El Crosso’s Spiel 2018 Top 9 Must Buy Board Games

At the pinnacle of our Board Gaming hobby

In anticipation of Spiel 2018, we are on the hunt for what the board game hotness is for this year and what games grabbed our attention. We will kick it off with the MUST BUY games, but a small caveat is that we already received some of the new titles as review copies and those will appear later on the lists we are planning to share with you all here and on Instagram. These ones are the ones we won’t leave Essen without, will we run to grab a copy, bride people to save one for us or just cry when they get sold out.

Next lists are in the line of Must Do Demo’s, Must Have Expansions, The Other 9 Which Could Crush All Others and when time allows it some more lists. As the header of this section already suggested, are we at the pinnacle of our board gaming hobby? The growth of the number of gamers, fresh new publishers arriving at the scene, bloggers & vloggers galore, major takeovers or joint ventures starting and even famous tv shows are depicting our small niche of the entertainment hobby. Growth is life and our great little corner of the world is alive as ever before!

SPIEL 2018 overview board games
Some of the titles we are showcasing coming days on the blog and Instagram

Let us first give a big shout out to our friends from tt_tool_bannerTableTop Together and their magnificent TOOL. Without that, we would have been lost in the woods with a 1000 plus list of board games releasing at Spiel 2018. Accompany this games list with the Hall Plans which Alain (DukeOfEarl) on Boardgamegeek always makes and you are off to the races.

We have a handy post from last year which may be of help for this year too in preparation for your Spiel journey.

We also love The GeekPreview from Boardgamegeek, but keeping essenpreviewadministration on both would be even crazier and we like the extra flexibility the system has on the Tabletop Together Tool. But, the lovely people behind the Geek are doing an absolutely stellar job on this. Nothing but endless props to them.

The Top 9 Must Buy Games

Arboretum (2nd edition)


Nowhere is nature’s beauty quite so evident as in the resplendent colors of an arboretum. In Arboretum, you create carefully planned paths for your visitors to walk as they take in the colorful explosion of buds and leaves. The cheerful cherry blossom, the fragrant dogwood, the mighty oak – all have a place in this peaceful haven. But the tranquil setting belies the game’s competitive heart. You must choose which cards to plant in your arboretum and which to keep in hand, as only the most expert curator will win the renown of nature enthusiasts everywhere.

Sometimes you just want a quick game of something good, because the kids are taking up time or work has its impact on the available tabletop hourly quota needed to keep the brain playful. But, you don’t want to have just a filler game and also want some meat on the bone still what to play? Arboretum looks stellar and play’s this part fantastically from what we have heard and we have seen from the reviews. One we surely want to pick up at the Renegade Game Studios (2-F138) and if there are Deluxe versions left, we may grab a copy of that too.

Codenames: Disney family edition

Codenames Disney Family Edition by CGE and USAOPOLY

The Disney Family Edition of Codenames combines the hit social word game with some of Disney’s most beloved properties from the past 90 years. Including both pictures and words, it’s family fun for Disney fans of all ages. Codenames: Disney Family Edition keeps the Codenames gameplay, while featuring characters and locations from over 90 years of Disney and Pixar films.

It’s quite simple, we are lifelong fans of the Disney brand and have visited the parks so many times and have seen all the movies. How can we not want to have this in our board game collection? From the mastermind Vlaada Chvátil and brought to Spiel by Usaopoly (5-I100) and CGE.


Coimbra by eggertspiele and from Virginio Gigli & Flaminia Brasini

In the 15th and 16th century, Portugal is thriving under its leading role during the Age of Discovery. Nestled in the heart of Portugal, the city of Coimbra serves as a cultural center of the country. As the head of one of Coimbra’s oldest houses, you seek to earn prestige by deepening relationships with nearby monasteries or funding expeditions of the era. To reach this goal, you must vie for the favors of the city’s most influential citizens, even if you must offer a bit of coin or some protective detail.

We were a little on the fence about this one, we see the fun and well thought out design goodness in these games of Virginio & Flaminia, but we didn’t love them. We did like the looks of Coimbra though while the opinions on that differ greatly. But we love the clever use of dice in games and in the end Rahdo did his magic on us and put it above some other euro games. It also reminds us a little of one of our favorite titles, Madeira, but some heaps lighter. So Pegasus Spiele (3-M110) or Eggertspiele don’t let us down on this one, but we have faith in both these publishers to bring home the gold.

Forum Trajanum

Forum trajanum by Stefan Feld from Stronghold Games and HUCH!

Emperor Trajan plans to have a monument built for eternity: the Forum Trajanum. It is supposed to become the biggest and most glorious Emperor’s forum that the Roman world has ever seen — not only in order to demonstrate his success as Princeps Optimus in an imposing manner, but also to foster the well-being and the fame of the honorable citizens of Rome.

Stefan Feld is making a huge splash again with not just one game releasing, but two! We looked at both and for us, Forum Trajanum edged out the other one, but you bet we will give it a swing if we get the chance to play it. In this fairly simple gaming with just a few actions you can take, you will need to build your own colonia but also assist in the capital growth of Rome. We read a lot of intertwining mechanisms with a lot of points to be had, so call us hungry for some point salad! Huch! is bringing this for the German crowd and Stronghold Games (3-O111) is taking the English version along.


Friedemann Friese Futuropia by Stronghold Games

In this Utopian society, we all will work much less. Our robots can do nearly everything already. There is no need for great envy. It is simply about equality, justice, and the fair allocation of the complete and still necessary work, which then gives us ALL more leisure time.

The men in Green, and no that’s not Green Lantern or The Riddler, but the designer with his F named board or card games, Friedemann Friese. He is out again with tons of games, but one caught our attention almost instantly Futuropia. The dystopian future which he sets out to explore sounds just so interesting and something we do want to see happening. A zero luck economic strategy game is another nice premise and with the quirky art from Harald Lieske, you have something different out on the tabletop. Stronghold Games (3-O111) is again up there as a publisher which is a must visit when you are attending Spiel.

Key Flow

Key Flow by R&D Games and Huch! Sebastian Bleasdale and Richard Breese

The great river Key Flow passes through the new Key Lands, carrying ships laden with resources for building and trade. Along the riverside, buildings are built, boats are moored in docks, and animals graze in the fields. Players build communities alongside this river, and send workers (known as “keyples”) to work in both their own and their neighbors’ businesses, enabling their economy to develop and flourish.

We have a love-hate relationship with The Key series. We played Keyflower early in our board game adventures and we were not seeing the great strategy behind that one. We traded away our copy and eyed Key to the City in 2016, but to be honest, the theme appealed much more, but the game was rather stripped down from its magic. Last year’s  Keyper had those fancy flippy boards, but that one also attracted us, but we didn’t stay for the party. Now we are back for Key Flow, which again looks like a streamlined card game in the Key series. Again we are very hyped and looking forward to it, but will it satisfy our needs…? Quick, smart gameplay, lovely looking artwork (Vicki Dalton) and a farming game (not our favorite setting) which holds its own on short weeknight gaming moments. Richard Breese is a wonderfully kind gentleman and together with Sebastian Bleasdale, they have a fantastic brand going with their “Key” series. R&D Games (3-O101)  and Huch! are bringing it to Spiel 2018.

Teotihuacan: City of Gods

Teotihuacan City of Gods by NSKN Games and Daniele Tascini

Travel back in time to the greatest city in Mesoamerica. Witness the glory and the twilight of the powerful pre-Columbian civilization. Strategize, accrue wealth, gain the favour of the gods, and become the builder of the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun.

Is this the title, with the very difficult name (exact pronunciation here by Ella), the one game which will go down in history as THE Spiel 2018 hottest board game title? After seeing the videos from Heavy Cardboard, Jon Get Games and Rahdo we are almost certain it has the potential to do that. (Newsflash, mister Pfister dropped a bomb with his Blackout release, so will that dethrone Teotihuacan? Who knows, but if someone can do it, it is Alexander.) The game looks really like a big rondel with a lot of variability in the set-up. The board looks a little bland, but as we understand they tried versions which were more elaborate and that didn’t work out. Gameplay with the dice movement and resource conversion looks very solid and the use of the dice is again something unique with the “workers” evolving and dying when they reach 6 pips. NSKN Games (1-G124) has a monster hit in their hands and Daniel Tascini & David Turzi (only the solo developer this time, but still…) have established themselves now as a recurring big-time designers with 2 titles in the Boardgamegeek top 50 (Tzolkin, Anachrony and Marco Polo) and now this new Spiel hype game on their portfolio. Where will this end up?

Underwater Cities

Underwater Cities by Delicious Games and Vladimir Suchy

The earth is overpopulated. Only one way is open for human expansion: the world under the sea. Players compete to build the best underwater nation formed by cities connected by a network of transportation tunnels, with aggregate vital structure such as desalination plant, scientific lab but above all the kelp farms, vital for survival.

Talk about themes which inspire and which stand out of the crowd. Building Underwater Cities just sound awesome and when Vladimir Suchy is involved, you can expect something special. At first, we thought this to become quite an abstracted out game and wouldn’t bring a lot of theme to the table, but with recent information and after screening the rules, both the gameplay with the clever card play and the theme seems so well implemented. The way you will need to time and play your color cards at the best place possible, to get the most out of them in regard to actions, sounds just so intense & enjoyable. Gather stuff to build out your vision and in the end, regardless if you win or not, having really built something to glance over is always is win for us. Published by Vladimir himself with his Delicious Games (5-C111) label.


Valparaiso by DLP Games and designed by Stefan & Louis Malz

In 1811, free trade is declared for the harbor city of Valparaíso in Chile. A short time later, Chile proclaims its independence. As an influential citizen of Valparaíso, you want to push the development of your city, so you send merchants into the hinterland to get hold of important export goods and send your ships overseas to gain new achievements there.

Rococo is most-likely our favorite mid-weight board game due to great gameplay and just a stellar theme. Erna and me love playing this. So when you see father and son Malz having a go at a new DLP Games (1-F133) release, Valparaiso, call us groupies, but we go in blind! It may look a little generic for a eurogame, but we don’t mind that if the gameplay is just rock solid and enticing. And generic is very subjective and not the correct word when mister Michael Menzel is responsible for the art.  The rulebook does look like a solid game is present and the main board looks just really aesthetically pleasing, we love the real world like map-based games. It just triggers something in the brain and transports us to a place in our minds. The premise of the gameplay tells us it will give a lot of interactions around the table and players are involved in each other turns and are affected by other players choices.

Still here, now for some closing thoughts

Those are just 9 out of so many more games we are liking to bring home from Essen Spiel. The growth of the hobby is such an amazing thing and overall just immensely positive, but with the growth comes also the fact that we cannot see all the games anymore and even more likely, we need to judge games sometimes to quickly on art, back of the box, designer pedigree or publisher preference.  Or sometimes better, read deeper pockets, marketing or bigger companies behind certain titles grabbing all the footlights.

Is this something which you also see? And what are your thoughts on the growth of our niche hobby?

Thanks for reading along on another one of those lists and we are very grateful for each and every person doing just that. Please let us know with a comment or a thumb, heart, like message pigeon, what you thought about our content.

~ Love Your Board Game Life ~

Marlon & Erna

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