It is the first month of the new Essen crop to start hitting the table, I am only taking into account full games and not games that I played a few turns of during the show, so this list might not be as long as may be expected.
There was one that stands head and shoulders above the rest so far and maybe a surprise too.
Argo is a game that I was asked to review by Flatlined games. They produced the excellent SteamRollers last year and this year’s offering did not disappoint. A full review was uploaded a couple of days ago so you can read all about it there if you are interested. But it was good, very good. I am not just saying that because I reviewed it, I am saying that because it is good. 9/10
Mythos Tales is a co-operative deduction game similar to Sherlock Holmes consulting detective based in the Lovecraft world. This has a timer though so games do not take a day to complete. This is also a review game, so one will follow soon. I have to admit I am not a fan of Lovecraft games, but this did surprise me. Played it a couple of times now and we failed in a spectacular fashion on the 2nd investigation and it has left me wanting more. 8/10
Order of the Gilded Compass
Order of the Gilded Compass re-implements Alea Iacta Est, an excellent dice worker placement game that had a not so great theme and a name that no one could get right – although that might be a clever marketing tactic. However Order of the Gilded Compass is an equally large mouthful although I have just shortened it to Gilded Compass. I like the theme of Archaeology and the extra variable buildings you can use in each game. The length of the game is about right and it does not outstay its welcome. I was demoing this at Essen and it was a pleasure to demo. I have demoed games in the past that I have not liked and tried to get involved in the game as little as possible. This was not the case with this one. I was hoping that there was room for one more around the table so I could get in on the game. 8/10
Labyrinth is an old family game from the 80’s that surprised me – a lot. This was loads of fun. It was very easy to pick up and there is a game there that gamers would enjoy too, I know I did and so did my friends whose copy I was playing. I know what I will be buying my niece for Christmas now. 8/10
Terraforming Mars. It looks like that this is the hype game of Essen. Apart from the fact that it sold out pretty quick, I am struggling to see why. It is OK, but nothing more than that. I have played it twice now, once without the card drafting and once with and you definitely need to play it with the draft. The deck of cards that you draw from is so big, getting one of the few cards you are after is harder with a random deal from the deck. I enjoyed it and will happily play it again, but there are far better games out there and as with Scythe I can’t see what the fuss is about. 7/10
Area 51 is yet another game from Mucke Spiele that utilises parts from Giganten. You can tell that these parts have been kicking around for years now and compared to the production of the rest of the game, which is pretty good, they do stand out as old. Apart from the crappy recycled components it is a pretty good game. Trying to build up bunkers in Area 51 to store valuable alien artifacts and the more valuable the artifact, the more security on your bunker you will need. We played this with 6 and it may have suffered a little because of this as there was a little downtime, but I am keen to give this another go with 3-5 players. Considering that this was €36 compared to games costing over €50 I think it is good value. 7/10
Specter Ops, I have been wanting to try this for some time now, but never got the chance. I like hidden movement games and this is meant to be one of the better ones. Unfortunately we were lucky early on in the game and the guy we had to hunt was soon found and dealt with. I didn’t get as much as I wanted out of this game as it was so short so really need to give it another go, so it may de-throne Garibaldi as the daddy of the hidden movement one versus all, but not just yet. 7/10
Exploding kittens is a silly card game that was fun and the artwork is amusing, but it was nothing more than just OK. Very few choices to make but there was a giggle or two involved. 6/10
Karmaka is a set collecting game where you are trying to be reincarnated into a higher being and be the first to reach enlightenment – or something like that. It was an interesting set collecting game, but nothing new being offered really. 6/10
Swordfish has been kicking around on my unplayed shelf for ages now. Years in fact. I don’t know why I never got this to the table. An interesting theme, fishing for swordfish, but it felt like you were going around in circles and not getting anywhere very fast until the end of the game. I felt that it was similar to Thebes but not as good. Thebes does what this does far more efficiently. It is a shame really as I really wanted to like this one. 5/10