My 2-day Essen 2011 Report - one liners and more
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Well I didn't expect to be writing this list but a last minute change of plans allowed me to get in two days at Essen this year. Normally if I have a choice I'd rather attend Thu/Fri over Sat/Sun but I was just happy to make it again.

I think this was my fifth time in attendance so I'll cover a few basics here and then get into the games I observed and/or purchased. For the most part, my reviews are one liners solely based on my gaming taste and opinion. YMMV as it's all about the fun you get out of it, so please don't take offense if my take on a game doesn't coincide with yours. And of course once again, there were way too many games I would have liked to have purchased but alas, did not have the suitcase space for it. I did buy an big extra suitcase at Kaufhof and when all was said and packed, I WAS ONE GAME SHORT OF A FULL SUITCASE! Yup, you can quote me on that and I'm going to be laughing over it for a long time, as I mis-planned the amount of space and could have gotten one more Agricola sized game box in. Now I'm kicking myself for not getting Colonial. Oh well, there's always next year.

I got into town just past noon on Saturday, checked into the hotel, and was walking the floors of the Gruga Messe by 1PM and managed to get in a full 6 hours at a grueling pace. Sunday I made it for the whole day and clocked another 7+ hours of eying the wares. I made a point to not sit down and play any games this year though I did spend plenty of time watching full turns or more of many, many games while perusing the available rules laying nearby or listening to an explanation from either the designer or a booth attendant. Fortunately, I speak German and Italian as well so I was good to understand explanations in any one of three languages with little difficulty though this year. Even the newer Russian, Czech, Spanish, and Greek presenters did a good job with English explanations. It was funny when a group of French arrived at the Vanuatu booth and wanted the explanation in English even though the designer was French because the dialect from his area was very difficult to understand and they wanted to practice English. Oh well, on to some tidbits from this year.

Travel
This year I came in by train from Munich, and took a train from Essen to fly out of Frankfurt. In the past, I've flown in and out of Amsterdam and taken the train to Essen. I've also flown in and out of Dusseldorf which is the most convenient from the US if your just going for the fair. Many roads lead to Essen.

The Hotel
I stayed in the Essener Hof this year over the Movenpick only because they had rooms available. It was a bit cheaper but you can find cheaper yet with little effort. I like to be close to the train station which is my primary consideration. Your reasons may land you into hotels like the Arosa or Jung where more after hour gaming occurs.

Thu/Fri vs. Sat/Sun
Getting there the first two days is better if you want to get hot releases before they sell out. There were a few sold out by the time I got there on Saturday but some of the dealers would hold back a few copies for the next morning to draw in folks every day to their booth. Also, there are fewer crowds on Thu/Fri. The advantage of the weekend is that dealers start discounting and you can find some good deals on Sunday if they're trying to clear out stock they don't want to pack back with them. The downside is an ocean of people to wade through.

Two Fair Item notables
1. There was hardly any smoking going on except in the open quad. I think it was that way last year too but there were noticably less people smoking and no smoking in any of the halls. A+++ to Merz Verlag and the German laws for that one. I remember years ago where it was my #1 gripe.
2. Food stands can now be found everywhere and I'm not just talking the old candy stand or Messe restaurant. The number of vendors with sandwiches, drinks, brats, pretzels, etc. has quadrupled over the years. Granted you pay airport prices but at least now you can grab a bite right where you are instead of treking back to the main halls.

The HOTNESS OF 11
As usual, there were plenty of great games to be had but overall, I didn't find any Ubergame this year that you just had to get because it wouldn't be available later. A few notables that sold out were Poseidon, Tournay, Air Show, 2 de Mayo expansion, Dungeon Petz, and Space Bastards (on very late Sunday). All of which will be available later or next year with possibly the exception of Poseidon. Again, there was nothing I found that I couldn't absolutely live without this year and I'm sure with a bit of effort, you'll be able to get what you want through a retailer or online whether through a US or European online store, or from the publisher's web site.

The Rest of it
So were there any trends? Well nothing more than usual caught my attention. There were lots of games that were either Roman or Medieval based in theme this year and certainly a number of games with dice driven mechanics. The latter seems to be the latest thing or fad. Used wisely it can make for a fun game, at random makes for a random luck game. You decide. It also seemed like there were more large stands blowing out games at incredibly low prices, and I'm not talking about the Kaufhalle stand that's always there. These were off by the sides of some of the halls. Well below are the games that caught my attention. Some I bought, some I passed on, and some I'll get later. For a list of what I've already gotten this year check out my geeklist:
My 2011 Game Gains (or The Boardgaming Money Pit).

I also keep a living list of upcoming games. Now post Essen I'll be ready to change the header to upcoming 2012 games. Check it out and thumb your favorites. It helps keep me happy. Thanks.

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1. Board Game: 011 [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:3417]
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Beautiful, well crafted with nice bits. Interesting theme ala Steampunk. Travelling Salesman game. Run around, get the items, get to the end space, stop Doomsday. Priced at 45e. Passed on it. Might like to get a copy later.
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2. Board Game: 2 de Mayo: Assault on Palace Grimaldi [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
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Another one from Gen X that was sold out. I'm really disappointed in them for not anticipating demand and having enough of them. Given the small size of the expansion, space wasn't an issue. Perhaps they under anticipated the popularity of this game though the base game was available. Another one I'll have to track down in a future year.
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3. Board Game: 2019: The ARCTIC [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:3695]
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About securing the shipping lanes in the Actic. Finance, politics, and some conflict. Theme just didn't appeal to me. Passed.
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4. Board Game: 7 Wonders: Catan [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked]
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They were charging 2e for this but there's no way I was going to pass on getting one. Expect to see many more expansions for this top name seller in the future.
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5. Board Game: The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:970]
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This was available and going cheap around 30e depending on the stand. Already out in the US and I had previously purchased it. More random and not as good as the first one but still fun.
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6. Board Game: Água: The Water Cycle [Average Rating:4.34 Overall Rank:10543]
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Cute and simple Euro but really not a lot there. Dice determined your meeple placement and decision making wasn't too deep. Nice educational theme pasted on. Passed despite a low price.
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7. Board Game: Air Show [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:4794]
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This sold out by Saturday mostly because Gen-X didn't bring enough copies. 40e. I wanted a copy. Very good Euro in setting up an airshow. Cool cards and bits. They'll be distributing it through Alliance Distributors in the US (whose practices suck from all acounts I have heard through discussions with local retailers).
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8. Board Game: Airlines Europe: Flight Ban [Average Rating:6.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.66 Unranked]
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A freebee at the Abacus stand that adds a little more variety to an already excellent game.
 
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9. Board Game: Alba Longa [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:3032]
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Solid 7 Euro. Was getting lots of good play and going for 30e. I could see it hitting the tables in my game groups. Passed on it but may pick up later.
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10. Board Game: Alex & Co [Average Rating:5.03 Unranked]
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I just wanted this since it has cool cards and photos of a bunch of great game designers. Not sure if there's much of a game though it appears to be a set collection card game as well.
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11. Board Game: Antike Duellum [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:681]
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Got it and now can't remember if I paid 8 or 16 e for it. It comes rolled in a tube, laminated map. Nice expansion for Antike.
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12. Board Game: Arcanum [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:4425]
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I like the way it used a Tarot deck for various things but had to reference the player aid too much for all the different card abilities. Beautiful production. Considered it but passed on it for lack of room in my bag.
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13. Board Game: Atlantis Rising [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:1675]
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Looked for it but didn't find any copies. Don't think it made the publication or shipping to Essen.
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14. Board Game: Battle Beyond Space [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2923]
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Another one from Z-man that wasn't to be found. I'll probably get this when it's released in the US though.
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15. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:168]
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Another one I have already picked up just prior to Essen. It was getting lots of table play around the FFG booth. Good stuff for BB fans.
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16. Board Game: Bullfrog Goldfield [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:3849]
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Numbskull was there but this game wasn't.
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17. Board Game: Champions 2020 [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:4288]
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The full blown iteration of Street Soccer, or as Corne says, Street Soccer evolved from this one. As soccer tactics games go, this is a good one. Uses Street Soccer movement mechanics but has lots of other stuff like fouls, corner kicks, and the ability to block goal attempts. Was 29e. Passed on this only due to luggage space. Will get in the future or if it sees US distribution.
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18. Board Game: City Tycoon [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1508]
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Watched and decided it wasn't something I'd get into. Got high marks and sold out by Sunday. I'll have to go back and do more research on this one.
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19. Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis [Average Rating:8.21 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.21 Unranked]
 
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I had already pre-ordered this through CSI. A no brainer for me. It was avialable and being well played in the Asmodee area.
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20. Board Game: Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1081]
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This is probably the one game I regret passing on and would have had room for in my suitcase. I WAS ONE GAME SHORT OF A FULL SUITCASE DAMMIT. It was going for 40e. I watched a full group of six players start a game with the designer at 10am on Sunday. I swung back around at 2pm and they were still playing and still probably 30+ minutes away from fininshing. The game isn't that difficult but there is a lot of negotiation to be had which can slow things down some. That's the only thing that put me off getting it. In discussion with the designer, a full game with six experienced players will take at least 3 hours. That's not a bad thing if it's a good game. The final scores when I checked back in 4 hours later were still fairly close which was a good sign that there was not player blowout. I'll probably get this one down the road.
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21. Board Game: Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal – Pacific Ocean 1942 [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
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No it wasn't there but I had a great discussion with Uwe who was there and found that this is next out of the shoot and should be only a few months off from distribution (hopefully by the end of December).
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22. Board Game: Cyclades: Hades [Average Rating:8.04 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.04 Unranked]
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A no-brainer purchase for me. Nice expasion with more cool minis and gods abilities. I think I paid 16.90e for mine. Available at lots of the stands.
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23. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:331]
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Met MW (again). May get this when it hits US distribution. Was being well played and distributed through Kosmos in Germany. Price was at the 35e range. Recent discussion may put me off this game. I'm not a Discworld fan and it sounds like a lot of chaos with minimal planning.
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24. Board Game: Dominion: Hinterlands [Average Rating:8.08 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.08 Unranked]
Ubergeek
United States
Camas
Washington
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I spent 100 Geek Gold and all I got was this lousy overtext message!
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Didn't have room to pick up a copy but it came with the promo cards which will be available through BGG soon. Will get this stateside.
 
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25. Board Game: Dragon Rage [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:3219]
Ubergeek
United States
Camas
Washington
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I spent 100 Geek Gold and all I got was this lousy overtext message!
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An excellent remake of the original game. Beautiful classic board on one side and new version on the other. Hex and chit wargame! Was going for 50e which was a bit steep so I passed. Will pick up stateside if it's avialable.
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