Despite a certain pandemic ruining everything across the globe, the steady march of new board game releases will not be quelled! And although the inevitable mass of crowds and COVID outbreak that would have followed means there was no actual GenCon this year, publishers and players gathered together in a virtual sense to get a glimpse of the future of cardboard.
For myself, I find it far easier to discover new things by wandering the floor and see what’s out on tables, but in lieu of that I did my best to uncover upcoming (or recently released) games. This list is far from comprehensive and heavily skewed toward my personal taste… but it is what it is. Also, I did not get a chance to play any of these games, so these write-ups are based on pictures, videos, and write-ups from the internet.
It actually hit me hard this year, not being able to go to the con. I missed out last year due to personal circumstances but was at least distracted by everything going on in my life. This year, even knowing everyone was missing out, I’ve had a lot of time to sit around thinking about what I was missing out on. So I did my best to find out what I could and soak it in.
As a side note… publishers, it would be REAL GREAT if you could post pictures of your new games in play on a table, not just boxcovers and game art.
Okay. Without further ado….
Twilight Imperium 4: Prophecy of Kings
Just getting this one out of the way right at the top. If you haven’t already heard about this, you probably don’t care, but this is my article so I get to write about it! The new expansion promises several brand-new races, new tech, new planets, exploration, new things to trade with your neighbors, up to eight players… basically, just a ton of new content to stuff into the game. I mean. Mechs.
AND WHY NOT? Twilight Imperium 4 has plenty of space to expand further into the stars.
Lost Ruins of Arnak
From CGE, a generally reliable publisher of good strategy games, comes a combination deckbuilding/worker placement game of Indiana-Jones-esque exploration. Explore ruins, face dangers, collect treasure and artifacts, and compete against other adventurers. The game promises plenty of tactical decisions and a unique combination of mechanics. You’ll need to manage resources, craft a deck, and head deeper into the wilderness. It looks a bit complex, but with the potential for breaching new ground in the deckbuilding genre. I just think it looks and sounds fun.
In a sort of re-imagining of Mysterium, Mysterium Park takes place in a creepy carnival instead of a mansion. Sounds like there are many similarities; a ghost player gives “visions” to other players to help them narrow down suspects and locations. This version claims to be streamlined, playing in less than 30 minutes. The goal is to eliminate suspects rather than gather potential guilty parties.
To be honest, I’m not sure Mysterium needs much streamlining. I’ve been playing a lot of it lately with my family and it never outlasts its welcome. That being said, the system works and is quite enjoyable, so I’m quite curious what this game will bring. I’ll also admit the setup time for Mysterium is mildly tedious, and this box claims to get you started almost right away.
Pandemic Season 0
I’m a big fan of Pandemic, and very much enjoyed the 2 Pandemic Legacy games – though not without criticism. The last couple games of each fell flat for me – while there was a lot of build-up over the course of the game, rather than resulting in a climax related to everything you’d been working toward the whole time, the goals of the final missions felt random and disconnected.
Will Season 0 solve this issue with an ultimate endgame you can build toward? I hope so. In any case, the theme is a bit different; though there is some sort of disease involved, it seems as though you’re not directly fighting that disease. Instead, you’re secret agents in the 1960s, trying to put a stop to a bio-weapon from the Soviets. You’ll be going against Soviet agents, setting up allies, and completing secret operations.
Given the “Season 0” moniker, I’m guessing there will be some plot tie-ins to previous Pandemic Legacy games, but I’m excited about the new take and eager to play through a new Legacy campaign.
I’ve been hearing about this game for years, but will this be the year the game finally becomes available? Who knows? I heard mumblings that it was due in the fall, which is very soon. 1001 Odysseys features the adventures of the crew of the starship Odyssey. The game includes maps, cards, stories, and plenty of choices for players to make. The rules are supposed to be simple to allow focus on the story; sounds like a choose-your-own adventure type game. Anyway, I like cool maps, I like spaceships, and I’m very interested to see how this turns out.
Atheneum: Mystic Library
I guess library themes worked out well for publisher Renegade in the past, so how about a return to form? There appears to be a bit more tile-laying than Ex Libris, with players constructing shelves and then organizing book tokens on those shelves. In addition, the actions you take will grant actions to the other players, so you’ll not only need to worry about what you’re doing, but your neighbors as well.
Under Falling Skies
Under Falling Skies is a solo game with a little bit of Space Invaders flavor and a little bit of XCOM. Using dice placement to select your actions, higher numbers will grand you more effective results but also bring the enemy ships closer faster. You’ll need to use the various abilities of your underground base (and expand that base for more powerful actions), manage energy levels and robotic works, and basically manage the global defense against the encroaching enemies. The game promises a campaign that will take you on a tour of world cities and task you with defending each one.
Who doesn’t love neat-looking spaceship minis, tech upgrades, and the ever-imposing tension of a rapidly approaching mothership?
Marvel Champions is a fantastic game with nearly infinite. Hero packs and villain packs have launched steadily since release (although it’s proven difficult to actually get my hands on most of them), but this GenCon revealed a whole slew of new content on the horizon. Heroes like Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch are natural additions, but the real excitement lies in the “Galaxy’s Most Wanted” scenario box. Including 2 Guardians of the Galaxy heroes – Rocket and Groot – and a campaign featuring classic Guardians villains like Ronin, some new mechanics – including Starlord’s ship the Milano, a card (or set of cards?) usable by the whole team – and the simple excitement of more cards to tweak my existing hero decks, I am ready for this.
Apollo: NASA Moon Missions
A few years ago I played a cooperative card game based on a particular Apollo mission, and was left disappointed. The game was too on-the-rails, more eager to re-tell the history than to build an interesting game around the challenge of modern spacefaring missions.
So my ears perked up when I heard mention of a game that is already available (exclusive to target) called Apollo: NASA Moon Missions, described as a sort of cross between Mysterium and Pandemic.
One player is Mission Control, the others are astronauts. Each mission will task players with keeping their command module function, surviving the mission, and completing important experiments. Mission Control is vital to the success and safe return of the astronauts, but communication is limited, parts can break down, and disasters must be avoided. I guess the Pandemic element is the strategic dealing with different actions needed to achieve goals while keeping things from falling apart, and the Mysterium aspect is the Houston hidden behind a screen with limited communication.
Hopefully this game doesn’t get too bogged down in historical accuracy. I’ll have to try it out.
Obviously this doesn’t cover every game that was announced, or launched, or was otherwise present at this year’s online Gen Con. It’s but a taste of games that stood out to me. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try many of these out in the near future.
What about the rest of you? Anything good stand out to you? What are you excited to play next?