Hello there, my fellow gamers! It’s again one of my favorite times of the year, just after the largest board game trade show has taken place in Essen, Germany. All of the latest and greatest games are presented there, and I’m now going to give my thoughts about them, as I prepare for the BGG.CON convention in Dallas, Texas. These are listed in order of my level of interest, which is certainly subjective. One of the primary things I’m looking for are games that have something unique to them. I have picked up a couple of games that are based on some games I already love, but I’m hopeful the new twists make them even more worth playing. Along with a brief description and thought of each game, I’ve included how they were received at the Essen fair, as well as the number of players and play time. I have three sources for my Essen ratings: FairPlay is a German board game magazine, GeekBuzz is boardgamegeek.com’s own rating system they set up there, and Hall9000 is Essen’s own rating system. Games ranked under #15 had high ratings but not enough to qualify for the top 15, and I only list games that made the top 200 in the GeekBuzz ratings.

Also, there were some games that are in the vault that did not make the list below, as I’m focused on games that I hope to play while in Dallas. These are Glen More II, Trismegistus, Barrage, Wingspan, and Doppelt So Clever.

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

Games I Must Play

Die Crew

Die Crew (actually The Crew, as Die is The in German) is a cooperative, trick-tacking game thatappears to be a legacy-style game as there are 50 missions to accomplish. I’m fascinated by it, and it appears that there is a translation of the flavor-text logbook from German into English. I’d love to play this!

  • #1 FairPlay, #125 GeekBuzz, #11 Hall9000
  • 2-5 players
  • 20 minutes


Dreamscape is a mostly abstract game where you’re building a three-dimensional tableau that represents the dreams you are trying to have. The theme is extremely well-done, and it’s a fantastic puzzle that you have to try and solve. I’m not sure there will be a copy at the convention, and analysis-paralysis seems to plague this game that I think I’d prefer to play it with 3 players instead of 4, but it just sounds like overall, this game would be entertaining to play.

  • #18 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes

Orleans: Stories

Orleans: Stories reimplements the bag-builder Orleans, but in what sounds like a legacy-style way, as there are multiple games, and each builds upon the next. I loved the original bag-builder, and having a narrative arc to connect multiple games of this sounds fantastic.

  • #25 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-180 minutes

Azul: Summer Pavilion

Azul: Summer Pavilion is a tile-drafting game much like the two other iterations of Azul. While the tile-drafting mechanic is the same of the first two releases, this one allows you to gather all of your tiles from the round and then you place them on your board. There are also wild tiles in play here as well. I’ve enjoyed the first two iterations of Azul, and this one seems like it’s going to be just as fun.

  • #4 FairPlay, #12 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 30-45 minutes

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace is a dice-placement game set around the time of the first World Fair in London (1851). This game seems to be quite tense and full of agonizing decisions, plus it got lots of buzz at Essen, being rated by all three sources of my review. It also seems like there are many ways to win.

  • #2 Fairplay, #68 GeekBuzz, #2 Hall9000
  • 2-5 players
  • 90-150 minutes


Pictures is a party game where you use a variety of materials to reproduce a picture and then players vote on the creation each player made. Someone mentioned that it might be a high-brow Cranium, and it seems that this will be an excellent change-of-pace to play at some time during the show.

  • #20 FairPlay, #8 Hall9000
  • 3-5 players
  • 20-30 minutes

Kitchen Rush

Kitchen Rush is a real-time cooperative game where you are managing a restaurant. I believe that it hit Essen because this year brought a revised edition to the table. This is a light cooperative that has multiple scenarios to teach the rules and build up the difficulty reminding me of Magic Maze. I think we’ll really enjoy playing this.

  • #10 FairPlay, #167 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 20-60 minutes


Cahoots is a co-operative card-playing game where you’re trying to satisfy a variety of different goal cards. You can’t communicate with the other players what cards are in your hand, but you can talk about what piles you’d like to play on, for example. This reminds me a bunch of The Game or The Mind, and I know that we’ll definitely get in a play of this.

  • #10 Hall9000
  • 1-4 players
  • 20 minutes

Res Arcana

Res Arcana is a tableau-building game where you’re using cards in order to generate alchemical combinations. While not quite as amazing as Race for the Galaxy, there are lots of comparisons to it, and the combination of options that you get despite a small number of game elements creates a fascinating decision space. I’d love to get in a play of this, especially as it seems it will go quickly.

  • #7 FairPlay
  • 2-4 players
  • 20-60 minutes


Maracaibo is an action selection game set in the Carribbean. It’s pretty complex, and it appearsthat you have cards that you play to set up actions and those change over time. It’s been compared a bunch to Great Western Trail, except that all your options are available to you at thestart, and while being less elegant, it sounds like there are lots of options and interesting choices.

  • #13 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 60-150 minutes

The Taverns of Tiefentahl

The Taverns of Tiefentahl is a dice-drafting deckbuilder where you’re managing a tavern. Gameplay seems quick and there are multiple modules to tweak the level of complexity. It just seems like a solid game, and I’m especially interested to see how drafting cards to the top of your deck plays out.

  • #6 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 60 minutes


Aquatica is a deckbuilding game where each card you get allows you to take actions as you build up your underwater kingdom. The game is a bit light and fast, but sounds like fun as there are a bunch of combinations that you can try, plus you have a mechanism of sliding cards up your tableau in order to score points.

  • #17 FairPlay
  • #2 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 30-60 minutes

Games I’d Like to Play


Cartographers is a flip-and-write game. In other words, you flip cards and then draw what it tells you. Many people refer to another game I’ve really enjoyed this year called Welcome To. It also has some variable scoring goals. There’s an interesting interactive, take-that element where other people get to draw ambushes and monsters on your board, and I’d like to see how that pans out.

  • #12 Fairplay, #64 GeekBuzz
  • 1-100 players
  • 30-45 minutes

Silver & Gold

Silver & Gold is another flip-and-write game where you’re finding treasures on an island. Really, you just have treasure map cards and try to cross them off, based upon what possible shapes the round card gives you. This plays fast and seems like it will be a bunch of fun.

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

Die Inseln im Nebel

Die Inseln im Nebel is a tile-laying game where you’re piloting a hot air balloon in the fog and exploring an island. While there was not a ton of information on this, it sounds fascinating, as you roll a die that determines the direction of the wind. You then have a very limited amount of energy that you can use to go in a different direction and either shorter or farther than the prevailing wind. You then draft tiles and place them on to your board. The game has a fun roll-and-write feel, but lasts longer and just seems like it brings something unique to the table.

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

The Magnificent

The Magnificent is a dice-placement game where you’re setting up a carnival show. The art is beautiful, although apparently the theme is weak. It seems interesting that as you collect more dice, they make your actions stronger, but they are also more expensive.

  • #1 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 60-90 minutes

Team3 Pink (or Green)

Team3 Pink (or Green) is a party dexterity game. In a team of three players, you are trying to build blueprints. One person can see the blueprints but can’t talk, one person can build but can’tsee, and the other person is relaying information between the two. This game looks like it would be some good silly fun, especially if we end up with six players. The pink edition just has different cards than the green one.

  • #8 Fairplay, #17 GeekBuzz
  • 3-6 players
  • 30 minutes

Palm Island

Palm Island is a solo card game, where you hold the deck and manipulate the cards in order to build an island and maximize your victory points. I’ve put this on my list because I’m fascinated by its quick play time and portability, and there may be a short break with some downtime where it would be fun to pull this out and learn it while waiting for some friends to free up from a game elsewhere. It does offer a couple of 2-player modes, although those do not sound like where this shines.

  • #15 FairPlay, #145 GeekBuzz
  • 1-2 players
  • 15 minutes


Draftosaurus is a drafting game where you are drafting dinosaurs and placing them in enclosures on your board according to restrictions imposed by whatever someone rolls on a die.It seems like a decent filler, and given that it’s quick and the pieces are cute, it’s worth giving it a shot.

  • #172 GeekBuzz, #12 Hall9000
  • 2-5 players
  • 15 minutes

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea is a worker placement game where you’re building up a tea estate in India. It has drawn many comparisons to Snowdonia, where instead of using coal with the railway, you use tea instead. I enjoyed Snowdonia the couple of times I played it, and feel that this would also be worth a play.

  • #16 FairPlay, #31 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 45-120 minutes

City of Big Shoulders

City of Big Shoulders is a heavy economic game where you’re building up companies in Chicago and investing in them in order to become the wealthiest player at the table. It’s been compared to a slightly lighter version of the extra-heavy, very competitive and unforgiving 18xx games, but the options you take with the companies here have more of a Euro feel. It’s also shorter, although it still has a meaty playtime. I’d like to play this, just to take on the challenge of something this heavy, but it definitely would be important to find the right time – and players – when we decide to tackle this one.

  • #18 FairPlay, #134 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 120-180 minutes

Marco Polo II

Marco Polo II is a dice-placement, action selection game. It seems to share most of the concepts from the original, with some slight differences, adding a new currency (jade) as well as making traveling a bit easier. I did really enjoy the original, and this is quite similar, and seems almost certain to be a good time, although I’m not sure that it has enough new here that I absolutely have to play it.

  • #3 FairPlay, #91 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-120 minutes

Walking in Burano

Walking in Burano is a card drafting game where you’re building up a cityscape in Burano to attract tourists. While there doesn’t seem to be anything super new or compelling here, the game is beautiful and it plays well with 2. I think I’d like to check it out just for those aspects.

  • #14 Hall9000
  • 1-4 players
  • 20-40 minutes

Rune Stones

Rune Stones is a deck building game in a fantasy setting. Each turn, you play two cards and have to trash the card you play with the higher value, and it’s really that mechanic that seems to provide some interesting tension for the decisions that you need to make each turn. Some have said that the game doesn’t really build up over time, but it seems overall to be light and a nice change of pace.

  • #11 FairPlay, #30 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 60 minutes


Coloma is a worker-placement game set during the California Gold Rush. You choose your actions simultaneously and depending upon whether or not you choose the same actions as other determines whether it is a Boom action and you get a bonus or not. There also is a semi-cooperative element of holding off the outlaw gunmen that are coming after the town. This all sounds quite good, but the one thing that holds this back from being higher up the list is that it seems to have a higher amount of luck for a game with this level of depth, but I’d still be willing to try it.

  • #29 GeekBuzz
  • 1-6 players
  • 90 minutes

Cooper Island

Cooper Island is a worker-placement tile-laying game, where each person is building their own island. I didn’t get lots of information on this; someone mentioned that this game provided some new challenges, which has me a bit intrigued. Many people complained of the multiplayer solitaire and the lack of variability with the setup, as well as there being some downtime. I’m torn on this, but if we get a chance, I’d like to try it.

  • #13 FairPlay, #7 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 60-120 minutes

Realm of Sand

Realm of Sand is a tile placement game. Thematically, you’re a magician to stabilize the magic in the realm of sand, but ultimately this is an abstract game. Over time, you unlock more and more of your board to be able to place tiles, and it has many comparisons to Splendor as you use a couple of different colored tokens in order to place your tiles. I think this would be a solid game, even if it’s nothing super special.

  • #9 Hall9000
  • 1-4 players
  • 30-60 minutes

Bruxelles 1897

Bruxelles 1897 is a card game based on the original Bruxelles 1893 board game. Like the original, you are selecting actions from a tableau, just this time using cards instead of markers on a board. Overall, the selection of your actions amounts to a form of area control and bidding in order to take them. I’d like to try this, just to see if I enjoy this streamlined version of the original, but don’t feel compelled to play it.

  • #6 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 40-60 minutes

Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North

Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North is a tableau-building, resource-management and card game. It is slightly different from the original Imperial Settlers and has some new factions and introduces a couple of additional options, including sailing. Some consider this game much looser than the original, but considering I was very frustrated by the lack of available resources in the original, this seems like it would be more fun. Overall, it sounds promising, but I have to admit that I’m not sure that there is a ton new here in this one.

  • #22 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 45-90 minutes

Last Bastion

Last Bastion is a cooperative game where you’re a band of heroes defending against monstrous hordes. It’s very similar to Ghost Stories, where you move around the board and gaining various bonuses and using the dice to kill enemies. I enjoyed Ghost Stories when I played it, and this is probably fun, but I don’t see that I have to play this.

  • #14 GeekBuzz
  • 1-4 players
  • 45 minutes

Games That Are Just Meh

It’s a Wonderful World

It’s a Wonderful World is a card-drafting game. It’s been compared much to 7 Wonders, although you get to play all of your cards at once. However, you don’t really interact with your opponents. While it sounds like a decent game, there’s nothing new or compelling here.

  • #5 GeekBuzz
  • 1-5 players
  • 30-60 minutes

Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon

Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon is a tile-placement game where you’re building the Gardens of Babylon. While you are drafting tiles from a rondel, it seems like it’s fairly luck based and there’s not great control over what you can do. I’m interested to try it and see if the criticisms are well-warranted, but I don’t feel compelled to play it.

  • #23 GeekBuzz, #41 Hall9000
  • 2-4 players
  • 45 minutes


Terramara is a worker placement game where you’re developing your clan in Northern Italy in the late Bronze Age. Apparently the interesting mechanic here is that keeping your workers on the boards longer makes for more powerful actions; in practice, though, it generally seems that you don’t really want to leave your workers out there if you can help it. It sounds to me like other games do this set of mechanics better (e.g. Tzolkin), so I’d likely pass on this one.

  • #14 FairPlay, #10 GeekBuzz
  • 2-4 players
  • 120 minutes

Carnival of Monsters

Carnival of Monsters is a card-drafting game where you’re building up a tableau of monsters. Overall, there seems to be little that is really new or special in this one, and so I think I’ll pass on this.

  • #6 FairPlay
  • 2-5 players
  • 45 minutes

Ecos: First Continent

Ecos: First Continent is a tile-building game where you are forces of nature creating a continent. Someone takes an element from the bag, and then you all gain that resource on one of your cards, which then ultimately allows you to play a tile on the tableau. This bingo-like game reminds me of Rise of Augustus, but with a longer playing time, I’m not that excited at all about playing it, as I don’t think it will be worth it.

  • #9 GeekBuzz
  • 2-6 players
  • 45-75 minutes