Essen Spiel 2021 preview

Essen Spiel 2021 is, theoretically, just two months away. I’ve had my two jabs, got my Eurostar booked and hotel sorted. Normally that’s all I need to start getting excited about the event. But it’s fair to say this year is going to be a little different.

Looking back at my preview of the last physical event (Spiel 2019) it was the biggest yet. Back then they were expecting 1,500 new games from a staggering 1,200 exhibitors. This year I’m amazed they’ve managed to get together an impressive 600 exhibitors from 43 nations, presenting more than 1,000 games.

Of course, things can change very quickly in this pandemic. But let’s keep everything crossed that it will go ahead. And more importantly, for me, that I can get there if it does. And that I can beat my anxiety and actually turn up!

What to expect when we get into Essen Spiel 2021

Everyone attending is going to need to prove they’re vaccinated, or show proof of a recent negative test. Thanks to brexit our NHS passport should be enough to get me through, but it will take longer to process. Once inside, a ‘medical grade’ face mask will have to be worn at all times. I’m presuming that will just be inside, and that the outside areas will offer a welcome release from them (as well as a beer and a bratwurst).

It’s usually an incredibly squished event. Whether getting from A to B or trying to play a game on an undersized table with no room to squeeze past, it’s a bit of a nightmare. I don’t even go in on a Saturday, the busiest day of the event. But this year there’s the promise of wider isles, as well as strict limits on how close gaming tables can be from each other. Hand sanitiser will be required before playing a game on a booth. While some kind of contact tracing app connected to each booth is also being mooted.

all these measures seem sensible and I’m right behind them. But I wonder how it will all affect attendance – or whether that will even matter. I think around one-in-three people I know that usually attend (as punters or journos) are planning on going this year. Sure, that’s just international travellers – and the vast number of attendees will be German. But if attendance numbers at other recent events I’ve heard about are anything to go by, it may be a strangely muted affair regardless of the safety measures. Tickets will go on sale at the end of August.

My Essen Spiel 2021 (early) wish list

It’s a bit early for a definitive list, but here are some games I’m looking forward to finding out more about. I suggest checking out the fantastic Tabletop Together Tool to see many of this year’s Essen releases in one place. I’ve been through the first 200 or so (I know…) and have picked these out for potential reviews:

  • 1923 Cotton Club (Looping Games, 2-4 players, 60 mins): I love this series of mini euro games (see 1906 and 1987), which pack a big game in a small package.
  • Ark Nova (Feuerland, 1-4 players, 2 hours): Heavier zoo-themed tile placement/card actions euro with an interesting action selection twist.
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Looping Games, 1+ players, 20 mins): Flip-and-write which looks like a more fun/complex version of Railroad Ink.
  • One Card Wonder (Ape Games, 2-6 players, 15 mins): Light and fast filler game, which should act as a good gateway to resource management games.
  • Pessoa (Pythagoras, 1-4 players, 1-2 hours): A worker placement/hand management euro with a similar rotating mechanism to the excellent Pharaon, but a little more complex.
  • Sobek: 2 Players (Catch Up Games, 2 players, 30 mins): A simple, smart tile collection game where your move on the grid decides what’s available to your opponent. (BGA)
  • Squaring Circleville (Spielworxx, 1-4 players, 2 hours): Medium weight rondel euro with area majorities, where timing things right looks key.
  • Twinkle (V Games, 1-4 players, 30 mins): Light dice/set collection game, which looks just different enough to make me interested.
  • Winter Queen (Crowd Games, 2-4 players, 30 mins): Nice looking interactive abstract where you’re trying to be first to benefit from scoring opportunities.

Oldies to look out for

I’m really hoping the second hand stalls will be in attendance, as working my way through them is one of my annual Spiel highlights.

This year I’ll be looking out for:

  • Archaeology – The New Expedition: Slight improvements to the fantastic original.
  • Attika: An older Hans im Gluck abstract tile-placer I enjoy on Yucata.
  • Barenpark: Nice tile game, but not worth the £25 UK price tag.
  • DVONN: My favourite of the GIPF games.
  • Firenze: Another old interactive euro I always enjoy online.
  • Industrial Waste: A smart old (2001) Rio Grande light, fast yet deep euro game.
  • Parade: The gorgeous Alice in Wonderland art version.
  • Vanuatu: Strangely hard to find despite a reprint vicious euro.

Want to know anything more about Essen? Just ask in the comments below.

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