The Opinionated Gamers give quick takes on SPIEL 2019 games – part 3 of ??? – updated as of November 17

So last year, we did a fun thing where we asked our writers to give short comments on games as they play them, and many of our readers felt this was a great way to read about the games.  These comments are often made after their first play – sure, this isn’t a great experience base to write a review, but sometimes seeing what people think about them in a rapid fashion still can help.  So, here are our quick thoughts, hopefully alphabetized correctly. We plan to post this a few times during November/December, and unlike last year, we will try to continue aggregating these one-liners in a single piece.  To help you distinguish what is new, any older comments will be in italics and the newest ones will be in a regular font. The most current set of comments was published Sunday November 17 – it’s starting to get quite long – I think it’s around 34 pages in my wordprocessor, with almost 300 game comments — I expect a large addition in the coming week as BGG.con happens this coming week!

1987 Channel Tunnel: Two players play as either French or Britain to excavate the channel tunnel. Players draw discs from the bag which represent actions with the like coloured discs representing more powerful actions as you can only take an action if you have a larger set of discs to replace the previous occupant. You receive the previous discs. It was a very good game lasting 75 minutes and had tight scoring at the end. – AH

 6 nimmt! Brettspiel – though our first game was marred by a mistranslation (well, I didn’t read the rules right), this is a nice take on the 6 nimmt! System, and it’s different than Tanz der Hornochsen.  Choose tiles, place them a la 6 nimmt onto the board, score points or take the effect of where you place your tile. Action cards can modify what happens. Game ends when a player gets rid of their last time. DY

Ab Durch Die Mauer: A cute twist on kids’ games. There’s a rotating board with hidden movable magnets underneath that cause ghosts on top to do interesting things. NB

Adlerstein – very open ended and entertaining if you don’t expect too much – you will need phone/tablet

Adventure Games: Monochrome Inc – From Kosmos, a new style of puzzle/escape room game.  The text is now available in the Kosmos Helper App. I would never recommend playing from the book – though it takes longer to have it read to you AND you need a quiet room – it is a much more immersive experience, and one WITHOUT spoilers, to use the app.  It’s solid, but not my favorite in the genre – DY

Alubari – This is Snowdonia with one added element (tea) which doesn’t change the game much. It has all the same problems as Snowdonia, particularly the swingy scoring card draws – lots came up in our game which were simply impossible for anyone to do. DB

Anubixx – it’s like Qwixx, but in egypt, and maybe un-necessarily complex.  It’s still fun, but i don’t know if it does enough different, and it’s definitely less elegant than Qwixx in my mind

Anubixx – it was a fine roll & write, but offered very little not already available in other R&Ws. I prefer the spatial elements in Cartographers and Trails of Tucana. JF 

Anubixx – Like all Roll and Writes, it aint no Qwixx, however this was good.  Quite a few things going on to think about. Will play more. F

Anubixx – not really my thing.  Roll & Writes don’t really click with me.

Anubixx – Qwixx is the best Roll and Write game ever (and in my top 10 games ever) and I will fight anyone who disagrees. Anubixx isn’t a bad successor – I think I prefer it to Qwinto – with the patterns and ‘quarry’ sections adding interest. I didn’t find that it dragged particularly, although the ending was quite sudden. Lots of choices for what to do – take dice, take a wild, draw from quarry. Would play again – and enjoy again – but it’s no Qwixx. MJR

Anubixx – So, take thematic queues and some similar building requirements from Imhotep and mix it up with the roll and write nature of Qwixx and a couple others and you have Anubixx. On paper, this should work really well and it does for about 3/4s of the game, but the ending can be horribly unsatisfying and drag on a bit too long if folks are limited in what they need from the dice and what they can manipulate. My high hopes were dashed after one play, probably not going to try it again unless we figure out that we did something incorrect. BK

Anubixx – This game did not need to be created. It’s not bad, but it is neither innovative nor particularly interesting. NB

Aqua Mirabilis – I just tried this one two days ago. It’s a Euro about making perfume and scents from a first time designer Alissia Luca who has created a very interesting mid weight game with some clever game systems.I was intrigued enough to place an order.

Aqua Miriabilis  This was a good surprise. Plenty of decent decisions that take place as you create perfumes for the King and rest of the court. It has an excellent grid system to determine the worth of your perfumes and there are many ways to make progress. Interaction is generally indirect as you influence the relative value of scents and seize ingredients before others. I’d rate this as the best I’ve played of the Essen crop if you like mid to heavy Euros  AH.

Aquatica (2 plays) – This is a new twist on a take an action, spend resources, and get more locations or cards to help run your machine. The art is beautiful and the rules are quite clear.  It is mostly tactical and turns can take a bit as each player puzzles out what to do on their turn. The advanced setup definitely adds replayability. This game is in the same vein as It’s a Wonderful World. JF 

Aquatica – Underwater card game engine builder where the cards rise up from the ocean floor in order to change their action value and score victory points. Very interested to play again. SN

Aristocracy: The game is solid and there are decisions to be made. It seems the best strategy is to flip up the right tiles at the right time. NB

Aristocracy – A 2019 Knizia that has good aspects in that it takes the exploration from Africa, but adds connections, area diversity scoring, area majority style scoring, etc.  It is a fine game, but the fancy bits actually make it more confusing and the setup is cumbersome. I have not played Babylonia or Tajuto, so I cannot comment on the 2019 Knizia crop as a whole. JF 

Artsee: I didn’t see the art here, but it seemed like the people I was playing with enjoyed this game of card laying and scoring neighboring colored stacks. I waited patiently for it to end. NB

Axio Rota – It’s Einfach Genial on coasters. Well, it looks like that.  It has the same feel, but comes in a much smaller box. for me, this probably fires Einfach given the smaller box.  Still not sure it’s something I’d play over and over tho (which is no different than Einfach) – DY

Azul; Summer Pavilion: Best entry in this series so far, IMO.I like the puzzle aspect.TN

Azul: Summer Pavilion: I liked the different challenges presented here from the base game, and I would happily play this again. However, the two games are still similar enough that I can’t imagine needing to own both. NB

Azul: Summer Pavilion  Fine game but lacks the tension and simplicity of the original. I liked it better than Sintra though. PK

Azul: Summer Pavilion – Less interactive and longer than either of the other Azul games, and I think it suffers for it. DB

Azul: Summer Pavilion – The tile-take process is less interesting (the new score-tableau makes it hard to know what colours people want) and turn order is harsher (because players take more tiles each turn due to the wild colour), but the new score-tableau makes for a refreshing change worthy of play, despite the clunky place-in-turn-order phase after all the tiles are taken. A 7. PB

Azul Summer Pavilion: It really seems to me that Herr Kiesling has kind of taken everything that he has learned in designing the previous two Azul titles and combined the good things into this, while leaving out most of the bad. Simpler scoring and thinkier than it looks. Don’t worry, it still has that wonderful way of allowing players to actively sabotage each other without feeling like a confrontational game. BK

Azul Summer Pavilion – it’s neat, and a nice more complex version of Azul. but it does seem to run a bit long.  I think this is a perfect game to play with gamers where Azul might be too basic. Would not use this as a gateway/intro game though. Also, like Azul, i do wish there were a few more tiles. though the rules say it’s rare, both of my 4p games have come to the final round without enough tiles in the bag. it makes for a crummy ending when you don’t get a full last round.  Maybe it’s meant to be that way, but I don’t like that truncated ending. – DY

Babylonia: I can appreciate that some people will think this is great. I am not one of those people.TN

Babylonia: Mash up of T&E meets TtD. Nice looking with wooden tokens. Classic Knizia. I like it. L

Babylonia: The looks of Tigris & Euphrates, but with a game play feel that seems more reminiscent of Through the Desert. Like most titles where you are fighting for positions on a map I think that Babylonia will definitely be more exciting with more than two players, even with the map adjustments based on player count, but as it is, this is a solid Knizia title that definitely feels very Knizia like. BK

Babylonia – A game in which a fair number of players may find high enjoyment but for me fell flatter than the components did in the ill fitting trays. EE

Babylonia – A game which could be great but the components will keep it from being so.  A nice Knizia networking game with interesting scoring options and different paths to victory.  The map art is awful to see, it is very hard to tell which dark spaces are river and which are not.  Also, the wooden racks meant to hold the discs simply do not work and everyone kept showing their “hidden” hand of discs to everyone else.  Would never play this without Scrabble racks. That statement also holds true for No Return. DY

Babylonia – A solid effort but I don’t think I like it as much as similar Knizia designs (e.g. Blue Lagoon, Through the Desert). The board graphics really need a redesign. DB

Babylonia – This is a Knizia game through and through. You’ll recognize a lot of elements from past Knizia classics like Samurai and Through the Desert just to name two, but then realize that everything here is combined in different ways to make for a new and interesting game. Like most of Knizia games (if not all), there is likely some hidden depth that reveals itself with repeated play. Looking forward to more of this one!

Barrage: Nice thinky economic Euro. L

Barrage – Brilliant, highly interactive game about using water power to generate energy.  Excellent worker placement mechanics, with highly innovative production rules. The board play is great, as you can try to take advantage of your opponent’s placements or go cutthroat and try to cut them off at the knees.  Yes, there were big problems with the Kickstarter campaign, but those issues seem to be resolved in the published version and the gameplay more than makes up for any production snafus. One of my all-time favorites. LL

Beasty Borders: Fun little placement game with cute little ceramic animals. You are trying to score large orthogonal groupings. The dice version is kind of addictive with a push your luck element. I haven’t tried the the no luck bidding version yet. Hope there will be a retail version because its a cool little game. L

Black Angel: Fiddly for fiddly’s sake. Not a bad experience, but not enough interesting here to make me want to play it again. TN

Black Angel: Hasn’t lived up to expectations, I’ve tried it a couple of times and not finding myself engaged by it. I’d play it again but also perfectly happy if I don’t. I love the little robots and spaceships. L

Black Angel – Perfectly fine. Interesting tactical challenge as players allow negative cards to build up, with a nice balance deciding between making moves to set up a bigger turn later or taking advantage of a particular opportunity in the short-tem. MW

Black Angel – Weirdly themed game that has promise, but didn’t really engage me.  It just seems very hard to plan for anything, since you don’t know which VP generating cards you’ll draw.  It’s possible that there’s a good game hidden in there, but I doubt that there’s a great one. Right now, I’m feeling pretty meh about it.  LL

Blitzkrieg – advertises as WW2 in 20 mins, I really enjoyed this neat two player game although I found the price point at 30Euros to be too high. Pull chits from your bag, play them down in one of various theatres of war, and vie with your opponent for dominance. The bonus points on the spaces you play on give you extras which are paramount to winning (increasing hand size of chits for example). A decent game but too expensive to recommend. – SW

Bloom Town –  Reminiscent to Days of Wonder’s Quadropolis at first, but after playing a handful of times, the similarities are pretty superficial. This is lighter weight than Quadropolis, and it’s all about planning and placing tiles where they are going to score you the most points. I like the mechanism for selecting your next tile being tied to the placement of the previous tile. Fun, nothing groundbreaking, but a solid family game. BK

Bloom Town – Wanted to like this more than I did. You don’t seem to get quite enough tiles for the scoring to really get interesting – it seems to want to go a few more turns. DB

Board Game Café Frenzy – A game of two parts – the first part is buying cards with VPs which are also money.  The second part is using the cards you bought in tricks to acquire wifi, food, games, employees, and storefronts for your game store. It is not a traditional trick taker in that you cannot follow suit unless you have to.  In addition willing a trick lets you pick two cards from the trick and then the next player or two picks one and the final player gets action tokens. Might be too chaotic for trick taking fans. JF 

Botanists – Colorful… EE

Botanists – game looks beautiful, game plays fine.  The components detract from game play (we often moved the wrong standee) and the rules are a garish colorblock mess. Also, be sure you have a large table.  The board is humongous (and there are player boards), and weirdly, there is plenty of unused space on the main board – which actually could have been filled with useful things.  

Bruxelles 1897: I liked the grid placement mechanism a lot, though I worry that the randomness of card location and availablity could ruin any otherwise solid plan in the last round. NB

Bruxelles 1897 (3 plays) – I quite liked this distillation of Bruxelles 1893.  I played and then taught/played it twice to see how it played after knowing it better.  It is also a tactical game where you need to see the available cards and their configuration. I’m not sure it brings anything new to the table, but it is a excellent and dense design. JF 

Bruxelles 1897 – a top game that is truly smart super filler.  Much closer to the original than most :tCGs and :tDGs.

Bruxelles 1897 – Better than the board game, but still pretty dull. DB

Bruxelles 1897 Clever card drafting game. I fear it may suffer from chaotic play real or imagined when you think you know what someone wants but they want something else and therefore their moves become super hard to parse. In a system this tight that can result in some unpleasant surprises.  – PK

Castello Methoni – it’s like Masons v2.0.  An interesting game of building and area control with constantly merging areas.  Not sure that I have figured out when its best to score and when it’s best to be taken over (as the coins paid to be taken over still equate to victory points).  At least it doesn’t have the broken last turn where a random scoring card decides the game – DY

Century New World: I like this one combined with Spice Road best. L

Century New World: I wasn’t a big fan of the first game, but I’ve enjoyed this one a good bit. Enough to play 3 times so far. MW

Century New World – very nice, feels more like the original game than the second iteration did. With 4 game boards to play when combining cards from previous expansions, plus some new mechanisms while preserving the essentials of collecting cards using a system of upgraded resources, this was a lot of fun and refreshing. Definitely worth buying if you liked the original. – SW

Chartae: Knizia does micro game. Beautiful little tile game. Nice choices and puzzly. Love it. L

Chartae – a small 9 tile, 2 player game from Knizia.  First few games seemed awful, until we realized that (again) we cannot read rules.  By not seeing one simple word, “clockwise”, the game felt broken. But, now with the right rules, this is a tight 2-player game that really seems to have a lot of depth to it.  I’ve played 6 times already with the real rules, and this might become the go-to filler at the start of gamenight this winter as players trickle in. For 5 minutes, there’s a lot going on here to like. DY

Chartered: the Golden Age – Although this is not noted on BGG,  this is a remake of Big Boss by Wolfgang Kramer, and Kramer gets a credit in the rules and on the box cover. Big Boss was a remake of Acquire and then was remade as Alcazar, so this game has a lot of history and I had hopes that they would have modernised the game. While I have not played the in-between games, Acquire can be fun provided you can put up with the downtime where no interesting cards turn up. Here they have modified the board, introduced a Dutch theme and nice plastic houses which look great. There is also a share chart which determines price of the companies you build and goes up as build onto companies. Otherwise, apart from the idea of having 3 cards to choose from instead of just one from the top of the deck, there are very few changes from Big Boss I was very disappointed that the game did not address the issue of downtime and if you own one of the heritage games I wouldn’t recommend buying this game, particularly because the board was extremely badly designed making the positions of houses very difficult to determine.

Chartered: the Golden Age – Why remake a game if you don’t streamline it and bring it upto date? This feels at least 20 years old and the board design is awful! SN

Chocolate Factory  This was a game about changing your cocoa beans into various forms of chocolate bar. You use your factory to convert chocolate from one format to another and then sell the chocolate to local shops or retail outlets.  The game is not too thinky but has some planning involved and lasts about 90 minutes with four players. Mid weight Euro that works without being outstanding. AH

Circadians First Light – good, think-y worker-placement. Fair warning: It has potential for terrible AP, especially in the final round or two. Best approach is to have a general objectives and then make decisions to get there rather than spend long minutes on a specific plan just to have an opponent ruin them with their first play. Weight-wise it falls somewhere between Architects and Paladins. It’s certainly worth checking out to see if it’s your cup of space tea. MW

Circadians First Light – the new game from the author of the Western Kingdom series and the look and feel of the box, components and game are similar to this successful series from Renegade. The gameplay is worker placement based and the theme is space – collecting goods on the planet surface, growing some goods in colonised areas, using spaceships to fly to different parts of the colonies and amassing victory points while having to keep a careful eye on essential stocks like water. Some nice ideas and a very smooth play makes it an interesting game which we all enjoyed.  The game was late arriving to the Spiel and in the end didn’t make it, sadly – SW

Cities: Skylines: Very little tension. Very little interest. Just trying to indirectly fiddle some nobs, and hoping to have the right cards to do so. NB

Cities: Skylines – an interesting cooperative game that is based on a computer game.  A little fiddly with the score keeping, but not so fiddly that it detracts from the game itself which is a neat puzzle of placing irregularly shaped buildings/regions together to maximize interactions between them.  Trying to get everything to fit in the right place is much harder than it seems. DY

Clipcut Parks: A roll and cut. Now you get it. Technically different, but still felt like yet another roll and write that I don’t need in my life. NB

Coloma: Blind action selection, with penalties for choosing the same action as another player. It was fine, but it didn’t wow me.TN

Coloma – Needs another round of development. Not bad but doesn’t feel finished, and has too much random screwage for a serious game. DB

Concordia: Balearica/Cyprus: We got together with the designer Mac Gerdts on Saturday night to play the latest board and iteration of Concordia. Truthfully, I wasn’t really looking forward to it as I wanted to play new games and I thought I knew all that Concordia has to offer, especially with the Salsa expansion, which I love. But the introduction of the fish market (in a sort of rondel)  is brilliant and freshens the game yet again. Not only that but, the islands maps, coupled with the new rules on movement (using ships to transport figures) yield yet more new challenges.I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it felt like a new, yet familiar game. Of course Mac wiped the floor with us, an annual tradition when we play or playtest his games. – SP

Concordia: Balearic Islands – this expansion for Concordia or Concordia Venus offers a double-sided map (Cyprus or Italy are available as options for the other side) with Balearic Islands being a 22-city map. The main, and exciting new concept in the game is the use of fish and an additional fish market. When playing the Prefect to trigger scoring of one of the provinces, you now get one or two fish and can spend fish on the market to get little bonus actions before your main turn, such as an extra wine of cloth, the placement of a house, 8 money,…etc. The market is made like a rondel (but larger) and you move from one bonus space to the other, but can place a coin on a market space to skip it. It really adds a lovely element to the game and it’s highly recommended to Concordia fans.

Cooper Island – A long game with spatial aspects of island building, but ultimately not a game for me. JF 

Cooper island– I get heavy games, but I am tired of every game having a spatial reasoning/manipulation element.  I appreciate it, but it was not my cup of tea.

Cooper Island The most solitaire experience I have ever seen in a game of this type. We did not finish the game thanks to two players using their black ball / veto. I can see there being some fun on puzzling out your terrain, but when literally the only way interact with you for almost the entire game is paying you a buck and a resource to use an occupied worker spot that is a problem.  – PK

Cooper Island – Use your Java tile-over-laying skills on your personal board to earn resources to build VP buildings. The lure is solving the optimisation puzzle for your chosen strategy, but it’s so ultra-sandbox that this may result in limited replay afterwards. A 7. PB

Cooper Island – Whooboy, this is a big sprawling game that requires some very careful planning, both for actions and with building your island. Kind of the opposite of Maracaibo on the point scale, this, points are super tight, and difficult to come by. Really enjoyed playing it and only messed up on a couple rules, so it’s got that going for it. BK

Copenhagen: Deluxe Edition – When in Essen get the bling?  The bling in this case, the acetate pieces, is very nice (although probably not necessary).  It’s a big box game, but is actually rather quick to play (30-40 minutes for four player). About a third of the way through I thought there was no way anyone was going to be able to trigger the end of game on points, but I was very wrong on that count.  Nice thinky bits about placement of colours and windows for discounts on future placement and scoring respectively. I am told we should also try the roll and write version too (which may have to wait until after Melissa’s next trip). – F

Coralia – Family friendly game that is easy and quick to teach with a few minor exceptions. Extra care and explanation is needed to explain how the octopus and diver placements work. But it is a fun 30 minute game that should attract attention when at the table. CW

Crime Hotel. A last year’s title but still new to me. Trick-taking meets deduction. I was sceptical, but it does help to play it as you would a trick-taking game, even trying to finesse others’ cards. Interesting action choices determined by the combo of played cards. Have played with 3 and 4 and everyone has enjoyed – many went racing off to pick up a copy. Fabric board is cute but you don’t want to touch it if you don’t have to. At least you can wipe away your tears when you lose. MJR.

Crusaders Quite good. Fast and smooth playing, interesting choices and some interaction between players. Thematic face plant though, unless the Saracens made it to Prussia when I wasn’t paying attention.  – PK

Crystal Palace: Nice use of dice. You set them rather than roll but you have to pay or the number of pips you use.  Then you use them as workers. The game has multiple tiles like Yokohama. Nice Euro. I like it. L

Crystal Palace: Some nifty mechanisms, like the dice bidding. Iit all feels like it works pretty well. Even the targeted attacking was nerfed a bit by giving a benefit with it, making it bearable. My only gripe is having turn order be clockwise from the winning bidder. A game this heavy needs to weed out random elements like that and can handle non circular turn order. NB

Crystal Palace: This is a challenging working placement game as you set the value of your dice each round but have to pay for them. Cash is very tight and so far most players that I have played with they are trying to avoid getting loans. The game has some good interlocking systems, very challenging decisions about where to place your dice as the highest dice resolve first which may leave a player with no benefit. The game has multiple boards to account for the variation in player numbers, which keeps the game tight for all player counts. – AH

Crystal Palace – A worker placement game of resource acquisition and card purchase for VPs and effects that is unrelentingly unforgiving of any mistakes in your pre-round guessing of what actions other people will be doing and how much they’re prepared to pay; way too much so for a 3 hour game. A 6. PB.

Crystal Palace Clever ideas and interesting gameplay but it’s a classic snowball game. If it is possible to slow a leader down I am not aware of it, and the game is a bit long so this won’t be a title I seek out. I do like the idea of setting your worker power (die pips) but having to pay for the power you set with cash.  – PK

Crystal Palace – Interesting take on using dice with the ability to choose your roll. But it probably falls into the too many levers to pull camp. Jury is still out. CW

Crystal Palace – I sat through the rules twice, but saw people playing for quite a long time and hearing about how punishing it is, so I never ended up playing it, which is fine with me. JF 

Crystal Palace – last night I learned the rules and bowed out before it started.  Even setting your dice and paying per pip sounded agonizing. I don’t like games that are ‘punishing’. Others really liked it, so I hope to try it some morning

Deckscape – behind the curtain:  another solid entry in this “Escape room in a box” series. This series tends to be on the less complicated side, though there tends to always be one or two puzzles that require a leap to get to the right answer.  Not a big deal, and overall, this one remains a definitely go-to for family entertainment. DY

Deckscape – behind the curtain:  my first experience with Deckscape and it was enjoyable. I can’t say it is my favorite of the escape rooms in a box but the puzzles were more escape room in concept than in other card based escape room games. Somewhat intrigued to try more of this game system. EE

Decktecktive – This was a fun puzzle/detective game with a small box and a gamer mechanism – you cannot share all information with the other players – you have to discard some cards to show others to the other players.  It was not hard, but pointed a fun direction for future games. JF 

Decktective – completely enclosed with an interesting card system for a co-op.  

Deep Blue: Press your luck drawing gems from the bag.  Fun for a couple of turns, but it wore out its welcome fast.TN

Deep Blue – I like what this is trying to do, but it just isn’t grabbing me. I’d be willing to play more and maybe it will grow on me. DB

Deep Blue Not as engaging as Diamant. The decisions when along for a dice are mostly trivial and uninteresting.  – PK

Dekalko – a cute drawing game where each player gets a picture card and then is allowed to only trace details from it.  When all have drawn, there is a speed recognition part where the tracing is revealed and the first other player to shout out what it is scores points.  You also score points for finishing the tracing faster, and this rush leads to some interesting/hilarious tracings! DY

Detective: City of Angels  Played the intro scenario. Even factoring in that it was a short scenario, I think the Chisel has an uphill battle against competent players. Too much leverage available to the other players… PK

Detective Stories: Case 1: The Fire in Adlerstein – An excellent free-form puzzle/detective game.I love that it does not even need rules – just open the box and go. I look forward to future stories in this series. JF 

Die Crew: I only played a few hands to get a feel for this but the more complex challenges seem pretty fun. Look forward to more. L

Die Crew: I think I’m in love. I am a big fan of trick-taking games, and I loved the challenge of completing the missions. A must-buy for me.TN

Die Crew: Quite fun! I’m not sure I love that a “game” is a hand and you play how many games you feel like in a setting, but I see why the designers did that. It makes it feel like the game has no end. NB

Die Crew:  This is tremendous fun, and having played it at 3 different player counts, I can attest that the missions become more challenging at 5 player counts.  This is one of those games that is so brilliant I think it shoudl have existed long ago. CW

Die Crew (4 plays) – Probably the star of the show in a year of good but not great games. A co-op trick taker with variable difficulty and different missions. It feels very different at 3 players vs. 5 with 4 players as best.  It fits in the same box with Hanabi and Shipwreck Arcana – smart co-ops. JF 

Die Crew – an interesting co-op trick taking game with very limited and defined communication rules; early scenarios are super easy, but later ones are quite challenging.  Sure, a lot will come down to card distribution and what not, but it’s a neat puzzle game that takes a mechanism and turns it on its head. For now, still very interested in playing more. – DY

Die Crew – excellent and I need to play it more. Love it maybe?

Die Crew – I like how it encourages you to continually think differently and creatively about trick-taking while still in a comfortable setting. I want to play more! An 8. – PB

Die Crew – I prefer this to Familiar’s Trouble in the gameplay, but I’d prefer a game structure that’s suitable for a single session as opposed to a long set of missions. DB

Die Crew Just, wow. Best trick taker in years. Once the missions are successful, just make up your own and keep going. So good.  – PK

Die Crew – played a second time. Man, it is challenging, but the gameplay changes with player count. much harder with 5p as the objective cards are spread out more.  i kinda wish it scaled better. for now, i prefer to play this with 3 or 4. Will have to look at re-translating it to see if there are special 5p rules – DY

Dragon Market – Super lightweight, family game from Blue Orange that is all about manipulation of routes in order to pick up specific goods as assigned to you. Production wise, it’s a knockout as Blue Orange is custom to, and gameplay is pretty fun, with the kids. I’m not sure many experienced gamers would give this a second look. BK 

East Indiaman: Actually released last year but quickly ran out of copies, so I only picked it up this year. Its a game about trading in the East which is very well produced with evocative card art and great wooden ship pieces. However, I think it will only appeal to players who like abstract games, as the mechanics do not evoke the theme strongly. While it works well and really constrains resources and activities , the central mechanic of using the ship tokens as goods, harbours and ships serves to distance the theme even further. All who played it liked it as a clever puzzle game but it was hard to imagine the flavors and smells of the goods traded. Tried it solo and lost miserably to the AI. Id like to hear from anyone who has beaten the AI. Seems impossible. – SP

Ecos: First Continent: Thinky Bingo, but in a good way. Because you know the distribution of tiles in the bag you can take a view on which cards to deploy to have a reasonable chance of drawing the correct symbol. The play on the game board is also interesting and in that arena player interaction is high. The only downside was we played to 80 points with 6 people and that was too long. The rules suggest playing to 60 points when you have 6 players. I didn’t buy this at Essen but I intend getting a copy. – SP

Ecos: This is obviously The Rise of Augustus with more mechanisms laid on top. I like the former, so that description seems like it has potential. In this case the “more” was just a mess of things happening to randomly affect other things. It didn’t feel like there was much to strive for in that newness. Augustus isn’t a perfect game. There is room for improvement. But overall this felt dirty — more like someone trying to cash in on another designer’s work. NB

Ecos – I am not sure what to think about this one. It was late and we had all played Augustus. The cards were cool and also fiddly.  I understand why the cards have a variable number of uses, but I am not sure the added complexity makes the game more fun. I think I’d rather play Gizmos or Augustus. JF 

Ecos – This takes the Rise of Augustus “bingo” mechanic and builds on it to produce an engine building game with great components and interesting theme. SN

Electropolis: The rulebook was weak and left us guessing at a few issues. That aside, the tile selection mechanism at the heart of the game was interesting and set up some fun decisions. NB

Electropolis – I was excited about the games from Taiwan this year.  Electropolis had some buzz and it was worthy of it. It is a drafting game with tile placement and variable scoring.  The nifty part is that you can take a few good tiles or a ton of potentially less good tiles. Given that empty board spaces are negative points, both have their merits. JF 

Electropolis- My favorite new game from the ones played so far. Love the tile placement aspect and restrictions and the drafting of development cards. L

Electropolis Quite a clever little tile drafting and laying game. I really like the turn order defines how many tiles you take rule plus the all tiles you draft must be next to each other rule. Probably has a good dozen plays in it.  – PK

Era: Medieval Age: Great bits, interesting choices and a nice twist on Roll Through the Ages. I am not sure if it is worth the high price, since I think this will get played a lot for a while and then sit on the shelf. TN

Escape from the Asylum – Another escape room puzzle – I really liked this one because it did not use an app, had over the top production values, and each solve was a four digit code.  The box has ten 1 hour puzzles in it – and they are non-destructive. Would happily play more. JF

Escape from the Asylum – only tried part 1.1 of 10 60 min stories – liked that there was no app – all solves are 4digit codes.  High quality of production

Escape Plan Probably over produced for the amount of game inside (although I love it)  but the theme shines through and the production is off the charts. The interlocking mechanics work really well – for example the way the contact cards are also used to give you more choice at the lockers – and the game flows along nicely. The table was very quiet for most of the game, indicating players thinking deeply. It also has some real highlight moments – especially when a player exceeds a notoriety threshold and all players below that notoriety MUST move police closer to the player. It is not too long but the rules explanation will add a chunk of time. – SP

Evidence (Basic): A simple deduction game using cards and six suits. Players are trying to deduce the suits that have the highest value in order to score points to win. Fits in perfectly with this line of games joining Memoarrr & Nimble, but like those, I wonder about the staying power, or if needs to have staying power. BK

Evidence – a deduction game that I wish had a bit more deduction to it.  Also, though the rules don’t tell you until the end, it’s helpful to know that you will score points for your magnifying glass cards, and the most points wins.  Rules should really include a goal of the game at the top.

Excellent game that is the same as the original while also being quite different. I really like how the update makes travelling a more central element to all strategies. – PK

Expedition to Newdale – I like Royal Goods/Oh My Goods! Series.  We have played it a few times and had trouble explaining it.  This board game version made it exceptionally clear how to teach the card game.  I did not think the new maps in the game were exciting, because the production chains are the star of the game.  Good stuff, especially if the card games are hard to find. JF 

Expedition to Newdale– I was slightly unsure of this: a Pfister game but capitalising on Oh My Goods which I felt had already run its course in terms of expansions. Very pleased to report that it’s an excellent game, with plenty of new parts to it while keeping the basic simple engine building with multi-use cards alive. A thinky enough game to deserve the Pfister and Lookout badges, not too long, and meaningful decisions. I bought a copy. – SW

Expedition to Newdale – Oh My Goods with a bit more going on, but just like Oh My Goods, you have the distinct feeling after playing of, “that’s all there is?”. Odd thing is, after two stories, I want to continue on and see the rest, whereas with Oh My Goods, I didn’t really care to move on. I like the idea that when you are building your buildings, you physically place them in an area on the board and may end up with some good discounts based on planning, but the bonuses on the board are super important — maybe too important — or at least they have been our first couple plays. BK

Expedition to NewdaleSome interesting twists on the Oh My Goods card game brings this board game version to life. SN

Fast Sloths: Friedmann Friese’s twist on pick up and deliver…sloths! We had the rules explained incorrectly and the game did not work at all, so we abandoned it, but there was enough there that reminded me of Elfenroads and I decided to buy it. Back home we tried it with 4 people who all enjoyed it and wanted to play again immediately.. The art is not great  but the gameplay – using cards to move animals that carry sloths from one tree to the next collecting fruit- is fun and quick and one can play it with deep thought or lightly, reacting to the board as one finds it. – SP

Fast Sloths.  Surprisingly fun.  We played with five and downtime was a bit much, but two or three might mean the game is more open.  Might be a good family game.

Fast Sloths (2 plays) – If you like Elfenland, you will like this.  If you like pick-up and pathing, you will like this. The irony is that it plays up to 6, but the downtime increases with the number of players.  Lots of variety, but you don’t really need to pay attention between your turns, as the game state cannot really be planned for. JF 

Fast Sloths – I’m not a huge racing game fan but this is very good and offers a lot of variety from game to game. DB

Final Hour (Arkham Horror) – I enjoyed the play because of the people and the game plays well, but I was fortunate not to have to do the fairly tedious monster spawning and pathing, just like its bigger brother. It really wants exactly four players. JF 

First Contact:  I think First Contact is among the most original games I’ve ever played, and though the basic game ends annoyingly often in ties, I think the advanced version in the new rules is clever, engaging fun that reveals a shocking amount about how we humans learn in everyday life.  This is truly a game that shows us who we are. In regard to the above comment, I don’t see much in common with Codenames, as I think this is decidedly more inductive and intricate than Codenames. CW

First Contact: Part Codenames, part Visitor in Blackwood Grove, First Contact is a game where an alien species is trying to communicate with Egyptians in order to get the gifts that they want? Interesting premise and I’ll withhold final judgement till we play it with more people, but I think I’d just rather play Codenames and call it good.  Edit: The basic premise of Codenames is to get your team to select the correct cards in the display, before they select too many incorrect ones, that’s ultimately the same goal here, at least as described to me, by CW. It even has the same styled card to guide the alien. The neat part about First Contact is the back and forth, the clues aren’t all coming from one side, it’s a two way street. But ultimately if feels very much like a Codenames styled Deductive Party game to me. And it is definitely annoying that a game that purports to be competitive ends in ties apparently so often. 

Florenza Dice Game – Our first dip into the Florenza world.  Technically it may be a roll and write but it’s a whole resource management and building game.  Our first game was not quick at all, but the next ones should be faster. I am now interested as to what the original board game is like. – F

Florenza Dice Game – we’d not played Florenza (either the original or the card game) so it took half an hour to get through the rules, with a sense that we really didn’t know what we were doing. Our first game (2p) took an hour – the game says 30-90 minutes. I expect it to settle around 40 minutes now that we know how it works. Surprisingly fun and we are both thinking about strategies for next time. – MJR

Foothills – 2-player game with a definite feel of Snowdonia. Takes a lot more table space than I expected, although it’s not quite a Food Chain Magnate. Our first game only took about 35 minutes (or did I start the timer late?) — lots to do and I was screwed on passengers for a humiliating 44-60 defeat. Requires a wooden train for a start player marker – nobody tell our daughter that I nicked one of her Thomas engines. – MJR

Foothills A 2 player ‘Snowdonia experience’ from Ben Batemen and Tony Boydell. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and especially liked the action selection mechanism which is on both sides of 5 cards. After selecting an action one has to flip the card and on the reverse is a weaker action.You have to take the weaker action (or use another card to flip it) in order to get the stronger action back. I am an old wargamer and I realize with games like this that I really enjoy a heavier 2 player games. SP

Foothills – A two player game set in the land of Snowdonia.  It claims 30 minutes on the box and it will probably get down to that after the first play or two.  There’s a lot going on and, certainly in our first game, the end of game sneaks up on you curtailing all those magnificent plans that you were just setting, or about to set, into action. – F

Formosa Tea – Another game from Taiwan – this is a nice Euro with a theme of tea harvesting and processing, but ultimately, it is about converting three colors of cubes into victory points.  I liked the spatial aspects of harvesting tea and how it pushes the processors along on their tracks, interlinking several seemingly disparate aspects of the game. This leads to interesting if unanticipable chains of actions. JF 

Formosa Tea – Interesting worker placement game which is a bit overwrought and consequently seems likely to go on a bit too long. However, may be good with experienced players. DB

Formosa Tea Not my cup of tea. A programming exercise masquerading as a euro game. Some will enjoy the puzzle but it is basically a question of who gets to compile and execute their program the most.  – PK

Frenemy Pastry Party – Do you cooperate by donating ingredients for other people’s cakes and get points for your donations or just make your own cakes for more points?  Or somewhere in between? A good light filler. – F

Frenemy Pastry Party – OK, confession time, I bought it because of the name. Light, fun filler with a glorious name. The tension is whether to focus on making your own recipes or to contribute when others are baking (for points). – MJR

Garum – almost got this to the table, and then we read the rules with a “ghost player” being needed.  I’d rather just wait until we had a full table of 4. Still looks really interesting though but it will have to wait for the right opportunity now.

Glen More II: Glen Morer! I liked the original back when it came out, but it kind of disappeared. (Literally, a friend was going to give me her copy but she lost it. I guess this is what happens when a box isn’t ridiculously oversized — it gets lost.) So jumping into the enhanced sequel, I was expecting to like it, but I didn’t remember why. Indeed, I do. But there’s a whole lot more of the newness to explore. Looking forward to it. NB

Glen More II – an improvement on the base game with the clan board, but also slightly less clean until you know the clan board well. I did like the Dragon Boats as a way to gain points when you have movement points and don’t want to move your Scotsmen.

Glen More II – Quite simply put, the cream of the crop from this year’s Essen releases may be a game that is almost 10 years old. I worry that the Chronicles are just superfluous add-ons after seeing a couple of them, but it doesn’t matter because Glen More is just a wonderful game and this new production is just as wonderful. BK

Glen More II – We played the base game with the Dragon Boats.  I liked the base game, but did not love it. This game adds a clan boards and people tiles that let players play on the clan board for bonuses.  I think I liked the spare original. What this one module added was an ability to move your dragon boat when you got a movement action from tile activation and already had your Scotsmen where you wanted them. JF

Hadara: I really enjoy this one. I played a pre=production copy back in April, but it fell off my radar until now. I love the card selection mechanics and will definitely be picking up a copy. TN

Hadara: It’s a lovely little game with a few new (to me, anyway) mechanisms. That is always welcome. NB

Hadara w/ expansions – Hadara is one of the two games I bought this year.  I am not good at it, but enjoy it more than Splendor, 7 Wonders, and the other games of its weight.  The expansions were intriguing because they added twists we had not seen – instead of driving to military or statues, it offers new goals and cards that force hard decisions.  It does add more symbology, so not an expansion to use every time. JF 

Hadara with expansions – base Hadara is a good family game.  With these expansions, it feels more gamery because the are now cards that might be great for some and awful for others plus more action cards outside of purple. Very glad they are available and were not part of the base game. JF

Hadara with expansions  Still good as it’s the same gameplay but I found the new cards to be a little too spicy for my liking. Less predictable for one, and irritating when you draw two bad cards at once, which happened twice to players in my game.  The markets are a great addition though. PK

Hi-Lo: Someone took the traditional card game Golf and added a bit of chrome to it. What they added didn’t make it any more fun. NB

Humboldt’s Great Adventure Not in fact great. In fact, it was pretty bland.  The mechanism with the mancala aspect was interesting, but the rest was not. 

Humboldt’s Great Voyage – a slightly fiddly multidirectional mancala- I wish the core mechanism had been used for more engaging game, but worth playing.

Humboldt’s Great Voyage – I liked the mancala mechanism and did not spend time to evaluate the topology of the board, but the rest of it did not measure up and felt unexciting. I hope we see more games that are freer than Mancala and more restricted than Five Tribes. JF 

Humboldt’s great VoyageUsing a Mancala like mechanism to gain resources and generate victory points works well but I struggled to keep interested in the game for its full runtime. SN

Imagineers – A good easy to teach family game with a clever mechanic base. Moving the park attendees was fun and made for a good decision each turn. Had this game been created with the Disney license I would see it selling quite well at a Big Box Store.  EE

Imagineers – a really enjoyable family game about competing attractions in an amusement park.  Weird components; the box says 1-4. You get components for 4. But the rules talk about 6p games and there is a double sided board, one side meant for 6.  Not sure if this is some sort of KS to retail issue, but it’s a weird incongruity which caused some confusion when setting it up. That being said, it’s fun, easy to grok, and we would play again.  DY

Ishtar: Gardens Of Babylon – Old-school multi-player abstract tile-laying affair that dragged a little due to too many tile-taking and placement options. A 6. – PB 

Ishtar: The game looked so beautiful when it was set up that I almost ran out and bought it the following day, even though I had no more room in my cases. But, the selection of the garden tiles that enable one to lay gardens and pick up gems was a little too luck based for my taste. I enjoyed the game, although that slight negative meant it was not an automatic purchase. -SP

Isle of Pan – it happened. it feels like the game played me instead of the other way around. None of us at the table felt like there was much of a game there.

It’s a Wonderful World – Draft some cards and then either try to build them or discard them for resources resources.  Some other fiddly stuff and a sequence of determining majorities for production bonuses – in the same vein as Aquatica – but neither one is better than what already exists. JF 

It’s a Wonderful World – fine drafting game with some novelty, but ultimately between like and neutral

It’s a Wonderful World – Not actively bad but there’s nothing new here at all, and the cards are very swingy. DB

Jaws: They did a great job with the theme and art, but the play felt like a lot of pointless machinations in the first act that only meant a card or two difference in the second act, all of which were quickly washed away by the luck of the die. NB

Judge Dredd: Helter Skelter  A rethemed version of Wildlands with great Judge Dread figures and card art. But the board is a bit drab and the combat a bit simplistic and chaotic. Not sure I’d rush to play it again. – SP

Karekare – I really wanted to like this one, but we had some rules issues and ultimately is a great idea but perhaps not a great implementation.  The central idea is that when you place a hex next to another one (or more) the hex you place and the one(s) adjacent to it determine what action(s) you can take.  I hope Devir cleans up the rules and perhaps ensures the actions are balanced. JF 

Karekare – not a good one for me – a bit too much luck and potential for setting up the next player – rulebook less than clear on certain basic actions

Kauchuk – completely unexpected. Fun and engrossing. Area control game with rubberbands. 8 different boards in the game, each with slightly different rules, so you’ll have to adapt each time you play. In our game, nice balance between racing to get across the board (shooting for a big bonus) versus taking your time and scoring more for each step along the way – DY

Kauchuk – tremendous fun for such a simple looking concept. I would play this until the rubber bands failed and I had to get a new copy. Scenario driven which creates unique games each time.  Also, I really like that if I am losing I can shoot my opponents with rubber bands. EE

Kauchuk – we have now played three scenarios- still love the general idea, and each scenario has felt refreshingly different. DY

Kitchen Rush – Very thematic, family game where you are cooperating to run a restaurant. You have limited time to place your two sand timers on various parts o the board: washing dishes, picking herbs, welcoming guests, and most importantly gathering ingredients and cooking – and I really liked the feel of the game as it did feel like I was cooking (which I love doing). I played 4 scenarios with my son, the scenarios being relatively short (around 2 minutes to set-up and 5 minutes to play) and enjoyed the story that the rules give you as your restaurant develops from a small concern to a money-making affair. The board is modular and each scenario involves flipping over a board segment which changes the layout of the restaurant, introducing for example a greenhouse out back or an improved layout to wash dishes. It’s really a lot of fun, especially for families –  SW

Last Bastion – it’s Ghost Stories v2.0, but this time in a medieval castle setting. It’s streamlined, so things work much easier.  Much less fiddliness. If you didn’t have GS, I would likely recommend this version. At least for gameplay. The theme though isn’t as cool, and the art isn’t as stunning, as Ghost Stories though.  For now, I’ll keep both. The game is still wicked hard. As with Ghost Stories, I’ve already lost all of my initial plays of the game… DY

Letter Jam: A delightful co-op of word building and deduction! This will make it into my collection. NB

Letter Jam – I really like the game and understand why it has been in development so long.  The central idea is good, but the process of deciding who should give the clue is cumbersome, so not a love it. JF 

Lovelace & Babbage – If you like speed math, check it out.  You are given a set of modifiers and have to get from 55 to 19 while also going through 89 and 27 – within 6 moves.  If that sounds fun, this game is for you. JF 

Magic Maze Mars – A slightly different take on the original, here you try to save a colonist from dying by moving around resources to build a bubble and then move the dude into said bubble.  Same non-verbal communication with a pawn, though there is an added board which can be used to show what might need to be done. If you liked the original, you’ll like this. If you didn’t like the original, not sure this does anything different enough to change your mind.  DY

Magic Maze on Mars: I remember being ok with the original, but it’d been a while since I’d played it. When I sat to play this newest incarnation, I quickly realized how not-fun it is to have someone banging a poppel in front of you to get you to do something you can’t guess at. This kind of game really isn’t for me anymore. NB

Majolica Painting – A flip and write which seems clever at first, and maybe would be clever with a little more development work. As it is the bonuses will be achieved by everyone after a few turns so a lot of the tension is gone; possibly this is intentional but I doubt it. DB

Mandala: One of many solidly good 2 player games with battles for the cards in the middle.L

Mandala – a surprise hit with us. Pretty to look at and the tea towel as board was a treat. Surprisingly nasty once we got to understand it. – MJR

Mandala – Two player only with a tea towel board.  At first glance there was a sinking feeling, but once you start playing it is a very competitive two player game.  Played it back to back on its first outing. – F

Maracaibo:  I really enjoyed my play of this. There are plenty of options to make progress and mostly these around your own control. Scores escalate as there is a considerable game end scoring, but mostly it’s about building you own engine with no negative player interaction. – AH

Maracaibo: I really like it. It seems to be very divisive; either you love it or you hate it. It’s right up my alley, though, and while the story adds a fun element it isn’t essential to playing the game ad-hoc. Seem to be multiple paths to victory. If you don’t like mechanism soup you aren’t going to like this one. TN

Maracaibo: It’s a whole bunch of game mechanics thrown together, but in the end it works. Set up is a bit fiddly and the first time through the rules was a slog since there is so much happening, but it was all clear part-way through the first round. It appears to have different paths to victory, and while the story mode adds some flavor  it isn’t necessary to enjoy the game. TN

Maracaibo: Keeping with the designers mixing up their games and making something wholly new, Alexander Pfister takes Great Western Trail’s movement around a board and sprinkle in dashes of Mombasa and Blackout Hong Kong, and you’ve got what may end up being my favorite heavy Pfister game. It’s point salad-y as it can be and the setup can be super fiddly, but damn if I didn’t enjoy it. There is some engine building going on, a bit of card churning and just a lot of good game to be found. Now, will I ever get a chance to play that story mode. BK

Maracaibo: Not only is setup super fiddly, as Brandon points out, but so is gameplay.  I think this is Pfister’s weakest of his heavy titles: nothing strikes me as all that original, and gameplay can really drag.  CW

Maracaibo – an impressive creation with immense replayability.  I’m not sure I can see it playing in under 3 hours, but if I had a week on a desert island with on game, this would be a good call.  Would like to try it with 3p instead of four.

Maracaibo – I have only played it once, which I don’t feel is enough to have an opinion because there appear to be tons of paths in this game. I enjoyed it, but the play length is exceptionally variable as one game a player tried to rush the end. In another game, all the players were building their machines and the game was much longer and the scores were much higher.  I liked it and would be happy to play again. JF 

Maracaibo Once you get past the rules density the game pace and play time is much less concerning than early reports had me thinking. Lots of cool stuff going on and not as kitchen sinky as I had feared. Will get a campaign going soon.  – PK

Marco Polo II – Probably better and more interesting design choices than the original, but still much the same experience for me. A solid buy if you love the original but don’t own it. A 7. -PB

Mars Open: Tabletop Golf: I could theoretically see why this would be a hoot. It seemed like the “balls” could be flicked in ways that would spin them around corners and offer some control. The best of us could only do it on accident sometimes, though, so we only played a few holes. NB

Master Of Renaissance – Stupid title, good game. I really like the marble grid resource acquisition, I like the harsh storage rules, I like the resource conversion card strategies. I’m less enthused about the slowish speed of play due to re-thinks caused by the previous player stuffing your marble grid or taking the card you’d been building towards. A 7. PB

Masters of Renaissance: Not an amazing game by any stretch, but the marble mechanism is fun enough to warrant a few plays. NB

Masters of Renaissance (again, this time with the right rules). Very good game with lots to think about.  Like Terramara, you can plan your turn and then have the game state change radically and have to start all over again.  Both games have a display of frequently changing cards. – JF

Masters of Renaissance – A much shorter take on some aspects of Lorenzo il Magnifico, and with less screwage. It still has more screwage than some players might like, and it may actually be too short – most players had barely gotten an engine going when our game ended – but I like it fairly well so far. DB

Masters of Renaissance – Lorenzo: the Card Game (3 plays) – I enjoyed this short engine building game with the colorful balls.  It is a race game as almost everyone is ready to end the game around the same time. You can rush the game by building seven machines or by pushing the Vatican track to 20.  Fun without being as heavy/dense as Bruxelles 1897. JF

Masters of Renaissance – very good short game – slow engine build to a rapid finish – nice resource generation mechanism

Maya – A tile placement area control game which plays fast and has a lot of take that involved. Great fun! SN

MegaCity: Oceania: I really enjoyed making my little buildings and the finished look of the city was fantastic! I’m not so sure about the rest of the game. L 

Mint Condition – amusing card game about looking after your boardgame collection. The theme is nice but the scoring felt quite fiddly and we spent a lot of time checking the rules to see how things worked. That said, you don’t buy a game about spilling wine on boardgames for the deep and profound play experience, and it makes a fun and light filler. -MJR

Miyabi: Cute light tile laying and stacking game. There’s room to play this with forethought and depth, but the game doesn’t want or need it. NB

Naga Raja: 2 player card bidding and tile laying game short enough and light enough for most gamers but just heavy enough for more serious gamers to be engaged. The dice sticks (sticks of fate) and the card art by Vincent Dutrait were enough to make me buy it and I was not disappointed with the game play; just the right level after a long day in the halls. – SP

New Frontiers – I really like this game in the Tom Lehmann pantheon.  We played with a few people who had never played Puerto Rico, which was interesting.  Happy to play it and everyone picked planets quickly. JF 

No Return: Didn’t care for the little tiles, and the game felt less fun than Lost Cities or most of the dozens of its children, which No Return is clearly kin to. It lacked any compensation for bad draws (non-color coordinated always, and low tiles late) so just felt like a luck-fest. NB

No Return (2 plays) – A fun Lost Cities variant with a really fun timing element. This is a light luck-based game, but it also has two phases – gathering potential points and then delivering those points with all remaining in the tableau are minus points.  The key is when you stop putting out tiles and start scoring them. A good game for the holidays with non-gamers. I wish pink and red were a bit more different. JF 

No Return – an interesting game that feels like Lost Cities, but the tiles make it prettier.  Man, I don’t understand how someone in testing didn’t see that the red and violet are nearly identical in color.  We only had one issue where someone played tiles they thought were the same (and weren’t) and we just houseruled that it was OK to play because they had planned to do something for a few turns without realizing they had two different colors.  Also, would likely never play this without scrabble racks. – DY

No return – lots of small beautiful tiles and a clever game, but I’m not sure how much there is to it.

Nova Luna:  I agree with Brandon, and I’ll add that this is the game that Habitats should have been.  CW

Nova Luna: I love this already and can’t wait to play again. I agree with everything Brandon says above. I love the puzzle-y, strategic feel of this game. TN

Nova Luna: Patchwork minus Tetris. Fun tile placement game. Plays fast with two. I like it nice puzzly game . L

Nova Luna: What happens if you take something good from Glen More (the turn order mechanism), something from Patchwork (the tile selection and the pawn movement) and the wonderful tile placement of Habitats, stir them up in a box and give Uwe Rosenberg the helm? You get the wonderful Nova Luna. I should have known this would be very much in my wheelhouse. BK

Nova Luna – A streamlined take on Habitats. Probably good for two players but with four there is no ability to plan so I would much rather play Habitats. DB

Nova Luna – I was meant to like this game. I like Habitats and like the non-tetris part of Patchwork.  It fell flat because it felt abstract and it was hard to make moves that felt clever. Now it feels more like a grind to complete the contracts.  I don’t know why it lacks the spark I expected it to have. JF 

Offshore – This is a fairly simple game of either building an oil platform on your own or with another player then pushing your luck to get stuff (coins, barrels victory points, etc.) Did not call my name. JF 

Oh, Fox! – A programming game where you’re meant to track multiple potential locations for each player in your head … until you realise it’s too much like work, give up, and have it all play out randomly. A 4. PB

On the Origin of Species – This is a clever game, in that you can only use resources from adjacent hexes to build on a hex.  So when you place cubes on hexes, you are setting up your next move and letting everyone else know. Bad luck can affect you if you have lots of teathers and someone else places the only tile with more than two feathers.  Worth playing, but not a heavy game. JF 

On the origin of Species – well designed old school game – no catch up mechanism – I liked using resources on adjacent hexes to research species

Orchard Ocean – I am not a tile laying fan, but this game has clever spatial elements and a bit more to it than Electropolis. Farms create fruit for every market it can reach and stores can sell to nearby consumers. Challenging spatial elements for those who don’t love supply chains. JF 

Orchard Ocean – The puzzle of figuring out how to place the tiles I like a lot, but the tile selection seems broken. The players earlier in turn order can just keep taking the early turn order tiles and bonus workers as long as they don’t need a particular island tile, and then grab the tile they need when it comes up. DB

Orchard ocean – very clean good tile placement game with some clever aspects and production chains.

Oriflamme – A simple card game meant for a larger group than we played with (3) with a fair amount of take that and choice prediction required to do well. Overall a good experience for a group of 5 minimum with players familiar with Citadels or Eggs and Empires.  EE

Oriflamme – a somewhat aggressive card game of hidden roles and bluffing.  we played with 3p and it felt like it needed more players to increase interaction and I can’t believe that I’m saying this – to make things a bit more unpredictable.  In the end, not my sort of game. But I knew that going in. For those who like Citadels or (insert most Bruno F. card game titles here); this is a nice take on that sort of game.  DY

Orleans Stories: I really like it, despite the rules not being ideal and there being some ambiguities that are maybe clear in the rules of the original game and expansions, even though this is a standalone game. TN

Paladins of the West Kingdom I like this one, I found the choices more interesting than Architects especially the choices on the dual use cards. L

Paladins of the West Kingdom – Meaty worker-placement, with the very interesting mechanic of having to choose a special power from 3, knowing the other 2 will not appear again for several turns. It (very slightly) reminded me of World Without End in that respect, where one  choice dictates what you will and will not do that round. The wp part of the game is very clever where getting spaces you want is more about timing then direct competition, but it’s not multi-player solitaire. MW

Paladins of the West Kingdom – Somewhat like Orleans with personal player mats for workers, so some scarce resources (cards), but not Agricola-style worker placement.  I enjoyed it and would play again, but felt it ran a bit long (7 rounds).

Paladins of the West Kingdom – Very thinky, highly interconnected design, considerably heavier than designer Shem Phillips’ other games.  The surface parallels to Orleans are striking, but it doesn’t play anything like it; for that matter, it doesn’t really feel like any other game I’ve played.  Well designed game that really hits my sweet spot, despite some very tenuous theming. LL

Paranormal Detectives: This seems like it should be my kind of game — taking Mysterium and adding more ways to cryptically communicate. Some of them are downright odd, like drawing on someone’s back. But it just fell flat. I think the problem was the scenario we did was so bizarre that even when everyone was on the right train of thought they still couldn’t guess the answer. I’ll stick with Mysterium. NB

Paris: New Eden – Matagot’s latest that was unexpected and a bit odd given the theme. It really wasn’t about Paris in any way. That being said, the first play was quite enjoyable with a few rules clarification needed. Love that it is another game in the 45-60 minute time frame! CW

Parks – It’s (unfortunately) what I think of as a typical Kickstarter title:  attractive theme and completely forgettable gameplay. Like so many of those games, it can best be described in one word:  “harmless”. I plan on avoiding it in the future. LL

Passtally: It’s Metro with differently shaped tiles and an overlaying element. The extra elements didn’t make it more fun, just longer. NB

Pax Transhumanity: I love Phil and Matt Eklund’s games and have all the Pax games so take these comments from whence they come. It is billed as a lighter Pax game and I suppose it is, but it is still not easy to get into, especially because it is very difficult to get the patent engine going and it took a few false starts before I clicked as to what to do. Once started, though, it accelerates smoothly and the game end can come surprisingly quickly. Its also nice to have a game that presents a positive view of humanity’s future. – SP

Pharaon – A game that was under the radar for me, but an excellently themed, original point salad game with lovely artwork and some lovely design touches from the passing pyramid to the rotating board, this was very satisfying and played through in 1 hour 20 with 4. Very much recommend the game. – SW

PharaonAt its heart this game is a point salad game where you are either generating resources or using those resources to generate victory points. With an Egyptian theme and a rotating disk at the centre of the board this game has a lot to offer.

Pictures: A party game akin to Objets Trouvets, but with a rotating system of communication methods. For something called “Pictures”, this game screams for better images to work with. NB

Pictures (2 plays) – This is one of the few ‘party’ games at Sasquatch.  It plays up to 5 and each player has a different set of tools to communicate which of 16 pictures they have been assigned to depict.  Fun, but not clever or especially creative. JF 

Pirate Map: We had a great time making silly voices and telling ridiculous tales. But the actual game part of it seems not at all thought out, to the point of ridiculousness. Give me Eselsbruecke over this any day. NB

Porto – a light game with a fair amount of chaos with 4 players. Maybe better 2p – neutral

Porto – I enjoyed this simple game, but some end game scoring goals were unintentionally thwarted by the actions of other players. At this weight, it needs to be best-in-class to have staying power and I am not sure this one is. JF 

Porto – Think a light Ticket To Ride variant – every turn you take cards or build. Think more card luck, more ticket luck, and less route tension, but a faster timeframe and a fun enough ride. A 7. PB

Power Grid – Middle East expansion map – Two main tweaks here, step 2 is greatly delayed and with the resource market oil is very cheap for most of the game.  Also uranium and garbage are more expensive and the uranium and garbage power plants are not available for purchase until the delayed step 2 begins.  A very interesting map. – F

Promenade – Better than most light deckbuilders I have played. DB

Queenz  I had no idea Cathala had a design credit on this. Kind of boring – the fun was who I played it with, not the game itself which is kind of like cottage garden.  – PK

Race for the Chinese Zodiac: A fine idea, but the reality is you spend the entire game hoping others either do or do not choose the same action as you. For a race game, it just drags. NB

Race For The Chinese Zodiac – 60 minutes of simultaneous revelation. The variable action power and competition for strength within each action is clever and done well, but it’s still 60 minutes of guesswork. A 5. PB

Rail Pass: An interesting soup of logic, speed, dexterity, efficiency, and silliness. I can’t quite think of any game like it, but maybe there’s a reason for that. NB

Red Dragon: Passes my card game test, which is that there must be something interesting you can do with bad cards. Still, if you play this be prepared for an occasionally punishing experience. NB

Red Dragon – A simple trick taker with a pain suit (red). Positive points for tricks and negative points for red cards. A bit too mean to be fun for me. JF 

Red Dragon Kind of fun but not different enough from Hearts to make me want to own it. House rule the -100 points for failing to shoot the moon out of the game since you can technically just try indefinitely and auto win when you make it. Maybe a one strike and you’re out variant.  – PK

Rush M.D. – Realtime co-op with some dexterity elements (picking up resources with ‘surgical’ tweezers) where you’re so focused on your specialised role you have no idea what the others are doing. Some thematic satisfaction maybe, but I want more from a game than to do the same thing repeatedly at speed for 4 x 4 minute rounds. A 6. PB

Sanctum: It’s a dice fest as though try and increase your skills and collect equipment to fight the big baddie. The skills and equipment help you manipulate the dice. I had fun and need to try again. L

Sarah’s Vision: Yes it’s cooperative Jenga, but it was fun! Nicely relevant theme of tech vs humanity. L

Set and Match:   Although released in 2017 this only came onto the radar with my Essen group this year… and for me it was the hit of the show! Only 20 Euros for a flicking game that really simulates tennis. Its amazing how something so simple yet so elegant can do so much. Everyone that saw it and played it went and bought a copy. I’ll probably pull this out instead of Crokinole in future. There was a 60 Euro large version that sold out quickly. I think they should do a better version with upgraded components. It deserves wider distribution. – SP

Skytopia – longer than filler and more conflict than I expected, but like Dey’s, in that when you add a card to a column the column activates.  Dice are never rolled.

Skytopia – This game has several new elements, including dice that are not rolled, and higher player interactivity than we were expecting.  I think some suits might be more powerful than others, but need to play more to see how it plays out. JF 

Soviet Kitchen – One of Dr Melissa’s hybrid pickups, needs a IOS/Android front facing camera smartphone to play.  Silly theme, knowing your colour mixing palette well would be very helpful. It’s quick enough to not outstay its welcome. – F

Soviet Kitchen – So much wrong with this theme of trying to eat in Soviet Russia post-WWII. Interesting hybrid tech uses the front facing camera on your phone so make sure you have plenty of charge. In the wrong hands, it’s enormously silly (and ours were definitely the wrong hands). – MJR

Squire – After a second play I am downgrading this one. The core is not bad but the rest needs work, particularly the errands on the cards which are very unbalanced. DB

Squire – Interesting lighter game with some annoying rules errors. I am not sure it will hold up but it’s short enough to try a few more times. DB

Squires – a good game in there, but sort of wonky in pricing, so no incentive to sell paintings – no need for some aspects – would be quite good with more development.

Squires – This is a fun game that has some wonky math.  We never felt the incentive to sell art because money is so free.  Maybe we got something wrong. JF 

Stupid Deaths – One for the fans of the Horrible Histories TV show.  You have to bet on whether or not the quoted stupid death was true or not.  The players start on what part of the board and Death on another. If you are correct, you move one space towards the end.  Death moves one space per player that was incorrect. If Death catches you, you are dead. Each player has a bonus extra life which is unlikely to last more than a turn or two.  Quick party game. – F

Suburbia Collectors Edition – well, I didn’t get to play this yet, but man, I was amazed at all of the huge boxes moving around the fair.  The super collectors edition was 7.3kg!

Tajuto: I expected to hate this one after the rules explanation, but I didn’t, In fact, I liked it. It was not at all what I expected, and it was a good balance of luck and strategy, along with some unique mechanisms.TN

Tajuto: Knizia is a back with a mechanically simple game that pushes and challenges you. I strongly suspect that as is the case, the games depth will be revealed over multiple plays. Extremely enjoyable and under and hour! CW

Tajuto – the design feels different from anything else thanks to the tactile gambling element; you can draw the size of piece that you want — with a structure having six levels — but you don’t know which color you’ll get. Draw the largest level, and you’ll know that it can be built; draw the second largest level, and in this case you can build it 5/8 of the time (since five of the largest levels have already been built); draw the third largest level, and you have a 1/4 chance of building it right now. You score more for building small levels, but your ability to build them isn’t guaranteed. You can carry over one level from round to round, so having something in reserve can be good for planning.

Tajuto – This is a quirky design which at first seems as if it won’t work, but it actually turns into an interesting game. I don’t think I will want to play it all the time but I am still enjoying it. DB

Tapestry – I’ve played this twice and won by very large margins both times, mostly due to good fortune with my civ and tapestry cards.  So game balance is a huge concern. On the positive side, figuring out how to work your way up the four tracks is a mildly interesting puzzle.  But the game is way too long for what it provides, has next to no player interaction, and very little tie-in to its theme. Even managing the tracks doesn’t seem to rely too much on cleverness.  Honestly, it’s not that much fun to play. Taking everything into account, it’s currently my least favorite title of 2019— not a horrible game, but not something I have any desire to play again. LL

Team3: A fun communication game — where the end configuration must be communicated by someone who can’t talk to someone who can, so that it can get to someone who can’t see and must build the configuration blindly. There’s even a bit of spacial manipulation and dexterity at the higher levels. Fun! NB

Team 3 – A surprisingly fun activity for three players.  Worth trying even if you think you might not like it. JF 

Terraforming Mars: Turmoil: It introduces a separate choatic side game that is totally different and only lightly influences the main game. That alone would be a pass for me, but the rules for it necessarily drain a ton of money from the system, bogging the whole thing way down. Hard pass. NB

Terramara – pretty interesting, but hard to plan ahead.  I really liked the arc of resource abundance then resource scarcity.  Quite long and enough options that AP can appear. – JF

Terramara – This was a longer game than I expected, but with a pretty constrained resource system. The ability to place workers in future rounds means getting better stuff at the cost of having a worker for a few rounds.  A good design but ultimately, the game might be decided by who gets blocked out of the location they need at the end. JF 

Terra Mystica Expansion So so good. Makes the static play and front end loading of the original less of an issue. I think this will be my favourite way to play the series, even above Gaia Project.  – PK

The Magnificent: Dice drafting with polyominoes. The mechanisms work well together. Tie in between the game and theme is lacking but I enjoyed the game play. L 

The Magnificent (2p & 4p)- Really well done, both graphically and gameplay wise. Interesting dice selection game where selecting the same color dice will add to the power of your actions, but you have to be careful because you end up having to pay for all that extra bonus action at the end of the round. Premise is super easy, collect and build your display to put on extravagant shows to impress the people who are paying to see The Magnificent. Dice selection, polyominoes, fantastic production, The Magnificent has a lot going for it.  -BK

The Magnificent – A dice drafting game with some polyominos and dark art.  It was fine, but not thrilling and I don’t really understand why it was all the hotness. JF 

The Magnificent – a pleasant dice drafting game with quite a bit of iconography.  The decisions seemed pretty clean cut – liked it

The Magnificent Much better worker placement game than Crystal Palace. Cool theme and clever dice drafting concepts. Dark and dingy board art is a put off though.  – PK

The Magnificent – Somewhat overwrought in the common modern style, but not too badly, and keeps things to a reasonable length. Not sure how much I will want to play it, but I’d play again. DB

The Queen’s Collection: It’s a game designed to celebrate Queen Games’ catalog, not a game designed to be fun or actually work. Play Circus Flohcati instead and thank me later.  NB

Ticket to Ride Italy:  Simply put, this is one of the best maps I’ve played, as the elongated map and region bonus combine to create a tense experience.  CW

Trails of Tucana: Another “random event and write” game. I guess someone must be clamoring for more of these kinds of things or they wouldn’t keep making them. Nothing novel or especially interesting in this version. NB

Trails Of Tucana – Bland flip-and-write, flipping pairs of terrain cards, drawing lines between hexes that match the terrain pair, so as to join scoring stuff up. Fine, but JAWAP (just another write-and-hope).  A 6. PB

Trails of Tucana – I like roll and writes that are spatial – this one is building paths on terrain.  It was fine, but did not have the interactivity of Cartographers. Fine to play, but not exciting. JF 

Trainsilvania – Light and silly. I have no objectivity because my younger daughter Otto, who usually avoids games she doesn’t know, insisted on reading the rules and teaching it to us. I was nearly asleep with jetlag, but she enjoyed it very much. -MJR

T-Rex’s Holiday: A roll and write with a very cutesy and busy sheet that you write on (although not quite as busy as Florenza: The Dice Game).  You roll three dice hidden from other players and then publicly reveal two of them that can be allocated anywhere. After all players have allocated the two dice the final die is revealed.  The placement of this die is restricted depending on its value, however you do not have to allocate this final die if you do not want to. The rolling player can make some interesting decisions about which die to keep as the “hidden” die.  At first the allocation of the results on the scoresheet in different sections seems somewhat convoluted, but you get the hang of it quite quickly. – F

Trismigestus: This is a game about alchemy that where you take a famous person from the past and try to produce the Philosopher’s Stone. The game has some excellent systems but has several hurdles to overcome in order to enjoy the game. Firstly the symbology which takes a game to get into, but more importantly some design choices. I like it for now but I should have loved it as the designer previously produced Teotihuacan. – AH

Tuki: the new gorgeous game from Next Move, so simple and lots of fun – you must stack the heavy ceramic components, which are long rectangular heavy pieces in 4 different colours, in arrangements according to a card drawn but using combinations of other white pieces to achieve the desired shape. If you are slowest to build you lose a point and sit out the next turn. A definite highlight is sitting out and having a good laugh as others build. Lots of fun. – SW

Two Khans: Typical social deduction game. Even the people who like that sort of thing thought it was pretty thin gruel as a game. I only agreed to play in order to hang out with some people I like, but I knew it wasn’t for me going in. NB

Vadoran Gardens: Build your card garden and hope that future random restrictions don’t prevent you from playing the card you want in the place you want. S’ok. NB

Valley of the Alchemists: If you like endlessly churning one thing into another into another into another with no ability to plan for what will be available, this is the game for you. Thanks, Kickstarter. NB

Victoriana – One of the few co-ops I played – it worked well and certainly had a theme, but it did not feel immersive.  We won at the last second, which was nice, as it looked bad for quite a while. JF 

Vivaldi:  This restored trick taking game has some clever new elements, and though it is only for 5 players, it reminded me enough of some of my favorite tricksters to make me hope that I’ll be able to find a table for it often.  –CW

Watergate: Seems like a great game that I have no desire to play (see Twilight Struggle). NB

Wayfinders – have played this with 2 and 4, so far. Wasn’t excited by the explanation but it plays nicely (and quickly). Lots of variety. Not a fan of the plastic meeples (extrusion points under feet make them very wonky too). Going to look for some teeny tiny wooden planes to make this game feel nicer. – MJR

Wayfinders – The non tile components are all plastic and smelly plastic at that from a newly opened box.  Wooden meeples are not unknown tech, I feel that they would have been a far better choice. Ditto cubes for the hangars (or are they airstrips?).  It even says cubes on the back of the box. However, enough bitching about the components. The game itself is good. Heaps of replayability as you build a five by five board using a subset of the tiles each play.  Workers gather resources, your seaplane flies out and builds hangars (or are they airstrips?) by spending the resources on other islands for points and/or extra resources or special abilities or bonus end game scoring. It starts at a leisurely pace and then accelerates quite quickly to end of game – F

Where am I? Alice in a Mad Tea Party: Had to have this one. It uses Tenniel’s art from Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. It also comes with a teeny tiny porcelain tea service which you actually use in the game. It’s a simple bluffing game where you try and guess each other’s characters while placing your character in front of the best tea ware. Not much game but totally worth having as a Wonderland/Looking Glass fan. L

Yin Yang – Probably my favorite of the recent crop of games, this is an interesting take on route planning. A good short midweight Euro. DB

Yukon Airways – I like the system in general but you are at the mercy of the cards you draw – playing three cards as a wild isn’t something you can afford to do often. If you get none of the more lucrative destination cards later in the game when you can afford to fly to them you seem likely to lose. DB

Zoocracy – Really bad. There are very few opportunities to score points and you can gain or lose points from random card draws. DB

The list of OG Contributors

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2019, First Impressions. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Opinionated Gamers give quick takes on SPIEL 2019 games – part 3 of ??? – updated as of November 17

  1. [Fast Sloths]
    > The irony is that it plays up to 6, but the downtime increases with the number of players.
    Ironic how? That’s exactly what I expect when adding players.

    [The Magnificent]
    > Much better worker placement game than Crystal Palace.
    The Magnificent is certainly not a worker placement game. But I agree it’s better than Crystal Palace, which felt like it expects you to plan through way too many possibilities, with punitive consequences for not doing so.

  2. Pingback: The Opinionated Gamers give quick takes on SPIEL 2019 games – part 3 of ??? – updated as of November 17 – Herman Watts

  3. ECharles says:

    Surprised no mention of The Mind Extreme.

  4. David Stewart says:

    I can’t believe, for the amount of games mentioned, not one jumped out that I want to buy. Seems like everyone had something negative to say about something and came across as if no one enjoys playing euro games, or all getting burnt out. Every year I buy too many games, probably a good thing if I don’t …It’s amazing the amount of games getting released so I’m certain I would enjoy plenty, it’s a great time to be a gamer.

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