Spiel ’10 at Essen – Day 2

Today was our second and the general last day of Spiel ’10, and as every year it’s a shame it’s over so soon. Well, we did miss the first two days. For the general feel of the fair, just check yesterdays article, creatively titled Spiel ’10 at Essen – Day 1. Today was, subjectively, less crowded than yesterday, but that doesn’t mean you found a spot at any gaming table easily, or that you were not in danger of being trampled to death.

We picked up exactly were we were so rudely interrupted by the fair’s closing time yesterday and played a game of i9n. It proved to be quite as fun as expected. The punch card mechanism – you add one punch card every phase of the game, each of them reducing the number of oil wells that you can successfully drill until in the last phase there is only one – works really well as a hidden source of information in a deduction game. It took me a bit to get to grip with the different attributes that define each field, but once I did i9n played very fluently. She-who-endures-me qualified for the Sunday qualification round for the championship by winning here.

We passed by Portal Publishing next and got an introduction to 51st State. I’m not going into the rules here, the game did show up on the weekly news a few times. I quite enjoyed the 4 rounds we managed to play, the game does force you to make tough choices in how you approach the location cards. I’m not sure how the resource system will play out over a full game, but I’d sure give it a try. Sadly, my fellow Meoples either didn’t like the mechanics or the post-apocalyptic setting, so I will have a hard time getting more play out of this.

MESAboardgames then gave us an introduction to Sao Jorge’s Trophy. In this rather light game, you walk around the city of Lisbon collecting trophies for victory. The game appears to be a very simple move-to-location game, but when you add some character special abilities, the inability to turn around and the ability to steal from others, things get more interesting. In our trial game, special abilities seemed to be slightly unbalanced, but from just one game, you shouldn’t go by this judgement.

We then had a quick tour of abstract strategy games, trying Lino, PentagoDiaballik and Logan Stones in quick succession. All those games look great, but Pentago and Logan Stones seem to offer the greater depth on first try. Pentago needs a whole lot of orientation skills to win, Logan Stones is mostly a test of memory. We also utterly failed to find a table to play Vinhos, the 3 hours it takes to make good wine were just to long to wait for a game to finish.

The big disappointment of the day was Fabula. While the game looks every bit as nice as Dixit from the same author and artist team, it just doesn’t play as easily. One player is the story teller, reading story chapters matching the image chosen before, the other players use item cards to tell a part of the story about how they overcome the obstacles put before them. I really don’t like that the storyteller just decides who deserves points for his story and who doesn’t, there had to be a better solution for this. It didn’t help that we were unable to resolve all our rules questions from the English rules, either.

While Sizinha went to play the i9n qualification match (sadly, she lost), us others checked Adrenaline Brush, just on the other side of the aisle. Their Games In Frames series bridges the gap between boardgame and art – when you’re not playing the game, you hang them on the wall as paintings. The game we tried was not from that series, but looks every bit as appealing. Elixir of Life is a pure bluffing game. Players are alchemists, trying to create the famed elixir. To move around the board and collect ingredients, they play cards with numbers and symbol, but they are mostly played face down, so you can lie about everything – and bad things happen when you’re inevitably found out. In two people, the game was trudging along, but when the game’s inventor herself joined us halfway through, it quickly became a whole lot more fun, and we were assured that adding more players makes it even better. Let me just say one thing here: don’t EVER play bluffing games with professionals, you will end up humiliated.

After the i9n qualification was over, it was time for Junkyard Races. Once more, we got our introduction from the creator himself, and we had a great time with this racing game. You race your carts around the junkyard, across rickety bridges, mud and grass, you collect bombs and oil-slicks to drop on peaceful competitors (that was a joke, there is no peaceful competitors here) and you can upgrade your cart in various ways. The tracks look very long at first, but the game moves much more quickly than I was expecting, and the one round we agreed to play was over too quickly.

It was then almost time to leave, we just managed to try out Loch Ness on our way to the exit. In Loch Ness you have to predict where the legendary monster will next surface in order to take photos. Some special abilities to pick each round add some more options to the game. It remains a very light game, but one that I wouldn’t have minded finishing. But before we could, Spiel ’10 was over and we had to return the game, unfinished.

Now, the only thing to do is play through our enormous loot pile and wait for next year.

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