The cult of the new. It’s real. There is always the next big thing around the corner. I admit I enjoy the new shiny. The thrill of the parcel arriving. The smell as you open the box for the first time. I especially when I can see how the older games have helped influence the new become the wonders that they can be.
New games don’t always equal great games though. There can be misses, just as there can hidden surprises. It can be easy to be caught up in the hype.
That said, like every other fan, there are games due to be released this year that I can’t wait to try.
This list has no expansion content – that’s for another list! It also isn’t the definitive list. Here are just the games I know are coming out this year (or at least have a good chance of coming out this year) as of January 2018.
DETECTIVE: CITY OF ANGELS
Detective: City of Angels is a 1940’s Noir style mystery with multiple play modes. This is one of those games where I can see the earlier influences on the gameplay. One vs Many play, solo play with the aid of case files, finding the correct clues to solve the case – it’s all elements that we have seen before, but this seems to be designed in ways that has my curiosity more than piqued.
Most of the players will play as Detectives trying to outwit and capture the final player, The Chisel. The detectives must establish who the murderer is, what the murder weapon was, and the murderer’s motive to win the game. The Chisel wins if the detectives take too long, so they are trying to force the Detectives to waste time with false trails and the like to escape.
The game can be a one vs many style game, where Detectives work together to try and outsmart The Chisel and solve the mystery. I can see this being the main game mode for a lot of people, especially as they are learning the game.
The game can be a purely cooperative. This mode means there is no Chisel player, and instead, the detectives all work together to solve the mystery in a provided case. This option that can have Detective shown as similar to Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective but with a board, which limits what the game can actually be.
Finally, you can play purely competitively, which is the version I am most looking forward to playing. Each Detective is a dirty cop, where there are bribes and other motives on top of trying to capture The Chisel for the promotion as well as shaking down establishments for more money and the like.
This is very much the game basics, but I hope you can see the possibilities that are on offer. If your even a little intrigued, have a look for yourself on Board Game Geek here.
If you are really keen, you can still late pledge for an additional USD$5 on the Kickstarter page as well!
I love a lot of the Martin Wallace games. To be fair, they are in general games you will enjoy, or won’t. There is rarely a middle ground.
AuZtralia continues the trend of strangely named Martin Wallace games.
Players continue in the world of A Study in Emerald from the Neil Gaiman short story as well as the original game, where the constant battles have ravaged Europe and America and the world is finally being explored after the Old Ones defeat. This allows the story to explore the world for the first time, and gives new twists to players.
Gameplay is a tight balance between exploration and combat Being a Wallace game, it also means managing the limited resources that will be available to you.
Another thing that Martin Wallace is well known for is his design iteration. Many of his early games including A Study in Emerald were criticised for being overly complicated. But a lot of his newer games show how he takes the same mechanics and improves upon them again and again.
A Study in Emerald Second Edition still had some faults, but for what is essentially the third visit to the core game with new features, I can’t wait to get some people around the table for the afternoon after having a couple of solo games.
Check it out on Board Game Geek here.
AuZtralia is also available to play as a solo introduction on Tabletopia. If you would like to have a look, you can do so here.
And as a final bonus, you can read the original A Study in Emerald short story here.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a strange game for a lot of players. I love that each game is so random, and I have not come close to seeing how each game ending (or haunt) plays out.
The downside to these games is that each game is so random. If you get unlucky, either as the players or the traitor, the experience can be soured. Another issue is the betrayer can’t ask the players for rules help, as they have to keep their information secret. This can lead to two groups playing two different games simultaneously, diluting the experience again.
Then there are Legacy games. To say they are catching on is an understatement. The increase in popularity in only a couple of years has been astounding, and two very recently released legacy games currently hold the top 2 games of all time on Board Game Geek. When Risk Legacy came out the concept was new, and players had no idea why ‘Legacy’ was a selling point.
I think it’s great that one of the original designers of House on the Hill and arguably the father of the Legacy format is revisiting Betrayal and combining the two.
Not much is known about the game at the moment which makes sense. Betrayal hinges on not knowing what you are doing until you are halfway through the game, and Legacy relies on the surprise for very similar reasons.
It is known that you will play a campaign of about a dozen games, and each player is in fact a different family, not just a single character. By representing a family rather than just a player, the game can now span generations instead of a short period. Spoils of one game become family heirlooms, passed on to the next in line. You may even return as an older version of your previous character.
Another facet that has me excited is this is the first Legacy game advertised as replayable. I can see how the Betrayal system could help with this, but I am keen to see how they do as, as well as keeping any legacy games playable in my collection.
Between the people in my group keen on both Betrayal and Legacy games, I am sure this is a campaign that will be played out in short order this year.
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
Root is a game that makes me excited for two reasons: The previous game was amazing, and feedback has been taken onboard to improve the next experience.
So is Root a sequel? Not really, but it is the second in the series of asymmetrical designs from Leder Games, whose previous game Vast: The Crystal Caverns many gamers may have heard of from their Kickstarter campaign.
Vast is a game I have enjoyed myself solo a few times, but not one I have taken to games night for one simple reason. Each of the five players is playing a different game at the same time. That means I need to simultaneously teach five games
and try to keep advice and rules from other players because they may not apply to the others.
While this wouldn’t be too bad with only a few people over for a game at home, at a larger event this is much more difficult. It’s the sort of game I have thought of playing with a couple of people at different times and teaching them one role so that everyone can get together and play one large game, but that has issues as well. You would have to get everyone together fairly quickly so that the rules were still fresh in their minds, and have everyone preselected for a role that may not be what they want to play (e.g. peoples faces when you tell them you can play ‘The Cave’ can be hilarious!).
Root is still a game of individual player powers, but there are now common rules to help simplify teaching. This by itself will help get it to the table for newer players, as well as possibly make this the more gateway version of Vast in a lot of ways.
But that’s all the technical stuff anyway. Root looks gorgeous, and the theme of the animal kingdom working together against the evil Marquis de Cat just appeals to me.
One player must take the role of the Marquis. They have probably the most straightforward goals. The Marquis has seised control of the wilderness and builds things like workshops and lumber mills while recruiting guards and improving the infrastructure to retain their position.
The Eyrie are hawks that must make take this opportunity to capture as much of the wilderness as possible. Sounds easy. However the Eyrie is essentially a warring group of clans, so you not only have to defeat the other players, you need to do so before your faction casts you down and replaces you as the leader!
The Alliance is the stealth type faction for Root. They hide in shadows, recruiting and planning conspiracies and conducting sabotage. In the beginning, it may seem like the Alliance has no chance on the board, however late game if the player has done everything right, their presence will dominate, and the people will rise to rule.
The Vagabond is probably the role/faction that appeals to me personally the most. The Vagabond is the stereotypical ‘play all sides to further your own goal’ type character and will allow me to stir the others the most. A role I always look forward to!
Check out Roots Board Game Geek page here.
Or if you missed the Kickstarter, you can check it out as well as pre-order from here.
WHO GOES THERE?
Dead of Winter. Battlestar Galactica. These game are as divisive as social deduction games can be, and usually on a deeper level. When the ‘good team’ is trying to find ‘the bad guy/team’ everyone is playing the game together in a way. But when the game forces you to look your friends in the eye and lie to them, that to some is crossing a line. And I understand that hence some social deduction games I will not recommend to some people.
But what takes such games more stressful is the Betrayal/Traitor mechanics. For the ‘good guy’ players, knowing that someone is actively playing against the team in secret also builds a sense of paranoia as the game continues. It is really important to note that this is physically stressful and not all players can handle this. It’s like skydiving. It puts your mind and body through a lot, and some people enjoy it, and others don’t.
This physical stress can be very obvious to the other players and usually makes the ‘traitor’ stand out and effectively ends the game for a lot of people. The ‘traitor’ has nothing to do as they are effectively shut down by the group, and the normal players are just going through the motions to finish the game.
There have been some unique ways of trying to work around this. My favourite so far has been the ‘Exiled’ goals of Dead of Winter, where if you were thrown out of the group for being a traitor you now have new goals to try for, but again this isn’t for everyone.
This is a game that actively hopes to take this sense of paranoia and tension and increase it over a couple of hours and keep you there. If this sounds like something that is a horrible way to spend an afternoon to you, this probably won’t be a game for you.
Who Goes There? is the name of the story John Carpenters The Thing is based on. For those that don’t know the story, an alien shapeshifter is discovered in the Arctic, and the remaining small group of humans working at a remote outpost are trying to stop it from escaping the base and taking over the world. This is made difficult as the Thing (see what they did there?) changes form perfectly so, no one knows who to trust. I can highly recommend seeing this movie if this sounds interesting to you. The special effects waver between being dated and still being shocking, but the story is amazing. As a side note, the 2011 film The Thing is a prequel that remained amazingly faithful to the 1985 film, but I don’t suggest watching it first.
Another interesting thing about Who Goes There? is there was an almost simultaneous announcement of The Thing: Terror at Outpost 31 board game. So two games announced right on top of each other, from different companies, with the same premise, how did I choose? It was purely a personal call, but I think I have made the right choice.
The Thing: Terror at Outpost 31 has the rights to the movie, was a ‘normal’ published game and was due to hit the shelves only a couple of months after the announcement. But the gameplay information before launch felt almost secretive with not much information being provided. It came out a while ago, and while I will have a go given a chance, something about it just isn’t hitting with me.
Who Goes There? had a heap of information on their Kickstarter, including (and was almost the clincher for me) a family playing the game a little but their reactions at the end of the game.
The real clincher for me is if you are the Thing (the betrayer) you don’t have different goals with the rest of the group like other games. The victory condition for everyone is essentially to get off the base by fixing the helicopter and flying away. If there is a Thing escaping, the humans lose.
This makes the Thing player more at ease because they don’t have to do things they may not want to. Simultaneously, this makes the game more stressful for everyone at the same time because you don’t know if people are infected or not. Veteran betrayer players can now stand out near the end of the game because they are the only calm player!
The Thing can infect other players by attacking which is pretty open, or by simply passing items as everyone works together. This introduces the issue of ‘over infection’ in the game. If the Thing turns all the human players, there is no-one left to fix the helicopter, and everyone loses. It is very thematic to the story and adds even more pressure on working cooperatively because you can’t be sure why that player is smiling while they offer you the card you need.
Hopefully, this is still on track for a mid-year release. While it would be large chunk of game night at two hours, there are a few players I know that would be great to play this with!
Check out the Board Game Geek Page here.
Sorry there isn’t much in the way of images, Certifiable has been great with video updates at the moment but static images not much is available. You can see the Kickstarter and still preorder here.
EMPIRES OF THE VOID II
They say you can’t be successful being a one-person show. Then someone like Ryan Laukat comes along. Ryan is an accomplished games designer, does the art for his games, and publishes games under Red Raven Games. A couple of games of his you may have heard of from him are ‘Above and Below’ and ‘Near and Far’.
Empires of the Void was Ryan’s first published game and went a long way to streamlining 4X games. It also added some twists and features to make the game a little more unique compared to other games such as Twilight Imperium or Civilization.
If you aren’t sure what a 4X game is, the name comes from the player’s objectives of eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. Usually, these are games where you play as a fleet or empire and explore a random map to find new areas and resources to build your army/empire. They almost always involve negotiation and temporary/permanent alliances, and also heavy player elimination as players challenge each other. These games are usually long and involved affairs, so a two-hour game is usually considered a ‘light’ game.
In my collection, the primary ‘big’ 4X game I have is Eclipse, and as much as I enjoy Twilight Imperium, I probably will never buy it. The reason being pretty simple – Eclipse with three new players and myself teaching takes about 4-5 hours to play, and about 3 hours when everyone is comfortable with the game. Twilight Imperium I have seen eight veteran players take up to 12 hours to play a single game, and that wasn’t an especially long game either! It’s simply too long a game to get to the table with a regular group of people. Even Eclipse I have only bought to the table twice in a couple of years. I usually have to play the iOS version if I need a game, as that I can at least save and come back to.
So why am I so keen on Empires of the Void? Because it has all the elements of these bigger games, and distills them down into the fun parts without dragging things out. You can play as a military dictatorship, or negotiate your way to victory. There are special events that help build a unique narrative to each game, and non-player races you can find to gain access to special abilities. There are no shortcuts in what the players can do compared to other games of this type, it’s just implemented in a more streamlined and simpler version. This does remove some flexibility of style overall, but halving the playtime and complexity at the cost of options you could use 5% of the time seems more than fair to me!
Some of the examples of this streamlining are the planets you can explore in the galaxy. In most games, there will be a large number of tiles that can be randomised to provide the board, with each planet giving +x resources of a particular type. Some special planets may have an additional rule, but finding a planet essentially is just ‘add this number to your resources’. In Empires of the Void, there are only eight main planets, but because there are a smaller number of planets, available events can concentrate on telling stories of these planets and their people making them more alive to you. There are still other random resource planets, but this amount of narrative is rare in many 4X games.
Another aspect that speeds up both the game and enjoyment is player interaction. Normally in the bigger games, you play a fairly solitaire game until about half way through the game, where there may be some negotiation but more often than not battles start and people start getting knocked out. The way Ryan designs his games, this is going to be a lot harder to accomplish as you need to be aligned with the other players immediately as you are in a much smaller space.
It also helps that I have the upgraded components from Meeple Source to use when the game arrives 🙂
Empires of the Void II will be great for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the heavier end of the gaming spectrum or like me people that enjoy larger games but don’t have the time.
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
FIREFLY ADVENTURES: BRIGANDS AND BROWNCOATS
I love Firefly. It is a universe of possibilities, and like many feel that as a TV show it was not given a chance. And like any licensed game out there, there has already been some good Firefly games, and some not so good ones.
Brigands and Browncoats can be summed up as Firefly Descent or Imperial Assault. Up to 5 players can play as one of the main crew members (Malcolm, Zoe, Jayne, Wash or Kaylee) and try to finish a scenario/job.
You have a grid-based floor for movement and distance, but you also have 3D buildings (admittedly cardboard fold ups but still) that will create the area the job is taking place. Each crew member also has two minis – one casual, the other heroic. If you are in heroic mode, everyone pays close attention to you, but you get to do things you couldn’t casually do. Casual minis allows you to walk around and setup for some proper misbehaving. The idea sounds good, but to be honest, I am still a little unsure of the need for two figures to do this. But a playthrough or two will soon tell if it was necessary or not.
Gale Force Nine, the publishers, can be a little hit or miss with their games. The original Firefly game was fun and very thematic, but took up way too much space on the board and was unnecessarily long. ‘But that sounds like a reason to be wary of the game!’ I hear you think. Or you probably should be thinking. And for a lot of people, you would be right. I can’t see this being a cheap game, and I can see a lot of expansions coming out for it – in fact, the rest of the crew have already been announced as expansions. New models, new buildings, new scenarios. The reason this still sits so high on my list is at the worst, it gives me the tools to make my own Firefly ground-based game. And I am sure many talented people out there will make up their own rules if the need arises.
But even though I didn’t preorder the game, there are a lot of small touches I can already see that give me a lot of hope. For example, the buildings that come with the core set double as a game organiser (as shown by lucky preorder receiver Chirs M on BGG). The feedback from fans at demos of the game has been universally positive. And they seem to have taken their time with this game – it definitely hasn’t been rushed out.
Have a look at the Board Game Geek page here.
You will have seen a few times with games I mention one vs many type games. Generally, these games have one person as the ‘bad guy’ and acts as games master, with the other players learning a smaller subset of rules and helping each other.
I enjoy these games, but to be honest, I would like to play a few where others can be handed the reigns so to speak, and I can just play. The new game companion apps like Mansions of Madness Second Edition help with this, but I have quite a few games where this still won’t quite work.
Enter Alone, a new sci-fi one vs many dungeon crawlers. The difference? There is ONE hero, and everyone else is the evil players making the heroes life as hard as possible until the end.
True, in a lot of ways this does not address my position of being alone against the other players, but for a change, the other players can have the power to change the game as they see fit, and I have to jump through their hoops.
Also, there aren’t traditional player turns. The evil players can react and interrupt the hero’s actions, so there is a constant feeling of tension on the hero’s part. In a lot of these games, the players know that there can be interruptions to the others turn, but not knowing from one minute to the next what could be exciting.
Alone is ultimately a campaign game like Descent or Imperial Assault, with the winning side affecting conditions in the following games.
Unfortunately, I missed the Kickstarter (even the late pledges!) but it looks amazing, and I hope to get the retail version as soon as I can.
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
This entry might surprise some people. Not that I have it on the list, but that it’s at number 2.
CMON games. What started as an occasional treat is now a Kickstarter staple. Zombicide is now an almost annual affair, and Blood Rage was a runaway success in so many ways. There may be many people that can say they don’t like a particular game, but you will have to look very hard to find someone that doesn’t agree that the minis are gorgeous.
When I saw the Kickstarter for Rising Sun, I was still very much on a high from Blood Rage. The description ‘from the same team that brought you Blood Rage’ was pretty much all I needed to hear to hit that pledge.
But to call this Blood Rage in Japan is incredibly unfair. Looking at the board (and the team), the comparison is understandable. Even when CMON tried to highlight the alliances and diplomacy, I know a lot of people assumed it was working together temporarily against another faction. This usually works in Blood Rage, especially when there is a runaway leader starting to take the lead.
But in Rising Sun, these alliances aren’t just a temporary convenience. Nor are they quite a Diplomacy ‘Hey trust me’ alliance where you can lie about your actions to your partner and do what you wish. Betraying your alliances may give you a short gain, but the game itself not just the other players will hold that against you. For me, this could lead to players being rewarded for holding to your agreements, even when it’s not in your best interests in the situation. But maybe it won’t – people that do the ‘wrong’ thing still end up ahead after all. The formal inclusion in the game scoring of something normally experienced and managed by the group that has me excited.
This looks like an amazing, involved and tense game in all of the best possible ways. And on a happy note, Aetherworks has the games and is starting the final distribution process. So I will have all the goodies to show off soon!
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
Now, this is probably an entry that is going to confuse a couple of people. Victorian Masterminds takes the top spot for a very simple reason – I have been dying to play it since 2016.
Victorian Masterminds is a collaboration between two of my easily top 5 designers – Antoine Bauza and Eric Lang. When it was first being discussed, it was being published by Space Cowboys. At the time, Space Cowboys was a new up and coming publisher with games like Splendor, T.I.M.E Stories and Via Nebula published or on the verge of being released.
Then everything went quiet until December 2017, where CMON announced that they will now be publishing the game. No real reason has been given, but I have to wonder if the constant delays with Space Cowboys products in general caused some doubts, and/or Eric Lang becoming CMON’s Director of Game Design in early 2017 had any impact on the decisions.
Either way, a game I have been looking forward to playing is coming out this year!
The premise of Victorian Masterminds takes a theme that has made a resurgence of late and adds a twist that puts a smile on my face.
Sherlock Holmes fans old or new know of the ‘death’ of Holmes and Moriarty as they battled over the Reichenbach Falls. This is a story that was supposed to mark the end of the series, but instead launched a myriad of different fan theories and stories from different authors.
Victorian Masterminds takes place after this story, with the public mourning the loss of the detective. The underworld society however reacted very differently to the news, with different factions deciding that they should take Moriarty’s place as head of the underworld.
Primarily a worker placement game, each player takes control of their gang including henchmen, machinists, saboteurs, pilots and their trusty ‘Number 2’ to finish building their own diabolical contraption to bring the world to its knees. Of course, if another player finishes their machine, victory will be denied to you. Even worse the Government stops you, then all players will lose.
Being able to play as the ‘bad guy’ is a small twist but different enough that it makes me smile. Coupled with what appears to be a few twists on some standard worker placement mechanics, and you have what I think will be a medium sized strategy game that will scale with the players, great for games nights.
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
1 – BATMAN: GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES
It’s the Conan system. With Batman. Conan is a game I wanted to play, but for a lot of reasons just couldn’t. At the time, the cost was a factor. A few eyebrows about components (I will just leave it at that for here) also had me weighing up the universe vs where I could comfortably sit with the line. Wasn’t sure the system would hold up.
Today, with the clarity of hindsight and the direct involvement of DC comics, I am pretty confident this will be a great game to occupy so much of my shelf space.
So why isn’t it on the list? Because the Kickstarter is at the end of Feb, and delays mean I probably won’t see this until 2019. Not saying it’s a sure thing, but just trying to be realistic. I will keep mentioning this game until I have a copy so that you won’t forget about it anytime soon!
2 – NEMESIS
This one is on Kickstarter NOW. As of posting, there are about two weeks left. A lot of talent has gone into this game, with semi-cooperative and fully cooperative game modes available.
I’m not going to go into this one much, as you can just check out the project. But why doesn’t it make the cut? Because it’s a Kickstarter, and I will be surprised if I get it in 2018. Just like Batman, I am not saying delays are a certainty, but things happen.
3 – TOWER OF MADNESS
I didn’t know this was a game until after I had written my lists, but this will also be a game that I won’t be putting too much detail into. Because it is the easiest premise to sum up ever.
It’s KerPlunk. Cthulufied. I’m in.
This isn’t a narrative-driven campaign experience or a heavier weight game like most of my list. This is a game I intend to pull out when people need something silly to warm into the night with, or possibly call it a night with. Plus I can keep a clocktower with tentacles on my shelf to look at and smile at.
Not for everyone, but a little bit of nonsense fun that I can’t wait to try
4 – EDGE OF DARKNESS
This is going to be an interesting one, and more one I am watching for. It’s a card crafting game, meaning you essentially mix and match to make your own cards with sleeves to create different powers and effects each game.
It’s also a medium-sized worker placement game, and it has a cube tower. There seems to be a lot of moving parts in this one, and from a publisher that I normally enjoy their smaller experiences like Love Letter and Lost Legacy.
It’s not the first ‘bigger’ game AEG have released by a longshot, but while I am curious and want a game or two, if 2018 slips by and I don’t get to play it I won’t be too upset either.