Category Archives: essen

Spiel 2011

I’ve spent the last five days in Essen – in spirit, if not in body. Thanks to the many blogs and dedicated reporters, Essen news gets out quickly – and thanks to bgg’s streaming video service, we can even see demos from the comfort of our own homes.

My plans to intrepidly experience the full virtual Essen were sadly doomed to failure. Timezones are not always friendly – 9am Essen time is 6pm here in Melbourne; My family didn’t seem to understand the meaning of “I’m doing this and will be unavailable after 6pm”; I had to work on key days; and the Bigster’s school evilly scheduled its annual musical breakfast for Sunday morning. Oy vey!

These issues and evil bandwidth-hogging neighbors aside, I managed to see a lot of the live stream and even to catch up on a few of the videos after the fact. I was very proud to make it all the way to the 7pm closing on Saturday night(4am), although less so when I had to get up at 7am for the concert. It was very very good, but still … 90 minutes’ sleep was really Not Enough.

The videos aren’t a passive experience. There’s chat, of course, which is a great part of the weekend and one I look forward to. And this year I found there was more support needed, particularly at the start, so between bgg, ustream and twitter I was kept pretty busy.

The quality of the presentations varied a bit this year. Kudos to the designers and publishers who checked out the live stream before their presentations. Props, too, to the people who tried something a little different. I was disappointed, though, that no-one tried lying on the table to present their game to the overhead camera.

And now, my wish list is astonishing. Really astonishing. I need to whittle it down and rework it – but first,i need to watch the rest of he videos. You never know when you’ll find a gem.


Posted by on October 24, 2011 in essen, games


Essen 2009 day 3 – Saturday 24th

We got in to the fair around 9.30 today. I don’t remember them having a special roped-off access to the halls last year, but that’s what they have this year. You go in through a gate and then there’s a kind of VIP corridor that should be lined with red carpet – because when you walk down it between the crowds of people waiting to get in, you feel like some Big Name Movie Star walking into a movie premiere.

Or maybe that is just me.

Once I had stopped posing for the cameras, we headed in. Sorry to the guy whose foot I apparently stepped on. But if you try to sneak in through the VIP entrance and get stopped, you quite possibly asked for it.

It seems like so long ago – as though I were writing about something I did 2 days ago, not 17 hours …

We headed straight for the Rio Grande Games stand today, where we had arranged to meet Ann & Ageeth at 10. We found a table (the girls settled at another one to systematically read all the Dominion: Seaside cards) and started to set up shipyard – which took us rather a long time. There are a LOT of tiles to sort, so the first play will involve lots of setup and hopefully a good supply of baggies to speed things up for future games.

The girls arrived at 10 and we started to make our way through the rules, which are clear and well-written, but extensive (which is a polite way to say really REALLY long). Scott Tepper was explaining a game at the next table, so we asked him to come to us when he was done, and waited 5 minutes or so for that (Fraser was still sorting tiles).

It really is so much easier to learn a game when you have a good game ‘splainer. By the time Scott was halfway through the rules, it was clear that the game was going to take a LONG time to play – and it was clear that I wanted to play it, very much. Essen rule applied: once you know you want a game, move on to the next thing.

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve already decided to buy this game. I don’t need to play it.”

Scott gave us the rest of the rules, then we tidied the table and got up to wander. By now, Biggie had joined in a game of Priests of Ra at the next table with Stephanie, Chris and Jeremiah – we arranged that she’d go directly to Lookout games, and we’d find her there later.

By dint of bribery (yes, I’ll buy you a hot dog AND a copy of Polizei-Alarm), we got Otto out of the front halls and over to hall 4. A detour through hall 6 netted her a selection of chessex dice necklaces, and then we started to search Hall 4 …

… when I realised it was time for my meeting with the SAZ, the game authors’ society. Thanks to Christian and Friedemann for your time in this busy Messe. It has given us something to think about, I’m sure.

Then it was time to meet Mousey to play kids’ games at HABA. Fraser was busy at BGG, I think playing something on webcam, so Otto and I headed for the fun stand. We played a few familiar games, a full game of Kayanak in which the adults cheated to punch as many holes as possible (we just wanted it to be over) and a partial game of Diego Drachenzahn, which I actually liked quite a bit – it’s a kids’ game with dexterity and betting. Just what you want them to learn before they go play shuffleboard in the casino.

Our final game here was a giant-sized Kleiner Magier.

Next stop after HABA was Drei Magier Spiele, who had 2 games that I was itching to try. The first, which I think was Der kleine Vampir or somethhing similar, was another glow-in-the-dark game like Die Nacht der Magier. Complicating things this time is the fact that you use magnets to push things around the board. This looked fun and gimmicky, just like Nacht der Magier. But we still get that out regularly (not often, but regularly) so this might not be a bad idea. Das Magische Labyrinth, which won thte 2009 DSP: Kinderspiel, also looked pretty darn good.

Up at the Neuheitenshow, I had a call from fraser, who said that the Bigster had not turned up at Lookout Games yet. We both
converged on the last seen location, Rio Grande Games, only to discover that she’d had so much fun playing with the other adults, she’d stayed to play Tobago and was just starting Factory Manager!

It’s hard to be annoyed with your kid for having fun playing great games with great people.

Actually, it appears to be impossible. Especially when she says, “Oh yes, I’d love to go see my friend, would you like my place?” to her dad who is a huuuuuuuuuuuge Power Grid fan.

Otto and I headed for Amigo, where she wanted to try one of the Lauras Stern games. With no tables available, we just waited – until Otto saw the Sitting Ducks shooting range.

Now, I am a bit anti-gun. To the point that I once returned a gift that one of Biggies’ friends had given her to the store, because it had a gun in it. It was tough to see Otto holding that thing – but I still celebrated when she finallly, on her sixth and last shot, knocked down a target.

We gave up on Lauras Stern and moved to Zoch, where we tried Mausgeflippt.

Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood to play this. the backstory drove me bananas and the game itself bored me. Sorry.

Eventually we made it back to BGG, where Friedemann arrived to set up a demo of Factory manager. Somehow I managed to get roped into playing this (it’s REALLY GOOD) so when Fraser arrived back from playing FM at Rio Grande, I was sitting at a table with Friedemann. Geek moment!

Sorry lovelies, it’s the new 2am and I must sleep. More of this later, but maybe not till Monday.



Posted by on October 25, 2009 in essen, games



Essen 2009 Day 2 – Friday 23rd

Quick update tonight because I am beyond tired.

Women in Toys meeting this morning was interesting but very sparsely attneded. I think it is worth following up for information about any  Australian groups (including, I think, a WiT chapter).

Next was a brief chat with Peter Eggert at Eggertspiele, followed by a longer chat with Guido Teuber from Mayfair. Very successful and interesting.

Meanwhile, Fraser played Cable Car and Montego Bay with Ann, Ageeth, Martin and the girls.

A drink run took longer than expected but should be worthwhile.

We played Hansa Teutonica but I had to stop playing to take a child to the toilet. I am getting sick of being at the mercy of 3 people’s bladders instead of just my own.

I think it was a bit late in the day for me to be trying the game. I’d like to try it again, but it felt surprisingly like I was placing arbitrary bits of coloured wood on a board. I was definitely too tired to try it, though.

Later, we tried Koplopers & Dwarsliggers. This is a dutch game and is not bad at all. Our game was interrupted by one of my daughters’ bladders. Again.

Last try of the day was Such a Thing, from Valley Games. This seemed pretty funny at the booth but really came into its element back in our room when we were playing something quick before bed.

Here’s the set of descriptions we came up with during our session.


Posted by on October 24, 2009 in essen, games



Essen 2009 Day 1 – Thursday

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



Essen 2009 – Press Wednesday

So. Wednesday – press day.

Today’s photos are here:

We arrived around 10am, a little later than we’d planned. We’ll have to improve on that tomorrow! Breakfast in the hotel was as fab as I remembered and they even have a squeezer for fresh orange juice: yum! I think Fraser even forgave the UHT milk after that.

The big dilemma was whether or not to wear my orange Lookout top. It’s not exactly press dress, you see. But would people recognise me without it? I was prepared to bet “no” especially as the only people I know here have probably never seen me out of it. In the end, I compromised and put it on once I got into the halls. But I’ll be incognito one day, just you wait.

Today, we were well-equipped. We left most of our bags behind – I even left my handbag & purse behind, although I did slip a little cash into a pocket. We each had a notebook and a LEGO pen on a lanyard round our necks (errm, not that we were dressing the same, because that is weird and slightly icky). I had our to-buy list on a clipboard. The girls had their day packs, with nothing in particular inside.

And we had our shopping trolley.


This was something I learned from Ann and Ageeth last year. Carrying bags or boxes around is a huge pain, especially when you have to get them out to the car. But a shopping trolley can be wheeled around, parked, leaned on … and best of all, a shopping trolley has LOTS AND LOTS OF ROOM INSIDE IT.

The fact that you look like a bit of a goose pushing it around is something that you just have to get over.

We stopped by Lookout to say hello, then headed for the BGG stand – which was empty, although some signs had been posted since the night before. At Bezier games (with an accent), we met the extended Alspach clan, then we headed into hall 4 and the galleria. To Otto’s disgust, the bouncy castles were not fully inflated yet.

I left the rest of the family in Hall 9 with Jeremiah and Stephanie, and headed up to the press conference. There was some interesting stuff here about growth in the boardgames industry – overall, I think it was about 1% growth – but that’s not bad at all in the current economic climate! Rumours that the Rogerson-McHarg family’s presence in germany is responsible for 50% of that gain are scurrilous and exaggerated.

I’m typing this in the dark while Otto goes to sleep, so I can’t check my notes. Many games were named, and the final figure of exhibitors was announced – 1 up on last year, I think. Around 30 countries are represented, and there are around 600 new games being presented.

One comment that was made was that, once again, the Messe has sold out all its space. Much of that seems to have been at the last minute – there were 20 people on the waiting list for booths. “If we had known earlier, we could have done something about it” was the message.

And here is what is possibly the funniest part of the show: You can RENT CHILDREN. (The cynics among us (ie in the bed beside me) might ask whether you can also HIRE OUT YOUR OWN CHILDREN but that is not what this was about). Say you are a Big Important Journalist here to cover the game fair … and say you want to get some lovely photos for your national magazine … well off you go, just go to our PRESSE stand and check out a few kids.

I saw the kids on the way up to the press conference. They were all wearing identical red shirts and were sipping soft drinks in the PRESSE stand.

The Neuheitenshow – where the new games are laid out – is always an experience. Some of the special things this year were:
– an entire family (mum, dad, 2 kids) in red satin vampire cloaks. They looked great!
– a piano and opera singers (Opera)
– Karl-Heinz Schmiel in a chef’s hat. I had a giddy fangirl moment and didn’t dare to even ask to take his photo.
– Halli galli fruit punch
– Some celebrity promoting Uno Flash, which lights up. They had giveaways for some of the press people – sadly, not me.
– The (allegedly) REAL Donald X. Vaccarino, in the flesh. I am still disappointed that Hanno didn’t take my suggestion and reprint all the Lookout Games t-shirts with an X after the name. I would quite like to be MELISSA X, I think.
– A group of women in Carmen Miranda outfits, sadly minus the hats. This was weird because they were advertising Halli Galli – so surely fruit on the head would be de rigeur? I was confused.

I had good explanations of a couple of games: Insula, a czech design; and Maria, a successor to Friedrich (although historically it is earlier, I think I learned). This is weirdly tempting, although I have never played Friedrich and really am not drawn to wargames.

I ran into the Yu brothers (Brian and that other forgettable one), then headed off to find my family. I ran into Phil Davies again, who introduced me to Kelli who works at Mind games Melbourne and her partner Steve. This was weird – being introduced to people from my home town (from my FLGS, even), on the other side of the world. They seem really nice and I have a lot of time for any game store staff who make the time to go to an event like Essen.

While Phil and Kelli wandered upstairs to check out the new games, Steve and I headed for the Z-Man booth. We saw Klemens Franz on the way, then stopped at H@ll games to explain what was happening in a demo game of Loyang. I also caught up with Timo, who we hope to game with in person before we leave as he lives quite close to where we are.

A warning to everyone: I am really good at remembering stuff I have seen on paper, like what first name and last name go together, or how old you were when your dog ate your contact lenses (if I happen to have read the right thread) – but I am terrible at putting a face to a name. If I look blankly at you, remind me. And please forgive me.
I finally found my family, comfortably ensconced at the Geekdo booth, sticking stickers onto registration cards for the rating system. Biggie claimed to have been there for at least 2 hours. We stayed for at least one more – both girls worked really hard, and I was even rather proud of them.

We took a break and headed for the Gallery, where the bouncy things had inflated. Yikes!

Then we headed into Hall 4, where we picked up a copy of Roborally (the old version) and the expansion. Fraser was happy.

Where was the day going? We raced back to Hall 5 for the BGG pizza delivery (I earned my keep by ordering), and introduced Phil Davies to a couple of people. Then Tom Werneck (one of the SdJ founders and a jury member for 31 years) came by and I seized the opportunity to chat with him as well. One of my Missions this year is to do as much networking for Boardgames Australia as I can, especially with important groups like the SdJ. I also have a meeting planned with the SAZ, as well as with some publishers and industry groups.

Next stop was the Fragor Games party, which didn’t happen last year (or was cunningly timed for when I was out of the halls … yeah … that must be it). The booze was good but the real hit of the event was the inflatable ostrich costumes. I just wonder whether the Lamonts found these before or after they designed a game with ostriches … surely it couldn’t be a coincidence!

What else?

* Chatted briefly with the lovely Martin Wallace.
* Watched my daughter be asked – for the first time – for her L-deck card. Signed a few myself, but the Bigster’s is NEW
* started to fill a gaming buddy’s wishlist – sadly, many publishers were still not set up – I guess tomorrow morning will be busy!
* Saw a few more stands
* Said hi to Jackson Pope (Reiver games) who have Sumeria and It’s Alive! on display
* Ran through Farmers of the Moor with a couple of Zev’s minions
* Saw many other people who I haven’t listed by name
* Met Aldie for the first time
* Muscled in on a couple of meetings

Afterwards, we brought our games back to the hotel and settled in for the night. It’s only 11 now but it feels muuuuuuuuchhhhhhhh later.

See you tomorrow!


Posted by on October 22, 2009 in essen, games



Essen pre-show – Tuesday October 20th

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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.).

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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 . 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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.

From Essen 09 pre-show Tuesday

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.


Posted by on October 21, 2009 in essen, games



A holiday week of gaming

Looking through my game journal at the last week’s gaming … Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 1, 2009 in christmas, essen, games


OMGESSEN! reflections – 1 of (many?)

I have been meaning (for 2 months!) to post some reflections on my OMGESSEN! experience. They may be well-spaced, but here’s the first – and the topic is Loneliness.

But there are 148,000 audited people at OMGESSEN!, you might think, why might loneliness be a problem?

Let’s start with the fact that, as of October 1, I had met FOUR people who were at OMGESSEN!: Neil, Al and their little boy; and Tanja, who lived in Australia for a while 3 years or so ago.

From my observations, it was hard for people who went to OMGESSEN! on their own. Not impossible, by any means, but hard. If you are looking to pick up a game, it is easier if you have a ready-made opponent or three with you. If you want to do something in the evening, it is easier if you have a companion. Hotel costs are obviously cheaper if you have a roommate – and it’s easier to try out that new game you bought, too. You have someone to help you schlepp the big box of games to the cloakroom, or to share luggage allowance, or to go for the great buy-three-games-get-them-cheap offers. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 29, 2008 in essen, games, travel



LOL! Someone just pointed this out to me.|66:2|65:12|39:1|240:1318

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Posted by on November 19, 2008 in essen, games


Games, Baking, Animals, Children and Games

Kicked today off with a LupusLanding games day on Brettspielwelt. When I logged in, I was informed by a friend that I was learning Dominion today. She told me the rules in one window while I waited for it to load, and then we were off.

Now I am not someone who learns rules easily from being told them. I like to play with the bits and read the rules and get an idea of how to play from that. So I learned the mechanics, but when someone played a Militia card and the others told me to discard my green cards, I figured that was what the green cards were for. And I discarded them regularly, and ignored them for the rest of the game. And I finished on 3 points.

Part-way through game 2, I asked how you score points. “From the green cards, silly. I told you that.” – oops. When I say part-way, I mean most of the way. I finished with 5 points that game.

For those that don’t know Dominion? You start with 3 points. And there’s no way to lose points given the basic set of cards.

Big blush.

Following that embarassment, there was Diamant and TransAmerica online. Now there are not a great many games that I loathe, but TransAmerica is one of them. I rarely play it and never suggest it. Sometimes, though, the company is good enough that even TA is a good alternative. Today was one of those days.

Finishing BSW after a record-breaking (for being short) 2 hours, it was time for baking. My brother is not shy about telling us what to do – With the invitations to my niece’s second birthday party, mum was instructed to supply a fruit platter, I was instructed to supply chocolate-coconut slice.

Me: But don’t you want cupcakes or gingerbread or …

Dave: No. Chocolate coconut slice.

Me (meekly): OK.

I had a shower and got dressed, then Otto and I baked while the Bigster washed her hair. 

Then I did the Bigster’s hair while we watched My Fair Lady, and then Fraser got Otto dressed while I did my hair.

OMG it was 2pm already!

Biggie iced the slice while I supervised and Fraser and Otto wrapped my niece’s gift (a “My first words in Hungarian” t-shirt and a bag from the Paddington Bear stand at Paddington Station).

Grabbed slice and gift and headed out the door – but not to the party yet.

See, November 9th is Fraser’s and my wedding anniversary.

We got engaged at the zoo and got married at the zoo – and every year, on November 9th, we go back to the Melbourne Zoo to celebrate.

Despite carpark renovations and a band that seemed to consist mostly of a variety of different drums, we found our way to the restaurant. The new caterers are good. With our rather yummy lunches, I had champagne sparkling wine and Fraser had beer, and we speculated about how far we would get if we ran away while the children were going to the toilet. Good times. 🙂

Finished lunch by 3.30 and were at Niece’s party by 4, only an hour late. I’ve managed that without the excuse of an anniversary (Dave says we should have celebrated yesterday, Emirates Stakes Day, as it was a Saturday when we were married), so I was reasonably happy.

Party was a party. There are always people it’s nice to see, and there are always conversations that you wish you hadn’t overheard. The kids had fun (Biggie was fantastic, handing around all the food and supervising the little ones – even Otto chased my niece around and brought her back to the party) and everyone got to admire my dad’s mad start on Mo-vember.

Home again and it was time to put into practice what I had learned this morning, with RL a game of Dominion, another that I had brought back from OMGESSEN!. Fraser had been put off (as had I, somewhat) by the comparisons to a CCG – but, as a non-CCGer, I didn’t know what they were after this morning’s play. Then again, some would say that I didn’t know what much was after this morning’s play. And I would be one of them.

Biggie begged to play, so we let her join in.

And she proceeded to cream us.



Melissa 22 (yay, more than 4x what I got this morning …)

Biggie 34 (oh)

Fraser 22 (well there’s something – although he wins the tie-breaker).

I think Fraser and I will have to play again once the kids are both asleep, just to make sure that we make a better showing next time.

Oh – and re the CCG comparisons – yes there’s deck building, but it’s more dynamic than we understand it to be in a CCG, and much much less planned.


Posted by on November 9, 2008 in essen, family, games