Globetrotter Games - Society and board game site

Essen Game fair report 2004-10-19—24

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Tuesday 19th of October
We went directly from work with the car to Gothenburg. After parking we could board the ferry to Kiel  immediately. We were met at the entrance by a German ompa-bompa brass orchestra. After putting the luggage in the cabin we got something to eat and sat down in the library as that a quite calm place. Christina read for her studies and I prepared for the trip by reading rules. It wasn't too late before went to bed.

After breakfast we went ashore and walked to the station and bought tickets to Essen. Good to be prepared with train times through internet, as the lady hardly spoke any English. We went to Hamburg Dammtor, where we changed to Dortmund, which was the longest part of the trip. The German efficiency must have been lost, as we were late to Dortmund and had to take a later region train, which stopped on most stations before we arrived at Essen Hauptbahnhof. There we took the Underground U11 to Martinstrasse and checked in at hotel Jung. It seemed as they had changed around the hotel rooms and we had "got back" a twin room with toilet in the corridor.

Christina wanted to read, so I went alone for a preview of the fair halls. On the way I met Chris Kovac from Toronto, with whom I exchanged a few words. It was easy to enter the fair as most big ports were opened. I had a few word with the Warfrog people before continuing. In the used games department, which had moved upstairs this year, I actually found a copy of Age of Steam in shrink, which was a real bargain. Probably because most gamers are waiting for the new edition in December. It made me buy the Scandinavia and Korea expansion as well. I also got a few more games, as most people in the stands were willing to sell already today, although they were unpacking and preparing for the next day.

Beside the used games I met the Swedish Gigantoskop gang, who have published Spank the Monkey and now their new Kablamo, a game of Russian roulette. I sat down testing it with 3 of the guys, of whom one actually is from my home town Borås plus a Japanese guy. I found the game too be a random and irritating kind of party game. Definitively not my taste of game. True there are quite a lot of tactic possible, although it requires that you remember where you have put your bullets, but I couldn't engage any enthusiasm. Rate 2 of 10. It might appeal to those who love the terrible game Fluxx. (I actually have a few friends who think Fluxx is good...)

Back at the hotel Christina and I met Mik Svellov and his Danish friends, as well as Trond Braut from Norway, with who we followed to the centre and ate at restaurant Pfefferkorn. We recognised it as a place we had been the first year to eat.

After a few hours of nice company, we went back to our hotel and Mik introduced us to a new game called Neuland by the small publisher Eggertspiele. The rules are fairly easy, although currently you have to download the English rules from their internet site. Still it just took about half an hour to go through them for such a complex game. It gives a feeling of Roads and Boats, but much simpler and definitively shorter. You start with a forest lodge and a wood cutter each, but any player can use any building in the game as long as it's free. There are production chains you need to follow to finally build the victory point buildings, which are one of each and with a higher complexity. The main problem with the game is that it is easily to forget which resources are needed as a beginner, particularly that each building is built with either wood or stone. Still you have to put a production marker to it at least directly after you have built it, otherwise someone else with use it before it’s your turn. There are 3 different kind of hexes: plains, forests and mountains and with exception of the smelters, all building can only be built on a certain hex type. If you have used a resource, you have to remove your used production marker (laid down after they are used) at the end of your turn. The inactive players had to be rules checker all the time, as we had a tendency to forget something at least the first half of the game. The game should normally take 1-2 hours, but we needed around 3 hours, so we didn't finish until after 2 am. The most interesting new mechanic of the game is the action handling. Everyone can do up to 10 actions, but you go around a board with 11 squares with one step for each action you have done. You can never stop on the same square as another player, as you need to move forward to the next free square and forfeits those actions and if there is no hole to the big pawn, you need to do less actions this round. When all have done their actions, you move the big pawn to the last players place (you can never pass this with any action pawn). This makes the "last person to always get up to 10 actions the next round, but the other players get less (if not the last person chooses to do less). In the next round, you are moving in reverse order (last on action board moves first), there can sometimes be important timing, as you want to do less actions this round, to go before someone next round. This was I caught a victory point building from Trond. The endgame was still very close. Rate 8 of 10, although I could have rated it higher if it had been less fiddly. Definitive the best outsider from this fair.

Thursday 21st of October
We were very tired after just 5 hours of sleep, when we went to the fair. We met our friends Johan Berglind and Magnus Johansson, but they wanted to just stroll around first. As usual it was a race to the empty tables.

We met a couple of Englishmen, Simmo and Martin, with whom we played Im 80 tagen um die Welt (Around the world in 80 days), based on the Jules Verne famous novel. This is definitively a family game. You can control it quite well, although lousy card draw can destroy it completely. Quite a nice game to play, but nothing I will buy, although the theme is very appealing for an old Jules Verne fan like me. Rate 6 of 10.

I bought a couple of games, among them Neuland, which had impressed me, but also Christina had liked it. In hall 5 we met our old friend Frederic Taton, who had introduced me to many of the gamers in Essen the first time. He was looking at Antiquity, the new game from Splotter Spellen, which I also was curious about. But it looked even more fiddly than Roads & Boats. Maybe I can get the chance to test it elsewhere, as this is definitively not a game for Christina.

We decided to try out the game Railroad Dice nearby with Frederic. Although he is a train game freak, this wasn't his cup of tea and it seemed as I was the only one to like it. The use of dice as either money, share buyers or tracks makes it very different from all other games I know. Rate 7 of 10. Unfortunately we didn't finish the game, as he had an appointment to eat with his wife Solange.

We joined him to the restaurant, where we met Stavros, one of the guys who fixes Belgoludique gaming convention and I got the dates for the next one, which I felt even more tempted to join again. After lunch we continued by ourselves and in hall 9 we tried the game Oltremare - Merchants of Venice, which we had heard good things about. It has a few similarities with Bohnanza, but it's definitively a much better card game, although some might find it more complex. We played it with a German guy and the rules was presented by its Italian designer Emanuelle Ornella. Rate 8 of 10, which is high rating by me for a card game.

Then we continued strolling around the hall with roleplaying stuff, which also is quite immense. Christina didn't like all the badly done and overpriced clothes, particularly as they were referred to as medieval. She is good at historical clothes, so she still want to see them even if the work is bad. 

Back in hall 11, we entered the Amigo counter to test their game Der Untergang von Pompeji, which I had translated the rules to be able to play here. The theme is very appealing to me and the game is played in two phases. First you set in your pawns (your inhabitants) and then they should escape the lava in the second phase. The idea is good, but we had a feeling that it was self playing without no real challenge, rate 3 of 10. We considered the possibility that I had made a big translation error, but couldn't figure out how it could have been saved, so we donated the rules sheet to the staff, which seemed to be happy to get them. (Richard Dewsbery on hotel Jung actually thanked me later, as he had borrowed the English rules when he tested the game and recognised my name from this sheet!).

Although it wasn't so late yet, we went back to the hotel to rest. I opened and checked a couple of my new games and saw that the content of Bootleggers didn't fit the content in the rules leaflet. We went out eating on a pizzeria before coming back to the lounge.

There we played Candamir - die Ersten Siedler, the new adventure game by Klaus Teuber. I had made notes from the ProfEasy tutorial and it was in most cases enough to get around and play it. We played with Matt (owner of Spielboy.com site) and his friend Patrick. The game is very family in it's combats, as if you combat and fail, you can continue, although you miss condition, which is equal to movement points. You try to fulfil requirements from 4 different village inhabitants, which requires 3 different kind of raw material. Those fulfilled requirements gives victory points and you should also fix at least 3 for a certain villager and than you get an extra (like knights in Settlers), which can be taken by someone else who gets more points. You can also pick up ingredients to potions when you are moving around. In every turn you start by trading, which wasn't much done and then either Moving OR Build & Brew, that is fulfil requirements or brew potions to add +2 on a die roll, heal +2 or force everyone else with equal or more VP to lose condition. Every player has their own character with different statistics on Charisma, Battle, Accuracy and Strength, which are used in combat and resolving adventure cards, which might increase you stats, as well as found experience counters spread out on the terrain map. Christina saw quite soon one thing and that was that collecting cattle and goats was a quick and easy way to fulfil the requirements, meanwhile the other of us played as an ordinary adventure game, that is building up our characters well first. This strategy would have been easily counteracted, if we had seen it, by using it ourselves and then everyone could have continued as us. Patrick seemed to dislike it, but we other liked it quite well. Rate 7 of 10.

Then we played Oltremare for the second time with Anders Fager (designer of Hellgame) and his friend Christian. Christian seemed to like it and played well, but Anders couldn't be  engaged in it as he thought it wasn't enough conflicts. We were still suffering from the late night, so we went to bed around midnight.

Friday 22nd of October
We met Johan and Magnus at the fair, as I had reserved places for the new Alea prototype Louis XIV - Ränkespiele am Hofe des Sonnenkönigs, which is designed by Ruediger Dorn. At the table beside we said hello to Greg Schloesser and his friends Dale Yu and James Miller. It 's an influence type kind of game, which is very promising. It's also different, as you have 12 turnable character cards on the table. The main goal is to solve different kind of quests, which comes in 3 difficulties. Each gives an advantages in the next rounds (totally 4 rounds), so you prefer the difficult ones in the beginning and easier ones in the last round. You can also get single points by collecting shields. You play cards, which make you put 3 influence markers (2 if a joker card) from your private reserve, on a certain character, although it's only on the first one you need to put at least one of the markers on this character, but the rest can be put on a character diagonally from this, and if you still have a marker left you can continue diagonally to this one. After you have played 4 of the 5 cards you got for the round, you start to check each character and who has the most influence. If someone wins the influence, he gets the advantage (mostly a tile required for the quests) for free, but he puts his marker in the outer reserve. The other may pay for the tile instead, if it's not only just the first player who gets it (often on the opposite side of these character card), but they get the marker back to the private reserve instead. If someone has won a quest tile for free, then the character tile will be turned for the next round. On some character tiles you have to set a certain amount of markers to get and then all get the advantage. It could be both money or tiles and sometimes shields. You will also get a single tile for each quest tile, which remains at the end and cannot be used. Most important is to get “crown quest tiles”, as they works as jokers for all other kinds. There are some luck of draw of the quest cards and influence cards, but it can be counteracted quite well, so generally it seems to be a good game. Rate 8 of 10.

After this game we went with Magnus to Schmied spiele counter and got to test a copy of Im Schatten das Kaisers. First we had to sit on the floor, but halfway through the rules we got a table, which was much more comfortable. This is another kind of influence game, with a new nice twist. All your characters have voting capabilities for the Kurfürsten, as well as bishops, and these have the possibility to vote for the Emperor, which currently is one of the players. The twist is that the characters start out as 15 year old and ages through turning the counters between each round. They can also marry a woman and get two votes together. You start each round with getting income (basic = 6) and use this income this or following rounds to buy blue or red cards. Like alchemist to either age or make a character younger, marry a character, buy a city, move a character etc. If you have used a majority of blue cards, you will have a boy born for the next round, otherwise you will have a girl, which you either have to marry to another player for a victory point or send to a monastery for a gold. It's a nice game, but not enough good than I can play someone else’s copy. Rate 6 of 10.

We went together to the restaurant to have a late lunch. There we met an elder couple from Switzerland, but both spoke Swedish well and the lady had lived in our town Borås for a while! There we also saw the Swedish game designer Dan Glimne at the same table, although we never spoke with him. Magnus wanted to go shopping now, so we went away by ourselves. I wanted to test Camelot Legends, but Christina was less keen on it, so it finished that I bought a signed copy anyway and hoped it would be good enough.

After some coffee and small doughnuts, we had strength to “fight us” into the Queen Games booth and test Flandern 1302. We got a table and found a German couple, Sasha and Steffi, with whom we played. They loved the game, but we thought that it felt just like another, simpler influence game, although there is apparently quite a lot of planning and timing in the game. Rate 5 of 10.

The time was soon 7 pm, so we left and went back to the hotel waiting for Johan and Magnus to come there with the car. It was slightly difficult, as Johan had just been there once. We ate at a pub nearby, although it took longer time than anticipated. Magnus told us that he had bought around 50 games, but it was the first time for him in Essen and he had only 25 games before...
Magnus says: "I spent less than 15 euros per game on average. Smaller games, like card decks normally costs around 5 euros and large boxes you can find from 15-25 euros. This is less than half of the price level for games in shops in Sweden. Futhermore most games never appear in our shops."

Back at the hotel we played the newly bought Bohn Hansa, that is Bohnanza as a board game. It turned out to be a nice game, although we didn't use the trading as much and cleverly as we understood that we could have done. As we started late, we wasn't finished until midnight and they went back to their hotel. Rate 7 of 10.

Meanwhile the lounge had filled up with many more or less known gamers playing everywhere. I spoke a few words with Bruno Cathala who was playing his new prototype La Malediction de la Momie (=the curse of the mummy), which at least has a nice appearance, although I didn't got to know much about the game itself. He played with Anye Sellers from Dancing Eggplant Games and a couple of unknown guys. I also spoke with Trond, who played Ys with two Norwegians: Johanna and Ruben and they apparently knew about me from the Norwegian board game forum, which I’m attending sometimes, as well as from my site. According to Trond, Ys is a game which shares many traits of Morgenland. It was time to go to bed as we had to go up early.

Saturday 23rd of October
After breakfast we took U11 to the railway station and the first train to Dortmund. We got some sandwiches to eat, as it wouldn't be any lunch today. Next train change was in Hamburg Dammtor to Kiel, where we arrived around 3:45, in good time for the ferry, so we had something to eat at the station. Christina spent the evening to study, meanwhile I unpacked and checked all of my games.

Sunday 24th of October
We arrived well in Gothenburg at 9 am and just had to drive back to Borås, where we arrived just after 10 pm.

It seems as all those Essen trips have different character. This year it was unfortunately less gaming than I was used to, but I hope to catch up with this on the convention in Borås in 2 weeks.

My list of new games:

·        Lost Valley, 20 Euro

·        Bootleggers, 40 Euro

·        Age of Steam, 27 Euro (used in shrink)

·        AoS expansion #3 (Scandinavia & Korea), 12 Euro

·        Candamir – die Ersten Siedler, 23 Euro

·        Return of Heroes, 35 Euro

·        Neuland, 45 Euro

·        Railroad Dice, 30 Euro

·        Oltremare – Merchants of Venice, 12 Euro

·        Bohn Hansa, 20 Euro

·        Camelot Legends, 20 Euro

·        Das Zepter von Zavandor (based on Outpost), 30 Euro

·        Runebound expansion – Shadow of Margath, 6 Euro

·        Ticket to Train expansion – Mystery Train, free

 

Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson
Christina Arrindell

 

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