We are in the middle of a tabletop gaming renaissance. Kickstarter is a powerful engine churning out innovative independent titles that would’ve seen the light of day in the past. Major companies like Fantasy Flight and Asmodee are becoming unstoppable behemoths, their productivity only rivaled by their creativity. If 2015 is anything like the years leading up to it, it will be a phenomenal year for board gamers, card gamers, miniatures games and roleplayers alike.
This is part one of our twenty most anticipated games of 2015 – in no particular order. As usual, take this list with a grain of salt. For one, we haven’t actually played any of the games. But perhaps more importantly, one should remember that the board game release schedule can be erratic and unpredictable. We hope to see these games this year, but we can’t make any promises.
(Side Note: We’ve covered some of these titles on Can I Kick It? In those cases, we’ve included the video description of the games.)
11. Penny Press
Scythe has such a wild combination of genres and mechanics that I can’t help but be seduced by its pure weirdness. Set in a Steam Punk 1920’s, player’s lead their nations into the future by conquering swaths of territory, gathering troops and soldiers, managing resources, and constructing massive, iron beasts of war. What excites me most is that each country uses distinct and asymmetrical gameplay, which should lead to substantial replayability and a huge range of strategic options. Ultimately, any game that gets compared to both Agricola and Kemet is probably going to be worthy of a playthrough. We’ll see if all these different elements add up to a purchase when Scythe is released later this year.
We’ve already discussed how Risk: Legacy has transformed the board gaming landscape, influencing other titles – like Pandemic – to explore customizable campaigns that are designed to illicit epic stories amongst groups of friends. But it’s creator, Rob Daviau, has been up to something else over the last few years: he’s been building a new game called SeaFall. SeaFall is a game of naval conquering, as intrepid captains explore open seas to discover and colonize islands, designate trading ports, ally with friendly players, and raid enemy supplies. It’s the first original game to use the Legacy system and Daviau has been play testing it for years, ensuring a deep and tactically pleasant experience. Unfortunately, he’s also pushed back its release many, many times. Still, I’m hopeful that we’ll see SeaFall on store shelves at some point in 2015.
14. Spector Ops
Plaid Hat Games is a publisher that burst onto the scene relatively recently with crazy popular titles like Mice & Mystics and Dead of Winter. They have a reputation for gorgeous components and fluid gameplay, making every new release an exhilarating prospect. Spector Ops is a stealth-based strategy game influenced by the Metal Gear series. It might be the closest you’ll ever get to playing Solid Snake in a board game. In this 1v3 experience, a lone spy infiltrates a top secret facility and must outmaneuver an elite force of super-human guards to retrieve three pieces of important data. His movements are secret and his opponents must use their enhanced abilities to discover his location and take him out. I love games where one player acts in secret (Letters from Whitechapel, anyone?) and this theme is right up my alley. Here’s hoping for another Plaid Hat home run.
15. Star Wars: Armada
I have played more of Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game than almost any other tabletop title. The miniatures are addictive to collect and the game itself is so elegantly tactical, that you can really lose yourself in the intergalactic dogfights. But there’s more to Star Wars’ space combat then ship-to-ship conflicts. For as long as I can remember, my X-Wing buddies and I have been discussing how amazing it would be if we could replicate the massive, fleet-centric battles of Return of the Jedi, with Star Destroyers and Mon Calamari Cruisers clashing in colossal fashion. Star Wars: Armada plans to live up to our speculation. It’s a whole new miniatures experience, with a slower, more thoughtful pace; but it continues Fantasy Flight’s perfect marriage of space opera theme and thrilling gameplay. My wallet is going to hurt once this one gets off the boat. Good thing there aren’t any other Star Wars titles coming out this year…
16. Star Wars: Imperial Assault
…whoops. Fantasy Flight is swinging for the fences with this license, releasing expansions and even new games at a pace that’s almost impossible to keep up with. X-Wing brought us sleek dogfights, Armada – enormous battles between even more enormous capital ships; but with Star Wars: Imperial Assault, players get to take the Galactic Civil War planet-side. You can play as your favorite heroes, or as the grunt forces of the Rebellion and Empire. You can play the game cooperatively with friends, working together in a story-based to repel Imperial troops – or you can compete against each other in fast-paced skirmishes. This is a game with loads of modules and mechanical options, but it will probably be best known for its gorgeous environmental tiles and elaborate (albeit unpainted) miniatures. If your a Star Wars fan, you’re going to drool all over this thing, but even if you aren’t, Fantasy Flight’s patented brand of narrative gameplay will likely leave you satisfied. Imperial Assault is one of the few games on this list that is already on store shelves, so keep your eyes open when your at your FLGS.
17. Train Heist
The western as a genre has largely faded from popular culture, and that’s a shame, because there are so many fascinating stories to tell in the Old West. Train Heist isn’t the first board game to enter this wild territory, but it does seem to have a firm grasp on its theme that will be translated through gameplay. Working together, up to four players attempt to stop the corrupt Sheriff of Princeton from swindling the people of the town out of their hard-earned cash. Utilizing a unique “open range” board, characters can explore the world of Train Heist freely, going wherever they need to complete their individual goals. There’s even a mechanic that allows the train to move around the board to collect passengers and cargo. Train Heist is still a long way off – it hasn’t even started its Kickstarter – but its ideas are strong enough to peak my attention. Any game that lets me pretend I’m Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West gets my vote.
18. Cypher System RPG
If you’ve been a long time reader of Jetpack Joust, you know how much we adore Monte Cook’s indie RPG, Numenera, and Bruce Cordell’s equally riveting, The Strange. What do these two games have in common? They’re both run using a set of mechanics known as the Cypher System. The Cypher System has earned acclaim for its simplicity, elegance, and focus on narrative over number-crunching, allowing it to compete in the market with huge franchises like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. But this year, Monte Cook Games is splitting the ruleset from the campaign worlds, allowing players the ability to customize their own unique settings with the Cypher System Rulebook. This exciting tool will stimulate the creativity of its readers, expanding the rules in any direction imaginable: western noir, gothic science fiction, post-apocalyptic melodrama – your imagination in the limit. Maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic, but I’m expecting this to be one of the most impactful generic RPG texts of all time.
19. Red Aegis
Red Aegis is a tabletop RPG about lineage and family. With each subsequent session, your gaming group will fast forward the timeline and play as the descendant of their previous character, “leveling up” through genetics. You’ll progress the game world from medieval fantasy to high-octane space opera, intimately forging the history in between. Red Aegis is still largely a mystery, but its release is creeping up quickly. The premise itself is so original, that it’s hard to believe that this won’t shake up the RPG landscape in some interesting ways.
20. Star Wars: Force and Destiny
Lastly, as if we didn’t have enough Star Wars on this list already, Fantasy Flight is rounding out its innovative, modular RPG system with Force & Destiny. Edge of the Empire let players strap on the boots of the scum of the universe, Age of Rebellion illuminated the military hierarchies of the Galactic civil war, and Force & Destiny will at long last allow for full-fledged Jedi to enter the fray. This is an exciting development, as previous installments of this system only gave brief tastes of what it would be like to be “Force Sensitive”. Players will finally be able to swing their favorite lightsaber into battle. I am a huge fan of this brilliantly cinematic ruleset. It conveys all of the wonderment and thrills of the Star Wars universe without having to fall back on traditional dice rolls and modifiers. Force & Destiny is the final puzzle piece to make this system complete; but with a whole new trilogy around the corner, I’m excited to see what Fantasy Flight will do with the license next.