Essen by proxy – Sunday (Melissa Rogerson)

I was late for the feed because I was busy baking communist gingerbread with the Bigster. In a moment of gaming continuity, I realised that I blogged about baking gingerbread with her sister just over ten years ago, at Gone Gaming. Same recipe, probably different cutters (we weren’t making a Tikal board this time).

That delay meant I missed the first four games. Fortunately, chatters are happy to fill in the gaps, when they’re not punning about Putin the communist gingerbread in the oven.

Recaps from others:

  • The Mountaineer – Massif Games – apparently has an ENORMOUS 3D board. Word is that it is very unusual & would definitely draw people in at a con, although some wondered whether there was an in-game reason why it really had to be quite that large. One chatter said it reminded him of “Timber Tom” – others thought it might have a steep learning curve (groan).
  • Scuba – “one nice mechanic but boring” says one. On the other side, we have “looks like I want to play it but I’m not sure if I want to play it a lot.” (Barad). And it had scuba diver meeples.
  • Hi Fisch – “for Fish only” says one person. It was a card game and I’m not sure how much concentrating was happening.
  • Overseers – “I think I need to play it to appreciate it,” says Andy.

Buzz about Die Kolonisten (Lookout/Mayfair) and Great Western Trail. I am excited to try both of these, as well as – who am I kidding? I’m excited to try pretty much any of the new games I can get my hands on. Guilds of London is sold out, as is Kodama – I played a friend’s kickstarter copy of the latter & it is really very lovely.

It’s clearly much quieter at the fair today. Many people travelling home, and the last two days really have been super busy by all reports. Let’s hope for record attendance this year!

Back to me and the unfolding livestream:

  • Small Star Empires – very quick & simple, little moulded pieces – I’m wondering whether the moulded pieces have any in-game significance. Still hung up on those chit-carrying minis from yesterday, perhaps.
  • FTF: First to Find – reminds me a bit of Karuba, as you turn over and place forest paths without knowing what is coming. The box is much smaller, though. I must be getting jaded, I’m not feeling the love yet for any of the games, although I am sure they are perfectly fine games. Maybe I need more gingerbread.
  • Sabbat Magica – really lovely art and graphic design on this game. The components look fantastic (a touch of the Dungeon Lords style to them?), and the demoer says it’s a gamers’ game. The choice of races is interesting – you can be vampires, succubi, sorcerers … or elves. Presumably, really REALLY evil elves.

That’s the end of that block of games and apparently it’s time for the Haribo Hot-Tub. Katherine is ten minutes early and there’s a ten minute break, but there’s neither Haribo nor a hot tub in sight. Fortunately for us, if not for her, the hiccoughs are back. We suspect that this is the calm before the storm, with Portal, Japonbrand, Oink games coming up next. There’s a rumour that Ragnar Brothers have cancelled their demo slot, someone shows up to chat with Katherine, there’s comparison of cameras, and an observation that there is a need for cough lollies and wet wipes to be sold at Essen. Everyone is sick today. It’s the end of the con. Hand sanitiser is a wonderful invention and actually really helps with the sickness limiting, but even it has its limitations.

Meanwhile, the feed goes wonky and then drops out altogether, and my chromecast has a conniption. IS THIS THE END? Chatters, it appears, are afraid of the dark. So am I, when Fraser wanders out and asks whether it’s the feed that’s down or the Internet. It’s raining heavily outside and there is definite Internet disruption potential. Fortunately, the feed flickers back on for a word or three. It’s up and down like the Assyrian Empire, says my beloved, who is visiting Feed Central otherwise known as our living room. I guess at least we are having a conversation.

It’s back! And here is the lovely Ignacy!

  • Robinson Crusoe – New edition, beautiful art, custom pieces, cardboard tokens, action pawns with a sticker, “everything is better” – although the rules remain the same, the rulebook has been totally rewritten based on the second edition German rules. Ignacy has an article about editing these rules on his blog; we should all go and read it, but not now because we are concentrating on what he is telling Katherine.
  • Imperial Settlers: Aztecs – Ignacy is such a pro at this game demonstrating thing, he’s even telling Katherine that they need to go quickly. This brings in a push-your-luck mechanism. “If you don’t like randomness, don’t buy it,” says Ignacy. This is the trash-talking, super fun, random expansion with 110 cards. I’ve never played Imperial Settlers but if I had, I might try this.
  • Neuroshima Hex: Death Breath – English expansion, all sold out at the fair. Ignacy and Katherine struggle with the German name Todeshauch but that’s all that’s left so they have to suck it up. It’s on the way everywhere else.
  • Undead – released by Portal and Stronghold in cooperation. It sounds really exciting as it’s an expansion! Is Ignacy winding down? “Oh yeah, I have more!” – he has brought all the things.
  • Cry Havoc: Aftermath – Ignacy is super excited about this. I haven’t played Cry Havoc so I’m not. But there’s definite interest in this.
  • First Martians (Adventure: Red Planet) – based on the Robinson Crusoe mechanism, this didn’t make it in time for 2016 release but they are now targeting Spring 2017. This is exciting & we all want this, I think. If we write to Ignacy, he might add toilets and/or donkeys, and maybe even a round board or cards. But would they really make the game better? Ignacy just wants to be DONE with the game so he can move on to the next thing.
  • Alien Artifacts – a 4x game, card-based. Scheduled for GenCon 2017. This will have its first public presentation at BGGcon in Dallas in November. Stop by and play the game! Ignacy says this is a brilliant game and invites everyone to play it to prove he was right. He misses somebody but it’s not me so I didn’t catch the name.

Whew. Time for a breather. Ignacy ran through all those games. Katherine looks knackered. Also, somebody seems to have stolen her phone, which is super annoying/disappointing.

  • Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 – hogy vagy, Hungary! A game about the 1956 revolution in Hungary. I would also like to see a game about the 1956 “Blood in the Water” water polo match where tensions about the revolution overflowed in a Hungary vs Russia match during the Summer Olympics in Melbourne. The board looks fantastic. This is not my usual type of game but I find it really interesting and would very very much like to play this. Chatter ooolthooo backs this up with “played it, it was great,” and describes it as a light wargame coop. The designers call it ”Twilight Struggle meets Pandemic”. Oh lordy. This wasn’t on the schedule but there’s quite a lot of excitement. Well done to Dávid and Mihály for a great demo!

Katherine signs off with a hiccough. Somebody get her a glass of water!

Eric’s on, and so is Japonbrand, Simon and Tak have something like twenty four games. No way am I going to keep up with that! Chatters weep that their games sell out so soon. Japonbrand check the zoom.

  • Alchemidus – I already missed the name of the first game but Simon is making it seem really fast & fun. Apparently it is. Kerrin says it’s a bit like Letters and Numbers.
  • Cattack Number 1 – another game where you play cats. These cats are playing volleyball. Simon has a horrible hand so he totally cheats on camera, which is the best way to demo a game. I’m not actually being sarcastic, we want to see the exciting things happening. Meanwhile, there’s a Messe announcement, which seems to have been happening less often this year.
  • Villannex – 2nd edition, including 2 expansions. Classic Japon Brand. Tak doesn’t say much but steps in with a smackdown when he’s not convinced Simon explained it quite right.
  • [something about a mallet?] – really, I don’t know why I am even trying to keep up. Aldie steps in with the right name, Fan & Mallet. It’s a game, and it’s sold out. Something about ghosts. I’m not sure how the fans and mallets fit in. Presumably they would go right through the ghosts?
  • Kamoza – a simultaneous play game. I don’t know whether I mentioned this yesterday, but there seem to be a lot of boxes this year that are difficult to read. Either the font size is really small or the text colour doesn’t have much contrast. Very simple, stylised cards, and some that seem to show Boaty McBoatface. People who are concentrating more than I think that this looks cool. There are boats, cats, rats, gold-eating rats, rat-eating-cats, partyesque small card game for 3-5 players.
  • Ore City – which actually means My City – it’s a heavier game than it looks. Simon’s not convinced by the theme but I think he likes the game. It seems to have some nice play elements to it and I like Simon’s alternative theme about building goblins. I say in chat that I like the sound of it and others chime in with no, volleyball cats, or no, Alchemidus or any of the other games. THEY ALL SOUND GOOD.
  • Come to the fishing village – super colourful Kawaii art.
    SpecularRain comments that “I have to say, I enjoy this in a weird way. These guys are like a hurricane of games that doesn’t seem to interest me at all, presented in a way that would have me miss anything I might actually be interested in. But it’s refreshing because it’s so different from everything else on the stream :D”
    Lots of discussion about “disposable game culture”.
  • Game #8 – Workshop nantu ? – we’re all totally lost now but just sitting back to enjoy the spectacle.
  • Garden of Minions – trying to create candy crush chain reactions out of dice, really they start the demo and we’re still trying to work out the name and then it’s done. “And it’s sold out.”
  • Armour – “it has enormous cards” – weird superpower trick taking game. Simultaneous play. Fairies.
  • Trenzin world? Transient world? Something like that? It doesn’t look bad. We’re out of time.
  • Mask of Anubis – one of the most anticipated games so this one gets 3 minutes! Played with a smartphone which sits inside a lens. It’s Google cardboard the boardgame? It seems to be a game about describing things – like Portrayal (Identik) maybe? – One person looks into the VR headpiece & describes what they see, the other players try to build what they see. And everyone has a turn and it turns out that what you see is a maze. And then the different segments of the maze get put together and they work out whether they put the pieces together properly. I REALLY LIKE THE SOUND OF THIS GAME. And it’s not actually called Master Manoeuvres it is Mask of Anubis.
  • Stray cats game – exploratative half-Cluedo like game with stray cats. Boom. Cats. Not quite as many of them as donkeys but it’s close.
  • Dice Jar vs Psycholon – Super shiny 3D reflective holographic board. Chess like wargame with plastic ships? Chatters still more excited about the volleyball cats. I wonder what volleyball gravity is like on Mars. Honestly, I’m sure these are fun games but it’s a little bit boring watching so many super quick demos one after another. We’re over the hump now, though, only ten more to go.
  • Who soiled the toilet? OK, now I’m actually listening. This is the game I want the most from this Essen. Even more than Great Western Trail or The Colonists. It’s like the Resistance, there are two teams. One team wants to keep the toilet clean, one team wants it to be soiled. That builder we had working in our bathroom a few years ago suddenly makes all the sense in the world. There are also dexterity rounds where you want to flip poo tokens into the toilet. I’ve been to the toilets in Bunnings, I know that people have trouble with this. Crikey. I want to own it but I’m not sure I want to play it! I hope somebody brings this back to Australia, but I’m not quite sure about an aftermarket in secondhand toilet games.
  • All Green – this is an entry level Mahjongg styled set collecting game, where all the suits are green. Friedemann, eat your heart out.
  • Defence free kingdoms? Defence of the three kingdoms? We are still talking about the toilet game in chat. This game looks a bit deeper than some of the others.
  • Are you chicken? – a very simple push your luck game about chickens who want to be lemmings. “Way more interesting than I first thought”.
  • Tank counter monster? – it’s a playable tank encyclopedia, 4th instalment in the tank series – they already covered all the tanks that ever existed so now they have made up a bunch of them.
  • Ideal natol? – crazy Coloretto style game. These game names are total guesses at this point. I can’t read them on the boxes. Simon is having a lot of fun.
  • Time Bomb 2 – a werewolf type game. Sequel to (you guessed it) Time Bomb. Social deduction game.
  • Judo shigaroku? A 400 year old game – roll the dice and laugh. And the board rolls up. And there’s a spot where you die and never move again. Players are “stigami” familiar spirits – everyone is a ghost. Tak helps to explain this one, for extra interest.
  • Unicornus knights – a cooperative adventure battle game, the biggest one that Japonbrand has ever brought to Essen. Simon still sounds really excited about the games. That’s amazing.

There you go, folks. 24 games in an hour. Whew. Bit of a break and it’s time for Oink games’ Laura, who poses for a photo with Eric in front of the BGG background. We’ve not seen enough of this today.

  • Insider – another social deduction game. This is clever – the number on the back of the face-down card on top of the deck denotes which option on a face up card is chosen. I’m trying to work out how to order this. Somebody is asking $55 on the BGG marketplace, which seems steep until I see it for $154 on Amazon.
  • Twins – a Reiner game. We’re still talking Insider.

And it’s swan hat time: Swan Panasia appears.

  • The Xuanwu Gate Incident – This game looks gorgeous! We all woke up. Based on a Chinese palace coup attempt in 626, this is a secret identity deduction game.
  • Ten Dwarves – props for spelling it the way I like. I think you lose if you have seven dwarves. You have to arrange dwarves in order to line them up for Snow White; she has picked up an extra three along the way. Based on the themes we’ve seen, they are probably called Donkey, Dunny and Cat.

Feuerland Spiele appear, with A FEAST FOR ODIN!!! It’s not like we have been waiting for this game or anything! This game is cheap at $120 on Amazon, compared to $154 for Insider. By weight, that’s a really good deal. There is HALF AN HOUR scheduled for this game. They could get half way through punching it in that time, probably.

  • A Feast for Odin – Do I need to tell you that the backchannel chat is excited? Apparently this is the heaviest game here this year. There’s an oval board. “Imagine having a cat in your house with this on the table,” someone suggests. I might have to clear off a shelf to hold it. Totally getting this, then scheduling about two hours to punch and bag. There’s some concern in chat that the game might have TOO much going on – there is a lot to explain. And THEN there are 200+ occupation cards.

While the stream is reset, we talk about the economics of going to Essen – as a punter, as a publisher. And other cons too. Does the expense of going really get recouped by the additional sales and publicity? I’m a total optimist, but I think the expense of going is worth it just to be there.

  • Peter and the Grown Ups – a Peter Pan-themed bluffing game. It looks interesting, and I think the title is marvellous. What is also interesting is the copyright situation surrounding Peter Pan in various countries around the world.
  • Lex in Lemniscate – this is a pattern recognition game that actually looks super interesting. I suspect it would appeal to the Zendo I’d like to get hold of it for the PAX Australia library.

… and Katherine’s back!

  • Candy Time – a matching game where you don’t have to match! This looks like a quick, fun, family filler – very simple. I’d get it for our niblings.
  • Spoilers – we just want to say Sweetie! Fraser wonders where Alex Kingston is when you need her. There’s a Lie-o-meter which some parents might like to mount on the wall somewhere prominent. Everyone’s really tired BUT IT’S FUN RIGHT. (In case you’re wondering, it really is). This is a bluffing game about movies, where the bluffing is more important than the movie knowledge. Sounds like my kind of movie game.

Here’s an anticipated title – and a box Katherine could hide behind.

  • Lisboa – from Eagle Gryphon games. Big, flat, squareish box – same size as The Gallerist. Lovely art with muted colours, in the style of the Azulejo painted tin-glazed ceramic tiles. Kickstarter launches mid-November. In the late 18th century, the city of Lisboa was levelled by earthquake, fire and tsunami, and the game is the story of removing the rubble and rebuilding the city. It’s on my watch list, pending shipping (and group buy) costs to Australia.

This is an UNSCHEDULED EXTRA, people. The excitement is exciting.

  • Die Kolonisten – Katherine confesses she fell asleep while her husband was punching this. Between this and A Feast for Odin, I reckon you could fill half a day at least. We all talk about how much we enjoy punching games.
    Ronny does a great job introducing this triply epic strategy game. It’s epic because of all the stuff in the box – at nearly 3 kg, the box is only 100g lighter than the Caverna Don’t order two copies unless you hate your postie! It’s epic because it takes up to 4 hours (playing time 30-240 minutes), and it’s epic because you can play distinct ages and can mix & match them. Ronny describes this as a worker placement & worker movement game; Lookout/Mayfair describes it as a Kennerspiel. I’m just calling it a must buy.


  • Steal this Game! – This is a super crappy story. The LudiCreations booth, among others, was robbed during Saturday – the biggest day of the fair. It was a massive financial setback and also a quite devastating breach of trust within the community. Designer Dávid Turczi stayed up late to design a microgame, others edited and playtested and designed it – the game community really came together to try to design something that could be Kickstartered to try to help LudiCreations recover. We will all look for this on KS. A great deal of sadness about this incident.
    In Essen many years ago, I stopped to chat with someone and accidentally walked off and left a bag full of new games lying on the floor. I didn’t realise for a couple of hours; when I went back, someone had picked it up & moved it over to the nearest booth wall, but it was still there. I often talk about that honesty – everything was still in the bag – so it’s super upsetting to see thefts like this.
  • Side conversation about the difficulties of taking credit cards at Spiel.

I’m struck that there may not have been a super stand-out title this Essen, but there are quite a few games that I’m excited to get hold of.

Pegasus Spiele

  • Istanbul: Brief & Siegel – (Letter & Seal). I want this. As we watch the demo, Fraser arranges to play this.
  • The Oracle of Delphi – Feld! Excitement! Fraser goes to bed! My cats are getting annoyed because they want to play volleyball go to sleep but I am in their space and possibly on their sofa. This game looks pretty great.
  • Zauberei hoch drei – “Wizardry, to the power of three”. A co-operative memory game for children aged 6+. I have mentioned a couple of other games that I was keep to get for our niblings, but this one has gone to the top of the list.
  • Bookworm Bücherwurm. This is a Stadt, Land, Fluss / Scattergories variant, in German and English. Our daughter Otto went to a German-English bilingual primary school; this would be perfect for them!
  • Stadt Land Anders – speaking of Stadt, Land, Fluss … this game has 30 different category cards and instead of finding a word that starts with a particular letter, you have to find a word that complies with a particular condition, e.g. the second letter is A or it has something to do with the number two. Again in English and German, this game would be a gem for the bilingual school. Both this and Bookworm are in the little Mitbringspiel sized boxes.
  • Port Royal: Unterwegs – not quite an expansion. An “expandalone” as Jon says – it’s a standalone game, with some (maybe two?) cards that can be used as an expansion for Port Royal.

It’s 12:30 and I’m feeling the late night last night.

  • Railroad Revolution – This looks so good. Lots of discussion of how much we enjoyed the demo. One great way to judge the demos is “would I want to play games with these people?” – the answer here is a resounding yes!
  • Covenant – from GenX Games – a game about making a covenant with death. TBH, it sounds kind of creepy, and the artwork is downright scary for 1am. It’s too much for me.
  • Pocket Invaders – cheap and fast, lots of interest in this. It’s been out for a while but we’re not proud.

AEG arrive and are very taken with the “You are Always Live” sign on the camera. It is almost an existential moment.

  • Mystic Vale expansion – designed to shuffle straight into the base game. There are new effects & cards but no new rules.
  • Siege – deduction, bluff, intrigue, 2-6 players, shades of Love Letter but definitely a different game
  • Love Letter Premium – shades of Love Letter but not as we know it, and with super schmick sleeves. Chatters comment that this is an insta-buy. More characters! Can take more players! 2-8!

And squeezing in a couple more games just to round out the show:

  • Final Act – It’s a game of simultaneous programmed movement, with tanks and great components. “This looks so damn good,” says a chatter.

Katherine, Eric and Mike Fitzgerald to sit down to chat. Lots of questions about Mike’s new legacy cardgame, a noir mystery story based on the Mystery Rummy engine, which he has shown to three publishers. The game is done. It has a progressive story, the game changes permanently, and at the end of the story you have created another game that you can then continue to play. Mike reports that publishers are saying that there is no such thing as too much hype and free excitement for a game. So by BGGcon, he expects to be able to reveal some more details and maybe even let people play the first couple of episodes. This is going to be super exciting for our daughters, who love Mike’s games (especially Jack the Ripper Mystery Rummy, which is older than both of them). Expect this in 2017.

Mike’s game Dragon Island should be at GenCon in 2017.

Eric asks Mike at what stage of his career he could start to pitch things to publishers rather than doing what they told him – Mike says he has been very lucky in that he’s not really had to pitch to multiple publishers. Over time, they would send contracts and Mike would send them back with changes – a colleague suggested sending a “demand sheet” – stating upfront what he wants, what his conditions are. Some companies offer more, but he states what he wants from the start and finds that comfortable.

Mike also talks about Tallinn, Fabled Fruit, the Power Grid Card Game, Great Western Trail … a bunch of other games that he has enjoyed.

We really enjoy the designer interview, and would love to see more of these scattered through the Essen feed.

Then Eric Lang arrives and Baseball Blood Rage Highlights is born. It’s getting silly. We think we’re tired, but we have nothing on the people who are at Spiel. Eric estimates that it must be more than ten years since he had a chance to play a game at Essen.

A small aside: Katherine’s phone appears to have reappeared! Hooray!

The discussion continues and gets better and you will have to watch it to hear the stories. Essen 2016 is done.

And my highlights: Lorenzo, Odin, Budapest, Colonists, Delphi, Lisboa, Flamme Rouge, Insider, Honshu, Aeon’s End, First Class,  … it’s dangerous to say these are my favourite games, but these are some that I’m definitely planning to look up.

On which note, it’s goodnight from me. Hope to see you in Essen feeds in some form next year.

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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