Spiel Out 2014
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Fifth year of tracking my Essen wish list; last year's can be found here. At this point, it's highly doubtful I will attend. However, this year, it appears a lot of the games I'm interested in are being released here in North America even before Essen (for example, Imperial Settlers is already available). So I may not have to wait or order direct from Europe.

In any case, I'll track this year's crop of games in this list and see what comes of them. I'll also track a few games that were release prior to Essen or shortly thereafter.

Reviewing last year's picks, they were a mediocre lot on the whole. While I enjoyed the Euro Russian Railroads with it's 18xx inspired theme, it didn't hasn't got lot of plays. The same is true with Madeira which I think to now has a paltry three plays. A Study in Emerald turned out to be the most successful of the lot, which was a bit surprising given my wife prefers games with less direct conflict.

Disappointments for the year included Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy and Lewis & Clark. Both are good games, but my expectations were much higher.

This year's list is ordered so that games I purchased (or played) are at the top, games I'd like to purchase are next, and so on down to the ones I decide against getting. As if September 2014, this list is the shortest I've put together, which means I'm either getting more discerning or I'm just not as up on the cult of the new.

Feel free to comment on my choices, whether you think they're good enough to make the cut, or original enough to warrant adding to my collection (or your own). And, please, come back in a few months, see how the list has evolved, and what I purchased or not, and what I thought of them.
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1. Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:223]
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Verdict:
Status: Purchased

Designer: Vital Lacerda
Publisher: Stronghold Games
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 120 minutes

Attraction: Car assembly line theme my favourite designer from the "Portuguese School".

Pre-Essen Commentary: Vital Lacerda's games are almost an automatic buy for me. Vinhos and CO₂ are a couple of my favourite heavy Euros. Unfortunately, like most of my heavy Euros, they don't often get played so I almost hope Kanban: Driver's Edition is just a touch lighter. I've read the rules, but I'm still trying to get my head around how this game actually plays out. Paul Grogan's video may help with that. In addition, the ever helpful designer has posted a Geek List on how to play.

Post-Essen Commentary: Rahdo's video has pretty much sealed this as a buy for me. Although his initial overview and the very dense board and the iconography on it had me a bit discouraged, after watching his run-through, I think this could be a winner - even as a two-player game.

Pros: Vital.
Cons: May be too heavy for frequent play.
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2. Board Game: Orléans [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:26]
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Verdict:
Status: Purchased

Designer: Reiner Stockhausen
Publisher: dlp games
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 90 minutes

Attraction: Deck-building in a bag (aka "bag building").

Pre-Essen Commentary: I'd initially dismissed this game as just another worker-placement, resource conversion game with a French theme, but German components.

Post-Essen Commentary: Blame Radho, but I watched his walkthrough and decided it was worth a second look. I think it'll play just fine as a two-player and is the depth of game that my wife and I can agree on. And now that it's being republished by Tasty Minstrel Games, it might be more available and for a more reasonable price.

Pros: Medium-weight game that takes deck-building to build an engine rather than destroy your enemies.
Cons: High priced import and German text for a game themed in France.
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3. Board Game: Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:276] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
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Verdict:
Status: Purchased

Designer: Jason C. Hill
Publisher: Flying Frog Productions
# of players: 1 - 4
Playing Time: 60 minutes

Attraction: Cooperative, RPG-like boardgame.

Pre-Essen Commentary: Marco Arnaudo's enthusiasm in his video of this Kickstarter game has got me curious. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game failed for me because of three things, the lack of a map to explore, the "generic" fantasy theme, and the similarity between adventures. Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients seems to address all these issues though I've never been drawn by the Western gunfighter theme...but who knows, maybe it will work with Lovecraft.

Post-Essen Commentary: Although the walk-through left me more ambivalent about this title, I picked it up anyway.

Pros: Cthulhu theme.
Cons: Western theme.
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4. Board Game: Greenland [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1511] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
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Verdict:
Status: Purchased

Designer: Phil Eklund & Philipp Klarmann
Publisher: Sierra Madre Games
# of players: 1 - 3
Playing Time: 90 minutes

Attraction: Phil Eklund always designs interesting games/simulations.

Pre-Essen Commentary: I knew this game was in the making, but beyond that, I read little about it.

Post-Essen Commentary: The survival in the Arctic theme is interesting, but the game includes dice rolling for combat and hunting - which may make it overly random for a game that reportedly takes 90 minutes (or more). But I missed out on Pax Porfiriana and am still kicking myself over that.

Pros: Tribe survival theme.
Cons: Dice rolling and some combat.
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5. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:466]
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Verdict:
Status: Purchased

Designer: Gil d'Orey, Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade
Publisher: Stronghold Games
# of players: 2 − 4
Playing Time: 100 minutes

Attraction: Another heavy Euro from the "Portuguese School".

Pre-Essen Commentary: Assuming I pick this game up, my thoughts are Panamax will replace Madeira as my heavy weight, dice-tossing Euro; this after watching Paul Grogan's video. The game appears to have a lot of player interaction as with a sort of chain reaction movement of ships - "pushing" each other through the canals) and the purchasing of shares from other companies. Jimmy Okolica (aka "butterfly0038"), whose opinion I value, gives it a thorough review and rates it an _8_.

Pros: Shipping theme with 18xx overtones.
Cons: May be too heavy for frequent plays.
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6. Board Game: ZhanGuo [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:397]
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Verdict:
Status: Previously Owned

Designer: Marco Canetta & Stefania Niccolini
Publisher: What's Your Game?
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 90 minutes

Attraction: What's Your Game? has a good track record with heavy Euros.

Pre-Essen Commentary: Another Euro with an historical Chinese theme and I have Yunnan still in shrink.

Post-Essen Commentary: Radho and Paul Grogan have got me interested in this one thanks to their videos. The game play seems fairly simple: play a card on a province (in your tableau) to give you future bonuses or play it in the palace (on the main board) to gain some immediate reward. But it does seem a little fiddly with advisor cubes of three colours, worker tokens and discord cubes mucking about. Moreover, it looks very prone to AP with just so many choices.

Pros: What's Your Game?
Cons: May just overload the brain.
 
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7. Board Game: Machi Koro [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:740]
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Verdict:
Status: Previously Owned

Designer: Masao Suganuma
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 30 minutes

Attraction: Light, dice-roller from Japan with cutsie art.

Pre-Essen Commentary: This game was actually published in 2012 and now is getting a wider English release. The player interaction is greater than a lot of dice-rolling games as another player's dice roll can trigger your own buildings. The Watch It Played video is here. And if that's not enough, BGG's GameNight! played it here.

Post-Essen Commentary: At $13.50, I couldn't pass it up.

Pros: Light game for workday evenings.
Cons: May get repetitive fast.
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8. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:790]
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Verdict: Considering
Status: Available

Designer: Yeon-Min Jung & Jun-Hyup Kim
Publisher: Deinko Games
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 120 minutes

Attraction: Civilization game with a unique mechanic.

Pre-Essen Commentary: Was initially released in 2013, but the first large (English) print run was in 2014. Love the central "patch-work" mechanic and the civilization theme, but not so sure about all the rest of it. The game seems a bit rough round the edges and probably could have been streamlined. The rules (which I have not read yet) are apparently horrible, too.

Pros: Patch-work mechanic.
Cons: Two-hour play time and lots of voting/bidding.
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9. Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:160]
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Verdict: Considering
Status: Limited Availability

Designer: Cody Miller
Publisher: Far Off Games
# of players: 3 - 5
Playing Time: 120 minutes

Attraction: Sandbox space game reminiscent of the old Elite computer game.

Pre-Essen Commentary: This game is a Kickstarter from a first time designer and publisher. The InvalidGame! video review caught my eye and got me thinking that I don't have any pick-up/deliver space-pirate type game in my collection. And doesn't everyone need a pick-up/deliver space-pirate type game? But then, shouldn't I just go with the classic Merchant of Venus?

Pros: Elite the boardgame!
Cons: Not sure what sort of distribution this will get for non-Kickstarters.
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10. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:129]
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Verdict: Considering
Status: Available

Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Publisher: Portal Games
# of players: 1 - 4
Playing Time: 60 minutes

Attraction: Portly little man and his dog as the box top artwork.

Pre-Essen Commentary: Imperial Settlers is a refined remake of 51st State which I've been considering for some time, but have not purchased mainly due to it's confusing iconography and it's dark theme. Neither are "wife friendly". Imperial Settlers "cleans" it up, but there's still a "take that" aspect to the game (in the razing of buildings) that she might still be put off by.

Pros: Core mechanisms from 51st State. Available in August 2014.
Cons: May be too confrontational.
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11. Board Game: The Ancient World [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:954]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: IELLO
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 60 minutes

Attraction: Simple civilization game with nice artwork.

Pre-Essen Commentary: Not another fantasy "civ" game.... yuk

Post-Essen Commentary: Rahdo's video has me taking a second look at The Ancient World. The fantasy theme actually frees it from the need to shove all human history into a 60 minute game. So instead of being a monstrosity, it appears fairly streamlined. I particularly like how the new military units gain some of the benefits of obsoleted units.

Pros: Quick "civ" game with no direct conflict.
Cons: Another worker-placement game.
 
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12. Board Game: AquaSphere [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:355]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Stefan Feld
Publisher: Hall Games
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 100 minutes

Attraction: Another Feld blockbuster with an interesting, but not very strong theme.

Pre-Essen Commentary: I'm generally not a fan of Stefan Feld. Trajan kept me interested for a bit, but once the mancala mechanic lost it's novelty, the rest of the game was just a big "points salad". I like salads, but only to eat.

Pre-Essen Commentary: Less convinced I need another Stefan Feld when there are so many other games I'd like to try.

Pros: Maybe not a Feld points salad.
Cons: Feld pasted on theme.
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13. Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:82]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Ted Alspach
Publisher: Bézier Games
# of players: 1 - 4
Playing Time: 90 minutes

Attraction: Suburbia designer makes castles.

Pre-Essen Commentary: My wife and I enjoyed Suburbia as a two-player game for a long time, but eventually got put off by the focus on the bonus cards. Whomever could win both public cards, would win the game, which meant strategy was almost always centred around how to beat your opponent for the cards and not much else. Rahdo's run through is very enthusiastic about it, but I remain unconvinced.

Post-Essen Commentary: Perhaps it's just the chaotic-looking castles that are built, but I just can't get enthused about this one.

Pros: Castle-themed building game.
Cons: Not yet sure if it's different enough from Suburbia to pick up.
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14. Board Game: Deus [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:303]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Sébastien Dujardin
Publisher: Pearl Games
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 75 minutes

Attraction: Civilization game by one of the designers of Troyes.

Pre-Essen Commentary: I don't know much about this one at this point beyond it's connection to Sébastien Dujardin and Pearl Games, but as Eeeville mentioned it below, it's worth further exploration.

Pros: A civilization game in under two hours.
Cons: Competing with Patchistory as the Civ game of 2014.
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15. Board Game: Samurai Spirit [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:980]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Antoine Bauza
Publisher: Funforge
# of players: 1 - 7
Playing Time: 30 minutes

Attraction: Antoine Bauza does Seven Samurai (sort of).

Pre-Essen Commentary: Aside from the theme, the other thing about this game that has me interested is that it's cooperative. Moreover, it's getting some good buzz from reviews like Shut Up & Sit Down. However, it may be just a little too abstract and fail to work for us and disappear into tradeville like Sentinels of the Multiverse and Pathfinder Adventure Game.

Post-Essen Commentary: Despite some interesting mechanics (like having your character be defeated to flip him/her to their "beast" side), this one seems kind of dry. As in lots of arithmetic.

Pros: Cooperative fantastical samurai game.
Cons: Antoine Bauza's games often make it on my lists, but never get purchased.

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16. Board Game: Versailles [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2648]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Andrei Novac
Publisher: NSKN Games
# of players: 2 - 5
Playing Time: 90 minutes

Attraction: Light to medium, easy to learn game that may have more depth than first appears.

Pre-Essen Commentary: The theme of building Versailles got me initially interested and after doing a bit of research while answering the questions to the BGG contest got me a bit more curious. Rahdo's review pretty much has me convinced this would work with my wife. With it's combination of tile placement, worker travel/placement and simple resource conversion, it'd also work well with casual gamers. A definite maybe for me.

Pros: Streamlined play.
Cons: May not have depth and get "samey" after a few plays.
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17. Board Game: Shadowrun: Crossfire [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:620]
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Verdict: Pass
Status: Available

Designer: Mark Eliot et al.
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
# of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 30 minutes

Attraction: Cooperative deck-building game with levelling up.

Pre-Essen Commentary: I'd glanced at this game's page a couple times without giving it any consideration. That was until I saw Radho did a run-through on it. Watching the run-through, it kind of made me think of a cross between The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (a favourite of mine) and Pathfinder Adventure Card Game which I thought had a lot of promise, but got very repetitive and I didn't particularly enjoy the dice rolling mechanism. Shadowrun: Crossfire's combat mechanism seems much less random and therefore much more appealing. That said, I've got Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game on order so do I really need another cooperative game at this time?

Post-Essen Commentary: The success of Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game makes getting Shadowrun: Crossfire less likely. Nor does it help that Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is still in my "considering" list from 2012 and Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients is now our hot new cooperative game.

Pros: Levelling up and deck-building.
Cons: SciFi Dystopian setting mashed with D&D characters.
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18. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2545]
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Verdict: Considering
Status: Not Yet Available

Designer:
Publisher:
# of players:
Playing Time: xxx minutes

Attraction:

Pre-Essen Commentary:

Pros:
Cons:

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