Ben McJunkin – An Essen First-Timer: Day 1

So…I wasn’t prepared for that.  Yes, it’s officially the first day of the SPIEL fair in Essen, and what a difference a day makes.  As always, let’s start this off with a few life lessons:

Lesson 5: It Gets Crowded.  Quickly.  This seems like it should be obvious to anyone reading this blog, but it is amazing to see first-hand just how dramatically the once-cavernous Messe halls transform into a teeming mass of people.  This is a shot near one of the entrances shortly after the halls opened this morning:

It’s people all the way down.

I spent my first few minutes this morning fending off an angry mob seeking one of the 50 English-language copies of Patchistory, an it really was a mob scene.  As soon as the box of games arrived at the table, people were nearly throwing their money forward in the hopes of securing a copy for themselves.  (I got mine.)

From there, I immediately headed for Japon Brand, and the few items I had been too late to preorder, but the line was already interminably long.  

This was 10:30 am.

Instead, I opted to take advantage of Cranio Creation’s t-shirt giveaway and a box signing by artist Marie Cardouat. 

Dale Yu was first in line. No idea why. None whatsoever.

All I’m saying is to know your priorities and to have a backup plan of attack just in case.  

Lesson 6: Shop Early, then Shop Late.   One of the first things that happens as the halls open is that all the game tables get filled (and quickly).  Somewhat surprisingly to obsessives like me, many attendees seem to genuinely want to try games before deciding what to buy.  Since my bags were already laden with the first few run-to-the-line games, it made the sense to me to get most of my shopping done in the first hour of the show, and I was surprised at how easy it was in the morning to just walk up to booths and purchase a game while everyone else was playing.

Queen’s Amerigo tables filled up rapidly.

Once my bags were completely full (roughly 2 hours into the show), I headed back to the hotel for a drop off, a short rest, and a light lunch.  It was a beautiful day and was refreshing to be back outside.  Once I returned, it was amazing to me how the tides had shifted.  Later in the day, an increasing numbers of tables had opened up for game demos, while the lines at some popular booths seemed to get longer.  If playing games at SPIEL is your thing, the afternoon seems to provide much better opportunities.

By “shopping late,” I mean the last few days of the fair.  Once the initial frenzy had died down, I was surprised to discover how many retailers had newly released games for less than they were selling at the publisher’s booth.  Two titles that I particularly noted were Kramer & Kiesling’s Nauticus, selling for as low as 28 Euros some places, and Reiner Knizia’s Prosperity, selling for 26 Euros at at least one stand. I have been told that these prices could come down even further if product isn’t moving as expected.  Just something to keep in mind for those bargain-hunters out there. 

New games are often discounted below the publisher’s “discounted” fair price.

Lesson 7: Be Prepared to Cheat.  No matter how strict you are about your gaming budget, nor how well you prepared in advance, you are very likely to splurge in a moment of weakness and buy a game you didn’t really intend to, often for reasons that are hard to explain.

My weakness is designers.  When I see an opportunity to have a conversation with a designer, perhaps get a signature on my newly-opeend box, all sense of fiscal responsibility disappears.  Perhaps that’s why designers were so present on the first day.

Vlaada was out and about at a busy CGE booth.Mac Gerdts explains his new game, Concordia.

Lesson 8: Predictions Are Just That.  I had a chance today to play a few of the games I had been looking forward to, either in demos or after the show with a few BGG friends.  I am always surprised just how wrong I can be about games based on the initial hype.

Vlaada Chvatil’s Tash-Kalar was my most anticipated game of the show, but after playing a game (in which I was trounced, in full disclosure) I question whether it’s a game for me.  The components are not at all what I expected them to be, and the nature of the game is just a little too swingy for my tastes. 

Trending downward.

Prosperity, by Reiner Knizia and Sebastian Bleasdale was another game I was hot on and that felt a little flat on the first play. 

By contrast, Mush! Mush! Snow Tails 2 proved to be rather enjoyable.  I taught the game to 6 other people and we finished our race quickly and competitively.  It’s not too far afield from Snow Tails (which I liked well enough), but it has an ease to it that was perhaps missing from its thinkier big brother.

I’m also very excited for Wildcatters, which didn’t even appear on my list last week.  Although I have not yet played, I got a fairly thorough walkthrough from one of the designers, and the mechanisms appear clever and right up my alley.  Desperately hoping to get it to the table before the week is out.

Enough Lessons.   I know, I know.  You came for a stream of poorly taken cell phone photos, and I am here to deliver!

Let’s start with today’s theme, which appeared to be “bigger is better”:

Big Concept.Big Jenga.Big Tash-Kalar.Big Whatever This Is.

And end with the gratuitous “current state of the loot” photo.

As of 12:30 pm Thursday.

Hopefully, I will have more for you all tomorrow after I get to play a few more games.

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5 Responses to Ben McJunkin – An Essen First-Timer: Day 1

  1. ndg says:

    “Big Whatever This Is” is Big Krosmaster: Arena.

  2. Boyd Ludlow says:

    So I see Field of Glory: The Card Game was not pulped.

    What’s the round box? I think I’ve seen it in other loot photos but can’t place the game.

    • Ben (chally) says:

      Field of Glory: The Card Game indeed made it. They got their issues sorted out the day after the big announcement. Looking forward to giving it a try.

      The round box is Sushi Draft from Japon Brand. It’s a light filler, but I need a couple more of those and I like the production quality and theme.

  3. Alan How says:

    Wildcatters is very enjoyable. Loads of good decisions as you build, but money is tight. When you execute you plans you often pay or receive shares in other companies which works really well. My sleeper hit for the show.

  4. Yoki says:

    “By contrast, Mush! Mush! Snow Tails 2 proved to be rather enjoyable. I taught the game to 6 other people and we finished our race quickly and competitively.”
    Competitively? I think I took last place rather convincingly, sitting in a snow drift with my dogs looking at my sled all in pieces. :D

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