Essen by Proxy: Wednesday to Friday (Melissa Rogerson)

Another October, another Essen … Thank goodness that Boardgamegeek is once again streaming game demos direct from the fair to keep all of us addicts feeling connected! It’s great to see the same people (and the same jokes about FLAGGO!) every year, and to welcome people who are new to the livestream.

I’ve not seen as much of the feed this year as I would have liked, due to teaching load / school concert / game night, not to mention needing to actually work on my research during the day, but I’ve caught the middle of the last couple of days. Tonight, I’m settled in the living room with the TV showing the feed, my MacBook showing the backchannel chat, a sofa blanket keeping me warm, and a good supply of snacks. Doing the feed properly requires planning.

The quality of some of the demos has been disappointing, when demonstrators don’t seem particularly well prepared. Many waffle or focus too much detail rather than giving the big picture of how a game plays. Of course, there are also the stand-out demos (which aren’t always for the stand-out games), which give us a sense of the game’s arc – what will happen, what will we do, what will we enjoy? Costumes and matching shirts are also good for extra points – and there are always cheers when a crowd favourite from previous years appears.

Grumpy livestream veteran ranting aside (and thank goodness for the gracious hosts who keep things moving and entertaining), there are several titles that look really fun and interesting. And there are some that look less fun and less interesting; lots of Rock-Paper-Scissors games which I absolutely cannot stand.

Some highlights (and – sorry – lowlights):

  • Lorenzo Il Magnifico – Italian Renaissance, gorgeous artwork by Klemens Franz, from the Voyages of Marco Polo design team. Just take my money now!
  • The Perfumer, from Taiwan Boardgame Design, which has special scratch and sniff nanoparticles embedded in the game components which are used in the game. Apparently they’re good for 10,000 plays over 2 years. That’s about 14 plays a day, so get going. The board is rather lovely, and I would like to give this a try, but it does give new meaning to the concept of new game smell.
  • Glüx – a game about making lights. This looked pretty simple but suggested some depth to it. I would like to look at it again & give it a try. There’s nothing on BGG yet to remind me WHY I thought this looked interesting though.
  • Ominoes seems to have generated some buzz, and looked really interesting. You place dice, change dice and remove them from the board to score. The Papyrus font promises an Egyptian theme. This one looked quick and simple; 15 minute playing time. Bonus points for the pith helmet.
  • Queen Strike – a game with a box that is so big, it has a handle. This hybrid game uses hologram technology (prominently and unfortunately branded Ho PLAY) for extra toy factor. It’s the spiritual successor to Nightmare / Atmosfear, perhaps? There were some problems with the English text on cards (eg “Which kind of fish is most?” to ask “Which is the most common type of fish?”). The game combines Rock, Paper, Scissors fights with roll and move, and this opinionated gamer suspects that it is another triumph of technology over interesting game design.
  • Risky Adventure – a family game from Queen games. Lots of bits, nicely produced, this looks like a solid choice. You roll dice to collect items, but the trick is that you have to mark which items you’re trying to collect BEFORE you roll the dice.
  • Fields of Green, a game with some similarities to Among the Stars. Lots of interest in this one and it does look lovely.
  • 100,000 Blind Dates from Gamdow Games – this one is riddled with typos (possibly deliberate, as these are the publishes of “Priate Theory”) but looks rather adorable – it’s a game about dating and what you admire about the other players (or their characters).

More recommendations from the first few days from the livestream chatters (just a list, we’re too busy watching for them to go into any detail):

  • Guilds of London – I missed this, but I’m told that the overview was excellent, and it’s a lovely game.
  • Mea Culpa – fellow feedwatchers describe it as “super colourful” and having “an interesting theme of sinning in order to mitigate sin”
  • Nine Worlds
  • Ave Roma
  • Age of Thieves
  • Ulm
  • The Arrival
  • Barcelona: The Rose of Fire
  • Crisis
  • Far East War 1592 and the world’s most amazing dice tower.

But now, crowd favourite Phil Eklund has made it to the feed and I need to concentrate. Not going to Essen is hard work!

About Melissa

Melissa lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she plays games with her husband Fraser and their two adult daughters. She works as a lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction and researches tabletop games. Find out more about her research at
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