JN rambles about 22 titles from Spiel that he’d love to be playing.

This is the paragraph of the Spiel preview where I talk about how things are different this year. Pandemic and all that. But for me, I think it was going to be different anyway. I’ve reached the point -and I hate to use “reach” because I think it implies an aspirational quality that I don’t necessarily want to- where I’m not worried about excavating the various previews to make sure I don’t “miss out” on something I might’ve loved.

It was the first year I went to BGGCON, me with my spreadsheet ready of a hundred plus titles I wanted to check out, and the fellow next to me in line had a list of 0. None. It blew my mind that he hadn’t done any research, but now that’s me. Whether I’m older and jaded; older and more experienced; have enough of a backlog of unplayed games; have enough games I love; know that those around me will keep up so it’s not an obligation I need maintain; or the virus was worn me down –regardless of the reason, this is where we are.

Which is all to say that for no reason, here are some games I’m looking forward to from a Spiel that isn’t happening. :) Dale said hey, does anybody want to write a Spiel anticipation post, and, well, with no strings attached this year (like going to Essen or BGGCON or PaxU), the anxiety I get from feeling like I can’t miss a title and have to hit each title in the list perfectly was gone! So I’m in.

I’ll start with Cantaloop.

Lookout’s website gives it a Q1 2021 probable release date, and I don’t know if it’ll fit BGG’s definition of a “game”, so it may not be added there. But it’s a treat. In the tradition of point-and-click adventures, the recent Graphic Novel Adventures series from Makaka/Van Ryder, and the object-combining of something like the Unlock series, it’s a “playable thriller” –a book, some cards, and some other bits. You’ll have that sort of puzzle to solve, but in a creative way that is dripping with humor and a colorful story. I “love” it. (This one is a bit of a cheat, as I’ve had a chance to try it.)

I’m looking forward to trying Friedemann’s Faiyum. Removing cards from my deck is one of my favorite parts of “deck-building” games (and I’ll always call “trashing” no matter what a specific game’s rule calls it), and I’m excited to see how he’s used the mechanic here. With Fine Sand and Fish, Farewell, Forever, games about total deck destruction were almost starting to have a moment, and while that’s not what this seems to be, it looks like it pokes and prods and dances in a corner of the deck-building space that is in that neighborhood and should be interesting.

While you might not guess as much if you follow my trick-taking tastes closely, I do enjoy the simpler end of things, though it is a genre I just adore. The one that has my eye from Spiel this year is the Indian release HONEYSCOUTS -though I’m not sure yet how the spacing or capitalization goes on that.

At the time of this writing, rules and full details are pending, but it involves some hexagon tile placement to build hives, with matching colors granting you access to cards, and later there are bees. What’s not to love.

The game I’m probably most excited for is MicroMarco: Crime City – another title which I’m not confident how to punctuate. This game hits me on so many levels.

It’s a sort of timelapse Where’s Waldo as you study a sprawling map, solving, well, crimes. I loved the intense image searching of The Glorious South, and this magnifies it with the size of the map and adds the narrative elements of each character existing in the city scape at several moments in time: plotting, executing, and escaping!

I’m also a sucker for the black & white line drawings. I’ve long said that I’d pay more for a game with less “art” that was more functionally designed, as if a Kickstarter could offer me such a goofy option, so I’m glad to see how clear the images here are.

I mean, it comes with a magnifying glass!


“Release Dates” on board games are always a funny thing to me, and sometimes what counts as a “release” at any given convention represents a re-release, new publisher, new language, wider release, or any number of other exceptions that are both legitimate, but also give me pause to include as it isn’t necessarily new new. But see my caveat at the top. Nobody can (or needs to) keep up with everything.

Which is to say, in browsing the BGG preview, Okazaki and Reach are two I’m looking out for, but I’ve already mentioned them in a previous Tokyo Game Market post. I had also previously backed them on Kickstarter, and since they haven’t delivered yet, I’ll list them again. :)

Okazaki is a two-player trick-taking game of sorts, with not only can’t-rearrange hands, but a fixed hand size, as you attempt to recreate a DNA sequence on the table with the values in your hand. Reach is an audacious design that sort of recreates moments from the movie Gravity with two players physically needing to reach out and complete the rescue while disasters push them apart and apart.

Hans im Glück is a publisher for me that is nostalgic and consistent. When I want to play a solid euro that won’t disappoint, I know who can give me one of those a year.

So I’m not sure what to make of their upcoming Paleo – a cooperative game in a square box!

But it’s really this BGG description that slays me:

Paleo is a co-operative adventure game set in the stone age, a game in which players try to keep the human beings in their care alive while completing missions. Sometimes you need a fur, sometimes a tent, but these are all minor quests compared to your long-term goal: Painting a woolly mammoth on the wall so that humans thousands of years later will know that you once existed. (Okay, you just think the mammoth painting looks cool. Preserving a record of your past existence is gravy.)
What might keep you from painting that mammoth? Death, in all its many forms.

That’s theme and not mechanics, but I’m all in.

Now we’re at the roll & write section, but it’s just two titles: Pandoria Merchants, a r&w take on Pandoria; and Rajas of the Ganges: The Dice Charmers, a r&w take on Rajas of the Ganges. Pandoria is a game I’d like to play from what I’ve heard, but fear it’s slipping from our gaming memory already, and would be happy to try it even in r&w form. Rajas is a game I really enjoyed the time I got to play it, but I’m intrigued by BGG’s classification of this as a reimplementation of the board game, rather than occupying the same family; perhaps one of those times that the “redo”/”sequel” is able to smush the complete feel of the original into a more svelte experience.

There’s a new Legends of Andor mini-expansion, but likely only in German for now, if not always, so we won’t dwell there.

Mandoo sent over a copy of Black Swan recently, and Dale has already written up a review. It’s a treat that I look forward to exploring more – is it a shedding game, a trick-taking game, a climbing game? What is this. You can play runs or sets, but the 7th tile played wins the trick -no concerns for ranking or strengths!

One interesting title that is included in the geek’s preview is Oink’s release from earlier this year, Ninja Catfoot and the Covert Action. As for the game, it’s a take on the speed game where you must move in a slow controlled manner, such as Johann Sebastian Joust. Earlier this year Oink re-started their online ship, but it’s premier date coincided with JapanPost cutting off shipments to the US, and so all shipments destined there were cancelled; it’s been difficult to get ahold of their releases this year. Several of Oink’s new releases were only available at local shops in Japan as a way to support the local stores, with this being one, but later it seemed to have been recently pulled back from local stores and the Oink online store, so I’m curious what their Spiel plans are for the title.

The Hansa Teutonica Big Box is another I’m “looking forward to” -and a great illustration of why I struggle to write such lists! I love the base game, and played one of the expansions once or twice, but never got around to buying it. I may not now either, but I think it’s brilliant, am glad it’s available in one package, and thought you should know.

At current conversion rates 150 New Taiwan Dollars works around to around $5 USD. You’re probably thinking “Well, thanks for sharing. That’s good to know. I guess.” but I bring it up because there’s a Taiwanese board game convention based around games that are sold for 150 NTD!

I’ve played one game from the con, 矩陣謎語 (Lost in the Grids), and found it fascinating. Another from the con, The Three Little Wolves, a hand management card game co-designed by Smoox, will be released by Taiwan Boardgame Design, and I’m hoping for a chance to try it.

In a “normal” year of course, many titles would be last minute additions, or go wholly unannounced until you walk the fair – adlung, Clicker, and Bouken, for example. Others may go by with only a cover and title until you get the box in your hand. What is HACHI TRAIN for example? Not sure, but a Japanese train game is something I’ll always be in for. The Spiel website lists this as a Japon Brand release.

But Bouken has surprised me this year, with information about one release, ドッグフェローズ β版 (Dog Fellows Beta Edition) being available since mid-August (though who knows what may be unannounced.)

The English language information on this one is light at the moment, but it appears to be a set collection game of sorts, where players are competitively building a communal 5×5 grid. It looks like if you play the 5th card in a row or column, you collect and score dogs from the hands of all players if they match something in the row. I think? They have a great track record with me (see also: Goritaire), and at release usually have clear and delightful English rules. (In this case, I also recommend the game’s delightful trailer over on their website.)

One that looks interesting to me, but for which I don’t know that I have enough occasion for two-player games, is Helvetiq’s Kompromat from Adam Porter and Rob Fisher. As usual, Helvetiq’s visual style stands out, but the game play has two players playing 4 simultaneous games of blackjack of a sort, each to win one of four face up cards that will score points, give you a one time ability, etc. Will I get the sort of Strasbourg auction vibe from it? If you bust, you earn “notoriety” which is both victory points, and an instant-lose if you get too many! That sounds fun. It is available on Tabletopia, so I may try it there soon.


I’m a fan of card games where you need to sort things –if that is solo, as in the case of Finished! or 5×15, or cooperative in the case of something like The Mind or The Game. This season, the one that has caught my eye is Silencio, a reprint of César Gómez Bernardino’s 2017 release, Eureka! Here, silently players are choosing a card from their hand each turn and playing it to a colored row. As you might expect, cards can only go in one direction (up), and you won’t be able to play cards that are lower. But! If you play the next card in a consecutive sequence, you get a penalty, and you get a bonus for playing a card that leaves a gap. That’s an interesting enough twist that I’d like to give it a shot or two.

I’ve talked about trick-taking games, train games, Japanese games, card sorting games –all niches that speak to me, but there’s another that does too: games where you build paths. Peer Sylvester’s general design approach is one that usually meshes well with me, and even prior to reading his designer diary for Polynesia I was on board. Currencies that “rust”? Inspiration from the book Guns, Germs, & Steel? Yes, please!

But back to train games for a moment, with a toe still in path building, and cooperative train games at that, next is Switch & Signal. A cooperative logistics game? A cooperative logistics game! Details are light so far, but there are go ahead lights, switches that are thrown, goods to be delivered, and tracks that will become jammed with rail traffic.

For me, it goes without saying, but to be clear, I’m eagerly anticipating digging into Pandemic Legacy: Season 0. Playing through the first season was a singular experience for me, and while I need to learn that such experiences are unlikely to repeat, I think the Legacy concept shines best on an established framework and in a cooperative game. Assuming this is the last in the series, I’ll do my best to relish every box we open, silver coating we scratch off, card we rip in half, sticker we apply, and whatever else the designers have in store.

OK, one more. Maybe it’s three. The new “The Key” series from Haba and Thomas Sing. There are three stand-alone games, with distinct differences, but sharing the core deduction elements. While the games is to some degree “real time”, it may be more appropriate to call it simultaneous? Each player will get to finish, and while the first to finish will have an advantage in the scoring, well, the good news is there is a scoring! A player who is able to use less points of information to reach the correct result will win, regardless of their speed. Will it have the frantic pacing of real time games? Perhaps that’s on the players. And while it makes me a bit nervous, I remain excited to try these out.

That’s it for now!

And hey, when I bring you my anticipation list for the upcoming Tokyo Game Market in a few weeks, just forget everything I said up there at the top. :)

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1 Response to JN rambles about 22 titles from Spiel that he’d love to be playing.

  1. Joaquin Lowe says:

    Great stuff! Thanks for all the info. :)

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