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20 Highly Anticipated Board Games Arriving at Gen Con 2021

Jeff shares his list of board games to watch at Gen Con 2021

Every year a slew of great board games find their way into gamers’ hands for the first time at Gen Con and 2021 looks to be no different. In alphabetical order, here are twenty titles which are ready for their close ups, Mr. Demille!

If there’s a game you’re really looking forward to which I haven’t mentioned, and is premiering at Gen Con, let me know in the comments!

Caesar! Seize Rome in 20 Minutes! (PSC Games)Caesar! Seize Rome in 20 Minutes! from PSC Games

The Roman Republic is coming to an end, but not before a power struggle between Caesar and Pompey. Players will command their legions, strategically deploying them to key battlegrounds to try and seize control of the provinces and become ruler of the republic.

Players draw tokens from a bag to determine their starting forces and to replenish their losses. Players allocate their resources to each province, gaining tactical advantages and vying for control of the republic.

Three modules to expand the game are included, poison your opponent, deploy powerful Centurions and use underhanded tactics to gain advantages in the Expansions of Rome.

Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition (WizKids)Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition from WizKids

Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition brings back the classic game of exploration, expansion, and development with the Clash of Cultures base game and the Civilizations and Aztecs expansion in one box! Grow your civilization, advance your culture and tech, and leave your mark by building wonders, with this edition of the game including fully-sculpted miniatures of the Seven Wonders.

In Clash of Cultures, each player leads a civilization from a single settlement to a mighty empire. Players must explore their surroundings, build large cities, research advances and conquer those who stand in the way. The game features a modular board for players to explore, 48 distinct advances, seven mighty wonders, and loads of miniatures and cards. The winner will create a culture that will be remembered and admired for millennia.

Furnace (Hobby World International)Furnace from Hobby World (See my review here)

Furnace is an engine-building Eurogame in which players take on the roles of 19th-century capitalists building their industrial corporations and aspiring to make as much money as they can by purchasing companies, extracting resources, and processing them in the best combinations possible.

Each player starts the game with a random start-up card, the resources depicted at the top of that card, and four colored discs valued 1-4.

The game is played over four rounds, and each round consists of two phases: Auction and Production. During the auction, 6-8 company cards are laid out with their basic sides face up. Players take turns placing one of their discs on one of these cards, but you cannot place a disc on a card if a disc of the same value or color is already present. Thus, you’ll place discs on four cards.

Once all the discs are placed, the cards are resolved from left to right. Whoever placed the highest-valued disc will claim this card, but first anyone with a lower-valued disc on this card will gain compensation, either the resources depicted multiplied by the value of their disc or a processing ability (exchange X for Y) up to as many times as the value of their disc.

Once all the cards have been claimed or discarded, players enter the production phase, using their cards in the order of their choice. Each company card has one action — either production or processing — on its basic side and two actions on its upgraded side. During the production phase, you can use each of your cards once to gain resources, process those resources into other resources or money, and upgrade your cards.

At the end of four rounds, whoever has the most money wins.

Furnace also includes capitalist cards that contain unique effects, and if you want, you can choose to deal one out to each player at the start of the game. For an additional challenge, you can require players to create a “production chain”, with each newly acquired company card being placed somewhere in that chain and locked in position for the remainder of the game.

Great Western Trail Second Edition (Eggertspiele)Great Western Trail Second Edition from Eggertspiele

America in the 19th century: You are a rancher and repeatedly herd your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. This earns you money and victory points. Needless to say, each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. However, the “Great Western Trail” not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail. Also, it might be a good idea to hire capable staff: cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your very own buildings, or engineers for the important railroad line.

If you cleverly manage your herd and navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of Great Western Trail, you surely will gain the most victory points and win the game.

The second edition of Great Western Trail was will include solitaire rules, making for a player count of 1-4.

Remember the old days in the West? Well, the times they are a-changing’! From new solo opponent to incredible landscapes, you won’t know where to start. And there is a new herd of cows for you to sell!

Great Western Trail is the critically acclaimed game of cattle ranching by Alexander Pfister. Players attempt to wrangle their herd across the Midwest prairie and deliver it to Kansas City. But beware! Other cowboys are sharing the trail with you. We invite you to saddle up!

Horrified: American Monsters (Ravensburger)Horrified: American Monsters from Ravensburger

Horrified: American Monsters is a standalone game that features gameplay similar to 2019’s Horrified, which challenges players to overcome the “Universal Monsters” from classic films.

In this co-operative game, you face off against classic American nightmarish beasts: Bigfoot, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabra, the Banshee of the Badlands, and the Ozark Howler. The more creatures in the game, the harder the challenge, with players needing to use their unique powers to figure out how to defeat each monster.

The Hunger (Renegade Game Studios)The Hunger from Renegade Game Studios

The Hunger is a race in which each vampiric player must optimize their card deck, hunt humans to gain victory points, fulfill secret missions, and eventually acquire a rose and return to the castle before sunrise. The more you hunt, the slower both you and your deck become, which will make it harder and harder to get back before daybreak. Can you become the most notorious vampire without burning to ashes at sunrise?

During the game, players spend “speed” to move their vampires around the map, hunt humans worth victory points, and add new cards to their deck.

The game ends at dawn, after which the surviving player with the most victory points on their cards wins!

The Hunger plays 2-6 players in about 60 minutes!

Key to the Kingdom (Restoration Games)Key to the Kingdom from Restoration Games

Key to the Kingdom is a restoration of the 1990 classic game. The new version features the classic hole-in-the-board mechanism to hop through portals and explore the Demon King’s domain.

As the kingdom’s not-so-mightiest heroes — Pitiless Pixie, Knovice Knight, Unique Unicorn, Merciless Mercenary, and Gnarled Gnome — you’ll go on adventures to gather the three pieces of the magic key, then hop through a portal to defeat the Demon King once and for all.

This new version gives players greater control over the whims of the dice. You’ll use your collection of items to tweak your rolls. But make sure you have the right item ready when you go on an adventure to give you an easier path through. You’ll get magic items and companions along the way as well. It also adds a new endgame in which you need to face a series of mini-challenges to win the game. Originally published in 1990, this restored version is brought to life by the incomparable art of Andrew Bosley, creating a world you’ll want to visit over and over again.

Kingdomino Origins (Blue Orange Games)Kingdomino Origins from Blue Orange Games

Go back in time to the prehistoric era of Kingdomino!

Kingdomino Origins plays similarly to the original game, but introduces new components for additional actions and new ways to score points. Regions in your territory will earn you points if they contain fire. Fire is either part of your terrains or earned by adding dominoes with volcanoes. There are three game modes to play:

  • The first one introduces fire and volcanoes;
  • The second mode uses wooden resources;
  • And the third one features cavemen tokens.

You earn points by collecting resources, with additional points when you have the majority of a type of resources. These resources allow you to bring cavemen to your territory, and each type of caveman has its own way to give you points based on their position.

Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders (Czech Games Edition)Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders from Czech Games Edition (Check out my review of the core game here)

Return to the mysterious island of Arnak in this new expansion – Expedition Leaders!

Give your expedition an edge by choosing one of six unique leaders, each equipped with different abilities, skills, and starting decks that offer different strategies and styles of play for you to explore.

In addition to the leader abilities, which bring a new element of asymmetry to the game, this expansion also contains alternative research tracks that offer even more variety and a bigger challenge, along with new item and artifact cards to create new combos and synergies.

Lost Ruins of Arnak is an award-winning board game that offers a unique combination of worker placement and deckbuilding, while each player attempts to uncover the lost island’s secrets.

  • Expansion for the award-winning board game Lost Ruins of Arnak
  • Unique leader abilities, player boards, and starting decks bringing asymmetrical experience with new strategies and styles of play
  • Play with alternative research tracks for more variety
  • Obtain new item and artifact cards to create new combos and synergies

Maglev Metro (Bézier Games)Maglev Metro from Bézier Games

In Maglev Metro, utilize state-of-the-art magnetic levitation technology to build a metropolitan rail system, transporting workers and robots beneath the city. Replace aging Manhattan and Berlin subway systems with newer, faster, quieter technology. Enhance your rail system’s abilities so that your passengers arrive at their destinations first.

Efficiency is your key to success in this pick-up-and-deliver, tile-laying, engine-building game. Transparent tiles allow your route to overlap your opponents’ tracks, winding you along from station to station. Robots efficiently upgrade and adjust your abilities, leveraging unique goals to maximize points. By the end of the game, the game board has morphed into a modern subway map, with brightly-colored routes connecting stations all over the city.

Maglev Metro is a tile placement, pick up & deliver, engine building game from Ted Alspach for 1-4 players. The inventive transparent tiles in Maglev Metro create a train game experience unlike any that has come before. Now, all route options are open to you regardless of how many tracks are already placed! Stand clear of the closing doors and enjoy the ride on Maglev Metro!

Maglev Metro contains two unique maps.

Merchants of the Dark Road (Elf Creek Games)Merchants of the Dark Road from Elf Creek Games

After half a year of daylight, we must now prepare for the dark season. The roads will be treacherous but they will still need to be braved by a select few in order to keep our cities thriving. In Merchants of the Dark Road, you are one of these brave few merchants that travel the dangerous paths between cities. While the job is perilous, fame and fortune await.

Discover the capital city where most of your actions will take place using a rondel action system. Collect and produce items to add to your caravan, or sell these items to local heroes and hire them to travel with you. Manipulate the market price of items, visit the back alley sellers, or delve a nearby dungeon for magical items to gain the potential for even more coin and notoriety.

Gather lanterns to ease your passage along the dark roads as you guide your caravan to distant villages. Deliver goods and heroes to the best destinations and gain fame for your bravery! Balance the money you earn with the height of your fame because your final score after a number of game rounds will reflect the lowest of these two values.

After all, what good is a purse full of the coin if the people don’t sing songs about you, and what good is a song with an empty mug of ale?

Neoville from Blue Orange Games

Neoville is looking for architects to build a city that is a combination of human habitation and the natural world. Are you up to the challenge?

Position tiles strategically to build skyscrapers and utilities in your 4×4 city. Skyscrapers will be worth harmony points at the end of the game based on their value and district size. Utilities will be worth harmony points when their position in the city fits their own requirements. However, skyscrapers or utilities that do not meet their requirements will count as negative points!

Who will design the most harmonious city with nature?

Neoville is for two to four players ages 10 and up.

Oltréé (Studio H)Oltréé from Studio H

In Oltréé, players represent knights in a fallen kingdom who are still doing what they can to protect the people and land they had sworn allegiance to. The game will include a number of scenarios linked by theme, but they’re playable independently and don’t form an overarching campaign.

Oltréé is based on the French role-playing game Oltréé by John Grümph.

The players take on the role of patrollers, invested with an ancient mission: to protect the inhabitants of the empire, to establish peace and to monitor the lines of communication. But the empire is no longer and remains only the mission and the tenacious and courageous patrollers who work day by day in territories that have become wild again. The universe offers a high Middle Ages atmosphere and great barbarian migrations, where the technology is still very rudimentary and the inhabited territories separated from each other by vast wild regions and difficult to access, marked by a fantastic fairy tinged with science. Planetary fiction where magic is common but not very powerful.

Paris (Game Brewer)Paris from Game Brewer

Explore Paris in the 19th century. Discover its renowned architecture and obtain the most eminent buildings in the right districts to achieve victory.

Paris is a typical medium-weight Kramer and Kiesling Eurostyle-game with straightforward gameplay, short player turns, and an ingenious point salad mechanism. You mainly score points by obtaining the right buildings and collecting the right bonus cards.

In Paris, you take on the role of wealthy real estate investors in the Paris of the 1900s. Paris is at the height of its transformation into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. After having successfully organized the World Fair in 1889, topped by the construction of the Eiffel Tower and celebrating the centennial of the Storming of the Bastille, Paris goes through a period known as “la Belle Époque”. The architecture of Paris created during this period ranged from the Beaux-Arts, neo-Byzantine, and neo-Gothic to Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It is your task to purchase some of these magnificent Parisian buildings in order to make a profit and invest in the development and upkeep of some of Paris’ most iconic buildings and landmarks.

Return to Dark Tower (Restoration Games)Return to Dark Tower from Restoration Games

For an age, the tower lay in ruins. Unbeknownst to the people of the realm, a great evil stirred in its bowels. It started with strange sightings: a flock of crows flying in circles until they dropped from the sky, the lake frozen solid in the height of summer. In time, they could not deny that which they most feared.

The evil had not been vanquished. The darkness would soon fall again. The tower will rise.

A “sequel” to the 1981 grail game, Return to Dark Tower is a game for 1-4 players who take the role of heroes. Together, they gather resources, cleanse buildings, defeat monsters, and undertake quests to build up their strength and discern what foe ultimately awaits them. When the heroes face the tower, the game shifts into its dramatic second act, where the players have one chance to defeat the enemy once and for all.

The game features cooperative and competitive play.

The game features traditional game mechanisms, such as engine building and resource management, paired with a technological interface unlike any seen before in games, including the titular tower, which holds more than a few secrets.

Rocketmen (PHALANX Games)Rocketmen from PHALANX Games

They have set up their empires of trailblazing innovation and groundbreaking technologies on a somewhat unremarkable planet circling around a rather average star. Years of hard work and steadfast dedication to their clear-cut vision of looking further than the day-to-day toils and chores of human civilization have cemented their reputation as the forefathers of the future humanity. Secretly, they have never stopped dreaming about the thrust of all their entrepreneurial actions and deeds – reaching the stars. Now, the time has come for them to embark on a second giant leap for humankind, to make the outer reaches of the solar system our home. Only one of them shall go down in history as the first explorer of space and a person who truly forged their will and power according to the bold words: citius, altius, fortius – faster, higher, stronger.

Immerse yourself in a fast-paced race to the final frontier: space. A deck-building confrontation of swift decision-making and tactical choices, Rocketmen gives you the feel of taking a front seat in a technologically wonderful spectacle of space exploration. It’s up to your predictive abilities and resource management skills to determine what kind of endeavor would be most suitable for paving the way to Earth’s celestial neighbors. It doesn’t matter whether it would be a low Earth orbit satellite or a manned base destined for the Red Planet; plan your mission carefully, equip your shuttles and rockets craftily, yet do not hesitate when your gut instinct tells you when it’s time to launch!

The universe might wait for you eternally. Your opponents won’t!

Savannah Park (Capstone Games)Savannah Park from Capstone Games

In Savannah Park, you each run your own wildlife park, and your goal is to group animals with their own kind — but everyone takes turns deciding what to move, so you might not be able to shuffle animals into the right spaces.

Each player starts the game with the same set of 33 unique animal tiles, with those tiles laid out at random in your personal wildlife park. Three bush-fire spaces and one rock space will remain unoccupied in your park for the entire game, and six tree spaces and four grass spaces are unoccupied at the start of play.

On a turn, you name a specific face-up tile that all players must pick up, flip face down, then move to a different empty space within their own park. Tiles that have been flipped cannot move again, and once all tiles have moved, the game ends with a scoring round. First, tiles adjacent to bush fires are removed if they depict as many animals as the number of fires (1, 2, or 3) on the bush-fire space. Score for each grass and tree uncovered on your board. Finally, score for each of the six animal species; the bigger the main herd of each of species and the more water holes it contains, the more points you score, e.g. a herd of five rhinos and three watering holes is worth (5×3) 15 points. The player with the most points wins.

Savannah Park includes a solo mode, a set-up variant that allows you to place the bush fires and trees where you wish, and a scoring variant that rewards you for bumping a lion out of the animals’ way.

The Spill (Smirk & Dagger Games)The Spill from Smirk & Dagger Games

Offshore rig, DeepWell•4, has blown out and the rupture is spilling crude oil into the ocean at an alarming rate! Your response team must work together, using your individual talents to avert an ecological disaster, one which threatens to contaminate marine life and devastate the ecosystem. The situation is dire and escalating by the minute, so there is no time to waste.

  1. Contain the oil flowing from the rig
  2. Remove what oil you can from the waters
  3. Rescue the marine animals

The world is watching. The fate of the coast is in your hands!

This fully cooperative game, for 1-4 players, features a 4-way dice tower as the oil rig, which randomly drops oil dice onto the four quadrants of the game board. In this respect, the game is a reverse tower defense game, as players sail the perimeter trying to push back and contain the oil, remove dice from the water and save the sea life.

Successors 4E (Ares Games/Phalanx Games)Successors Fourth Edition from PHALANX Games

When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, he left no clear heir to the immense empire he had conquered. It was not long after his death that the Macedonian generals began to war among themselves over who would be the regent or successor to Alexander’s empire. By 305 BC they had given up on succession and began to carve out their own kingdoms. Successors is a 2-4 player game based on those wars.

Successors was first published in 1997 by Avalon Hill. Some years later a second edition rulebook was published that gave more options for the Tyche cards. Successors III built on the foundation of the Successors II rules set plus expansion cards that appeared in the Boardgamer.

The fourth edition of Successors includes more generals, more scenarios, new Tyche cards, plenty of new components, and a changed map, with Libya and Cyrene being merged.

Velocity: Vanguard (Precarious Games)Velocity: Vanguard from Precarious Games

You are the Vanguard… the first. Reach into the unknown with fledgling spacefaring technology and hopefully return to accolades. As Commander, your goal is to successfully complete your missions and discover what lies beyond Sol.

Velocity: Vanguard is a physics-based space board game with fast and kinetic gameplay. Story driven missions are designed for 1 to 4 players as individual commanders or teams. You’ll encounter asteroids, defense stations, powerful automated enemies, and many other surprises. Choose your faction, crew, ships and modules… then embark!

Through a unique physics based mechanic, players control where their ship will be by manipulating their vector token with a navigation action. Each ship has unique handling characteristics that make this an exciting part of gameplay.

Depending on the mission and mode (solo, co-op, competitive), each player controls a faction with 1 to 3 ships per faction, for a set number of rounds, or until a particular objective is completed. Within a round, each player will take turns activating ships by placing crew members in navigation, module or specialist crew action slots. After crews have been assigned, the player will move their ship on the tactical board the number of hexes and direction indicated by their vector token on the vector board. Before, during or after movement, players trigger crewed actions by spending energy and then exhausting that crew.

Your ships will be well equipped to explore, defend or attack with modules including weapons, defense systems, scanners, support and specialist crews. In the core game, each of the 3 ship classes possess unique strengths of their creator factions and are further customized by the player during mission setup. There are 18 modules and 12 specialist crews available to choose from in the core game. Each ship class can hold a limited number of modules and crew. Module and crew selection depends on the mission, and could include drafting, budget, free-for-all or recommended load-outs.

Whether you enjoy solo, co-op or competitive story driven missions, skirmish or building your own scenarios, Velocity: Vanguard has almost endless replay-ability.

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Jeff McAleer

Founder/Editor-in-chief of The Gaming Gang website and host of The Gaming Gang Dispatch and other TGG media, Jeff tackles any and all sorts of games but has a special fondness for strategy, conflict sims, and roleplaying games. Plus, he's certainly never at a loss for an opinion...

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