Chris Wray: My Essen 2018 Most Anticipated List

Spiel (Essen) 2018 is a little more than two weeks away, and I’ve been reading rulebooks and combing through Eric Martin’s oh-so-amazing Spiel ’18 Preview on BGG.

As in past years, I’ll be doing coverage from the fair for The Opinionated Gamers and other media outlets, though I’ll be cutting back quite a bit this year.  That said, I’m still going to use Twitter (@OpinionatedGmrs) throughout the day.  I’ll also do (written) reviews of games in the weeks following Spiel.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to trying, maybe buying, and possibly reviewing in coming months.  

As always, these are arranged alphabetically.  I’ve listed my top 10 below, but I have a rapid fire list of others at the bottom.  


Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is the follow-up to Azul, winner of the 2018 Spiel des Jahres.  The game seems to have kept the tile-drafting mechanic of Azul, but judging from the rulebook, this is going to be a bit more complicated than Azul.  There’s a moving grazier who controls where you can put tiles, plus there’s a variable setup and a few other mechanics.  I’m intrigued by these new gameplay elements, plus the game looks beautiful. Overall, Stained Glass of Sintra looks like a great “next step” game from Azul.


Fortune is Friedemann Friese’s latest entry in his Fast Forward series, which are played without the need for reading a rulebook.  I played Fortune back in April, and I loved it: I think it is the best in the series. It has a bit of a press-your-luck mechanic mixed with set collection and hand management.  Like the others in the series, each game shifts in interesting ways as you make your way further-and-further in the deck.


Futuropia is a no-luck economic game from Freidemann Friese.  I read through the rulebook and in the game, people are trying to build and upgrade their condominiums to have a better life.  The main mechanic is seemingly action selection — there are five possible things to do on your turn, you do one of them, and then it is exhausted until you use all five — but it seems like carefully managing the order is the key.  I initially there to be more interactivity than there appears to be (as was the case in Power Grid), but this mostly seems like individual efficiency puzzles.


Fuji is a cooperative game from Wolfgang Warsch, who has been on quite a roll this year.  From the BGG description: “In Fuji, you play as a group of adventurers on their way to Japan‘s most famous volcano, Mount Fuji. But just before you arrive at your destination, the earth begins to shake and the volcano erupts! Now your group must escape the deadly lava flows as quickly as possible to reach the safe village.”

I’m intrigued not only because of the designer, who has been on a hot streak, but also because of the cooperative gameplay, which appears to prevent the so-called alpha gamer problem common in cooperative games.


One Week Ultimate Werewolf is sure to be one of the best social deduction games of the year.  It takes much of what I love about One Night Ultimate Werewolf, but it expands the game with additional strategies played over an entire week.  You’re still trying to deduce the roles of your fellow players, but unlike in other games, you have the ability to switch your role mid-game.  OWUW is primarily driven by the different rooms in the castle — some let you look at other players’ roles, hide your own role, or even blow up other rooms! — and that was a cool twist.  I did a video preview based on a prototype, and I’m really looking forward  to the final copy.


Pandoria is probably my most-anticipated Essen game.  Eric Martin did an excellent overview of this game, which was designed by Bernd Eisenstein and Jeff Allers (who writes for this site), but the BGG entry also explains it nicely: “In the ‘gamer’s game’ Pandoria, players discover this new land by placing tiles, and they claim its territory and resources by placing their people. When a type of terrain is completely surrounded by other terrain, every worker on the borders of that terrain gains its resources. Although more than one civilization will usually benefit, each player tries to gain more than the others. Mining gold gives you income to buy cards that have two options: buildings and spells. Acquiring wood allows you to build that side of the card for permanent advantages, while mining crystals gives you the power to use the card for its one-time spell instead. Excess resources can be converted into prestige Points, and some buildings can generate more. When the new land has been fully explored (all tiles have been placed), the player with the most prestige is declared the most powerful nation of Pandoria and wins the game!”

I’m intrigued by the tile placement in the game.  Jeff Allers has always done great work with tile placement, and here there seems to be aspects of engine building that have me intrigued.  Plus, the game looks beautiful.


Rebel Nox seems to be trick taking mixed with social deduction, and I’m always intrigued when my favorite genres collide.  The BGG description seems spot-on: “With the cards dealt at the beginning of the game, players are assigned to either the Rebel team or the Loyalist team. The two teams fight for control over locations that alter the rules in that particular fight, and provide influence to the winner. Play your cards tactically to establish who is on your team, take control of locations and make sure your team has the most influence at the end of the round. But as cards change hands, allegiances can change, so who can you really trust? Perhaps you secretly switched team yourself?”


The rulebook shows that Reykholt is a mixup of his favorite theme (farming) and his favorite mechanic (worker placement).  A farming-themed worker placement game from Uwe Rosenberg? Huh, I don’t think I’ve ever liked one of those! (I am, of course, kidding: Agricola is my favorite game.)   Naturally I’m intrigued, but I’ve been like Rosenberg’s work less and less over the years as he took away some of the tension in his games, so we’ll see where Reykholt ends up on the tension scale.  


I’m a big fan of Days of Wonder, and The River is their latest title.  Judging from the rulebook, it looks like a fun worker placement game with aspects of resource management and tile placement, with workers becoming fewer and fewer as the game goes on.  That said, it was hard for me to get a feel for this just from the rulebook, so I’m relying on the recommendation of friends and fellow writers, particularly Matt Carlson, who said the “game seems to be easy to teach, play quick, but still have a satisfying feel of economic development.”  


I’ve loved all of the Terraforming Mars expansions so much that they’re all basically auto-buy for me.  The latest one, Terraforming Mars: Colonies, looks to be the most different from the others — the first three expansions had just incremental changes, and this adds new gameplay elements — and that has me intrigued.  



Other games and expansions of interest…

  • 7 Wonders: Armada – I played it back at the Gathering, and it is a fun expansion that adds quite a bit of depth, as there are additional tracks now that earn you further bonuses.  
  • Blackout: Hong Kong – I don’t know much about this other than (a) it is published by eggertsipele, (b) it is designed by Alexander Pfister, and (c) it is a campaign game.  But those three things are enough to make me buy just about any game!
  • Brikks – Another Roll ‘n Write from Wolfgang Warsch, the BGG entry describes this one as “tabletop Tetris, with each player trying to place falling blocks into their grid to score the most points.”
  • Carpe Diem – I played it today, and the latest Alea game is a worthy entry into their famed series.  It’s clearly a Stefan Feld point-salad Euro, but I had decent fun experimenting with this tile drafting game, which reminds me a bit of Castles of Burgundy.  
  • Cryptid – This is already out, so I’ve played it already, but it is a fun deduction game.  There’s a bit more luck here than in many of my deduction favorites, but I’ll likely be playing this for years to come, as solid non-mathematical deduction games are hard to come by.  
  • Shadows Amsterdam – This is perfectly described as Codenames mixed with Mysterium.  I played it a dozen or so times this weekend, and though I don’t think this is as good as either of the games it is compared to, I do think this will be popular in coming months.

Trick-taking Games that caught my interest…

  • Claim 2 – The sequel to Claim.
  • Crime Hotel – Seems to be a re-do of Spy Tricks.
  • Eye My Favorite Things – A trick-taking game mixed with a party-game.  
  • Fool – A re-make of Foppen, a trick-taking classic.
  • Ramen – A trick-taking game where you bid for turn order.
  • Spring Rally – Racing mixed with trick-taking.
  • TonTon – A re-do of Oboro Ninja Star Trick.
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3 Responses to Chris Wray: My Essen 2018 Most Anticipated List

  1. Oliver Kinne says:

    Thank you for this article. Pandora does look amazing… have fun at Essen! :)

  2. @mangozoid says:

    An interesting mix, and I’m also in the ‘super-excited’ camp for Pandoria, and Barrage — this is that dam-building game I mentioned and queried about yonks ago, in response to your Origins or GenCon report(s), I think…?
    Regardless, I did a Top 12 of my own a while back, and was genuinely surprised there weren’t more titles jostling for my attention, tbh… It’s not because I’m not excited by a lot of the new titles, more that very few of them are standout impressives imho. That said, Barrage and Pandoria both certainly fall into that ‘standouts’ slot… :-)

  3. Vincent says:

    I don’t think Ramen is a true trick-taking game.

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