I've thought hard about this year's must have releases and it gets tougher every year. I boiled it down to 10 must have purchases I'm going to pick up.

Cooper Island

Capstone Games are quickly becoming one of my top publishers. Easy to learn games with tough strategies and it seems Cooper Island is going to follow that trend. Place landscape tiles that grant resources and enable you to erect buildings with special abilities. Build statues and supply ships to help you settle on the main island. However, smaller, inshore islands grant valuable benefits. Pre-ordered so I don’t miss it!

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Island


There’s not a whole lot of information out about this yet, but designed by Alexander Pfister and published by Capstone games pretty much tells me all I need to know. Played over four rounds, players try to increase their influence with three nations. Sail around the Caribbean performing various actions like delivering goods. Card-based so wondering what interesting new mechanic it will entail!

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases

Orleans Stories

Orleans took some work for me, the first time I played it I really didn’t enjoy it. However, I loved my second play which turned me round to it! Orleans Stories is a storytelling version of the original game featuring campaign-style rule sets. Players are now settling in the Loire Valley and must farm, produce, found villages, churches, and fortresses. But, they must also fight off hunger and plague, fight off invaders and perhaps conquer foreign lands. Having just started Scythe's Rise of Fenris, I’m getting a similar vibe - legacy without the alteration of anything!

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Stories


OK, so I know people are getting their Kickstarter copies through, but this is being officially released at Essen (and I opted for collection there!) There’s a lot of us that have been waiting years for this to be re-printed and at long last it’s here with stunning new artwork from an eclectic mix of well-known artists. Described as a cruel and ruthless economic game, what’s not to love?

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Porter


Quined Games are another of my go-to publishers so of course, this makes the list! Set in the mid to late Bronze Age in Northern Italy, you play as chief of one of these villages. Develop your land, explore further away and trade with other villages, improve your battle strength and discover new technologies to create artifacts. Gain the most development points to win the game. I love a bit of civ building so am really excited for this one.

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Terramara

Bruxelles 1897

We’re big fans of the Bruxelles 1893 boardgame so I am really looking forward to seeing this card-driven implementation from the same designer. Use your five architect cards to perform various actions throughout the city. Different actions score you victory points or help you advance up tracks which will score you points at the end of the game.

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Bruxelles


I played this at Essen two years ago and have been waiting (im)patiently for it ever since. Obviously, we love a nice cup of tea here, but combine it with train games and it’s irresistible! Cultivate and harvest your tea, assist in building the railway and build towns, use Chai to speed up your workers actions. But really, tea and trains, do I need to say more?

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Alubari

Normally, I’d do a separate post for expansions but these are all biggies in my mind so they go on the ‘proper’ list this year!

Underwater Cities: New Discoveries

I’m a little in love with this game, the card-driven engine building is awesome and constantly keeps you adjusting and re-working your strategies depending on what cards you draw or if people go on the spaces you want. This new expansion is adding more of everything! New epoch cards, new personal assistants, new metropolis as well as indented boards to keep your pieces nicely in place. Not only will there be replacements for the current boards, but also some new ones!

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Dimensions

Food Chain Magnate: The Ketchup Mechanism and other Ideas

I love Splotter games! There, I said it. Therefore this is a must-have for me. The base game doesn’t hit the table as often as I’d like so I’m seeing this as an excuse to brush the dust off. Not only does it add an extra player (up to 6) but it adds loads of other stuff. New milestones, coffee houses and baristas for customers to visit on the way to get food, new food types, new employees and available promotions. Just more of everything, I’m a little excited for this!

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases Mechanism

Heaven and Ale: Kegs and More

Another crunchy game that’s brutal (which makes me love it even more!) This game is totally unforgiven and if you get positive points on your first play, I’ll be impressed. Now, in amongst everything else, your monks are charged with collecting barrels to store the beer and keep a supply of hay for the donkeys to deliver the beer because there isn’t enough to try and juggle in the base game!

Spiel 2019, Essen - ESSENtial Releases

As always there will be things that we don't see until the last minute or that we discover over the course of the show, so keep and eye on Facebook / Twitter / YouTube for updates while we are there as we will be posting content while we are away. And we're off....