Essen 2018 is now complete! I’m taking a brief break from packing to write this blog post. Many of the Opinionated Gamers left today (Sunday), but I don’t fly out until Monday morning.
Below I talk about what was hot at Essen 2018, and offer some thoughts on the year in gaming overall. I’ll have several mini reviews in a post coming in a few days.
Here’s the final Fairplay list of this evening, in the same order they appear on the list:
- City of Rome
- Lift Off
- Meeple Circus
- Carpe Diem
- Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
- Spring Meadow
- The River
The Fairplay list was a wild ride this year. Game surged onto it, then fell off, then surged back on again. In the end, to make the list a game had to have 30+ votes with an average rating of 3.5+. That’s really not much. I suspect the vote count requirement did more to keep games off the list than the actual ratings, which means heavier games were at a material disadvantage.
But let’s talk about the #1 game on the list: Belratti. It’s great — I did a mini-review of it Friday — but what a shocker that a small box, cooperative, image association game would capture one of the most coveted honors of Spiel ’18. I had been excited for Belratti for weeks, but I thought it would be an obscure pickup, not one that would seemingly snag the honor of topping the FairPlay list.
Here are the top 20 on the BGG buzz list:
- Azul Stained Glass of Sintra
- Teotihuacan: City of Gods
- Chronicles of Crime
- Blackout: Hong Kong
- Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
- Dice Settlers
- Architects of the West Kingdom
- 7 Wonders Armada
- Underwater Cities
- Brass: Birbmingham
- Shadows: Amsterdam
- Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
- Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition
I generally say that if a game is on both lists, it is having a good convention. But in the end, that only applied to two games: Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and Coimbra.
As I said Thursday and Friday, I think the games with the best showing are Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and Teotihuacan. The latter probably fell in the FairPlay rankings due to it selling out, but when I asked people who had been playing a lot of games what was exceptional, Teotihuacan was the one mentioned.
Beyond either Geekbuzz or FairPlay, I will add a few games to the list of what I see as hot: Futuropia, Magnastorm, Pandoria, Reykholt, and The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr. Those were in and out of the FairPlay and/or Geekbuzz list, plus I saw quite a few copies floating around the convention.
So who won Essen ’18? The eggertspiele/Plan B/Next Move group is, in my mind, the clear winner. Two of their games, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and Coimbra, are the only two that made both FairPlay and Geekbuzz. Blackout: Hong Kong sold out and was one of the hottest games of the convention. And Azul, Reef, and Century: Eastern Wonders were all doing well.
But let’s call 2018 what it was: a down year…
This was a down year in terms of game quality.
Compare the list of games above to, for example, the top games from the Gen Con and Essen release seasons of 2015-2017. In 2015, we had Pandemic Legacy Season 1, Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization, 7 Wonders Duel, Food Chain Magnate, and Codenames. In 2016, we had Terraforming Mars, Great Western Trail, Star Wars: Rebellion, Scythe, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and A Feast for Odin. Last year, we had Gaia Project, Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, Azul, and Clans of Caledonia. All of those games cracked the BGG top 50.
Which of the above titles of 2018 will stand up to those? To me, not many will. Are any of the 2018 titles going to crack into the BGG top 50? As I sit here today, my guess would be that Teotihuacan does. I suspect Gùgōng, Underwater Cities, and Blackout: Hong Kong have a chance, but only time will tell.
One of the major themes of Essen 2018 was, to me, a lack of innovation. Which designs from this year will push the hobby forward? I clearly haven’t played many of the games yet, but I’m so far having difficulty seeing which games could even be good candidates. (The most innovative game I’ve seen, for the curious, is Fuji, which I did a mini review of on Friday.)
And where are the family strategy games, the SdJ contenders? So far, I don’t see anything from this year vying closely for the Spiel des Jahres.
My friend Brandon Kempf said on Twitter that this being a down year was predictable, meaning we should have seen this coming in advance of Spiel. In response to people here in Essen saying that there wasn’t much exciting, he said: “Look folks, this is just a consequence of too many games being pushed through the pipeline, cashing in. Gen Con games were not all that exciting & Essen Games aren’t either. There are some good games, but nothing exceptional.” Brandon’s point was that games are being rushed through production because the marketplace is so saturated. He went on to say that we, as a hobby, have become accepting of mediocrity in board games.
I think he’s right. More than 1,400 games were released at Spiel 2018. Very, very few of those will prove memorable.
That’s not to say there aren’t solid games. I’m merely saying that, in totality, 2018 appears to have been a down year.
What I played…
I played quite a few games over the past couple of days, but I need to finish packing, so I’ll put several mini reviews in a post tomorrow or Tuesday.
SO LONG FROM ESSEN 2018!