SPIEL 2021: Most Anticipated Board Games

You say „board game fair“, I say “SPIEL” at Essen. It’s the Mecca for the tabletop gaming faithful. Four days of playing, trying, and buying. 160,000+ visitors. I’ve been there a few times over the last years for two days each and found it an intensive board game experience. Other plans prevent me from going this year, but that can’t stop me from writing a short list of the new releases that look most interesting to me. Maybe some of you who can attend find a new gem! And maybe I’ll get to try these games out some other time as well.

As always, this is not meant as a „must buy“ list or whatever other consumptionist term some people use. It is likely that I will buy only one or none of these games. Why? Because I have quite some good games already, and I like to make them count before I plunge into new adventures. Generally, there are no musts in buying. And there are no musts in attending board game fairs or conventions – obviously those can come as pretty big expenses for travel and accommodation, and I also understand if mingling with thousands of other people in a closed space does not strike you as the best of ideas in the era of COVID. Bottom line: No musts. You do you.

On to the games! They are sorted by location on the fairgrounds.

Image ©Matagot.

Hall 3, booth E102: Kemet: Blood and Sand (Jacques Barriot/Guillaume Montiage, Matagot)

2-5 players, 90-120 minutes, for sale, 84,95 €

Not exactly a new game – the original Kemet (Jacques Barriot/Guillaume Montiage, Matagot) is nine years old by now. Still, I haven’t played it, so this new edition (which, as far as I can see, follows a reformist rather than a revolutionary approach to the original) calls to me. I mean, what’s not to like about being an Egyptian god expanding your temples and pyramids and throwing masses of expendable warriors (and some very mighty mythological creatures) at your enemies in the struggle for dominance in the desert and the Nile valley? Kemet has all the visual and thematic charm of a miniature-heavy Ameritrash game, but the balance and well-designed mechanism of a Euro. That surely should appeal to many other gamers, too.

Image ©PSC Games.

Hall 5, booth D118: Caesar! Seize Rome in 20 Minutes (Paolo Mori, PSC Games)

2 players, 20 minutes, for sale, 25 €

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it can be seized in 20 minutes. That’s the pitch of this quick little game. Designer Paolo Mori has pulled that off before with Blitzkrieg!, his 20-minute rendering of World War II. Here, two players face off as Caesar and Pompey to resolve the last crisis of the Roman Republic (which is one of the most fascinating historical periods to me): They jockey for majorities in provinces (with each token they place counting for two bordering provinces), but just being ahead in Syria, Sicilia, or Sardinia is not enough. You must time your victories right to make the most of them, and blunt force may not win if the Roman elites support your opponent. All in all, I expect a little brain-burner – but with the limited choices available on every turn, it should still offer a very quick exchange of blows.

Image ©Seajay Games.

Hall 5, booth E122: Galactic Era (Channing Jones, Seajay Games)

1-6 players, 180 minutes, for sale, 129 €

Galactic Era is a grand game in which several spacefaring races expand through the galaxy, make contact with primitive and civilized planets, and sometimes wage war with each other. You’ve seen this (or similar) before – in Twilight Imperium (Designer, Publisher), Eclipse (Touko Tahkokallio, Lautapelit.fi), and in countless other offerings. So, what looks fresh about this one? – To me, that’s its alignment mechanism. Any race can opt either to be altruistic or selfish (good or evil, if you prefer starker terms), and that informs how you play: Altruistic players leave primitive planets alone and ally with civilized ones, whereas selfish ones subjugate either (if they are strong enough); altruistic players can typically not declare war on other players, whereas for selfish ones only the strength of their spaceships limits what they can attack. And here comes the best thing: You can change alignment mid-game. Enticing possibilities.

Image ©BYR Games.

Hall 5, booth E135: The Belgian Beers Race (Michaël Boutriaux, BYR Games)

2-4 players, 60-150 minutes, for sale, 55 €

Have I ever mentioned I like beer? Well, yes, on Twitter:

Now Belgium is among the countries with the proudest beer culture and heritage, so it is only fitting that it is the scene of this game. Players move around Belgium by bike, public transport, and hitchhiking, aiming to visit as many breweries, buy, and, of course, sample as many beers as they can. Almost everything gives you victory points (so nobody should be too sad at the end of the game), but beware: If you drink too much, your movement might be impeded, and you might wake up late the next day – or even worse, fall asleep right where you are! It sounds like the perfect game to play in a not-so-competitive mood with friends over a beer (or two – after all, the game might take over two hours).

To which games are you looking forward the most? Let me know in the comments!

8 thoughts on “SPIEL 2021: Most Anticipated Board Games

  1. Keith Shapley

    I’ve forwarded the Belgium Beers Race to a friend who since retirement appears to be living that dream. I’m still trying to reduce the shelf of shame (Cuba Libre, Falling Sky, Oath, Regicide…) so happy to wait and see.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: SPIEL 2021: Most Anticipated Board Games – Many Many Hobbies

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