New Finds: Essen and BGG.CON 2018 Preview

Essen, Germany – Home to largest annual board game trade show.

The biggest trade show in the board game industry takes place in Essen, Germany, at the end of October every year. Every year, just before Thanksgiving, the good people that are loosely affiliated with the board gaming website put on a convention, BGG.CON, that inspired our own PPG CON. One of the cool things that BGG.CON does is that they attend Essen and bring many of the latest and greatest games from Essen back with them, so that convention-goers can enjoy them. Some of these games haven’t been released in the U.S., and some might never even be.

New Finds: Essen and BGG.CON 2018 Preview - PinterestAs part of preparing and making the most of my time at the convention, I do some research on what generated buzz at Essen. Not everything is brand-new (one title came out way back in 2016!), but most of it is. As your sommelier, I’d like to share with you my thoughts in advance of attending. Sometime after the convention is over, and I’ve got some sleep, I’ll follow up with you on what I played and what I thought, and what I’ll be lobbying to try and get included in our collection for PPG CON 2019.

Before diving into the list of the games, I wanted to let you know that the numbers and rankings in parenthesis at the end of each game snippet is how well they finished as part of the buzz at Essen. Fairplay is a German magazine, GeekBuzz is something that does while they are out there, and Hall9000 is the convention’s own rating system, if I’m not mistaken. I also give player counts and game length, according to what’s on the box. Don’t forget, this is just one man’s opinion, and happy gaming!

Lists: Games I Must Play, Games I’d Like To Play, Games That Are Just Meh

Games I Must Play

Ganz schon clever

Ganz schon clever is a dice-rolling and write game, ala Yahtzee. But way, way better. Toward the end of the game there are super-fun combos that you can generate that seem quite satisfying. Given the short and light play time, this is at the top of the list.

  • #11 Hall9000
  • 1-4 players
  • 30 minutes


Coimbra is a Euro game where there are many ways to score (“point salad”). You are drafting dice in various colors and then obtaining cards from there. The interesting thing is that the values of the dice are how much the cards cost to buy and how well you are doing on the track corresponding to the color of the dice indicates how much of a reward you recieve. A solid, thinky game.

  • #4 Fairplay
  • #3 GeekBuzz
  • #3 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes


Belratti is a cooperative game where you are managing an art gallery. The game is trying to introduce fake paintings into the gallery, and you have to collectively identify the forgeries and get them out of there! You also change roles from supplying the paintings to choosing the forgeries. Just seems like something where everyone would be engaged, and a delight to play.

  • #1 Fairplay
  • #108 GeekBuzz
  • 3-7 players
  • 20-45 minutes

Trick n’ Trouble

Trick n’ Trouble is a co-operative trick-taking game. I had no idea there was such a thing! It compares to Hanabi, in that you don’t have all the information but are still working together. This is something I really want to play; the only downside is that it only plays just 3.

  • #13 Hall9000
  • 3 players
  • 15-30 minutes


Fuji is a cooperative game where you trying to descend from a volcano before it erupts. You roll your dice to move, and then you have to decide where to go, and you don’t know exactly what other people have, and it’s only after you see what they’ve got as to whether or not you’ve successfully moved along, or if you lose some stamina. This sounds really interesting.

  • #13 Fairplay
  • #17 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 30-45 minutes

Men At Work

Men At Work is not about the 80s band that had great music. J Instead, it’s a beautiful title and a dexterity game. From the pictures, you’re building a structure with a whole bunch of construction workers on it. Seems like it would be fun.

  • #125 GeekBuzz
  • #4 Hall9000
  • 2-5 players
  • 30-45 minutes

Krass Kariert

Krass Kariert is a trick-taking game where you’re trying to go out first (like in Tichu). You can’t reorder your cards, though, but there is a bidding element I believe in this. Seems like it could be fun and different to try.

  • #24 Hall9000
  • 3-5 players
  • 30 minutes

Paper Tales

Paper Tales is a card drafting game like the classic 7 Wonders. The interesting thing here is that your cards age, so you only get to have them around for a round or two before they’re gone. Seems like an interesting twist on a well-known game.

  • #13 Fairplay
  • #192 GeekBuzz
  • #28 Hall9000
  • 2-5 players
  • 30 minutes

Railroad Ink

Railroad Ink comes in either the Deep Blue or Blazing Red Editions. In this, you roll the dice, and you draw out a railroad network. This type of thing just really appeals to me, and considering its brevity, I would really like to play this.

  • #9 GeekBuzz
  • 1-6 players
  • 20-30 minutes


X-Code is a timed co-operative game where you are trying to come up with a code. It’s light and plays fast, so I’m sure I’ll get the chance to play it and see if it’s really too easy as to not be that interesting.

  • #14 Hall9000
  • 2-8 players
  • 15 minutes

Blackout: Hong Kong

Blackout: Hong Kong is meaty Euro game set in Hong Kong. You play cards to select actions, then roll dice that determine what is produced, which you can tweak by spending some tokens or victory points. From there, you complete various objectives. It’s been compared to Great Western Trail and Mombasa, a couple of my favorite recent titles, so I’d really like to give this a shot.

  • #5 FairPlay
  • #6 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 75-150 minutes

Dice Settlers

Dice Settlers is a lighter, dice manipulation game. It plays quickly and you are accumulating your bag of dice from which to use, reminding me of Orleans or Altiplano, a couple of games I really enjoy. There have been complaints about the components not being all that nice, but it sounds like the gameplay here is quite good, moving it near the top of my list.

  • #10 GeekBuzz
  • #2 Hall9000
  • 1-4 players
  • 45-60 minutes

Games I’d Like to Play


Tudor was hard to get a lot of detail on it. From what I can gather, the way in which you select actions is through the placement of them on various fingers and rings, and that is something that is pretty unique and original. The core part of the game, which is to collect cards and move up tracks, seems to be a bit uninspired, but I’d like to try this to see the novel action-selection mechanic.

  • #7 Fairplay
  • #167 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 90-120 minutes

Roll Player

Roll Player is a game where you’re rolling dice and manipulating for creating a character that would be used in a role-playing game (like Dungeons & Dragons), except all you’re doing here is building the character. Apparently, the dice manipulation is fun for gamers, I think it would been even more interesting, considering I played some D&D as a kid.

  • #13 Fairplay
  • #171 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem is a tile placement game with a bunch of different ways to score points. It seems a bit light, just take a tile, place it on your board, and how you do so gives you a variety of different scoring combinations. Because Stefan Feld was the designer, I think it got a bunch of buzz. Because I like some of his other games, this is definitely something I’d like to try.

  • #7 FairPlay
  • #32 GeekBuzz
  • #7 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 60 minutes


Brass:Birmingham is a card-playing, economic Euro game that is the modern update to the classic Brass (now called Brass: Lancashire). This supposedly adds more industries and variability to the play vs. the original, and the original is a solid, meaty Euro, so I’m excited to try this version.

  • #14 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-120 minutes

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra is a reimplementation of the tile-claiming Azul. This one seems to be more gamey but definitely worth playing to see if it adds more meat to the original, or if it will leave me longing for the original.

  • #9 Fairplay
  • #1 GeekBuzz
  • #6 Hall900
  • 2-4 players
  • 30-45 minutes


Wurffelland (or Diceland, if translated to English) is also a roll-and-write game. Everyone marks a space on their board based upon whatever someone has rolled, and the first to finish the special spaces wins. The interesting thing is that there is a press-your-luck element to this, if you roll too many of whatever color you were looking for, you can’t use it! I think this will be light and fun.

  • #25 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 20 minutes

Welcome To

Welcome To is another roll-and-write game, although in this one, you’re drawing tiles instead of rolling dice. Seems like it’s solid and fast, and the write-ups have generally been favorable.

  • #13 Fairplay
  • #171 GeekBuzz
  • 1-100 players
  • 25 minutes


Reykholt is a worker-placement, farming game in Iceland. Uwe Rosenberg designed this, and he’s one of my favorites. The tension is in making choices between when to harvest your vegetables and how much of an investment to make in future rounds. Longtime gamers will be familiar with Gates of Loyang, which this is compared to. There’s a “story mode”, which I’m not quite sure what that’s all about.

  • #22 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 30-60 minutes


Illusion is a light filler game where you are putting cards in order based upon how much color is in each card. Timeline does the same thing, but uses dates, and has a trivia element to it. I don’t think this is going to be amazing, but certainly seems like something fun to pull out and play.

  • #21 Hall9000
  • 2-5 players
  • 15 minutes

Chronicles of Crime

Chronicles of Crime is a cooperative crime-solving game. A smartphone app with VR provides much of the content that you’ll need to figure out the clues and solve the crime. It sounds like you would only want 2 players, maybe 3 at the most, since much of the content is on the phone. I’m interested just to see how well it blends the digital and the physical.

  • #13 Fairplay
  • #5 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes

Teotihuacan: City of Gods

Teotihuacan: City of Gods is a worker placement game, using dice for the actions to build a Mayan pyramid. It compares to T’zolkin, another game, and there is some debate as to whether or not it is a good as that game, and seems to be a bit more complicated than that one. I certainly am interested to see how this one shakes out.

  • #13 Fairplay
  • #2 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 90-120 minutes

Pulsar 2849

Pulsar 2849 is a dice-drafting game, with a sci-fi exploration theme. The better the dice you get, the more of a penalty you take in the action phase, which seems like it creates some good tension. There also is a bit of an exploration element to this one. It looks pretty cool, something I’d like to try. Apparently this was out last year, but still made some buzz even at this year’s Essen.

  • #68 GeekBuzz
  • #15 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes


NEOM is tile-drafting and then tile-laying game, where you’re building a city in front of you. It seems like a nice blend of 7 Wonders (for the drafting mechanic) and Suburbia (for the tile placement aspect). I think this game would be good.

  • #4 Fairplay
  • #54 GeekBuzz
  • 1-5 players
  • 45 minutes


Barrage has a ton of stuff going on in it, worker placement for various actions, powers generated from building different building, rondel for resources, contracts to fulfill, and an income track. It’s a very heavy game about managing hydroelectric power. It looks fascinating. It’s also only on Kickstarter. I decided to back it, and although unlikely, it’s supposed to arrive in time for PPG.CON. I guess their prototype got enough buzz to show up on the Essen list.

  • #15 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-120 minutes


Gugong was hard to put my finger on. It seems that there’s a bidding and worker placement element to this in order to make your decisions. I think I’d have to play it first to see whether or not I like it.

  • #13 FairPlay
  • #7 GeekBuzz
  • 1-5 players
  • 60-90 minutes


Everdell is a worker placement game that is really beautiful – all the information I read talked about how stunning it was. The theme appears to be a bit unqiue, as you’re creating a town of critters. From a gameplay perspective, it sounds like a fairly straightforward worker placement game, so I’m not sure how much is truly new here.

  • #4 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 40-80 minutes


Newton is a game where you are selecting action cards, and as you get more cards in your tableau, the more powerful those actions become. There was some criticism that there are not lots of different ways to win, but perhaps there’s just tension to do the core thing in the game (in this case, publish books). Something I’d like to try, I guess.

  • #8 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 90 minutes

Games That Are Just Meh

Rise of Queensdale

Rise of Queensdale is a legacy game where you are manipulating dice and managing resources. The story may be more interesting that the very popular Charterstone. Not something I’ll probably try at the convention, but might be interesting to buy and play within our group.

  • #10 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 45-60 minutes

Underwater Cities

Underwater Cities is card placement on a tableau, action-drafting game. The information on this was mixed and not particularly striking, something that I probably would only try if someone else really wanted a go.

  • #13 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 80-150 minutes


Farben is a party game where you get cards with colors and words, and then you tell stories to associate the colors with the words. At the end of the round, you then have to remember everyone’s colors. While an interesting party game idea, I’m not sure how much fun I’ll have with this, although if we have a bit of time to kill, I might end up suggesting it.

  • #21 Hall9000
  • 3-5 players
  • 45-75 minutes

Ground Floor

Ground Floor is an economic, city building game. It uses worker placement in order to build up a company from the ground up. This is a new edition of a game that came out back in 2012. It seems that the highlight of the game, other than the puzzle of the resource management, is the various upgrades that are available to you. It seems like it would be decent, if a bit long.

  • #8 Hall9000
  • 1-5 players
  • 90-150 minutes

Architects of the West Kingdom

Architects of the West Kingdom seems to me just to be a pretty generic worker placement game, and nothing special.

  • #11 GeekBuzz
  • 1-5 players
  • 60-80 minutes

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