The SPIEL in Essen is a special event for board gamers all over the world. Especially for us Europeans, of course, but you do meet people from pretty much everywhere, and those who can’t go are still interested in the new releases. I don’t have exact numbers, but I estimate that the Essen fair is still the largest mass release date for tabletop games in the world, likely followed by Gen Con.
Well, another Essen fair has come and gone this last week, and I have some numbers. 1,021 exhibitors. About 1,200 new games to discover. 174,000 visitors. All these numbers are new records, showing that board games are still growing in popularity. That’s awesome because board gamers are, with very few exceptions, good people, and the world can do with more of those. The downside for me, personally, of the growing Essen fair is that it’s now officially impossible to look at all the new games in only four days. There’s just no way, and it makes me anxious that I might miss a great game somewhere. For the same reason, my apologies to everyone that expected to see us but didn’t. We did our best to visit everyone, but we failed.
A second downside of the growing fair was getting there was complete and utter chaos Thursday and Friday. Someone organizing parking and transportation really dropped the ball there and unhappy visitors on those two days complained about being in traffic for an hour to park near the fair, only to then be rerouted to the Park & Ride and wait there for another hour before they fit into a bus. It was not fun. However, the fair redeemed itself on Saturday. It was easily the most crowded day of the fair, but the P&R buses were prepared that day and waiting times were down to ten minutes. That was great work, I just with the first two days had been better.
But I shouldn’t complain too loudly about people dropping the ball, because we did, too. The plan was, just like last year, to have a detailed fair report in a Facebook album, with all our collected photos and explanations where they are from. But we were three people taking photos this year and we’re having some technical difficulties collecting them all in one place, so for starts you’ll just have my own meager collection there. I will update the album with more photos as I get them. You can already see a lot of what we did on our Instagram, though!
Besides minor inconveniences, the fair was an awesome one for us as always. For some others, this year was an unfortunate ones. The great people at LudiCreations had a tragic encounter with either one of the few bad people playing games or, more likely, with professional criminals that had entered the fair looking for easy money to grab. The few seconds it took to check the back room for a game were enough for the cash box with Saturday’s earnings to disappear. This happened late in the afternoon on the busiest day, so the loss must have been a significant part of the sales they made in Essen. May the thief be forced to play Monopoly in hell for eternity. But the sad story took a turn for the awesome. In the night following the theft, a game was designed about the jarring experience, an asymmetric micro game called Steal This Game about stealing from a publisher’s booth in Essen. This game is now on Kickstarter to help recover the losses. Thanks to everyone who helped make this game happen, and to all of the Kickstarter backers that brought the project up to $15,000 at the time of writing. All of you are awesome for helping those great people when they need it.
Now we’ll pull up the comfy chairs here in the Meeple Cave, hook up the IV caffeine and start playing new games. We’ll let you know how it’s going soon. And to all the many people I meet exactly once a year in Essen: I’m looking forward to next year.