unittype's Essen 2010 Look-what-I've-done list
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Hi, my name is Carsten and I am a Geek (please say unisono "Hello Carsten!"). So as a with some kind of addiction towards board games affected person that is living in Germany, it is more or less a must to pilger to the holy grail Essen fair.

I will illustrate the next days with some pictures, stories, session reports, (first) impressions, oddities etc. with this list. If you want to participate a bit, please feel free to join me here by adding comments.
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1. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Ok, it is the night from Tuesday to Wednesday and I am preparing the last things for the next couple of days. It is cold and dark outside in Bremen, the city where the publisher 2F of Friedemann Friese is situated.



(To give this shot any further information value: The little statue that you can see if you look close enough to the Germany map of Power Grid is on this central place, standing in an 90° angle on the socket in the middle/left.)
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2. Board Game: Wool Rules [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:3369]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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No, no, no, the title of this one is all wrong! It has to be 'W00t Rules!!!oneeleven'. Or maybe 'OMGRules!!' (hi, Melissa!).

Since a couple of months I am waiting eagerly for rules. Rules of this complex one, rules of this one with the nice theme, rules of that title from the publisher I like best, rules of that one specific with the bright colors on the bord. Rules, rules, rules. Yay.

You get to know that Essen is coming when you hit F5 on the subscriptions page in your 5-minutes-break at work more often than checking mails. Thankgod that we are that close to it now, after my vacation I will be the same monster of efficiency again as in July. I swear!

Just finished the last ones:

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3. Board Game: Cold Feet [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Gosh, what a unfriendly wheather in Germany. Normally it would be a bit warmer at this time in the year, I can't remember freezing this much at Essen in Essen. No abbrevation by walking through the inner courtyard this year! Brr.
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4. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.46 Overall Rank:11172]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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In response to my thread German mate for a day a very prominent person asked to meetup in Essen for a nice dinner on Wednesday. And so I met the

Steve Duff
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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(and the UnknownParkerBrotherWife ) and got lost in Essen by looking for the Rüttenscheider Straße where I intended to find a appropiate restaurant. After a little odyssee we found a nice place and had a good dinner.

Thanks for the evening, Steve!
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5. Board Game: Hotel Samoa [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:1902]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Hotels can be great.Think of all that comfort that good hotels can provide. Like in Hotel Samoa. Think of swimming pools, nice bars, good beds and so on. As someone who sleeps more nights in hotels than in his own bed (due to the nature of my job), I am kind of spoiled.

My choice to take a room in the Hotel Europe in Essen was easily taken: I was too late. Affordable rooms were nearly out or it would have taken ages in the morning to drive to the fair, so just take what is left and get comfotable with it.

Well, thats the result:



Not beautiful, but functional.
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6. Board Game: Era of Inventions [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:3116]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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After strolling around for some time on Thursday morning the first booth we sat down was Quined Games. After Carson City last year at Essen and Chocolatl in the meantime there is this new title in the Masterprint series.

So, how did it play (I won't summarize all rules in this list, just giving my initial impressions)? Well, we played a classic worker placement game where you set in two actions and resolve them afterwards. Every time you do an action, you can use a token to do a limited action afterwards. This offers a bit of tactical possibilities and variety.



One possibility how you can gather points are those you get when someone else buys products that are derived from your inventions. When an invention was made, its products (three cards) go into a deck which is used for the possible products to buy. This is a nice little twist and works quite well.

Era of Inventions is a game that brings some few new little things into the worker placement genre. It plays nice, it works and you have all the good and the bad that worker placement offers you. But on the other side you have seen the majority of all this before. So it may feel a bit dull if you are familiar with more than two other worker placement games.

First impresseion rating:
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7. Board Game: The Phantom League [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2812]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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After that we proceeded to hall 4, which was the hall I suggested the most potential games while preparing my Essen trip. Right left at the entrance there was the booth of Tuonela Productions. Phantom League was one of the uncommon titles that were on my list.



So we sat down to try a round of this game and on of the persons at this booth came to explain the game a bit. But sadly he lacked a bit of English skills, so the explanation was rather diffuse. He told us about some parts of the game, but not the game as a whole. So we did not play it.

I was interested in Phantom League because I liked the old Elite on personal computers a lot. The game itself indeed seems to catch all this athmosphere and mechanics and from what I saw and heared, I can imagine that it works pretty well.

One other fact was that the manufacturer of the game did a huge mistake by using the wrong box size. Normally the games of Tuonela are packed in rather small boxes, everyone who has seen a copy of i.e. Modern Society knows the size. Phantom League has many components, so this just does not fit. You can read in the forums about that.

So I decided to wait with purchasing the game untill fitting boxes will be available.
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8. Board Game: 20th Century [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:794]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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We wandered a bit through hall 4 and headed to hall 9 afterwards (fighting our way through a strange dungeon of wolfmen, orks and whatever fantasystuff of the LARP folks you can imagine in hall 6) to sit down for a session of 20th century.

The folks at the Heidelberger booth were quite busy, so we had to read the rules and teach the game to ourselves. After some confusion about some parts of the rule, we started the game and got into it quite fast and well.



In general, this game is an auctioning and tile lying game to build up a grid of tiles from a common stack. On these tiles you have cities, symbols for different currencies that are used throughout the game and waste cubes that are to get rid off to prevent malus points. Well, that's quite it. The players have to optimize the different ways to get and prevent losing points, can use tiles with special abilities, have to connect the tiles with railroad tracks and so on.

All in all, this game is ok. It works, it has some nice twists, there is some interaction. But it was the same feeling as I mentioned before speaking about Era of Inventions: There was no "kick" that would let me want to play this game again. I would not deny if somebody would suggest it, but the first impression did not generate any want-factor.

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9. Board Game: Inca Empire [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:680]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Next one was Inca Empire. I had read a lot about this reimplementation of Tahuantinsuyu and eagerly awaited the rules. When they came out, I was slightly disappointed because I expected it to be a lot more complex. But just reading the rules and anticipating this does not reflect the real gameplay, so I was happy when we got a table at the White Goblin booth.



First good thing: White Goblin offered mints for the people sitting at their tables. Second: The game itself plays very tactical and offers a lot room for difficult decisions. Out orange player tended to become cut off in the north and south, but with some good play of event cards he even changed this situation into his advantage by screwing another player with wilderness roads.

I liked the components and the feel of the game very much. It plays really fast, there is not much downtime for a game with this complexity. The mixture between this and the streamlined gameplay sold me completely, so I bought it later on Saturday and got also the bonus sun event cards.

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10. Board Game: Fresco [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:176]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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In the evening after the show I wondered where all that fellow geeks will have their after show sessions. Remembering that many geeks wrote to stay in the Mövenpick, I just wandered into the bar of that hotel and met some british people. After a bit of chitchatting about the fair and the games we saw and played, we agreed to play Fresko, which was also new to me although it was no Essen release.



What Fresko is and what not is well documented here on the Geek, I think. To make things short, I have to say that I underestimated the game a bit. Someone said here that you rather feel "played" by the game because after chosing the wake up time, the game would just give you one path what to do in the round.

Well, I can not confirm this. Sure, there are some clear moves, but mostly you have it in your own hands how you plan the turn order for the next turns. I liked it and was glad that I had the chance to try it out with very nice people.

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11. Board Game: Kaigan [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1577]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Ascora Games had a small booth presenting their first title Kaigan. There was a bit of buzz before the show here on the geek and out of curiosity I asked Scott from Ascora Games to explain the game to me.

I was astounded how good he managed to explain it to me and some other people that surrounded us in German. He apologized for about 1000 times that his German was not so good, but that was rather silly. Scott, if you are reading this: You have done a great, great job!

The downside of the small booth was that no demo sessions could be actually played. But Scott gave his best to picture the feeling of this game. In its core, players have the choice to provide a action from their hand of cards (which is the same to every player) to a grid or to take the actions that are layed out of one row to resolve them in the next phase. This is a tricky mechansim for action potentials and seems to work out very nice. The theme is also interesting, so I bought the game with no doubt that it will provide a good load of fun to me.
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12. Board Game: 51st State [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:611] [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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And here we come to another very good example how staff at a publishers booth can bring a game closer to you. When I got the chance to play a round of 51st State Michael from Portal was explaining and playing some sample rounds with us. He did not just do an introduction, he discussed possible ways and strategies that we could do with our cards and showed us possibilities how our decisions could work out in the later game. One of the best demos I have ever had!


(This picture was taken later on when Ignacy himself did a demo.)

The game itself scratches two itches of mine: Post-nuclear settings with all the rude- and harshness that they provide and a resource/engine-building mechanism that sounds a bit like Race for the Galaxy in the beginning but plays totally different. There was quite some interaction going on and the lot of decisions rose from round to round.

I was impressed and immediately bought the game.

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13. Board Game: Dakota [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:3983]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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When I saw a picture of Dakota a few months ago here on the Geek, I was almost sold on that game. It had so many nice little spaces where to put tokens on!



Furthermore, there is an interesting asynchron detail in this game, as every player can decide for himself if he/she wants to play as natives or settlers. The game balances this out by adding neutral figures with a special set in round. This seemed to be an innovative part.

When I was attending a demo game, there were some people already in the rule explanation phase. Having read them before, I joined and decided to play the settlers. So we had a ratio of 3-1 settlers which was very fine to me as I wanted to see how this works out.

So we began playing and it turned out, that the game itself played a lot less complex than I had anticipated by reading the rules. You can finish a session with four players in approximately 60 minutes easily. There was some backstabbing here and there, some majority fights, some rather dumb moves of my settler"friends" (*argh*), but it felt somehow flat for me. I did not get the feeling to evolve in the game and the theme got more and more pasted on. To summarize my feelings I would say that I thought this would be a much more deeper game than it appeared to be.

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14. Board Game: Florenza [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:862]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Before the show I totally ignored Florenza. My impression was that it was just another worker-placement-give-one-cube-of-color-x-to-receive-a-cube-of-color-y-game. So I focussed on games with a bit buzz and some underdogs I identified as worthable to have a look at. When I received a hint from a gamer I know I can trust, I was a bit more excited, since some of my expectations were disappointed before.

To get a place at one of the two demo tables was rather hard. You had to reserve a place for a time slot that was two hours long. But I was lucky to grab the last one available on that day.

However, after I sat down I recognized how many components the game has. There are loads of places, tiles, cards and cubes that have to be identified and explained. So the whole rule explanation took a good amount of time and was held by the designer himself.

Wow, there is a lot going on here. You have to manage your workers, build your buildings, use your or other peoples building, claiming work and fitting artists, your own Palazzo etc, I was fed up with worker placement as a main part of games, but here all this is added with additional flavour and a great historical context. The game reminded me in some parts to Le Havre, in other parts to Vasco da Gama and Princess of Florence. But it does not only blend some parts from other games, it developes an unique feeling.



One thing I already liked in Vasco was that players can mess up nasty. Here, for example you can claim some work in the placement phase, but when you later on can't fulfill this action, you additionally get a victory point penalty that depends on the potential points that you might have gotten.

In short: Florenza is definitely one of my three highlights of the fair and I gladly spent 50€ for this game. It has a gorgeous production quality and is a heavy worker placement game for people who like Caylus, Le Havre, Vasco da Gama and Princess of Florence.

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15. Board Game: 1655: Habemus Papam [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:2381]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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After all that heavy stuff I was ready for a shorter game with less rules. The Fairplay scout list gave an indication what to try: 1655 - Habemus Papam. I was very lucky that a table just became free when I got to the booth of DDD. Next to me three women in their middle ages also wanted to enter that desk. "So what", I thought, "Just take your change to get your hands on the game.

So things went along: Christoph Brunner himself introduced us to the rules, which are fairly simple, but nevertheless felt addictive. In its core this game is a bid-and-collect game that comes with some interaction by various action cards. The bidding has a little variation by going for the amount of gems first, then the value of the different colours as tiebreakers. This determines a turn order in which one of the current lying cards has to be taken. Sounds simple, but plays quite good. Imagine crossing Before the Wind (a much underrated game in my opinion) and Fairy Tale.

Also this game used a lot of history that was greatly transferred to the rules. All characters were real persons to that time, the cardinal who came too late when electing the pope in 1655 does not count when resolving the white smoke and so on. The author stated that he has great interest in history and this is reflected very much by the theme of the game.



Back to the three "girls" I mentioned before. It was a horrible session. They discussed everything, they nitpicked about some historical facts and just refused to understand some rules during the start phase of the game. They were getting on my nerves quite a bit, and just before I was completely fed up with them, just when another discussion arose, Mr. Brunner stopped that with an angry "Come on, people!" He apologized immediately and it turned out that he is a teacher in real live and that his reprehension was just his normal reflex. I tried not to laugh, the situation was just sweet, so sweet.

We finished the game after 40 minutes and despite this chickenfarm of a gaming group I had a lot of fun with the game and won it clearly. It has a decent playing time (30 minutes should work out fine) but is not trivial. There are lots of decisions and all those things you about your favourite set collecting game. Good one!

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16. Board Game: Master of Economy [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:3612]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Another title that caught my attention before the show was Master of Economy. I am a sucker for economical simulations like the market in Planet Steam. So I was interested what this game could add to this subgenre.

At the booth of Sinonis I asked for some demo rounds, but at this moment there was Show Buisness on the only one table. We agreed for a demo round later that day with the designer of the game.

When I arrived, all was prepared and I sat down with him and another interested person that wanted to hear the rules. After we got them, he excused himself, so Andrzej Kurek and myself started a two player game. There is a good amount of rules, but once you get them, they are not that complicated to understand. The game creates a engine based microsystem between the cooperations that are in the game, the market between the playing companies and a "foreign market", the shares of the company and the players whos goal is to get their private money out of this all. Phew.



Actually, the game takes parts from games like Planet Steam and a good bit of Greed, Incorporated. While I love the first, I traded away the other, mainly because the temporal player elimination (when you lose control over your companies and just can watch the other players play) weren't my cup of tea. So I asked the designer, if this can happen here also. Yes, it can, but only if a player plays poorly and only really late in the game. All the mechanisms that surround the game element of the company shares are very tactical. There is the danger of an takeover by another player, so you have to defend yourself. On the other hand, you have to make money with buying and selling company shares.

I played a complete two player game with the designer, which may have lasted for around two hours (with a lot of chitchat inbetween). He told me that he has in mind to use this game for students to understand market mechanisms and economic coherences.

As a conclusion, I just got some of the insights this game has to offer, there is a lot to discover. While I had fun playing the game, I thik you have to play in the right group to enjoy this game. It is a heavy one and it makes things I didn't like in Greed much better. For people who like this kind of stuff, I would highly recommend it, and so I bought it.

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17. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:139]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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As you might see in this list, I am a pure eurogame pussy. Moving cubes of color x to building y to receive a cube in color z. Repeat until someone wins. Yay!

I also was the nearly only one who griped in the forums of Merchants & Marauders about "maybe too much luck" after the rules were released. The game designer himself replied that eventually the game perhaps would not be for me something I would enjoy then.

So what, when I saw that there were copies available at the Z-Man booth (I hadn't read about that before the fair) I remembered why my attention was caught by this game here on the geek:

1. It has a pirate theme that is not so childish like Buccaneer and similar games.
2. It is not a familiy game.
3. It has loads of stuff in the box.
4. It just looks fantastic.

I love boards with this specific "carribean" blue on the boards, see also Inca Empire. I loved the board of Giants for that, too. I hadn't bought a single game on that day and generally I was very decent in buying games. Era of Inventions didn't make it into my bag, 20th Century also not. So what, give me a blind buy. Even if it does not fit my normal taste. 40€ is a bargain for that components. Will it ever come to Germany? For a reasonable price? Gotcha.

After buying the game (!) I watched a demo of it and could catch a bit of the athmosphere by watching people play it for some rounds. Hell, I am burning to play my first own session. The gameplay I watched was soaked with theme and full of clever things that were going on. Maybe this game will break through my monolithic way of looking at games and I finally will get a wider approach by having fun with some Ameritrash style titles?

To be honest: The games that I have rated not so high in this list looked just boring to me because they are repeating mechanical things I just have done so many times before when playing boardgames. I don't like the fantasy approach of dungeon crawler like Descent that much, it seems quite *too* nerdy to me. But this pirate flavour with some historical context.. well, bring it on!
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18. Board Game: GOSU [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:950]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Since Race for the Galaxy I was looking for another good card game without spending unbelievable amounts of money for these collectable things. I liked Domunion in the beginning, but it fell flat for me the longer nearly all people played it the whole time. Call it an anti-hype attitude but I am fed up with it.

Warhammer:Invasion is a good mixture. I like the game system but the Warhammer universe... hm. I ran into Gosu on different GeekLists and it looked to me like a fresh approach to this kind of game. So I put it onto my watchlist and got the chance to play it.

At first it was a bit fiddly to read all the card texts and to get into the relative simple gameplay. You just build a new goblin unit (with some twisty rules), activa a card or draw some cards for your activation tokens. The fact that you have to manage your cards very carefully as you don't get new automatically every round is very intriguing and makes the whole game very tactical. The humor in this game also hits my taste.

So I bought the game and had some more plays in the meantime. It is a good filler that evolves over time as you get familiar with the cards. My colleague now also wants a copy.

 
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19. Board Game: i9n [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:7521]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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When I wandered the halls I saw i9n and wanted to cure my curiosity how this really works out. I had a good explanation of the rules and looked at the material of this game.

In general you are looking for oil wells that still deliver oil in a not so far future. Players are combining and deducting the correct places to drill by combining hints - this is similar to the way you collect information in Tobago. If you think you find a spot where oil can be found, you simply "enter it into the processor", means, you try to stick through a couple of boards that lie on each other in a socket of the insert. If you combined right and succeed, you can stick strough, otherwise one of the holes will block your little stick and you fail. This gets harder and harder as the wells are becoming less and you have to combine more information to deduct the right spot.

The game surely looked interesting but was a bit too limited in gameplay for my taste. While I see it in good hands for occasional players, I could not imagine to have fun with this for more than two or three plays. Another thing was the design of the board and parts of the components. It just didn't appeal to me that much.
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