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.
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.
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!