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10 board games to look for at Essen Spiel 2021 - preview

The biggest board games at the biggest show.

Essen Spiel is the largest tabletop gaming event in the world, so it’s going to have some pretty exciting releases featured there. Taking place on the weekend of October 15th to 17th in Germany, Essen Spiel 2021 is a massive show where the biggest names in the industry come to show off their hottest upcoming board games. Dicebreaker is looking forward to heading out to the convention ourselves - so you can expect coverage right from the event - and a lot of that anticipation stems from all the amazing board games we’re going to get to play.

In preparation of the impending convention, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 board games that we’re most excited to see at Essen Spiel 2021. From spin-offs to beloved series to long-awaited sequels and plenty of new releases as well, they’re all worth taking a look at if you’re planning to go to the event or keeping an eye out for our thoughts.

Of course, there will be plenty more games at Essen than just the 10 we’re including here, so watch out for Dicebreaker’s coverage. In the meantime, here are the board games to look for at this Essen Spiel 2021.


Chronicles of Crime: 2400

Players: 1-4

Playtime: 60-90 minutes

Suitable for: 14+

Chronicles of Crime: Millennium Series 2400
Chronicles of Crime: 2400 is set in a dark cyberpunk future.

If you’re not familiar with the Chronicles of Crime series, they’re board games that are perfectly designed for lovers of true crime drama and murder mysteries. A touch of narrative, a pinch of puzzling and a dash of companion app-assisted board game wizardry, and you’ve got yourself an experience that any wannabe sleuth will enjoy. Previously, the series stuck to the modern-day setting, but in its Millenium outing Chronicles of Crime takes a step into the time machine, with this particular entry taking place in the far future.

Chronicles of Crime: 2400 rocks a cool cyberpunk theme, inviting players to visit a dark futuristic version of Paris which holds many a sinister secret. As a future detective, players will have access to speculative technology to help them uncover the truth, with the game’s companion app providing nifty ways for the players to interact with the physical aspects of the game and find clues to drive the story forward. The game’s eye-catching aesthetic and its innovative gameplay mechanics are enough to have Chronicles of Crime: 2400 stand out and be worth investigating.


World Changers

Players: 1-4

Playtime: 10 minutes

Suitable for: 10+

World Changers game layout
The art style for World Changers is strikingly beautiful.

The premise of World Changers is a fascinating one. Earth is no longer inhabitable and the human race must find somewhere else to call home. However, the journey will not be an easy one and with many an obstacle to overcome the scared migrants need someone to look to as a leader. Luckily enough, the players happen to have the ability to move freely through space and time, allowing them to essentially take their pick of the many incredible individuals that have led throughout history - we’re talking people like Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

These potential leaders are included within a deck of cards that players will draft from throughout the game, with the overall aim being to create a hand of the most impressive world changers possible. On their turn, players can choose to invite or pass on a card drafted from the deck, with an invitation seeing that player adding the chosen card to their display and potentially triggering its effects. Otherwise, a card’s effects can be activated if certain conditions are met. A speedy card game with some beautiful artwork, World Changers looks both educational and fun to play.


Scout

Players: 2-5

Playtime: 20 minutes

Suitable for: 3+

Scout comes in an adorable little box that's very travel-friendly.

Oink Games is a Japanese indie publisher that produces little games that are entirely unique and full of charm. From push-your-luck treasure hunting game Deep Sea Adventure to A Fake Artist Goes to New York, which has players collectively making terrible art together, Oink Games is known for creating some fantastic microgames. Its next release is Scout, a remake of a previously released game that has players attempting to play runs or matching sets of cards in order to score points. A run of cards is a series of cards ascending in numerical order, whilst a set is a collection of the same type of card.

The cards in Scout are special, as they can be played either way up - meaning that players can choose to flip them round at the beginning of the game or keep them in their current orientation. Whenever a player wants to play a set, it’ll need to be worth a greater amount than the one currently on the table, but will claim them the set. Otherwise, players can scout for a single card to add to their hand from the set on the table, which gives the player who laid that set a victory point but gives the other greater options for their next turn. Going by this description, Scout sounds like yet another fun and fast little game from Oink - one that we can’t wait to get our hands on.


Décorum

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 30-45

Suitable for: 13+

Decoram board game pieces
The furniture in Décorum comes in four different styles and colours.

Décorum looks to combine two things that you’d wouldn’t expect to see together in a board game - secret objectives and interior design. The basic idea of Décorum is about finding the balance between fulfilling personal goals and keeping everyone else happy. In Décorum, players will experience a variety of scenarios in which conflict may occur when decorating, such as a couple with clashing tastes or a gathering of roommates who have varying perspectives on furniture layouts. Though they have their own ideas on what works in which rooms, players will need to find a happy medium if they want to ultimately succeed.

Throughout the game, players have the option to place a piece of furniture in one of the rooms in the house, with four different styles and colours of decor to choose from. Whenever anyone places something, the other players have an opportunity to give their feedback. Eventually, players should be able to gather enough information to collaborate together on an interior design that as many of them like as possible. It’s interesting premise and theme make Décorum one to keep an eye on at Essen Spiel.


Dune: House Secrets

Players: 1-4

Playtime: 90-180 minutes

Suitable for: 14+

The art style for Dune: House Secrets is inspired by the newly released film adaptation.

Based on this year’s film adaptation of Frank Herbet’s seminal sci-fi novel series, Dune: House Secrets is a board game that seeks to transport players to the planet Arrakis. Using the system laid out by Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, House Secrets will have players travel across the desert planet as a band of plucky rebels looking to overthrow the corrupt rulers of Arrakis. To do this, players will need to discover clues and follow various leads, being sure to avoid capture whilst doing so.

As in the Detective series, House Secrets will provide players with an overarching narrative to follow in which their choices will play an important part. Players will also be able to use a companion app alongside the game’s physical pieces in order to find the information they need to progress in the game. The more missions that players complete, the more experience they’ll be able to spend improving their chosen characters’ abilities. House Secrets looks to be pretty impressive in terms of scope, with two planned sequels currently in the works, making it a series that’s worth jumping onto from the very beginning.


Crash Octopus

Players: 1-5

Playtime: 20-30 minutes

Suitable for: 7+

Crazy Octopus board game trailer screenshot
Can you avoid the thrashing octopus tentacles?

Crash Octopus, also known as Crazy Octopus, is a dexterity board game from Japanese studio Itten Games, a company that’s best known for putting out Tokyo Highway. Itten can be pretty experimental when it comes to game design, but Crash Octopus definitely looks like one hell of an approachable game. As the name implies, an octopus - a pretty large one at that - has decided to cause havoc by launching an attack on a group of ships. It’s up to the players to escape with their cargo, and themselves, intact.

Players will take it in turns to flick various pieces of cargo and people towards their respective ships, all whilst making sure to stay well away from the thrashing tentacles of the octopus. Once a piece hits a ship, the player must attempt to balance it atop. The more precarious a ship’s cargo pile, the more they become a target for the dreaded black die or a stray tentacle. The player with the most cargo by the end of the game wins. Crash Octopus sounds like a simple game on the surface, but its physicality and unique premise are enough to have us incredibly excited to play.


Reload

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 60 minutes

Suitable for: 12+

Reload is inspired by the popular battle royal video game genre.

If you’ve been on the internet recently, you might have heard about a video game called Fortnite. Fortnite is part of a genre of video game called battle royales, in which large numbers of players - often 100 people - all fight it out to be the last one standing. Reload looks to be the tabletop equivalent to this particular kind of video game, with players taking on the role of the robotic clones of TV game show contestants, each of whom have been dropped onto an island with the goal of being the final survivor of what’s sure to be an oil-bath.

Unlike the video game genre the tabletop title is inspired by, Reload does not have a huge player count, with a maximum of four people able to play during a single game. On the game’s training island, the players will take control of their chosen robot clone and use a dice-rolling system that will enable the players to explore their environment. Exactly how Reload will translate the action-orientated gameplay of a battle royale experience remains to be seen, but the fact that it’s attempting to do such a thing is certainly exciting enough.


It’s a Wonderful Kingdom

Players: 1-2

Playtime: 45-60 minutes

Suitable for: 14+

It's a Wonderful Kingdom box art
It's a Wonderful Kingdom moves the series setting from the modern-day to a fantasy world.

It’s a Wonderful World is considered by many to be a modern classic, presenting a rich civilisation board game that challenges players to think ruthlessly about how they can get ahead of their rivals. A two-player spin-off game called It’s a Wonderful Kingdom was announced earlier this year, with the series pivoting from a modern-day setting to one filled with sword fights, ship battles and nobility. It’s a Wonderful Kingdom is a fantasy board game that takes place within an unstable empire that has been left without an heir.

As either the duchy of Valados or Teressie, players must attempt to establish their claim by developing their respective empires. Players can grow their empires by playing cards from the development deck, which they’ll get from their opponent’s hand. Players will have to be careful of calamity cards, as they reduce their ending point total, but can benefit from oodles of structure, specialists, monuments and discoveries. A shorter and more intimate version of It’s a Wonderful World, couples might want to try It’s a Wonderful Kingdom.


Million Dollar Script

Players: 3-10

Playtime: 45-60 minutes

Suitable for: 14+

Million Dollar Script cards
Each executive will have their own preferences in regards to film choices.

If you’re familiar with party games like Snake Oil, Million Dollar Script should be right up your street. This is a persuasion-style board game in which players need to pitch movie ideas to discerning executives in the hope of getting their dream film onto the silver screen. After being split into two opposing teams, with another player becoming the executive, each round will have players receiving a brief card indicating which element of the film that the executive wants to be pitched.

However, certain executives will be predisposed to particular choices, depending on the character card that the executive player has - which is a secret to the two teams. Once the executive has chosen their preferred pitch, then that element is added to the movie and production continues into the next element. When all the element cards have been pitched, the finished movie pitch is put together and the team with the most points is named the winner. It’s great to see more silly card games that don’t take the Cards Against Humanity route, but still promise to be funny - Million Dollar Movie is one to watch.


Azul: Queen’s Garden

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 45-60 minutes

Suitable for: 10+

Azul: Queen's Garden is the third entry in the popular series.

Azul is a board game series that just keeps on giving, with two sequels and another set to be released later this year. Called Azul: Queen’s Garden, this newest entry takes things into a Portuguese monarch’s backyard. Revealed by the series’ creator, Michael Kiesling - who is also the co-designer of Tikal - Queen’s Garden sees players assisting Queen Maria of Aragon, the wife of King Manuel I, in designing the most magnificent garden possible.

This newest entry in the series will not be straying too far from the gameplay mechanics that made the original so beloved, with players once again drafting and placing tiles in order to score points. As to be expected in a game whose theming revolves around gardening, players will want to take advantage of greenery such as plants and trees in order to maximise point collection. Considering that the original Azul has successfully sold over two million copies since its release in 2017, it’s no surprise that there are more entries on the way. We can only hope that they continue the series’ excellent legacy.