Essen 2009 Day 1 – Thursday

23 Oct

Today’s photos (not many at all) here:

Essen day 1 – well, official day 1 anyway. We managed to get to the Messe just after 9am, with what seemed like superhuman effort. Of course, as soon as we arrived, Otto announced that she needed to go to the toilet.

I picked up some games for a gaming buddy and wandered around the halls a bit, before starting duty at Lookout at 10am. This is the only shift I plan to work this year, as I already have quite a few meetings scheduled for the fair and I want to play some games and enjoy being a visitor as well. It was lovely to catch up with some familiar faces from last year, including Maurice (who is going to play kids’ games with me on Saturday) and Stefanie (who lives in Melbourne and is a good gaming friend of ours).

One highlight of the morning was the appearance of Petra, a gamer we have got to know in Wuppertal. Last time we gamed with her, we mentioned that we were collecting German political material to pimp our copy of Die Macher. She arrived today with a wonderful picture of the two potential German chancellors (Angela Merkel and the guy who lost) – it’s one of those pictures that chances depending on how you angle it. I stood and giggled for a while – it will look perfect in that Moskito box.

Otto had wanted to stay and help too, but Fraser dragged her off – with promises of the Galleria. It’s not entirely clear how long they were there, but I suspect it could have been the full 2 hours.

I knocked off from Lookout at 12 and headed to Hall 10 with Fraser and Otto. Biggie was enjoying working at Lookout, and decided to stay – it helped that her friend the Azubine had arrived to work the stand as well. They seemed happy to keep her, so I headed off. Meanwhile, our bags and trolley had made it into Lookout’s storeroom – which was good (because we didn’t have to carry them everywhere) and bad (because my clipboard with shopping/interest list and gaming buddy’s shopping list was in it). Oh well.

We stopped at Cwali, where we bought Tricky trek, the new animal game, as well as the Powerboats expansion. Then it was on to HABA, where I introduced myself to their PR person (I am on Boardgames Australia’s Best Children’s Game jury). We had a great time here.

We started with Der Kleine Magier – a memory game with movement. The players are magicians who are doing their big magic test – but they need to find animals to use in their spells. There are 3 large cog-wheels on the board, each with 3 holes for animal tiles. Magicians’ hats are then placed on top of the animal times, covering them up. On a player’s turn, she rolls the dice and moves the corresponding number of spaces (2 or 3) then must try to remember where the appropriate animal is. Using the magic wand (which contains a magnet), she lifts a magician’s hat (with a magnet in the top) to reveal the animal. Correct animals give stars, and the player with the most stars wins.

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

Complicating this are the three cog wheels. To quote the setup rules, “You have done it well if all three cog wheels move at the same time when you move one of them.” This makes the three wheels turn – which of course moves the hats & animals too. For the “simple” game, each cog has a red, yellow and green-topped hat; for the complex game, one has only red hats etc.

We liked this quite a bit – it’s a clever memory game that also goes quite quickly – the path gives the game a defined end. That can be a problem with memory games, if everyone is universally bad at them. The game is in the standard square HABA box (not the super huge one).

Next, we tried Polizeialarm (Police alarm). The backstory here is that there are robbers at 2 of 12 crime scenes, and the police have to find them. Players can take it in turns to be the police or the robber, or can designate one player to be the robber for the whole game.

The play of the game sounds simple: Move a small police car through the city streets. But it has a very clever movement mechanic.

The main board is actually two boards, placed on top of one another. The lower board is plain, but has a strong magnet in its centre. The upper board shows a map of the city streets. The police car starts in the centre of the board. To “move” it through the streets, you actually move the board itself, leaving the lower board with magnet in place – the car then stays in the same absolute position but its position on the top board changes as you move the board.

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

It’s hard to explain, but it’s rather cool.

The police move the car around the board to 12 different crime scenes, searching for where the robbers might be. Meanwhile, the robber has six vaults to “crack” – by rolling 3 dice, setting them aside as possible, to match the 3-digit numbers on the vault.

I really really liked this game, but I suspect that the novely and gimmick may wear a little thin. I would like to have the chance to find out, though!

Fraser and Otto played Diego Drachenzahn while I went to get the Bigster from the booth (and chat to Stefanie some more).

Next game for alll of us was an older title, Schildi Schildkroete – -a game where you stroke a ball on a turtle’s back to make it run away. It’s very hard to describe and it is a very odd movement mechanic, but it works. This was fun but not something that we are looking for right now.

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

Last game – and our favourite of all the HABA titles we tried today – was Schatz der Mumie/Pharaoh’s Treasure. This is a dice game where you try to match patterns on “artifacts” to fill an “excavation site” board. All four of us enjoyed this, and it’s a small box for HABA so I imagine quite inexpensive. This is on the must-buy list.

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

As we left HABA, fierman from Boardgamegeek said hi. This is one of those fun coincidences, as we were both in geekchat for a while last night.

Next, we moved to Drei Magier Spiele, where we played a giant version of Klickado. I had drooled over this last year at Essen, so was glad to have a chance to try it – and the giant version made it particularly fun.

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

I took off my top so that I could go incognito. This didn’t entirely work (which was really nice – I honestly didn’t think anyone would recognise me) but it felt like I was out of uniform. I think I’ll do the whole day that way tomorrow before wearing the colours for the weekend rush.

Biggie complained that she was bored (“you’re only playing KID games!”) and took herself back to Lookout. The three of us tracked down Ann and Ageeth and we all headed off looking for Cocktail games..

We didn’t find them (I found out later that they are at the Huth stand this year – France has left hall 9) but we did find a stand where they were happy to demonstrate Rythme et Boulet (We will rock you), another of last year’s titles.

Let me say right now: This was the most fun we had all day. Possibly the most fun we will have all year. It was a scream.

The rules for this game are simple. Each player starts with one card. Each card shows a different hand action (scary monster arms, hitchhiker thumb, bunny ears, victory punch, etc). Then you start doing the “We will rock you” rhythm – bang, bang, clap; bang, bang, clap (where bang is thumping the table). The starting player replaces a clap with her own hand gesture, then must do another player’s gesture instead of the next clap. On the next clap, that player must do his own gesture and then, on the next clap, another player’s, etc.

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

I don’t think we had a single successful “pass” in the entire game. Each time you cock up, you take a bomb card and then pass your card to another player of your choice. So one player may end up with 3 or 4 cards in front of herself.

I laughed so hard that I was crying.

We also tried another French game that was maybe called “Durchblick” – each player has a set of 4 see-through squares, with patterns of dots on them. Players draw a card from the box, which shows a pattern of dots. There’s then a competition to be the first to replicate exactly that pattern, using all 4 clear sheets. Hard to describe, but very nice.

We ended up buying both of those.

Next stop was Amigo, where we played a full game of Atlantis (we liked it a lot – reminiscent of Cartagena, although less so than we thought on reading the rules – potential for some really bloody blocking plays. Friends who tried it 2 player thought it was OK but would be horrid with 4 – so there are different opinions here.).

From Essen 09 Day 1 – Thursday

We also tried Nur die Ziege zaehlt, the latest in their line of goat cardgames (this one might have been released at Nuernberg). Fraser thinks this is the best of the goat cardgames yet. I thought it was hard to plan and a bit fickle, but quick enough for that not to be an unpardonable sin. We will probably get this one, as well.

I think that’s all we played today – next, we went back to Lookout (“Go away, I’m working – but can I have some money for a drink?” was Biggie’s response) and into Hall 5 to chat with people at Boardgamegeek. We saw Kelly and Steve from Australia again, and a group that were playing Loyang, and we tried a Lego game called Pirate something. In fact, Fraser and Otto tried this as I was chattering again – I think F mumbled something about a bit much luck and poor man’s Mastermind, but I didn’t get the detail from him.

Some games I have heard buzz on:
– Tobago seems to be the main one so far. Very keen to try this so far.
– It’s late and I am tired so I will just say “The Queen game that starts with C” = Colonia. I think. Keen to try this but delegating to Fraser, Biggie, Ann & Ageeth.
– Tammany Hall seems to be on people’s radar. I confess to buying it (and several other Treefrog games) sight unseen.
– Loyang seems popular with those who have played it. As does Farmers of the Moor, but I think most people are just buying that without playing it.
– Havana is another one that sounds well worth trying. Even people who were lukewarm about Cuba seem to be enjoying it.
– Ghost stories: White Moon is very popular
– Dominion: Seaside. Well, duh.
– Darwinci. Just looks fun.

Also, Farbton Keramik. This year, I am not leaving without some fabulous gaming dishes. (Fraser, who does the washing up, has pointed out that they are not entirely practical. I, who do not wash up, choose to ignore this very sensible advice.)

Bad news today was that a couple of friends won’t be making it over for the Messe this year. Their presence will be very much missed.

1:15 am and I have a breakfast to attend in the morning. Goodnight, my dears. Hope there was something here for you.


Posted by on October 23, 2009 in essen, games



4 responses to “Essen 2009 Day 1 – Thursday

  1. John Mellby

    October 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    My wife had a veto on going to Essen (money and she gets seriously upset by crowds),
    so I have to stick with my local convention (Bgg Con).
    But we greatly appreciate your reports.
    My wife doesn’t even game much but got to know of you from last year’s reports,
    and still is happy to hear what Melissa is up to.
    Get some rest and keep having fun!

  2. James Cheevers

    October 23, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    The game with the dots is(was?) called ‘Vitrail’ over here.

  3. Garry Lloyd

    October 24, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Great to speak to you yesterday, Melissa. As you were raving about Atlantis, we played it and thought it was really good – an evil Cartagena. Hope you enjoy the rest of the show.

  4. Neil

    October 27, 2009 at 8:08 am

    That is the best gene Simmons impersonation since Gene went unmasked. Love your work Fraser.


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