Dale Yu: Review of SPIEL 2019

Well, normally I try to write something up each day while at Essen, but for a number of reasons, this just didn’t happen.

  1. Old age – I tell you what, this year, I was just bushed every night when coming home.  By the time I hit the hotel room at night, I just wanted to take off my shoes and fall asleep in the clothes I was wearing.  And, that may or may not have happened more than once on this trip. 
  2. Technology issues – On top of being so tired, my laptop kept having issues staying on WiFi, and this proved to be just enough of a barrier to just go to bed.  I have lost far too many articles midway through writing on the Android WordPress App due to a mistaken gesture or keyboard touch, so I am truly reluctant to use it.  Also, I couldn’t use my regular phone, because when I slammed the German SIM card into it, it turned out NOT to be unlocked as promised.  I did have my backup phone, but there’s a reason that I retired that phone from daily use two years ago.  To make things worse, I lost a bunch of my pictures.  I thought they were being backed up to the cloud, but they weren’t, and about 80% of my pictures went poof somehow due to a local phone memory failure – which is one of the many reasons why my backup phone is the backup phone.
  3. Meetings – during the day, I usually have a bit of free time when I can rest and catch up.  This year, my meetings lined up in a way that I seriously barely had time to make it between appointments, even with a 30-minute gap usually left between them.  It certainly seemed like this year was more crowded than last year – there usually aren’t Hall 3 traffic jams on Thursday, and by about 2pm Thursday afternoon, you seriously needed 5 minutes to get through the 100m from Hasbro to Iello.
  4. Evening events – lots of planned dinners and meetups kept me out each night into the wee hours.  Well, I mean like 9pm.  That’s a wee hour somewhere, right?  Anyways, after a 6am wakeup call each day and walking about 10 miles each day, I’m ready for bed the instant we get back to the hotel
  5. Playing games?!  And, unlike years past, the few nights where we don’t have a dinner, I managed to get in a few games!  I often go to Essen and play no games at all – this year, I think I got in nearly a dozen games over the course of the week.  The main reason for this is that I’m now in a pattern of shipping a box of games home to myself; and now that I do this, I don’t have to worry quite so much about.  Any free time in the evenings can now be spent trying to sneak in a game or two!

Despite all the issues, I’ve tried to write this is fits and spurts at work – though work has been beastly since coming home – and the workload is another reason why I haven’t written a recap yet…   Thus far, I haven’t had that much chance to play games, only three real game days so far, but I have a number of days scheduled on the horizon.  What I have seen so far (and heard from other people) is that there are a bunch of decent games this year, but there has yet to be any that have stood out from the pack.  (More on this later).

As far as the trip itself went, I’m glad to say that there were no travel emergencies, no train route detours, and no unexpected fees.   The exhibition space grows ever larger, now encompassing nearly the entire Messe (only 2 large halls left to expand into?!). 

The much ballyhooed new entry was finally open, and there is a weird path from this entrance to the SPIEL halls as visitors have to essentially walk through those two uninhabited halls to get to the booths.  However, this also allows people to wait inside for the opening bell, and it also gave a nice sheltered area for the math trade to occur.  It would not surprise me if the arrangement of the halls is changed for next year; though at the current rate of growth, I figure all the room will be used within 5 years.

Sadly, no spiral potato picture this year.  Despite my love of the dang thing, perhaps the rest of the masses have figured out how good they are – each time I passed by the truck, the line looked to be at least 30 minutes long; and given how tight my schedule was this year, I just couldn’t spend the time waiting in line.  But, you’ll never know, because even if I had taken a picture of it, it would have been lost with all the rest.   But, jagerschnitzel, schweinehaxe, currywurst and doner pide filled me up, so it’s not like I was unhappy with my dining choices.  Also, a friend from England did bring by a few cans of some special flavored Pringles which was a nice surprise.

Some thoughts from 30,000 ft

Globalization of the industry is interesting.  There were more vendors for different parts of the world than I can remember.  A huge contingent of gamers from Indonesia were present as well as an Iranian company.  The Taiwanese area seems to be larger than last year, and the South Koreans have a growing presence as well.  In addition, the number of game companies with international distribution partners seems to be growing ever larger.  It was common for me to take a demo (or have a meeting with a game company) and then be told that I then needed to go and “talk to XXX as they are our North American partner for this game…” 

There are lots of companies that seem to be exhibiting at Essen now with a single project from Kickstarter (well, and of course, their next project which will be going live soon…)  I spent more time than I have in the past looking at smaller companies who were at the show essentially with one finished product.  There are some definite interesting ideas out there, but I was having a hard time trying to pick out the ones I thought would do well with my game group.

That being said, the “major” companies still have lots to talk about – in my various meetings:

Iello – I still haven’t seen the games from 2019 yet (i.e. Ishtar), and my meeting was all about 2020!  On the horizon, Kraken Attack is a beginner cooperative game, from their Loki family line. 

Kitara also looks like it will be an interesting game, more for families or slightly more complex. 

And, of course, the company knows what pays the bills, and there will be all sorts of King of Tokyo things coming. They also had an interesting display of country/region specific monsters on display.

Ravensburger – the annual lunch event was centered around the 20th anniversary of the alea imprint.  There was a nice presentation with Stefan Brueck and Stefan Feld.  The new versions of Las Vegas and Castles of Burgundy were on display. 

Additionally, my attention was caught by El Dorado: the Golden Temples.  This “expandalone” game can be played by itself, or as recommended by most of the Ravensburger editing staff, can be played in conjunction with the original El Dorado and the first expansion.  Interestingly enough, though the German language loves to make its own words, they had to use the English portmanteau of “expandalone” rather than making a Teutonic combination.

Kosmos – Cities:Skylines seemed to be the game that was being most promoted; but amongst my group, Die Crew was the hit of the show.  In this cooperative game, players must work together to reach varying mission requirements while playing a trick taking game.  An interesting mix of strategy, tactics and good old fashioned luck.

 Lost Cities the Dice game also was garnering plenty of attention.

And, of course, more Andor! I was unable to find out whether or not this was going to get a translation into English or not…

HiG – for them, the big new was Marco Polo II, a revamped version of the highly acclaimed 2015 game – with new rules, new actions, and therefore, new strategies. 

For me, the big news was the Carcassone maps, 4 different A1 sized maps that give you constraints on where you can play tiles, each with some special scoring rules.  Unfortunately, they were too big and unwieldy to figure out how to get home safely, so I wasn’t able to get a set of the maps yet.


Bezier – The number of Suburbia Collectors Editions in the back room was staggering, but they were quickly clearing out of storage by the end of even the first day.  I’m assuming that most of these went to people who drove or took the train, because they were massive in both size and weight.

Space Cowboys – Lots of Time Stories news apparently, but I did not get a meeting scheduled with Asmodee EU.  I’m sure that my friends at Asmodee USA will keep me abreast of new developments, and I remain quite interested to see how the second generation form of the game will work out.

So, the one thing that I noticed from talking to other people this year is that there were plenty of games that my friends were interested in. In fact, a much longer list than usual. It was not uncommon to catch up with a usual suspect and find that we each had 5 or 10 games on our list that the other hadn’t even thought about looking at! I think this is a reflection of the vastly increasing number of releases each year at SPIEL. You simply cannot look at all the games, and there isn’t enough time to look at everything – you just have to pick and choose and hope for the best now!

The Haul

This first list of games came back in my bags (well, a few arrived in the mail while I was gone – but I didn’t make a clear note of which games were in which group, so you’ll get them all together here)

1.       24h

2.       4 ½ minutes

3.       50 Clues – The Fate of Leopold

4.       50 Clues – The Pendulum of the Dead

5.       50 Clues – White Sleep

6.       6 nimmt brettspiel

7.       Adventure Games: Monochrome Inc

8.       Adventure Games: The Dungeon

9.       Alubari

10.   Anubixx

11.   Axio

12.   Azul – Summer Pavilion

13.   Beam me Up

14.   Botanists

15.   Butterfly

16.   Calavera

17.   Cat Sudoku

18.   Chartae

19.   Cities: Skylines

20.   Clip Cut Parks

21.   Coloma

22.   Colorful Treasure

23.   Crash Test Bunnies

24.   Deep Blue

25.   Die Crew

26.   Electropolis

27.   Era: Medieval Age

28.   Evidence

29.   Expedition to Newdale

30.   Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!

31.   Fire!

32.   Florenza the Dice Game

33.   Formosa Tea

34.   Garum

35.   Geometric Art

36.   Hadara

37.   Hagakure

38.   Hasp

39.   Humboldt’s Great Voyage

40.   Imagineers

41.   Isle of Pan

42.   Jiguan – the Eastern Mechanic

43.   King’s Dilemma

44.   La Vina

45.   Las Vegas Royale

46.   Lux Aeterna

47.   Marco Polo II

48.   Megacity Oceania

49.   Miyabi

50.   Mu

51.   No Return

52.   On the Underground – London/Berlin

53.   Oriflamme

54.   Pact

55.   Papillon

56.   Paris New Eden

57.   Pharaon

58.   Porto

59.   Quest for El Dorado – The Golden Temples

60.   Qwixx on Board

61.   Roll for Adventure

62.   Save the Meeples

63.   Similo – Fables

64.   Similo – History

65.   Spring on a String

66.   The Mind Extreme

67.   The Queen of Hansa

68.   Time Chase

69.   Trails of Tucana

70.   Ubike Tours Taiwan

71.   Vintage Racers

72.   Walking in Provence

73.   Wizard Wurfelspiel

74.   Zoom in Barcelona

75.   Zura

Games that came in the box I mailed to myself… 30.4kg. Arrived in 9 days, and not a single box damaged! Thanks to DHL and the awesomely convenient shipping service at the show. And though the cost of 170 EUR sounds high; it’s still way cheaper than the extra bag fee on Delta!

1.       A Thief’s Fortune

2.       Alderstein

3.       Babylonia

4.       Bruxelle 1893

5.       Carrousel

6.       Castle Methoni

7.       Coralia

8.       Dekalko

9.       Fast Sloths

10.   Fuji Koro

11.   Kauchuk

12.   Last Bastion

13.   Nova Luna

14.   Old Masters

15.   Paris city of lights

16.   Queenz

17.   Rumble Nation

18.   Rush MD

19.   Tajuto

20.   The Magnificent

here they are trying to figure out how to lift my box.

Random fanboy selfies (the ones not lost to the Google Photos monster)

Me and Lucas’ favorite designer: Herr Benndorf
Me and the 2014 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner
me and my favorite Zitrone eis
Two rules writers. Paul Grogan is the best in the business.
Here I am, holding Tony Boydell’s sack in my hands
A pair of bloggers. “Heavy” and “Light”. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one to call Jessica. But I warn you, she’s sensitive, so tread carefully.
The very hungry BGG crew
Me and my nearly 8kg baby
Me and about 25kg worth of games. Thanks to my brother for carrying one game :)
Me and Leo. hanging out at the SdJ dinner.
Me and a blurry Mr. wallace.

Well, it’s time to go and play more games. We have started a nice series of posts where we give our first impressions about the new games, and we’ll be updating it weekly. Part 1. Part 2.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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10 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of SPIEL 2019

  1. Fraser says:

    Session report for the Pringles? I’d try them!

    • Dale Yu says:

      1) Peking Duck should have been called “Hoisin Sauce”
      2) Tandoori Chicken Masala were quite tasty. Craig ate them all before I could try more than a few!

  2. Louisa Berry says:

    It’s amazing that with your 95 games and the 35 I brought back, there’s only about 7 on your list that I also bought!

    • Dale Yu says:

      Louisa, that’s exactly what I was trying to talk about near the end. There seemed to be a lot of good games, and certainly a much larger overall number of games. It is not surprising that there is such divergence in “Essen Hauls”. When I first starting going to Essen 20 years ago, it felt like most of my friends left with about 80-90% concordance in our games. Now, there are so many options, there’s no way to look at everything nor even know about everything! Everytime I asked someone about what they had picked up, I learned about 2-3 new games…

  3. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of SPIEL 2019 – Herman Watts

  4. All that and no Maracaibo???

    Also, Orleans Stories was the surprise hit for me.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Curt, Maracaibo is being done domestically by Capstone, and frankly, I was out of luggage space… and Capstone is located in my hometown, so I should be able to play it as soon as it gets here :)

  5. Todd Hitt says:

    Anybody comment on your FC Cincinnati Jersey?

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