In just over a month, the biggest and most beloved convention in all of the board gaming begins. We’re talking about Essen Spiel, of course, the 4-day convention in the north of Germany. This year, it’ll be under new management and slightly reorganized, but it will still be a massive show.
Essen will be the first opportunity for the European gaming audience to get their hands on most of the hottest Gen Con 2023 releases, too. Most of these games will be available in other languages besides English, so we didn’t include them in this list. Of course, you’ll be able to play and purchase all of these games at the convention.
So, without further ado, let’s start with the Essen releases that board gamers are most excited about.
- Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West
- Among Cultists
- Sky Team
- Dorfromantik: The Duel
- Horrified: Greek Monsters
- Mindbug: Beyond Evolution
- Great Western Trail: New Zealand
- World Wonders
- Art Society
1. Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West (Days of Wonder)
Ticket to Ride, the beloved classic and one of the best ways to get into the board game hobby, is getting a new edition this year. Not only that, but it will be the biggest and most complex version of the game to date.
Ticket to Ride Legacy will introduce the legacy mechanics to the classic formula, allowing for your copy of the game to change throughout the course of the campaign. Each player runs a railroad company, which expands its business each game, but so does the board and other mechanics. It’ll be a pricey game (at $120), but surely one of the best purchases you can make this year at SPIEL.
2. Apiary (Stonemaier Games)
A surprise announcement from Stonemaier Games was that it would release its brand new game Apiary during Essen SPIEL. The premise? You’ll be guiding a race of extraterrestrial bees, helping them build their new society and prosper in this intergalactic strategy game.
Apiary is primarily a worker-placement board game with some tile placement thrown into the mix to give you that crunchy, choice-heavy puzzle you expect from this publisher. We also expect it’ll be highly replayable, as it comes with 20 different factions and even a solo mode based on the Automa system.
3. Nucleum (Board & Dice)
Nucleum is the next big game from Simone Luciani, designer of Barrage, and it’ll carry that game’s DNA and combine it with a few mechanics we’ve seen in the Brass games. You’ll be transported to 19th-century Saxony, where you’ll be developing the world’s first nuclear power plants.
Many have compared Nucleum to Brass, as it shares the route-building system with it and, on top of that, the way resources travel across the board. It’ll be a sprawling game, not just in scope but in sheer size on the table, and is one of the contenders for the title of the hottest board game of Essen SPIEL 2023.
4. Among Cultists (Godot Games)
Inspired by the smash hit video game Among Us, the Among Cultists board game will bring that familiar game of treachery, deceit, and double-bluffing to the tabletop. It’s designed for four to eight players, effectively making it a party game, although a bit more contrived.
In Among Cultists, you’ll be an investigator from a secret society trying to stop a ritual. But, you’ll need to carefully choose who to trust, as some players may be cultists in disguise. What’s interesting is that there’s no player elimination in this game, and the components are language-independent, so it’s sure to be a blast with any crowd.
5. Evacuation (Delicious Games)
The latest game by the prolific designer Vladimír Suchý (Woodcraft, Underwater Cities), Evacuation, is for many eurogamers one of the most anticipated Essen Spiel 2023 releases. As the title suggests, Evacuation has you moving your colony across two planets. What’s especially interesting is that you start with a fully developed economy on your home planet, and as the game progresses, you’ll have to make ends meet until you set up everything on your new homeworld.
You’ll have to be quick, though, as the game lasts only four rounds, or until one of the players gets three of their resources to level eight. The game also comes with an expert and a solo variant.
6. Sky Team (Le Scorpion Masque)
If Sky Team managed to fly under your radar during the Gen Con 2023, it’s a two-player board game where you’ll try to land your airplane at different locations around the world. One player plays as a pilot and another as their co-pilot.
Now, flying a plane is a “little” bit tricky, as you’ll need to adjust the flaps, set your course, contact the control tower, and do many other tasks to ensure the safety of your aircraft. The twist? You do all that in silence, but also using dice. If you make too many mistakes or, god forbid, crash. You lose your license …. and, in most cases, your life as well. Fly safe with Sky Team Airline!
7. Dorfromantik: The Duel (Pegasus Spiele)
Hot off the Spiel des Jahres winning podium, Pegasus Spiele announced that its tabletop version of Dorfromantik is getting a sequel called Dorfromantik: The Duel. As the name implies, this will be a game for two players only (or two teams). Furthermore, it won’t be a cooperative board game anymore, but a competitive one, while keeping the cozy vibe of the original. You’ll also be able to combine the contents of this game with the original Dorfromantik or join two copies of The Duel together for a 4-player showdown.
8. Horrified: Greek Monsters (Ravensburger)
October is a perfect time for launching a horror-themed game, so Ravensburger announced a new edition of its board game Horrified. This time, you’ll be saving the world from monsters straight out of Greek mythology after nefarious forces opened Pandora’s Box. But you’ll first need to discover each of their lairs before you can take them head-on.
Just like previous games in this series, Horrified: Greek Monsters is primarily a family-friendly game, with straightforward rules and just enough spookiness to be a good time for everyone.
9. Mindbug: Beyond Evolution (Nerdlab Games)
Mindbug was a game that caught us by surprise. An absurdly simple dueling card game with hilarious creatures, but a game that we still kept coming back to. That appeal isn’t a surprise considering the legendary designer and father of Magic: The Gathering, Richard Garfield, was behind it.
At SPIEL, Mindbug is getting two new standalone sets: Beyond Evolution and Beyond Eternity. The former introduces monster level-ups, while the latter adds a boosting mechanic. Together, they’re a great addition to an already fun game.
10. Great Western Trail: New Zealand (eggertspiele)
The final part of the Great Western Trail trilogy, New Zealand, sends us back to the late 19th-century period when farmers of New Zealand raised sheep to produce the best wool. It did get a limited release recently, but SPIEL will be the best place to play and purchase your own copy.
Like GWT: Argentina, this game includes the 4th type of workers – the sheep shearers – but also introduces boats, bonus cards, and technology upgrades each player competes to acquire. Obviously, cows are replaced by sheep, and you can even get yourself a border collie this time around.
11. World Wonders (Arcane Wonders)
World Wonders is a city-building board game from the designer of Brazil: Imperial. It’s also one of the most anticipated Essen SPIEL releases for one single reason – it’s absolutely gorgeous! This game comes with many 3D buildings and it’ll be a joy both to play and to observe.
At its core, it is a tile-placement game, and you’ll have very limited space on your player board to build your city. Planning is key to winning at World Wonders, as you’ll need to manage your gold reserves and connect everything by roads, but also create city blocks to score even higher. And did we mention it looks amazing?
12. Art Society (Mighty Boards)
Speaking of lovely art, the new game from Mighty Boards will be a must-have if you’re an art connoisseur. In Art Society, up to four players are trying to amass the best collection to impress their peers. You’ll need to outbid each other but also predict new trends in the art world, so the paintings that they acquire don’t become yesterday’s jam. Oh, and you get to arrange them on your board, so there’s also a bit of a spatial puzzle involved. Crunchy!
Obviously, these are just a fraction of the games we’ll get to see and play at this year’s Essen SPIEL. After a somewhat slow year, it’s great to see so many games released at the world’s biggest board gaming event. Now, whether we’ll actually get to bring home everything we’ve scoped is a whole different story.