As the weekend progresses, I try to set up a number of meetings to sit down with some old friends – both to get a chance to look at the new games in quieter setting as well as to try to get some news about the current games and what is to come.
Zoch – as usual, Wednesday afternoon means yummy pretzels at the Zoch stand with a presentation of the new games. I do not have much information to relay about what is to come in 2015, but I did get a chance to look at the new games for this year. Mangrovia is a clever game which I very much like. The action selection mechanic is clever, and I look forward to my next chance to play the game as I think it has a lot of potential. Beasty Bar was an interesting card game, and it certainly seemed to by liked by many as it was consistently on the Playfair list during the weekend. The throwing socks into the laundry machine game
Space Cowboys – Unfortunately, I was unable to get in a play of Elysium, but Seb says that this should be out for Spring 2015. Not sure if that means Nuremburg or not – but it is definitely one of the games I am already looking forward to. Time Stories got another annual run-through, and this next scenario that we played was again amazing. I don’t want to go into much detail as the spoiler potential is quite high – but this latest game showed just how versatile the overall system really is. GenCon 2015 is the new target release date for the game, and I still expect this to be a smash hit. For three Essen’s running, this has been one of my most anticipated games.
ZMan – my meeting with ZMan was late Friday afternoon. It appeared to have been a good weekend so far for them as their shelves were almost empty. I overheard a few of the stand workers joking that they may not have much else to do come Sunday other than play the demo games because there wouldn’t be anything left to sell! Their shipment of Staufer Dynasty arrived late (not until Thurs night or Friday morning), but that didn’t stop those from flying off the shelves either. My good friend Ralph Anderson was also delighted to see that his new card game, Chimera, had sold out by Friday afternoon as well.
One thing that I’m really excited about is the presumed Essen 2015 release that could be the “Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of gaming” – you know, two great tastes that taste great together. I learned of the newest twist on Pandemic – Pandemic Legacy. Two good friends of mine, Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau are apparently combining forces, and I cannot wait to see how things turn out. Lyne did not have any details that she could share with me, so I’m left to simply postulate at the varied possibilities that could happen… Will there be a map that changes each time you fail/succeed? Diseases that really do mutate in different ways based on whether or not they are cured or partially treated leading to resistance? Dice that are modified? All of my ideas sound like they would make an awesome game, and I hope to get more info on the real deal soon. My best hope is that a prototype makes it to the Gathering of Friends 2015 where I might learn more about it…
The other bit of news I have to share is a tentative order to the Fall 2014 games. Of course all of these dates are still tentative, so don’t hold me to them 100%! Pandemic: The Cure should be out this week though there might be an issue with the dice… Kemble’s Cascade and Pandemic: Contagion next week and then the Terra Mystica and Bruges expansions by the end of October. Akrotiri in early November will be followed by Fields of Arle just before Thanksgiving. Finally, the Staufer Dynasty is slated for the second week in December.
Finally, you can keep your eyes peeled for a new brand from F2Z in 2015. A new children’s line of games is set to start under the banner of Turquoise Games. Though my kids are getting a bit old for “kid’s games” – it is good to hear that someone else is planning to domestically release quality games for that age group.
Z-Man plans to have a large presence at BGG.con and should have demos of all of their new games there.
Kosmos – In the past two years, I have been lucky enough to secure a short meeting with one of the press liaisons for Kosmos. In years past, they simply didn’t have enough time to meet with everyone and they focused on the German speaking media – which makes complete sense as that is their target market. The breadth of games from Kosmos this year is wide – ensuring that just about everyone will find something they are interested in.
The big focus of the catalog looks to be Henssler’s Kuchenrallye – which is a trivia game branded with a handsome celebrity chef. It would be as if Alton Brown or Tyler Florence put out a game back home. As I understand it, the game is mostly answering trivia questions, and correct answers get your ingredients that you use to make recipes. As an added bonus, the chef has also included some real recipes for gamers to create in their own kitchen. There was a LOT of media attention at the press event for this one as Herr Henssler was there for the photo op.
7 Steps is big family style game, and it is an interesting tactical puzzle game which I played once this week. It is admittedly dry and abstract, but that is unsurprising for a puzzle game. The action cards need a little translation, but not a lot – so this should be playable for the English crowd.
Kosmos has the German license for the Walking Dead games and they have a new release in that line. They also had the social deduction game Noseferatu at the show in the smallest Kosmos box I’ve ever seen! Machi Koro also came in a super small box. The art and coins are unchanged but the cards are now normal sized.
Jager und Spaher is another entry in the two-player line, and it does appear that public demand for the Kosmos 2-player line has caused it to be revived. While my contact could not give me any details on what games might be coming, she assured me that there were definitely plans in the works to have continue releases for two players in the familiar flat square box.
Huch! and Friends – This company doesn’t necessarily get a lot of attention back home because they mostly do German-only versions of games, but they are starting to do a lot more joint DE/EN games. I have been meeting with them annually since almost my first Essen, and I’m glad to see the bilingual versions come out as I have always liked their games. The big release for me is 5 minutes which is a party-ish game that uses electronic timers. Each player gets a total of 5 minutes in the game, and on your turn, you flip up a card and then do the appointed task (usually answering a question) while your timer is running down. The game ends when only one player has time left.
Pints of Blood is a semi-cooperative game where the players try to save their favorite pub from an onslaught of zombies. Though this isn’t normally my style of game, I was intrigued with the game after I received a full demo in my meeting. We’ll see how this goes over with the group this winter. Carnac is an abstract 2p game where players try to take control of areas on the board using tiles that can be pushed over. I was not able to get a copy of this at the show, but it’s something that I might look to tack on to my next Amazon.de order. The other game of interest to me was Terra which looks to be a new version of Fauna. This one involves famous people and events. Unfortunately, Huch only has the DE version, so I will hope that someone does this in EN.
Asmodee – Asmodee had another wonderful press event which looks to be the new regular thing for them. They rented out one of the big conference rooms at a nearby hotel and set up the games in a quiet setting where I could really get a close look at them away from the hustle and bustle of the fair. Additionally, they had many of the designers or principals from the game companies there to talk about their games. As I had just been to the Asmodee event at GenCon, many of the games on show here were not new to me. Loony Quest looked to be a blast – but it was not done in time for Essen. I got a chance to try a round or two of the prototype version, and it was as fun as I thought it would be. This may not get a US release due to some possible rights conflicts with Doodle Quest. I will still try to get the FR version of this though as it is high on my list of 2015 games to get and play. Witness from Ystari looks to be a totally novel game idea where exactly four players play the old kids game of “Telephone” to deduce things about the 64 crimes in the game. I can’t wait to try this one out. Deus looks to be one of the best received games at the show, and I’ve been excited about this one since I wrote up the preview a few weeks ago. It will be one of the first games I play once I get back. Many thanks to Robin and the rest of the Asmodee team for giving me a great opportunity to see their games.
IELLO – My final meeting of the year was with IELLO. Though I had just seen these guys at GenCon a few months ago, there was certainly a lot new to talk about. The biggest thing for me was the release of Guardians Chronicles. I’ve been anticipating this game for quite some time now, and it was nice to see it finally in print. It’s a superhero themed game which is one-versus-all. There are a bunch of different scenarios in the game, and essentially the players act as superheroes trying to thwart the evil mastermind. As the game progresses, you create a score sheet which looks like a newspaper. Sadly, due to the size and weight of the game, I was unable to get a copy at the fair, but hopefully I can get one back home soon! There are also at least three expansions planned for this already, so there should be no shortage of scenarios to play. I also managed to finally get a copy of King of New York. Had a nice chat with Richard Garfield at the booth as well.
IELLO is one of the many companies that is reprinting known hits from Japan. New to me at Essen were Eat me if you can and Kobayakawa. They also had the FR versions of some of the Minimal games that AEG is doing in EN format: Sail to India and Seventh Hero. Matthieu from IELLO said that they also had a number of meetings with the Japanese and Korean representatives to try to get rights for more of the Asian games. Some of these games may be only for French language release while some will be for worldwide rights. I think that they were also working on getting the rights to Yardmaster – though I assume that this would be only for French since Crash Games can take care of the English.
The bookshelf line of games continues – and the newest release is not necessarily a kids game. The Hare and the Tortoise is a game which could be played by children, but there’s enough there to interest the adults as well. It is a simple race game where five animals race around the track. Each player in the game is secretly backing one of them. Cards are played to move the animals, and each of the animals has an individual rule about how it moves. It looks quite clever, and while I did not get a chance to try it myself, some of the guys that I regularly talked to said it was very good and they had purchased copies to bring back.
Looking forward, the Big Book of Madness is the next big thing for the company. I have seen some of the advance art for this cooperative deck builder (done by Naiade), and it looks absolutely gorgeous. They are shooting for a March 2015 release – at the Cannes show. I will hope to get more info on this in the months to come. Matthieu also mentioned that they should have the worldwide rights to the Dungeon of Mandom, though no release date has been fixed for this yet.
Passport Games – I did have a few run-ins with Rob from Passport Games, and he was busy all week trying to line up new imports for 2015. So far this year, he has already lined up a number of games including Samurai Spirit (FunForge), Kingsport Festival (Stratelibri) and Provincia Romana (Stratelibri). When I spoke with him on Friday, he confirmed that he was going to get US rights for the Argentum line – which means that he will be bringing El Gaucho and Hansa Teutonica over. I will try to speak with him after the show to see what else he can confirm because it’s always good to know what will get a domestic release from Essen.
Bezier Games – everything was going well with Ted. Subdivision sold out by Saturday and the stacks of the Castles of Mad King Ludwig were also pretty sparse. Plans for 2015 are in full swing, and it looks like the next expansion to Suburbia is going to be awesome. A stand alone game is also in development for likely Essen 2015 release, but that’s not for sure yet. (Disclaimer: I will likely be the developer for both of these games… so I’m clearly biased towards them.)
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor