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Boardgames To Go's Essen (Spiel) watchlist for 2016
Mark Johnson
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By now we know the drill... Look through BGG's Spiel (and Gencon) Previews, and flag too many titles that catch my attention. How do they grab me? Theme/setting matters, but hints about the gameplay/mechanisms (especially playing time) matter more. So does the designer and publisher.

Anything that has its roots in Kickstarter makes me instantly wary. It's not an automatic NO, but I'm so skeptical of that platform as a development tool (as opposed to merely funding), that I'll let others take the plunge first. Wait & see.

Expansions rarely grab my attention. I'm just not an expansion guy, expect for a few rare favorites (e.g. Port Royal). Similarly with abstracts--not my thing, but there are rare exceptions.


In general, my ranking of factors is

1. Publisher (which goes to development process & production quality)
2. Gameplay/mechanisms (looking for the types of games I know I like, though sometimes something unique & new. I steer clear of games rated at over 60 minutes--wait & see only, for those)
3. Designer (I'll let someone else take a flyer on a new, unproven designer...in most cases)
4. Theme/setting (I have distinct preferences toward real-world, historic subjects, and away from zombies/elves/spaceships. But I've learned from long experience that this is the least reliable indicator of whether a game will be a hit with me, alas)

Now alphabetically grouped into a top tier (baker's dozen) I will discuss on my Pre-Essen podcast, a big middle section of Honorable Mentions, and a bottom tier of games I know aren't for me...but I wanted to comment on them anyway.
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1. Board Game: Friday the 13th [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1322]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Below are my "baker's dozen". When it's time to record my pre-Essen podcast (soon!), I'll discuss these 13 games. I'm still interested in many others...just had to draw the line somewhere.
 
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2. Board Game: Airborne Commander [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:3023]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Not brand new, but one of the games I'm most eager to actually buy. This is kind of a special situation--if I was back home in California I might hold off. But while I'm in France (with a Normandy episode of Wargames To Go planned, eventually), this solo deckbuilder about the events of D-Day is right up my alley.
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3. Board Game: Beyond Baker Street [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1197]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Hanabi mechanism draws me in
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4. Board Game: Bunny Kingdom [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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iello, Richard Garfield, drafting mechanism, amusing theme... all good things. I'm not sure if I saw special powers cards in one of the images (that would be a Garfield thing I'm less enamored with). One to keep an eye on.
 
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5. Board Game: Captain Sonar [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:111]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Team based co-op, which sounds really fun with the right group.
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6. Board Game: Chariot Race [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:4540]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Matt Leacock? Yeah, always worth a look at his games. The guy really has a design aesthetic that appeals to me.
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7. Board Game: Evolution: The Beginning [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2112]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I have a funny history with this game. My buddy Greg came back from Gencon back in 2010 with the pre-Northstar version of Evolution, designed & published by some Russian gamers, as I recall. I loved the theme, but had serious problems with the game balance. Then the Northstar edition came around, and I held off. I didn't realize that developer Dominic Crapuchettes had polished so many of the original game's sharp edges or other problems. When I finally tried it, I was pleasantly surprised! At some point I got a review copy of the base game & Flight expansion, and I continued to enjoy it. I brought it to a family gathering, and it was a hit with my brother & nephew.

Then this new, even-more-streamlined version came out, with mass-market distribution (in the US) at Target. Wow! I picked one up and sent it to the nephews as a gift, and they like it. I failed to get one for myself, though, and now I find it's impossible to obtain in France.

Essen is my opportunity to get a game I could've picked up at Target! Funny how that works. I'm actually going to be volunteering at the NorthStarGames booth on Saturday afternoon/evening, so swing by & say hi.
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8. Board Game: Hellas [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:3605]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Ooh! Here I am, just about to prioritize this list for an upcoming podcast episode--which means cutting off more input to it--and under the wire comes a Stefan Dorra classically-themed superfiller. Hurray! High hopes for this one. Looks nice, too. Lots of traditional wood bits.
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9. Board Game: Ice Cool [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:943]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Fun flicking. Even though it says it's a kids game, I'm sure I can play this with adults, too. From a small publisher I'd be wary, but I have more confidence in Amigo.
 
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10. Board Game: Jolly & Roger [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:4875]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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Looks nice, Abacusspiele gives me confidence, and the "I divide, you choose" gameplay is fun. Pirates aren't my favorite, but the art is attractive. I now have a good use for 2-player games, too.
 
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11. Board Game: Oceanos [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:1083]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Bauza is one of the few designers that rockets to the top of a list for me. So inventive, and he's got a real restraint when it comes to gameplay & mechanisms. He doesn't let the mechanics take over the experience. At the same time, he doesn't let the narrative theme take over the strategy & gameplay.

Also, iello is a publisher with a good batting average.
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12. Board Game: RallyRas [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:7918]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I guess this isn't new (2015), but it's definitely new-to-me. It's also a rare type of party game I think I'd really enjoy. I already own & appreciate Tokyo Train, which uses a similar idea of funny words in a partnership party game.
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13. Board Game: Sola Fide: The Reformation [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:3656]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Ooh, this one really intrigues me. An awesome theme/subject, great designer team, good publisher, and 45-minute play time. Very, very interested.
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14. Board Game: World Monuments [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:3734]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I haven't watched the videos yet to see how the gameplay looks, but the description sounds good. I love the real-world architecture, and the tactile, 3D aspect to the gameplay.
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15. Board Game: Honor [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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The next big group are my Honorable Mentions, also alphabetized.
 
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16. Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon [Average Rating:8.19 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.19 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Bauza & 7 Wonders Duel are such a hit with me that I break my normal rule against expansions for this one.
 
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17. Board Game: America [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:2583]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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This is on the bubble. I enjoy Fauna, but find it's a bit much sometimes. Not sure I need this. But it got raves at Gencon, so who knows?
 
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18. Board Game: Die Baumeister des Colosseum [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:7046]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Sure, designer Wrede, publisher Schmidt, a traditional theme and a superfiller playtime sound like a good bet. Not a sure thing, of course, but something to keep an eye on.
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19. Board Game: Blank White Dice [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:10293]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Wizkids is a top tier producer, though one that doesn't often make my kind of games. This one attracts me anyway, because of the novel idea and descriptions of the gameplay. Worth a look, perhaps.
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20. Board Game: Capital [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:1559]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I'm not certain how much of the unique setting (Warsaw) comes through, but whatever does is a bonus. The superfiller description reminds me of NY1901 with the overbuilding, a mechanism I already know that I like. Worth a look.
 
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21. Board Game: Codenames: Pictures [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:168] [Average Rating:7.57 Unranked]
 
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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I'm such a huge fan of Codenames, I need to try this next iteration.
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22. Board Game: Deus: Egypt [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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An exception to my expansion-aversion, because Deus is steadily growing in my estimation as a really good game.
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23. Board Game: Dice Stars [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:2541]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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We don't really know enough about this one yet, but I am hopeful it will be a fun push-your-luck dice game. (As opposed to, say, Strike. )
 
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24. Board Game: The Dragon & Flagon [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:2080]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Like Geoff Engelstein, I remember & used to own the old Yaquinto game Swashbuckler (as well its science fiction sister game, Adventurer). Fun in the 1980s, but a very dated design now. Actually, it was a little overwrought even back then. I'd like to see how Geoff & family updated it with modern boardgame design technique.
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25. Board Game: Emoji [Average Rating:5.39 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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http://www.WargamesToGo.com
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We're a family that communicates through a lot of instant messaging, with a lot of emoji. Once in a while even a complex message JUST with emoji. Which is what this game is, I think.
 
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