P - D - Leacock sticks to his design aesthetic--which I love--better than anyone T - The theme is as topical and unique as when Pandemic first came out M - I think co-op dice rolling is a great idea, it just hasn't been executed well...until maybe now!
P - Big name Ravensburger is one I trust, especially for family games D - Haven't seen an A-list Knizia title in a while, but he's still a favorite designer T - Easter Island is a compelling theme that's been attempted a few times, maybe Reiner's unique approach to theme will be the answer M - Auction/bidding mechanisms are in Reiner's wheelhouse, and something I still enjoy
P - D - A friend I've recorded podcasts with, but that's not a reason! T - I'm not alone in always liking a railroad theme M - Don't know much, but the playing time and designer's own preferences give me some confidence the game will be lighter
P - Lookout isn't an auto-winner for me, but they've got a good rep D - I'm not very familiar with Inka & Markus Brand yet, but they're clearly up & comers T - Venice is already a fun theme, and the glassworks island of Murano only adds to it M - I like shopowner & tourist mechanisms (since MarraCash)
P - D - Sail to India was great, Trains was interesting. Hayashi is a designer I'm watching out for. T - Historic theming, but set in Asia so that's novel & interesting M - Action points aren't my favorite
P - Queen always makes beautiful games D - Dirk Henn's partnership with Queen has been mostly good T - Seems fine, especially for a historical curmudgeon like me M - Simple map, simple cards, and 45-minute playtime all point toward smooth mechanics
P - Schmidt's been around forever, and will do a good job D - Seiji Kanai had success with Love Letter (& Lost Legacy). Let's see what he can do with a slightly bigger game T - Sure, kind of cool M - Don't know much, but simple iconography is a good sign
P - The designer's own publisher for some projects, not sure if that's a good sign D - Schacht is one of my go-to designers, as elegant with short games as Reiner T - Even I'M a little jaded about this M - Smooth & simple, I think. Might be too similar to his other games