Essen Spiel 2021 reviews incoming: The aftermath

Essen Spiel 2021 reviews game pile

Despite a mountain of bureaucracy, the threat of ever changing COVID threat levels, and all the anxiety that went with both, I’m home. Now the more pleasant pressure of the Essen spiel 2021 review pile kicks in!

As the lovely folks over at the Semi Co-op webcomic so rightly point out in this week’s strip, its most definitely a first world problem. But with so many COVID restrictions still in place, getting games to the table is still a genuine issue.

I got through some hot titles while in Germany. I played Riverside with the Semi Co-op guys – a great roll-and-write with an added board element. I demoed euro game Hippocrates (solid) before it sold out and knocked Furnace off my wish list before I picked it up (nice auction mechanism, but the engine-building is meh and I can’t see any replay value). Ten was an OK (but unremarkable) lighter card game experience. While What’s That Sound? is a proper giggle of a party game (think charades, but you’re making noises to describe what the cards depict…). But there are a lot left to play…

Wednesday’s press event

Essen Spiel 2021 reviews (and incoming)

This might be the highest number of review games I’ve brought home in one year. I filled an entire massive suitcase and that included most games being packed Russian doll style, with expansions and smaller boxes crammed into every nook and cranny. Sixteen games in total, alongside two expansions – plus another two that arrived later. Anyone fancy a game of something…?

I’ll link these titles to the reviews as they happen, so feel free to bookmark the page and check back to see how I’m getting on. I’ve already played four of them at least once, which is a pretty good start. But if you’re jonesing for any of these in particular, let me know on Facebook or in the comments below and I’ll sneak them to the top of the pile.

A unique Essen Spiel experience

COVID clearly hit Spiel 2021 hard. There were around half the usual number of exhibitors. And an event that is usually heaving only occasionally felt busy, despite a marked increase in the spacing of stands and width of walkways. There was a noticeable lack of Americans, from press people to publishers. While Asmodee told all its companies to stay home (although a lot of them had representatives sneaking about having meetings).

It was a shame some hot games, and good friends, weren’t able to make it – but I loved the knock-on effect. A lot of smaller publishers got the extra love they so richly deserve. While it was much easier to get meetings. And once booked, they were much less stressful to get to! Moving around was a breeze and, generally, it all added up to a slightly more chilled con vibe. Without exception, those I spoke to about Spiel 2021 were really glad they’d made the (often considerable) effort to attend.

I usually avoid Kickstarters, but got a long overview of Federation, next year’s euro release from The Specialists (see below) publisher Explor8, at Spiel. It’s a colourful sci-fi worker placement game with several cool and unique twists.

It’s one of those games where the rules get out of the way quite fast, but the complexity comes in how and where you trigger actions. There are lots of ways to do the same thing – but each triggers different end game scores, majority influences or individual bonuses.

If you love this kind of passive interaction, this is a must to check out. The tense, interactive, clever and already funded Federation is on Kickstarter until October 30.

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