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11 board games to look for at Gen Con 2022

Travel from Great Western Trails to Weirdwood Manors.

Gen Con 2022, one of the biggest tabletop gaming conventions of the year, is fast approaching. Taking place from August 4th to 7th , Gen Con enables both the press and the public to get their hands on some of the most exciting upcoming board games.

This year’s convention will require visitors to both provide proof of vaccination and wear a mask during the event, due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic. These safety measures should offer some confidence in those of you who are planning to go, but it’s important to prioritise health if you need to.

There will be a wide range of exhibitors at Gen Con 2022, including larger companies like Catan Studio, as well as smaller studios such as Azul publisher Next Move Games and the studio behind Junk Art, Pretzel Games.

Out of all of the tabletop titles set to be shown at Gen Con 2022, which ones are the most exciting? Here's our list of the board games to look out for at Gen Con 2022.

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1. Castles by the Sea

Compete to construct the most impressive buildings and try to keep them upright

Castles by the Sea layout image
The adorable components for Castles by the Sea reflect the game's incredibly playful tone.

Brotherwise Games, the studio responsible for the popular Boss Monster series, is publishing an entirely new board game called Castles by the Sea. If the adorable artwork – featuring the cutest crab I’ve ever seen – isn’t enough to win you over, then the interesting premise might just do the job. Castles by the Sea sees players becoming citizens of a seaside kingdom of tiny people tasked with the mission of constructing buildings and protecting them from various dangers.

Whilst we’d usually expect the kind of dangers in a board game to involve huge monsters or intimidating enemies, the threats in Castles by the Sea are decidedly more mundane. However, to the people of the sea kingdom, rogue dogs and incoming tides present more than enough trouble. Regardless of the dangers in store, players will need to adhere to the board game’s placement rules when building their sandcastles, with different buildings requiring players to place them in specific certain spots on the board. The more players are able to build, the more points they’ll collect throughout the game.

Besides general points, players will also want to fulfil any secondary objectives they might have in order to gain even more points. Of course, if any hazards happen to tear apart their buildings, players will have to recover from the chaos by rebuilding. Despite the dangers, Castles by the Sea looks to promise a charming and whimsical little experience.

2. Fall of the Mountain King

Return to the kingdom under the mountain in this upcoming prequel board game

Fall of the Mountain King artwork
The troll clans will need to be prepared for invading gnome hordes when they bash the doors down.

In the Hall of the Mountain King remains a standout amongst fantasy board games thanks to its distinctive artwork and the fact that players take on the role of trolls, a typically hostile species in many other tabletop titles. It’s unsurprising then that it will be receiving its own prequel game called Fall of the Mountain King, which focuses on the events that led the trolls to flee their once magnificent home beneath the mountains.

Whilst the first entry in the series had players rebuilding dungeons, Fall of the Mountain King sees players establishing defences in an already existing maze of tunnels. With the threat of a gnomish army looming on the horizon, the trolls will need to strengthen their ties with neighbouring clans and re-enforce their strongholds. Throughout the game, players will be performing various actions such as gaining influence under the mountain, recruiting champions and stemming the tide of invading gnomes.

Should players perform their duties as a troll leader with confidence and skill, they will be considered a worthy asset to the troll kingdom. However, failure will result in more than just disappointment, considering that the fate of the entire civilisation is at stake. You’ll be able to continue your journey into the underground with Fall of the Mountain King at Gen Con 2022.

3. Catan: Dawn of Humankind

The latest entry in the Catan series takes players all the way back to the very beginning

Catan: Dawn of Humankind artwork 2
Players will be leading their own stone age tribes across Africa and beyond.

Catan: Dawn of Humankind is a remake of The Settlers of the Stone Age board game originally released in 2002. However, this version of the game ties itself more directly to the Catan series – which the original was based on – and will reportedly feature more gameplay elements from the franchise.

Dawn of Humankind takes place – as you may have guessed – in the earliest years of ancient history, specifically on the African continent as humanity’s ancestors first set out across the globe. Whilst the original Catan had players colonise a fictional island, Dawn of Humankind is specifically connected to the Earth that we know and love. Starting out on Africa, players will be spreading out across the rest of the world as the leaders of their respective civilisations, establishing themselves on the different continents and advancing their technology and culture as they do.

There isn’t much else known about Dawn of Humankind at this stage, with visitors to Gen Con 2022 being able to discover for themselves what the board game is all about next month.

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4. Tabriz

The designer behind Cascadia is back with a new game set in a Persian marketplace

Cards for Tabriz
More complicated carpet commissions will require more materials to be made.

Cascadia, the gorgeous-looking board game about North American ecosystems, was recently nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award. Which means that we have great expectations of its designer’s – Randy Flynn – next release Tabriz. Set in a bustling Persian marketplace, Tabriz has players becoming ambitious carpet merchants who are looking to make their fortune through fulfilling customer commissions.

Though players will start out creating relatively straightforward carpets, as they gain renown and higher-paying customers they’ll be challenged with making more elaborate textiles. Tabriz requires players to balance their desire to take on more ambitious commissions with the likelihood that they’ll be able to complete them. Completing commissions requires players to acquire the right materials from the marketplace, using their assistants to fetch the many silks and threads they need for their carpets. However, rival merchants and the unpredictability of the market may see players missing out on the materials they need, which will leave them unable to complete their commissions.

Finishing new commissions will allow players to gain new skills, enabling them to take on even more complicated designs. Taking on more complicated jobs will nab players more prestige – or victory points – and thus increase their chances of winning. You can go see what more Flynn has up his sleeve at this year’s Gen Con 2022.

5. Clank! Catacombs

The latest entry in the Clank! series adds random dungeon generation to the mix

An image of the cover for Clank! Catacombs
Umbrok Vessna is one angry and territorial undead dragon. | Image credit: Dire Wolf Digital

Clank! has proven itself to be an excellent franchise time and time again. The original established the deckbuilding/push-your-luck formula, whilst other entries like Clank! In Space and Clank! Acquisitions Incorporated provided new twists for players to try.

The latest entry in the Clank! series sees yet another new gameplay twist in the form of a randomly-generated dungeon. Whilst the original deckbuilding game features a set board for players to use, Clank! Catacombs has players build the dungeon they’re looting as they go. Players will be able to move through the various doorways of the dungeon in search of treasure, with each room tile remaining a mystery until it’s drawn and placed. Some tiles will aid players – providing ways of teleporting and sources of loot – whilst others will contain angry spirits that menace them.

No undead creature is angrier than the skeletal Umbrok Vessna, the dragon that calls the game’s catacombs her home. As in previous Clank! games, players will want to avoid getting burnt by Vessna’s furious flames by trying to manage the number of clanks they play every round. Every clank played will see another player cube being added to the clank pool, with that pool eventually being used to randomly determine who gets smoked. More Clank! is always a good thing and it looks like Catacombs has some neat little flourishes to make it more than worth checking out.

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6. Great Western Trail: Argentina

Travel across 19th century Argentina as ranch hands looking to make an honest livin’

The front cover for Great Western Trail: Argentina - depicting a cowherd herding a cow
The artwork for this entry in the Great Western Trail series is a huge improvement on the original game.

Great Western Trail continues to be considered a modern classic amongst many board game hobbyists, thanks to its excellent deckbuilding gameplay and interesting theme – not so much for its frankly terrible box art. (Which we made plenty fun of in a video where we tried to improve bad board game box art.) Thankfully, Great Western Trail received a much needed Second Edition last year which featured brand-new box art and some necessary changes to the series’ depiction of Native Americans.

Alongside the second edition of the game, Great Western Trail is seeing the release of two new entries in the series: Great Western Trail: Argentina and Great Western Trail: New Zealand. Argentina is set to be shown at Gen Con 2022, with series fans and newbies alike able to see it for the first time. The upcoming game will feature plenty of elements that make it similar to Great Western Trail, but will also contain lots of new aspects.

One new element is the addition of a new type of worker for players to utilise in the form of the farmer. Another fresh aspect will be the new paths for players to go down, providing them with never-before-seen choices to do with their cattle. Players will be able to get a new kind of resource, grain, which they can use when on boat or city tiles. Finally, players can also use various shortcuts in the hopes of delivering their cows to the ships ahead of their opponents, forfeiting the potential to use action buildings in favour of more speed. Argentina doesn’t look like it will do anything too different from the original Great Western Trail, but it’ll scratch an old itch in a new way.

7. Maui

The studio behind Azul has a new board game about beachgoers fighting for space

Placing towels with matching patterns next to one another will earn players big points.

There’s a good reason why Azul is as beloved as it is. The combination of simple gameplay and lots of potential for improvement makes it the perfect board game for beginners. Next Move Games, the publisher responsible for Azul, has released plenty of follow-up titles to Azul, but the company’s latest game is set to be its own thing entirely.

Maui is a board game that takes place on the idyllic islands of Hawaii, where locals and tourists alike head down to the golden sands of Maui beach for the day. However, such a popular beach is bound to have more visitors than it can hold, with the beachgoers needing to find the perfect spots to lay down their towels amongst all the competition. In the game, players will be placing down towels on their individual beach boards with the aim of making visually pleasing patterns to score points with. Each board has 13 spaces available for towels, which players will need to buy from a shared market with their sand dollars.

Every towel in Maui will feature three different patterns, which players will need to match with other towels they place on their beach board. Placing towels with matching patterns will score players points, moving their scoring marker closer to the ocean or the shade. However, players will need to be careful not to place towels outside of their play area as they’ll be penalised. Whichever player scores the most points by the end of the game is named the winner. It seems that Next Move Games is continuing to focus on releasing titles that feature pattern-making elements, which is fine by us considering how good the company is at that exact thing.

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8. Weirdwood Manor

Explore an ever-shifting mansion to save Lady Weirdwood from an invading fae army

An image of the game board for Weirdwood Manor.
The game board for Weirdwood Manor will change as time passes.

Creepy mansions have always been a popular setting for tabletop games, from Mansions of Madness to Betrayal at House on the Hill. Weirdwood Manor continues this trend by making a spooky mansion that’s a bit more palatable for a younger audience. A co-op game set in the titular Weirdwood Manor, the tabletop title sees one to five players working together to prevent the invasion of a sinister fae army led by one of three potential monsters. Heralding the arrival of these monsters is a horde of clockwork scarab minions that the players will need to avoid/defeat/survive, in their quest to save the mortal world.

As one of six different characters – each with their own unique abilities – players will need to traverse across the Weirdwood Manor in order to prepare for their fight against their chosen fae monster. Each monster has its own unique gameplay mechanics and loss conditions that players will need to keep an eye on throughout the game. Another thing that players have to watch for in Weirdwood Manor is the passing of time. Every action that a player character or minion takes will move in-game time forward, causing the mansion itself to shift its layout – changing which rooms and corridors characters will have access to. As certain rooms have specific effects that players will need to trigger, it’s essential that they prepare additional routes in the event that a previously used one is blocked off.

Players will have their own decks of cards that they can use to perform various actions, with the fae monster also having cards with which to enact its wicked will. As the game progresses, the fae monster will become more powerful and harder for the player characters to survive, presenting even more of a challenge. For a grand adventure in a spooky mansion, be sure to give Weirdwood Manor a try at Gen Con 2022.

9. Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught

A Dungeons & Dragons miniatures board game featuring two playable factions

An image of miniatures from Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught
Players will be facing all sorts of creatures in their battles in the Forgotten Realms.

Considering that tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons began life as a wargame, it’s unsurprising that it fits back into the miniatures mold so well. Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught is a spin-off miniatures skirmish game that’s set within the Forgotten Realms universe of the TRPG but focuses primarily on fights between two major factions: the Harpers and the Zhentarim.

Onslaught has players taking control of one of these two factions, deploying their units and commanding them on the battlefield in a variety of different scenarios. As with most skirmish games, Onslaught’s main appeal lies within the different approaches provided by its playable factions and the variety of its scenarios. Whilst the Harpers are an organisation dedicated to ensuring justice and equality for all people, the Zhentarim are a mercenary group whose major motivations lie in acquiring yet more wealth from those willing to pay for their services.

Each faction comes with a total of 12 units, with each type of unit offering their own unique advantages and weaknesses, with their being opportunities to improve units throughout the game. Alongside the faction units, Onslaught will come with a selection of monster models that presumably come into play in specific scenarios. When it comes to the scenarios featured within Onslaught, players can expect to have their factions doing everything from discovering treasure, to upgrading their equipment and characters to defeating the opposing faction. It looks like they’ll be local and national support for the Onslaught community when it releases, with players being able to enter various tournaments to test their skills.

10. Yak

The studio behind Camel Up: Second Edition turns its attention to a different kind of animal

Yak layout image
This game features some gorgeous looking yaks and carts for players to move around the board.

Camel Up: Second Edition is a firm favourite of the Dicebreaker team, offering an undeniably fun experience for everyone to enjoy. Pretzel Games, the studio responsible for releasing Camel Up: Second Edition, has a new board game coming that’s also focused on a type of animal – this time, the humble Yak. Known for their fluffy coats, long horns and ability to pull heavy loads, Yaks are at the centre of Pretzel Games’ latest title, which has players competing to build stone towers in order to score more points than their opponents.

In Yak, players are looking to construct impressive monuments using a variety of different materials that are carted around by the local merchants and their trusty beasts. Based in the villages of the Himalayan Mountains, players will be attempting to trade their goods for the stones sold by the merchants, with certain merchants only accepting certain types of goods. Players will need to provide up to five goods to the merchant cart currently visiting their village, ensuring that there are no restrictions that prevent the trade. Once a trade has been agreed, players will be able to place their newly acquired stone atop their tower, being sure to place it in such a way that they form particularly high-scoring patterns.

Should players ever find themselves short of tradable goods, then they can always take a turn to restock via whichever cart is at their village. Restocking goods also sees players taking a stone from the game’s bag and putting it onto the cart they just took from, ensuring that the stone economy keeps flourishing. Yak continues Pretzel Games’ trend of releasing some absolutely charming titles that are ideal for the entire family.

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11. Starship Captains

Command your own spaceship across a vast galaxy in a board game that takes its cues from Star Trek

An image of the front cover for Starship Captains
Players will undoutedly find themselves in a variety of shenanigans across space.

Though there are several tabletop titles out there that are direct adaptations of beloved sci-fi series Star Trek – including the popular Star Trek Adventures tabletop RPG and Attack Wing miniatures game – it's always nice to see a game that takes the concept of Star Trek and runs with it. Starship Captains is a space-themed board game from the company behind Codenames, Czech Games Edition. The upcoming game enables players to become the captain of their own spaceship, with free reign to travel across the galaxy in search of adventure.

As the leader of a team of young cadets, ensigns, androids and officers, the players will be responsible with delegating the right tasks to the right crewmembers. Every mission that players embark on will require them to have their spaceship running smoothly and their crew working optimally. Players will each have their own gameplay ‘engine’ which will allow them to perform various actions and gain bonuses, helping them to fulfill the demands of their chosen mission. Completing missions will give players the resources they need to upgrade their ships, as well as earn them medals that they can use to train their crewmembers to be better at their respective roles.

With every successful mission, players will watch as the reputation of their starship and team spreads across the galaxy, opening up brand-new opportunities for them with promises of more success and fame. If you’ve ever fancied yourself a Picard or Kirk, then Starship Captains will at least somewhat satisfy that particular desire. At least until space travel becomes more affordable in real life.

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