I keep several boardgaming-related websites in my bookmarks list so I can keep an eye on the next batch of games that are in development or on their way. The big North American gaming convention GenCon has recently come and gone in Indianapolis, so a lot of new games saw their debut at the show. Here’s a quick look at some of the new games that should be out this year or early next year.

Fantasy Flight Games is, as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, my favourite publisher, and they have a stack of new goodies in the pipeline for release this year (hopefully). The two surprise announcements recently were Dust Tactics and Cadwallon: City of Thieves. These  were originally to be published by Dust Games, but that company suddenly found themselves short on the resources required, so have done a deal with FFG to hand over the games. Dust Tactics is a tactical miniatures boardgame set in an alternative 1940s world created by the comic book artist Paolo Parente. It’s been in the works for a surprisingly long time; originally it was to be released by Rackham Entertainment, who then went on to release AT-43 instead. Dust Tactics is quite a spectacular-looking product, featuring over thirty detailed, individually-sculpted miniatures (including four huge tank/walker figures). The initial game consists of eight scenarios fought on a set of cardboard terrain tiles (with some model terrain), but later there will be a set of rules released for fighting battles on a tabletop, like a normal miniatures game.

The miniatures in the game come primed in a flat colour which you can paint, if you desire, but there is also a Collector’s Edition set on the way, with all the miniatures fully painted to an incredibly high standard. The Collector’s Edition will be pricey, but for the non-painters, I’m sure it will be worth it.

There are already plans for several expansion sets to the core game of course; introducing such things as artillery robots, strange creatures, new heroes, aircraft, and even an alien race, the Vrills. It’s all shaping up to be an amazing system, and it will be interesting to see the reaction to the core set and watch the future of this game.

The other game to arrive at FFG from Dust Games is Cadwallon: City of Thieves. This fast-paced boardgame of thievery and skulduggery is set in the Rackham fantasy city of Cadwallon, the subject of a short lived roleplaying/combat game. It’s a perfect addition to the FFG stable, with gorgeous art and miniatures dripping with character. You lead a gang of thieves sneaking about a district of Cadwallon, grabbing loot and avoiding the militiamen hot on your tail. Individual scenarios bring variety to the game play. Again, the miniatures are not pre-painted, but you’ll be able to buy a separate set of painted miniatures if you so choose.

Another exciting game from FFG in the works is a Space Hulk-themed cooperative card game set in the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 universe, called Space Hulk Death Angel: The Card Game. This will accommodate anywhere from 1-6 players, and sees you taking Blood Angel Terminator combat teams into the twisting labyrinthine corridors of an abandoned space hulk, to join combat with the horrific alien Genestealers. The game is playable in under and hour and comes in a small ‘Silver Line’ box. This looks like a great choice if you feel like a quick, theme-rich game experience.

Sticking with card games, there are two more on the way from FFG: The Lord of the Rings Card Game and The Blood Bowl Team Manager Card Game. There’s very little information yet about the latter but it’s certainly exciting news for Blood Bowl fans, and I certainly count myself a member of that group! Apparently it will be a frenzied game of deck-building for 2-4 players, and you can choose from Human, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Orc, Skaven, or Chaos factions and play through an entire season. The LotR Card Game will be another of FFG’s very successful Living Card Games, so they’ll be a long series of expansion card packs after the 216-card core set. 1-2 players (or more if you buy a couple of core sets) cooperate to select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts and complete quests in the land of Middle-Earth. Players can shape their decks to create their favourite combination of spheres of influence: leadership, lore, spirit and tactics. It looks like they’ll be lots of spectacular artwork and a huge amount of variety in this game, and hopefully it will be a must for any gamer who’s a fan of Tolkein’s world.

But wait! There’s more. The long-awaited return of the Games Workshop classic, Dungeonquest, is imminent. Anyone who played this cut-throat game back in the 80s knows that it’s tough work surviving that dungeon—but that’s all the fun. FFG have re-themed the game to set it in their world of Terrinoth (and cleverly cross-marketed the new characters by supplying components for them for Descent, Runebound and Runewars). Dungeonquest is a fast and fun game of dungeon exploration for 1-4 players.

Keep an eye peeled for some other FFG games on the horizon as well: Bruno Faidutti’s magnum opus, Isla Dorada, two army expansions for Battles of Westeros, various expansions for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games, a quick card game called Dragonheart, Kevin Wilson’s new game, Civilization: The Board Game (inspired by Sid Meier’s video games), a new small-box version of the classic Lord of the Rings Board Game by Reiner Knizia, the new Tide of Iron expansion Fury of the Bear, and a new expansion for Talisman called The Sacred Pool. Not to mention the usual regular Living Card Game releases.

Well, there are other game companies in the world apart from FFG I admit, and another company with a hectic release schedule for 2010 is Z-Man Games. The company is known for releasing an eclectic mix of titles of all different styles and themes. Check out this list of titles: Earth Reborn, Parade, Burrows, The King Commands!, Power Struggle, Magical Athlete, Malta!, Prolix, Kings & Things, Mines of Zavandor, Trollhalla, Inca Empire, Pocket Battles: Orc vs Elves, and De Vulgari Eloquentia. Whew!

There’s certainly been some buzz about the new game from Christophe Boelinger, the creator of Dungeon Twister. It’s called Earth Reborn and it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario-based tactical combat game. It’s also one of the first forays by Z-Man Games into the world of plastic miniatures, and the ones that come with the game are looking mighty impressive. Parade is a quick 30 minute curious card game by Naoki Homma for 2-6 players. Hansa Teutonica is a tense game of route manipulation and economics by Andreas Steding for 2-5 players; players are merchants jostling for position and standing in the Hanseatic League. Power Struggle is a game about becoming the top-dog in a corporate empire by reaching milestones in investing, corruption, influence and position. In Burrows, you’ll find yourself trying to keep a group of fussy Gophers well-housed, using tiles to build a twisted network of burrows. Bottle Imp is a trick taking card game by Gunter Cornett. And of course, don’t forget the car-racing mayhem of Road Kill Rally; the new game by the creator of Duel in the Dark, Duel of the Giants, a tank-battle game; pirate fun with Merchants & Marauders; and a real-time strategy computer game-inspired game called The Ares Project. Zev from Z-Man must be run off his feet!

As for other publishers, there’s a new game coming from Asmodee and Antoine Bauza (Ghost Stories, Mystery Express) called 7 Wonders, a a civilization-building card game. Wizards of the Coast are releasing a Dungeons & Dragons board game called Castle Ravenloft that looks to be a classic dungeoncrawler with a simplified set of D&D 4th Edition mechanics. And Flying Frog Productions, makers of Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, continue their series of crazy, fun games with photographic art with their new one, Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game, which pits alien invaders against circus freaks in a Tim Burtonesque carnival.

Well, if that lot doesn’t keep gamers happy I don’t know what will! There’s obviously no shortage whatsoever of great games on the way—all we need do now is somehow find the time to play as many as possible …

by Universal Head

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). There is a Dust Tactics site at www.dust-tactics.com. Z-Man Games can be previewed at www.zmangames.com. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many games at Headless Hollow (www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html).

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites www.tekumel.com and www.battleloremaster.com. His blog site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.