Sunday, October 23, 2011

Essen Game Fair 2011 Day 4, the purchasing

We have put off most of our purchasing till the end so that we don't end up having to ship stuff home :)  But there is interesting stuff happening again and we get in a fair number of games as well.

The interesting
You  are curating a dinosaur exhibit for a museum and have to dig up the different bones and gems and put them together.  Interesting because the publisher is a game component company, and the game was the winner of a competition to use a given set of pieces.  Cute, but not worthy of space.

Monster fall-winner of a prize this year.  A way to trick your child into practicing manual dexterity!  Under a time limit, push as many monsters into the center pit by co-operating with the other player(s).  If you knock him over on the way to the pit you have to start over, so it takes some care.  You can see that it is compelling.  In the photo below mom and dad got tired of junior knocking over the monsters and took over by themselves...really!

Ghost Blitz!  Would have bought this in a heartbeat but they were sold out.  Contains 5 pieces and a deck of cards.  The five pieces, a white ghost, a blue book, a red chair, a green bottle and a gray mouse.  Each card has a picture of two of the items, the mouse on the book.  But something about the color is wrong-a green mouse on the blue book.  You have to be the first to grab the blue book.  But there are trickier cards too-a green mouse on a white book means you grab the red chair-get it?!?

Puerto Rico, special edition-contains bigger barrels, metal coins and an expansion that includes new art (nice), nobles and a jewelry store.  Too heavy, and we may not need the expansion....

The international Carcasonne championship, see how everyone has a country flag.

The game playing

Carre (Amigo)-Stack a nice tower with your given set of pieces-no holes allowed!  Roll the dice to determine which size piece you can place or take off your opponents tower!  More interesting than at first glance, but probably only medium replay value, not sure more players add anything, so it could be a good go-to for 2 people.  I have to say Amigo has a great set up here-plenty of tables and nice folks to explain the rules. I like coming back to their 'booth'.

Let's Take a Hike-I was attracted to this on Day 1 because of the artwork which reminds me of Mary Blair of  It's a Small World fame.  Our photo is not very good for the art, see this entry at Board Game Geek or the artist, Troy Cummings, site.  A new theme-how exciting!  This is a risk tolerance game-draw and play cards to prepare yourself to take a hike (water bottle, tent, socks, etc.).  When hiking, turn back when you think you can get the most points.  If you encounter a bad thing, you will  loose all your points, but if you can outlast everyone else, you can make it big!  Basic underlying strategy as Diamante, but with added complexity.  We played with a British couple and the men tied.  I love this and bought multiple copies.

Old Men of the Forest-meaning orangutans :)  Trees, money and transportation good, deforestation bad.  From your given hand, play cards that determine if you get to pick up cards that will win you victory points.  Play your hand poorly and you will only end up with deforestation.  This will suffer with folks prone to analysis paralysis, but interesting enough that we pick it up.  Also reminiscent of Slide 5-a theme on top of a concept, but it could be any theme.

Alba Longa-you have to decide what to do with your limited number of people twice a year.  In the spring, build temples (needed for victory), make money, fight (target the player in the lead), or bring in a bonus harvest.  Then again in the fall but you also need to harvest and a bigger harvest means more people (also needed for victory).  A little fiddly, but quicker than most of these types.  Didn't love it enough to take up space in the bag.  

Ablaze (Mayfair)-As the fire grows you place your firefighters to make a fire break.  Area control game, but no backsies, when you place it you are done, making it nice and quick.  Strategy is where and when to place the pawns.  There are a couple extra versions with just a few added tiles.  We only played as two and I suspect it could be more interesting with four.  Not worthy of space in the bag, especially as it can be purchased in the states.  Sue wins!

Tobago-where on the island is the treasure?  You get to figure it out by placing clues that limit the possibilities, on the largest mountain chain, with a view of the ocean.  It is Clue in reverse.  This is super stylish and new-it will be purchased later :)  We didn't get to finish because it is practically the end of the day, and people are purchasing the demo copies for super cheap and we get approached by 2 different people for ours, no worries, we got the gist.

The purchasing
Final count, 23 items purchases, but most are tiny or flat, many are card games, and only 4 large boxes!

Will we be coming back?  For sure!  This was AWESOME!

Essen Game Fair 2011 Day 3

As promised the weekend is more crowded.  As it turns out this is a good day for people watching.  There is a whole other feel to the RPG room-soldiers, elves, dark elves, medieval folks and anime characters are common. Some are here for the costume/talent contest.

This is also a big day for competitions. Speed chess where the two players have one minute to complete ALL their turns, as in the whole game takes two minutes, if they use all the time.  Okay you say.  Then you read the note that says these same two guys will be doing this ALL DAY with only 3 breaks.  When we saw them after lunch they had already played some 250 games.

Also a Rubick's cube competition.

And Gemblo.
And yet the craziest thing was running into an old coworker that I haven't seen for over a year.  She now lives in Germany and in this giant convention we just happened to walk past each other-small world!

We did get in a couple of games though.  First Trias from Doris and Frank.  We love Doris and Frank!  Trias is dinosaurs on Pangea, which then breaks apart and you want your dinosaurs to rule the larger islands.  It has some strategy points that will take more playing.  So we buy it and some other games...and a t-shirt....we really like Doris and Frank :)

We randomly try Paperclip Railways.  Indeed paperclips form your rail line.  The guy got his idea from String Railways, which was very popular last year, but this is a more detailed game.  It may be a better game than the feeling we got because our game suffered from one player whose English was not good and took LONG turns.  Usually it is the non-Germans speakers can be at a slight disadvantage if the game is not printed in English, but this developer was British.  This seems to me to lack replay value as the most interesting parts are the clever names but it really loses for us as the box is large and our suitcases are not infinite.  But I do love the flexibility of paperclips as rails.

That is it for us today-people watching is more tiring than game playing!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Essen Game Fair 2011

So we planned to go to the Essen game fair because we knew it is the biggest game convention in the world for strategy board games.  Most people haven’t played these, much less heard of them, even though they keep threatening to break out in the states.  You can even buy Settles of Catan (Spiel de Jahr, Game of the Year 1998) at Target.  If you like these type of games, you probably are in a dedicated group or get together with specific people to play them or you maybe even go to GenCon.  So the idea of going to the biggest convention in the world was appealing. .

We arrive on the afternoon of day 1 and decide first to just walk around the edges to get a feel for it.  Turns out it is a large convention hall with more than 10 large rooms and each room has 30-50 exhibitors.  It took us 2 hours to walk the rooms without stopping to play or buy.  Wow.  Just wow.  The exhibitors range from a single guy with a table or two where he will teach you his game, to the main distributors with 40 tables, all filled with people playing their games, like Quirkle or 7 Wonders, which won prizes this year.  There is a room for comics, a room for miniatures and RPGs, a whole room for games for children, and some booths that sell related stuff.  Everything else is games-selling games and playing games and doing business deals about games.  Lots and lots and lots of people playing games.  I walked around full of *SQUEE* because of all the people who were here just to play games.  Special deals mean everyone buys a years worth of games at once and almost everyone is carrying around bags of purchased games.  The truly prepared have hand carts…seriously.  We stop for a snack and chat with a guy who has finished shopping and is leaving , he says, this is just Thursday, wait until the weekend when it is so packed you can’t move through the aisles.  OMG  This is awesome!  We buy a couple of small items that the game makers only sell at the fair, the Settlers card for 7 Wonders, the Carcassone card for Dominion, all super cute. 

Day 2, we go in with the plan to play some new games, but not anything specific.  The subway is a crush, guess we all thought to get there early.  Even getting off the train is a stampede as people are actually running up the stairs to the convention hall.  So, how do you play a game if you don’t know anything about it?  Demo teams are all around to teach the games to newbies because almost everyone comes to play games they haven’t played before, but might buy.  If there is something you want to play, just lurk till a group is done because almost all the tables are continuously full.  If you want more players, just invite passing folks who show a bit of an interest.  In 8 hours we got in 10 games, only one was something we already love (7 Wonders) and one extension of a series (Ticket to Ride Asia).  We played some by ourselves, with other folks who knew the game (the Ali-Baba German game club had matching shirts) and with other newbies.  

Whew!  And then after dinner with some friends we went to their hotel lobby to play more games.  The whole lobby was filled with groups of people doing this till 1am.  And I'm told that when it gets too crowded at the convention, it will be the same for the rest of the weekend.  THIS IS AWESOME!

Details of the games we played-probably not too interesting to read :)

Infinite City:  Tiles represent buildings that you play and control.  Area control with special effects on the tiles. Not as good as hoped, a little to fiddly.

The City (Amigo):  Cards represent buildings where players have their own cites, not interacting with other cities.  Engine building for money and points, short (big plus), flexible number of players-we should buy this.

Rio d'Oro (Amigo):  Best board design-build a bridge using the box itself.  Also best representation at the game fair as they have a live action version for people to play.  Collect gold from one side of the bridge and carry to your base camp on the other.  But the bridge is dangerous!  A little light, but it gets tougher as you go.  Interesting twist of choosing your level of risk via green/yellow/red die.  We should buy this.

Atlantis:  Run away from Atlantis as it is sinking and try to grab valuables on the way.  But the sinking means you have to spend the valuables to cross the wet parts.  Great mechanic that makes it harder as it goes.  I love that our 'game shepard' teaching us was like 12.  Sue dominated :)  We should buy this.

Walnut Grove:  Agricola light!  Faster than Agricola (plus) and set with a western theme.  Sue dominated.  We should buy this, but the English version is sold out.

7 Wonders:  Which own and love this, but I wanted to play it with other random folks.  The half of the table that had played beat the half that were newbies....

Ticket to Ride, Asia:  A Classic for us, but the new board has some nice additions and a team version.  We got crushed by one of the group who joined us, but Erik put the hurt on everyone by playing all the yeti routes.  We should buy this.

Mord in Arosa (Italian):  Totally new mechanic to me.  Build a 7 story tower, toss in cubes, 'investigate' the levels to find the cubes.  You are supposed to listen to where the cubes fall.  Sue dominated :)  It was so cute I like it, not sure of the replay value.

Logan Stones:  Rock paper scissors, but with a little memory and strategy put on top of it.  Very nice game components.  We bought this one as a gift for a Logan in our life :)

Innovation:  Card game where you are trying to dominate the ages/technologies.   The theme did not hold up as well as expected, end game took too long, but it might be worth some replays to check it out further...

So you can see the problem-too many good things to buy, not enough luggage space!  We will aim to only buy those games that will not get distributed in the US.  Off to day 3!