Chris Wray: Quick Thoughts on 5 More Essen 2019 Games

We’re now a month past Spiel ’19, and on a recent visit to a local game store, I realized that many of the hottest games from the event have hit US shores. To help those who are holiday shopping (or shopping for their collections), I thought I’d offer thoughts on a few more games.

Earlier this month, I posted quick thoughts on 5 Essen 2019 games, including Babylonia, Maracaibo, Paranormal Detectives, Ticket to Ride Map Collection #7, and Vivaldi. This is a sequel article to that one, with 5 new Essen titles.

Plus, I had previously done mini reviews of AnubixxAzul Summer PavilionChartaeDie CrewEvidenceLost Cities: Auf SchatzsucheNova Luna, and Tricks and the Phantom in Essen. Of those, I like Anubixx and Evidence a bit less after subsequent plays, downgrading them to “Neutral.” I like Nova Luna quite a bit more, and in fact, I’ve played it a total of 10 times since Essen. Die Crew continues to be tremendous fun, and we’ve worked through several more missions, and I now have more than 40 plays of the game! It’ll be in my top 5 of 2019.

These are just my personal initial thoughts, and some of the ratings below are after just one play, so keep that in mind.  Also, to cover all of these titles, I’m skipping any rule review and going straight to my opinion.  

Ecos: First Continent

Brandon had described this to me as “gamer bingo,” and that’s a pretty good description. Each round, a different resource is drawn from the bag, and you’re trying to gather the resources to activate cards, in a combo-licious, engine-building fashion. Meanwhile, an animal-filled continent is emerging in the middle of the board. I like the central mechanic quite a bit, and the theme even more, but ultimately the game fell flat, as it lasted more than 90 minutes. Simply put, that’s a bit long for a game of this sort. Part of that is that we played to 80 points (I’d recommend only playing to 60 points). But part of it is that this is going to always be a game steeped in randomness where players feel like they have more choice than they actually do, and that causes the game to feel frustratingly slow.

Initial OG Rating: Neutral.

Expedition to Newdale

We’ve started the campaign, and I’m really enjoying what Pfister did with his Oh My Goods! resource-conversion mechanics. The game is decently fast-paced (we played quicker than the 90 minutes advertised), and it was easy enough to get the hang of. The campaign seems to build nicely, and it is fully reset-able, so there’s good value in this box. My favorite part is the addition of the map, since it makes for asymmetric goals, and it adds a nice element of the game. There’s a bit of frustrating card-digging, but not too much, and overall, I’m looking forward to working through the remaining games of Expedition to Newdale.

Initial OG Rating: I like it.

Suburbia Collector’s Edition

This will make my top 10 of the year, but given how much I love Suburbia, that was always going to be the case. The gameplay is familiar, although there are plenty of new tiles to experiment with here, so I’ll forgo a discussion fo that. But it is the production value that is stunning. The components — from the metal coins, to the component trays, to the art on the tiles — shows a remarkable attention to detail. The extra bits make the game easier to track, and the rulebook and player aids make the game easier-to-teach than ever. Overall, I’m highly impressed, and I’m happy to have this in my collection.

Initial OG Rating: I love it.

Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula

There’s a lot going on — certainly too much for my tastes — but I did enjoying playing this alchemy-themed resource conversion game. If you like heavy games, this is worth checking out. I really enjoyed how much they’ve packed into one decision — which dice to draft — and that makes for an extremely think-y title. There seemed to be several viable paths to victory. The game was a bit difficult to learn, but once we had it down, gameplay was enjoyable. The iconography (which I struggled with at first) seemed to be intuitive by the end of the game, but nonetheless, I’d print player aids off of BGG, or maybe make copies of the guide in the rulebook.

Initial OG Rating: I like it.


I’ve always wanted a really good political negotiation game, and Zoocracy — which involves electing leaders an enacting policies for your friendly local zoo — hits a niche I hadn’t seen before. The game can bog down, and some of the cards in the game seem to have balance issues, but I absolutely love how well it captures parliamentary coalition building. In short, it’s clever, and it shows how cool it can be to design a game around real life ideas. It won’t be for everybody, but for a student of political science like myself, I found it engaging.

Initial OG Rating: I like it.

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3 Responses to Chris Wray: Quick Thoughts on 5 More Essen 2019 Games

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  3. william sargent says:

    I’m coming to the conclusion that from 1,000 Essen games there’s a grand total of ONE must have game: Die Crew. And that’s coming from someone with only 100 games in his collection. I do appreciate these quite fire reviews from such experienced gamers – they’re becoming quite the thing, so many thanks to all who contribute here.

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