Although our Essen Saga started yesterday already, we could only start writing down the Chronicles of Essen 2012 today. Yesterday we got back just before midnight because we went to eat Indian with three Brazilian friends. Boardgames connect people all over the world. The restaurant was La India Bonita, by the way, and don’t be scared by an Indian restaurant with a Spanish name in Germany, the food is very good.
Anyway, the fair is definitely fuller this year than last. Part of that might be that pupils in North-Rhine Westphalia are still on vacation this week, but the age average didn’t seem much lower than usual. But the halls today and yesterday seemed as packed as they were on the weekend last year. I’m a bit scared of tomorrow, I don’t mind telling you. Last year’s 150.000 visitors will certainly be surpassed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number got close to the 200.000. Counting bruises on my shins, there are also more people with suitcases, hand carts and rolling boxes around. Either this whole economic crisis thing is not as serious as everyone says, or boardgames are replacing gold bars as the most popular investment.
When we started out yesterday, we had a lot of trouble finding any place to try games. Asmodee was full, Pegasus was full, Repos Productions was full, and all the others were too small to start with. So it turned out our first Essen 2012 game to try was Diavolo, for it’s sheer virtue of being playable while standing. It’s a small, quick game from Asmodee with a bunch of dice where one of them gives the rule for this turn, and you have to decide quickly which colour of number dice is best in that rule and grab a space invader of that colour from the table. Not exactly a gamer’s game, but we had fun with it.
After that, things got better for us and we did manage to try a whole bunch of games that we wanted – especially today, with Niko and Eike in tow. There’s no way I can remember all the games in chronological order, so I’ll just drop some names you might want to check out.
In new abstract games, we had a lot of fun with Backspindle Games’ Codinca, a lighter abstract for up to four players. Your goal is to create four patterns of tiles on the board by switching two tiles and turning one over, supplemented with some special actions that you can only take a total of five in a game, while the other players try the same. It’s a lighter abstract, but our first impression was very, very good. Not so light was the abstract that started today: Khitan. I enjoyed the game, but my brain seems to be getting to old to flip hexagons over one edge and figure out which other edge is going to point in what direction. Still, a good game to check out.
The 2F-Spiele booth hardly needs a recommendation, everyone wants to try Copycat. Unfortunately, everyone was also in the line for a test game in front of us, so we got our copy but didn’t have a chance to try.
Al Rashid by Yemaja is a heavier game, maybe the heaviest we got to try so far this year. It’s worker placement in the medieval arab world, and it’s quite generous with the options it gives you. There’s gathering resources in a number of different areas, each of which may or may not be occupied by hostile forces that need to be dealt with before doing commerce, there’s gaining the favour of the different guilds and using their services for an immediate action, or buying a title from them for a more permanent benefit. It’s a game well worth trying if you’re into heavier games, my first impression was that I will enjoy it but might be frustrated by the five round limit. That’s when my plans just start to come together, dammit.
Three more unexpected games crossed our way today, unexpected in the sense that we didn’t know anything about them before the fair. Columba (Ludocom) is a tile-laying game with some similarities to Hanging Gardens, but everyone plays on a common field. There is some great interaction and interesting ways to mess with your opponents. Especially the team play in four players is brilliant. Stragoo Games’ Mafia City is a majority game with seven areas to fight over, sending your mafiosi to control them, supported by cards from your hand. Finally, Big Badaboom is not a game of strategy, it’s a game of goblins under the control of an evil necromancer learning everything about bombs. By dismantling bombs. And blowing themselves up, then being revived and doing the same all over again, until they earned enough money to bribe the guard troll and escape. My explanation doesn’t do this card game justice, check it out at the Gigantoskop booth.
To end for today, we got to check up on two Kickstarter projects we had talked about before. Ted Alspach’s Mutant Meeples turned out exactly like we wanted it: it’s Ricochet Robots with superpowered meeples. Having a different special ability on each meeple really improves the concept – Niko would disagree here, but I’m writing this, so my opinion counts – and, let’s be honest, superpowered meeple are hard to resist. The other project was Twin Tin Bots that we presented only last week. I was surprised that Twin Tin Bots is actually a good deal harder than Robo Rally, the game it doesn’t have all that much in common with but will always be compared to because you are programming robots. You have to plan ahead much more, and bad card luck is not an excuse why you mess up here. Flatlined Games have a playable prototype at their booth, if you’re not sure yet if you want to back this campaign go check on it and then decide.
For a more colourful view of our Saga, have a look at the Flickr gallery: