I had the good fortune to attend an invitational event where I played many of the new games released at Essen this year. If you are not familiar, Essen is the annual gaming convention in which all of the board game publishers release their new games. Families come and make their game purchases for the year and it is a very exciting time to see what is new and upcoming. I had a chance to play a few of the new releases as well as some other games and I wanted to touch on some of the highlights.

London is the newest release from Martin Wallace that falls into the cooperetative genre. Players are working to rebuild the city of London after the great fire of 1666. Like many of Wallaces game, it rewards taking calculated risks to gain returns and growth. Each player is building up part of the city and employing the citizens of London by playing cards to their building display that represent business and landmarks. Throughoutthe game, the players will “run” their part of the city, gaining income, victory points and hopefully lessing some of the city’s poverty. It is poverty that is working against players in the game. Each time players run their city, they generate poverty which needs to be offset by the cards in their building display. London is Wallace’s best work to date. He has refined many of his trademark elements into an accessible game.

Though not available yet, it will be coming soon from Mayfair Games, it will be a great for High School business and economic students. Another great game of note by Wallace is Automobile in which players are competing in the US auto industry in the early 20th century.

Grand Cru is another game of economics and agriculture in which players are purchasing and growing various grape plants which they harvest and age into wine. Players start the game taking out loans to get their business started and the game ends when the first person is able to pay off all of their loans. Each turn, any grapes that have been harvested age one step further and players need to keep a sharp eye on getting those vintages to market before they go bad. Players can also manipulate the market so they sell their wines at a better price, increasing their income and ability to work towards operating in the black. This had a nice feel to it and, if you can get past the fact that wine is being produced, introduces some nice agricultural elements to an economic playground.


Freeze is a fun exercise in improvisational acting that has a strong foundation in ELA concepts such as character development and importance as well as setting. Players alternate between being “on stage” or watching. Those characters “on stage” are secretly given a number between 1 and 4 that will determine the strength of their character in the scene. None of the actors know what number the others have and their are duplicates of each number, so you could have two people trying to play the dominant 1 in scene (this is very fun to see). After the actors have seen their numbers, they are given a setting (i.e. a green house or the attic) and the timer is turned…. ACTION! The actors “on stage” have to jump into the location and start establishing their place in the scene, playing off of each other. The rest of the players are watching the events unfold and trying to figure out where they are and what everyone’s place is in the scene. After time is up, the player in last place guesses the location (a nice catchup mechanic) and then a die is rolled and everyone guesses who they think were playing at the particular character strength that comes up on the die. This is an incredibly fun ELA exercise that will work for upper elementary all the way up to high school. I certainly hope this picks up wide distribution so that it can make its way into schools and libraries across the country.

More to come soon…