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SPIEL 1023 - Walk Like An Egyptian and other weird encounters


Cute but dangerous

So, another SPIEL is over, and as usual I caught a cold and need a week to cure it. Time to write up what I found this year.

First of all, we were in new halls. This was supposedly because the old ones were undergoing renovations. But visitors had complained about the cramped old halls and the lack of gaming space, so that might have been a factor. It worked out wonderfully. This year, they also enforced the no smoking policy, and had extra outside areas for smoking and food. That was very helpful, and we didn't smell like we had been in a tavern looking for work when we got home.

More space made it feel like there were many more games to explore, when in reality you were just able to get to those tables. Usually, we make a first complete round to scout each year. This year, it took us all 4 days to see what was there, and we didn’t quite finish!

On the other side, the fun factor was a bit down simply due to the fact that both board and card games are more and more alike, with the odd one standing out with a new concept now instead of new concepts being standard. Not a surprise because 1) eventually everything is done and 2) publishers are trying to jump on the bandwagon of successful games. This is especially true of the masses of Manga-cardbore (I won’t call those games, you can only rip off Pokemon so often), miniature wargames (both tabletop and board) and resource management board games.

On the RPG front, things start to slow down at Essen, simply because RPGs have their own yearly fair in Cologne each year now. I wasn’t even able to find most of the English books I was looking for, unless they were Paizo. The US dealers were mostly absent. Flying Buffalo and Grey Ghost Games were presrent though, and we finally got the 1st Grimtooth book in English. And did you know FUDGE is now 15 years old? I got some special event dice for FUDGE which change color when placed on light. Really cool. Don't have a picture unfortunately.

Some games were kind of new, but there were way too many of them. I blame certain TV shows. Zombies, zombies, zombies... in both card, board and miniature versions as well as mixed up variants. Kind of not my thing but I took pics of 2 of them. The above one had issues with the miniatures toppling over a lot while I watched.

We found this cool looking, somewhat chess-like Halloween themed game:

This one is a bit chess-like, too, but the complicated move rules and the black and white pattern inducing headache made it less of a hit - it's called Trench.

And talking of chess, the German Chess Youth Club was present again, and this time they had a lot of colorful sets. Still not sure how the 3-way version works, though.

Another thing really big - after we only found and bought 1 last year - were balance games. The most fun to play was this one, although the materials were kind of cheap. There is a ball under the board, and you need to set your stones with varying point counts in a way so the edges will not touch the board. The pieces' values then get multiplied with the values of the fields. It is really only fun with 3 players, so anyone with a bigger family or just couples are out of luck, so I doubt we'll see it back.

The first thing we saw when we came in Thursday was this fun little party game (not for us as we are usually only 2 or maybe 3 people). It's about goblins trying to trick the lich and get to his spellbooks. If they get caught the respective player gets a punishment in form of funny actions - like knocking your elbow on the table anytime someone says a specific word or standing on one leg. If you managed to get a spellbook though you got helpful cards. We had a lot of fun with it in a 4-player game.

A very cool game where the goal is to put 5 stones in a row, but the cards decide where you can place your stones - we bought it, of course. It might become one of the most played games here.

Best card game in our opinion is Banco Banco, a simple game with a cool new idea. The goal is to play your cards in a way that you have the most and the highest numbers in the vaults (the lower part of each player's side). The banks, the rows in the middle, can be closed by placing certain number sequences and a Banco card, which then gives you extra boni. But watch out what your opponent is doing, because if you close too quick or too late you will lose out.

Best board game (which we'll buy next year when it will be cheaper) was, in our opinion of course, an arena game called Tash-Kalar. You get to place pieces on the board according to the cards you have, and you need to get the other player's pieces off the arena.

For people good at maths - not me - is Pharao Code, where you need to quickly calculate your dice results to find a match that gives one of the numbers on the pyramid.

Pretty standard games with new designs were common, like the top one - this jumping game where you need to collect the highest tower. We mostly tried it because it is called Cappuchino and I badly needed a coffee ;)

Would have loved to try these, looked really cool, but the tables were always occupied.

And talking of coffee, I only had time to go to my fav coffee place at the fair once this year:

Game types we now have too many of include racing games. Ever since Formula D was out (which we own in both versions already) they keep popping up in yearly changing versions... sometimes they are super expensive, too, because you have to buy the cars extra.

One more must have for us to buy next year when it is cheaper is Via Appla. You need to build a road and gather points for arriving first, building 2 tiles at once etc. What makes it unique is the mechanicsm of the quarry where you need to push stones off to get tiles. There are cards you can take to help you, but you need to be careful not to give your opponent the last open cards too often as they give boni.

One game that totally sold out we bought right away - OmNomNom. You get animal cards and dice and your animals can either eat each other or the food on the board.

The "most boring" game is actually not boring at all, especially for someone who grew up in the Cold War era, knowing the issues of supplies in the eastern half of Germany first hand thanks to many visits. Basically you are standing in a row in Polish communist times, trying to get your shopping list done. You can influence your success with cards like knowing the right people, tricking others etc. No pics of the board thanks to camera failure.

A real annoyance this year were the games taking way too long to test play, often starting with long preparation times in setting it up. As a lot of times you were required to do the set up, we did not even bother to try them despite the praise some got. Even the ones already set up were often too complicated to learn quickly enough. After all we wanted to try lots of games. Here are some examples:

On the other hand, there were quite a few simple rules games. Like this one, where you had to place your tiles according to the cards, covering as few numbers as possible.

Some games tried to mix in RPG and board games somewhat, but to real RPGers those seemed to come over as mostly boring. Like this one - really if I want to get loot or hide artefacts, I'll play D&D... But kids seemed to love it.

Some innovation from the UK - more art than game, but all the images are also game boards. They are called Beautiful Games.

X-Wing was one of the few more popular miniature games:

And while the miniatures were cool in some cases...

And some battlefield designs really were impressive...

I was really beginning to wonder who still had money for yet another one of those...

Then of course there were the RPG miniatures, too.

This very boot sells large durable maps for D&D - but since 4e storyline poisoned Faerun, I can't find a "real Faerun" map anymore. All they had was the spellplague disaster. Ah, well...

Going into the RPG area, we can't miss the obligatory dice pic, this time from a small seller:

Ah, dice! I fell in love with a new type but we werre out of money - I sure hope they will be back next year! Look!

As every year, many people dressed up. I was only able to take pictures of very few of them because the silly camera gave out a few times. One little boy, no older than 5 or 6, dressed up as a wizard standard - blue robes, golden stars etc. He had a very very long staff with a blinking red light at the top. It was so his dad would find him if he got lost, something that he said happened a lot. I couldn't take a picture as the boy's dad didn't want son's pic out on the net. There was also this little droid rolling around beeping...

Of course there were boots selling LARP stuff, some displays were kind of a fail but the quality was usually good (and the prices, as usual, crazy).

Some things you could use outside of LARPing.

This year, I was so busy I kinda forgot to try any of the alcoholic stuff - the few times I remembered, the lines were too long.

Ratten!/Rats!, Finsterland and Private Eye (the latter now available in English) are German language RPGs which are quite fun to play. Rats! is a small scale production - same guys who are producing Kakerlaken! (Cockroaches!) I believe. Finsterland is a strampunk setting more of a Vienna flair, and Private Eye is a Holmes-Style detective game. If anyone wants to try out the latter two let me know, I got the books this year and could run some online games at Roll20.

At the last day, many non-German sellers give stuff out in cheap auctions just to not to have to haul them back again. They often dress up, like the guy at the top of this post.

And that's it for this year, as the camera was really not cooperative. On the other hand, I think posting any more pics would crash the thread when loading.

Have been to any convention? Share your pictures and experiences!

Oh and of course - here's our loot!

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