Simon W’s Saturday SPIEL 2021 Report

The halls keep getting busier – today it was actually slow and difficult to walk between halls, just like a real Essen. the only difference of course is the reduction in number of halls being used – with a large part of hall 5 cordoned off, and Hall 7 and 4 not being used, I guess it feels more croded than it is. However most publishers seemed pretty happy with the fair, and by this afternoon a lot of the big games had been sold out, including the new Azul, Siege of Runedar and in fact all Ludonova’s stock, almost all of Feuerland’s stock, and so on.

Games I looked at today:

camel up off season

Camel Up: Off season – This is a follow up to the SdJ winner from Plan B, but shares only the camel theme since it is not a race game. With a beautiful board, accesories and artwork including a cardboard tent for each player to hide your coins behind, this is basically a clevr push-you-luck game which uses cards rather than dice. The cards are laid out in columns and players bid simultaneously for the right ot be th first to pick a column. Most columns have some face down cards; only the smaller columns don’t. When you collect the cards you have to alocate them to columns on your player board: each column is a camela nd each has a maximum load from 3-6 cards. Each card you collect must be located with similare goods on a camel and so, if you get cgreedy you go “bust”, overloading the camel and losing all teh cards. In each round players can then sell goods from one of their camels, but not all of them, for money which is victory points as well as fuel for the next auction. Lovely light game to play and definitely fun.

dune house secrets

Dune: House secrets uses the same portal system used in Portals “Detective…” series. Events start at the end of the recent movie and, according to the decisions taken cooperatively, lead you through a story with a legacy-like number of possible phases. Each game takes around 3 hours and I think they told me there were 5 scenarios in the game. Vienna Connection by Portal also uses a similar system but tells a spy story – I haven’t had time to checkit out in more detail yet.


Tabannusi: Builders of Ur is the latest in the “T” series of games by Board and Dice and I had the pleasure of playing an hour of this today. I have had mixed feelings about the series in the past, having enjoyed but not adored Teotihucan and felt that Tawantinsuyu, while a nice game, was a bit over-complicated in the choices offered. Tabannusi is in my opinion better than both the previous games: the basic premise here is to score points in 5 different areas of the board, each of which is associated to a dice number AND a colour. At the beginnning of the game 5 dice (probably more in the real game) are rolled and placed on a boat next to each of the areas. in the starter version of the game the colour of the dice rolled match the colour of some actions in the territory (but not in the advanced game, we learned). Anyway –  at the start players have a long look at the dice because it effects their strategy, and then choose a starting area. Then, on their turn, they activate a die in that starting area: taking the die in front of them to be a resource of that colour (so a white die is a white resource) and moving their “Architect” worker to the area corrsponding to the number – which is the next area they will activate, and so they are planning their next move by deciding on the value of die to take. With me so far? Then, players take 2 actions. The two actions they take are selected from 4 actions in that area. If the area is an area where you can build houses, then 3 of the 4 actions are the same: either take an action to irrigate the land and build a garden on it (which costs certain resources ad brings you points if near buildings); an action to clear a building site which you put an ownership marker on; or an action to convert a group of adjacent cleared land into a building. The buildings you make are in one of 3 colors which match up with 3 of the typical “T” “Moving up a column” tracks. Whenever all the dice have gone from an area you score the number of your markers on cleared lands and on the completed buildings and multiple them by the points associated to how far up the matching-coloured column you have gone.

Besides these 3 building areas, each of which also gves numerous bonusses to players when clearing land or playing water of garden tiles, there is also a harbour area where playing on boats gives you long-term abilities; and a scoring area which gives you poiints for achieving certain objectives. Both boats and objectives, and various other elements of the game, change each time you play.

The actions I outlined in the 3 areas and the various othere elements of the game (that I have skipped over) require you to not only use resources, which are the colours of the dice you take when taking actions as well as being available as counters on the board; but also require you to have enough ownership tokens available to be able to take building actions. These ownership tokens are effectively a form of resource which you have to look after and replenish regularly if you want full freedom on the board.

All in all, I thought the game was original and captivating. Best of all, we played a 3 player game and each of us adopted a very different approach and strategy, all of which seemed to work. You have to plan ahead when deciding which dice to take, you have to manage your ownership markers and your resources (dice which are one use only and tiles which can be re-used), you have to watch the dice in the areas since when they are all taken the areas are scored and the dice you have as resources in that colour are lost, and best of all you have to manage your scoring and your special abilities. Its an engaging gam and was an immediate buy.


The Specialists: This is a “Ocean’s 11”- type game which I got an explanation for but didn’t play it. Players draft dice to activate cards to add into columns, which give benefits (St. Petersburg style) for more cards per column; the dice can also be used to use the groups of cards taken as specialists to enter different areas of the board and perform a robbery. The decisions didn’t seem to be that challenging and I felt the game was pretty expensive for the components on offer.


Myraclia: Another expensive Kickstarter-funded game which consists of few components and seemed to be a very simple and quite luck-oriented game where you draw cubes from a bag and hope they mach various tiles on the board, which can then be flipped over if you pay the resources. There is a penalty for drawing too many cubes at once but I didn’t stay long enought o unerstand what that was. The artwork was also not that great.


Transatlantic II: I had the pleasure of playing the prototype of Transatlantic II –  which PD Verlag will release next year, it is hoped. The game is a terrific and extremely enjoyable re-adaptation of Transatlantic, which addresses the criticisms that the original design raised. The new version of the game features a game board with a map of teh world, ship counters, better iconography, amd it plays extremely quickly and the scoring is defintely clearer and easier than the original game. Not only that, but the  game features Mac Gerdt’s first rondel for a while and the best news is that it will be compatible with the old components and so will be offered in expansion form for people who own Transatlantic I. I was totally wowed by the game and can’t wait to play it again,, especially as I only lost to Mac by 3 points ;-)

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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2 Responses to Simon W’s Saturday SPIEL 2021 Report

  1. Jacob Lee says:

    I love seeing these Spiel reports! Even better when they cover games I am aware of and I’m sort of interested in, but don’t know much about. I’ve followed Mac Gerdt’s career closely from the beginning and bought many of his titles, yet I’ve never managed to hold on to any of them. They never hit my “love it” rating. You’ve got me wanting Transatlantic II right now. I guess I should appreciate that because the anticipation makes life more fun.

    • Simon Weinberg says:

      Thanks Jacob!

      Let’s see if this game can persuade you that it’s a keeper. I’m a big fan of Mac’s and really admire the simplicity with depth of his designs.

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