Essen Day Two: What’s Hot, and What I Played, Plus Other Updates (Chris Wray)


This is my first big post of Essen 2016, as I spent a lot of time playing games today.  This posts covers several topics: (1) what’s hot, (2) the International Gamers Award ceremony, (3) pictures of jumbo games at Essen, and (4) scenes from the Messe.  Lastly, I cover four games I played today, including 7 Wonders Duel Pantheon, Cottage Garden, Eternity, and Fuji Flush.

What’s Hot

As always, I discuss the Fairplay and Geekbuzz lists.

Here’s the Fairplay list of this evening, in the same order they appear on the list:

  • Terraforming Mars
  • A Feast for Odin
  • Great Western Trail
  • First Class
  • Roll for the Galaxy
  • Railroad Revolution
  • Cottage Garden
  • Codenames: Pictures
  • Via Nebula
  • Kanagawa

Here’s the BGG top 10 list, in order:

  1. Terraforming Mars
  2. 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon
  3. London Dread
  4. Adrenaline
  5. Codenames: Pictures
  6. Pixie Queen
  7. Captains of the Golden Age
  8. Cottage Garden
  9. Inis
  10. Captain Sonar

This is starting to resemble the reality I’m seeing on the ground.  The Fairplay list seems more accurate to me.  London Dread, by Grey Fox, was also hot at Gen Con, in part because the publisher, after demos, asked players to go vote at the BGG booth.  Captains of the Golden Age is right next to the BGG booth this year, so that might be part of that explanation.  I haven’t heard of Pixie Queen, but I’ll try to figure out more tomorrow.

I stand by my list yesterday: 7 Wonders Duel Pantheon, A Feast for Odin, Cottage Garden, Power Grid: The Card Game, and Terraforming Mars seem to be the hottest 5 from my vantage point.  Adrenaline is up there, though, and is rising.  As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve also seen a lot of interest in Codenames Pictures, The Colonists, First Class, Great Western Trail, Inis, Key to the City – London, Lorenzo il Magnifico, and Oracle of Delphi.

I mentioned yesterday that Friedemann Friese is having a good convention, citing the fact that three of his games (Fabled Fruit, Fuji Flush, Power Grid: The Card Game) seemed to be selling well.  I should have said the same about Uwe Rosenberg: between A Feast for Odin, Cottage Garden, and Bohnanza: Das Duell, Mr. Rosenberg is also having an exceptionally strong showing at Essen 2016.

The IGA Ceremony

The winners of the 2016 IGA were announced back in September.  The multiplayer winner was Mombasa, and the two-player winner was 7 Wonders Duel.  Both games have received a lot of praise this year!

I was happy to attend the IGA ceremony today, taking the below pictures.


Antoine Bauza (left) and Bruno Cathala (right) for 7 Wonders Duel.  The game was published by Repos Productions.  The IGA jury is standing in the background.


Publishers R&R Games (left) and eggertspiele (right) for Mombasa.  Designer Alexander Pfister was unable to attend.  The IGA jury is standing in the background.

Overall, it was a great time, with several people watching the ceremony.  Congrats to the winners!

Jumbo Games at Essen

I’m starting a new segment of these posts called “jumbo games.”  Part of the fun of attending major game conventions is seeing — and even playing! — on oversized or tricked out copies of games.  So without further ado, here’s what I saw today:


Flick ’em Up


Junk Art


Vikings on Board


Mr. Jack

I saw more but didn’t think to take pictures of them.  More photos will come tomorrow!

Scenes from the Messe

Essen seemed to get even more crowded today!  Dale posted some cool pictures of the crowds earlier this morning.

Essen is referred to as a “fair”, not really a “convention,” and this picture shows why.  In the area between many of the halls (although this is itself a hall) there’s a carnival-like atmosphere, complete with food stands.


On stand in particular caught my eye today: I wanted to know what their idea of an American sandwich was.  Turns out it is pretty accurate… although the one sandwich makes me worry that they think we eat a lot of Big Macs…


And, of course, I had to get a spiral fried potato.  (We at the Opinionated Gamers really love them.)


Snap Reviews of Games

These are all based on one play, sometimes under less-than-ideal circumstances.  We at the Opinionated Gamers should follow up with full reviews, based on more plays at different player counts, in the coming weeks.


7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon

Expansions are usually a let down for me, but 7 Wonders Duel did not disappoint.  I love 7 Wonders Duel, and this expansion actually makes the game even more tense and exciting.  If you like the base game, I enthusiastically recommend Pantheon.

What’s new?  There are small changes, such as new wonders and new cards, but these are primarily to integrate a new gameplay element: Divinity Cards and the Pantheon Board.

There are five different mythologies: Greek (civilian), Phoenician (commercial), Mesopotamian (scientific), Egyptian (wonder), and Roman (military).  Each of these has a small set of cards.  Mythology tokens are placed on certain cards in the Round I pyramid shapes from the base game, and as these cards are uncovered (not taken, just uncovered), the player doing the uncovering takes the token.  They then get to look at the top two Divinity Cards of the corresponding mythology stack, placing one of the cards face down on  an open space on the Pantheon Board.  The spaces are interesting: each has a cost to later buy the Divinity Card, but the cost varies based on which player buys it.  So you can place cards to make them cheaper for yourself, or if you think your opponent won’t want it (and you won’t either), you could even block a space advantageous to him.


During Phase II, these are flipped up, and on your turn you may activate a Divinity Card from the Pantheon Board by paying the cost in gold.  These cards are roughly the same as wonders in their powers and abilities.  For instance, one Divinity (Minerva, which has a special token) allows you to temporarily block movement of the Conflict Pawn.  One Divinity gives you 12 gold.  Another gives you 9 points.

During Round II, uncovering certain tiles gives you “Offering Tokens,” which reduce the price of divinities.

In short, this adds a new layer of depth to 7 Wonders Duel.  Does it also add complexity?  Yes.  I’d only add this with experienced 7 Wonders Duel players.  But if you’re a fan of the game, this will freshen it up and give you even more exciting decisions.

My Initial OG Rating: I love it!


Cottage Garden

I had heard Uwe Rosenberg’s latest game described as being similar to Patchwork, but other than the fact that they both use polyominoes, there really isn’t much similarity.

The game, which plays 1-4 players, primarily involves a puzzle of polyominoes.  It is a light-weight game that just about anybody can enjoy.

A nursery board rests in the middle of the table with various flowers in various shapes.  Players have two flower beds in front of them, and their goal is to fill these as efficiently as possible, earning points along the way.

A “gardener dice” travels around the nursery board, with the number on the dice indicating the current round.  On a player’s turn, he:

  1. Refills the row if there are 3 or 4 empty spaces in the row.  The extra pieces are around the game board, and the next piece in front of the “wheelbarrow” gets placed.
  2. Plants the piece by either (a) taking and placing a flower tile from the row where the gardener dice is, or (b) taking and placing a flower pot, which will occupy a single space.  There are several placement rules, but in general you can’t put pieces off the board or over other pieces.  You can place over spaces with printed flowerpots or plant covers, but you should avoid this, as those earn you points.  At any point you can place a cat, which occupies a space but will not earn you points.
  3. If a flower bed is complete, you score it.  You get three scoring cubes each in orange and blue.  You earn 1 point for each flower pot, moving any orange cube along.  You get 2 points for each flower cover, moving any blue cube along.  After scoring, you replace the bed with a new one from the center of the table
  4. You move the gardener dice one space.  When it his certain spaces, it gets flipped over; this acts as the game timer.

After crossing line spaces on your board with scoring cubes you get additional cats.

The game ends after six rounds.  The rules change slightly in the last round, because you’ll be losing points for each turn you take.  Your goal here is to finish the flower beds you have.

The game — which feels more like a puzzle — is simple yet fun.  The secret seems to be clever tile placement and managing the supply of polyominoes, looking ahead to what future moves you can make and what future moves your opponents are likely to make.  There’s also an element of managing your scoring: it is helpful to get those casts (although there’s a limit), but you also want to jump ahead on the board for points from getting to the end.

If you dislike polyomino puzzles, this probably isn’t for you.  I enjoyed the game, although I think I enjoyed the polyominos-mixed-with-economics of Patchwork more.

My Initial OG Rating: I like it.



Eternity is a beautiful-looking trick taking game, and having now played it, I can say it  puts a novel twist on the mechanic.

In the most basic way, this is like many trick taking games: you must follow if you can, and the highest card wins, unless there’s a trump.

But the game is unique in most other regards: The first player must always lead, but later players get an interesting choice: play a card into the trick, possibly winning it, or instead pledge.  This basically means you’ll be betting you win a trick.  You do this by playing another card down sideways which is not part of the trick.  Based on the card played, you’ll receive 0, 1, or 2 tree tokens, which represent tricks you should try to take.  Only one player can pledge during each 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.  In other words, trump will shift mid-hand.  (The trump board is pictured below.)

If you match your pledges to your tricks, you get bonus points plus points for your tricks.  If you get more tricks than pledged, you still get a point for each pledged trick.  If, however, you pledged more than you won, you get zero points.


I like trick taking games, and this one is clever.  The game state is constantly changing because of the shifting trumps, yet there’s still considerable strategy here.  Add in the extremely beautiful cards and you have a game that I’m happy I bought.

My Initial OG Rating: I love it!


Fuji Flush

Dale did a write up a few weeks ago, so I’m going to use an abbreviated form of his rule explanation.  I mostly include this to offer my thoughts on the game.

As Dale previously explained, “The concept of the game is simple enough. Be the first person to rid themselves of their hand of cards. The entire game is played with a 90 card deck, ranks ranging from 2 to 20. In general, the lower the rank, the more copies of that rank are in the deck. The deck is shuffled, and each player is dealt a hand of 6 cards.  On your turn, you can play any card from your hand to the table in front of you. Then you check to see if any of the other players in the game have a lower numbered card in front of them. If so, your card defeats those cards. The lowered numbered cards must be discarded AND all of those players who discarded a card must draw a new card from the deck. As an interesting twist, if you play a card which matches the rank of one or more of your opponents, your identical cards join forces to be stronger! If I played a 7 card, and Karen had already played a different 7 card – our pair would now be worth 14, a value shared by both cards in the pair. Thus, all cards on the table currently under 14 must be discarded and a new card drawn from the deck.”  The game continues until one player runs out of cards, at which point that player wins.

The game is simple fun, and it plays in just a few minutes.  It reminded me a bit of Abluxxen (a.k.a. Linko!), although even simpler.  We played with five players, and I agree with Dale’s initial assessment that the game will be better at higher player counts (it plays 5-8).  The fun is in forming alliances to play down cards of the same rank, and in attempting hand management.  I don’t quite have the strategy down yet, but I’m intrigued by Fuji Flush, and I recommend giving it a try.

My Initial OG Rating: I like it.

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2 Responses to Essen Day Two: What’s Hot, and What I Played, Plus Other Updates (Chris Wray)

  1. ianthecool says:

    Terraforming Mars at the top of both lists…. I usually don’t get into the Cult of the New hype, but I am for this one. Have been interested for a long time; guess I know how to pick em early!

    Also “American Sandwich” makes me laugh.

  2. Pingback: Essen Day 2: What is hot, and what I played… (Chris Wray) | The Opinionated Gamers

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