Dale Yu: Essen Report – the Games at the show – Part 1

As I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of games at this year’s show – according to the organizers, over 800 new games on offer this year.  From my perspective, there were a lot of very good games – so many that I could not even see them all, much less attempt to bring them all home.  It will be harder than previous years to try to do this recap on the flight home because my usual mnemonic of mentally walking through the halls simply won’t work.  First off, all of the booths were pretty much concentrated in only two halls, and even by Saturday afternoon, I still was a bit lost when navigating around the new floorplan.  I’m not even sure that I could mentally get around at this point.  Hopefully by the end of Essen 2014, I’ll be more comfortable!  That is, of course, that they don’t re-organize the booth locations!

So, I think I will go to my list on my computer (which is not filled in and is NOT the one that I lost), and go through the publishers alphabetically…

2F was crowded as always… There are always people waiting to playtest Herr Friese’s games, and this year, the added draw of getting candy after the playtest seems to keep things hopping.  For me, though, the highlight of the stand was the Folders.  I have already spent an hour or so playing around with them on the plane.  I have copies of Funf Gurken and Wucherer in my bag, but I haven’t had a chance to play them yet.  I have played a proto of Futterneid, but have not played the published version – FF told me though that there weren’t too many changes from the version that I played.  FInally, the new set of PG boards is in a box being mailed to me, so I will get to that in the next few weeks

Abacus had the new deluxe Hanabi set.  It comes in a nice wooden box, and the tiles feel good in your hand.  I did have some concern because it looked like the tiles in the demo room were getting scuff marks on their back – which would provide some information to game players – but these marks easily wiped off with a cloth, so I am not concerned by this.  My brother got a set, and it looks good.  The only downside was that tiles do not fit back in the box in the included bag – you have to arrange them nicely again to get the lid to close.

Adlung – this is another booth that I simply didn’t have time for.

AEG – The big games for me here were Canalis and Cheaty Mages. There was some issue with shipping or customs for Cheaty Mages and it was not available at the start of the show, but it showed up by late Friday night, so all is well.  I really liked the original Japanese version of Cheaty Mages, and the new edition actually has a few rule changes that were suggested by the designer – so I’m looking forward to seeing how those changes affect game play.  I also am excited that they are continuing their Big in Japan line with plans for Sail to India for 2014.

Amigo – Amigo continues on with its focus on family games.  My brother and I tried Speed Cups which is a rapid fire dexterity-ish game where you have to stack 5 plastic cups as fast as possible to match a card flipped up on the table.  It also has a Halli Galli style bell which is loud!  Galapagos and Flash 10 are the games that interested me most (for my family) – though I still will need to work out a translation for Galapagos… I am hoping that one of my friends over at Amigo will come through for me (hint, hint)\

Argentum – Yunnan was getting a lot of good reviews from the gamers that I talked to.  There’s a decent chance that it will supplant Darjeeling as my favorite tea-themed game.  Unbeknownst to me prior to the show, there is a change in leadership at Argentum (the old boss now works at Pegasus), but it doesn’t seem to have affected the quality of the games!  Argentum remains one of the publishers who makes games that I tend to always like.

Artipia – It seemed like their stand was always busy.  There were a lot of pre-orders and what appeared to be KS pickups.  Additionally with little promos and extras for just about every game, there was a lot to get figured out with each person that checked out. Archon looks to be a moderately complex worker placement game.  I have made a first pass through the rules, and it looks promising. Shadows over the Empire is a game that I find hard to describe here – you try to control cards on the board using characteristics of cards you already control.  Each card has four different attributes that are either positive or negative.  But, the really neat part about the game for me is that the game can be modified by switching in different sets of cards. The base game only uses the A set of cards, and the box includes a full set of B and C level cards for complex and expert level games.  Further, the rules already suggest that expansions or other cards are possible.  So, if the system works, this looks to be a game with a lot of legs.  But, that may be putting the cart before the horse!  I still need to give this one a play.

Asmodee – OK, this one is going to be confusing, as there are a whole bunch of smaller companies that are under the Asmodee umbrella – so you will find stuff under the original companies… Repos, Ystari, Bombyx, Matagot, Lautapelit, Space Cowboys, etc.  I’m honestly not sure if there was anything there that was pure “Asmodee” or even if such an animal exists.

Bezier – Suburbia and Suburbia Inc were selling well.  They were not yet sold out when I left Saturday night, but supplies were steadily dwindling through the weekend.  The various werewolf games were also getting a lot of demos.  Ted and I are working together on two new games, one slated for sure for Essen 2014 (and hopefully we have set up a foreign partnership from meetings this year) as well as one which does not yet have a target date.  I bet you that I’ll be the first or second to know once things can be shared with the press, so keep your eyes posted here for more details!

Blue Orange – There were a number on games on offer here, but Longhorn was the one that interested me.  A two-player game designed in part by Bruno Cathala – and Brian and I have already given it a try.  It’s an interestign game with scoring that can quickly change due to board conditions, so it keeps you on your toes for the 15 minute long game.  There was apparently some sort of issue with some of the tiles, and the folks at the booth were collecting addresses to send new/modified tiles after the show.  Whatever the issue is, the game is still playable as is.

Bombyx – Les Batisseurs did not make the show for sale, but one copy was available for demo.  I saw it in play a number of times, but I did not get a chance to try it myself.  Continental Express was not supposed to make it, but then it showed up by the weekend.  It’s a simple card-drafting, set collection game that looks to be on the lighter side of the spectrum.

CBG – they continue on with their series of party-ish games (certainly humorous in theme) in the non-standard size box.  I looked at the game in the press room, and I did like the theme – but I did not think that I could get the box into my luggage and I had to pass on the game.  I think at least one of the other OG writers picked it up, so I will anxiously await their review and maybe try to set up a trade.

CGE – Tash Kalar was the game of interest here for me. This is being co-released with Z-man at this show.  Lots of expansions on show at CGE, most exciting of which was the Last Will expansion.  The other thing they had was the Super Rubik’s Cube – this is a digital cube (d6) that does all sorts of things.  IT can be used as a die.  It can download stuff of the Internets and serve as a timing device for Space Alert.  It’s pretty darn cool.  The only downside is that it cost 80 EUR.   I know a few people that took them home, so I will await reports about just how cool they were

Cranio Creations – Two big things on my radar here – Steam Park and the Dungeon Fighter Expansion. There was a pretty nice line for Steam Park right when the gates opened on Thursday – partially due to Marie Cardouat being there to sign/illustrate boxes at that time.  I must say that I love the 3D pieces in the game, and it’s one of the first games I intend to get on the table when we start playing.  In my opinion, they had one of the best locations in the fair as they were right as you walked into hall 1.  With only two big entrances to the fair, Cranio and Asmodee (Hall 3) may have won the location battle.

Deinko – I chose not to fight the crowds for one of the limited copies of Patchistory (only 50 were available for the whole fair).  At least two other OGers were brave enough to fight the mob to get one of the precious copies, so I will hopefully get to hear more about it soon.  There were reports that the English rules were supposed to be re-done, and I anxiously await to see this revamped set of rules to understand more about the game.  I was unable to really grok the game from the original set of rules released on the web – which is, in large part, why I decided to pass on the game for now.

dlp – a small company managed by Reiner Stockhausen which has put out a number of games that I have liked in the past (Lubeck, Siberia, Siberia the card game) – so the combination this year of publisher and designer (Jeff Allers) made Citrus a must-explore game for me.  There was apparently a small issue with the meeples in the game, and I was asked to head back to the booth to pick up a small bag of extra meeples – one each in the player colors.  I honestly couldn’t figure out what was the issue with the original figures, but I have the new ones in the box as well.  We should get the game to the table this weekend, and I’ll have a better chance then to see what the issue is.

Short meeting at Days of Wonder – three big things right now are Small World (both 6p board as well as the figurines), TTR Netherlands, and Relic Runners.  The figurines were listed at 75 EUR each, and I saw more than a few of them bought be gamers at the fair…



I must say that the do look quite nice. 

There was also some hinting that Alan and DoW were working on more Ticket to Ride goodness. After all, Ticket To Ride is coming up on a big anniversary of winning the SdJ.  I’ve been very happy with the expansion boards over the years, and I’m not sure if they just mean even more new boards or something else.  Oh, and then they told me all sorts of top-secret things that I’m not allowed to repeat on this blog, including (but not limited to) the original recipe for Coca Cola, the identity of the 11 herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken, their Swiss bank account number, and future plans for games from DoW.


Other thoughts –

I think I have mentioned this earlier in other columns, but almost all of my games are of the big-box variety. I don’t know whether this is personal preference this year or that there weren’t many small card games that interested me… but I’d say that easily 80% of my games this year were large in size. This reduced the total number of games that I brought home due to the volume of the bigger games. The uniformity of boxes this year also meant less opportunity for nesting within my luggage.


I’ll take a break from the alphabetical tour for now, and try to resume them early next week.  The combination of real life work, gaming work (Suburbia and more!), as well as the never ending kids’ select soccer seasons will keep me busy over the weekend!  Oh yeah, and I have a basement full of 60+ new games that are itching to be played!

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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1 Response to Dale Yu: Essen Report – the Games at the show – Part 1

  1. Ben (chally) says:

    The issue with Citrus was simply that the box was one meeple short for each player color. Each player is supposed to have six meeples – five that you play with, one for the score track – and the extra package was just the sixth meeple in each color.

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