It’s just two weeks until we head off to Essen Spiel 2013 in Germany. It’s the world’s biggest board and card game trade show, but its just as geared towards the public as it is the industry. This will my second visit and I’m buzzing already.
This year I’m heading off with friend Matt, meeting other friends Lloyd and Sherine on Eurostar and then a bunch of others when we get there. On the way back Matt and me will be stopping off in Cologne and Brussels for a few days too, which should add a bit more blogging juice (unless we spend the whole time in the hotel playing new games…).
You may see board gaming as a niche nerd hobby, but it’s probably a bit bigger a deal than you think – especially in Germany. As a nation the Germans don’t see the basic concept of playing board games as nerdy; good quality tabletop games are an accepted part of family life (but yes, I’m sure most of them still sneer at role-players).
So when I say big, I mean big: We’re talking 150,000 visitors, 827 exhibitors from 37 nations releasing literally hundreds of new games, covering a conference space of around 47,000 square meters – for four days. Big.
So how the hell do you cut down a 400+ new game list down to a manageable size? Well, you use the Essen Geek Mini website of course. And having studiously whittled it down over the past few months, here’s my…
Essen Wishlist Top 10
- Concordia: Board game designer Mac Gerdts is the man behind the rondel mechanism that inspired my only design to date, The Empire Engine. His games tend to be thinky and intelligent, while light on oppressive rules, and this one sees him move away from his beloved rondel and into hand management via cards, while keeping a beautiful board involved. This will be a definite buy for me.
- Snowdonia expansions: It looks like there will be three separate expansions for one of my favourite games, Snowdonia, available at this year’s Essen. One of them I did a bit of play-testing for, while the others all look to add a little more variety to a game I can’t ever see myself getting bored of. I won’t talk about the base game as I’ve reviewed it here. Again, these will be definite purchases.
- Bargains! While my friends would say my collection is already ridiculous, I’m actually pretty limited in my knowledge compared to many board gamers. This makes Essen particularly fantastic, as German retailers use it to clear lots of good (but not great selling) games are crazy discounts – although you have to be careful, as they’re often German editions. Already on the list: Dakota and Artus.
- Warlock: This is a game that I’ll need to demo, but from what I can garner from the rules it looks like there might be just enough of our favourite midweek game – Race for the Galaxy – along with some interesting new twists to make this a real winner. And at 20 euros, the price is right too. Auctions/bidding, deck building, tile placement/tableau building and hand management – it ticks all the boxes.
- Dice games: Both Zoe and me are suckers for rolling dice, so I’m always on the lookout for some nice dice games. Two are standing out for me at the moment: Blueprints is a 30-minute dice drafting game, where you complete patterns on cards with different coloured dice, with different colours giving different benefits. CV is a card/Yahtzee game with nice art and a fun, original theme (the story of your life).
- Gritty sci-fi games: Know your audience! Our group likes gritty sci-fi, so why not give them what they want? Two stand out this year to me: Enclave (Polish worker placement game, collecting equipment to complete missions) and Infamy (hire criminals, deploy secret units, screw your friends’ plans, complete jobs). both look potentially fun, but I’ll be looking to try before I buy.
- Card games: Yes, there will be hundreds, but two in particular have aught my eye: Cheaty Mages looks like silly anime art fun, where you secretly bid on arena battles while trying to cheat the outcomes. S-Evolution looks to have an interesting tack on trick taking games, adding worker placement and evolution to change what rules each player applies in each round – from playing blind right up to using trump cards.
- Nice looking euros: These are my Achilles heal, so along with Concordia I’m bound to come home with at least one other fascinatingly themed gem. These are two to three-hour games where you place workers, gather materials and then turn them into victory points. The contenders: Rokoko (dress making…), Yunnan (tea selling…) and Craftsmen (medieval town building…).
- Silly racing games: I don’t have one of these, but there are two coming to Essen that like fun. Banjooli Xeet sees you racing ostriches via bluff and dice rolling, while the equally sensible looking The Sheep Race sees you, well, racing sheep – place your bets, then try to alter the outcome of three races to cash in. Both will need to shine to see me part with any cash – although the sheep one looks gorgeous.
- Mining games: Not a topic I am drawn to any way, but oddly there are two mining-themed games that look interesting this year. Rockwell looks like an uneasy co-op, where you need to work together to mine – but are looking to make the most profit. Coal Baron looks a more typical euro, but with some potentially interesting movement decisions to be made to bring up the coal.
Just outside the list was a game I love the look of, am not convinced by at all, but can’t seem to shake my interest in: Origin. It looks beautiful yet simple, while it could offer a lot of interesting strategic decisions – or equally could be incredibly dull. I’ll definitely be after a demo of this one (especially as I’ll be at Matagot anyway to collect a Nefertiti pre-order).
And finally, those games I know I’ll love and lust for but – a) will hardly ever get any table time; and b) will be expensive and not discounted: Lewis & Clark, Nations and A Study in Emerald (I’m not linking them to avoid temptation for myself if I read this back for reference – I know how weak I am).
There are a few more, but you know – I’m getting hungry. And there was me thinking this would be a short post. What a nerd…
(NOTE: Follow up post here)