Dale Yu: Report from Essen 2012 and my Adventures in Packing

Finally getting a breather from work to catch up here on the blog.  The tempo of the week was more like the first Essens that I went to – the week again starts on Tuesday, and much game procurement was had early in the week.  While there was a security presence on Wednesday again, they were not as strict in monitoring activity.  The rule seemed to be that no money could change hands, but picking up pre-paid preorders was definitely kosher on Wednesday.  As a result, I was able to pick up a bunch of stuff on Tuesday and Wednesday which really helped make the rest of the week less frantic.

Here is a calendar of the games I picked up on the days in Essen:


  • Serenissima
  • City of Horror
  • Greg’s Tagebuch card game


  • Love Letter
  • Rumble in the Dungeon
  • Courtier
  • Pyramidion
  • Ladies of Troyes
  • Gingkopolis
  • Out of Gears
  • Agricola 2p
  • Hooyah
  • Swordfish
  • Mutant Meeples
  • Kosmonauts
  • Mercante
  • Dominare


  • Tzolkin
  • Attraction
  • Unexpected Treasures
  • Terra mystica
  • Spellbound
  • Galaxy Trucker Anniversary Edition
  • Qin
  • Copycat
  • Power Grid boards
  • Trains
  • Goblins Inc
  • Dungeon Lords Festival Season
  • Trick of the Rails
  • R
  • Love Letter

(Trip back to room)

  • Pax/Pergamemnon exp x 2
  • Fairy Land
  • Ark&Noah
  • Escape
  • La Venice du Nord
  • Snowdonia
  • Riff Raff
  • Palaces of Carrara
  • The Doge Ship

(trip back to room)

  • Escape
  • Venice du Nord
  • Snowdonia
  • Magnum Sal: Muria
  • Tokaido x 2
  • Ark & Noah
  • Fairy Land
  • Pax/Pergamemnon exp x 2

(trip back to room)


  • Card City
  • Kalua
  • King of Tokyo Power up!
  • Cron
  • Uchronia
  • Oddville
  • Big Badaboom
  • Doctor who card game
  • P.I.
  • Eclipse expansion
  • Myrmes


  • Keyflower
  • Il Vecchio
  • anything else not listed (I lost my index card for that day)




  • Rondo

Everything wasn’t seamless though, because there were some significant snafus with security during the actual days of the fair.  In years past, members of the Press as well as game designers used to be able to enter the halls early at 9am (one hour before the main gates opened) – and this was an invaluable hour to meet people and take pictures before the halls were awash in gamers.  There was mass confusion this year as none of the security members seemed to know the policy for this year.  Some guards let people in early while others didn’t.  Each morning, I had to essentially hope that I picked a door with a guard that would let me in early.

Crowds seemed heavy as they usually are when the NRW region has school holidays during the week of Spiel.  It felt that Thursday was the busiest day in the halls with families.  It also seemed like many people that were there for only a short period of time were there for Thursday in order to pick up any limited quantity items and/or preorders – though, interestingly, this year had fewer Essen-only promotional items than any other year that I’ve been to Essen.

Thus far, everything has made it back (safely) from Essen.  There were a few boxes that didn’t survive the tender loving care of the Delta baggage handlers, TSA and/or the USPS, but on the whole, I’m happy with the state of my games. I think that I’ve learned a few things over the past ten years in getting the games home safely.

In my bags this year, I brought home about 50ish boxes, and really only four of them were crushed – and these were three boxes that I intended to act as cushioning anyways… The sacrificial lambs are: Ladies of Troyes, Magnum Sal: Muria, King of Tokyo Power Up and Rumble in the Dungeon.  All of these were packed on the extreme ends of my duffel bag, and they were honestly put there to serve as cushioning / crash zones to protect the other boxes found in the interior of the duffel bag.  Why did these four boxes get the short end of the stick?  Is it because I am not anticipating these games as much?  Actually – no.  The real reason is that each of these games is an expansion/game whose bits will fit nicely in the boxes of the original.  So, it would have been nice if they survived, but it’s no big deal to me if they didn’t because they’re not essential.

Otherwise, packing things as tightly as possible in the duffel bag seems to have worked again, and there is only a minimum of crushed corners, and two boxes whose tops are bowed – and this is my fault for not packing them full enough with laundry…   The bags this year were again packed to capacity, there was less than half a pound to spare between my suitcase (49.7 lbs) and duffel bag (49.8 lbs), and let’s just say that my carryon might have exceeded European limits on weight (40.8 lbs – though surprisingly, not Delta domestic regs which actually now allow 40 lbs).

The three bags

The black bag by itself with Ladies of Troyes for scale purposes

Expandable 29″ suitcase with ladies of troyes for scale

Expandable 29″ suitcase with ladies of troyes for scale

So what is my strategy – still mostly the same as last year, though I do think the process is improved every year.  The big change this year is that I planned on mailing a box home from the start – in fact, I brought the empty box over with me, folded up in my suitcase.  The big things I try to do when packing:

Remove all the heavy stuff from the boxes.  Heck, boxes on their own aren’t light.  But the boards, cards and wooden bits are super-heavy.  I bring some humongous slider bags which I use to hold contents.  My secret source for bags is: Dollar Tree – in fact, it’s the only place that I can find the particular bags that I like to use.  They sell 2 or 2.5 gallon bags, which are ginormous.  But, they are >30cm wide which means they can hold the board of just about any Eurogame that I buy.  So, as soon as I open a game, the board and punchboards all go into a baggie, and this is marked with a Sharpie or with the rulebook facing outwards for easy identification.  Sometimes the cards/wooden bits/rules/etc go into that same bag, sometimes they go into a separate one.  I like to keep the board bags flat so they stack better.  Most of these bags go into my carryon, though this year, some went into the box I was shipping home.  Also, I usually take the inserts and fold them backwards so they lie flat in the bottom of the box.  This gives me a lot of volume in the box to fill it with other stuff and also preserves the insert in case I want it when I get home.

So does that mean that my two pieces of luggage are simply filled with empty boxes?  Well, not quite – and in fact, I’d say that I try to never send home an empty box – this is an invitation to crush city.  So how are boxes filled?

Nest boxes whenever possible – thank god for the Italians this year.  Many of their games are square, but just smaller than the traditional European 30cm square size – so Ark & Noah, 1969, Sheepland, etc. all fit inside other big squares.  Anything small gets shoved into one of the bigger boxes – and again, even the small boxes might be empty with their contents in a Ziploc bag.  Also, a lot of the other Italian games were smaller than expected (Like, Oddville) and could also be stored inside other boxes. Examples of nesting:  1) ark+noah inside qin, 2) 1969 inside tzolkin, 3) Banana matcho inside pyramdion.

In order to make space for the boxes, either remove or reverse-fold cardboard inserts when possible.  I’ve found that the cardboard inserts do just fine when you unfold them and return them to their original orientation.  Many of the games that I have don’t really need the cardboard inserts anyways because I end up bagging everything, and since I rubberband my boxes together, I don’t really care if the box ends up flush with the top of the box when it is all packed up.

So what came home?  4 bags total on the place, packed to the gills.  Also, I had a friend who was able to help my local group out by shipping back two boxes for us.  In the list of bags below, a game followed by an asterisk is an uncomplete game (the rest of the stuff was sent in the boxes)

Big Black duffel – 49.7 lbs

  1. Tzolkin*
  2. 1969*
  3. Agricola Pink Pieces x 3
  4. Pyramidion*
  5. Banana Matcho
  6. Magnum Sal Muria
  7. Goblins Inc.*
  8. King of Tokyo Power Up! + Promo Card x 2
  9. Tokaido x 2
  10. Ladies of Troyes
  11. Trains*
  12. Terra Mystica*
  13. Greg’s Tagebuch: von Idioten Umzingelt!
  14. Kalua x 2
  15. Keyflower
  16. P.I.*
  17. Copycat
  18. Qin*
  19. Riff Raff
  20. Spellbound
  21. Ark&Noah*
  22. Siberia and Key West expansion
  23. Suburbia Essen Promo Tile expansion x 2
  24. Castles of Burgundy expansion tiles
  25. 7 Wonders T-shirt
  26. Days of Wonder 10th Anniv T-shirt
  27. City of Horror T-shirt
  28. 7 Wonders Cities T-shirt
  29. Suburbia T-shirt
  30. Spielbox bag
  31. Queen Bag – Fresko

The games from the black bag

The t-shirts in the black bag – workout gear!

Champagne expandable 29” luggage – 49.8 lbs

  1. Hooyah!*
  2. Enigma*
  3. Courtier*
  4. Myrmes*
  5. Oddville
  6. Il Vecchio*
  7. Palaces of Carrera
  8. Suburbia Essen Expansions DE
  9. Ginkgopolis*
  10. Die Siedler von Catan: Mallorca
  11. Saint Malo
  12. Snowdonia
  13. Suburbia DE*
  14. Among the Stars*
  15. Rondo*
  16. La Venise du Nord
  17. Sheepland*
  18. Wrong Chemistry
  19. Agricola L-deck Cards: The Game Doctor (~100)
  20. Rumble in the Dungeon
  21. The Doge Ship*
  22. Boardgamegeek Jersey
  23. Ginkgopolis bag

Contents of the Champagne bag

Carry-On – 40.8 lbs

  1. Airline Europe Exp x 2
  2. Zooloretto Chameleon
  3. Suburbia DE bits
  4. Feudality Exp
  5. Pi Deck DE
  6. Ark & Noah bits
  7. QIN bits
  8. Ginkgopolis bits
  9. Terra Mystica bits
  10. Ladies of Troyes bits
  11. Enigma bits
  12. Hanabi x 2
  13. Drachen Schatten
  14. Le Havre promo decks
  15. Peruvian Inquisition card
  16. Le Havre app card
  17. Agricola Belgian deck
  18. Love Letter
  19. Agricola Pi Deck German
  20. Trains bits
  21. Rondo bits
  22. Il Vecchio bits
  23. Card city promo card
  24. Level XI
  25. Kalua promos x 2
  26. Doge Ship bits
  27. Myrmes bits
  28. Briefcase bits*
  29. Among the Stars bits*
  30. 1st & Goal Essen Eagles
  31. 7 Wonders: Esteban, Louis, Stevie cards
  32. Ghost Stories promo – Crazy Shaman
  33. Mutterbohnchen
  34. Shadows over Camelot promo cards

Backpack – did not weigh

  1. Ladies of Troyes
  2. Wrong Chemistry Scientist Card Pack
  3. Samurai Sword

In mail while I was gone:

  1. Wings of Glory WWI + 3 model planes
  2. Shadows over Camelot card game
  3. Road to Enlightenment

Big group picture of all the boxes to come home in the plane

So, back to those boxes.  Apparently the two boxes that I had packed to come home ended up dividing and turned out to be three boxes.  The larger box was a bit too heavy for the box, and my buddy was a bit concerned that the box wasn’t going to make the trip – so it was repacked into two smaller boxes.  Here is the original manifest – all the things on one line are things that are nested into one box – the box comes first and the contents come later

Box 1:

  1. Dungeon Lords Festival Season + Terra Mystica bits
  2. Escape + cards for Briefcase + Booyah cards + courier cards + sheepland stuff
  3. Eclipse with Ladies of Troyes
  4. City of Horror + unexpected treasure + pax x 2 + fairy land + love letter + trick of the rails
  5. Card city x 2
  6. PI bits
  7. Tzolkin bits
  8. Pyramidion bits
  9. Goblins Inc bits
  10. Power Grid board

Box 2:

  1. Swordfish + Siberia card game
  2. Galaxy trucker exp + among stars sleeves + out of gears
  3. Mercante + level xi
  4. Mutant Meeples + Agricola 2p + dixit 3
  5. Kosmonauts + croa!
  6. Terra Mystica + Like + magazines
  7. Doctor Who card game + attraction
  8. Serenissima+uchronia+briefcase cards+arche extra mix 2
  9. Galaxy Trucker anniv edition
  10. 1969 bits

Here is where I would have put the picture of the contents of the box, but the camera didn’t save the pics. So here is the airline contents with me for scale instead

Proof that the boxes made it at least

And, to continue to report on my activity levels – much walking goodness was had while in Europe.  This year, I measured my activity with my new Nike Fuelband watch.  It is a accelerometer worn on your wrist, so it isn’t the most accurate pedometer since it really is measuring the amplitude, frequency and speed of my left arm swing.  In any event, I figure it all averages out over the course of a day.

Distance walked

  • Sun 10/14: 7.74 miles
  • Mon 10/15: 8.94 miles
  • Tues 10/16:  11.51 miles
  • Weds 10/17: 6.38 miles
  • Thurs 10/18: 9.49 miles
  • Friday 10/19: 6.73 miles
  • Saturday 10/20:  8.65 miles

For the whole week, this adds up to a total of 59.44 miles – not a bad total at all!  I also managed to set the highest NikeFuel total for any Tuesday, Friday or Saturday while on the trip!

OK, back to playing games, and soon, I’ll be back in full writing mode.  According to my Essen spreadsheet, I’ve now played 32 different Essen games in a total of 49 games – I also have two gaming weekends set up surrounding Thanksgiving, so many more should hit the table soon!

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.
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2 Responses to Dale Yu: Report from Essen 2012 and my Adventures in Packing

  1. Jacob says:

    I’m in awe of everything I read: the fact you went there, the number of games you bought, your packing process . . . wow. If I may influence your next writeups – would you mind talking about Dominare? The lack of info makes me more interested. Thanks.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Jacob – haven’t had a chance to play any of the new games that arrived in the boxes, but as soon as we do, I’ll write up a first impression of Dominare!

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