Happy new year everyone! Before I get into my most anticipated historical board games likely to be released this year, let me remind you: The best game you’ll have played at the end of this year is likely one that sits on your shelf already – be that one you know and love, or one that has not been lucky enough yet to be actually played by you after you got it. Give those some love before you chase new games!
Myself, I’ll try to be judicious with my board game purchases. Last year, I bought a grand total of four games – one digital adaptation, two from a flea market (when things like that still existed), and one with book store gift cards. So, don’t expect me to run and buy any game that looks interesting. That being said, here are some upcoming titles which I am at least seriously considering to acquire. As all of them are set in human history, they are ordered from most ancient to most recent.
3-5 players, 60 minutes
Ever heard of the Council of Nicaea in 325? – Probably not. That’s a shame, because if you come from a Christian country/family, much of what you and/or the people around you believe and practice was decided there. After all, Jesus had not left any writings himself, he had taught for only a few years, and thus his followers naturally had to fill in the blanks – and did so in different ways. Was God the Father identical with God the Son, or were they only very similar because the Father had brought forth the son? When should Easter be celebrated? Was kneeling appropriate for a joyful celebration like Easter? Obviously, the participants of the Council had strong opinions on the matter, and tensions rose. There is even a (likely apocryphal) story that Nicholas of Myra – yes, St. Nick – punched Arius in the face over a particularly stark doctrinal dispute. Nicaea has you settle those matters similar to a stock-market game: You “invest” in a theological position and will be rewarded for it, but only, if your view has the majority (and is thus found to be orthodox). In the end, whoever has “invested” most in the orthodox positions wins – unless the player with the least points has the most individual influence. In that case, they lead a schism from the main church (like the Arians after the Council of Nicaea or the Miaphysites a century later) and win.
There is not much info out yet on Nicaea – so, lots of what I said above might still be subject to change. Hollandspiele plans to release roughly in late 2021.
1-4 players, 45-60 minutes
There are not enough games about long-term political and social processes in history. Votes for Women makes a contribution to fill this gap with its tale of women’s suffrage in the United States from women’s rights activists holding the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 to winning the decisive states to pass the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution which mandated equal suffrage regardless of sex. Just that in Votes for Women, it is no foregone conclusion that the 19th Amendment will be passed. After all, there is an opposition player who will do their best to stall the women’s suffrage movement, rally the forces of tradition, and secure enough Nays to the Amendment on the state level – after all, if 13 states vote against it, the Amendment is scrapped. Alternatively, the game can be played cooperatively against an opposition bot. I’m curious to see how well the game holds up for two players – after all, one of them plays only defense. However, I am confident that the opposition player will have enough opportunities for pinprick advances to make the game fun for both players, and it surely will be educational as well as beautiful.
Last year, the game was successfully funded via Kickstarter. Shipping is planned between March and June 2021. The game can be pre-ordered here.
4 players, 300-360 minutes
Economic troubles. Frayed political relations. The rise of fascism. Sounds like the last few years? – Maybe, but also like the tumultuous times of the Weimar Republic, Germany’s first experiment with democracy from 1919 to 1933. Four players take the roles of political parties (from left to right: the Communists, the Social Democrats, the Conservatives, and the Nationalists, with the Nazis as a fifth, non-player, faction) who jockey for parliamentary seats and power on the streets. The new republic faces many challenges ranging from rampant poverty to Germany’s place in the post-war order, over which the four parties will clash. The fragility of the Weimar Republic is compounded by two of those parties – the Communists and the Nationalists – not being committed to the republic in the first place. Those two might follow their own path – as will the non-player Nazis who will rise to be the biggest threat to budding democracy in Germany. Will the republic survive, and if so, whose vision for it will prevail?
As per designer Matthias Cramer, the release is planned for 2021 (postponed from the originally envisioned release for mid-2020), but there is no date yet.
3 players, 240-360 minutes
Conquest & Consequence brings Craig Besinque’s previous design Triumph & Tragedy to Asia and the Pacific: Three factions – the Japanese, the democratic capitalist countries of the West, and the Soviet Union and their communist Chinese allies – vie for supremacy in the decade from 1936 to 1945. War between those factions might, but does not have to erupt – and the possible coalitions are wide open. This sandbox style tells us an often-forgotten maxim on history: Things did not need to happen the way they did. For me, it’d be particularly interesting to explore this in the Asia-Pacific theater as I know much less about it that about Europe in that era. All three factions seem to offer very interesting strategic challenges, and Triumph & Tragedy as its predecessor in the European theater is currently ranked the #6 best war game on BoardGameGeek.
2-4 players, 60-120 minutes
As we know, amateurs talk tactics, but professionals study logistics. You better do as well, as you’ll need to supply an entire metropolis by air – a gargantuan task never even contemplated before the Soviet blockade of West Berlin cut all but the aerial avenues into the city in 1948. This early Cold War setting provides the backdrop for The Berlin Airlift, in which each player takes command of a squadron of American or Commonwealth planes delivering fuel, food, medicine, and spare parts to West Berlin. Whoever fulfills their cargo goals best will be the winner, but if Berliner morale drops too low, all players lose. Two years ago, I gave the rare Clio Approved stamp to the games on the Berlin Airlift for their variety and nuance, and now this game (back then in development already) is finally coming close to its release.
A Kickstarter for The Berlin Airlift is planned for mid-2021, with release envisioned for late 2021. You can already pre-order the game directly via the publisher here.
Which new releases are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!