Essen Preview #35: Getting ready for the big trip

Well, here I am in the airport, sitting at my gate waiting to fly to Essen.  The last few days has been its usual frenzy as I’m struggling to get everything done for work, get all my stuff packed for Europe, catch up on writing for the blog, etc.  Delta threw me an interesting wrinkle yesterday… I had purchased my airfare almost 90 days agoas I saw a decent rate online at that time – and while I haven’t been super diligent at looking, my once-a-week check of fares has only found one week where the fare was lower, and only by $7.  In any event, I just got an email yesterday from Delta reminding me that my flight times had changed.  I didn’t remember any previous notification of the schedule change, and a quick search of my gmail also did not show a notification.  Nevertheless, my flight which was supposed to leave at 1245 had been shifted to 215.  At first, this seemed like a good thing because it would give me extra time in the morning to doublecheck my bags to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.  However, when I looked a bit closer at my itinerary, I realized that I now only had a 49 minute layover in ATL.

That’s right. 49 Minutes in Atlanta. To leave my first plane (from row 28), get out to the terminal, transfer from Concourse A to C, find my new gate, try to upgrade my seat and then get on?  Oh, and the gates in ATL close 20 min prior to international flights, so that really is only 29 minutes.  And, that assumes that everything is running on time from Dayton, etc.  I didn’t think that would be enough time, so I clicked on the “Reschedule” link conveinently provided in the email, and I went to try to choose a different flight… There were a few available, including one from Cincinnati (I happen to live almost exactly between DAY and CVG), so I clicked the link.  Seats were available, and I clicked on the button to confirm the change.  And then – asks me for an additional $1440.69 to process the seat change.  Huh?!  That’s almost double my original fare?!  A quick call to my helpful Delta Skymiles representative ended up getting me the flight change gratis, but it was a nervous hour spent on hold with multiple representatives trying to make sure that I could make my connection to Europe.  I’ve had to spend a night in the chairs at Hartsfield before, and that’s definitely not something that I am ever wanting to do again.  It also saved me from having to consider Delta’s backup plan in case I missed my flight to DUS.  Which would have been DAY-ATL-LGA-CDG-DUS.  Good for my Skymiles account, but about 3 transfers more than I’d like to deal with. Luckily, I got the last seat on the CVG-ATL leg, and now I get a generous 85 minutes to transfer.  Still a bit tight, but the weather looks good, and I’ve got my running shoes on.  I might even be able to hit the Chick-fil-A for lunch as I jog between gates!

Last night was a bunch of last minute packing, double checking and triple checking. I’m normally a laid-back guy, but traveling abroad makes me paranoid that I’m going to forget stuff.  So I make a list of things that I should pack, and I start packing about a week in advance.  This year, I was super busy at work though (oh, and kids soccer), and I barely had time to start during the week.  I think I managed to bring everything, but time will tell.  Hopefully, anything that I’ve forgotten can be purchased in Europe without costing me an arm and a leg!  I think I got most of the important things: clothes, toothbrush, baggage scale (to make sure I can bring it all home), and my list…

I also had to make sure that I was ready game-wise. This has been a process that has been going on for at least a month now.  The biggest thing was making sure my “master list” was up to date and printed out.  Each year, I create a spreadsheet that outlines the games that I want to look at, designer/publisher, booth, MSRP, want level, contact person at the company, and any other notes about the game to refresh my memory about it.  I also have columns to denote whether or not I’ve downloaded the rules and whether or not I’ve read those rules.  As of this morning, when I disconnected my ultrabook from the Internet, I had 108 rulesets from Essen releases downloaded, and I had read about 70 of them.  I should be able to make a decent dent isun the remaining total on the flights today (hopefully only 2 of them, and not 5!).  I carry around a little note-card portfolio that was a Father’s Day gift way back when, and I shrink, print and trim the list down so it fits in my binder.  This year, it’s only 4 pages long, but has 140+ game titles crammed onto those 4 pages!

Unlike last year, there are only 17 games on my “must bring home from Essen” category – usually this is closer to 25-30.  I don’t know if this is a reflection on my overall level of anticipation of the games this year, or a reflection of my changing priorities in getting games. When I first started, I was determined to bring home the games that I knew I couldn’t get anywhere else.  i.e. I didn’t want to miss out on a great game, so the weirder and rarer it was, the more likely I was to bring the game home. After a few years of bringing home 20-30 games that were only played once, I switched to a policy of bringing home the games I really liked – even if I knew they were being co-produced by an American publisher. I got many great games this way, but I ended up spending a lot of money (MSRP) on games that I would have been able to get at my FLGS or online retailer as soon as I got back.  Starting last year, I’ve tried to walk the line between the two extreme positions. There are some games that I know are being done by American publishers, but I just can’t wait to have them – so I’ll bring them back from Essen.  Games in this category include but are not limited to:

  • Copycat (2F/RGG)
  • Die Palaste von Carrara (HiG/Z-Man)
  • Tzolkin (CGE/RGG)
  • Le Havre 2p (Lookout/Z-Man)
  • Ginkgopolis (Pearl/Z-Man)
  • Ark&Noah (Placentia/Elfinwerks)

There are also some games in this category which are there for rarity/scarcity issues such as: Trains (Ozaku), Keyflower (R&D), Spellbound (Fragor).   I’m fairly certain that if I don’t pick these titles up at Essen, it will either be impossible or exorbitantly expensive to get them.  Also, all my preordered games and reserved games will be in this group too.

The second tier of games are for titles that I’m pretty sure that I want to get a copy of.  I have a pretty good feel for most of these games, having read the rules to almost every one in this category.  There are a few games here that might move up into the first category once I talk to folks and hear a bit more buzz. Also, sometimes the expected street date in the US can sway my decision here.  I’m usually patient enough to wait for anything that should make it by Christmas time, but games where the domestic release is likely going to be 2013?  I’ll be giving those a better look at the fair for sure.  Examples of games in this group are: Lady Alice (Hurrican), Oddville (What’s your game?), La Venice du Nord (Asynchron), Doge Ship (Giochix).

The third tier of games is reserved for those games which I think I am interested in, but I just don’t have enough information about.  Either the rules weren’t made available prior to the fair OR I haven’t had enough time to read them yet.  A few games in this list are: The Great Zimbabwe (Splotter), Proxy Wars (Game Engineers), QBQ (Huch! and Friends), Banana Matcho (Zoch), and Rondo (Schmidt).  This year, this group is actually the largest portion of the list, and I will have to go from booth to booth to learn about these games next week.  The final tier are for games that I want to look at and that I’m not really sure about at all.  Many of the games on this list may not have English translations.  For instance, Journalist from CBG… Some come from game publishers or designers that I am unfamiliar with.  In any event, these will be the games I try to hit after I’ve made good progress in the first three groups. There are almost as many games in this fourth group as the third, so I should have plenty of things to look at while in Essen.

The amazing thing is that even though I have 140 games or so on my list, that represents probably only 20% of the games that will be shown at Essen. There are probably at least 800 new titles being shown there, and it’s frankly impossible to keep tabs on all of them prior to the fair.  I will definitely be making progress on my personaly list but will also be keeping my eyes open for things I hadn’t read about prior to the fair.  There are a number of trusted friends that I have impromptu conferences with as we meet in the halls where we trade gossip and buzz about th games.  Alan How is usually responsible for me picking up 2-4 games each year that I hadn’t heard about prior to talking with him.

OK, the first flight is about to board, so I’m uploading this to the blog while I still have free WiFi.  IF there is time later, I’ll continue to write more…


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.
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2 Responses to Essen Preview #35: Getting ready for the big trip

  1. jeffinberlin says:

    I’m relieved to hear that you have more time in Atlanta, Dale. I’ve noticed, too that, the airlines have been scheduling shorter layover times at German airports–often an hour or less in Munich and Frankfurt!

    Should I pack a few extra clothes, just in case your luggage doesn’t make it? How ’bout a Berliner Eisbären Icehocky jersey?

  2. pdubarry says:

    Sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. Hope you travels go well!

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