Patrick Korner: Essen 2011 As it happens! (Weds/Thurs)

So I’m at Spiel again. And playing / buying stuff again.  So why not write about it again?

This is my play/buylist for Essen 2011. Games I’m picking up for others are not included – this is all for me! (evil laughter).  Onwards!

1) Master Merchant

Clever little hand-building game from Japon Brand and also the first game I played at Essen 2011. I think it was 10E or something like that.

I liked it. Not earth-shattering, but pretty cool. Play your cards to either a) buy more cards or b) get gold (which you need to buy cards). Whenever you start your turn with 0 cards in hand, you pick up all the cards you played (or bought) and start again. Win by either having 8 different cards in your hand or by having 8 gold. The game features some ways of stealing cards / gold from other players so you have to be careful and try to win in a way that’s hard for the others to meddle with.

Overall a game I’m happy to own.

2) String Railway: Transport

The other Japon Brand game I preordered and picked up today. Looks to be a somewhat bigger / more involved game than String Railway, although the basic string concept remains the same. I think this was about 20E.

Played this with 3p tonight. Fun little game.  Transport is ‘gamier’ than its lighter predecessor, so it will take a little longer. I like that better as I feel like I’m actually playing a game instead of just whiling away some time, but others may not agree (at least one of the three players in my game said he preferred the simple charm of the original). Depth-wise it’s probably somewhere between String Railway and Paperclip Railways, although the luck factor in this game seems maybe reduced compared to PR since you don’t draw tiles from a pile and hope to find one that totally matches your plans.

Our game lasted maybe a little more than 30 minutes including rules (some of which I got wrong on first reading, sigh). We fixed those midgame, though, so I’m pretty sure the game we played was the game the designers intended.

3) Schinderhannes: Julchen

Limited (250 copies I think) expansion for Schinderhannes. 10E and a little steep for what you get, but I like Clicker’s stuff and this will be hard to find anywhere else.

4) 7 Wonders: Catan Island

2E donation and this was mine. Kind of a no-brainer to pick up, no?

5) Rallyman: Dirt

Hooray! More Rallyman goodness!  The new tire / die combination dashboards are amazing.

Rallyman itself got a new edition which looks very sweet. I got that too.

Included with Dirt is a lime green car and a “Sisu” expansion that’s basically a set of cards that let you avoid one loss of control when you turn it in. Sisu is apparently a Finnish word that means determination or something…

(According to JCB (the designer) he will have much better US distribution for his games starting fairly soon. I can’t remember the name of the distribution company (it isn’t Alliance is all I remember) but it should be a little easier to find.)

6) Trajan

Played a 4p game (well, about half of one) tonight.

Whoa. There is a lot going on in this game. Trying to bend the mancala that forms the game’s central mechanic to your will is HARD. Each move you make changes the other moves you can make, so effectively planning for more than one turn ahead is really really tough. Additional play might make that easier, but this is a head-scratcher (in a good way, mind you).

Each action lets you make even more decisions, so overall the impression you get from the rules explanation is one of ‘holy crap how do I choose what to do?’. Actually playing the game makes you feel a little more like you know what you’re doing, but it’s still tricky to try and figure out the best path to take.

I wish this were a 30E game (where it would be an autobuy for me). At essentially 40E, it’s harder to justify but I’ll probably still end up picking up a copy because a) it’s limited and b) it’s a good game.

7) Poseidon’s Kingdom

So it’s about 3AM here and I’m beat after buying a snotload of games.  One of which was Poseidon’s Kingdom, which showed up late yesterday. The Fragors got about 15-20 extra copies over and above preorder fulfillment level, so only a precious few got lucky with the fishies.  Or something.  We ended up playing this tonight so I can share a little of my thoughts.

First off: The bits are adorable. And the wave is very cool. The gameplay, however, is only ‘good’.  That’s not to say the game is bad, not at all. But it didn’t wow me the way I’d hoped it would.  It’s a solid medium-weight game about building up your coral reef in a way that lets you carry out actions (like placing dice, moving, etc.) efficiently, in order to move around the “Kraken Tracken” and free your lil’ buddies (little tiles in your colour that effectively act as a game timer) by way of various dice combinations that then also award you victory points.  The game works pretty well, except that I had a bit of a hard time sorting out how to predict and plan for the shark movement, and it seemed a little arbitrary where on the wave structure your own coloured dice got placed.  It seems like placing more to the outside should make you run the risk of getting your dice rolled off the board (which is not good), but it didn’t seem to totally happen that way. So overall a good game but not a great one.

8) Colonial: Europe’s Empires Overseas

Picked up a copy of this too.  Looks absolutely gorgeous, a fantastic production quality for a first published design.  Bonus points for having all the different coloured wooden bits already pre-separated into their own plastic baggies!

60E is not cheap, but the early buzz seems to indicate this is worth it.  I’m told the print run isn’t huge either so it was worth a buy.

9) Champions 2020

Picked up the Cwali set along with Mondriaan 2020, Meltdown 2020, and Ab in die Tonne. 70E for the whole set and I’m expecting at least one of these to be a keeper.

Champions comes in a weird overlong box that will wreak havoc with my careful packing plans, though. And Ab in the Tonne is uber-heavy. Not gameplay wise, bits wise. The game weighs like a ton!  Okay, I’m tired. More to come tomorrow morning / daytime, for now I’m beat and need sleep!


Continued with the Friday report.

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4 Responses to Patrick Korner: Essen 2011 As it happens! (Weds/Thurs)

  1. Tom Rosen says:

    Thanks for the initial impressions Patrick, interesting stuff!
    The new String Railway is definitely intriguing as I felt the original was fun but could have used a bit more development, and voila, looks like the new version might be just the ticket.
    As for Trajan, I hope/expect it won’t end up being limited release though. Hard to imagine it not getting a wider publication by next year if it’s decent. No word on that yet though I gather?
    Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the games you try while over there.

  2. Tom Rosen says:

    P.S. It may look like I posted this, but Patrick wrote it all and I just posted/formatted it because he’s busy trying all the new Essen stuff for us and reporting back.

  3. Lee says:

    Eric had mentioned:

    • German distributor Hutter Trade GmbH & Co. KG has worldwide distribution rights for Trajan following the game’s debut (and initial sale) at Spiel 2011 by publisher Ammonit Spiele. ”

    So I presume not really limited?

  4. patrickkorner says:

    Yeah, I’d assumed Trajan was limited because of the small publisher, but it seems that’s not really the case. I didn’t speak with them yesterday because I didn’t get to their booth yet, so I didn’t get a chance to confirm my assumption. Looks like it’ll be easier to get than I’d initially thought after all. Whoops! :)


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