiletum up in the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.
5. Fire & Stone: Siege of Vienna 1683 (Capstone Games)
What do you mean you haven’t heard of it? Fire & Stone: Siege of Vienna 1683 is the hotness on everybody’s lips! Sarcasm aside, seeing this one pop up on the lists excited me. Firstly because of the historical war theme. Regular readers know that I’m slowly becoming a real wargame fan. Secondly, because of the logo I noticed on the box.
Capstone Games isn’t the first name I think of when it comes to historical conflict, yet here we are. It looks to be a card-driven game with stark asymmetry. Can a 12,000-strong city militia hold on against the 100,000-man might of the Ottoman empire? We’ll see I guess. Keep an eye on this one, folks.
4. Eleven (Portal Games)
Eleven may well turn out to be my surprise of the year. I’ve seen a few football (soccer, US friends) games, but most concentrate on trying to replicate the beautiful game played on the field. It’s not something that really appeals to me. When I was invited to try Eleven with Joanna from Portal Games at the UK Games Expo this year, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, to put it mildly.
Although we only had time for one full in-game week, the Euro mechanisms on offer had me hooked. I love the sport, and having that so well implemented into the theme of running a football team was amazing. Hiring staff, transferring players, upgrading the stadium, promoting your matches… it all felt like it works. Whether the full game delivers on the initial promise, I don’t know just yet. Time will tell, and I’ll have a full review for you before too long.
3. Lacrimosa (Devir)
Devir came seemingly out of nowhere a couple of years ago when they dropped Red Cathedral on an unsuspecting Essen crowd. They’ve shown no signs of slowing down, with last year’s assault on the senses, Bitoku, and this year they’re sure to make another big splash in Germany with Lacrimosa.
Lacrimosa is a beautiful game, based around the death of Mozart. Players take on the roles of his patrons, desperate to help complete his deathbed requiem, Lacrimosa. It’s another historical theme that I can really see myself enjoying. Hopefully, the deck-building, resource management, and point-to-point movement combine to make a game that’s as enjoyable to play, as it is beautiful to look at.
2. Sabika (Ludonova)
The Alhambra, the Spanish palace-cum-fortress, has already been the inspiration for at least one major game – Alhambra! This time around, Ludonova have the design talents of Germán P. Millán, designer of the aforementioned Bitoku.
If the setting and theme weren’t enough for me, Sabika features not one, but three interrelated rondels! Rondels, in case you didn’t know, are my favourite mechanism in board games. I don’t know why, they just are. I’m especially excited now, having watched some footage of it over on Paul Grogan’s Gaming Rules! channel. You can watch his solo playthrough right here, and see if it excites you as much as it does me.
1. Woodcraft (Delicious Games)
If I’m being honest, most of this list could have made my number one spot. I can only choose one, however, so for now, that game is Woodcraft. What’s gotten me so excited for this game is the combination of Vladimir Suchy and Delicious Games. If the combination sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same one that brought us Praga Caput Regni, a game I fell in love with a couple of years ago.
The theme is gorgeous. Rival folk running workshops in the forest, competing to craft goods for customers, and making the best workshops. It’s got some really interesting-looking dice play, and it’s great to see Vladimir going back to a light-hearted theme, as he did with Last Will.
So that’s it. Those are the games I’d be looking to try to find a way to get home. This list could easily have been a top 20, or even top 40, there are a lot of good-looking games on the way, if you’re willing to scan your eyes past the main hotness. Next year, with a little luck and a lot of planning, I’ll be able to share my own Essen haul.
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