Time was a board game was released, without fanfare, without hype, it simply came to be. But that was back when the tabletop gaming industry was a backyard affair, when the majority of developers worked out of their shed or people would import a game hoping they could find someone to translate the German rules for them.
Now however, gaming has grown, become more mature and with big mergers like that between Asmodee and Fantasy Flight Games is turning into big business. This means that previews, announcements and a sense of anticipation has become the norm. It also means that we get to see the games of 2016 long before they come out.
So we've put together a list of some of the most intriguing, interesting and hyped games of 2016.
Card gamesI'm going out on a limb here but I predict that Fantasy Flight Games will release another entry into their Living Card Game line-up at Gen Con 2016. We don't know what this game will be, but so far Fantasy Flight Games have released a new LCG every year. We know that a Legend of The Five Rings LCG is coming by it is due in 2017. Therefore any new game will likely be either a new licence, and I believe it will be a licensed product, or a second edition of either Warhammer Invasion or Call of Cthulhu.
It's fair to say I am a fan of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game system; I've clocked up a significant amount of time playing Rise of the Runelords and Wrath of the Righteous. Paizo have let it be known that the Mummy’s Mask will be released in 2016, but it's the Apocrypha Adventure Card Game that I'm looking forward to more.
Apocrypha funded on Kickstarter last year and had been designed by Mike Selinker and the team behind the Pathfinder. It looks like Apocrypha will be an evolution of the adventure card game system, as you take part in a campaign adventure and build up your character between games. The difference here is that, if you wish, you can play Apocrypha like a more traditional roleplaying game with one player becoming the games master.
Miniature gamesWhen I put together a similar article last year, I made a clear distinction between miniature games and hybrid games. To me miniature games are those played exclusively on terrain with a tape measure, whereas hybrid games combined elements of miniature games and board games. Well that line is continuing to blur and it's getting difficult to decide where a miniature game ends and a board game starts.
Conan is a perfect example of this blurred line. It’s got a board, it's got a euro game inspired resource management system but it's also got amazing miniatures and a level of collectability. I can say with some confidence that Conan is a game to look forward to, I managed to play the game at Essen last year and, based on that one play, I can say that it lives up to the hype.
It manages to hold onto the tense one-versus-many aspect of games like Imperial Assault and Heroquest, feeling like an old fashioned dungeon crawler, yet at the same time integrates a unique action resource system.
If you fancy your miniature games to be a bit more traditional then look no further than Dropfleet Commander. Hawk Wargames follow up to Dropzone Commander sees the battle moving into space as you will manoeuvre drop ships into combat zones to support the ground battle. The miniatures look absolutely beautiful. Even though it appears more traditional, Dropfleet Commander still manages to provide a new approach to miniature gaming.
The game is designed to be played on specific playmats, representing low orbit atmosphere. These playmats show the cities and objectives you will be fighting over and are integral to the game. What’s more the game is heavily objective based, blowing up the opposing force is not the main goal, and instead it’s controlling the planet below.
If you fancy your war games a bit more fantastical then look no further than Drakerys. This skirmish level miniatures game from French developer Don't Panic Games is full of your traditional orcs, elves and dragons. Based on the concept of elemental wizards, you must control key locations on the battlefield to tap into the elemental power needed to cast powerful spells.
Drakerys’ twist is its activation rules, you can take as many actions in your turn as you wish, but every action you take gives your opponent another action. It completely throws out the I-go-You-go element that bogs down many miniature games and turns it into a more dynamic give and take.
I was going to talk about the return of Games Workshop's specialist games. Rumours are we'll be seeing the return of Titan Legions and Necromunda but the one game guaranteed to come back is Blood Bowl, we know because we've seen the miniatures! Unfortunately we won't be playing Blood Bowl until 2017, so the chance of any of the other specialist games releasing before then is slim.
I've tried not to repeat games that where on last year’s list and I'm also trying to concentrate on games actually releasing in 2016. Last year we mentioned The Others 7 Sins, but it didn't get released and was instead an immensely successful Kickstarter project.
Coming from the same team as Blood Rage, Eric Lang, Studio McVey, Adrian Smith and Cool Mini Or Not, it will see a team of righteous demon hunters moving through a city and taking out the seven deadly sins.
Legacy gamesPandemic Legacy proved that legacy games are a big deal, games where each play of the game dramatically changes all games that follow. Destroying cards, writing on the board and opening up sealed envelopes are all part of the experience and Rob Daviau, the mastermind behind the legacy games has two more games on the horizon.
The first is Sea Fall and I am reluctant to put the game on this list because information about Seafall is so scarce that I'm beginning to think it's vapourware. What we do know is that the game is coming from a Plaid Hat and will be based on the age of sail, and that players will search the seven seas, but for what we’re not sure.
The really interesting prospect is that this will be the first Legacy game that isn't based on a pre-existing board game, the first two legacy games, Risk and Pandemic, have had something familiar to work with all the limitations that leads to. Seafall however is a completely new game and has been built from the ground up to be a legacy game.
The more ambitious legacy game however, is Chronicles Origins. Legacy games are based on the concept of changing every future play of that game, but Chronicles is planned to be a series of games, and your actions in Origins will affect the future games in the series.
Image from Dog and Thimble
Each player rules tribe that they nurture from its Stone Age roots into the Bronze Age and beyond. The game plays like a combination of Stone Age, Tales of the Arabian Nights and Dead of Winter, with the aspect of the game being worker placement but with storytelling exploration and a crisis at the end of each round.
In later games you will take control of rivalling city states and some of the tribes from Origins will be transferred into future games. Labelled the Echo System, it's a very ambitious project and for Artana to pull it off every game in the series will have to be good or players are going to abandon it.
App Supported GamesXCOM and Alchemists have both proven you can make a game using smartphones and tablets to supplement the gaming experience. I'm rather surprised that there aren't more app integrated games on the horizon, but what we do have is the World of Yo Ho.
Based in a cartoony work of anthropomorphic pirates, World of Yo Ho uses your smartphone as your pirate ship. This means you will use your phone as the gaming piece and will track damage and actions, and it stops people from being distracted by Facebook when playing.
Another game looking to integrate with a phone app in 2016 is Rising 5: Runes of Asteros. Ancient evil has been secured away from the rest of the world, but what do you know, someone forgot the passcode for the door and went and reset it. Now that ancient evil is running amok and you have to find the code needed to recapture the evil.
It's a cooperative deduction game where players will work together to solve the puzzles and work out the code. It sounds like a cooperative game of Alchemeists, which means I am looking forward to it immensely. It also has some amazing looking artwork with a comic book scifi/ fantasy / western aesthetic.
Board gamesWhen the reviews for Star Wars Risk started hitting the web I was intrigued. Everyone stated how this was the nearest you can get to the now grail game of Star Wars Queens Gambit. I was seriously considering buying it until I heard about Star Wars Rebellion.
Rebellion is a two player game set in the original trilogy Star Wars timeline. One player is the Empire, trying to seek out and eliminating the pesky rebellion and wins the game by finding and destroying the rebel base. The other player is the Rebels and must gain support for their cause, strike back at the evil empire and survive.
It looks like a game full of cat and mouse manoeuvres, if the mouse also had a squad of x-wings at its disposal. All the main planets and characters make an appearance and it all looks beautiful, tiny AT-AT models, a fully built and half but Death Star and enough cardboard token and chits to make an environmentalist blush. Basically it looks like ameritrash personified and I want in.
I must admit to not paying much attention to Tyrants of the Underdark when it was first announced. Although I really love Lords of Waterdeep, I found the adventure game series, such as Legends of Drizzt, lacking depth.
Tyrants of the Underdark is a deck builder, okay, nothing to get too excited about yet but also involves moving models around to control the Underdark. So what we're basically saying is that it looks like Trains but with a Dungeons and Dragons theme. So far it has got me interested but a new deck building game has to has to be really good to stand out in 2016.
If your favourite form of entertainment is Japanese school kids zipping round a medieval city on jet powered Spider-Man packs , while avoiding being eaten by 50 foot sexless naked humans then you'll be very excited that a board game version of Attack on Titan is due out this year. If you don't know what I am on about, go watch the anime, it's awesome.
The game looks like it will be a cooperative game where players have to work together to take down one of the super Titans from the game. So far we have only seen a prototype version but it includes a cool looking standy with players placing their troops on little shelves.
TIME Stories has proven you can make a great puzzle game about time travel but can the theme make a good worker placement game? Anachrony tries to do just that.
In Anachrony a meteorite has hit Earth causing an extinction level event. What is left of the human population is desperately clinging to survival in a poisonous world, and just to add insult to injury, there's time rift screwing up everything.
The game includes two worker placement tracks, not only do you have to carefully assign your workers but each worker also requires a hazmat suite to survive the wasteland.
The time travel twist is that players can go back in time and retrieve actions and resources that they couldn't obtain earlier in the game due to a lack of workers. It's a fascinating concept, let's hope it ties together.
Dungeon crawlers are pretty much a given now; you have one evil overlord controlling a host of minions and then a team of heroes attack the dungeon, killing the baddies and grabbing the loot. Alone is a science fiction dungeon crawler with a really cool twist.
In Alone, a single hero must navigate an abandoned space station while being attacked by up to three evil overlords. Details are still rather scarce but thematically we know the game is heading for a science fiction survival horror vibe, think Event Horizon or Dead Space and the game will be a story driven campaign, played out in chapters.
Keeping with the story driven games, one of my Essen regrets was not playing The 7th Continent. The game was already gaining a massive buzz on Kickstarter and a pretty looking prototype was available to play but I just couldn't get in on a game.
In The 7th Continent a group of adventurers in the early 20th century will head off to the mysterious lost continent and discover its secrets. Inspired by the Fighting Fantasy series of books, the game boasts cooperative story telling as you fight for survival. The interesting nature is that the 7th Continent is a continuous campaign story and it could take many hours to solve the final mystery and lift the curse.
Earlier in the year I spoke to Héctor Sevilla Luján, artist for Middara, because his artwork for the game was simply stunning.
Middara is a cooperative storytelling game that is further blending the boundaries between RPG, board game and miniatures game. Set in a highly stylised anime fantasy world Middara's narrative based campaign promises over 20 hours of story driven gameplay as well as tactical combat and a skills based experience system that allows players to throw away traditional RPG classes and make the character their own.
If Middara can deliver on half on what it promises it's going to be a good game, deliver on all and it has the potential to be an amazing game.
If we are talking about hyped games then we can't not mention Scythe. Brought to you by the King of the Kickstarter, Stonemaier Games, Scythe made a stupendously huge amount of money on its crowd-funding campaign and based on the number of people posting regular update to all of the board game Facebook feeds, everyone seems to be pretty excited for its release.
And why wouldn't you be excited for a game that promise to cross the farming of Agricola with mech based area control? And who can't be interested in the site of a diesel powered robot fighting along side bear riding cossacks. Due to a print and play version released during the Kickstarter campaign many people have already got to play Scythe and it hasn't dampened their enthusiasm.
Edit: The original version of this blog was published with a typo where I said the print and play "has dampened enthusiasm". Of course this is complete nonsense, in fact the print and play version of Scythe has cemented the anticipation of this game even further, making it the most anticipated game of 2016.
Let’s round things off with a bit of the home grown talent. It can't all be about throwing dice and miniatures, which is why I am really interested to see Nine Worlds, which hopefully should be at this year's UK Games Expo. Based on Norse and Anglo-Germanic myth, players will take the role of ancient gods and attempt to control the nine worlds.
Now it's easy for a game such as this to look dull; a basic board, wooden cubes and functional artwork, but Nine Worlds has already released the artwork for the board and it's beautiful.
What’s more the game has been designed by Richard Denning, who’s previous game, The Great Fire of London was a bit of a thing.
Roll on the 3rd of June!