Dale Yu: Essen Preview Part 2

The SPIEL fair at Essen is less than 8 weeks away, and there are all sorts of things that I’m looking forward to… I’ve started some preliminary research, and I’ve just started to get this year’s edition of the “big spreadsheet” typed out.  In the first part of this preview, I mentioned a number of games that I was already looking at.  Now, the information is coming in fast and furious!

The things which have pinged my radar in the past week include:

1) Pearl Games – Tournay

OK, at first, I wasn’t even sure if this one was coming out at Essen. A one line, Babelfish translated decription from TricTrac is: “There are some nods to Troyes for a game mechanically very different (to say there is even no dice!), a completely different format (shorter but hopefully as deep) and gaming experience.”  I really like Troyes, so anything similar is definitely worth looking into!

The artist’s website does have a few pics up — and the design looks just like Troyes

However, I have received more word from Sebastian at Pearl Games and got a more detailed description of the game:

Troyes gave you innovative opportunities to make the best use of fickle dice, and now Tournay tests your ability to work with the luck of the draw! Indeed, Tournay is a card game in which players manage a district of the city and its three classes of citizens. The cards are classified by level (I to III) and color, to form 9 distinct decks. Players initially have two citizens in each class (the “meeples”, literally cut out for their job) that they will use each turn to carry out one of five available actions, such as drawing cards, or using the powers of their buildings.
In each player’s district, the building cards save them money, make more efficient use of the decks of cards, or recruit new citizens. The character cards optimize the use of buildings if properly positioned: It’s up to you to create the most effective card combinations. Finally, constructed prestige buildings will give you valuable prestige points, depending on how your district has developed. But beware: Your opponents will also benefit from every prestige building you build! Note that an expansion will be included in the base game’s box, so advanced players can add still more replay value to this dynamic game!

Yup… that’s pretty much right up my alley.  A lot of the great things I love in Troyes, wrapped up in a 30-60 minute time frame?  Definitely on the “must bring home and play as soon as possible” list!  And Sebastian has confirmed that it will be ready for Essen!

View of the board layout

2) Asmodee Games – as I had mentioned in my GenCon report, there is a nice lineup of games coming from Asmodee for Essen… Takenoko will be there, another game from Bauza.  In the game, the players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.

Mundus Novus is supposed to be like Mare Nostrum: the Card Game – which means it would take all of my favorite parts of Mare Nostrum and compress it into a shorter (and fairer) version.  There will also be an English version of le Donjon de Nahelbeuk (done by Bauza/Repos originally).

3) Queen Games – Mammut

Hopefully Queen is able to get out their full production line this year (as they got caught up in the whole Scheer fiasco last fall).  Thus far, the one release which has caught my attention is Mammut.  It is designed by Kristian Amundsen Østby (also known for Hotel Samoa and Mutiny on the Little Blue).  This looks to be a good family game with an interesting mechanism.

The short description on BGG is: “Another day, another mammoth hunt. But the spoils of the hunt remains to be divided, and everyone tries to secure the largest share for themselves in this quick and clever family strategy game. Each round the tiles are shuffled in the bag and dropped onto the table. The face up symbols show the spoils of today’s hunt.

The tiles are then divided by a unique mechanic: When it is your turn, you may either A) Take any number of tiles from the pool, or B) Claim that another player has been too greedy, taking all of that player’s tiles, but returning at least one tile to the pool (you must of course show yourself to be a little less greedy).

The next player without tiles then follows in turn. This way the size of the pool will gradually increase, and the round is over once the last player without tiles decides to take what’s left in the pool. Every player will then have a share of tiles, and a scoring phase follows.

Tactical play will help you get the meat, fur, tusks, animals, and tools you want (each tile has a different way of scoring), but you may also play cards for immediate effects or to secretly influence the scoring.”

(image taken from Queen website http://www.queen-games.de

Another game that I’m hoping makes Essen is a new design from Donald X. Vaccarino.  I played a prototype of the game at the Gathering this spring, and I look forward to seeing the game get the typical Queen treatment with luxurious components and beautiful art.  (I know I haven’t said anything substantial about the game yet… but as the game hasn’t been announced officially by either Donald X or Queen, it would be best to refrain from any details at this time.)

4) Speaking of Donald X… here’s what I have heard from him when I asked about his 2011 Essen plans: “It’s really up to the companies to announce the games, and it will be a few more weeks before I feel sure of anything…  What I will say is this. I have three games probably coming out at Essen this year. One is a kid’s game from 1995, which RGG is putting out. One is a euro I guess, from 1999, which [a newer company] is putting out. Finally there’s a new game, from 2010, that Queen is doing.”

Of course, none of this is confirmed – not even from the designer himself.  So I’ll see what I can get from the publishers in the coming weeks.

5) Portal – 51st State was a surprise to me this spring.  For some reason, I missed this one at Essen last year – but managed to get a copy of the domestic version (done by Toy Vault), and I have really enjoyed it.  Apparently there is an expansion — though it is labeled as a stand-alone — to 51st State called The New Era.  It has 80 new cards and a new, fifth faction – The Hegemony, a violent band of criminals. New rules for direct interaction allow players to invade each other and sign deals with opponents’ locations. In terms of production The New Era includes a new victory point board, with polished and improved iconography. The New Era may be combined with 51st State or played on its own; you don’t need 51st State to play The New Era.

Portal is also releasing Pret-a-Porter.  It is described as “an economic strategy game set in a world of fashion. Players run clothes companies and fight for dominance during fashion shows. It is – perhaps – one of the most cruel and ruthless of all our games. Money can be a dangerous weapon.”  The theme is certainly not a common one, the world of fashion – but to me this seems like a positive.  I think I have already come close to reaching my maximum capacity of games about pirates, Rome, Roman Pirates, Egypt, Egyptian pirates, etc.  In the end, as I’m not a theme guy, it sounds like a really good worker placement game.  I look forward to getting a chance to see this one first hand or at least get a read of the rules.

6) White Goblin Games – Singapore – Peer Sylvester is a game designer whose games I find very appealing.  King of Siam and Filipino Fruit Market have both gotten a lot of play over the past few years in my game group.  This year, Sylvester has come out with a worker placement like game (that really doesn’t use worker placement!) called Singapore.

Last week, Sylvester posted a designer diary on BGG:  http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/4100/designer-diary-the-founding-of-singapore-game-pre

Needless to say, this is one that I’m looking out for at Essen.  White Goblin Games seems to be continuing their output from last year, and I look forward to seeing what else they have on offer.

7) Hans im Gluck

HiG has always been one of my favorite publishers (even before we worked together on Dominion).  They tend to offer one to two new games each year at SPIEL, and I tend to like their games.  This year, it looks like the new stuff will include Hawaii (more info to come soon) as well as an expansion for Stone Age.  Hawaii is designed by a good friend, Greg Daigle.  While I did not get a chance to try it myself at the Gathering of Friends this spring, the things I heard about the game were positive.

What I’ve learned about the expansion is that the expansion comes with a new resource (which actually is not really a resource, it’s more like food), a new place in the village and a 5th player.  The resource is jewelry. It is needed to build some of the new huts and to buy cards from the added (5th) card-space, with is left of the 4-ressource space.  The new village place works similar to the agriculture place, the player advances on a track that allows you to exchange resources. And, of course there are new huts and cards.  Pics to come as soon as HiG releases them!

Finally, HiG’s website has just announced that they will have mini Carcassonne expansion and the Walled Village (Dominion promo card in German) for a €3 donation to charity.  To coincide with the anniversary of Carcassone, the card has been renamed in the German version to “Carcassone”

8) Rightgames (from Russia) – this is a new company making their first appearance in ESSEN.  They will be there with four games, though all of them have been released for some time in Russia — but they will likely be new to the convention goers in Essen.  Apparently there is a fairly healthy game scene in Russia, but not many of their games have made it out into wider distribution.   The four titles are Potion Making: Practice, Evolution: The Origin of Species, The Enigma of Leonardo, and The Kingdoms of Crusaders. I will get the opportunity to take an advance look at the games (English language versions), and I will write up a preview on them once I get a chance to try them out for myself.  It appears that there are expansions already produced for some of these games, though it is unclear if they will be available at Essen this year.  I’m also unsure of what languages the games will be available in at the fair. More info if I get it…

9) REPOS games – the great guys who are easily found in Essen due to their sombreros will be back with a few games.  It sounds like they will be there with Ghost Stories: Black Secret, the highly anticipated expansion to one of my favorite co-op games, Ghost Stories.  With Ghost Stories: Black Secret, the players will face an even more powerful dilemma: Wu-Feng himself. The player count for Black Secret is 2-5 (instead of 1-4) as one player will take on the role of Wu-Feng and harass the monks in a more direct manner than they’ve experienced previously. Wu-Feng now chooses where the incoming ghosts will be placed on the individual monk boards. Instead of placing the ghost on the board, Wu-Feng can use that ghost to power colored spells matching the color of the ghost or to bring new figures in play that scour the catacombs underneath the village; these figures are searching for the remains of Wu-Feng by digging in the dirt located there, and should they find the three icons required, the shadow of Wu-Feng descends on the village to fight directly with the monks.

Though more details are still secret at this time, it has also been hinted to me that there will likely be a new “goodie for 7 Wonders” available at the show…  Hopefully it’s as cool as my 7Wonders t-shirt that I received last year with my pre-order. I still get all sorts of comments from people who recognize the icons on the shirt — usually from people that I wouldn’t have expected to be gamers!


Also, last week I wondered about who would be going into the soon-to-be-vacated space in Hall 12 where Nexus Games used to be…  I just got a tip in my inbox that says:  “Hall 12 it is for Stronghold Games!”, said a reliable unnamed source close to the matter…

That’s it for this week — if you know of any other news or suggestions for other games/companies to see, please drop us a note

Until you next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Convention Report, Essen 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Dale Yu: Essen Preview Part 2

  1. Joel P says:

    Spiel is 4 weeks away? I beg to differ!! :)

  2. John Bohrer says:

    Spiel is Oct 20-23, 2011, Dale. I expect you will find the new Donald X game from Queen to be just fabulous.

  3. Dale Yu says:

    Yeah – my bad – silly typo there. I blame the editor.
    Oh wait, that’s me!


  4. Dale Yu says:

    (I had written this column to post much later… but then the amount of information on the games I’m looking forward exploded to the point where I published it early!)

  5. huzonfirst says:

    I’ve already listed a bunch of games I was looking at in Part 1 of Dale’s preview. Here are some more notes.

    First of all, the game I’m most excited about, for a variety of reasons, is Hans im Gluck’s Hawaii. Greg Daigle has been my Gathering roommate ever since I started attending and he’s one of the genuinely good guys in gaming. He’s also a tremendously talented designer, with mad prototyping skillz, and all of his many friends are thrilled that at long last one of his excellent designs is going to be published. I’ve played the Hawaii prototype in a variety of formats and themes and have always really liked it. I have no idea in which direction HiG may take it, but the combination of Greg’s very good and innovative design and HiG’s proven development ability have me really excited. I hope this is just the first of many good games we see from Mr. Daigle.

    One Essen game that I’ve already played several times is A Few Acres of Snow, Martin Wallace’s 2-player design that uses deckbuilding in an historical setting. The deckbuilding works great (and this from someone who is NOT a fan of deckbuilding games) and there’s a ton of strategies to explore. It’s as much a Euro as a wargame and seems to appeal to fans of both genres. I’m genuinely excited about playing this some more and I can enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who’s on the fence about it.

    My good buddy Kent Neumann (KAS on the Geek) recently tipped me off to a less known Essen design called Colonial. This is a meaty looking economic/exploration game from Stratagem that looks quite interesting. I know I’ll get a chance to be an early adopter, because Kent has it on order. Other less visible games that I’ll be trying out with him include Drum Roll (a circus-themed game with fabulous artwork), Trajan (the new Feld design in which the players use the pebble-sowing mechanic from Mancala(!!!) to generate their actions), Terra Evolution (a evolution-themed deckbuilding game), and Upon a Salty Ocean (an economic trading game from Giochix and Rio Grande). Unusual new games = happy me, so thanks, Kent!

    Other Essen things I’m checking out include Casus Belli, the latest rondel game from Mac Gerdts, which is a modification of his Antike to make a strictly 2-player game; Eclipse, a 4X game set in space that supposedly can be played in 2-3 hours; and Alba Longa, a dice-selection game (possibly similiar to Troyes, Dale!) set in pre-Roman Italy (but which was an award-winning prototype originally set in Ancient Egypt).

    Finally, a new game that won’t be at Essen that I’ll probably order is Basketball GM, from The Game Crafter. I’ve always been fascinated by the problem of building a successful roster for a sports team and this effort by Chris and Tony Fanchi looks like it has some nice ideas. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I get a chance to try it out.

  6. Eric Martin says:

    We’ve been playing Mammut non-stop for the last 3 weeks. It’s a fantastic family game that plays differently than anything we’ve seen recently (although the scoring is rather similar to Ra). Definitely Spiel des Jahres and a game everyone should own. I’ll actually be posting a review of it by this evening.

  7. Doug says:

    Played several games of Mammut – great little “meaty” (get it) filler.

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