My Essen-tial List 2013
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So this is my sixth or seventh year I go to Essen.
And I never made a GeekList.

That's why I thought - hey, why not create one this year? This way, I can keep my thoughts on games organized, and list the games that interest me, one way or the other.

However, this is a list of games that peak my interest at various points in time. Most often I will not have more information at the time.
This leads to two situations:
1) Information will gradually be updated in this list, and
2) New items will arrive on this list, also

However, not all of the games on this list will be purchased or even looked at by me, in Essen or otherwise. Most of them will either:
a) drop out of my shopping cart for various reasons, or
b) be put on my wishlist for later, since they will quite likely be available in Germany anyways.

But a few of the Special Elect will find the way into my bags at Spiel.
Expansions and Promo-Items, though, will more likely be purchased, although this might, once again, be delayed if they can be gotten hold of afterwards...

During the next few weeks, this list will fill with items. Then the items will be valued regarding different aspects. And finally the list will be ranked internally again (if possible - first time GeekList, remember?) to reflect which games interest me the most.

So let's give this a shot!

A little information on the ranking system:
The games are ranked from 1-5, according to the interest they hold for me. As long as I have not yet read the rules, or gotten any more information, this is a preliminary evaluation.

d10-1 = High Interest. This is basically a Must-Buy. If German publication or later acquisition is unlikely, I will buy this at Essen.
d10-2 = Sounds good. This game sounds interesting, but I am not convinced I want to own it. Will have to try to make up my mind.
d10-3 = Meh. This game has solid mechanisms, but is nothing special, or holds no special interest for me. Unlikely I will buy it.
d10-4 = No interest. This game is totally uninteresting for me, or is boring. Not necessarily bad, but not good either.
d10-5 = What the...? These games are bad. Real bad. Or so boring it hurts. Usually not on this list.

Note:
The items on this list might not all be available at Essen this year. So far, I have been collecting data, looking at all the information I could gather, and deciding whether a game would be interesting for me or not. On the weekend before Essen, this list will be ranked one final time, based on my interest, and the items will be provided with likely price and booth number. This is also the time where I will push items not available for purchase at the back of the list. Still, I do appreciate any comment that will already provide me with more information, making it easier to accomplish this final task...



Disclaimer:
This list in no way claims to judge games based on their quality, how innovative they are, or how much fun they are to play. It is a list which reflects only my opinions, and most of them are based upon the scarce information I have, or upon reading the rules only. It is a way to show others what I will be interested in at SPIEL, nothing more.
Also, my comments in this list regarding price of a game are not meant to question business decisions, or to question the value of a game, the appropriateness of price, or similar. They reflect my own comparison of what I would have to pay with what I would get (components-wise / gameplay-wise). Any reader should make up his own mind about these games, and if a game is worth it's price for him.
Please take that into consideration...


The list has now been ranked according to my interest, from highest to lowest:

- d10-1 is ordered alphabetically
- d10-2 lists games in order of interest to me (might still buy them or at least spend some time)
- d10-3 divides two subgroups - still some interest or no interest - both ordered alphabetically
- d10-4 is ordered alphabetically
- d10-5 is ordered alphabetically

Now, that might not make it easy for you to find things, but it sure does make it easy for me! Which is the whole idea of this list, anyways...

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1. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:593]
S. R.
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1. This is a Martin Wallace game.
2. This is a Cthulhu-themed game.
3. This is a Sherlock Holmes-themed game.
4. This is about a fantastic Neil Gaiman story.
5. This has superb artwork.

Pardon my French, but are you fuckin' kidding me? Because
6. This is the perfect storm!
7. This game has been preordered!
8. Months ago!
9. Twice!

'nuff said.
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2. Board Game: Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1278]
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Once upon a time there was a game that was called "Once upon a time", in which you told stories that began with "Once upon a time". Fairy tales, mostly, these stories, that happened once upon a time.
Repeatedly, upon several times, this game was published and republished, only to be republished again.
New artwork, same game.
New publisher.
And off it went, to replace the copy of the game that mysteriously disappeared from our collection one day (no, seriously, we don't know how that happened, or where it could be).

But then...
...no need to purchase it anymore, as I got it as a present just yesterday (yes, the brandnew edition).
So I can now live happily ever after!
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3. Board Game: The Duke [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:392] [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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This looked so boring at first glance, I didn't even bother to look at it until just now. It was on Kickstarter, at one time, but somehow it passed me by.
Boy, am I kicking myself, now!

As I mentioned earlier, I love abstract games.
What I do not like very much are tile-laying or tile (or rather chit moving) games. This IS a tile-moving game.
I stated above that it looked boring. And if you look at the "artwork", you will see, exactly like me, that apart from very stylized symbols on the tiles, there is NONE! It is a 6x6 board, tiles with movement schematics on them, and no real artwork whatsoever. Even the box looks bland and uninviting.

And not to the awesome part.
"The Duke" does not have much artwork on the board or pieces, yes. But that is because the schematics on the pieces are NECESSARY. There are so many pieces, and depending on which side the piece is up, they even have different movement! So, in order to know what you can do with the piece, you NEED the schematics.
Envision chess, with about 20 different pieces, all moving not in one direction, but in several, very differently. AND moving differently every other move, also. If you do not count all the expansion tiles.
What you do in the game is either place a new piece or move a piece on the board. The objective in the standard game is "capture the duke". Just like chess, basically.
BUT you draw the pieces from a bag, randomly. You have more, and more individual, pieces. You have a ton of movement abilities. You also have a WAY SMALLER board.
You might have noticed that I said "pieces" instead of "tiles". Well, have you ever referred to wooden blocks as "tiles"? Really, I have not. WOODEN pieces. LOTS.

Okay.
I think I don't have to spell it out.
I WANT this game. Desparately!
And I hope that someone will sell me a Kickstarter edition at a decent price, and that I don't go broke purchasing all the expansions and enhancements already out there.
...still miffed I am too late for Kickstarter (kicking myself)...

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Want, want, WAAAAAANT!!!
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4. Board Game: Dungeon Petz: Dark Alleys [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
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Expansion

I don't need no more information.
This is a must-buy.

But not in Essen.
Will be available from Heidelberger, and as such will be cheaper in a year or so.


No rules necessary!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will purchase later.
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5. Board Game: Dungeon Roll [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:1991]
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Played this one yesterday.

Well, what can you say.
This is a push-your-luck dice game. With a fantasy theme.
You roll your party, and send it in the dungeon, where you roll more dice, the deeper down you go. Collecting treasure, etc.
You have to pair your "party" dice with "monster" dice, in order to defeat them, but as you go, your party gets smaller, until you have to stop. Or have to flee...

So, what do I think?
I don't like fantasy-themed games. I don't like games with dungeoncrawling as subject. I don't like games that reflect the whole RPG thing. I'd rather play RPG instead.
However...
...I LIKE this one. A LOT. It has clever mechanisms, it is quick, fun, and light. The dice are nice, the box is cute.
And I think I will be getting this one. Pretty sure.
But not at Essen. Will be available later, too...


Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Cute little one. You must be mine!
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6. Board Game: ebbes [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:3697]
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I like trick-taking games, and quite a bit at that. Now, this one is quite interesting in the way that trump colour, colour of cards giving 1 point, colour of cards where only not having the most or the fewest cards nets you points and colour of cards giving you negative points is determined. I must admit, I do like this idea quite a bit. It's simple, but yet interesting.

However, as is often the case, the price will determine my will to purchase it. As it is a small trick-taking game, everything south of 10,- Euros will make it a no-go for me, I am afraid. And everything below 7,- Euros will make it a sure buy...

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Depending on the price, I guess...
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7. Board Game: Eclipse: Ship Pack One [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked]
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Expansion.

I will buy this one.

I don't know when, but I will definitely buy this one.
Probably not in Essen, though...



No rules necessary!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will purchase this later.
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8. Board Game: Florenza: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:2496]
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I was positively psyched about this one.
But after reading the rules, I was not sure how much impact chance has in this game.
After a few answers from the designers, they have sold me on this one. No need to try this out in Essen. Also, a bit more than 20,- Euros is not a bad price for about 300 cards...

This is basically a differently paced, more streamlined Florenza that plays in less time (I guess). The mechanisms are a bit different, the priorities, too. And that is good...

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Preordered!
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9. Board Game: Five Cucumbers [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:4442]
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What is this? Another trick-taking game? And by the green-haired person? I'm in...
Ah well. It is "just" a trick-taking game, but with a twist. As usual, you have to be careful which card you play when. But it is, of course, different again...
Why do I want it?
Well, I am a sucker for trick-taking games. Especially for ones where there are gherkeeples in the box. Naa, in general, too. But I only pick the ones where the twist is really interesting to me.
...or the ones with gherkins...
To be honest, this has the green-sheen bonus.
So I want it.

Probably not at Essen, though.
Nice for someone to give to me as present, in the future...



Read the rules!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Not at Essen, I think. Well, we'll see what my wallet says...
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10. Board Game: Futterneid [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:10304]
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What's that?
5 bowls of "plastic", a few chits, and that's it?
Well, there is a whole lot of fun in the box, too.
Play with your food. Yes, play with it. Caylus, or Carcassonne. Playing is good. Especially with food.
And if you don't want your liquorice, well, you won them, so shut up and eat'em, cowboy.

Naa, honestly, I don't know. Depends on the price, I guess. Or on the mood I'm in. Or on my friends, if they give it to me as a gift.
Because, honestly, the idea is a helluva lota fun. And my kind of joke...

Ach, to hell with it.
Want!


Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Most definitely quite possibly probably maybe not in Essen. Almost uncertainly.
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11. Board Game: Hive: The Pillbug [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked]
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Mini-Expansion.

This is a must-have for me. I love the original game, and the additional tiles make it even better!

No rules necessary!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will definitely pick this up in Essen.
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12. Board Game: Keyflower: The Farmers [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
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Expansion.

Will buy it.
No question there.

In Essen?
Not necessarily, though. Will be available in the shops afterwards.

I think I will wait.


No rules available yet!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will definitely purchase this. Probably not in Essen, though.
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13. Board Game: Keyflower: Storyteller [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
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Mini-Expansion.
Will get hold of this one for sure!

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will definitely pick this up in Essen.

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14. Board Game: Kohle & Kolonie [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:1709]
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Germany
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I was looking forward to this game, as I own (and very much enjoy) the first part of the trilogy. Last time, I didn't get it at the fair, and nearly run out of luck due to Ruhrschifffahrt being sold out so quickly, but finally tracked down a copy, and the Promo. Next time, I promised myself, I would look into part 2 more closely.
Now, that I have read the rules of part 2 of the trilogy, I can say that this game intrigues me very much. I love the style and the artwork, I love the different mechanisms and pieces, I love the theme. Okay, I admit, the mechanisms are not groundbreaking, but from what I saw they seem to interlock nicely, to create a tense, interesting game. I especially love the aspect of the Syndicate, and the Consolidation.
So yes, I will pick this one up. Kind of a no-brainer for me. To make sure, I'll even preorder it - as soon as my coffers are again filled with some "Kohle" (coll. for money)...


Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Preordered!
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15. Board Game: Mascarade [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:878]
 
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So, let's get it out there:
I like this one, I want this one.
Why?
I like fun games, chaotic games, and I also like so-called "micro games". And this is as chaotic, as unplannable as they come. It seems like a ride. lots of laughs, schadenfreude, bluffs, surprises, like that. Chaos at the table, for about 20-30 minutes.
Perfect.
Just the thing I want to counterweigh Antiquity...


I will, however, quite likely not buy it in Essen. Only if "the price is right"...


Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will purchase, but not in Essen!.
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16. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:782]
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Germany
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Now, this is a very interesting concept, and really combines mechanisms in a unique way. We find card placement (like in "The Hanging Gardens") combined with ressource management due to placed cards, with warfare, trade and worker movement.
I don't know if I have ever seen anything like it, as the combination of mechanisms seems to be fresh and innovative. Especially the patching of cards (placing them, thereby making a patchwork of different aspects) is really enticing.

The only problem so far is the English rulebook. Hard to understand is an understatement, and unfortunately it leaves much room for interpretation, and thereby, ambiguity!
I sincerely do hope they will rework the rules until Essen, or have someone at hand that does.
And I also do hope that the price will not catapult it out of my range.
Otherwise, this is a must-buy for me!


Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: If not way overpriced, this is a no-brainer!
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17. Board Game: Power Grid: Taxes [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
S. R.
Germany
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The Promo-Card for Power Grid - a recurring must-have at Essen. Will definitely get it, like any other one of these the years before...


No rules necessary!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Pickup is mandatory!
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18. Board Game: Quantum [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:370]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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Wow!
And this time I mean it in a good way!
Beautiful artwork, and really interesting game mechanisms. I am intrigued.
Don't get me wrong - the "roll the dice" mechanism for figuring out what your dice can do is not new (look at Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia), but for a space-themed game, regarding movement/combat, that is certainly something else.
I was unsure, at first, due to players being at the whim of their dice regarding what they could do, but the special abilities of the dice really make it interesting. Add in the fantastic cards, and this should be really exciting!
I am getting more and more psyched, the more I think about it, to be honest.
And I will preorder it as soon as possible!


Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: I got to have this one!
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19. Board Game: Terror in Meeple City [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:627]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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This was a must-have, and has been since it was announced.
And then I saw the price.

45,- Euros as special preorder price? Really?
It's not because it is JUST a dexterity game. It's because what comes in the box is in no way warranting a price of 45,- let alone 50,- Euros.
It started with a few cards for 40,- Euros with 7 Wonders.

Seriously, I know I pay for the idea, too. But this has me asking if pricing doesn't slowly start to go south of reasonable...

Will wait until it is real cheap.

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will not buy in Essen, but wait vor favorable deal!
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20. Board Game: The Rats in the Walls [Average Rating:4.82 Overall Rank:13987]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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Okay.
To be honest, the game itself seems just okay, so I usually wouldn't bat an eyelid.
But this is, hands down, my favourite HPL story. And being a huge Mythophile, I couldn't pass this one up.

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-3
Okay, this item is listed under d10-1 because I preordered it. Sue me...

Result: Preordered, due to theme!
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21. Board Game: Roads & Boats [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:271]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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Value for money.
Do you get it here?
Yeah yeah, I stated it above, with Rampage. But then, Rampage will be produced in far greater numbers than this hobby publisher ever will...

Heck, I don't care. I wanted this game for years. And now it's in reprint!!

This one is a sure buy. Even if it cost me 110,- Euros (including &cetera)...

Rules read - oh so long ago!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Will buy this one definitely!
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22. Board Game: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island – Voyage of the Beagle (Vol. 1) [Average Rating:8.32 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.32 Unranked]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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Expansion.

I will HAVE to pick this up in Essen. Unfortunately, even if it is published in German now (and I KNOW for sure that the German version is leagues better than the original (or Z-Man) one), it is unclear whether the German version will sell well enough to warrant a translation of this expansion. And regarding the huge hype this game has, there is no way around it, lest I will miss out on the expansion...


Oh, I am psyched about it, aswell.
But I would have preferred secure knowledge of it being republished by Pegasus...

No rules available yet!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Preordered!
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23. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:67]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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I LOVE the cover.
It is absolutely fantastic, and so far off the beaten track that it is admirable. Especially for Hans im Glueck.
I also LOVE the setting. Russia. Yay!
I do not love the theme.
To be honest, I do not like train games. With their tracks on the board, their shares and companies, their...
...wait, what?
Oh, this is not THAT kind of train game.
In Soviet Russia, you don't build trains - trains build YOU!
...
...got carried away, there, for a minute...

So, theme, artwork, subject - check!
What about gameplay?
Well, this game is a worker placement game. Pure and simple. Or, rather, not so simple. Multiple actions to choose from (even if most of them are similar, and geared towards one of two possible ways of extending your board - building tracks and buying locomotives, or building industry). But still, there are quite a few ways to get victory points, or better, to maximise victory points. There are three routes to build (every player does this in his own little alternate world, i.e. his board), and all of them give different possibilities to gain points, so you have to choose which of these you will give the most focus. Well, more or less so, of course, and I oversimplify. But to include all of this game's choices in here would be impossible. Go, read the rules...

There is also one feature that is pretty much unique. See, you build your tracks. First, you build them with bad materials (black). Later, you can upgrade the parts that you have already blackened with grey (better steel), but you can never build grey where you have not built black before. Likewise, brown follows grey, and (let's call it) beige follows brown, only to be followed by white.
Each space built gives you victory points. And the higher it's standard (so to speak), the more points you get. So you would want to have white, of course. But in order to do so, you first have to build the parts of the track in the other colours, as upgrading can only done consecutively.
And that is the interesting, and mainly the only unique, part of the game. Everything else is just quite complex, but not very new.

Overall, the game mechanism reads very enticing and smooth, I have to say. It is not really something that makes the game outstanding, and totally innovative, absolutely not. But innovative is not always good (look at my opinion on "Septicon", here in the list). And this game has me totally under his spell. I have to admit I hoped that it was interesting the minute I saw the cover.
And it is.
So this game will make it into my collection. Maybe not for very long, if it does not transport a unique or fun feel for me. But at least for some time.

However, since this is a Hans im Glueck design, I do not have to buy it at Essen. It will be readily available later. What's more, a lot of people in my gaming groups will buy it, anyways, so I will be able to play it even before I own it.
With that in mind, I can wait until it has a lower price...



Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Russian Railroads for the win. But later, not in Essen!
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24. Board Game: S-Evolution [Average Rating:5.45 Overall Rank:13419]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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Argh!
There you go, all unsuspecting-wise, trotting through the rules of some obscure publisher, nothing to see here, please move on...
...and suddenly a neanderthal jumps from behind the page number and whacks you over the head with a trick-taking game box. You stagger forward, nearly falling over a tea-sipping victorian gentleman (who tut-tuts condescendingly) and crash, head first, into the shield of a knight in full body armor. While you lie there, holding your head, a businessman bends down and shows you his smartphone, sporting the message "I could have told you so!"

Well, that is how I felt when reading the rules of this quite small game. Frankly, my mind was blown. This is not one of the giant, overreaching, complexicated, chock-full-of-rule-details monsters of a game, no. It is quite easy to learn, yet still more than simple. It has no new mechanisms, but combines old ones in a unique way.
It's a trick-taking game.
...kinda...

Now, as I said in some other place of this list, I am a sucker for trick-taking games, if they have an interesting mechanism quirk. This one, however, definitely takes the cake!
For one, it is ressource management meets trick taking. And it is about evolution. Why on earth there is the letter "s" preceding the game is anyone's guess, though.

So, players start in the Stone Age, and will (or have the chance to) evolve through Barbarianism (Bronze Age?), Medieval Times and Age of Enlightenment as well as Industrialisation until they reach the Present. The interesting thing, here, is that
a) the Age players are in impacts how they play their cards
b) the Age players are in can (and does) vary from player to player
c) the Age players are in determines what needs of their population they have to fulfil

Ad a) Card Play
During the Stone Age, players will take their hand of five cards, shuffle them, and place them face down in front of them. And then they will play them from the top of the deck, not knowing what they are. What's more, their cards are considered not to have a colour, and are, therefore, worth less than cards of colour (basically).
During Barbarianism, players will still have colourless cards, but will be able to choose deliberately which card they play.
Medieval and Enlightened times will let player cards inherit a colour, and now usual trick taking rules apply (for them, at least) - if you got the colour, you must play it.
And finally, Industrialisation and Present let you call a trump colour, which you can play if you don't have to follow suit.

Now, add to that:
- each player has the same cards (excepting the desasters) in three colours in his personal deck, but the shuffle and the drawing of just 4 of the 24 cards each round prevents you from knowing what you will get, exactly.
- each card either sports one of three ressources that you will need to meet the demands of your population - or a desaster that you want to avoid
- tricks are not "won" completely, but order of cards in the trick determines order of choice from cards played
- there are six possible abilities you can "buy" with leftover ressources, that make it easier to meet needs of the population, or give more victory points...
- victory points are based on how well you meet the needs of your population, not necessarily on the cards you get (well, more or less).

This design blew my mind. It combines a few mechanisms well-known and quite basic to something entirely unique. Yes, there is randomness in the card-draw, and there is a certain kind of chaos, but the more the game progresses, the less chaos will remain, as cards can be played more deliberately, and also the cards in the player's deck can be calculated easier the later it is in the game (IF you count cards, which you should).

Wow.
Want!!

Rules read!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Preordered!
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25. Board Game: Smash Up: The Obligatory Cthulhu Set [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1006] [Average Rating:6.82 Unranked]
S. R.
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland-Pfalz
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Expansion.

Cthulhu.
Smash-Up.
Nuff said.


No rules necessary!
Ranking: d10-1

Result: Not at Essen, but definitely later.
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