The COVID pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works of systems all over the globe. Healthcare, manufacturing, entertainment, and our own beloved board game industrial complex. Board game production has slowed down and the board game convention season has almost come to a complete standstill except for digital events (check out our tips for attending online board game conventions). Nevertheless the heart wants what the heart wants: and for us that means lots and lots of board games.
Even though fewer games will be produced and released this year than in past years, there’s still thousands of board games to sift through. The Meeple Mountain team has worked for the past few weeks poring over new and upcoming games so that you don’t have to. Check out our list of the most anticipated games of summer 2020, or check out the BoardGameGeek Summer 2020 new releases and select your own. This list is meant to cover what would normally be our GenCon and Essen Spiel lists. Let us know in the comments what titles you’re most looking forward to.
And now on to the games!
L.A.M.A. Party Edition
The original L.A.M.A. was one of my most played games last year; I taught it to friends, family, and curmudgeonly skeptics and it was universally well received. My 8 year old nephew even asked for a copy for his birthday after playing it! It was even nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2019. It’s such a simple game, but Reiner Knizia really knows how to make mountains out of molehills; I think he’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite game designers.
L.A.M.A. is a card shedding game in which each person plays cards from their hand onto a shared deck by either matching the existing card, or playing one higher; it’s like UNO but better. The first player to play their last card goes out, and everyone else earns points for cards in their hand. There are numbered cards (1 through 6) and llama cards.
L.A.M.A. Party Edition adds to the mix a single pink llama card which can be played on top of any card, alternative number cards which allow players to play twice in a row, and pink point chips for different values. L.A.M.A. Party Edition is likely going to be no more groundbreaking than the original, but I want it just the same!
Which of us didn’t dream of having a killer tree fort in the backyard; full of friends, food, and lots and lots of fun? That’s the premise of Fort from Leder Games. Fort is a reskin (and reimagining) of a game called SPQF (also by Grant Rodiek). Fort is a deck-building game in which your cards allow you to take actions on your turn AND on other players’ turns if you “play your cards right”. Players also have an incentive to use all of their cards or else they wind up in “the yard”; a central area that everyone can pull from. Fort looks and sounds like a delightful game, and it features the same whimsical and distinctive art that won Kyle Ferrin a Diamond Climber Award for Root in 2018. I certainly don’t want to overhype, but I expect big things from this little box.
I simply can’t get enough of Molly, Robert, and Shawn (the Flatout Games design team). They’re the minds behind Point Salad and Dollars for Donuts. They’re on a tear because they’re back again with Truffle Shuffle, a rich and creamy game about building customized boxes of truffles for customers from a shared display. Some of the truffles are hidden so players will need a bit of luck along with clever cardplay to fill their orders first. It’s no secret that I enjoy lighter games, especially ones with unique themes, and that means Truffle Shuffle pushes all my buttons. I’ll take a box of salted dark chocolates please, along with a copy of Truffle Shuffle.
And don’t think I ignored the not subtle at all reference to the classic 80s movie The Goonies.
Publisher: Prospero Hall
Designer: Prospero Hall
Availability: June 2020
The golden age of air travel. Where the men wore suits and hats, the women wore flowing dresses, and everyone chain smoked the entire flight. Okay, that last part isn’t so glamorous, but in the mid 1900’s when air travel was becoming commercialized it was a rare luxury to fly. And companies like Pan Am rode that cachet to a brand that expanded to all parts of the globe.
In Pan Am the board game players compete with the titular entity to build the biggest empire of the sky. Use insider influence to bid for landing rights, improve the reach of your fleet of planes, and do your best to extend your reach as far as your eye can see.
Excuse me stewardess, can I have another packet of peanuts, do you have any copies of Pan Am?
There are few things in life that get me as pumped as learning does (I guess my career as an educator is fitting). When I heard that the designers, Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli, of Coimbra (my favourite Euro game of 2018) were working on a new game that focused on school and learning, I was very excited.
In Alma Mater, players each lead a university and attempt to strengthen their school’s reputation and standing by recruiting staff and students and becoming the leading experts in various disciplines. The game features Chris Quilliams’ charming and colourful art and after reading the rulebook, the game feels like it will be beautifully gritty and so very Euro — much like Coimbra is. Brasini and Gigli together as game designers have yet to disappoint me and I’m sure Alma Mater will be no exception.
Publisher: Sorry We Are French
Designer: Matthieu Verdier
Availability: June 2020 (Europe only)
In 2018 publisher Sorry We Are French released Ganymede, a very tight engine-building game. Thankfully Lucky Duck Games brought it over to North America, but the game still didn’t garner the attention it deserved. This summer Sorry We Are French is stepping out into the roll and write genre with their game Demeter.
Demeter is a card-based roll and write — a flip and write like Welcome To… — set on a red dwarf planet (Demeter) where dinosaurs have been discovered on its twin moons. While there seems to be little player interaction in the game, Demeter looks like a very crunchy, tight, and challenging roll and write game — of which there seem to be few. Furthermore, it has a combo-rrific feel to it similar to more strategic roll and writes like Ganz schön clever. Demeter looks like an incredible addition to the genre and I hope that it makes its way to North America soon.
The Search for Planet X
I first had a chance to demo The Search for Planet X on Tabletopia at this year’s RenCon (Renegade’s virtual convention). The Search for Planet X is an app-based deduction game — think along the lines of Alchemists but with more of a pure focus on logic and deduction.
I was initially drawn to the game because of the deduction — one of my favourite types of games — but then I learned that it could also be played solo. Additionally I discovered that each person could play on their own difficulty setting. Essentially this means that a parent and child could play on a level playing field…or my friends and me. I was sold on the game even before I played it, but after that first play I fell in love. The Search for Planet X was great and I can’t wait to pick up a copy for myself when the game releases this summer.
Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
Back in January, Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun was one of the few games that made it on my Most Anticipated of 2020 list. I thought 2018’s Teotihuacan was an incredible game and I especially liked how the dice were used as workers on a rondel. Last year’s Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula also impressed me with how dice were used in such a different way and how much gameplay varied each game depending on the dice colours and faces that were available.
This year’s Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun uses dice in yet another crafty way: each round there are a number of coloured dice on the board, but those that are available to players depend on the position of the obelisk and its shadow. Some dice are “pure” in sunny areas while others prefer the shade, and still others could be unavailable (or “forbidden”) in the darkness. Add to this a number of action possibilities that are all intricately interconnected and you have a beautifully designed Euro game. Like the other hard to pronounce T-named games released by publisher Board&Dice, Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun will surely be another hit.
Undo: 600 Seconds
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
Designer: Michael Palm, Lukas Zach
Availability: August 2020
Undo is a series of card-based narrative games that has you jumping through time to attempt to prevent a tragic death. At each location, you’ll be making decisions that can potentially change the course of history for better or even for worse. The tricky part is that you don’t have time to go to every location, and you often don’t have all the information needed to confidently choose a best option. Undo has created some of the most unique play experiences I’ve ever had, as the group tries to piece together the victim’s life story, one historical glimpse at a time. Undo: 600 Seconds has you in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve trying to prevent a catastrophe that would kill not only your protagonist, but all of the lives around him as well.
Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings
Disclaimer: This product has not officially been announced. The description below is taken from a leaked sales sheet that may or may not be legitimate; all information provided should be considered as alleged until confirmed by an official press release.
Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings is a big box expansion that appears to pack quite a punch, injecting new content into Twilight Imperium: 4th Edition, already one of the most epic games ever designed. The expansion adds brand new factions, units, planets, and cards. Additionally it introduces leaders for all of the factions that allow for even more strategic play, as well as exploration cards that provide the element of discovering an unknown universe. Bumping up the player count to eight players, Prophecy of Kings will create even more grandiose games than ever before.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 0
Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is the third in a trilogy of legacy games that combine the familiar gameplay of the cooperative hit Pandemic with an engaging storyline that will change the game permanently as you play through multiple sessions. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, a 2015 release, was an instant hit, and for me represented the future of board gaming. Season 2 came out a couple years later to much critical acclaim. Season 0 now continues the story, but as a prequel to the original. Set in the height of the Cold War, players will attempt to stop the USSR from developing a biological weapon through what appear to be new, but familiar game mechanics that if anything like the previous iterations will develop as the game progresses.
As a huge fan and a collector of both Uwe Rosenberg and Stefan Feld, I’m always excited about their forthcoming releases and this is looking like a good year to be a fan of both.
New York Zoo
New York Zoo is a polyomino tile placement game in which the players are racing to fill in their zoo boards before everyone else. Players will take turns moving an elephant along a rondel board stopping to either collect polyomino enclosure tiles to add to their zoo, collect animals to place into the enclosures, or breeding the animals they have already collected. Whenever an enclosure gets filled up, the players will have the opportunity to claim attraction tiles which can be used to fill in large swaths of space quickly or to fill in the small gaps that may have formed.
Anyone that knows me knows that I love Uwe Rosenberg. In fact, most of the titles I am excited about this year are designed by him. On the surface, this game seems pretty simplistic. But, being a Rosenberg aficionado, I know that nothing is ever simple with his designs. I’m looking forward to trying out this game to see if it’s just as sneakily clever as I suspect it to be.
Not much is known about this game outside of the compact rules sheet on Skellig Games’s website (which is written in German – a language I do not speak). Unlike Uwe’s last few games which have all been “race to the finish line” in nature, Sagani appears to be a return to a victory point gathering style of game. There’s tile laying, spirits, and singing bowls involved and that’s about all I know. But that’s enough for me. Uwe Rosenberg’s my favorite designer, so I’m always interested in whatever he’s cooked up even if the only information I have is Google Translate’s gobbledygook version of the compact rules pamphlet.
As far as I can tell from watching Google attempt to auto-translate a playthrough of the prototype and some helpful comments from a user on BoardGameGeek, Hallertau is a worker placement game about beer making. Players start out with some fields where they’ll be planting seeds. These seeds are presumably turned into beer at some point. The fields can be expanded at a later point to provide the players with extra workers, extra income, and victory points.
I’m really excited about this game. The last true worker placement that Uwe Rosenberg produced was Nusfjord in 2017 and it was such a fantastic game! I’m hoping that Hallertau will be just as good if not even better.
The Castles of Tuscany
The Castles of Tuscany is a standalone game that might resemble The Castles of Burgundy in some way.
Never has a single sentence both excited and aggravated me in such a way. Aside from a photo of the box cover, this one lone sentence is all of the information that we have about this game… and I absolutely cannot wait. I’m a diehard Feldian. What can I say?
I originally mentioned this game in our Most Anticipated Games of 2020 list back in January. At that time very little was known about it aside from its playtesting name “streifenmanager”. That’s all changed now. Now we know almost everything there is to know about the game aside from its exact release date and price point.
Just a few days ago, Hall Games released the rule book for the game. To sum it up in just a few sentences: Bonfire is a tile-laying, resource gathering, resource management games. The ancient guardians have abandoned the land taking the sacred bonfires with them. The players are trying to convince them to return by performing various tasks for them to show their fealty and reverence. Do a good job and you’ll be awarded with points. Do the best job and earn the most points and you’ll win the game.
You might be thinking to yourself right about now: “Another point salad game from Stefan Feld?” To that I say: “So what?” I, for one, can’t wait!
Hamburg and Amsterdam
Hamburg is going to be a reimplementation of Stefan Feld’s Bruges while Amsterdam will reimplement Macao. I’m not going to go into any detail about how these games are played. You can keep an eye on my Focused on Feld series and I will cover these two older titles eventually.
These are the first two in an entire series of games with city titles. Queen Games has teased a total of 8 games in the series and at least one of them is going to be a brand new title. It is also worth mentioning that while the gameplay of these games is going to remain relatively unchanged, Feld has tweaked the gameplay a bit to address some balancing issues and some clunky design aspects of both titles. Also, Hamburg is going to come with a reimplementation of the incredibly rare Bruges: City on the Zwinn expansion. That right there guarantees that I am probably going to jump all over this as soon as it hits Kickstarter.
We’re big fans of Kingdomino here at Meeple Mountain and whilst the follow up Queendomino didn’t receive the same level of universal acclaim (or win a coveted Spiel des Jahres), I still really enjoy it. So the thought of a third game in the series is naturally going to excite me, particularly when it’s a game designed for kids aged 5 and up.
Sure, Kingdomino isn’t all that complex, and my toddler already loves just placing the dominoes next to each other, but the scoring can be a little tricky for younger minds so Dragomino is definitely an intriguing proposition. Plus, here’s hoping it gives Queendomino’s dragon something more interesting to do than simply removing unbuilt buildings.
The next big box natural world game from Elizabeth Hargrave, the designer of 2019’s smash hit Wingspan, is surely well worth a second glance. A game of movement and set collection based on the great North American monarch butterfly migration, Mariposas’ theme is as captivating as its artwork. With players controlling four generations of a butterfly family and moving around a map collecting things and points, Mariposas’ reminds me of a lepidopteran version of the travelling area in Village, which, frankly, sounds excellent!
The Great Fire of London 1666: 2 Player Expansion
Publisher: Medusa Games
Designer: Richard Denning
Availability: 29 May 2020
A much requested expansion for Richard Denning’s excellent and underappreciated board game. Now 2 players will be able to scrabble to save their London properties from a fiery fate. The expansion includes mechanisms for the fire to spread and trained bands to move around fighting the blaze independently of the players. Fans of the game are rightly excited by this new release and if you’ve never encountered it before then now is the perfect time to discover this classic from 2010.
Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild
Designer: Joe Hopkins
Availability: 24 June 2020
Endangered is an intriguing game where players are trying to influence UN member states to act to save endangered species, whilst always ensuring that those species don’t go extinct before the UN gets off its arse. Endangered combines variable player powers with a clever dice placement mechanic to give the cooperating players something to really get their teeth into.
The base game includes a double sided game board with tigers and sea otters, there’s already a giant panda expansion scenario and Grand Gamers Guild are currently drip-feeding the world information about the ‘Endangered: New Species’ expansion which promises 6 new scenarios (announced so far are sea turtles, polar bears and two species scenario involving jaguar and tapir).
Adventure Games: The Volcanic Island
The Volcanic Island is the latest in a series of investigation games from Kosmos designed to emulate the point-and-click adventures of yesteryear. The games use a combination of physical assets and a companion app to help players navigate through an evolving story. Players gather items, discover new locations, and use the game’s intuitive interaction system to manipulate their resources and explore the world around them.
The Dungeon was one of my favourite games of 2019, and I’m hoping that The Volcanic Island manages to re-capture some of that magic.
The games in this list might not have made the cut, but we think they’re still worth a look.
Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
Similar to how each new Ticket to Ride country map adds a new element to the gameplay, the smaller Ticket to Ride standalone city games seem to be doing the same. First Ticket to Ride: New York offered a quicker Ticket to Ride experience with players also earning points for each Tourist Attraction they connected. In last year’s Ticket to Ride: London players had to connect different areas to score District points. Now this summer’s Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam introduces Merchandise and we couldn’t be more excited.
Back to the Future: Dice Through Time
Back to the Future: Dice Through Time is a cooperative dice game that has you jumping through time, trying to repair the space-time continuum and undo the damage that the dastardly Biff has done by disrupting events and scattering items. You’ll traverse through the entire Back to the Future trilogy, rolling dice to complete events from the films, recovering and returning those anachronistic items to their proper time and place, all before the OUTATIME tracker reaches “Game Over.” For fans of both dice games and the movie franchise, this one looks like a winner.
Betrayal at Mystery Mansion
A simplified Scooby Doo take on Avalon Hill’s classic horror game Betrayal at House on the Hill. The classic Scooby Doo gang will spend their time exploring the titular mansion and uncovering clues before one player takes on monster duties and the other players have to work together to stop them. Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is designed for a younger audience but promises to be just as silly and entertaining as the much loved original and will hopefully see a new generation of gamers getting hooked on the series.
We’ve already reviewed a number of titles which have already been released, or will soon be released in the Summer of 2020.
In The Alpha, players take charge of a pack of wolves and attempt to find food and claim territory, while fighting or avoiding other packs.
Check out our video review of The Alpha.
Exchange is a stock trading game in which players try to match wits with their opponents and cash in on a market which is constantly in flux. Exchange was originally released in 2018, but has received a re-release by Bicycle Games.
Check out our video review of Exchange.
Herrlof is a lightweight trick-taking card game for 2 players that lets you channel your inner viking. Be the first player to receive 50 points and you’ll be the “first among equals”.
Check out our video review of Herrlof.
Fairy Trails pits Gnomes against Fairies in a game of path building. During a turn of play, the players will be drawing and placing tiles to build and eventually close off road networks. When the road network is closed everyone who has at least one house connected to that network places one of their stones onto each house that belongs to them. The first person to place their final stone wins!
Check out our review of Fairy Trails.
Forgotten Waters is the next in a series of “Crossroads” games by Plaid Hat Games, which began with Dead of Winter. It’s a pirate themed story game set in an environment that allows exploration and discovery. Be the pirate you’ve always wanted to be!
Check out our video review of Forgotten Waters.