OPINION: Essen 2019 Preview – My Personal Picks…

Brace yourself, ‘cos this is a long one…

As has now become traditional around this time of year, I try and call out a few titles likely to be appearing at Essen that have at least caught my eye, in an effort to share my interests and bring them to your attention. I also use Eric Martin’s brilliant SPIEL ’19 preview tool from BGG, which this year listed just shy of 1200 ‘new’ boardgames appearing at the show…

Here’s that preview tool if you’ve never seen it before: SPIEL ’19 Preview Tool

As an aside, in 2017 there were approx. 940 titles in Eric’s Preview, and I had 49 on my ‘Interested’ list. In 2018, there were approx. 990 titles and I only had 25 or so that I tagged as ‘Interested’. In 2019… well, my ‘Interested’ list is just 24 out of 1180, and right here is where I’m going to talk about them, and also tell you about the titles I listed as ‘Must Have’…

Oh yes, and just to put things in perspective: in last year’s Essen Preview (Essen 2018 Preview)  I had Architects of the West Kingdom, Nanty Narking, and Barrage all down as ‘Must Haves’, and indeed had already backed the first two on KS – the KS campaign for Barrage hadn’t quite started at the time. Also in my Essen preview last year, I mentioned Pandoria and Wildlands had me very interested – two titles I subsequently went ahead and bought later that year.

Incidentally, Barrage should also be available at this year’s Essen, and I do recommend you check this game out if you haven’t had the pleasure yet… I reviewed it here not long ago: REVIEW: Barrage


So, what has 2019’s Essen got for you?

ArtemisWell, let’s start with All Manor of Evil and The Artemis Project… apart from the fact that both of these can be played solo, the artwork and theme of the first one caught my attention immediately, as did the facility for players to have secret aims and targets. The Artemis Project on the other hand, tries to do that little bit more with dice manipulation and engine building, enough at least to pique my interest.

Babylonia is a new one from Reiner Knizia, but has a theme which appeals, and mechanics that actually remind me a little of a lesser-known game called Latice Hawaii… so I’m curious to know more.

Century: A New World is by no means a new game per se, but this is the first Century game since the original (well, Century: Golem Edition) that I’m genuinely interested in, mainly because I’ve read so many glowing and positive things about it…

The Western theme of Coloma (and the boom and bust nature of the exploratory gameplay) is what attracts me to that title, but I’m adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to this one… Cooper Island also carries a theme I’m very interested in: it’s classic ‘Explore, Expand and Colonise’ territory –which I appreciate doesn’t sit comfortably with some people– but since I’ve had a very similar design clicking away at the back of my mind for a while, I’m curious to see what they’ve come up with to marry theme with mechanics on this one. The board does look very involved, however, which is not necessarily a good thing a lot of the time…


Now to the first three titles on my ‘Must Have’ list…

Apart from all of these looking drop-dead gorgeous, they have other things going for them, too…



As pretty and cool as it looks, when I realised DEI: Divide et Impera was another game designed by Tommaso Battisto (a co-designer of Barrage: one of my fave games of this year so far), it immediately catapulted onto my list of ‘Must Have’ titles for next year. Again, as good as it looks, the simple fact that Dwellings of Eldervale is from Breaking Games and has a few clever mechanics makes this worthy of investigation (they did an excellent job with Rise of Tribes as well, imho), but it has a solo-mode, too. Sold!


Glory: A Game of Knights has also creeped onto my ‘Must Have’ list again – I’m sure I’ve read a lot about this elsewhere, but can’t for the life of me recall where!  Potentially deep and complex, the knights-based theme and the switchable modes of play appeal, and the more I investigate, the more it reminds me a bit of Ryan Laukat’s The Ancient World: a game my group played quite a bit until Barrage appeared and we became a tad obsessed by that game. Would ideally like to play Glory for myself before investing, but am seriously considering trying it on Tabletop Simulator first – a desperate move given that I infinitely prefer the UI for Tabletopia, but this might be a sacrifice worth making!


Other titles that have caught my attention…

Trying to project a positive future for humanity, the card play of It’s a Wonderful World reminds me very much of Race for the Galaxy, but with added ‘spice’, which for some gamers is probably reason enough to be interested, I suspect…

The theme and setting of Last Aurora brings to mind fond memories of Wasteland Express Delivery Service –a game my group loved, but played to death– and the deeper I delve into this one, the more interested I am, which is always a good sign.

Maracaibo looks busy, too, but is also designed by one Alexander Pfister, which immediately places it several notches above many other titles, I guess.




Intense cards-in-hand management and the arty aesthetic of Montmartre (above) were enough to have me falling in love with this title, and it reminds me a bit of Knizia’s High Society, so that’s already got me excited, frankly!

Medieval Realms has many things going for it, and a lot of the sort of stuff I quite enjoy (basically collecting resources and doing clever things with them… lol), as do both  Portolano and Tungaru

Meanwhile, the space-based themes of Moon Base, Space Race, and Tortuga 2199 have all caught my attention. Moon Base is an intriguing 2-player 3D abstract game, while Space Race reminds me a lot of Space Explorers. Tortuga 2199 brings to mind a Metal Adventures-style setting with additional deckbuilding bolted on, which is no bad thing…


And finally…

Pax.pngPandoria: Artifacts is an expansion for Pandoria, which is a game I really liked (Pandoria Review), but it hasn’t seen the light of day for a good while, so I’m not sure this is a viable purchase just yet…

Pax Transhumanity comes in a tiny box, but is nonetheless full to bursting with cool ideas, clever gameplay, and pretty neat-looking artwork: this one narrowly missed a ‘Must Have’ spot, but I’m certainly very tempted by it. And it has a solo mode, too… Bonus!

And finally, the last three –all on my ‘Must Have’ list– are all meaty, gruesome-looking beasts, and have the sort of gameplay and mechanics that I really enjoy…

Throne of Allegoria is possibly one of the deepest and most complex games in this whole preview, but I recall seeing mention that it’s a bit like Rurik: Dawn of Kiev, which is definitely no bad thing. It looks involved, has a series of sub-mechanics that all seem to intertwine in some form or other, and basically looks really interesting to me, tbh.

Trinidad is apparently a re-imagined version of Rio de la Plata, and I’ve been following the Designer Diary of this one on BGG. I’m also loving the look of the 3D buildings and the feelings these generate as areas and districts of Buenos Aires gradually get built.

And finally, monster by name, monster by nature, Titan has a huge board, massive table presence, and looks hugely ambitious. Indeed, it proved so ambitious that Holy Grail Games rather annoyingly cancelled the original KS for this, despite achieving the funding goal(s) in double-quick time. This sort of thing ticks me and many other prospective backers off, I suspect, so we’ll see what happens when they try and reboot this at the end of October. I wish them luck with it, regardless…




And there you have it… a lengthy preview you may feel, but hopefully there’ll be at least a few titles on this list that have you agreeing with me. And hey, if you don’t agree with some of my choices, by all means let me know why!

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