Australians on the loose: Essen Day 0

We’re back in Essen this year after an 8 year absence. It’s not the whole family, as our older daughter stayed home to finish her first year of University and take her exams. That was probably a wise decision, but we do hear a twinge of regret in her messages to us. Instead, it’s just me, Fraser and “Otto” who is now 14 (and was 6 last time we were here). The Messe feels weirdly familiar still, although of course it’s in different halls than in 2009 and some of the booth builds are rather more developed. More importantly, our hotel still serves the fabulous Frikadellen at breakfast time. Crisis averted!

Wednesday felt more chaotic than I remembered. Even by midday, there were a lot of empty/unbuilt booths, although the big booths were going strong already and BGG were live streaming from 10 o’clock this morning. We took some sneaky behind the scenes photos while nobody was looking because you can just do that.

I then entertained myself by walking around taking photos of empty tables which were just waiting for gamers to join them.

The first game we looked at in any detail was Altiplano, from dip games. Travelling with our friends Jon and Catie, we settled down for a good look at the game even though the teachers were at the press show. And a good look at the game is well worth it; not only does it look pretty amazing, it’s also absolutely gorgeous. Klemens Franz is of course well known as a game artist but this one really feels like he had some fun with it. We were particularly taken by the alpaca with a clover leaf sticking out of its mouth, and Fraser is challenging anyone to find a cuter game piece. We left the booth with a copy of the game AND a couple of alpaca t-shirts.

“How cute is that llama?”

“Actually, it’s an Alpaca.”

Next game was Viral, from portuguese publisher MESAboardgames. I was a bit dubious about this, but it turned out to be a really fun, lighthearted take-that game where players take the role of viruses which are attempting to attack a human body. Gameplay should be pretty fast – we played about half of a learning game in 30 minutes or so – and the game was very enjoyable, even if I did have to compete to infect the pancreas. The board is well-designed to support the different phases of each round, and this would be a great game to teach at a convention as it’s very straightforward, fast and fun.  Artwork is super cute.

We rejoined daughter Otto, who is working for Lookout Games for the next couple of days, and a copy of Nusfjord appeared on the table. This is Uwe Rosenberg’s big title for Lookout this year, and it’s clearly an evolution of some of the ideas from last year’s A Feast for Odin, streamlined and simplified. We played about a half a game, realised that we had messed up a critical rule (although the start player token moves anticlockwise, play should still move clockwise), and called the game. I think we all intend to buy a copy. It was great to run into Liga and his family as well, while we were there.

My photos haven’t finished syncing so nothing to see here.

Meanwhile, Fraser had detoured via pd Verlag to pick up a copy of Transatlantic and of course the new Concordia map, Aegyptus and Creta. Concordia is one of our favourite games, and gets regular table time, so this will be a great addition.

There were some great bargains at the show today, with some prices yet to be announced. I picked up a copy of The Voyages of Marco Polo for around the cost of the (new) expansion, as well as a very discounted copy of String Railways.

We also entertained ourselves finding giant games – or at least giant boxes. Of course, we all know about Kingdomino XL, but we spotted a giant box for Terraforming Mars and another for The Voyages of Marco Polo. Of course, we suspect that these are just for show, but the giant version of Ice Cool was a reality.

Only four Messe days to go now …

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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