Even though COVID has caused a global upheaval, people are still playing games. In fact game sales and interest in board gaming is at an all-time high. In part because people are staying home more, but also because board games are just awesome.
Since 1983 the Internationale Spieltage SPIEL show, often shortened to just Spiel (German for game), has been the place where the newest European board games were announced. As the hobby grew in popularity (thanks in part to the Spiel des Jahres awards), attendance at this event expanded until it became the largest board game trade show in the world. Even though this year’s event will be all remote (Spiel.Digital), we’re still bringing you our most anticipated games of the event.
So on to the games!
Zombie Teenz Evolution
If I had a dollar for every time I recommended Zombie Kidz or Zombie Kidz Evolution I’d have enough to buy a copy of the newest title in the series, Zombie Teenz Evolution, for every member of my family. Zombie Kidz was a simple roll and move cooperative game for younger gamers. Then Evolution built upon that and added a legacy component and ratcheted up the fun. And now with Zombie Teenz, designer Annick Lobet has ratched up the fun and the legacy aspect with even more envelopes and excitement.
Harry Potter Strike Dice Game / Strike
Designer: Dieter Nüßle
Anticipated In: Oct 2020
You’d have to be the muggle-est of muggles to have missed the Harry Potter phenomenon that has swept the world over the past 20 years. Entire generations have been captivated by the epic battle of good vs evil as played out in the lives of Harry and the other residents of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Mix that with the sheer mindless thrill and fun of the dice-battling game Strike and you’ve got a winning combination.
I love dice games and racing games. So when I heard that AEG was combining the two with an alpine theme and tossing in a dash of press your luck I was hooked. Be the first to cross the finish line and win the annual Cube Cup!
Publisher: Arcane Wonders
Designer: Ivan Tuzovsky
Anticipated In: Oct, 2020
Aquatica is a straight-forward underwater themed engine builder perfect for family game night. Players are trying to be an “underwater king” building locations, recruiting team members, and finishing goals. Aquatica has some really great mechanisms that all combine into what looks like a killer game with gorgeous artwork.
Mini Rails, from designer Mark Gerrits, blew me away. A fully realized stock and rails game in a tiny box, and just 12 turns? Sign me up. Mini Express deviates from Mini Rails a bit while maintaining the heart and soul of the original, but expands the player count to allow for 2 players and even solo gaming. Get your train on!
Read our review of Mini Rails.
Designer: Michiel de Wit
Anticipated In: Q4 2020
Rollecate is a “real space” game (like Turbo Drift) in which players are frantically laying track onto the play surface in order to prevent Rollecate (a real Dutch train) from derailing. Lay track, roll some dice to move Rollecate forward, and hope you don’t go off the rails. Rollecate plays fast, fits in your back pocket and comes with a killer train mini.
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Designer: Marc André
Anticipated On: Sept 13
Splendor gets a Marvel makeover thanks to The Avengers, Thanos, and the five colors of the Infinity Stones. Players now must score 16 Infinity Points to win, as well as having at least one card of each of the five colors and a new green token that requires a level three card to obtain. As well, an Avengers Assemble token, worth three points, can be claimed by any player with the most special Avengers cards acquired.
Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods
I loved 2018’s Escape Tales: The Awakening and I really loved 2019’s Escape Tales: Low Memory so I won’t be surprised if I also love Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods. Even if this new title in the series doesn’t surpass its two predecessors — but it would be quite a feat if it did — I know Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods will deliver a very immersive escape room experience filled with tough choices that branch off to various endings and challenging puzzles to solve. I can’t wait to see what designers/storytellers/puzzle creators Jakub Caban and Bartosz Idzikowski do with the Escape Tales system in this dark, fantastical setting.
The Magnificent: SNØ
Publisher: Aporta Games
Designers: Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby
Anticipated In: Q4 2020
One of my favourite games of 2019 (and also nominated for a Diamond Climber Award), The Magnificent is an incredible game that delivers a very thinky Euro experience by way of dice drafting and polyominoes. The only shame is that the game didn’t receive a wide distribution in North America.
While I’m not a fan of expansions in general, I can’t help but be enamoured with SNØ. The box art alone drew me in…although the new tiles, modular boards, and ways to score help too. I have no doubt The Magnificent: SNØ will be a spectacular (yes, pun intended) addition to The Magnificent so please bring it over to North America soon!
Funkoverse Strategy Game: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
For all intents and purposes a fighting, dice-based, tactical, miniatures game should not make my most anticipated list…and frankly it shouldn’t even come close to being on my radar. This style of board game is not one I typically enjoy. But the Funkoverse line of games is one of two exceptions (the other is Unmatched, in case you were wondering).
I’m not too surprised I enjoy Funkoverse since it is designed by Prospero Hall, the team that seems to fuse IP and theme with interesting game mechanics oh so well. Up to this point, my favourite Funkoverse sets have been The Golden Girls ones, but with a standalone set coming based on one of my favourite Disney movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas, I think The Golden Girls might have to take a seat out on the lanai to enjoy their cheesecake while I battle Oogie Boogie and Dr. Finkelstein in (this is) Hall-o-ween Town.
The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel
Publisher: The Op
Designers: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim
Anticipated In: Sept 2020
Escape room games are my speciality and one that is designed around one of my favourite Stephen King novels is sure to capture my attention. Add to that the brilliant world building of Sen-Foong Lim along with the repertoire of great games he has created with co-designer Jay Cormier and I’m certain The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel will be a rich, immersive, puzzle-solving experience. (Besides, Tony already told me it was fantastic.)
Praga Caput Regni
Publisher: Delicious Games
Designer: Vladimír Suchý
Anticipated In: Q4 2020
Admittedly I didn’t investigate too much into this game; when I discovered it was designed by Vladimír Suchý and published by Delicious Games, the combo behind Underwater Cities, I was sold. (The fact that Suchý has other amazing Euro games like Pulsar 2849, The Prodigals Club, and Shipyard under his belt doesn’t hurt either). What I do know is that this one looks like it adds a new spin to your traditional medieval-themed, engine-building Euro game: three-dimensional components to construct and an action board with costs and benefits that are constantly changing. Now I’m even more intrigued.
Designer: Peer Sylvester
Anticipated In: Oct 2020
Peer Sylvester is on a bit of a roll this year with the excellent Village Green (see below) and the second edition of The King is Dead currently getting a lot of positive buzz. So I’m very intrigued to see what he’s produced with Polynesia, a game that has players leading their tribe to safety from the looming threat of a volcanic eruption. A mix of route building and resource management, the brief makes me think of a more thinky Survive: Escape from Atlantis!, which could be pretty awesome. Can it be three for three for Peer Sylvester this year? I’m hoping so!
No Mercy for Monsters
Designers: Jérôme and Emilie Soleil
Anticipated In: Sept 2020
A game for kids aged 4 and up about throwing socks at monsters to kick them out of the house? Count me in! Using a funky 3D house with popup-book-style rooms, No Mercy for Monsters has players throwing tokens to knock over the intruding monsters. Sounds simple (and for adults it is) but the monsters cast spells that will have you doing things like pinching your nose or making a face whilst you try to knock them over. I know a small boy who would find this hysterical and quite possibly cathartic.
My Farm Shop
My Farm Shop comes from the mind behind fantastic games such as Istanbul and Karuba so is immediately worth a look. What you find upon looking is a simple game where players roll dice to activate the abilities of their farm’s numbered fields. Fields can be upgraded by playing new field cards over the numbered spaces, allowing players to produce more goods or sell goods for more money, with the richest player at the end winning.
With a suggested age of 8+ My Farm Shop sounds like a simpler, agricultural version of Meeple Mountain favourite Dice City, and that’s no bad thing! Plus, once you’ve got used to the gameplay there are three expansion modules included in the box to up the complexity and decision space. Bountiful!
Publisher: Devious Weasel Games
Designer: Jim Felli
Anticipated In: Sept/Oct 2020
Having spent 4 years working with frogs, any game that features these leggy amphibians gets my attention. And any game where the frogs are 2 miles tall and immortal deserves to keep it. Particularly when the titular frogs spend their time devouring terrain, stealing terrain from one another’s gullet, and disgorging it into an inter-dimensional vault.
It sounds utterly bonkers, a fever dream turned into a 45-90 minute board game, but early previews suggest there’s an excellent game beneath all the madness and chaos. Here’s hopping!
Viscounts of the West Kingdom
Publishers: Garphill Games, Renegade Game Studios
Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Anticipated On: Nov 11
I absolutely love the West Kingdom series! Architects was great and I enjoyed the puzzle that was Paladins, so when I saw that Viscounts was the next one in the series I knew it had to go on my wishlist. Deck building is one of my favorite mechanics so the twist on deck building definitely has me intrigued! And art by The Mico… yeah, I’m all in!
The games in this list might not have made the cut, but we think they’re still worth a look.
Clever hoch Drei
Clever hoch Drei is the third installment in the Ganz schön clever series of roll and write games from designer Wolfgang Warsch. It uses the same framework as both the original game and the sequel Doppelt so clever, but offers new scoring areas and combinations to delight and confound players.
Elf: Journey from the North Pole
Buddy the Elf, what’s your favourite board game? In 2018 Prospero Hall designed the Home Alone Game just in time for that year’s holiday season so it’s no surprise that Prospero Hall have done something similar with Elf: Journey from the North Pole. With a stellar design team known for their fun and thematic IP-based games along with the publishing prowess of Funko Games, we’re sure that Elf: Journey from the North Pole will have gamers filled with Christmas cheer, singing loud for all to hear.
Here at Meeple Mountain, we love publisher Le Scorpion Masqué. They’ve published kids games we’ve enjoyed (Mia London, Zombie Kidz, and Zombie Kidz Evolution), puzzle games we can’t get enough of (Flash 8), and party games we love (Decrypto and Stay Cool). To close out the year, they’re publishing yet another neat game: Master Word. Part cooperative party game, part word game, part deduction, and part mind-reading exercise, Master Word is a blast to play — and with such a strong publishing pedigree, this comes as no surprise to us.
Moonrakers is the brainchild of Nashville based IV.Studio, a world-class graphic design agency, so it should come as no surprise that it features eye-popping graphic design to go along with its clever gameplay. Part deck-builder, part negotiation, and all sci-fi, Moonrakers raised over $400,000 on Kickstarter and is finally getting ready to meet the rest of the world head-on.
Tiny Towns: Villagers
Villagers is the third installment in the ongoing saga that is Tiny Towns, first introduced to us in 2019. Tiny Towns won our hearts and our gaming tables with its puzzly gameplay and easy to teach rules. The first expansion, Tiny Towns: Fortune, was released earlier this year. In the newest expansion, Villagers, the gameplay expands beyond construction and into the lives of the residents of your littlest of hamlets.
The Silver series of games have rather passed me by but for some reason this one caught my eye and now I’m intrigued. Based on the traditional card game Golf, the series involves players trying to end the game with as few werewolves in their villages as possible, using the special abilities of their villagers to manipulate their own and their opponents’ villages. Silver Dagger adds 14 new roles to the series with the #4 card ‘zombies’ causing a bit of a stir in Silver circles.
2015’s Mysterium is one of the most beautiful and evocative games ever created. It’s also a little too fiddly for its own good, the various mechanisms occasionally getting in the way of the core experience. Mysterium Park promises a streamlined version of the original game, quicker and with less faff. Could be good!
New to Mysterium? Check out Emily’s love letter to Mysterium to see what all the fuss is about.
We’ve previously reviewed a number of titles which have already been released or will soon be released at Essen 2020.
Every cat owner knows their pet loves cozying up on the clean laundry with what seems like the goal of shedding the most hair it possibly could in one quick nap. In Calico players make comfy quilts for the cats to snooze on instead.
Read our review of Calico.
As a dragon, finding love can be hard. Thanks to Cindr, your match might just be a swipe right away.
Read our review of Cindr.
The Game: Quick & Easy
Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game
In Genotype, players take on the role of a research scientist in Gregor Mendel’s monastery trying to understand the genetic inheritance of traits by cross-breeding pea plants.
Read our review of Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game.
Orchard: 9 Card Solitaire
In Paris, explore the city in the 19th century and marvel at its renowned architecture and most famous buildings.
Watch our video review of Paris.
Remember Our Trip
Work with (and sometimes against) other players to recreate the city map of your last trip together in Saashi’s Remember Our Trip.
Read our review of Remember Our Trip.
Beep. Beep. Can you guess which object on the card the robot was signaling in Robots, a game about time perception and adaptability?
Watch our video review of Robots.
Create a beautiful grid of flowers and trees in Village Green, a small yet challenging puzzley card game.
Read our review of Village Green.