Welcome to the 2018 Zatu Selections - our very own board game awards. Today we take a look towards the future with the One to Watch in 2019 category. These are the board games that members of our writing team believe you need to keep an eye on this year. You can expect to see them on our store in the coming weeks!
Throne of Games - UBOOT
Designed by Bartosz Pluta and Artur Salwarowski, and published by Phalanx Games, UBOOT is an innovative co-operative, real-time World War Two U-boat simulator. 1-4 players take on roles of the submariners, working together to keep the ship maintained, the crew in good spirits, and most importantly make sure it's the enemies that are going to meet Davey Jones, and not themselves.
UBOOT features a huge 3D model of a Type VII C U-Boat that sits centre stage on the table so you can see, in real time, where all the crew are and what parts of the sub might be on fire or flooded. The player mats display your options and the sailors' limited actions before they start getting hungry and grouchy, push them too far and they will mutiny, so this game is as much about managing your crew morale as it is firing off torpedoes. Oh yeah, YOU CAN FIRE TORPEDOES!
This game is integrated to an app that is more than just a way of moving the story on or keeping track of scores, it is a central tool and mechanism in the game providing real time updates and sounds. Want to look though the periscope? You can! You hold the phone or tablet up in front of you and scan the oceans for danger so you can pretend you are a real submarine captain just like you did when you were a kid.
Once the enemy is spotted, “Battle-stations!” the captain orders the navigation officer to plot our course and relays the bearings of the enemy ship so a sailor can steer us in the right direction. Meanwhile, the Chief Engineer player prepares to dive if needed while more sailors ready the torpedoes to fire, then... all quiet, check in the radio operator, have we been spotted, has the enemy ship changed course, do we need to take evasive action and dive, has the ship radioed for air support? All this is controlled by the app and different every time. Then.... Fire! Torpedoes away Captain!
Will M - Wacky Races
Children of the 80s must surely remember The Slag Brothers, The Gruesome Twosome, Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect and the evil Dick Dastardly with his sniggering dog companion Muttley all racing through a variety of terrain in a selection of truly bizarre vehicles – yes, Wacky Races finally has a miniature board game coming out in 2019!
I almost don’t need to know how this plays – the theme alone makes it an almost certain instant-buy for me! Regardless, in this 2-6 player racing game that comes with 11 highly-detailed race car miniatures, you’ll have to cope with changing road conditions on the modular racetrack, the special abilities of your fellow racers, and the dangerous traps laid by Dick Dastardly, who is controlled by the game and whose movement is based on the actions of the players.
Each player will get their own racer mini, a fantastically cartoony player dashboard and four special power cards unique to their racer and in the game, you will be jostling for position over four different types of terrain (forest, prairie, desert and farm) and over special tiles, which include swamps, crossroads, railroad crossings and an A.C.M.E. laboratory! If the game-controlled Dick Dastardly gets into the lead he begins to lay down traps such as boulders, logs, oil, mud pools and the old favourite, the painted tunnel!
If you’re playing with less than six players the rest of the race roster is made up with neutral racers, whose movement is also based on a player’s actions, like Dick Dastardly. However, neutral racers can still win the race – embarrassing! You can play one-off races but there’s also a championship mode, which consists of seasons – each of which contains four different tracks. Oh, I almost forgot to mention there will be a deluxe version available that comes with pre-painted miniatures! Due for retail release in early 2019.
Andy P - Aeon's End Legacy
Having been a massive fan of the system for this past year, it’s no surprise that I am incredibly hyped for this. Aeon’s End is a system that has seen a consistent evolution from the release of its core set in 2016, and the one thing I always wanted more of was more of the storyline behind the characters in the box, rather than split up into a multitude of Kickstarter posts. Legacy solves that issue by bringing you to the forefront of the world created by Kevin Riley.
In a subtle twist, you play as apprentice breach mages, learning your craft from the very mages you used in previous games to take down the Nameless marauding toward the city of Gravehold. The development of characters is a mechanic I thoroughly enjoy, and being able to put my own spin on a character is a major reason in why I love games such as Gloomhaven. Building my character’s unique spell or gem, their powers and their equipment package are all things I look forward to, and Legacy so far has hit all the right buttons for me. Not to mention the fact that the methodology used to teach the game in this version is superior to either of the two core sets, leading to a much smoother transition into the game for the one new player we introduced to the system with this product.
Time will tell if it persists over time or just becomes another addition to my standard Aeon’s End collection, but I am eager to press on with the story and find that out.
Nick W - Project Elite Reprint
Only one choice for me in this category and that is CMON’s reprint of Project Elite. The original Project Elite was hailed as a great, if troubled game. Production issues and a disagreement between companies threatened to seal the game as sought after but never back in print. Then the rumours started, and finally CMON announced they were reprinting the game and giving it their full treatment.
Having backed a Kickstarter game from CMON before I know this means tons of extras, and while this is a nice bonus for me the main game would be enough, it plays so well that changes to mini sculpts and other such ‘controversies’ simply don’t bother me because come April (ish) I will be rolling dice in real time and taking hordes of aliens out, while replacing them with further hoards.
Project Elite is a real time co-op game, meaning you and the other players will be rolling and assigning dice to certain actions to manage the invasion and achieve your objectives. It’s incredibly tense and just a lot of fun. The dice you are rolling all have a side on that causes an alien to move forward. So, you are frantically rolling your dice and trying to get what you want without moving the aliens too many times. The round will end you’ll do some upkeep then plan the next round of rolling as much as you can.
It’s exhilarating, satisfying and fun, fun, fun - and I can’t wait!!
Simon L - Demons
Demons is the follow up to Thieves, which I helped out on and won Game of the Year in the abstract category at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham (the national and annual and largest board games convention).
The follow up is quite different and a game I prefer even more. It is still a roll and move and still a game with the same colours. The difference relates to the style of play. It is asymmetrical. You have the King and you have the Demons. The King and his men are outnumbered. The king needs to make his way to the exit. Should his pieces surround a demon, the demon is removed from the board. Should the demons surround a king's man then it is flipped to becoming a Demon.
His inspiration, I believe, came when he knew I was the regional champion of Hnefatafl (or tafl depending what version you play) an old Viking Norse game (Thieves is based on Norse legend where Thieves try to steal the dragon's gold). The designer and artist (his artwork is excellent and people remark on the quality of the pieces, components of his work) used to be a theatre director and that seems to come through in the work. I don't know if further filming is taking place for Demons, but Thieves and the publishing company, Merlin Games were the feature of a board game documentary (which might gather traction as the filming wrapped as it won game of the year).
Having finally worked on my strategy, and won a game of Demons, it's been 50/50 as to who wins, it's been, generally a faster game to play and will enjoy seeing others give it a go.