Essen 2016 Preview Quickbar

This page will stay at the top of the blog thru our Essen Coverage.  Quick links to our posts – games listed in alphabetical order.  If you want to stay up to date – you can always subscribe to our blog in the Follow Blog by Email box in the right-hand sidebar –>


(last updated 14 Sept)

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Planet Defenders – Essen Preview

Planet Defenders – Essen Preview pic3111854_md

  • Designed By Wei-Min Ling
  • Artist Maisherly
  • Publisher EmperorS4 Games
  • 2-4 Players
  • 30-60 min

In Planet Defenders players are trying to capture wayward robots using the 3 super planet defenders robots. To do this players use actions to travel the planet system gathering resources and technology.


The game components include tiles, cards, 3 planet defender standees and small translucent battery cubes and larger Energy cubes.


The 9 planet tiles form a modular board that the planet defenders travel on. Each planet pic3111903_mdprovides a different combination of resources. The rogue robots are placed along the four edges of the board and can be captured from any of the planes along the same side.

Each player starts with 5 batteries. On a turn they are allowed to do the main action once or twice and an extra action. The main action consists of paying a battery to one of 3 movement cards. This allows you to move one of the 3 planet defenders.  One side of 3 movement cards allow each of the defenders to move 1 space orthogonally and the other side 2 spaces. After a card has been used it flips to the opposite side on the next turn. If the card wasn’t used it does not flip. If a second main action is done it costs 2 batteries.  After movement, you can activate the planet’s ability gaining energy cubes or batteries.

Following the main action each player is allowed one extra action. The first of which is purchasing a technology card with batteries or energy cubes. Technology cards give benefits like decreasing the cost of capturing robots or gaining extra batteries.  The other extra action is capturing a robot. In order to capture a robot players must play the cost, the gain a small benefit and take the robot card. pic3111906_md

The game ends when 2 stacks of robot cards are empty.

Final scoring include points on captured robots as well as points for collected tech cards and different types (color) of captured robots.

Initial Impression:

The overall game play is straightforward. The logistics of the game is made more interesting by having the movement limited. The flipping of the movement cards is a clever mechanism.  In addition the technology cards add some strategy to the game. You can also do a little blocking since planet defenders may not be on the same planet. The art is really cute. This is a lighter game with a short play time. I think it will work well as a filler or gateway game.14463205_10208587746585246_5933025632947032171_n




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Dale Yu: Essen 2016 Preview of Capital Lux


Capital Lux

  • Designers: Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Ostby
  • Publisher: Aporta Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: ~30 minutes


Capital Lux is an interesting card game set in some sort of futuristic setting – though there really isn’t much backstory given in the rules.  Each player has an area on the table in front of him which is his Hometown.  The center of the table is known as the Capital.  The four Capital cards – one for each colored suit – are laid out in the center.  The 4 Modifier cards are shuffled and placed in a face-down stack.  A start player is randomly decided.


The game plays over three rounds, with each one following an identical format.  There is a deck of 72 cards – in four different colors with values varying from 2-6 – and each player is dealt five cards at the beginning of each round.  There is then a draft; each player chooses two of his hand cards and places them face down on the table, and the remainder are passed to the left.  Then, from the newly gained hand of three cards, each player again chooses two to place face down in front of him and then passes the final card on.  Each player will end this draft with 5 cards; 4 of which he chose and one which was given to him at the end from his neighbor. Continue reading

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Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of My Village

My Village

  • Publisher: Stronghold Games/Eggertspielemyvillage-cover
  • Designers: Inka and Markus Brand
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Playing Time: 60-90 min
  • MSRP $59.95
  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Review Copy
  • Number of Plays: 5+



An entire new chapter opens in the village chronicles as each player leads his very own village to fame and fortune. You start with a small farmyard and one villager of each of the 5 professions: abbot, councilman, traveler, craftsman, and merchant. You improve your village by adding buildings and fields, pushing on with your travels and attracting customers and monks, all while time ticks steadily away. Every now and then a villager passes away, leaving his profession unoccupied. And even though you can train a descendant to fill his shoes, soon you have to neglect some areas to focus on others. On top of this you may try to collect your village’s stories and protect their pages from recurring rat invasions. Once a certain number of villagers have passed away, the game ends. Then the winner is the player who gained the most prestige points from his buildings, fields, customers, monks, travels and the story points he brought to safety. (From the rulebook.) Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Crabs!



  • Designer: shane007
  • Publisher: Moaideas Game Design
  • Players: 3-5
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Moaideas.

crabs box

Crabs! is a small card game where you try to catch the most valuable crabs that you can.  The deck of 60 crab cards is shuffled and each player is dealt 6 cards.  Ten crab cards are then placed face up on the table as the crab pool.  A separate deck of 18 objective cards is shuffled and 4 of these are revealed above the crab pool.  Finally, the four gear cards are laid out in a row, and each player places their wooden crab token to the left of the lowest numbered gear card.

Continue reading

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Terraforming Mars (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designers:  Jacob Fryxelius
  • Publisher:  Stronghold Games
  • Artists:  Daniel Fryxelius, Isaac Fryxelius
  • Players:  1 – 5
  • Ages:  12 and Up
  • Time:  90 – 120 Minutes
  • Times Played: 4


Terraforming Mars is one of the hottest games of 2016.  The game sold out quickly at Gen Con and was generally regarded as one of the hits of that convention.  It currently tops many Essen anticipation lists, and with a few hundred reported ratings, its BoardGameGeek averages are excellent.  Several of us Opinionated Gamers have had the chance to play it recently, so our review is below.  

As alluded to above, Terraforming Mars made a limited debut at Gen Con.  It was released in select local game stores on September 14, and a worldwide release planned for September 28.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Preview of The Game Room Part 2: Mr Boddy (spoiler free)

The Game Room Part 2: Mr Boddy

  • Designer: Holly Richard
  • Players: 1-16
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Black Toad Games


The Game Room Part 2: Mr Boddy is one of the many new games to hit the market trying to capitalize on the current craze for puzzle rooms.  While none of these games can truly replicate the puzzles found in a puzzle room, there are differing approaches on how to bring the escape room experience home in a box.


We have previously reviewed a few other puzzle room game options – you can find them


I have outlined a brief history of the puzzle room movement in the previous articles, so I will not re-hash that here.  Where The Game Room differs from the other versions which we have previously reviewed is that this game can also be set up as a full party evening/activity.  The instructions, which are available online with the purchase of the game, give full directions on how to setup your house to provide a great puzzle experience.  It also gives you the option of creating your own props to use.

Continue reading

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Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designers:  Chuck D. Yager, Based on Pandemic by Matt Leacock
  • Publisher:  Z-Man Games
  • Artists:  Chris Quilliams, Atha Kanaani, Philippe Guérin
  • Players:  2 – 4
  • Ages:  14 and Up
  • Time:  About 40 Minutes
  • Times Played: 4


I first played Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu at Gen Con, and I impressed by the clever implementation of the theme, and more importantly, the fact that Reign of Cthulhu was different enough from Pandemic to feel fresh.  Having now played a few more times, my first impression holds.  

This wasn’t just the pasting on of a popular theme: this is a well-designed tribute to Lovecraft.  For fans of the mythos or fans of Pandemic, Reign of Cthulhu is worth checking out. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Avenue



One of my sleeper hits from last year’s SPIEL fair was Doodle City, a pathway building game where players try to connect up different parts of Doodle City via road segments.  The same company, Aporta, has come back this year with a similar game which gives players a new planning problem to solve in the game.


In Avenue, each player gets an identical map from the tear-off pad and a pen.  This map is a 6×7 grid which has castles, farms, squares with grapes, and empty squares.  There is a column of scoring spaces down the right hand side of the map which you will use at the end of the game.  There are also two decks of cards: a farm deck made up of 6 cards and a road deck made up of 42 cards (20 grey and 22 yellow).

Continue reading

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Life, Liberty & THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (Game Review)


  • Designers: Adrian Abela & David Chircop
  • Publishers: Artipia Games & Stronghold Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Ages: 12+
  • Times Played: 7 (with review copy provided by Stronghold Games)



I’m not sure what fascinates us about “life-building” games. Maybe we all imprinted on Milton Bradley’s oft-maligned ode to large families and stock investment (aka The Game of Life). Perhaps some of us managed to blunder into playing Parker Brothers much more enjoyable Careers – the game that first introduced customizable victory conditions and Uranium Mining as lucrative vocational choice.

Even as the technology of game design has advanced over the past 20 years, “life-building” games continue to pop up. Though not my cup of tea, you can dig into the seedier side of life with Steve Jackson’s Chez Geek franchise or 2F’s Funny Friends. Hasbro published a nifty little card game version of The Game of Life (that is sadly out of print)… and more recently Lapuduti (sp?) created CV (and the expansion, CV: Gossip). I really enjoyed my one play of CV… and it sat right on the edge of my “add to my next game order from my friendly online retailer” for a couple of years.

Though the particular game elements vary – CV uses a Yahtzee-like dice manipulation system, Chez Geek is a take-that card game and The Game of Life Card Game is tableau-builder with two different resources (Time & Money) used as action points – the basic idea of all of these games are the same: players start as teenagers and proceed through their lives, acquiring stuff, building relationships, choosing a vocation, and having various life experiences. Points are awarded for fulfilling goals and/or accumulating points – and the winner is the person with the most “satisfaction”. (Cue up the Stones as a soundtrack… and here’s a thought: it would be interesting – and a bit scary – to imagine a Rolling Stones themed “life building” game.)

That brings us to the newest addition to this particular gaming genre: The Pursuit of Happiness from Artipia Games and Stronghold Games. Pursuit uses a worker placement system as you spend time (hourglass markers) to create your best possible life and parlay those life choices into Long Term Happiness. (Why, yes, LTH is secret game code for “victory points”.) Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Mystic Vale


Mystic Vale

  • Designer: John D Clair
  • Publisher: AEG
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 7, with review copy provided by AEG


Mystic Vale was a highly anticipated game for me since I first heard about it via an AEG press release in Spring 2016.  I have always loved deckbuilding games, and this new release promised to be a revolutionary change to the genre.  Instead of changing your deck via adding and deleting cards, Mystic Vale would allow you to change the cards themselves!  So, instead of being a deck builder, a new term was needed to describe the game: a card-crafter. Continue reading

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