Essen Day Zero: Set Up Photos, More Games I’m Anticipating, and Three Snap Reviews (Chris Wray)

The halls were mostly empty yesterday, but by Wednesday afternoon, most of the booths were in place and the publishers were just moving around the games.  I snapped a few pictures in the Messe, which I’ve posted below.  They show both (a) how far things have come in just a few hours, and (b) just how many games there are to move around.

In this post I also discuss some additions to my “most anticipated” list and do snap reviews of three games: Camel Up Cards, Las Vegas: The Card Game, and Memory: The Board Game.  (I played all three of those with Dale, so he beat me to the punch on blogging about them!)


Repos is promoting 7 Wonders Duel and its new expansion heavily, leading to one of the more elaborate booths of the fair.  The machine on the left will apparently take your photo and add it on a card to the Repos Facebook page.  I plan on doing it at some point!


Pallet after pallet of games were being unloaded into the building today.  It was kind of fun to watch, because I was able to tell what games will be in abundant/short supply.  I have no idea how many games are sold at Spiel, but it is certainly many hundreds of thousands, possibly approaching / exceeding a million.


Today is sometimes called “set up day,” although set up really began yesterday.  Today seemed to focus on moving the games into place, setting up demo copies (several games were being demoes),training the sales/demo teams, and socializing.


This hall adjoins several of the other halls, and during the days of the Fair, it is very crowded, because there are several popular food vendors in the area.  I took this picture this afternoon: it shows just how empty everything was today.  By tomorrow at 10:05, there will be several hundred, if not over a thousand, people in that hall.  (I’ll try to post a comparison shot.)


Additions to the Most Anticipated List

I walked through most of the Messe today, talking to various publishers.  A few more games jumped onto my radar that hadn’t previously been there, so I have the following additions to my “most anticipated” list:


Eternity (Blackrock Games) – Eternity is a beautiful-looking trick taking game, and it looks like it puts a novel twist on the genre.  You can choose when to play a card to the trick, or you can instead pledge, which is means you’re bidding you’ll win a trick.  The pledged card gets added to the trump board (there are three suits), and the suit with the most cards in it (leftmost breaks ties) becomes the trump for the next trick.  I haven’t seen that in a trick-taker before, so I’m intrigued.  Between the artwork and the original gameplay, this is a must-buy for me.


H.M.S. Dolores (Asmodee) – I saw a few people playing this near the Asmodee booth, noticing two things: (a) the game looks beautiful, and (b) the people playing it seemed to be having a really good time.  I later asked a friend about it, and he said it is “prisoner’s dilemma” worked cleverly into a game.  I quickly scanned the rules on BGG, and it looks like a fun filler, so I’ll be picking up a copy.


Sail Away (Mattel) – The big selling point to me, at first, was the designer: Marc Andre did Splendor and Barony, which have both been a success (and Splendor is very popular with my family).  Judging from Eric Martin’s preview video, Sail Away looks like it vaguely resembles Splendor, mostly in that you’re taking small actions on your turn to complete objectives before your opponent can.  But the mechanics are fresh, and the artwork (by Piero) looks beautiful.  I’m always on the lookout for fun family strategy games, and this looks like it will hit all of the right marks.

Snap Reviews

I hung out with the Brothers Yu (my name for Dale and Brian), and we’ve gotten in three games: Camel Up Cards, Las Vegas: the Card Game, and Memory: The Board Game.  Dale has beaten me to the punch and already blogged about these, but here are my thoughts.


Camel Up Cards (eggertspiele) – Camel Up Cards is a cool twist on Camel up.  In short, on your turn, you’ll receive several cards which can move the camels one or two spaces.  You’ll put some in the deck secretly, reveal one to the group (which then goes in the deck), and hold one back for yourself (to secretly play on your turn, if you desire).  The deck then gets put out.  On your turn, you must (a) flip a card from the deck, (b) play the card from your hand, or (c) pay the palm tree or fox (which have special abilities for the space you place them on).  You then bet like in Camel Up.

The publisher said that gamers would probably prefer this to Camel Up.  I can see that being true: you get some control over what goes in the deck, and you have some insight in betting if you remember what you put in.  In that regard, there is more strategy here than in Camel Up.  I enjoyed the experience, although I did miss the pyramid a little bit.

My Initial OG Rating: I like it.


Las Vegas: The Card Game (alea) – Each casino has two card: the first place player at each one gets the higher card, and the second place player gets the lower one.  In the case of a tie, neither player gets the card.  On a turn, all player simultaneously draw five dice cards, then simultaneously each player plays one or two.  (However, if a player has matching dice numbers, they can play more than two.)  A player is out of the round once they’ve played eight or more dice cards.  The dice cards are what control who wins the casinos.  The game is played over four rounds, and the winner is the place with the most money at the end!

The dice cards are played simultaneously, which speeds up the game quite a bit.  I like this more than Las Vegas simply because it is much faster.  There’s also an interesting strategy in how many cards to play: it can be a huge advantage to hold back and reach 8 cards later than your opponent, as they then might have an advantage in winning the majority.

But I honestly can’t comment on a winning strategy here, because Dale managed to exceed the score of both Brian and I combined.

My Initial OG Rating: I like it.


Memory: The Board Game (Ravensburger) – I’m not normally a fan of memory in games, but this one is really clever.  The board is initially filled with upside down tiles.  On your turn, you can flip over two (everybody gets to see them), or place tiles back on the board and earn points.  If you flip tiles over and they match, you take the tiles, and you get to go again.  If you place tiles back (and score points), your turn will end.  The twist is that tiles can only be placed back on the matching landscape (i.e. green on pasture, blue on waterway, etc.), and they must be adjacent, although you don’t have to necessarily place back the matching pair.  You can place up to four on a turn, although obviously more is better from an efficiency standpoint.  You earn a point for each tile you place back.

The memory element of fun, but the combination of the memory and monitoring good places to place the tiles made the game.  At a couple of times I found myself trying to make memory matches in the landscapes I needed: I had the field (i.e. yellow) tiles in my hand, but there weren’t any spaces open to place them efficiently, so I needed those tiles taken off the board sooner rather than later.

I’m not normally a fan of memory games, but this one worked especially well.  Leave it Kramer and Kiesling to create a memory-based board game I like.

My Initial OG Rating: I like it.



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