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The best new board games from the world's largest board games show

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Increase / There were many lots of people in Essen this year.
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our holiday weekend for board games! See our full board game coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

For four days each year, the German city of Essen becomes the center of the board games universe. The annual Internationale Spieltage ̵

1; known simply as "Spiel" – publishes worldwide publishers, revealing their most anticipated new editions.

This year, more than 1,200 exhibitors from 53 countries showed their games on 86,000 square feet of floor space. With so much to see, it's impossible to pick up more than a small fraction of the games offered. But over the past few years, I've been touring the halls on behalf of Ars readers, looking for smart, cool, innovative and fun new headlines. So once again I took a deep breath and dived first in a swirl of cards, dice, melees and miniatures. And here are my pictures of the games I was able to play.


The growing sub-category of board games is challenging players to transmit information using crypto image collections – think Dixit Mysterium, or Fraud: 195 Hong Kong Assassination.

Obscurio is the latest addition to the pile. It casts you and your partners as wizards trapped in a magical magic library. To escape, you must open a series of doors and find your way to freedom. Each door shows a different mysterious image and one player acts as a guide, using picture cards and subtle similarities between different illustrations to point everyone else in the right direction.

It may sound familiar to anyone who has played similar games, but Obscurio makes some changes to the well-established plan. For one thing, the driver can use a pair of magnetic arrows to highlight specific elements of the image cards, drawing players' attention to different colors, shapes and objects. There is also a limit to how long players can think about their decisions and it takes too long to select a door, imposing penalties that make things harder in the next rounds.

One player also acts as a secret traitor, actively trying to thwart the group's efforts to escape. In a game with such a clear element of ambiguity, there are many options for subcutaneously derailing your friends' progress, all of which are related to Hogwarts-style aesthetics.

Pandemic: quick response

With the line of Pandemic games increasing at a rate that would produce a viral current of e. coli is jealous, it is tempting to wonder how far the franchise can expand without running out of creative juice. Quick Response suggests that there are still ways.

Players control a team of specialists, each with different abilities, rushing to places around the world to fight epidemics and prevent civilization from collapsing. Instead of a map, the board is now an airplane, with different sections dedicated to the production of different types of medicines and resources needed to combat different infectious strains.

You will do this by rolling and rolling dice, using the results to move around the plane and complete tasks as en route to the next place for global problems. What makes this difficult is the relentless deadline that forces you to make quick decisions under pressure and inevitably create more problems in the process.

There is one thematically confused element where you can lose the game because your plane becomes too full of junk. But like the original pandemic the Fast Response cleverly creates a sensing tension. The game was not the most fun I had with sand timers in Spiel, however …

House Flippers

This fast and weird game sees players become rivals to homeowners looking to buy and sell. a series of homes, using the profits to retire to a life of luxury and leisure.

You start with one map – representing a destroyed house – and a plastic sand timer. Whenever it is over, you roll it over and you get a wooden cube representing rental income. Rent money and house sales proceeds combine to allow you to buy more expensive house cards and, at the same time, you can acquire additional timers and staff that increases your expenses, allowing you to develop a prestigious real estate portfolio.

This is reminiscent of Splendor and Century a series of spice trading games where players seek to connect a sequence of reasonable deals as efficiently as possible. But what makes House Flippers deliciously different is that you and your opponents play at the same time, grabbing useful cards in front of your opponents and constantly keeping an eye on your growing collection of timers.

At its core, the game is incredibly simple, but it creates real fury on the table while frantically nailing it to high life.

Marvel Champions: The Card Game

For years, the desktop studio Fantasy Flight Games has been making true adaptations of big-name pop culture franchises. (See Game of Thrones Board and Card Games, Miniature Star Wars X-Wing Fighting Game and the sequencing of releases based on the game of JRR Tolkien The Lord of the Rings Recently, Fantasy Flight added Marvel Comics to its collection of geek-friendly licenses, and at Spiel the company showed off a new co-op fighter in which players become strong characters working together to

Mechanically, Champions feels like a slightly streamlined The Final Fantasy Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game has players who go head-to-head with an AI opponent, each time the antagonist works to execute their schemes, attack the characters, or send servants to them To save the day, players need to find clever ways to combine their strengths and overcome the ever-evolving set of dangers and obstacles.

Each player controls a character and it is impressive how well their stats and abilities reflect their comics perceptions. In our demo game, Spider-Man scrambled and escaped to cancel attacks, Black Panther deployed an array of advanced gadgets, and Captain Marvel uses its powers to coordinate the efforts of the characters.

Another nice touch is that the hero of the heroes of the cards are two-sided, with one person representing their secret identity and the other showing the spandex alter ego. Each country has different powers and working out, which can be most beneficial at different points, is an important step towards victory. The course of the game also does a great job of recreating the adrenaline rush scene. Although I'm not a fan of superheroes, I'd be more than happy to play Champions again .

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