Dale Yu: Essen Recap Part 4
Well, we’re nearing the end of the road here for what happened – in this (possibly final) piece, I’ll just talk a bit about some of the more interesting things that I saw. This is not meant to be comprehensive, and I’m sure that I’ll mention a bunch of things that some of the other writers talk about, but I also hope that I hit some things on my own. I’m just using the pictures on my phone as a guide…
First off, let me just say that one of my most anticipated games for SPIEL 2017 remains anticipated… Decrypto is not quite done, and while it’s at the show in nearly final prototype, it will be a spring 2018 release.
Sadly, they would not let me take this one home for “review purposes”. This is a super clever word game that I first came across at the Gathering of Friends back in April, and I fell in love with it from the first play. Le Scorpion Masque will be producing it in at least FR and EN, though I would assume that a DE version would also be made (but I didn’t ask because I was so focused on figuring out when I could get an English copy!)
Though I normally don’t write about the games that I’ve worked on, I was happy to see that Palaces of Mad King Ludwig was being well received. I helped give a couple of demos at the stand, and by the end of Saturday, the stocks were almost gone…
From what I saw though, the big winner at Bezier was Whistle Stop. They sold out of them fairly early on Saturday, and that’s without a copy even being available to test on the stand! There was definitely a lot of good buzz going on for those games.
Another game that was getting both a lot of buzz and a lot of play was Azul. I have already reviewed this prior to the show, and at that time, I felt it would likely be a strong candidate for SdJ 2018. After seeing a lot o the new games on offer this week, nothing has changed my opinion. The Plan B booth was always packed, and the line to buy stuff at their booth pretty much gummed up the entry and exit from the back of hall 3 to the Galeria at almost all times in the day. The Joker tile expansion was in high demand, and the sales board at Plan B had it crossed off fairly early into the show. Heaven and Ale and Reworld (the two eggertspiele releases) were also being talked about a great deal. I have Heaven and Ale in my bag. Reworld will have to wait for the US release as I ran out of space in my bags!
Matagot and REPOS were next to each other per usual in Hall 3, and they also were the cause of the usual traffic jams. Matagot had three big titles. First was the EN release of Charterstone – a lot of my friends were quite keen on taking their copy home with them from SPIEL. The box was pretty darn big – and while it was possible to open it up without spoiling anything, there really wasn’t any good way to reduce the weight nor nest anything inside it because the entire inside is filled with smaller sealed boxes/bags/etc.
Meeple Circus is a beautiful dexterity game that I’ve been waiting for. Everytime that I see Steph H post some pics on her blog or on Instagram, I want to instantly try out the game. I’ll make sure that this happens by next weekend – which is likely my first chance to really break out the new games. The final game was Okanagan which I didn’t know much about. It was described to me as a sort of re-implementation of Hermagor, which was a game from way back when that I liked and wished that it had received more play.
As I mentioned, REPOS was next door, and their focus was on When I Dream. They maybe win the award for the most novel testing environment – they had a stage with a bed on it where the dreaming player actually lay in bed with a sleep mask on.
I honestly didn’t spend much time around KOSMOS as my initial research told me that there wasn’t much new in English (and as a result, I missed the surprise release of the next generation of EXIT games in English!) I did see a computer setup for Catan Stories which had the subtitle of being able to choose your own adventure. The computers were down when I got in early on that morning, and I was never able to make it back when the stand wasn’t packed with people. I’m hoping that someone else got a bit more information on that one.
The string of family games from HABA (as opposed to their usual young kid fare) is still going strong. This year there were three new titles – I ran out of time to check these out, but these were a bit lower on my list as I had already made plans to review them when they make it to the American market. Iguazu (sp?) was the one that most of the gamers that I knew were talking about.
Blue Orange was exceptionally busy due to the success of Kingdomino. I had a chance to stop in and talk with them for a bit, as well as Bruno Cathala, one of the designers of Kingdomino. We chatted for awhile and I asked him about the previously unannounced Kingdomino upgrade set – I knew nothing about this prior to getting to SPIEL.
Apparently, the German version of the game has a different box insert – not the molded tray that we have. So, the tiles were meant to go into a bag to be hidden, but somehow this didn’t work out. So, now, they made a tile tower which can store all of the tiles without them being able to be seen. In sad news, the folks at Blue Orange EU told me that they currently have no other plans to produce EN versions of the other choose-your-own adventure books like Captive and Knights – there were amongst my favorite things to have brought back from last year.
One of the other games that I am going to get on the table soon is Dragon Castle. The game looks to be based on the idea of mahjongg solitaire that everyone has probably played at some point on their computer or phone. Just looking at the tiles and board was enough to convince me that I wanted to try this out – but also because I love playing mahjongg solitaire. The tiles are smaller than regular mahjongg pieces, but man, they’re heavy!
The Asian areas probably win the awards for having the most different titles on sale. Part of the reason is that there is such a premium on space in their cultures that their games come in super small packages. And, unlike their German and European counterparts, there is not the expectation that larger size equals higher price. The Asian games might fit in your hand, but they still might run you 30 or 40 EUR, and you’re still getting a full game experience inside that little box. I think that the OINK version of Modern Art fit into a 5 inch square box, but it still ran 39 EUR (and admittedly, you’re getting a full game packed into that miniscule box). Look at how many different games you could buy from the Taiwan Boardgames stand!
Not sure if this is related to the delay in game arrival, but Japon Brand has a surprisingly large amount of stock available for open sale come Saturday afternoon.
The Korean Pavillion was also chock full of publishers. I brought home a number of games from them including BattleFold and the Rising 5 collectors edition!
There were plenty of European pickups for Gloomhaven. When the show started, this space was filled with the Gloomhaven coffin sized boxes. By Saturday, only a little pile was left. I am hoping that most of those people either drove or took the train. The Gloomhaven box would take up nearly an entire suitcase!
So as I mentioned earlier, there were a number of different places where you could find Bonk and Klask. Here was their huge tower in Hall 2. It was possible to climb up to the top to get a nice aerial view of the hall.
They also had an interesting promotion. IF you were willing to put a temporary tattoo on your face for 2 days, you could take a game home for free. I was surprised by just how many people I saw with this on their face – it’s a great guerrilla marketing tactic!
Not much for me at the Hasbro booth. Their big toy for the year appeared to be a flushing toilet toy, complete with rushing water inside. I honestly did not investigate further, so I really can’t tell you much more about it. The only other thing that interested me there this year was Coinhole. As my hometown of Cincinnati is felt to be the spiritual home of Cornhole, a game where you throw beanbags filled with corn kernels into a platform across the parking lot, I was definitely intrigued by the bouncing coin version. It had nice bits, but the weight of the wood and the cost of 29 EUR kept this one out of the suitcase.
Maybe this one will make it back to the States, and I can pick it up at Target…
The Czech Games booth was super busy, split in half between Codenames in all its different forms and the new Pulsar game as well as That’s a Question! I stopped in to chat with Vlaada for a bit – he told me of some upcoming game ideas, and I am definitely interested in seeing what they turn out to become (sadly, I cannot share them with you).
My selfie game was definitely off this week. The other amazing thing to see was that there were no fatalities at the booth with their squirrel guy. I know how hot these amusement park suits can get, and given the super hot temperatures in the halls this week, I don’t know how they managed to make it all day without passing out.
Remember how I told you that Indian Summer and Noria were hot items? They were at the same booth as the Advent Calendar guy. On Saturday, this was seriously as close as you could get to the stand… All those people between me and the flying cities were either trying to overhear a demo of the games or were waiting not-so-patiently in line for the advent calendar.
Blackrock is a French distributor who showcases games from a number of different smaller publishing houses. I have already mentioned Time Arena – which I’m definitely interested in playing soon!
The other game that I found while there was Little Fish Big Fish, an adorable 2player game where you try to be the first to each five fish of the opponent. There are special squares on the modular board which give you special abilities. But, in the end, I liked the game due to the cute fish. It was a nice fifteen minute diversion, and if I played more 2p games, this would have probably come home with me.
And finally, there always seems to be one game each year that escapes the luggage. This year, I had packed my bags by around lunchtime on Saturday – knowing that I needed to keep room for two more games which had pickup arranged for the afternoon. While I was walking around the fair waiting for my meetings, I stumbled across a game which I had somehow missed for the previous four days – The Football Game. This game is a first design for a London based company – they have already funded their initial kickstarter last year, and they have brought their second printing to Essen this year.
As you may know, I’m a pretty big sports fan, but definitely choose soccer (football) as my primary sport. This game is supposed to simulate the running of a club – taking it through the season of matches as well as the offseason where you get new players, etc. It’s kind of like an analog version of Championship Manager which some of you may have played on your phones. Anyways, a season is supposed to take about 45-60 minutes, and the game itself looks easy to pick up. Certainly, having some interest in soccer would help, but the basic game structure looks easy enough to pick up by any gamer.
The team is simplified into four player slots – with the different players being represented by cards with different attribute values – and the scoring of these cards is managed via a die roll which tells you which colors of cards score. The game is made a bit more complex by the addition of tactics cards which give you special abilities or different scoring criteria.
I also liked the way in which the designer incorporates the idea of annual expectations to the game. I’ll explain using both football and American Football examples. Each player takes control of a team, but as we all know, teams are of different abilities at baseline. If you have Man City or the New England Patriots, your expectation at the start of the year is much higher than say Norwich or the Cleveland Browns. This game takes those expectations into account and intuitively scores your performance in regards to your pre-season expectations.
Anyways, I haven’t had a chance to play yet, but I was definitely intrigued by the game. I think I managed to get a copy or two to be in the BGG.con library and I’m hoping to try it out soon.
Well, that’s about it from the fair – I know that this seems like only a drop in the bucket of what was on offer – but that’s the new reality of Essen. You can’t see everything. Heck, we had twelve or so writers at the show, and between us we probably saw less than one-third of everything between us!
I was so busy with meetings, talking to people, picking up games and packing them all up that I honestly never made a master list of what I got this year. I won’t know until I get home and get everything un-nested and unpacked. There may also be a little delay before the completion of the full list as I had some games go home with someone else, and it’ll take a little bit of time to assemble everything together.
I’m writing this up on the flight home, and I’m loving the fact that Delta gives us free wifi to use chatting apps. I’m not going to get off my computer and try to stream a Google Hangout to watch the Bengals game. So, time for me to stop rambling, and you guys can consider yourself caught up with the fair from my perspective for now.
I’ll try to write at least one more piece on things to come in the future – that is, if I’m allowed to talk about it!
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor