Dale Yu: Essen 2014 – the 30,000 foot view at 30 days post show



Well, we’re just about ready to start writing about the games from this year’s show. As we traditionally do, we will probably start posting our reviews around Thanksgiving-time. Why the delay? A number of reasons really. First, and foremost, is that we want to give our writers enough time to play the games! Many of the bigger fall conventions (BGG.con, LobsterTrap, EuroQuest, etc) happen this weekend or next weekend – and until folks have had a chance to play the games, they can’t write about them! Second, I know that I personally like to play a game two to three times – at a minimum – before reviewing it. With all of the new games out there, I’m still in a “try every game I can” mode. There are a number of games that I’ve already played twice, but most of my game sessions are still filled with games that are new to me. (Most of the repeat plays come from sessions where I’ve already played a game but someone else in the group has not and requests it…) Third, with all the time spent playing games, there just hasn’t been as much time devoted to writing about them!

Due to the slightly earlier dates of Essen, there should be a larger-than-usual number of games played by that time. The folks here at the Opinionated Gamers love spreadsheets. If there is something that we can quantify with numbers and data regression and whatever else Excel does, someone puts up a spreadsheet to do it! The Essen 2014 games are no exception. We have an shared sheet where the OG writers can log their Essen games played and their (changing) ratings of them.


As of 11/14/14, here’s what I can tell you so far about the OG’s views on Essen as a group. As a slight caveat, by the time you read this piece, the data will already be obsolete as the spreadsheet is updated whenever gamers add data. LobsterTrap is happening as I write this, and I’m sure that the OGers there will be updating their columns in the spreadsheet at some point.


But… as of last Friday


1) We have 226 “Essen 2014” games on the spreadsheet thus far. What is the definition of an “Essen 2014” game? It’s a loose one – pretty much, it’s any game that any of the 40+ writers felt should be on the list. There are some games on there that debuted at GenCon 2014, but since they were new to Europe at Essen – they made it on the list. However, there are other games that fit the same category which are not on the list (yet). It’s an inexact science to say the least.


2) Of thost 226 titles, 160 games have been played at least once. 103 games have been played by at least 2 OG writers, 70 have been played by at least 3, and 32 have been played by at least 5 writers.   Four titles have been played by at least 10 of us: (in reverse alphabetical order) Rolling Japan, La Granga, Doodle City and Castles of Mad King Ludwig. [To compare – by the end of our spreadsheet entry for 2013 (March 2014), we had 164 games played at least once, 103 with at least 3 people playing it, 70 with at least 5 gamers playing it and 26 titles played by at least 10.]


3) Thus far, the overall quality is judged to be slightly better but not much more than 2013. Our current average rating is 2.66. The final overall average rating from 2013 is 2.61. However, I would predict that our overall average rating will likely drop a little bit over the new few months. The reason for this is that we, like most gamers, are naturally attracted to games that we think we’re going to like. Thus, the first games from the Essen crop are the ones that we are more likely to rate highly. Only after we’ve played the games that we were already interested in will we seek out others that we don’t know as much about. There is a higher likelihood that we will then play games that aren’t our usual style. Well, at least that’s my theory about it. Of course, this might be balanced out by word-of-mouth reviews on good games that we didn’t know about previously. We’ll just have to see.


4) The most prolific OG gamer so far is Jennifer Geske. At 30 days post Essen, she has logged ratings of 82 different new titles. EIGHTY TWO. And yes, she is gainfully employed full-time, and I believe that she sleeps, though I do not have any independent confirmation of that! ;-) Amazingly, Jennifer’s overall average rating is also the closest to the overall OG average (2.67 for Jennifer, 2.66 for the whole group).

I’m in second place at 58 games rated (having played some of them since GenCon, playing once a week after Essen with my regular group, once to twice a week with my kids, and I’ve already had 2 all-day gaming fests…)


5) But the rest of the group are no slouches either… 17 of us have played/rated at least 10 new Essen releases, and the average number of new titles played in that group is 28.4 games… And if you look at the ten gamers that have played the most games, the average amongst them is 35 titles played. Taking all comers, including the folks who have only rated a single game, the average OG writer has played 16 new Essen titles at this point.


6) Of course these numbers are subject to change as games keep getting rated, but we do have a new curmudgeon. Tom Rosen is no longer the hardest OGer to impress, this year, the crown currently sits firmly on the head of Mr. Larry Levy. Larry has been writing up weekly recaps in this first month, and true to his word, he has not yet found a game that he has loved! On the opposite side of the scale, we also have a new Mr. Happy… Last year, W. Eric Martin led the way with the highest average rating – but this year, he is being edged out by the newest addition to our family, Alan How.



So what does this all mean? Not much… yet. But, it does show that we’ve played a lot of games and we should be ready to write about them soon! I still expect the numbers of games played to increase in the next week as the convention season continues. One of us will do a full retrospective on the numbers in the Spring…


My current thoughts on Essen 2014…

Overall, I am finding this year to be higher-than-average in quality overall, but fewer games that really stand out from the pack.  I have fewer games that I love from this year, but many more games that I like than 2013.  Now that I am approaching 60 new titles played, it’s getting to the time where I am now getting back to games for repeated plays – which then gets me ready to write some up.

My regular group have been troopers learning and playing the new games.  Thanks to all of them for wanting to play all the games!  Here are the playlists from three recent sessions – as I have fielded a few emails about what games we play and how we choose them.  Each of our game nights usually starts at 6:30pm and goes until we have to go home to sleep for work the next day – we usually go on a weeknight…

  1. Dead Drop
  2. Colors of Kasane
  3. Click and Crack
  4. Colt Express
  5. Deus
  6. El Gaucho
  1. Flip 9
  2. Castle Crush
  3. Who am I?
  4. Who is the Sunflower?
  5. Hand Made Wonders
  6. Foreclosed!
  7. Doodle City
  8. Samurai Spirit (regular difficulty)
  9. Cat Tower
  10. Jungle Rumble
  11. Da Yu: The Flood Conqueror
  1. Cubist
  2. Moscow to Paris
  3. Nations the Dice Game
  4. Nehemiah
  5. Neptun

It’s not easy to fit all these games in – and it involves a bit of pre-reading of rules.  Sometimes I can speed up the learning process if I have played the game before (often with the kids earlier in the week).

As far as how we choose… I have my Essen 2014 games separated onto two different bookshelves – one for games that support 4 players max and one bookshelf for those games that can go to 5 or more.  The reason for this split is mostly because my game group has 5 people in it.  When we all make game night, then we need 5p games!  So, the first big determinant of game choice is how many we have.  Unlike 2013, there aren’t as many games in my basement than handle 5p – so we have specifically tried to save those games for when we’re all present.  We usually figure out who is going to be there by email, so that we have a day or two to propose games (and pre-read rules).  Other than that, it’s pretty much just whatever people are interested in playing that week.

Highest on that list now to play again (not necessarily the highest rated games, but the ones I want to play again the most) are: Deus, Alchemists, Ciub, Nehemiah, Nations the Dice Game, and Staufer Dynasty.

The pouch building mechanic seems to work for me – I have enjoyed Kings Pouch and Orleans – though only 2 and 1 plays respectively.  I have not yet been able to play Hyperborea to get the full triple threat of pouching.

Games from Asia are very polarizing for me… More than 2/3 of the games I’ve played thus far from Taiwan, Japan and Korea are either “I love it” or “Not for me…”. I’m definitely digging Jungle Rumble, Abraca-what? and Villanex.

I have also had much positive reinforcement that I am not a big fan of either social deduction games or cooperative games.  My overall rating would be way higher if I strayed away from this sort of stuff, but I continue to want to try new games to see if I can find one that I like.  I am also finding that the longer games are just not getting a lot of attention from myself or my group.  Games that have times listed at 120mins or longer just don’t seem to make it to the table anymore.  I know that some of that might be due to a desire to trying to maximize our gaming time to play the most number of games, but when I look back at the games that my group has played all year, there really aren’t too many games of longer length that we’ve played – even when not under pressure to play new games all the time.  I’ll just leave those longer ones to folks like McJunkin, Levy and Geske who don’t mind that length.  I still hope to get La Granja, Arkwright, and Alchemists back to the table, but it’s an uphill battle right now. It may have to wait for the next big gaming day or game weekend.


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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6 Responses to Dale Yu: Essen 2014 – the 30,000 foot view at 30 days post show

  1. Jacob Lee says:

    Very interesting stats. Almost unbelievable. 82 games? That’s insane. The name, Alan How, seems very familiar. I think I read reviews of his on Funagain’s website. If I’m right, my memory is better than I thought.

    • W. Eric Martin says:

      Alan How was one of the lead reviewers for Counter magazine, and I believe that those reviews were then reprinted by Funagain.

  2. Any chance of sharing said spreadsheet. I think it would be fascinating to look at the raw data (and compare it to my own opinions)

    • W. Eric Martin says:

      I think we’ve agreed not to share the spreadsheet as raw data but instead to use it as Dale has used it here: a barometer of our reactions, but not a final report card. Sometimes we change our minds after a second or third playing, so we want to wait for a review post before locking ourselves in to one of the ratings — and sometimes we don’t lock ourselves in even then.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Alberto – at this point, that spreadsheet remains an internal thing — mostly for reasons that Eric has alluded to above. At this point, many of the ratings are based on a single play, and while the information is useful for some aggregation purposes, the ratings there are not yet final and are often mutable. As time goes on, we will be writing reviews on many of these games, and at that point, our ratings will be published.

  3. W. Eric Martin says:

    Alan’s rated a few more games (as have I), and I’ve regained the Mr. Happy title with an average rating of 3.03 over 39 games. In general, I’ve done a good job of avoiding games that I think I won’t find interesting or appealing; I like plenty of types of games, and there’s no shortage of those, so I don’t feel the need to try everything.

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