Chris Wray: My Essen Most Anticipated List

I arrived in Essen today, and I’ve already done a walkthrough of the Messe.  The halls are still mostly empty, but a few exhibitors have started setting up, and there are already numerous palettes of games. 


This will be my second year at Essen, and so far, the planning is every bit as overwhelming as the first year.  There are hundreds of games coming out, and finding the games to bring home in the always-too-limited suitcase space can be challenging.  It feels like drinking from a fire hose.  I’ve been reading Eric Martin’s BGG list, looking at rulebooks, and taking a second look at our chats on the OG mailing list.  Yet I still had a difficult time reducing to my Top 10.  I probably should have aimed for a Top 20!

But here it is.  I’ve excluded games that I’ve already played, including several that probably would have been in my top 10 list.  For a list of games we’ve played/reviewed, check out the Essen Preview Quickbar on the front page.


7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon (Repos) – I wrote our review of 7 Wonders Duel last year, calling it “tense, fast-paced, well-balanced two player game, one that is deserving of the praise it has received.”  Dozens of plays later, I still get excited to get it to the table.  So I’m naturally interested in its first expansion, which adds several new gameplay elements, including the addition of gods in pantheons, who give you special advantages in gameplay when you activate them.  


Colony (Bezier) – From BGG: “In Colony, each player constructs and upgrades buildings, while managing resources to grow their fledgling colony. In a clever twist, dice are used as resources, with each side/number representing a different resource. Some resources are stable, allowing them to be stored between turns, while others must be used right away. Buildings provide new capabilities, such as increased production, resource manipulation, and additional victory points. Using dice-as-resources facilitates a dynamic, ever-changing resources management mini-game while players work to earn victory points by adding building to their tableau on their way to victory.”  I’m a sucker for engine building games, and I’m curious to see how this plays.  Reviews were very positive at Gen Con, and while I didn’t get the chance to play it, I did watch a rules explanation, and it looked right up my alley.


Honshu ( –  From BGG: Honshu is a trick-taking, map-building card game set in feudal Japan. Players are lords and ladies of noble houses seeking new lands and opportunities for fame and fortune.”  Trick taking games appeal to me, and I tend to love games where it becomes part of a larger game (in Joraku, for example).  This also looks beautiful.  


Inis (Matagot) – Inis looks like a cool combination of drafting, hand management, and civilization building.  Matagot is one of my favorite publishers, so I have high expectations.  The artwork here looks very different than in most board games, but I think it looks beautiful, and I like the Celtic theme.  Dale did a preview a few days ago.


Feast for Odin (Z-Man, Feuerland Spiele) – A Feast for Odin is the next big creation from Uwe Rosenberg, designer of Agricola, Caverna, Fields of Arle, and several of my other favorite games.  Rosenberg is a master of worker placement, and this game looks like it could live up to his past success.  From BGG: “Using the central board in A Feast for Odin, players have to hunt, gather basic materials, refine those materials, develop their production-buildings, build/buy ships, and raid settlements.  The resulting earnings are placed on the players’ board in the best possible pattern to produce income and (later) victory points.”


Lorenzo il Magnifico (Cranio Creations)This looks like a classic moderately heavy Eurogame.  As the BGG entry states, “In Lorenzo il Magnifico, each player takes the role of a head of a noble family in a city during the Italian renaissance. You try to accumulate prestige and fame to gain more victory points (VP) than the others.”  To do so, you send your family members to different areas of town, where they can get useful resources, development cards (which represent newly conquered territories, sponsored buildings, influenced characters, or encouraged ventures), or activate their cards.  Essen is the convention of Eurogames, and this seems like it will be a favorite with the crowd.  


Power Grid: The Card Game (2F-Spiele / Rio Grande) – I read Dale’s preview, plus I read through the rulebook, and this looks like a fun twist on Power Grid.  Given my love of card games, and given that Power Grid is in my all-time Top 10, I’m incredibly jealous of everybody that has already gotten to play this.  It’ll be one of the first games I try to demo at Spiel.  


Sola Fide (Stronghold) – As described in the BGG entry, “In the two-player game Sola Fide: The Reformation, by the renown[ed] design team of Jason Mathews and Christian Leonhard, players attempt to install Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire or try to prevent it.”  I’m always on the lookout for good two-player games, and Matthews and Leonhard have created some of my favorites.  I also love the theme, which is timely as we approach the 500th year of the Reformation.  Stronghold, in part because of their relationships with European publishers, seems to be on a roll this year.


Tichu Booster (Abacusspiele) – Tichu is also in my all-time Top 10, so I’m excited to try Tichu with special powers.  When I interviewed designer Urs Hostettler last year, he mentioned that this is how he and his family prefer to play the game.  As Dale noted a few days ago, it may introduce variance, but I’m excited to see how this plays.


Ulm (R&R Games, HUCH! & Friends) – From BGG: “Ulm is at its heyday. The construction of the Ulm cathedral has not yet been completed, but the city is already wealthy and prestigious.  In Ulm, players try to expand their spheres of influence and to make optimal use of the hustle and bustle on the marketplace around the cathedral.”  This looks like a beautiful, old-timey medium-weight Eurogame.  The action selection mechanism — where you pick a row of action tiles from where the Cathedral is being built — looks like it’ll add a fun twist two gameplay.  

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