Essen SPIEL 2019

“At the turn of the 16th Century, King Manuel I commissioned Portugal’s greatest artisans to construct grandiose buildings. After completing the Palaces of Evora and Sintra, the king sought to build a summer pavilion to honor the most famous members of the royal family. This construction was intended for the most talented artisans — whose skills meet the splendor that the royal family deserves. Sadly, King Manuel I died before construction ever began.”

Azul by Michael Kiesling, artist Chris Quilliams, and Next Move Games is one of those games that was recognized as an elegant classic the moment it was released in 2017. The game combined intimately attractive, bakelite style (ie. candy-like) tiles with intuitive, simple gameplay into a package that gamers and non-gamers alike were simply drawn towards. In Azul, players take turns collecting colored tiles from communal piles (factories), however one must pick up all of a single color tile, placing the remainder in a leftover central pile. All collected tiles must be placed on the player board, and extraneous, unused tiles count as negative points. The ever-growing central pile can likewise be mined for tiles in the same manner in future turns.

A sequel, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, was released in 2018. Sintra took this basic framework and added variable player boards, a new mechanism for placing tiles on the boards, and in general more variability. In short, the new game was significantly different, but still felt like “Azul”, and gamers snatched it up in waves. The gorgeous clear square tiles (Jolly Ranchers, as opposed to Starburst) certainly did not hurt the appeal.

Now Next Move Games has announced a third game in the series, Azul: Summer Pavillion. In this edition, the tiles are elongated diamonds, and fit on the player board in 7 circular rosettes – Six in the six tile colors, and one composed of one of each color. Tile selection retains the old Azul feel, with players selecting all of one color from a pool of tiles on a single factory card. However, in each of the 10 rounds, one of the tile colors is considered wild. The wild color cannot be specifically picked, but if any are on the selected factory, these are also collected with the picked color. The tile placement in Summer Pavillion has taken an interesting new tact – players do not immediately place their collected tiles on their board, instead collecting them in a personal supply. Each turn players can place one of their tiles on their board by paying a certain number of same-colored tiles from this supply. The cost depends on which slot in the rosette is being filled, ranging from 1-6.

Azul: Summer Pavillion will debut as Essen Spiel this October, and pre-orders are scheduled to hit gamers’ laps in December 2019. For more details, check out Next Move’s website here.

“You’ve come to make your fortune on Cooper Island, whose untouched peninsulas stretch out like long arms into the wild Atlantic. With two ships and a few workers, each of you has landed on a separate peninsula, which you hope to explore, cultivate, and settle. But who will do this best? And how? Will you expand your land quickly, or will you instead spend your efforts cultivating it, making it more and more valuable and productive?”

Frosted Games along with Capstone Games have announced Cooper Island, a new complex strategy game from the brilliant mind of Andreas “ode.” Odendahl (La Granja). In Cooper Island, 2-4 players compete as explorers to colonize their island off the Atlantic peninsula. Players have 2 ships and a worker, and place landscape tiles over their island, gaining resources. Resources can be used to build structures with special abilities. Certain areas on the island are inaccessible and need to be cleared to gain access. Supply ships can come in from the Old World, helping the colonization.

As you can see, Cooper Island is a complex set of mechanical interlocking gears, melding together into a satisfying heavy euro game. The point scoring and tracking is yet another unique element to this game; each player marks their points by moving a small ship around the perimeter of their island. However, this ship can discover new lands, granting benefits to the player. After 5 rounds, the player with the most victory points is declared… well, the victor.

Cooper Island will debut at Essen Spiel 2019 late this October. For more information, check out Capstone Games‘ and Frosted Games’ official websites.

“An unthinkable catastrophe has ravaged Europe. The main infrastructure of Paris has been destroyed. In a few weeks, the city is covered in strange, lush vegetation. The survivors of the apocalypse must reunite, and roll up their sleeves to rebuild civilization in this new Eden.”

Matagot Games has announced Paris: New Eden by designers Florian Grenier and Ludovic Maublanc (Cyclades, Dice Town). Paris is a lighter dice drafting, post-apocalyptic board game in which 2-4 players collect survivors, aquire buildings, resolve events and in general try to score the most victory points within 4 seasons. Players start by drafting custom dice 6 showing survivor types – tinkerers, brawlers, healers, sages, farmers, and wilds. These dice come from action spaces, and after taking a die, players execute the action from that location. Players next fight for buildings associated with each die type, spending the dice to purchase the cards. These cards are collected in order of strength – the player with the most tinkerers gets first pick of the tinkerer buildings, and so on. Players can then overcome events for victory points, using survivors and supplies from their location cards. Finally, all of those survivors need to be fed with collected farmers and cans of food, earning more points. After 4 seasons, players can collect on secret mission cards, and the player with the most victory points is declared the winner.

Paris: New Eden is scheduled to have a limited release in Essen this October, with retail to follow soon thereafter.  

“Yes, that’s it! Said the Hatter with a sigh, it’s always tea time.”

DrawLab Entertainment has announced Alice in Wordland, a new party game from designers Chris Darsaklis (When I Dream) and Spyros Koronis. Alice is a family oriented party game, wherein 3-8 players take turns naming items related to a revealed category on a discussion card, e.g. “Items on a sandwich”. However, the evil queen of hearts has decreed that certain letters are banned, so each named item cannot include three forbidden letters on revealed cards. A clever electronic teapot timer gives each player 10-15 seconds to interject their word then hit the button, or else the music stops, that player picks a score card, and is eliminated. Players each take on the role of a famous Alice in Wonderland character, along with a special ability, and these roles are rotated after every round. Once all the players have used each of the characters, the player with the most points is declared the most glib and loquacious polyglot in the kingdom!

Alice in Wordland will have a limited release at Essen Spiel late this October, and retail release to follow. For more information, check out DrawLab’s webpage on Alice here.

Skellig Games has announced two new titles for release at Essen Spiel this October. Skellig is a small German board game and publishing house known for family weight games. Their first game, Concerto (2018) by designer Uwe Bursik is a well-received memory game with a musical theme.

Ambrosia, also by designer Uwe Bursik is a bee themed abstract game in which 2-4 players move bee “stones” across fields to collect nectar and score points. Different types of bees, such as guardians, berserkers or drones, give special abilities along the way. Stones can both block other players and set up points in this no-luck pure strategy game. The game comes with a double sided modular board and event cards to keep replayability high.

Mice to Meet You by designer Daniel Bernsen is a family friendly roll and write game for 1-5 players, which uses a unique “roll and discard” mechanism. The active player rolls dice to discard their mouse cards, while opponents get to take advantage of the unused dice. The game lasts a short 20 minutes, and the winner is the player with the fewest points in hand.

For more information on Skellig Games’ releases at Essen, check out their website here.

The next big thing designed by Jamey Stegmaier is Tapestry, a 1-5 player civilization game that plays in 90-120 minutes. The game was revealed on Stonemaier Games’ weekly livecast video on Facebook.

In Tapestry, you start from nothing and advance on any of the 4 advancement tracks (science, technology, exploration, and military) to earn progressively better benefits. You can focus on a specific track or take a more balanced approach. You will also improve your income, build your capital city, leverage your asymmetric abilities, earn victory points, and gain tapestry cards that will tell the story of your civilization.

Stonemaier website

The game features art by Andrew Bosley, of Everdell fame, and sculpts by Rom Brown. The first English print run of 25,000 is complete and the game is sailing from production to fulfillment centers now, with each box individually numbered. Tapestry will be available for preorder through Stonemaier’s website in early September, and will be for sale at Essen Spiel.

Some tidbits from the video: Tapestry is not tied to real world history. The rulebook is only four pages long. The factions have asymmetrical starting points. The solo mode is by Automa Factory. The game includes a spatial placement element somewhat similar to A Feast for Odin.

Over the coming weeks, additional game details will be revealed through the Tapestry Facebook group and the Stonemaier website.

HABA announces three new games to be released at Essen SPIEL 2019 with the intention of a simultaneous release in the US.

Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching, designed by Lena Burkhardt (Dragon’s Breath) and Günter Burkhardt (Ulm, Seeland) is a stand-alone game in the Dragon’s Breath universe, featuring Dragon Mom and a new egg about to hatch! Dragon Mom melts the ice column, releasing more sparkling gemstones that players collect to complete amulet cards, all while trying not to let the egg fall. Elements from this game can be combined with the original Dragon’s Breath to increase the player count to 5.

Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching plays 2-4 players, ages 6+, in about 20 minutes.

Cloaked Cats, designed by Connor Reid (5-Minute Dungeon) is a deduction game where players are cats at a Masked Ball. Players try to figure out whom is whom, while keeping their own true identity secret. Players try to unmask the other players among all the velvet-pawed guests before they are unmasked.

Cloaked Cats plays 2-4 players, ages 7+, in about 20 minutes.

Miyabi, designed by Michael Kiesling (Azul, Tikal, Heaven & Ale),is a tile laying game to design a Japanese garden.  Players skillfully placing stones, bushes, trees, ponds and pagodas on multiple levels in their gardens to score points become the best garden designer of the season. Miyabi comes with five expansions included in the game.

Miyabi plays 2-4 players, ages 8+, in about 45 minutes.