For those who aren’t familiar, ESSEN is a big board gaming convention that is located in Essen, Germany. Rivaling GenCon in the United States, ESSEN boasts an insane amount of new board game releases. And while this is an over-simplification, GenCon games tend to be good ‘ole “Ameritrash” by gawd, while ESSEN hews closer to the “Euro Game” type (click here for a descriptor of those terms).
While I’m an unrepentant sucker for the thematic, genre-heavy Ameritrash games, I also deeply enjoy the generically themed, high-strategy Euro games. So, since I made my list of anticipated GenCon games, it’s only good and right that I make a list of my 7 most anticipated ESSEN 2018 board game releases.
My 7 Most Anticipated ESSEN 2018 Board Game Releases
1 Treasure Island by Matagot
Treasure Island is for 2-5 players, recommended for 10+, and plays in 45 minutes.
Treasure Island is an adventurous bluffing game where one player is Long John Silver, trying to mislead other pirates in their search for his treasure. Played in rounds, players question Long John Silver about the location of his treasure while they explore islands. The game ends when Long Silver Silver plans his final run to the booty himself!
In 44 years, I’ve never grown tired of pirates, so I’m digging this one. While bluffing games aren’t even typically to my taste, the beautiful Vincent Dutrait artwork sucks me in. Am I saying I’m so basic as to want a game based solely upon theme and art? Uh, yeah, I am.
Sadly, I won’t be traveling to Europe for ESSEN but all these games are already in my shopping cart for pre-order…except for this one. Purchase details remain sparse. (Note: Matago also does the excellent Captain Sonor board game, which also has distribution / availability issues. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
2 Orbis by Space Cowboys
Orbis is for 2-4 players, recommended for 10+, and plays in about 45 minutes.
Orbis is a tactical game, which I love. Players take on the roles of gods creating their best universes and must strategically manage their resources and accumulate worshippers.
Each turn, players take a tile and place it. Careful, every time you take a tile, worshippers of the same color are placed on adjacent tiles, making the tiles left behind more enticing for the next player. This makes each decision tougher than the last!
This sounds like a blast to me. The MRSP is $39.99 and it’s available for pre-order (and at a discount if you hurry!).
3 The River by Days of Wonder
The River is for 2-4 players, recommended for 8+, and plays in just 30-45 minutes.
If you aren’t familiar with Days of Wonder, you should know that they typically only release one game a year. But that game is almost always a home run. I have the same expectations for The River, which looks amazing.
Days of Wonder describes it as a fast-paced tile laying game. Players each struggle to create the best pioneer settlement by developing land along a river, collecting resources from the area, then constructing buildings. As you explore and build up the frontier, your workers will settle down along the way, making your other workers shoulder more of the burden.
A MRSP of $40 is a good deal from a company with as good a track record as you’ll find in the business.
4 Architects of the West Kingdom by Garphill Games and Renegade Game Studios
Set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, circa 850 AD, Architects of the West Kingdom asks players to compete to impress their King by constructing various landmarks throughout his kingdom. Players collect raw materials, hire apprentices, and manage their workforce.
Everything Shem Phillips touches is gold as far as I’m concerned, so I’m really looking forward to this one. The MSRP on Architects of the West Kingdom is $50 and it is available here for preorder.
5 Artemis Project by the Grand Gamers Guild
Artemis Project is for 2-4, recommended for 13+, and plays in 60-75 minutes.
The Artemis Project is a dice placement and engine building game set on Europa, Jupiter’s moon. Players roll their dice and place them tactically to thwart the other colonists. In order to build the most thriving colony, players must harvest resources, bid for buildings, go on expeditions, and train workers.
It looks beautiful and well-designed. And the theme hooks me, showing once again that my Ameritrash roots are showing.
It’s currently on Kickstarter and will be demoed thoroughly at ESSEN.
6 Ceylon by Ludonova
Ceylon is for 2-4 players, recommenced for 10+, and plays in an hour.
Now this is the Euro gaming you’ve come for. In Ceylon, players take on the role of the pioneers who developed the Ceylon tea industry. To do this they build plantations in different districts and at different altitudes, producing tea and try to sell it to the most important export companies.
Sure, I don’t fancy myself a tea merchant from Sri Lanka but the game looks wonderfully done and very solid mechanically. Not all games can have Vikings or elves, you know.
Sadly, I don’t yet know the MSRP or availability beyond ESSEN.
7 Reykholt by Renegade Game Studios
Reykholt is for 1-4 players and plays in 30-45 minutes.
Here’s another Euro game for you nerds who are into growing tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots in Iceland. But while that might not sound interesting for all, this is a game by the designed Uwe Rosenberg, so it’s likely to be good.
From the publisher: “Geothermal energy on the island allows you to cultivate the most unexpected fruits and vegetables—an oddity that no tourist would want to miss. You are not the only farmer in Reykholt who is looking to make a fortune out of this, however, so you better be quick! The tourist season in Reykholt is short, and there are more people coming every year. Making use of the right people and having the right vegetables at the right time in Reykholt will give you the advantage you need!”
The MRSP is $60 and you can preorder it here.
If you are an American nerd like I am, ESSEN feels so distant. And it is true that international distribution channels indeed have hindered us getting as much information on these upcoming games, as opposed to the onslaught of information we get about GenCon titles.
But European nerds have long know that ESSEN introduces some of the absolute best games each year. Now, time will tell if these 7 games have staying power in the industry or if they will simply be forgotten memories of ESSENs gone by. For now, I am full of eager anticipation.