My First Essen experience

What is Essen? It’s the location of the 4 day event, Spiel. The larget games fair that happens every year in October in Essen, Germany. Spiel is german for “play” or “game” and probably has some other meanings. One of the translations I saw was “slackness” which is how non gamers see this great hobby ๐Ÿ™‚

Essen is the 6th largest city in Germany and is located 2 hours by train north of Frankfurt. I caught the ICE train from
Frankfurt airport. WOW! The ride is so smooth that it doesn’t feel like a train, and fast. The display shows how fast we are
going, the fastest I saw was 300 km/h.
Spiel is huge, I was told and read that it was huge but until you are there it is hard to imagine how huge it is.

 

 

Here are some stats:-

  • 810 exhibitors from 34 nations
  • 48% of the booths have been hired from international companies
  • 750 new games being released.

It is open for 35 hours over 4 days. 810 exhibitors divided by 35 hours = 23.14 exhibits every hour without breaks. I don’tย think so. I dont even think it is possible. Did I mention how huge this thing is?
750 games / 35 hours = exhaustion ๐Ÿ™‚
From what I can calculate there are 115 videos on ustream that were recorded over 5 days on a gruelling schedule by BGG.ย Did I mention huge?
I arrived in Essen on the Wednesday and used my time to figure out how to use the subway system, buy a ticket to the event so I could avoid the ticket line on the first morning and study the map of the layout of the event. I also watch some of the BGG streaming from my hotel room. Great coverage by BGG with a 3 camera setup.

On the Thursday morning I got there just after 9.30am and lined up to get in. Didn’t take too long and was in just on 10, they must have opened the doors a little early.

I purposely had a very small list of must do’s and the rest I just let it happen. As a huge Agricola/ Le havre fan I was focused only on one game. Ora et Labora. As soon as I got in the door I made my way direct to the Lookout stand to get Ora et Labora. I only had room in my luggage for one big box game and this was it. They directed me to the Zman stand. Big Sigh, the english version did not make it to the show. Production/printing issues. There was talk of it arriving by Saturday but later in the day it was crossed off the Zman list. more sighs. Plan B is to try and get the english version at BGG con. We will see.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lookout booth was very small and no signage. Very understated compared to other publishers. If you weren’t looking for them you wouldn’t have given them a second glance.
They had 3 small tables that filled the booth. 2 with Walnut grove and one with Ora et Labora, and all in german, sigh. I discovered that O&L plays for about 4 hours when learning so I didn’t even try to get a game while at Spiel.
ok now what do I do. Now I can have a look around and went back to the entrance and started again without any plans. Going past the 7 wonders stand they were calling for a player in english. I put my hand up and got into a game. On their stand they had a giant version of 7 wonders with oversized cards and player boards.
This was the only time this happened, that is, calling for an “english” player. All other games where in german and you really had to hustle to try and get into a game. The 7 wonders stand really knew how to organise the 10 tables they had. very well organised.
Queen games had a huge area dedicated to Kingdom Builder. 15+ games going. I asked one of the officials if there were any english tables and luckily one had just started up. I played with 2 Canadians and a Russian guy. We struggled to figure out how to play from the rule book, and then got some help from a passerby. The Canadians belong to a game design group in their area and Gavan had published a game called Jab and did the art work on a game I saw on the BGG stream – sorry cant remember the name. So how was Kingdom Builder? It was OK. I would consider it a light game that plays for about an 1 hour. Would I buy it? Nuh. Would I play it again if it landed on a table at our board game group? Yes.
Ok a couple of games under my belt and re-evaluated it would not be easy to get into a game not being able to speak german. The other game on my radar – Last Will by Vladimir Suchy (Shipyard and 20th Century). This will be the game that fills my bag. It is about inheriting from the uncle who has just died. All players start off with the same amount of money and the first to spend all their money wins the game, I really like this mechanism. Games where you have to lose to win ๐Ÿ™‚
Started Friday with watching the BGG streaming from my hotel room. It might seem strange to do this but it was the easiest way to see and hear about the new games than in person. The streaming is addictive and its hard to turn off, “I will watch just one more” and another hour has passed. Tore myself away and headed back to Spiel and did a few rule checks with the guys from Czech Games re Last Will.

Got into a game of Die Burgen von Burgand by Setefn Feld (Macao). Theย instructor was willing to do English and German explanation. I played with 3 Germans who indulged my request. Thank you. I liked this game and like to play a few more times before deciding whether or not I want to own it. Roll 2 dice to determine 1. which area you pick from 2. where to place on your board.
Went to the Tree Frog Booth and all the tables (about 7) were playing Discworld. A game that I had played once and enjoyed and wanted to play again and they spoke english ๐Ÿ™‚ The only table open had Old Man of the Forest card game on it. So decided to check that out while waiting for a spot to open up for DiscWorld. A few others joined including Robert (German) who did the rules translation into german for Discworld. (He is a massive Terry Pratchett fan) and Tim from Tree Frog who taught us how to play the card game. Tim remembered me from World Board Game championships 2010 ๐Ÿ™‚ where we played a prototype of a lawn mowing game ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a small world! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a pic of the Deluxe version which was selling for 120 euros.
Decided to head off and would try Discworld on Saturday.
There was no activity at my hotel so headed off to the Ibis to look for after hours gaming. Wow, this is the place to be. A great room with plenty of tables, good lighting, no smoking and about 5 tables already playing games.
Robert was there and joined him and 3 Brits for a game of First Sparks. I really like this game. You will recognise some of the mechanisms from Power Grid but it is nothing like Power Grid. It seems to get into the meat of the game much quicker and plays in about an hour if all players knew the game. Like the theme, the art, the pieces. Will probably buy this when it comes to Australia.

We followed this with my first play of Last Will. Really enjoyed the game. There are lots of ways to spend money and it will be about building killer card combinations.
Started Saturday watching the BGG streaming again. I could see how much bigger the crowds were so didnt rush to Spiel. As I said the streaming is addictive and ventured to Speil in the afternoon hoping some of the families had left. Caught up with a game I saw on streaming, Murder Mystery Mastermind, that had magnetic player boards to hold the clues. Very interesting.
While there picked up their card game F3 as I knew it would fit in my bag.
I thought the crowds where big on Thursday and Friday but nothing can prepare you for the size of the crowds on Saturday. I didn’t like it and being short doesn’t help. My head is at backpack height, so as people turned I would get hit in the head, so I hightailed it out of there. There were people playing on the floor in the walkways. Where was the safety officer? The number of people who tripped over this guy was incredible.

I headed to the Ibis around 4pm. Yippee, there were people playing games who were also avoiding the crowds. Got into a 3 player game of Tournay. Very interesting game, will need a few more plays to understand the cards and buildings. Also a game a about great card combinations. Played First Sparks with a different group of people who interpreted some rules differently. Will wait for the forums to clarify as others start to play the game. Still a great game. Someone had Ora Et Labora (German version) and I sat in on some of the rule explanation before catching the last train back to my hotel. This game is going to take some time to learn.
Sunday last day – I did not go to Spiel. For 3 reasons. I did not want to be tempted to buy anything as my luggage was full and I was addicted to the BGG streaming ๐Ÿ™‚ and I knew the next day was a full travel day and wanted to be prepared for that. I am not as young as I used to be and I know my limits ๐Ÿ™‚
The atmosphere at Spiel is amazing, games and gamers everywhere in every nook and cranny. People from all around the world with one thing in common. A love of playing games ๐Ÿ™‚

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