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A zombified soldier from Napolean’s Grand Army as portrayed in Silver Bayonet
A zombie soldier from Napolean’s La Grande Armée, from The Silver Bayonet: A Wargame of Napoleonic Gothic Horror
Image: Osprey Games

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Best new board games and role-playing games of fall 2021

More than 20 spooky treats for tabletop fans

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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.

The fall is generally the busiest time of the year for tabletop game releases. Unfortunately, this year very little is going according to plan.

What’s to blame? The pandemic, of course. It’s disrupting major tabletop conventions like Gen Con, where many great new games debut, and it’s delaying international shipping. That means the games of fall might be tougher to get than in years past, putting a strain on game publishers and local game stores. If there’s anything on Polygon’s list of the best new board games and role-playing games for the rest of the year, don’t dilly-dally. Contact your local game store or check out a Gen Con pop-up event near you — or simply shop online — to grab the fall’s best games.

Vote with your dollars for the games that you want to play — and the publishers and game stores that you want to see flourish. Here’s our list of the most interesting new products coming out this fall.

Horrified: American Monsters

Press photos for Horrified: American Monsters showing the box art and bits. Image: Ravensburger

The original Horrified put players up against Universal’s fictional monsters like The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Horrified: American Monsters throws away the Universal Studios script by asking players to tackle urban legends and cryptids instead. In this stand-alone sequel to the 2019 hit, players will work together in order to stop Bigfoot, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabra, the Banshee of the Badlands, and the Ozark Howler. Horrified publisher Ravensburger expects to have copies for sale at Gen Con, with more available online soon after. If you’re looking to pre-order a copy the best bet at the moment is to make a request with your friendly local game store.

Ankh: Gods of Egypt

Another in a series of high-concept strategy games by award-winning designer Eric M. Lang, Ankh: Gods of Egypt had a great run on Kickstarter in May 2020 when it earned more than $3.3 million. Now it’s finally headed to retail. Players take on the role of the gods of ancient Egypt, and then battle one another for the love of its people. Publisher Asmodee didn’t share a final retail price, but expect it to be north of $100.

Clank! In! Space! Adventures Pulsearcade

Clank! is a fun romp that takes deckbuilding to the next level, allowing players to draft cards that power their actions as they move around the board hunting down treasure. Clank! In! Space! kicks things up a notch, refining the map and honing the card mechanics to near perfection. It’s my preferred way to play. Clank! In! Space! Adventures Pulsearcade promises to add more variety, including new mechanics like ransack, research, and entertain.

Dungeons & Dragons’ The Wild Beyond The Witchlight

The latest from Wizards of the Coast, The Wild Beyond The Witchlight includes several new player races, like chonky fairies and sassy rabbitfolk. It will also include a lot of guidance for new Dungeon Masters, including formalized discussions about hidden information, character motivation, and more. You can snag a collectible version of the book from your friendly local game store.

Dungeons & Dragons Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons

Less is known about Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, which is expected to launch on Nov. 19. We do know that it will contain revised stats for gem dragons, which haven’t been seen in official D&D materials since 2002. The book is named for Fizban, avatar of the dragon god Paladine. He’ll be providing color commentary in a style similar to Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. This one also comes in a collectible version that you can only get at your friendly local game store.

Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms - Histories of the Empire Volume 1: The Stormcloak Rebellion

Histories of the Empire Volume 1: The Stormcloak Rebellion is a highly anticipated new release for fans of Modiphius’ The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms. It’s the first major expansion for the popular hybrid miniatures game, and it promises to deliver lots of new content for your demurely decorated dovahkiin. The narrative driven expansion will take players through the search for the Jagged Crown and the Battle for Whiterun, then round things off with an assault on the capitals cities of Solitude and Windhelm. The module drops on Sept. 10 in stores and online.

Fate Accessibility Toolkit

Evil Hat Productions is expanding its lineup in the best way possible with the Fate Accessibility Toolkit. According to the product description, it will include everything game masters need to run Fate Core-compatible games that support players with disabilities at your table. It also includes a comprehensive review of role-playing game safety tools. Written by more than 10 authors, it sounds like a valuable product to have on your shelf, regardless of the TTRPG system you prefer to play.

Flames of Freedom Grim & Perilous RPG

Powered by the Zweihander d100-based system, Flames of Freedom Grim & Perilous RPG lets players retell the story of the American Revolution. The only complication is that monsters are real, magic is rare, and period firearms are terribly deadly. Lead developer Daniel D. Fox tells Polygon that a major objective in making this game was to expand the Revolutionary story to include everyone, including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. It boasts over 90 professions (classes) and more than 40 pages devoted to 16 distinct Indigenous Nations. Polygon has had hands-on with this epic tabletop role-playing game and we’ll have a full review soon.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game and expansions

Another huge Kickstarter hit, Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game actually made it into retail distribution. Steamforged has an excellent track record of supporting its lavish licensed products, and that’s also true in this case. There are currently three big expansions available for pre-order with delivery expected in the fall. And by big, I mean physically large. Two of the three contain a single, monstrous figure that will dominate the table. Even if you just wanted a giant plastic robot murderbird for your desk they’re worth checking out.

Khora: Rise of an Empire

The components for Khora laid out on a table. Image: Iello

Iello’s newest heavy Euro, Khora: Rise of an Empire is getting some rave early reviews. The city-building game asks players to take on the role of Greek city-states. You’ll tinker with economic, cultural, and military systems in an effort to earn the most glory. The trick is that the whole thing lasts only nine rounds. Expect it to be available at Gen Con, and later in the usual places like your local game store and online.

Kingdomino Origins

A mammoth meeple occupies a field space in Kingdomino Origins. Photo: Blue Orange Games

The latest in the Kingdomino series by Bruno Cathala is called Kingdomino Origins. We had a chance to interview the designer in August, and were able to learn more about the game and its ... well, its origins. The tile-laying game blends strategy with city-building and some light worker-placement action. Cathala tells us it’s the most up-to-date version of his original vision. Pre-orders are expected to begin next week, with items shipping to retailers soon after.

Magic: The Gathering’s Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

Following the lighthearted romp that was Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, Magic: The Gathering’s next set of cards is super dark. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt adds a day and night cycle, loads of werewolves, and a few more sinister creatures. It will be followed up by the vampire-centric Innistrad: Crimson Vow.

Machi Koro 2

A pile of bits from Machi Koro, including a shopping mall, an amusement park, and a radio tower. Two dice and some coins sit in the center of the frame.
Machi Koro 5th Anniversary Edition
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Machi Koro is one of the best modern modern board games, a city-building experience that is as easy to teach as it is fun to play. Machi Koro 2 was announced here at Polygon back in July and we’re excited to finally get our hands on it. The game includes more and randomized structures, which should expand the challenge and extend replayability. Pre-orders are live, and you should expect to find it in stores by October.

Micro Macro: Crime City 2 - Full House

After winning the most prestigious international award in board gaming, Micro Macro: Crime City is getting a full-fledged sequel. Micro Macro: Crime City 2 - Full House includes a new poster-sized map and new cases to solve. Gameplay blends Where’s Waldo-style hidden-object hunting, cartoon animals, and violent crime. Thankfully, this time around the 16 cases inside the box are marked with age-related content warnings. Expect it to hit store shelves and online retailers in October.

Pathfinder Secrets of Magic

A purple dragon trails behind a young Black woman in the world of Pathfinder 2e. Image: Paizo

The largest Pathfinder book of the year, Secrets of Magic expands the canonical world of the popular TTRPG with updated character classes from first edition. It also gives game masters powerful new frameworks to describe how magic works in their world. For anyone playing the games second edition — which we reviewed at launch in 2019 — this is a must buy. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to homebrew your own magical world, regardless of the game system, you’ll also want to check it out.

Resident Evil 3: The Board Game

In addition to its Horizon Zero Dawn board game mentioned above, Steamforged is also bringing Resident Evil 3: The Board Game to retail in October. Players take on the role of Jill Valentine, Carlos Oliveira, Mikhail Viktor, and Nokolai Ginovaef in a quest to make it out of Raccoon City alive. This is the British company’s second time bringing the classic survival horror franchise to the tabletop. It published Resident Evil 2: The Board Game in 2019. Preorders are open now, and the game ships on Oct. 21.

The Silver Bayonet: A Wargame of Napoleonic Gothic Horror

We have a lot of fun here on Polygon dot com, but something we don’t talk nearly enough about is just how horrible the Napoleonic wars actually were. But could you imagine just how terrifying they would have been with werewolves? Or if the dead had refused to retire from the field of battle? Now you can explore those scenarios with Silver Bayonet: A Wargame of Napoleonic Gothic Horror. Go grab grandpa’s old tin soldiers and a box of fresh musketeers, season to taste with the creepiest miniatures in your collection, and form ranks. The core rulebook arrives in November, and the art (including the piece sampled at the top of this article) looks excellent.

That Time You Killed Me

Three grids with Chess pawns on each one, plus four packs of cards with colorful illustrations of broken glass on each one. Image: Pandasaurus Games

That Time You Killed Me is a narrative game that plays out across four different chapters, each with different rules, components, and an increasing level of difficulty. Like The Initiative, it feels like an iteration on Legacy-style gameplay that is both nondestructive and much more abstract. It’s one of my most anticipated titles of the season. You can check out the rulebook online, and pre-orders are available now.

Unbreakable: Revolution

Unbreakable: Revolution is an anthology of tabletop role-playing adventures set in multiple game systems. It includes d20-compatible modules, but also adventures that use the Forged in the Dark system (based on Blades in the Dark), the 13th Age system, and several more. What has me excited is how this collection has been curated. Its publisher says that it “represents the unyielding passion, love, and respect for Asian cultures within the tabletop roleplaying game medium.” Physical copies are expected to be available soon.

Undaunted: Reinforcements

The Undaunted series is a wildly popular, award-winning deckbuilding game set during World War II that was launched in 2019 with Undaunted: Normandy. That was followed up by Undaunted: North Africa in 2020. A new modular expansion titled Undaunted: Reinforcements adds a solo mode and allows you to combine the cards from both previous games into one massive experience. Pre-orders are open now.


A board showing the cross section of a ship with green, Cthulhu-inspired monsters in the surrounding ocean. Image: Fantasy Flight Games

Due out in October, Unfathomable is a reimplementation of the legendary hidden role game Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game. One player will secretly work against the others in this Cthulhu-infused game set in the 1920s. The action takes place on a luxury cruise liner, echoing the layout of the mighty Galactica itself. It’s expected to ship in October.

Warhammer 40,000: Fireteam

A selection of miniatures painted to a high standard along with cards, dice, and tokens for Fireteam. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team - Octarius is an excellent small-unit skirmish game, but it’s still going to set you back about $170. Warhammer 40,000: Fireteam, on the other hand, uses the guts of the very same ruleset and accomplishes something similar — telling a story through furious combat on the table. It comes with two complete fighting forces, plus rules for a bunch more. It’s the new best gateway into the Games Workshop hobby, and it’s only $50.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King – A Pandemic System Board Game

Z-Man’s latest riff on the Pandemic model is World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King - A Pandemic System Board Game. It’s a wild implementation of Matt Leacock’s award-winning cooperative gameplay system, and the miniatures alone should be enough to pique the interest of fans of the MMO. We’ll see how it plays when it comes around in October or November. Pre-orders are open now.