Dale Yu: Essen Wrap Up Part 2 of 2

OK, back again to finish up my Essen coverage – part 1 of this was posted Monday.  As always, it was a great time, and a non-stop whirlwind of a trip.  I’m fighting through a booked schedule at work and (un)successfully fighting jet lag right now.  However, neither of those is going to stop me from talking about the games!

[To see the rest of the Opinionated Gamers coverage of Essen, both previews and reports from the fair… click here]

So as far as the games go, I think that there were a bunch of games that were talked about by my friends as being their “favorite”, though there didn’t seem to be a lot of consensus about a single “hit of the show”. Amongst this list were: Tournay, Funkenschlag: First Sparks, Trajan, Hawaii, Helvetia, Ora et Labora and Coney Island. As these were the games I most often heard people raving about, I generally asked others about them as well, and I’ll also say that for each of the games on this list, there was at least one person for each who did not think much of that particular game. Of course, simple differences in taste could account for this – but there was certainly not a game as in previous years where everyone you met told you that you had to go check out or buy a particular game.

The two rating systems seemed to co-exist peacefully, and each gave a different view of the fair. Both of them attempt to give convention goers a peek at what the crowd thinks of the new games. I think that the audience is a little different for each as is the methodology, and this gave me two different lists to compare. It certainly seemed like most of the English speakers that voted did so at BGG, while German speakers could be found at both.

The Fairplay results were updated a few times a day, and by midday Friday, the ratings seemed to stabilize out – most of the games in the top 10 by that point remained in the top 10, though the actual poll positions may have changed. On the other hand, with the true real-time calculations of votes, the Geekbuzz poll was a lot more variable. This provided me with an ever changing list to consult, which was also helpful as it gave me more games to look at and try out. There was definitely a more “what have you done for me lately” feel to Geekbuzz – it was not uncommon for games that were conducting their video interview at the stand to suddenly have a jump up on the ratings board (as if seeing the game in front of you while voting caused people to rate it higher or more often) – though this did seem to equalize out in a few hours. Additionally, as Geekbuzz usually listed the top 25 games in their poll, there was a bit more information to glean from the standings. In the end, both were useful tools, and I found it nice that they were located around the corner from each other. The proximity of the two stands made that corner of Hall 10 a stop to make about three times each day to see what the current results were on each. By late Thursday/early Friday, the Fairplay stand was a bit more useful to me to see what the hot games were – but then my emphasis switched to Geekbuzz by late Friday/early Saturday to see what the pulse was after that first tier of games.

The final ratings for each were:

BGG Geekbuzz (high traffic list)

  1. Stalag 17
  2. Wilderness
  3. Top-a-top
  4. Colonial
  5. Pergamemnon
  6. Takenoko
  7. Antiquity
  8. Quebec
  9. Ascension: Return of the Faller
  10. Dungeon Petz

Thanks to one of the readers of the blog, the Geekbuzz list was also re-done using 50 votes as a minimum and applying a BGG-like rating system  – the list looks much different

  1. Tournay
  2. Dungeon Petz
  3. Aquileia
  4. Lancaster
  5. Power Grid: First Sparks
  6. King of Tokyo
  7. Siberia
  8. Ristorante Italia
  9. Drum Roll
  10. Trajan

Fairplay – the results were just released on their blog.  Here is the top 10 from their list…

  1. Tournay
  2. Trajan
  3. Ruhm fur Rom
  4. Funkenschlag: die Ersten Funken
  5. Hawaii
  6. Helvetia
  7. Ora et Labora
  8. Rapa Nui
  9. Santiago de Cuba
  10. Coney Island

So as you can see, there is a fair amount of overlap between the two polls once you look at games which got a higher (>50) number of votes during the week.  If you had limited time to play the new games, limiting yourself to the games listed on either of the two lists would be a great place to start!

One other trend I noticed this year was the prevalence of Kickstarter projects – both from the independent producers as well as the “big boys”…  Indie was doing well with Flashpoint, a game which started up on Kickstarter.  Bezier Games was demoing Mutant Meeples which has apparently just started up this week on KS…  Established companies such as Gryphon were showing games like Road to Canterbury and Zong Shi (currently on KS) as well as the finished version of Montage which was only possible after they gauged public interest via a Kickstarter campaign.  Finally, in what can only be termed a brilliant move, the guys from The Spiel managed to frickin fund their trip to Essen via a kickstarter project.  Truly awesome, and well played Gentlemen.  (Hopefully their next KS project will be to get new sportscoats <g> )

Pedometer Update – again, I realize that this might only interest me, but for completion’s sake, here are the rest of the totals from the pedometer

Sunday (travel day) — 8456 steps = 4.48 miles

Saturday (last day at Fair) – 13,880 steps – 7.22 miles

Friday – 16,994 steps – 8.85 miles

So, that brings my total for the week to just over 60 miles. Man, it’s time for some new shoes!

Finally, here’s what games came back from Essen. Again, remember that there are plenty of domestic games that have been or will be obtained now that I’m back home. For instance, I’m anxiously awaiting the games from Gryphon such as Dragon Rampage and Montage, the new Stronghold titles, especially Core Worlds, and many of the Z-man games such as Undermining. Additionally, Strain arrived via the mail while I was gone, and I am definitely looking forward to the domestic releases of Mage Knight (Wizkids) and Eclipse (Asmodee).

This year, I was fortunate to have three bags, so the amount of games that I was able to bring home was 50% more than usual… Certainly next year, I’ll either have to bring home less or be prepared to ship a lot more home! After clean underwear and socks, the next most vital thing to bring on the trip is my electronic digital scale to weigh my luggage as I pack it! I can’t believe that I used to pack for the trip home simply by picking up the bags and guessing if they had 70lbs or not in them (this was back in the day when airlines gave you two bags at 70 pounds for free).

Between the extra bag this year and the fact that I sent home a box, I honestly didn’t spend much time doing my usual tricks for saving weight and space. I only punched about 15 of the games, and the rest I just left as is. Part of the reason was that there wasn’t much nesting of game boxes this year. The majority of the games that came home were in the two standard large box sizes (the Dominion/Kosmos square or the traditional rectangle bookshelf size – like Agricola). Since so many boxes were identical in shape, there was not much opportunity to put one inside the other.

The only “trick” that I still used was to put all of the heavy components in a baggie and place them in my non-weighed carryon.  I have found that the 2-gallon size baggies that I buy at Dollar Tree are perfect for this.  They are so wide that they can hold even a full Kosmos-square board within – so no matter what the game, I can keep all the components together in a single bag!

The other surprising this is that I seem to do better when I don’t really worry about padding the bags.  I use these huge duffel bags that really don’t offer any cushioning – I choose them because they are light-weight, each weighs about 4.0 lbs empty… And I just try to pack them as full as I can with games.  What little laundry I have is placed in the outer pockets to cushion things, but that’s it… And the weird thing is that these games in the duffel bags tend to come thru the baggage system just fine… in fact, oftentimes better than the games in traditional suitcases!


For scale purposes, here in the green bag with a couple of Dominion boxes on it…  As you will likely be able to tell… it’s a huge bag!  The hardest thing about it is trying to keep it under the 50lb weight limit when it’s full!


So, I’ll break down the haul by bag – last year, a few readers wanted to know which games fit where…

Orange suitcase (49.4 lbs, maybe 50% of my laundry)

  1. Die Brucke am Rio d’Oro (nested inside MIL)
  2. The New Era  (nested inside Olympos)
  3. Quebec
  4. Casa Grande
  5. Champions 2020
  6. Smallworld: Tunnels
  7. Mondrian 2020
  8. Pax x 2
  9. Pergamemnon x 2
  10. Friday
  11. Souvlaki Wars
  12. Infarkt
  13. Hawaii
  14. Wiraqocha
  15. Coney Island
  16. Vanuatu
  17. Paperclip Railways
  18. Olympos
  19. MIL (1049)
  20. Singapore



Green Bag (49.6 lbs, 20% of the laundry)

  1. Pret-a-porter
  2. Dr. Shark
  3. Dominion: Hinterlands
  4. Cite
  5. Carre
  6. 7Wonders Catan expansion x 3
  7. Catan: Thuringen Edition board
  8. Dynamite Nurse Returns!
  9. Galaxia (nested inside Cite)
  10. Idol Project
  11. Upon a Salty Ocean
  12. Recicle
  13. The Forgotten Planet
  14. Power Grid: First Sparks
  15. Ab in die tonne
  16. Meltdown 2020
  17. Dungeon Petz
  18. Helvetia
  19. Dungeon Fighter

I also had found a couple of empty boxes: Black Secret and Mondo (the Pegasus press kit came in this) which were used as padding on the sides of the bag… Even these empty boxes survived just fine!


Black Bag (48.8 lbs, 30% of the laundry)

  1. Ora & Labora
  2. Trajan
  3. Welcome to Wanut Grove
  4. Feudalherren
  5. Drum Roll
  6. Last Will
  7. Tournay
  8. die Gnome von Zavandor
  9. Rallyman Dirt
  10. Space Bastards (nested in Poseidon’s Kingdom)
  11. Poseidon’s Kingdom
  12. Fortuna
  13. Ghost Stories: Black Secret
  14. City Tycoon
  15. Talat
  16. Marble Monster
  17. Terra Evolution


Orange rollerboard carryon (22 lbs, no laundry)

  1. Old Men of the Forest
  2. Master Merchant
  3. Rolling Bones


Also, in the carryon were a number of bagged up boards and bits (to save weight in the body bags)

  • Dynamite Nurse Returns! cards
  • Hawaii board and pieces
  • Recycle board and pieces
  • Infarkt board
  • Cite pieces
  • MIL (1049) board and pieces
  • Space Bastards board
  • Poseidon’s Kingdom board and figures
  • Multiple little expansions
  • Rallyman Dirt boards
  • Olympos boards, bits, expansion
  • Wiraqocha board and bits


Did I mention how awesome those 2 gallon bags were… Here is the Poseidon’s Kingdom board easily fitting inside one…


Orange backpack (16 lbs, no laundry)

  1. Splits
  2. Tschaak!

Big box sent back home via DHL (17kg, no laundry)

  1. Burdigala
  2. Sidi Baba
  3. Tuareg x 2
  4. Fliegende Teppisch
  5. Adlungland x 2
  6. Bonbons
  7. Rumble in the House
  8. Mare Balticum
  9. Let’s Take a Hike!
  10. Assorted gifts for family and friends

So… as you can see, my bags were stuffed to the gills.  This is pretty much why I essentially have to say “No!” to any requests to bring stuff back.  I even had an extra bag this year, and I didn’t have space for everything!  Next year will be back to the standard two bag allowance, so that’ll be that much more that either gets shipped back or simply doesn’t get picked up at Essen!

Here’s all of the games stacked up on my pool table


Later that day, I found an unused bookcase in the garage, and transferred everything to it… The haul from this year fits pretty well in that space – and now it’s nice to keep them all together until I get a chance to play them!


Ok, time to get back to work… And tonight, time to start punching all the games and savoring all that new game smell!

Until your 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.

6 Responses to Dale Yu: Essen Wrap Up Part 2 of 2

  1. tonyboydell says:

    ..this year you also get to sample that new ‘paperclip’ smell as well! :-)

  2. Tom Rosen says:

    Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard…

  3. Baguety says:

    Why do you buy all those games in essen?
    Is it not cheaper to buy them at a gamestore near you, or order them online?
    At the gamestore near my place they even give me 10% for no reason.
    Just wondering.
    Fine collection, thanx for the reports

  4. David Reed says:

    Thanks for all of your hard work in sharing your Essen experience with us, Dale. My box of Essen goodness (which is not as diverse as your acquisitions are, but shares many of the same titles) is on the way, and I can’t wait to dive in!

  5. John Mellby says:

    I am sorry but I don’t understand.
    What’s an “unused bookshelf”?

  6. morganzax says:

    @Baguety: Some games are never distributed in the US. Some games are only published in small quantities and never make it to the stores. Some people just like getting new games before anyone else.

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