Events have conspired to teach us all about the fragility of global supply chains over the last year, and board games in particular have been hit extremely hard. Shipping delays and container shortages mean that some of last year’s best new board games have yet to even land on Western shores. The good news is that early indications show a bumper crop of excellent new games coming out this year. Here are the 12 games we’re most excited about in 2022 — plus one to keep an eye on in 2023.
A word of caution, however, about how new board game releases tend to roll out these days: The majority of these games will eventually end up on the shelves of your local hobby store or at big-box retailers like Amazon and Target, but most of these titles are the products of crowdfunding campaigns. That means the lion’s share of the initial inventory has already been spoken for by backers who pre-ordered their copies literally years ago. You can place a pre-order now for most of them, but you likely won’t see your copy arrive until much later than everyone else’s. We’ve provided links to where pre-orders are still available, but you’ll need to check with publishers about the delivery timeline.
Let us know what other 2022 releases you’re looking forward to in the comments below.
12. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – The Adventure Game
Detailed for the first time late last year here at Polygon, The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – The Adventure Game is the tabletop version of the classic role-playing video game — a game that has already been ported to virtually every electronic platform imaginable. Fans showed up nonetheless to the tune of more than $1.6 million on Gamefound to help bring this board game to life. I find that number to be astounding given that we’re talking about a video game first released in 2011.
Thing is, Skyrim – The Adventure Game is actually a prequel, one that helps to tell the story of the great northern land before the coming of the heroic Dovakhiin. It’s also playable as a solo experience, a style of board game that has taken off in recent years. I think it has every opportunity to be one of the breakout commercial successes of the year.
Pre-orders are still available starting at roughly $91, listed with an August 2022 delivery window.
11. Endless Winter: Paleoamericans
Another prequel story of a sort, Endless Winter: Paleoamericans celebrates the most ancient immigrants to North America — the nomadic peoples who are thought to have traveled here from Siberia more than 12,000 years ago. But it’s not the subject matter that has critics and fans so excited. Instead, it’s the mechanics.
When we talk about modern board games, there are lots of different categories. Deck-building games, which require players to curate a personal stack of cards that fuels their actions at the table, are extremely popular right now. So too are worker placement games like Pandemic, which require players to juggle lots of vital tasks with limited resources. Finally, there are area control games (like Risk or Axis & Allies) that require players to strategically place their “dudes on a map” to win the day. According to Fantasia Games’ Kickstarter campaign, Endless Winter weaves together all three game mechanics into a cohesive whole. It’s not the first game to try to pull that off, nor will it be the last, but its potential has fans of heavier board games very excited.
According to Fantasia Games’ Kickstarter, English-language pre-orders are now closed. The retail version will be distributed in North America by Asmodee Games.
10. ISS Vanguard
Another Gamefound success story is ISS Vanguard by Awaken Realms. This high-concept science fiction game raised nearly $5 million last year, and looking at the renders, it’s easy to see why. The art and miniatures design is top notch, with plenty of additional value provided for backers in the initial campaign. So yes, the game is pretty enough, but it’s the presentation here that really has me excited.
ISS Vanguard draws heavily on franchises like Star Trek and Mass Effect for its structure. Players must work together to explore planets and deal with hostile alien threats, all while keeping their relatively fragile ship airtight and on the move toward a mysterious goal. With more than 50 characters to encounter throughout the course of play, there’s plenty of opportunity for interesting situations among the crew.
But ISS Vanguard also seems to be pulling together some of Awaken Realms’ best gags, including lengthy choose-your-own-adventure-style narrative encounters. There’s even an optional voice-over app, complete with music to help set the mood. It’s also another game that feels designed from the ground up to be a satisfying single-player experience. Add in a handy binder to keep select ship components properly stowed between games, and you’ve got a very robust product.
Pre-orders are still available starting at $99, but will close on Jan. 15.
9. The Unmatched: Marvel series
Image: Restoration Games and Mondo Games
Restoration Games and Mondo unveiled the board game Unmatched at Gen Con in 2019. Since then, the light tactical miniatures game has taken off, bringing together pop culture heroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jurassic Park’s velociraptors with public domain icons like Sinbad and Medusa. Now they’ve secured a license with Disney’s Marvel Universe, and a whole collection of wild new matchups is on the way.
Unmatched: Redemption Row features Luke Cage, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight. Unmatched: Hell’s Kitchen includes Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye, while Unmatched: Teen Spirit chucks Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, plus Cloak & Dagger into the mix. Finally, Unmatched: For King and Country will include Black Widow, Black Panther, and the Winter Soldier. There’s also a stand-alone, single-character expansion for Deadpool that you can order right now.
For information on availability and when pre-orders will go live, keep tabs on the Restoration Games website.
8. Vampire: The Masquerade – Chapters
Image: Flyos Games
The tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) Vampire: The Masquerade has had a difficult few years, including the bungled launch of its fifth edition and the indefinite delay of a high-profile video game. But there’s good news for fans in 2022: Not only is there a meaty board game on the way, but it’s headed to retail as well.
After telling Polygon that Vampire: The Masquerade – Chapters was simply too big and complex to ever make it to retail, the Montreal-based Flyos Games announced that it would begin worldwide distribution once Kickstarter backers were taken care of. Delivery is currently expected in the third quarter. For more details on what’s inside, check out our feature story.
Strategy video game Frostpunk turned a lot of heads in 2018 when it launched on Steam. Developed and published by 11 bit studios (This War of Mine), the grim city-builder posits an alternate history where an ice age kicks off unexpectedly sometime during the industrial revolution. What follows is a story-driven management simulation with plenty of twists and turns. Now it’s being converted into a board game.
Of course, board games adapted from video games can be hit or miss. Case in point is 11 bit’s own This War of Mine: The Board Game, which is a plodding, note-for-note recreation of the original source material. When Polygon interviewed Jakub Wiśniewski, one of the co-founders of developer Glass Cannon Unplugged, he said the goal this time around was more of a localization — essentially translating the look and feel of the original video game into a physical product.
Honestly, I’m still not sure what that means exactly, but I’m eager to get my hands on the final game. Pre-orders are available now starting at roughly $113, with delivery expected by the second quarter of 2022.
6. SolForge Fusion: Hybrid Deck Game
Richard Garfield will go down in history as the man who invented Magic: The Gathering, the world’s most popular collectible card game. But he’s not been resting on his laurels since the 1990s — far from it, in fact.
Garfield made a big splash in 2018 with KeyForge: Call of the Archons, a procedurally generated card game with the potential for 104 quadrillion different decks. Everything was going well until last September, when, presumably, something went terribly wrong with the algorithm. Publisher Fantasy Flight Games said it would be forced to postpone future releases until the math gets sorted out.
That debacle has more or less cleared the field for the launch of SolForge Fusion, which Garfield has co-designed with Justin Gray, creator of the popular Ascension: Deckbuilding Game. The procedurally generated decks boast the ability to be played online using Tabletop Simulator. Delivery to Kickstarter backers is expected this year, and additional pre-orders are available online.
5. Risk Shadow Forces
Risk Legacy, published by Hasbro in 2011, gave birth to a new kind of board game, one that remembers your past actions and evolves into a more complex experience over time. While the original hasn’t aged particularly well, the genre of legacy-style board games now includes modern classics like Gloomhaven, the Pandemic Legacy series, and Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile. Now, more than a decade after it helped to create the category, Hasbro is going back to the well. It’s just that this time, it won’t have the help of Risk Legacy’s creator, Rob Daviau.
Risk Shadow Forces is being developed by Hasbro’s newly revitalized Avalon Hill team with the help of acclaimed designer Craig Van Ness. It will feature the traditional game of world domination, plus an interstitial game that will feel more like a first-person shooter video game. For all the details and our exclusive interview with the team behind it, check out our feature story.
Pre-orders are still available for $68.99, with delivery expected in October.
4. So, You’ve Been Eaten
As the leader of the newest branch of our military is keen to tell you, space is hard. But, as classic science fiction novels have been saying for literally decades now, the future of labor in space is even harder. That fact has led to all manner of absurdist fantasies, from violent xenomorph stowaways to hard labor and indentured servitude.
The latest stab at space-based sarcasm is a board game titled So, You’ve Been Eaten. In it, one player takes on the role of a deep space miner, and the other player takes on the role of the megafauna attempting to digest them. From the hilarious Kickstarter campaign:
The Miner earns points by collecting Crystals and the Beast earns points by developing Immune Responses and by its Bacteria attacking the Miner.
The game ends in a win for the Miner if they collect all 8 different Crystals, and the Beast wins by digesting the Miner after four Bacteria of the same type have attacked.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Miner will simply pass through the Beast’s system, and then the player with the most points wins!
Win, lose, or draw, this game sounds like a good time. Pre-orders are available now for $49.
3. Stellaris: Infinite Legacy
Strategy games, especially 4X strategy games, can easily eat up an entire day. With Stellaris: Infinite Legacy, Academy Games’ Gunter Eickert thinks he can get that playtime down to just a couple of hours. If he’s successful, you could potentially play two or three full games in the same time it would take to play just a single game of Twilight Imperium. But the acclaimed designer’s ambitions aren’t merely limited to brevity.
Stellaris: Infinite Legacy will be a special kind of legacy-style board game. Players will work together to create unique factions across a randomized galaxy. Those factions and their starting worlds will persist from game to game. Balance will be achieved through randomized objective cards, which will help to even the playing field between old, experienced factions and any newcomers that crop up. The game will also feature a complex tactical wargaming system for ship-based and ground-based combat.
It’s an incredibly ambitious project, one that is brimming with unproven concepts. That didn’t seem to slow down the Kickstarter in the least, however, which was successful to the tune of more than $2.5 million in April. I’m excited to get the final product on the table and put it through its paces.
Pre-orders are still available — and at the original price of $110 — with shipping listed as some time in 2022.
No single board game has left as big an imprint on the industry in recent years as Isaac Childres’ Gloomhaven. The massive, nearly 20-pound box of cardboard and plastic proved that fans are eager and willing to pay a premium price for a premium product. Now, its first proper sequel, Frosthaven, is on the way, and expectations are extremely high.
Frosthaven is a role-playing campaign in a box, boasting roughly 100 unique missions and a storyline that changes in reaction to player actions. Player characters will grow more powerful, only to eventually retire and become nonplayer characters living in the game world. Like the original, the game will blend exploration and cooperative gameplay with deck-building and tactical combat. Best of all, it doesn’t require a game master — someone to run the encounters. That means fewer players will be needed to get a full table up and running. It also has a robust solo mode.
The original Gloomhaven, while popular, was far from perfect. Childres addressed some of those issues in May when he announced a vigorous effort to rid his sequel of problematic issues related to race and colonialism.
Pre-orders are being handled by individual retailers, which you can find using a store locator. No pricing information is listed, but Kickstarter copies originally sold for $100.
1. Return to Dark Tower
While Restoration Games has been working on lots of different projects over the past few years (including the Unmatched series listed above), much of its energy has gone into finalizing the design and manufacture of Return to Dark Tower. The ambitious reboot is finally on the way, with deliveries just now starting to reach backers.
Return to Dark Tower is based on the 1981 classic Dark Tower, which was originally marketed with the help of Orson Welles. Restoration’s version includes the eponymous tower, a foot-tall hunk of plastic filled with electronics and LED lights, and an app to help control it. The final product will include interconnected quests that can be played through multiple times.
The project was originally expected to ship in February 2021, but has encountered multiple technical and logistical delays. While many outlets have had hands-on time with early prototypes, no one really knows how the larger campaign will hold up. We hope to have a final review in the coming months.
Pre-orders are not currently available, but you can keep tabs on the game through its official website. Retail copies are expected to cost $190.
For 2023 — Kingdom Death: Gambler’s Chest Expansion
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
While many popular board games can be considered hard to find, copies of Kingdom Death: Monster have been nearly impossible to come by for the last few years. Making matters worse was the long, painfully silent delay after a July update for Kickstarter backers, where I wondered if Adam Poots Games might just stop communicating with fans altogether. But the publisher came through in November, announcing that more copies of the base game would be available for the holidays — albeit at an increased $420 price point.
That November update also revealed that the long-delayed Kingdom Death: Gambler’s Chest Expansion could ship to backers as soon as November 2022. Gambler’s Chest is, ostensibly, the first major narrative expansion for the base game. While Kingdom Death has proven controversial for its art and thematic choices over the years (which include both baby-eating and phallus-shaped monster miniatures), it’s also an extraordinary game. I’m hopeful that creator Adam Poots will eventually overcome his complex production issues and start putting out new content for sale by 2023.
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on when — or even if — the Gambler’s Chest Expansion will be available to anyone other than backers who have already paid for it. Nevertheless, here’s hoping that the stars align for fans of this franchise, who have been starved for new content for quite some time now.
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