In just a few short days, Spiel 2022 kicks off. The largest board game convention in the world, Spiel (sometimes called Essen, or Essen Spiel) is the mecca for board gamers of all stripes. Over 1,100 new games will debut to the European market at the event, many of which will make their way to the United States in the near future. Some members of our team will be there, so let’s join the Meeple Mountaineers as we comb through the new releases and help you find the diamonds in the coal.
Origins: Ancient Wonders
An expansion for one of my favorite games of 2022? Yeah, count me in. Origins: First Builders landed well with me and one of my main gaming groups, so I’m pretty sure that I’m going to love whatever is included in the Ancient Wonders expansion. I’m personally hoping that Board&Dice included more choices for the bonuses included for matching the dice color to the current action, as well as more options for the tracks located in the bottom-right corner of the board. But I’m not greedy. Well, not that greedy.
CoraQuest is the family-friendly dungeon crawler that made waves with its massive crowdfunding campaign in 2020. The game is ready for retail release and SPIEL ‘22 will be one of the first chances for the masses to pick up a copy.
As a fan of all things kid-friendly, I’m always looking for games that we can play as a family and the artwork in CoraQuest—much of which was sourced by the community during and after the game’s campaign ended—looks like a real winner. I’m hoping to grab a copy for my personal collection!
Publisher: Bright Eye Games
Designer: Cora Hughes, Dan Hughes
Voidfall has been on my list since Gen Con 2021; in speaking with the team at Mindclash, I have been promised that Voidfall will be available to demo at Essen Spiel 2022. The game raised over $1M during its Kickstarter campaign; Mindclash actually attended Gen Con 2022 but did not demo Voidfall so I speak for the hundreds of gamers excited to try out this game when I say that Mindclash needs to “come correct” with this game stat!
The pseudo 4X gameplay, plus ambitions to become THE go-to space Euro, are why I will likely back this campaign; Mindclash has extended late pledges for the game (which has moved to Gamefound) through the end of the week after Essen Spiel. Voidfall is designed by the same team behind the deck-building Imperium games, Classics and Legends (Nigel Buckle and David Turczi) and features artwork by Ian O’Toole. This will be one of the hottest games at the show.
I love Terra Mystica. I am a fan of Capstone Games. I have a family, so time is short when it comes to playing games as much as I would like.
Terra Nova is a streamlined version of Terra Mystica, playing in about an hour. I want to try this game at Essen Spiel to be sure this is worthy of a purchase, but the bones are there for a solid gaming experience thanks to the people involved.
Publisher: Capstone Games
Designer: Andreas Faul
Deal with the Devil
Czech Games Edition (CGE) has rarely missed when it comes to games that I have bought and enjoyed. The publisher behind Lost Ruins of Arnak, Galaxy Trucker, Codenames, Through the Ages, and other solid experiences is back with Deal with the Devil, a four-player-only hidden role experience that was not available to see at Gen Con 2022. I’m hoping to learn more about this one at Essen Spiel and participate in a partial demo if possible.
Read our review of Deal with the Devil.
La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War
Maybe four-player-only games are hot this year; after my experience with Crescent Moon, my main concern with this trend is finding a group where I can guarantee that the same three other people join me at the table every week to play the same game.
But if they do? I’ll be whipping La Famiglia out first. Feuerland is the same publisher that Capstone works with for many of their biggest releases in the US, so the mix of strong production and heavy strategy appeals to me just as much as my sense that I’ll be buying a game themed like The Godfather but set in 1980s Sicily. Count me in, as long as I don’t end up sleeping with the fishes.
Publisher: Feuerland Spiele
Designer: Maximilian Maria Thiel
This wouldn’t be a Meeple Mountain list without me chiming in about the newest releases from Uwe Rosenberg. This first appeared as a blip on my radar earlier this year. Since then, I have been ravenously absorbing any and all information that I can about it. A worker placement game about fruit bats in Ghana from my favorite designer? Yes, please.
Stack’n Stuff is a retheme of Uwe Rosenberg’s famous Patchwork game. This time, instead of sewing patches into a quilt, you’re trying to pack items into a moving truck. Do I need this game? Probably not. But do I want this game? Most definitely.
Announced only a few months ago, Applejack came out of seemingly nowhere, much to my surprise. I had expected it would be some time next year before the game would be available for purchase, but was thrilled to hear it would be for sale at Spiel! It looks to be a tile laying game that has something to do with apples and beehives. Aside from a very roughly translated English rule book that a fan put together, there’s not a lot of information about the game. But, it’s an Uwe Rosenberg game, so of course I want it.
Publisher: The Game Builders
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Bohnanza: Das Würfelspiel
Bohnanza: Das Würfelspiel is a re-implementation of Würfel Bohnanza, a dice game set in the Bohnanza universe. While I’m generally not a fan of dice games in general, I am a fan of Bohnanza and, more importantly, I’m a fan of Uwe Rosenberg (which I suspect you may be aware of at this point). I’ve never played Würfel Bohnanza, so I am excited to see how well one of my favorite card games translates to a different medium.
When the campaign for this game launched on Gamefound, I was one of the first ten backers. Such was my excitement to get on board with this deep, thinky, two-player game from Uwe Rosenberg. Having played it several times on Tabletop Simulator, I can affirm that any of the hype you may have heard surrounding this game is definitely true. I cannot wait to get my hands on my copy. Fields of Arle, move over. Oranienburger Kanal may just be Uwe Rosenberg’s most challenging two-player game to date.
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
What’s shocking at this point is that I have added a game to this list that isn’t a Rosenberg game. But over the past few years, I’ve found myself becoming a Vladimír Suchý fan. Pulsar 2849, Underwater Cities, and Praga Caput Regni are among my favorite games of all time. From what I’ve read, I think I’m going to enjoy Woodcraft as well, if not even more.
Violet and the Grumpy Nisse
Violet and the Grumpy Nisse is a two-player trick-taking game where one player is Violet, a young woman trying to make her way through the woods, and the other is a Nisse, a creature from Norwegian folklore. I’m a little fuzzy on the details—I like it that way—but the design includes asymmetrical elements that I’m curious to see played out in a trick-taking game.
Publisher: Agie Games
Designer: Pedro Pereira
Puerto Rico 1897
I played Puerto Rico once, four or five years ago. I don’t remember it very well, outside of the feeling that it was good. I haven’t stayed away from the game because of its theme, there have simply been too many other games to play, but I am thrilled to see a major publisher grappling with the issues that can come with colonial settings. To make Puerto Rico about colonialism would require it to become a different game. Making it take place at the moment of Puerto Rico’s independence is a terrific idea.
Nebel über Carcassonne (Mists Over Carcassonne)
Carcassonne never gets old, even without the ten or so full-size expansions. Fog Over Carcassonne, which is getting its German-language release at Essen from Hans-im-Glück, is a cooperative version of the tile-laying classic. That’s a fun spin. Also, there are ghost figures in the box! If I were going to be at Essen this year, Nebel über Carcassonne would certainly make its way into my suitcase.
I am super-curious to play Inside Job, a trick-taking game with a hidden role element? If it weren’t being published by KOSMOS in the same line as The Crew, I’d be more skeptical, but the pedigree is there for this to be a blast.
Designer: Tanner Simmons
I loved My City, a game that constantly reinvented itself. I can’t wait to see what My Island has up its sleeves.
I’m a big fan of Shadi Torbey’s other solo-player games. They’re always clever little games that I feel I should be able to win. I also love Elise Plessis’ artwork, which makes each of the Oniverse games even more fun to play.
Designer: Shadi Torbey
The Abstract Strategy player in me is always on the lookout for new Abstracts. Qawale has the simple rules and sleek look of Gigamic’s other two-player games without themes. I’m looking forward to getting this one to the table.
Designer: Romain Froger, Didier Lenain-Bragard
Check out our review of Qawale.
Old London Bridge
In 1136 the wooden bridge that connected the two sides of London burned down. Now you’re one of several architects charged with rebuilding a section of the new stone bridge. Along with the bridge itself, you’re also constructing buildings with your coat of arms, which will grant you special powers and money. Sounds like my kind of worker placement game.
This version of Splendor was reimagined as a two-player game with slightly different rules, goals, and the addition of a Pearl to the gems collected. Given my love for Splendor and the two designers involved, this is easily my most anticipated game from this year’s Essen Spiel.
Bob Pazehoski, Jr.
La Familia Hort
I love the aesthetic of the box and the components for La Familia Hort. The art style from Esther Mendez is a perfect blend of creepy farming fun. One to four members of the Hort family compete in a lighter euro affair to impress the ghost of Granny Hortensia in order to inherit her precious land. Players lay tiles into a personal farm board along with fertilizer and water in their attempts to cultivate their land for Granny’s three red moon visits. No matter how many times I clicked away from this one, I came back. I just want to see how well the mechanics serve the table presence. I admit, I’m taking a chance here, but I can’t see any way around it.
Publisher: Zombi Paella
Designer: Ramiro Merinero
Admittedly, I have had my eye on this one for a while. In fact, I have a copy in my Shopping Cart at Amazon.jp just waiting in case the mood strikes me to purchase an international copy. In the storytelling vein of Transmissions, I enjoy the concept here of an abandoned earth inhabited by quirky robots. Worker robots must be dispatched in a particular order at each location, but their removal is the key to gaining the goods necessary for productivity. I am curious about the timing of this mechanism and its interaction with the thematic content. Cute little worker robots, fascinating art, and an interesting tableau of cards land this one on my wish list.
Designer: Hobby Japan
Our family has been known to enjoy the occasional drawing game, but what caught my attention here is the use of stackable clear acrylic cards that enable drawings to be revealed in layers. A drawing game with a hint of deduction, Chaotic Studio challenges players to draw out (pun intended) the proper guess from the table with the fewest layers possible. It’s almost like playing Canvas, except you really are the honest-to-goodness, pen-in-hand artist! The vintage Cuphead–esque vibes and the unique mechanical twist on a drawing game have landed this one near the top of my list.
Publisher: Broadway Toys
Designer: AuAu Chen
Bonsai looks like the sort of game that whispers, “I got a peaceful, easy feeling,” from its gorgeous box. Players are drawing cards from a sliding marketplace and collecting the corresponding hex tiles of a Bonsai tree—wood, leaves, flowers, and fruit—which must then be oriented according to their rules on the way to victory. I am smitten with the idea of growing a personal bonsai. I don’t imagine this is a cutthroat battle royale of any sort, but I do imagine walking way from the table with a sense that there’s a bit of beauty in the surrounding world.
Fika is a two-player Swedish coffee battle. If that doesn’t get your beans percolating, I don’t know what will. Players lay cards simultaneously into their coffee shops, resolving the effects according to each card’s color and number value. I’m a fan of all things coffee, but I am fascinated with this title because of the unique interplay of the cards and the interactive struggle of outwitting your partner. The artwork from Beth Sobel doesn’t hurt the game’s prospects, either. I’m sure this one will make it to the table in our home soon enough.
Publisher: Board Game Circus
Designer: Kwibus Game Design
London Necropolis Railway
Did you know that in the mid-1800’s the cholera outbreak so overran London’s ability to deal with the bodies of the dead that the city built a railway system connected to the world’s largest cemetery some 23 miles away? Now did you know that Daniel Newman and Spielworxx are releasing a game in which players attempt to build this infrastructure and win the contract from the city.
The theme is just so bonkers that it borders on the unbelievable, but sure enough it’s real. London Necropolis Railway has a muted color palette, and a grim realism that for some reason really catches my attention. The gameplay appears to have a classic euro sort of vibe which I’ve really been digging lately. I don’t know much about the game, but I’m really looking forward to trying it out.
Programmed movement / action games can be hit or miss. The delightful River Dragons is a glorious disaster in which villagers on either side of a river attempt to cross said river using stones and wooden planks. Tiny Turbo Cars on the other hand is a bit tedious, with a frustrating action selection system and an odd turn order system. Only time will tell which side of the scales Cactus Town will fall on, but the artwork and components look awesome.
Cactus Town features a nifty 5 x 5 grid of building cards to make each game distinct, asymmetric gameplay which allows each player to have different win conditions and movements styles, and reverse programmed movement which mean that you’ll always have to be paying attention to your cards and those of the other players. The West was never this Wild.
Publisher: Second Gate Games
Designer: Raúl Luque Torner
I lean towards the lighter end of the gaming spectrum, I’m just as happy playing a light card game like SCOUT or No Thanks as I am games with longer playing times like Root or Flamecraft. So when I see games like Splito hit the Spiel release list it makes me really happy. Especially when you combine Between Two Cities style card placement (put one card down between you and the player on your left (or right), with Point Salad style scoring (each card can be either an objective or a value). Make sure to balance points on your left and right because at the end of the game you multiply one by the other to get your final score. Splito sounds smooth and breezy and I can’t wait to get a copy!
Publisher: BLAM!, 25th Century Games
Designer: Romaric Galonnier, Luc Rémond
It’s hard to believe that Ganz schön clever (That’s Pretty Clever in English) is on it’s 4th iteration, but here we are. While it wasn’t the first roll and write game, it broke open the floodgates and showed all of us that dice games didn’t have to only score for straights, full houses, and pairs. Major props to Wolfgang Warsch for being able to iterate on the model he came up with back in 2018 and still keep scoring fresh. The Clever line of games doesn’t get as much play as they used to, but I’ll still pick up Clever 4Ever, if for no other reason than completionism.
One of the great things about the Essen Spiel release list is that you get to see amazing board games appear from seemingly out of nowhere. Even though I’d consider myself “in the know” in the board game industry, you simply can’t know everything, especially when it comes to games in the European market. So when I started reading about Revive, my attention was piqued; and the more I read, the more interested I became.
Revive is set in a far-distant post-apocalyptic future which sets players on the path to rebuilding their civilizations, and features asymmetric tribes, variable setup, killer components, and what sounds like a lightweight campaign of sorts. My boxes are checked…now can someone tell me when this comes to the US?
King of Monster Island
Richard Garfield takes his hugely successful King of Tokyo series and transforms the monster fighting mayhem into a cooperative experience. Massive monsters, special powers, allies, minions, bosses and a giant volcano to toss dice into… what’s not to love!
Horizons of Spirit Island
Spirit Island is a darling of the board game world: fun, clever and with an important and revolutionary theme. But it’s also expensive, fairly long and complex. Horizons of Spirit Island is a streamlining of the original game, providing the same experience in a far more accessible package.
AuZtralia: TaZmania and Revenge of the Old Ones expansions
I really enjoyed AuZtralia, Martin Wallace’s weird mashup of trains and cthulhu, so I was always going to be interested when I heard expansions were in the works. Revenge of the Old Ones switches things up with one player playing as the titular ancient evil against the other players, whilst TaZmania provides a tighter, modular map for a stronger two player experience. Coincidentally, TaZmania is the third island-based game I’ve put on this list, I’m not too sure what that says about me!
Check out our review of AuZtralia.
Mystic Vale: Essential Edition
Mystic Vale was the first game to utilise John D. Clair’s Card Crafting System, earning it a place on our Top 100 Most Important Games of the 2010’s. It made a big splash when it first landed but the game itself was widely felt to be a little limited in scope. Several expansions followed and this Essential Edition collects the base game with the first three expansions, providing the depth of experience that Mystic Vale deserves. If you’ve not explored the vale before, this is the perfect entry point.
Players play as people living in the forest, and are competing with other players to make the best workshop. You have to gather wood, and craft goods, and then sell them to customers. You can gain help by hiring more people to help, improve your workshop itself, and also soon by different types of wood and other tools to create the best items you can. Dice are used to represent projects, players will try to complete contracts, and you try to make the most money. I don’t know too much about this game really, but it has my attention and hope to hear more about it.
Publisher: Delicious Games
Designer: Ross Arnold
Hamlet is a city building economic game that has already been seen as one of the most anticipated games of this year, and I too am excited to see what this game is all about. It features tile placement and some pick up and deliver mechanisms, along with network and route building. The art looks great and the city building is done not with hex tiles, but from different shapes that all fit together. Super excited to see all these mechanics blended together and the way they do it.
I am very much a fan of the “T” series games by Board & Dice, and this one is getting me more excited than a lot of the past ones. Economic game with set collection, contracts, some dice rolling even, and its theme is about merchants traveling throughout Europe. You acquire trade contracts and collect goods, you also invest in cathedrals, gain favor with noble families, and participate in fairs where you will make a lot of money. The dice management game where the dice function as 2 different things make for great and interesting choices. I can’t wait! In addition, I am also excited for Terracotta Army. I got to play it online and was very pleased with the game, now I need the physical game to play the board game version and not the video game version.
Check out our review of Tiletum.
Copan: Dying City
I’m super excited for this for many reasons. I lived in Honduras for 2 years and learned a lot of the culture there and visited Copan and the ruins there. I’m excited also because the game is a medium weight euro game that is usually right up my alley. Holy Grail Games has been doing fantastic work on their recent games, so I would anticipate this one to be right up with the others. This is a worker placement/tile placement game with the game starting off with plenty of resources and stuff, until it dwindles down and it becomes hard near the end. I can’t wait for this one! In addition, I am also looking forward to Rallyman: DIRT, and Tiles of Arabian Nights which was one of my most anticipated games for the year.
Check out our review of Copan: Dying City.
Insecta: The Ladies of Entomology
I still like games with lower complexity, and this is one that catches my eye. I also play a lot of games with my kids, my 7 year old girl likes the special time to play games with me and this one is one that we will most likely really enjoy. I like showing my daughter that there are good women role models and a game like this shows this to her. The game is a tribute to entomology and to the women who have been unrecognized for their work. In the game, players collect insects from throughout the world. The theme is great for us as well, we home school and really studying the game and learning about the different insects while we play is going to be great.
I don’t know too much about this game, but I like the complexity level, the art looks fitting, and the mechanics are right up my alley. In the game, players develop their cities by building farms, barracks, defenses, harbors, and markets. You will gain privileges as your city grows, but you don’t want to do this too fast or too slow. After 4 years, whoever builds the best city wins the game.
The game is a rondel game where players play as Nasrid nobles who are contracted to build towers, gardens, and palaces. But you will also establish routes throughout Europe and the Maghreb. The routes give you income and, in exchange for your hard work, you will gain military protection against incoming conflicts. There are 3 integrated rondels that just have me wondering how this will work and how awesome it will be.
This was another title that made me very interested once I saw the box art and heard the game was about music. Players take the roles of patrons of Mozart. Players will play in two timelines, the present and the past. You will play cards from your hand that you will improve throughout the game. The cards are used as actions or as resource generators. Players need to optimize their resources and support the best version of the story of Mozart. The game just looks very interesting and I want to see how they worked out the game surrounding a theme that needs more attention.
In addition to the games we’re looking forward to, we’ve already covered a number of titles that will make their first appearances to the European market at Essen Spiel 2022.
Check out our previous most anticipated lists for Essen Spiel and find out if we picked some winners!