So, here we are at OMGESSEN09! (That’s a bit of a mouthful, I admit). Today – Tuesday – was setup day, so I don’t have a great deal of exciting stuff to tell you about. Except that, well, it’s Essen.
We got back yesterday from our week in Austria and Italy, arriving at the flat around 15:00 (that’s 3pm for non-Europeans). The first order of business? Wash every item of clothing we owned, including those we had on. (OK, we did have 1 set of clean clothes each in Wuppertal, we changed into those first). I took a washing basket and a massive square IKEA bag designed to hold a small truck to the launderette and spent a peaceful 2 hours watching the washing go round and round, first in the washing machines (5 of them! OMG!) and then in the dryers.
We actually switched from a top-loader to a front-loader at home about 2 or 3 years ago. I remember that for the first couple of weeks we had the new one, Otto would just sit on the bath steps and watch the clothes going round. “There’s my T-shirt! YAY! There’s Biggie’s jeans! YAY!” – she even drew a picture of the washing machine at kindergarten, while other children were drawing horsies and puppies and mummy.
OK, that had nothing to do with Essen. But it was a cute story.
Home again and our night-before-Essen priority was: BEDTIME. Mostly for the kids, but for us as well. We didn’t even get around to packing, although I tried to hit the email backlog.
Meanwhile, we discovered that the one load of washing I had done at home (because it was non-tumble-dryable) had got stuck in the machine and it wouldn’t open. Of course, we discovered this at 10pm when it was too late to run another load.
This morning, I was up around 7:30 (that’s am for non-Europeans), hitting the computer. Here’s where the Essen preparation really started.
First, I finished our personal spreadsheet. That’s a list, by publisher and booth number, of games we are interested in – with an indication of HOW interested we are. This is based on the previews at Spielbox and at Boardgame News, as well as on what we have read about the buzz on games on Boardgamegeek – and on what we have heard from other people. Being a couple complicates things – if I am very interested in a game but Fraser doesn’t want it at all, does that make it a higher priority than one we are both interested in? Realistically, it’s probably a matter of trying to look at both and picking the ones that we think stand a good chance of table time. With the exception of Power Grid, which Fraser loves and I am lukewarm about, and possibly word games, which I generally like and Fraser generally avoids, we tend to have very similar taste in games. That’s a good thing.
I’m not sure how useful that personal spreadsheet is, but it’s replicable – if we lose it, we can print another.
I printed two copies of that, as well as a copy of the shopping list I am filling for a gaming buddy. And then I wrote in the other expansion that he’s added since sending through the list. I should have updated the spreadsheet, but time was a-passing. By now, the children were awake and clamouring for email (Biggie) and Cafe World/Farmville (Otto). Damn that internet and its evil childish allure.
Next print job was the Big Table at Spielbox. When you go to the Spielbox site and you click on the Tabellarische Übersicht on their home page, you see a loooooong list of games with some text. But if you click on the print view, you get a table which makes a fabulous checklist for games as you move around the fair. I printed one full-size to be our main copy, and another smaller copy (2 sheets to a page) for backup.
I was going to print the hall plans but they just weren’t convenient. My wish list is to have them all easily downloadable in a multi-page PDF file, with the hall plan and the list of exhibitors. Oh well – we’ll get a press booklet with that information tomorrow, so there was no hurry.
Packing our bags was easy as the laundry was all folded and sorted from last night. Six tops each (Fraser had girlish Angst about what t-shirts to pack), a couple of pairs of jeans and oh dear! Washing still in the machine! I sorted it out and got it to spin, then hung things out.
Next stop was some personal maintenance. Not that anyone else will care (or notice) but I will. I can’t say it was terribly relaxing (ouch) but at least I feel I’ve made an effort.
Final packing done and we were ready to leave. We grabbed the computer and modem (our hotel charges a lot for internet, but our USB modem and 25-Euro-a-month flatrate internet access don’t cost any more than we had already spent), remembered the printouts and press passes, and headed out the door.
En route, we stopped for notebooks and pens – the Bigster has her own L-Deck card this year, so she would need to sign hers. Unfortunately, the pens I bought don’t seem to write well on cards – I might have to pick up some more tomorrow.
Checking into our hotel, we had a nice surprise. We’d booked it last November at a very good rate, which was non-refundable. I’d figured I would easily be able to on-sell it if I needed to. Fraser had been fretting that we would get another room with a double bed and a double sofa bed, which just doesn’t work with our kids (they beat one another up in their sleep, then continue it when they wake up), but the woman at reception assured us that we had 2 folding beds. In fact, it was better than that: the door opened onto a room with two folding beds … and a leather lounge suite. On hunting, we discovered our bed around a corner in a separate area of the room – they’d upgraded us to a suite, to make room for the kids’ beds. It gets better – not only do we have a coffee machine of our own, we also have a wardrobe the size of most of the stands at OMGESSEN – we actually moved Biggie’s bed into the wardrobe! She’s delighted by the privacy and I think she is having echoes of Harry Potter as well. We figure if we want to do any gaming we will move Otto’s bed into our room (there’s room!) and use the living area: noice. At less than €100 a night, that’s a steal.
Anyway … all that was just fluff … because at 14:17 (that’s 2:17pm for non-Europeans) we headed up the road to the Messe.
Compared to last year at the same time, I think less was set up.
We found Ann in Hall 9 at Lookout Games (she’d actually driven past our hotel as we were unloading our car) and watched them set things up for a while. The Bigster was excited to get her L-deck cards (and annoyed that they were VERY PINK – hahaha). We chatted for a while then agreed to come back around 3 to sort some more cards. Next stop was Z-Man games, where we chatted with Zev and his team for a while and picked up a copy of Endeavor. Fraser played this at Hanno’s in September, liked it and is keen to play it again. He is keen to explore its various options – and I am keen to try it. It was on our “definitely get” list.
Saying hello to Ralph at H@ll Games (also in Hall 9, just near Z-Man), we admired the Loyang displays at the stand. I think the colour scheme looks particularly effective, and I saw some boxes that Uwe had signed in gold pen which just looked great. (Note to self: Actually get a SIGNED Rosenberg game this Messe. Preferably tomorrow.).
After this, we wandered fairly aimlessly through Hall 6, 4 and 5. The girls were excited to see the Chessex people – they’d visited their stand at Le Monde du Jeu in Paris, and had bought dice necklaces which had since broken through overuse. I’d promised them they could get another at the Messe, but I don’t think they entirely believed that Chessex would be here.
In Hall 5, we saw the Kaufhof people unloading their stuff. They’re interesting because Kaufhof is a department store – they discount a few of the more popular new titles, as well as bringing some fairly heavily discounted older games. From memory, they had the best prices (or nearly the best) on Keltis and Settlers: Deutschland edition last year.
Back to Hall 9, where we caught up with Phil Davies from the Australian Games Expo. Phil also runs Mind Games: Albury and Mind Games: Canberra, and does a lot of fantastic work promoting gaming through his shop and through the expo. He’s been a strong supporter of Boardgames Australia right from the start, and he tries to pick up a good range of products when he comes to Essen. (Aussies – I saw some interesting things disappearing into his magic bag already today).
Also at 9-40, we saw Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, who writes the very best day-by-day Essen recaps http://www.boardgame.de/specials/messe/essen09/essen09.htm . I don’t know when he sleeps! It was nice to introduce him to the rest of the family and of course we posed for a photo together. Watch for the goodies he gives away for readers of his daily updates – fans of Lookout Games might recognise something.
After the traditional sorting party, Fraser headed for Essen station to pick up Aldie and some of his masses of baggage. This was trickier than it should be, due to rebuilding work at Essen station. Advice for weary travellers: don’t plan to get to the platforms in a hurry – and don’t expect lifts or escalators! Meanwhile, the girls, Ann and I wandered around the halls again.
We stopped in Hall 4 to talk to Krysztof and his colleagues at Polish publisher Kuźnia Gier. (An aside: Krysztof told me that they were the first exhibitor to start setting up, arriving at the halls at 7am on Monday.) Ann and Biggie had a demo of Kingpin, which Ann seemed to like and Biggie thought was great (I will check it out myself or rely on Ann’s judgement – Biggie is likely to think that everything is great) while Otto and I played with Kung Fu.
Kung Fu is a simultaneous trading and set collecting game for 4-8 players. The slightly preposterous idea is that you are completing your martial arts training with an exam, where you have to be able to do various different poses: the tiger, the feral monkey, the crab and the stork – or maybe the dragon, which is a “wild” card. errm, pose. Different combinations are faced for players to complete, and then a frenzied trading round begins – “I can give you a crab and a stork for a pair of monkeys” etc. I bought a copy for €10 as I like the 4-8 player bracket and the artwork really is beautiful. We tried it over dinner and felt that 4 was definitely the lower end of the range – it would be better with 6, 7 or 8, as that increases the number of cards that are in play. We did enjoy it, although Otto found it hard to articulate what she needed quickly enough to keep up with the rest of us – which I guess is why they recommmend the game for ages 8 and up rather than 6 and up.
Looking at used games, we ran into Doug and Shelley Garrett, so Ann did her best stalker impersonation (one of the many reasons why she is so fabulous) and we chatted with them for a while. Then we wandered into the gallery off Hall 4 and saw some very strange Scottish men doing some odd male bonding ritual. Ann and Biggie had a turn, as well.
By now, the girls had had enough. Ann left to get back to the Netherlands in time for her basketball game, and Fraser was on the way back from dropping Aldie at the hotel. We got ourselves thoroughly lost making our way out of the Messe, which didn’t matter because we got to see stuff – mostly pallets of games, but including LOTS of copies of Dominion: Seaside. I haven’t been reading the threads about this, so was surprised to see a German edition clearly marked “Expansion #1″ – I guess that Seaside comes without treasure cards etc, so isn’t a full game. It’s still in the full-size box though – we’re being nauughty and dumping Dominion boxes as we go. When we get home, we’ll look at giant card boxes for the lot of it.
Finally getting out, we found Fraser and the car and headed to Allegro (a cafe/tapas bar) on Rüttenscheiderstrasse for dinner. Not exactly cheap, but it was pretty good and they have a kids’ menu. Fraser had Tortellini quattro formaggi (tortellini with 4 cheese sauce) and I had a chicken fillet on pasta napoli and mixed mediterranean veggies which seemed to have been baked into an omelet. Weird, but nice.
Back at the hotel, I unpacked (essential for a good Essen experience, I think – I even got out clothes for tomorrow) and then showered and washed my hair (ewww smoke in the bar) before bed. We’re aiming for a later than usual start tomorrow, with a goal to be at the Messe by 10.
And now? It’s 11:15 and it’s time for book and bed.
(A quick ad for my book – PopCo, by Scarlett Thomas. I picked this fairly randomly in Rome one day, as I needed something to read on the train to Pompeii. I’m really enjoying it – and it’s topical, as it’s about a woman who works for a games/toy company – described as being on a par with Hasbro or Mattel. It might be a bit girly, but it seems pretty good so far, about halfway through).
There it was – a very un-Esseny Essen report. I suspect my reports may be a little weird (a little weirdER?) this year, as it will be very different being here with my family than it was being here alone. Not bad, just different.