Everybody likes lists! In the spirit of list making at the turn of the year, I’ve captured a few thoughts on the games that I am looking forward to in 2021. I’m not optimistic about playing much in 2021, given we are still… well, you know where we are. So while I’m certain I won’t add all of these to my shelf, I’m keeping each of them target locked for now. You know, in case stuff changes. Of course, there are probably plenty of cool games that haven’t been announced or I haven’t discovered yet. It’s only January, after all. With that said, here’s my best look forward… into the future!
Oath – Chronicles Of Empire & Exile (Leder Games)
In October of 2019, Cole Wehrle announced Oath on Twitter and followed up with a series of design diaries on BoardgameGeek. I was immediately interested. Cole is one of the hottest designers around right now, and I have always found his insights into the design process fascinating and well thought out. He has a great vocabulary when it comes to gaming, and through these diaries it became clear that Oath was going to be a big project. Bigger than Root, or anything he had published before. Conceptually this is a game that tells the story of empire, and attempts to span generations. It does this by coopting a legacy or campaign format, whereby players will use certain results of a previous game to affect setup of the next game. Unlike most games of this type, however, nothing is scripted or predetermined. The choices made by players will directly impact the narrative and change the trajectory of their journey. Art is from the preeminent Kyle Ferrin, who brings his signature style combined with a somewhat more serious tone to this title. Oath is a 1-6 player game, and though the Kickstarter has already wrapped up, you should be able to find this at retail shortly after the fulfilment to backers is complete.
Transatlantic II (PD-Verlag)
Before the Mac Gerdts game Transatlantic debuted in 2017 it went through a lot of incarnations. It was initially known as Steam Ship Company when the prototype was showed off at Spielwaremesse 2015. There was a board with a world map in this early manifestation of the game, and it toyed with the idea of a rondel and with an 18xx style stock mechanisms – but ultimately Mac removed many of these elements and landed on using card play similar to his previous game Concordia. When Transatlantic was released it was met with mixed reviews, but feelings were largely lukewarm. Mac surely sensed this, and started revising the game with some of those original ideas. Transatlantic II will be a 2-4 player game. It will scrap the ship scrapping, and will reintroduce the world map. Players will sail ships into individual ports instead of playing ship cards into broad regions. Within each port is a trade house, giving you new ways to score points. Details are still vague, but so far I like what I’m hearing. Best of all, Transatlantic II is intended to be released in two ways – as a standalone game or as an expansion for people who own the first game.
Weather Machine (Unknown Publisher)
Vital Lacerda has been working on Weather Machine since before 2017, when it first showed up on BGG. Set in a Steampunk universe, the concept is that someone has invented a machine that can control the weather, and players are going to interact with that machine to complete contracts and earn money. It’s largely a resource management game where those resources are fed into the machine in order to shoot out snow, rain, sun, wind, hurricanes, or fog… for reasons. The core action selection mechanism is a spin on the Vinhos quadrant mechanic. Weather Machine is listed as a 1-4 player game but no publisher is currently attached, though I’d guess Eagle Gryphon Games might be a safe bet.
John Company, Second Edition (Wehrlegig Games)
John Company was a rather esoteric historical game from designer Cole Wehrle. It was published in 2017 by Sierra Madre, who had previously published Wehrle’s first game Pax Pamir. John Company told the story of the British East India Company, with players competing for positions inside the company and trying to manage their contracts in a way that allows the company to prosper. It was a complicated and punishing game that certainly deserves a revisit. Cole has been on fire lately with the hugely popular Root, and the revisit of Pax Pamir with its own magnificent Second Edition. Because of the success of that latter game, I’m eager to see what Cole and Drew (Cole’s brother and collaborator) manage to do with this one.
BGG Link (no 2nd edition link yet)
Horseless Carriage (Splotter)
The esteemed gentlemen from The Netherlands had said they were loosely targeting Essen 2021 for the release of Horseless Carriage, but after the year we’ve all had it’s anyone’s guess whether or not that will materialize. Very little is known about the game outside the Splotter inner circle. It doesn’t even have a BGG page yet. What we do know is that Horseless Carriage is a game about developing the automobile before there were automobiles. Players research, set up their factories, predict the market, and buy/sell parts in an effort to try to bring automobiles to the market. There will be the typical Splotter piggybacking elements, with lots of interactivity as players are required to build off each other’s backs.
Iberian Gauge (Capstone Games)
I love trains, and while there is no shortage of games about trains in this hobby, I had played surprisingly few of them until recently. 18xx games were too long and too demanding of the limited number of players I have around me, and Cube Rails games were difficult to find – being largely published in very small print runs. This started to change when Queen Games reprinted such gems as Paris Connection and Chicago Express, and continued when Capstone Games jumped aboard with Irish Gauge and Ride The Rails reprints. Now comes the third in that Capstone series… Iberian Gauge. Designed by the distinguished Tom Russell (who also did Irish Gauge, as well as many other train games), this one appears to be slightly more intricate – featuring stock rounds and operating rounds. Players invest in companies and use those shares to help lay track. Should be a wonderful ride! Iberian Gauge is for 3-5 players. #ccmf
Carnegie (Quined Games)
Carnegie is a new game from designer Xavier Georges, who previously designed the terrific Carson City and Ginkgopolis, and co-designed Troyes. That’s an impressive list of accomplishments, but Xavier hasn’t exactly been prolific lately. Carnegie is his first big solo design effort since 2012’s Ginkgopolis. In the game, you won’t actually play steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie or even as an employee of his, but as entrepreneurs in the same era, trying to achieve equivalent greatness. Players manage their workforce on super cool player boards, complete with sliding pull tabs for industrial, commercial, residential, or landmark real estate. This is very much a worker and resource management euro game, but one with a fairly interactive central board and options that cascade. That appeals to me. Carnegie is for 1-4 players, with a dummy/blocking player used in the 1-2 player game.
Weimer: The Fight For Democracy (Compass Games)
Matthias Cramer has built a reputation for crafting finely tuned euro games ever since releasing Glen More in 2010. Lancaster, Helvetia, Rococo, and the recent Watergate are all further examples of razor sharp games that take a slightly different approach than many of their contemporaries. In 2019, he revisited the game that made him popular with Glen More II. This year, he’s got a new trick… a wargame! Though, this Card Driven Game is most definitely a hybrid style wargame, with roots in the euro tradition, and not counter conflict simulation. Weimer: The Fight For Democracy intends to tell the story of the origin of German democracy. Across six turns, players play agendas and struggle within two major battlegrounds – in the arena of public opinion, and on the city streets where protests and street fights are occurring. It sounds like a fascinating tap dance through a minefield. Weimer: The Fight For Democracy is a 1-4 player game.
There are so few games that generate conversation beyond the strategy of the affair. Hegemony is one of those rare games that aims to say something about the social and political world around us. Players will assume the role of social classes – Working Class, Capitalists, Middle Class, or The State. Together they can work together. Workers go to jobs offers by Capitalists, enabled by State policy, while the Middle Class purchases goods produced by those workers. That’s the sort of balancing act we can expect the game to aim for, but how far can player decisions throw this off? That’s the enticing prospect, and one I’m eager to learn more about. Hegemony is a 1-4p game coming in 2021.
Russia exerted an effort in the 17th century to expand to the east, into Siberia. This period of history is depicted in Stroganov, a new 1-4p game from Andreas Steding (Firenze, Hansa Teutonica). Players will assume the role of these frontier adventurers, collecting furs, building hunting lodges and yurts, and fulfilling the Tsar’s wishes as they travel. The game lasts four rounds (four seasons of a year) and is driven largely by worker placement.
In medieval times, many medical practitioners believed that the woes of the human body could be attributed to imbalances in your four humours, or the four main bodily fluids. Imbalances or profusions of yellow bile, black bile, red blood, and white phlegm all implied different things about your state of health. Yum, right!? One to four players will draw worker tokens (that match these humours) from a bag each round, placing them face down on cards in an effort to fulfill goals. Tokens are then resolved in order, and depending on how many of a particular humour is present o the card when it’s resolved – different things can happen. There’s a bit of bluffing and negotiation going on here, as well as some prisoner’s dilemma style strategizing – as too many of a token can result in bad results. This is a first time effort from designer Charlie McCarron, and looks like a delightful light game.
Bits & Bobs
Ra (a game I like) is getting a couple of high end remakes, a German/Korean language version from Dicetree and a new English one from 25th Century Games.
Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal: Zimmer frei! is a new expansion for Taverns Of Tiefenthal (a game I like). No word if North Star Games will produce the English version of this one, as they recently disclosed they were having financial difficulties.
Anno 1800. While I never played the video game, I’m interested in anything Martin Wallace.
Pipeline: Emerging Markets is an upcoming expansion for Pipeline (a game I like).
Unnamed Root Expansion, with potential changes to how the 2p game might work.
Tinners’ Trail is getting a new edition from Alley Cat Games, and it’s now listed as a 1-5p game.
Artificial Intelligence is a What’s Your Game? title from Nuno Sentieiro and Paulo Soledade that’s listed as a 2020 release (which didn’t happen) but maybe 2021?
Concordia Solitaria – A new addon expansion for Concordia (a game I like) or Concordia Venus for solo play.
Ultimate Railroads – A big box edition of Russian Railroads? Possibly. Hans Im Gluck teased this last year.
Schrille Stille – Spielworxx intends to revisit this classic music industry game with a new edition in 2021.
Furnace – This 2020 engine building game gets an English release in 2021.