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The biggest board games of the summer and where to buy them

The final season of Pandemic Legacy, and the spiritual successor to Twilight Struggle

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Heroes walk down a crowded street in the cover art for Gloomhaven. Image: Alexandr Elichev/Cephalophair Games
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Board game release dates can be slippery things. Small print runs combined with overseas manufacturing timelines can make pinning things down a challenge for publishers. This year there’s also the added complication of a global pandemic. Even though Essen Spiel and Gen Con are both canceled, there’s still plenty of opportunity to pick up some great new games for your collection.

Here are six of the biggest releases to keep an eye out for this summer.

Aeronautica Imperialis: Skies of Fire

Games Workshop has been on fire over the last three years, banging out excellent stand-alone tabletop board games like Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress and the Warhammer Underworlds series. Its latest effort is called Aeronautica Imperialis: Skies of Fire. The $90 game pits Imperial Navy fliers against the T’au Air Caste. With only 10 miniatures to get painted up, you should be flying in no time. The game is up for pre-order now, and begins shipping on June 13. Its predecessor, Aeronautica Imperalis: Wings of Vengeance, is also available on Amazon and at your friendly local game store.

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Coins, weapons, and magic items lie on a table in an inn. A map lays beneath them. Image: Cephalofair Games

Frosthaven, the sequel to the smash hit Gloomhaven, recently racked up close to $13 million on Kickstarter. That 20-pound monster won’t be out until at least 2021, but you can play a new spin-off much sooner than that. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is headed to retail this summer, and should show up on places like Target and Amazon by July or August.

Imperial Struggle

Heraldry for Britain and France, plus the globe and scepter of rule, back a period map with spices, fish, and guns on top of it. Image: GMT Games

Long before the big wave of modern hobby board games — before Pandemic Legacy and Gloomhaven took a lot of the oxygen out of the room — there was Twilight Struggle. Designed by Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, the historical strategy simulation was widely regarded as the best board game of all time.

Now the same design team has shifted its attention from the Cold War to the 18th-century rivalry between Britain and France. Imperial Struggle is now up for pre-order at publisher GMT Games for $39.


Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan gobbled up tons of awards last year, launching her into the elite of board game design. Now the spiritual successor to her game about bird watching is set to arrive on the market in August, and it promises the same chill vibe and well-balanced gameplay. Mariposas is a game about collecting butterflies, and it’ll be released by AEG in August. Look for it at your friendly local game store and on Amazon.

Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game

Image: IDW Games

It would be easy to write Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game off as a quick licensed tie-in, if not for the designer who’s in charge of it. Emerson Matsuuchi is the same person responsible for the exceptional hidden movement game Spector Ops, and hands-on previews have been very positive. Look for Hideo Kojima’s favorite commando inside his own branded cardboard box soon. Pre-orders are available at IDW Games and at your local game store.

Pandemic Legacy

Disease cubes in Tripoli and Cairo while a white pawn looks on.
An early copy of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 shown at Gen Con in 2017.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Not much is known about Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock’s next collaboration, Pandemic Legacy Season 3. The game was expected to arrive this summer in time for the convention circuit, but since then publisher Z-Man Games has pumped the brakes on many of its virus-themed promotions. This will be the final game in the series, making it a must-play for fans of the first two games. Keep tabs on development at the official website.

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