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Tokyo Game Market, Autumn 2017 — Report from Table Games in the World

Saigo
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Editor's note: I missed out on Tokyo Game Market in December 2017, but Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English (hire him!) and who tweets about new JP games — has translated reports about the event from Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his posts, and I've linked to each post in the section title. Many thanks to Saigo for translating these reports! —WEM

Day 1 (original report in Japanese)

On December 2, the first day of the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market took place at Tokyo Big Sight. Game Market was initially launched in 2000, and the 34th Game Market has expanded to a two-day show for the first time because one-day events are no longer sufficient to serve the increasing number of participants and attendees by merely expanding the size of the venue. As a result of shifting to a two-day show, the number of participating exhibitors (when compared to the Autumn 2016 Game Market) increased by 35% to 730 groups, and the number of new games released at this event increased by 35% to 466 titles (provisional figure).


From the entrance, Catan's red and Oink Game's blue colors look prominent


When the event opened at 10:00 a.m., the people who had been queuing since before 6:00 a.m. rushed in at once. The venue, which covers an area of 11,680 square meters, did not feel overcrowded, but people formed long queues in front of some booths to buy limited items and expansion sets of popular games. A reported four hundred people queued in front of the BakaFire Party booth to buy the latest expansion set for Sakura Arms. There was a line of almost two thousand people waiting before Game Market opened (according to Rael-san's report), so one in five people among them are estimated to have queued for Sakura Arms.

After the crowd rushed in at the opening, I walked around to visit each booth and check the newly-released games. The Game Market management office has gathered information on newly-released games through its questionnaire survey, but the information gathered so far is still not complete, which might affect choices in the Game Market Award selection, so I decided to visit each booth to view everything first-hand.

It took me almost all day until closing time, but eventually I managed to visit and check all the booths, except for some that left early. Quite a few people may have noticed me walking around with a laptop in one hand. It was a hard work, but it allowed me to talk with many people and also make some lucky finds, so I think it was worth it.

At this Game Market, I heard some people mention the presence of many overseas visitors and couples. Many of the people from overseas were apparently Chinese. I asked Game Market participants from China about this, and they said that such visitors probably included many people studying in Japan as well as board gamers who came all the way from China, Taiwan, etc. Many people from Western countries were also seen in the venue.

The attendance on the first day is estimated to be approximately 11,000 people. With some booths having sold out their stock for this day, I have high hopes also for the attendance on the second day.

I managed to try out two games this day.




In Laurel Crown, designed by Seiji Kanai, the players collect fighters through drafting and battle in tournaments. The fighter cards, whose ranks range from from C (lowest) to S (highest), each have a different ability. These fighter cards are lined up, and the players take them one by one.

Five tournaments then take place according to various regulations (such as battles between S-rank fighters and those between male fighters). The players send fighter cards from their hand to the battle and reveal them at the same time. The fighters' powers are determined by dice rolls combined with special powers. The players, in descending power order, gain honor points, then move on to the next tournament. In this way, the player with the most honor points wins. The fighters' powers are hugely influenced by dice rolls. I also enjoyed the occasional surprises, such as a C-rank fighter defeating an S-rank fighter. (2-4 players / 14+ / 20-40 min.)




Troika from Oink Games is a tile-flipping game to gather jewels and fuel from a planet and return to the home planet. Tiles numbered 1 to 15 are placed face down in the play area. On your turn, flip a tile and choose to take a tile (whether face-up or face-down) or return an unwanted tile to the play area. The tiles transform into a gem when you assemble a straight of three tiles and serve as fuel when you assemble a three-of- a-kind; you lose points based on the remaining tiles not used.

Each round ends when all the tiles have been flipped, and among those who have fuel, the players with more valuable jewels gain more points. After three rounds, the player with the most overall points wins. The quantity of each numbered tile is open information, so you can assess which tiles to take according to other players' acquired tiles. There are relatively many 7s that are useful for both scoring and forming the fuel, which increases the competition for them. This is a fairly light game with a clever twist. (2-5 players / 7+ / 20 min.)


The cloth game board and shiny checkers of Graffiti Gammon (from HAPPY GAMES)


Appetizing German beer cards of Willkommen, Bierfest! (from 10-Shiki Gameworks)


Raid on Taihoku (from Mizo) is a serious game from Taiwan


Wooden Domemo (from Chronos) sold as an alternative to the recently released cardboard version


In SAN_GE SHAKA (from ADGGames), place flowers on a wire netting via magnets to form patterns


Darekara Dice (from Hakonosoto) is a communicative item to determine the start player


New Board Game Party exhibited various versions of TimeBomb published in different languages


An untitled prototype by Northgame — it is pure beauty


Exhibiting various accessories, such as meeple buttons and dice trays


Vol. 2 of the manga "Bodoge de Asobuyo!!" (Come to Play Board Games!!), which appears serially on this website (TGiW) was released;
Ojisama Hige Atsume (Dandy Beard Collection), the imaginary card game that appeared in this manga, was also sold as a real card game


•••


Day 2 (original report in Japanese)

Continuing from yesterday, here is my report on the second day of the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market. The turnout is slow compared to the first day, with approximately 1,200 to 1,300 people queuing before the opening (according to the Rael-san's report). Nonetheless, there was much attendance after the opening, and it was a lively event until the end.


Who will win the Best Game of the Year?


After checking the booths exhibiting only on the second day (Sunday), I participated in the awarding ceremony for the Game Market Award. The ceremony was held at the farthest corner of the venue, but nearly eighty people gathered at the ceremony, perhaps partly due to it being the only special event held in the venue at this Game Market. The ceremony was hosted by Tetsuya Ikeda, who was assisted by Rameru Suzuno (from Spiel Yuenchi).

First, the Awards of Excellence, which had been announced on November 4, were given to the people who had produced these five games. Following that were announcements for Kids' Game of the Year, Expert Game of the Year, Special Award, and Best Game of the Year.

Game Market Award 2017
• Best Game of the Year: 8bit MockUp (from Sato Familie)
• Kids' Game of the Year: Kittys (from Little Future)
• Expert Game of the Year: The Founders of ENDE (from imagine GAMES)
• Award for Excellence: Path to Yaaru (from Fukuroudou)
• Award for Excellence: Bob Jiten (from TUKAPON)
• Special Award: - KUFU - (from ruri ruri games)


Jun Kusaba, chairman of the awards committee, hands the award certificate and shield to Tori Hasegawa, illustrator of 8bit MockUp, which won the Best Game of the Year


Toshiki Sato, who designed 8bit MockUp, could not attend the ceremony and was apparently on his way to Hokkaido. Mr. Hasegawa commented, "Neither of us can drink, but I would like to go for a drink to celebrate this with Mr. Sato and the people who helped us", to which the host Mr. Ikeda replied, "Then you can celebrate with milk or something."




Since we couldn't hear from him at Game Market, I interviewed Mr. Sato by email. I heard that, from the game design idea of using oblique lines on the tiles, Mr. Hasegawa came up with the idea of applying 8-bit game artwork, seeking a feel of video games such as Populous, Dragon Quest, and Xevious.

TGiW: Please tell us about the process of this game's creation.

Sato: After building the game system in the winter of 2016, we worked on deciding the theme and adjusting some details. Actually, I was hesitating whether to actually release such a game. Its mechanisms are similar to Carcassonne and Karuba, so I was not sure if it was worth releasing a game without much innovation. When I first talked to Mr. Hasegawa about it, he said, "How about an 8-bit game?" and that inspired me. The production of this game owes much to our desire to create an 8-bit world, regardless of it being innovative or not.

TGiW: What point did you think and work out the most?

Sato: We had its rulebook proofread and refined quite a lot. Around the time of the Autumn 2016 Tokyo Game Market, there was much discussion about doujin game rulebooks, so we worked on this game's rulebook carefully, hoping that it could be a good example.

TGiW: Please comment on receiving the award.

Sato: I am truly grateful for this fortune whereby we can create games with so many people's help. Please keep watching us as we will keep creating new games.

TGiW: What are your future plans?

Sato: We have sold out the second edition of 8bit MockUp at this Game Market, so please wait for a while before we print more copies. We are planning to release a new game at the Spring 2018 Tokyo Game Market, so please try it when it comes out.


Five people receiving the awards. Congratulations!


I met and talked with G. Benassar, the Licensing & New Business Director of Asmodee (France), at the venue. Here is my summary of his comments. He said that after encountering the board games that initially debuted at Game Market and were later introduced to Western countries — games such as Machi Koro and Love Letter — he began visiting Game Market starting in May 2017. Mr. Benassar said that at Game Market, he was impressed by the amount of passion put into the games as well as the unique graphics and fresh ideas. Hoping to extend such ideas more professionally, he said that they were considering the distribution of some titles.

In addition to its office in France, Asmodee has offices in countries such as Germany, USA, and China, and it sold 34 million copies of analog games globally in 2016. It distributes games through labels such as Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, What's Your Game?, and Pearl Games. If the games that initially debuted at Game Market were to be distributed from Asmodee, Mr. Benassar said that the game circles' names would be kept likewise as labels, so it seems that the names of more doujin circles will be known globally sooner or later.

I managed to play three games on this day.




Rattaneer from OKAZU Brand is a middleweight game with a playing time of less than one hour. From ten area tiles arranged in a row, each player chooses two tiles as their destinations, then all the players reveal their choices simultaneously. You can earn money, hire pirates, loot boats, then convert that loot to victory points according to your chosen areas. Starting from Area 1, check whether there are any empty (unconnected) area tiles. The actions stated on the areas after the empty area do not take effect. Aiming for a destination that's farther away brings you a higher risk of having your chosen action negated paired with the outside chance of monopolizing an area and gaining more reward. I enjoyed the gameplay whereby you try to lead and predict other players' actions to have their tokens placed up to your destinations. (2-5 players / 10+ / 30-45 min.)




Sly Knight Seekers from COLON ARC is a card game in which the players seek a robber by team play. Play your card to identify and take a card at an end of the hand of your opponent, who is holding their cards in ascending order. Using the cards you have exchanged with your teammate and what you have heard as clues, try to guess the whereabouts of each card by counting. It is also possible to take a chance on simultaneous investigation to take many cards at once, so you had better stay on your guard at all time. (2-5 players / 10+ / 30 min.)




The Queen of the Hansa from Yuruart is a board game in which the players, as Hanseatic traders, compete for trade supremacy. On your turn, play one card from your hand of two cards, then replenish your hand with a card from the area of the matching color. Settle accounts regularly after playing five cards. The players who have played cards with more trade goods per each color gain more points. The points gained from each area fluctuates.

Along with the set collection of important figures and competition for majority in Lubeck City (with cards being played face down and revealed at the end), this game requires thoughtful decisions despite the simple choice between two options on each turn. (2-4 players / 10+ / 30-45 min.)

Fumie no Tame ni, meaning "For Fumie", is a two-player deduction game designed by Seiji Kanai and published by One Draw that also gathered attention. I could not play it at the venue, but it is worth mentioning.

The game takes place in a world where a high school girl named Fumie met a mysterious death. The players travel back in time to a few days before her death and try to save her. Fumie no Tame ni contains a secret whereby some cards' effects are gradually revealed during the gameplay. Demoing by playing the game was not available at the venue, but it is not a game with a legacy system. You can play it to the end and play it again. I also heard that its illustration by Noboru Sugiura, who did the artwork of the initial Love Letter, also drew attention, and many of the people who bought this game were female visitors. According to Hayato Kisaragi, who runs One Draw, Fumie no Tame ni is a very unique game and the people's opinions on it would be divided. I could not play it, so instead, here is a photo of Hayato Kisaragi and Seiji Kanai.





According to Keiji Kariya, general manager of the Game Market Management Office, there were slightly more exhibitors on Saturday and the advance tickets for Saturday sold more. However, many people attended the event on Sunday with a day ticket and Mr. Kariya guesses that many of them were families who came by casually. With regard to that, opening the kids' game section on Sunday worked out well.

Among the 730 groups who participated in exhibiting, 42% of them exhibited on both days, 33% did only on Saturday, and 25% did only on Sunday. Mr. Kariya said that he had not expected that the Saturday and Sunday shows would be so well-balanced.

•••


Attendance Figures (original post in Japanese)

The Game Market Management Office has announced that a total of 18,500 people attended the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market, Japan's largest analog game event. The attendance was 10,000 on the first day and 8,500 on the second day. In total, this number was 5,500 people and 42% higher than the 13,000 attendance figure for the Spring 2017 Tokyo Game Market in May.

In recent years, the attendance at Tokyo Game Market, which is held semiannually, has increased by approximately one thousand people at each show: 5000→6500→7200→8500→9500→11000→12000→13000. At this pace, the current Game Market would have had an attendance of approximately 14,000, but even more attendance was expected by expanding to a two-day event for the first time. The attendance did not double from the previous one, but it nonetheless increased significantly.

The dispersing of attendees over two days reduced congestion and also brought some advantages, such as ease of moving in the venue and joining demo tables. On Sunday, I noticed people who had participated on the previous day as exhibitors were now visiting other booths, and I saw an aspect of this event where people can enjoy and communicate interactively as both exhibitors and visitors.

The upcoming events are the 2018 Osaka Game Market, which will be held on Sunday, April 1 at Intex Osaka; the Spring 2018 Tokyo Game Market, which will be held on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 at Tokyo Big Sight; and the Autumn 2018 Tokyo Game Market in November, which will also be a two-day event.
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Remember SPIEL '17? We're Still Posting Videos From That Show

W. Eric Martin
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Yes, six weeks after SPIEL '17 ended, we're still posting game demonstration videos that we recorded during that convention. Our SPIEL '17 playlist on YouTube boasts more than 170 videos so far, and I still have at least sixty more to post.

In 2015 and 2016, we ended up with more than three hundred videos in each SPIEL playlist, so we probably have even more than sixty in the pipeline. I have several on my camcorder, for example, and someone else is processing all the day-long feeds that we recorded at SPIEL '17 and chopping them into individual game segments, feeding the parts to me bit by bit on our YouTube channel so that I can add thumbnails and publish them. We ran into a slight delay ahead of BGG.CON due to hard drive backup issues that made it tough to pull off files, but now we're hobbled only by the massive quantity of videos.

I'm still not sure whether this publication schedule makes more sense than dumping a few hundred videos on BGG and YouTube all at once, but in any case ideally we'll finish everything before Christmas to give us (and you) a break before we head to the Spielwarenmesse fair in Nürnberg, Germany at the end of January 2018 to start the convention cycle all over again...
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Tokyo Game Market Preview for December 2017

W. Eric Martin
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I've created convention previews for Tokyo Game Market since November 2015, often because I was going to the show and wanted to create a list of what I should check out, a list I would then make public in order to share my work with others. I'm not attending TGM this time, which is a shame since this is the first time that the event will be held over two days — December 2-3 — but (1) I hope to publish an overview of the event from someone who is attending and (2) I have the bare bones of a preview that I had started to create a few weeks ago, then faltered on.

Instead of wasting that work, though, I'm sharing it with you now and inviting you to check out the Game Market website, submit listings for games to the BGG database, then post a comment about those submissions here. I'll approve those games and add them to this preview, along with other games that I submit or run across myself. If nothing else, maybe we can find titles that you'd like to see in the BGG store later.

These previews I create tend to have less than 10% of the titles that will debut at TGM due to language restrictions on my part, but it's better than nothing and at a minimum a window into what's happening on what I feel is the most exciting part of the game industry. (I think I find JP games exciting mostly because I don't know what to expect. Many of the designers seem driven solely by a desire to create, without regard for whether or not something is saleable. They did the thing, and now they're presenting it to whoever might be curious enough to check out what they've done.)

In any case, here's the Tokyo Game Market • December 2017 Preview.
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Lucca Comics & Games 2017 III: New and Nearly-New Games at the Show

W. Eric Martin
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When I first looked around the games pavilion at the 2017 Lucca Comics & Games festival, I had flashbacks of the just finished SPIEL '17 event, the massive convention in Essen, Germany that had ended only three days before Lucca opened. Many of the new games from that earlier show were on the demo tables once again, but this time in Italian, such the Cranio Creations' title A Tale of Pirates (which I had meant to preview ahead of SPIEL '17, but didn't as I ran out of time — still embarrassed about that...):




Cranio Creations also had the Italian edition of Gaia Project on hand, even though Lucca seems more oriented toward a family audience and casual play than SPIEL, which is itself very family-oriented, albeit with a rich vein of geeks running through that mainstream crowd.




As with designer Eric M. Lang, who I had highlighted in my first report from Lucca, Photosynthesis designer Hjalmar Hach had traveled from SPIEL '17 to Italy, with the main difference between the two being that Hach is from Italy, so he had a home-turf advantage when it came to signing copies and talking with game fans.




Dungeon Digger from Tin Hat Games was a title that I had added to the SPIEL '17 Preview, then forgotten. I had thought the game was brand new at Lucca until I started looking into it. Perhaps I have reached the limit of what my brain can hold.




HABA had its standard child-friendly set-up, with more Rhino Hero: Super Battle ready for action.




While Placentia Games had sold out of Danilo Sabia's Wendake for its debut at SPIEL '17, more copies were in reserve to ensure that the game could debut at Lucca as well. Plenty of publishers operate this way, and it's understandable why they do. You want to make a splash at each show, creating fresh buzz for a game in each territory it's available, with a limited number of copies getting into the hands of buyers now in order to (ideally) drive retail sales down the line.




Along that line of thinking, copies of Ares Games' Hunt for the Ring were in short supply, while...




...the new Hamilcar game hadn't quite made it to the finish line in time for Lucca after showing up at SPIEL in multiple non-Italian languages.




While not new at SPIEL '17, Balance Duels is a SPIEL regular, with designer/publisher Bum van Willigen (in the yellow shirt) having appeared at that show year after year since he debuted the game at SPIEL in 2005. Apparently he makes the rounds to other European game shows as well.




Not everything proved to be an echo of shows past as numerous publishers featured titles that were new on the Italian market, new to me, or both. When I didn't recognize games, I snapped pics, figuring that I could investigate them later. Cranio Creations had an Italian version of Piotr Siłka's deduction game Kryptos, for example, with this game having been first released by Trefl in 2014. Into my camera you go! And now you're in the BGG database, too.




Tolomeo is a new release from designer Diego Allegrini and relatively new Italian publisher Dal Tenda. Here's a description of the game from the publisher:

Quote:
In Tolomeo, players demonstrate their knowledge of astronomy to observe the sky and anticipate the planets' movement. Be careful because the speed of each planet differs in line with the Ptolemaic model, and you should consider the sun and moon as well. If you want a shot at victory, you have to spot astral conjunctions, make the best use of the comet, and take advantage of the planets' influence on each other.






Did you know that Shanna Germain's No Thank You, Evil! from Monte Cook Games is available in Italian? No? Me neither! Someone please investigate and add a version listing for this item to the database, please.




We already have Prestige and Dwarfest from Il Barone Games S.r.l. in the database, but not Stupido Umano. Another cry for action!




I was previously familiar with neither Italian publisher playagame edizioni nor Russian publisher Simple Rules, which is the originating publisher for all the kids' games being sold by playagame at Lucca 2017. This might not matter for you, but I aspire to know as much as I can about who's doing what where, partly out of self-interest but also out of curiosity to see what's happening in the industry at large.





War Titans: Invaders Must Die! from Crawling Chaos Games has been on Kickstarter twice without funding, but this title from a half-dozen Italian designers was being previewed at Lucca 2017 all the same, perhaps to gear up for Kickstarter attempt #3.




Misantropia is a design from Francesco Stefanacci and CosplaYou in which you try not to hate your fellow humans too much. From the description on BGG:

Quote:
In this game, you are a modern worker with an average job, particularly unlucky. Gradually it will happen the most different things during the day (round of play) and your patience will decrease. When you finish the patience your hatred for humanity (misanthropy) will increase and you will begin to develop psychosis and phobias of all kinds. To win you must be totally sane after a fixed number of turns. This is quite difficult, so the player with less "insanity points" will win.

Apparently Misantropia Express challenges you not to hate your fellow humans too much in a shorter amount of time. All the Italian text made this a non-starter in terms of investigating further, alas.




Other new titles from CosplaYou in 2017 include Tié, a party game in which you set rules for everyone to follow, and Sushi War: All You Can Hit!, in which you try to get the right sushi ingredients in the right places to complete orders, using only chopsticks to maneuver the dice.




CosplaYou had plenty of other titles on display as well, all of them published since 2015 when they started and all of them new to me.





I thought that one more post about Lucca would be enough to cover everything, but with so many pics to publish, I'm splitting my final wrap-up into its own post and leaving you for now with a few more random pics of games available for purchase at the show.






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Lucca Comics & Games 2017 II: Putting the Play Into Cosplay

W. Eric Martin
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As I mentioned in my first report from the 2017 Lucca Comics & Games festival, the event attracts tons of cosplayers, many of whom circle the pedestrian walkway around the center of town posing for shot after shot by other fairgoers. The level of effort and realism varies widely from model to model, but I'm impressed and appreciative of all of them as I'm unlikely to ever attempt such an effort myself.

Here's a sampling of the cosplayers I saw during the festival, with many more pics not making the cut (like the Ghost Rider who had a great flame collar but was too small in my pics) and still more people not photographed at all, such as the one hundred Harley Quinns and fifty Jokers pacing the walkway. I'll follow this fun post with one centered on games at the show to wrap up my coverage of Lucca 2017.

•••


Fantastic work, but what do you do when you need to use the bathroom?!


Fancy steampunk couple with bonus Roger Smith(?) on right


Carl and Ellie Fredricksen with bonus Sandy Olsson on right


Melisandre and Robb Stark(?)


A trash can with dreams of being a Dalek


Not sure how mobile this set-up was


Saw several camo guys; probably missed seeing many more


She looked giddy to pose with this guy


"Hey, how you doin'?"


"Let's-a go!"


Professional(?) Star Wars cosplayers along with a few amateurs


The TV, skateboard, and more were all part of their props


A skeleton, two Deadpools, soldiers, and some actual EMTs


Someone from Dragon Ball Z, I assume


Cosplay for the older audience


Professors Sprout and Trelawney


The only person was stopped for photos more than Paul Stanley (who was shown in my first report)


No idea who these six might be


No clue on this trio either


Zabuza and Kakashi from Naruto, and Roronoa Zoro from One Piece


Taking a picture of someone taking a picture of someone taking a picture of two jedi


The last thing you'll see at the Lucca Comics & Games festival...
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Lucca Comics & Games 2017 I: Walking the Landscape

W. Eric Martin
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For years, I had heard about the annual Lucca Comics & Games festival in early November, mostly from Italian publishers and designers who planned to highlight new games at that show in the wake of the SPIEL game fair in Essen, Germany. While the fair sounded fascinating, I never had a reason to attend. Come 2017, however, when SPIEL took place at its latest date ever (October 26-29), when Lucca ran November 1-5, and when my in-laws wanted to take a trip to Rome in November, and I suddenly found a reason.

The easiest way to describe Lucca to U.S. residents is to ask you to picture a state fair — those annual events in which fried food galore is sold on sticks and miniature vendor booths hustle all manner of tchotchkes that you'd never consider buying any other time of the year — spread out across an entire city, and you'll need a city to accommodate all the people who show up. Attendance is huge, with an estimated 400,000 visitors over five days in 2016!

Lucca, a city of 87,000 residents located in central Italy a half-hour train ride northeast of Pisa, has hosted this annual fair since 1966. (More specifically, the Salone Internazionale del Comics ("International Congress of Comics") started elsewhere in 1965, moved to Lucca in 1966, and changed its name to "Lucca Comics & Games" in 1996.) Central Lucca is still surrounded by the brick and dirt walls from centuries past, and this defensive rampart now serves as a pedestrian walkway: the Passeggiata delle Mura Urbane, or "Walk of the Urban Walls". You'll find most of the food vendors on this raised walkway, which is accessible by a few places around town where the walkway dips down toward the town center, along with multiple walkways in the side of the hills, some paved and some little more than patches of stones.


One of the shallowest and widest walkways (on the right)

A view over the wall to the right...

...and to the left

Looking over the wall into the central city


Fried foods aren't the main offering at Lucca, but you'll find plenty of other treats to grab and eat, whether you decide to mosey around the four-mile circumference of the walkway or sit on the wall to watch all the cosplay. Gen Con has plenty of cosplayers on hand, but Lucca easily has that show beat in terms of number of participants, ranging from the simplest (dozens of people wearing fuzzy onesies featuring unicorns, Pikachu, Jake, Mike Wazowski, etc.) to incredibly elaborate creations that barely allow them to move, whether due to their legs being largely immobilized (as with a mermaid who had her legs wrapped in a tail and a couple of minotaurs that walked on raised metallic "hoofs") or due to them being so awesome that everyone wants to take pictures of them.




I shot pics of dozens of cosplayers while circling the town, none of whom turned down my fumbling, miming efforts to show that I wanted to take a picture of them. Everyone seemed pleased to pose for pictures, and why not? They were putting on a show for thousands of attendees, street actors in a performance that began and ended with how enthusiastically they embraced the role. (I also walked halfway around the town filming passersby, cosplayers, the fair booths, and the surrounding town, but you'll have to wait until I get better wifi coverage before you can experience my shaky cam directorial efforts.)




At a certain point, it became difficult to tell exactly who was cosplaying and who was merely dressing in a fancy manner. That person is definitely living the steampunk dream with their gear-laden golden armband, but what about that person's top hat? Do they just think they look good in it? Is that woman dressing in a Victorian manner or simply wearing European fashion unfamiliar to me? That person is clearly a jedi, but that person might authentically be a monk.


Bulbhead is clearly a costume, but of what?!


The lines of "cosplay or not?" have became blurred, highlighting the way that geek culture has become more mainstream over the past decade. We're not yet to the point that someone wearing a Pikachu onesie around town would be ignored, but we're getting there, and I can't help but celebrate. Everyone should feel comfortable enough and safe enough to do their own thing, and everyone else should be cool with folks doing their own thing as long as you can do the same, without anyone getting damaged in the process. (The same applies to your choice of games played, books read, movies watched, and so on. You don't owe anyone an explanation for what you enjoy, and if they don't like it, I encourage them to go find their own things to enjoy.)

I spent hours circling the walls of Lucca — 10.5 miles walked that day! — and when I wasn't walking, I was sitting to people-watch. So much effort spent on dressing up to have fun!


One of the most photographed cosplayers I saw;
he could barely move ten feet before someone else asked him to pose


Aside from being a watcher on the wall, I visited a few sections of town to check out the displays. Whereas Gen Con and SPIEL (and pretty much every other convention) take place in a hotel or convention center, the exhibitor halls and vendor booths at Lucca are spread throughout the town.


Keep this map handy while walking! (PDF and real-life version)


Want to see what's in Japantown? Start walking east! Curious to learn what Blizzard has on hand to play? Head north! All of these halls and booths are behind fenced-off areas in town, and you must show both your bracelet and ticket to enter them.

What do the residents of Lucca do during the fair, when hundreds of people fill the streets from 9:00 to 19:00 and you can't drive or shop where you normally would. Many of them rent their apartments or homes to out-of-town visitors, similar to what people do when the Olympics take place, and they head elsewhere. Along the same lines, non-geek shops and restaurants sometimes don the trappings of geekdom to attract fairgoers and participate in the spirit of the event.




The comic areas featured hundreds of titles that weren't familiar to me and which I couldn't read, so I didn't spend much time there, although I'll note that western comics still seem to be popular in Europe, something that I recall from managing a comic store in the late 1980s when Marvel Comics issued translated versions of Moebius' Lt. Blueberry. Japantown featured a dozen booths filled with the otherworldly , highly elaborate statues of animé characters that you'll find throughout the Akihabara region in Tokyo (minus all the neon), along with manga in Italian, plush manga characters galore, and plenty of other collectibles.






The Netflix show "Stranger Things" seems to have a strong following in Italy as two booths devoted to the show had huge lines throughout the day. (I've never seen it, and that lack combined with a similar absence of Italian language skills made it easy for me to head elsewhere.)

Naturally I devoted a decent chunk of time to walking the board game pavilion at Lucca, but despite being on par with "comics" in the name of the event, the game pavilion is small relative to the amount of space devoted to comics. (If you add in the video game booths elsewhere in the city, then the two topics might have the same amount of space devoted to them, but I don't do video games, so I saw those booths only in passing.)




The main takeaway for anyone thinking of visiting Lucca to check out the board games is that you need to be fluent in Italian. A couple of vendors had small sections devoted to games in English or multilingual titles that had been imported, but other than those, you had to search carefully to uncover games that even included English rules in addition to Italian.

One of those finds was Mucho Macho, a card game by Evin Ho that is sort of the official game of Lucca 2017. Each year since 1994, the Lucca fair has held a card game design contest — Gioco Inedito ("Unpublished Game") — and since 2004 when publisher dV Giochi became a contest partner, the winner has their design released at the subsequent Lucca (and at SPIEL in the weeks prior). Each year, the competition features a theme or setting, which helps give designers a focus around which to build their creation.



The 2017 finalists


An interesting aspect of Lucca is that the game publishers you think you know from Gen Con, SPIEL, or (in my case) Spielwarenmesse take on a very different look at Lucca. When I think of dV Giochi, I think of them as being responsible for BANG!, the new Deckscape escape room games, and a handful of other titles — but when you see dV Giochi at Lucca, their booth is enormous and they have a huge range of titles that you've never previously seen. This shouldn't be a surprise, given that you'd never expect them to promote the Italian versions of Amun-Re, Happy Salmon, or Above and Below at Gen Con or SPIEL, but I never knew previously how many games they had licensed for the Italian market, so indeed the surprise was there.



An all-kids Tikal table!


The same was true for publishers like Cranio Creations and Giochi Uniti, although for the latter publisher I had a greater awareness of their breadth, given that they're often the Italian partner for Fantasy Flight Games.

Giochi Uniti also had a separate clearance booth outside the main exhibition hall for both its own games and titles it distributed, and I was astonished by the huge range of titles inside for bargain prices, including the second edition of Fury of Dracula (which wouldn't bring big bucks on eBay since it's in Italian); big box games like Magestorm, Venetia, and The Mystery of the Templars that had been highly anticipated a few years earlier; dozens of expansion packs for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (again, only in Italian); and even a stack of twenty-year-old copies of Alex Randolph's Twixt from KOSMOS.



Even knights like to find bargains


Elsewhere in the main exhibition hall, I discovered who released Italian versions of titles from IELLO, what's been happening with Warangel designer Angelo Porazzi (who hasn't visited SPIEL in a few years), and what happens when you encounter Eric M. Lang in Italy. (He makes bunny ears on people, just as he does everywhere else.) As in Germany and other non-U.S. locations, Asmodee distributes CMON Limited titles in Italy, so Lang had made the trek from SPIEL to Lucca just as I had — on the same plane even! — to be a special guest at the show. One thing that Lucca had that SPIEL lacked as the presence of real-life Zombicide zombies. Maybe next year?


Bunnying others, and being bunnied in return

You'll have to imagine the shambling, which this performer did with gusto


I saw that while Italian publisher/distributor/retail Uplay.it has created straight translations of some games in its catalog, it's altered others to meet the tastes of its market. Machi Koro and Medieval Academy come packaged in tins similar to Sushi Go Party, for example, while Mysterium was given a more gothic, less cartoony look as Il Sesto Senso, Glory to Rome was blessed with a more professional cartoony look in Sit Gloria Romae, and Guildhall was transformed with a nautical theme as Seven Seas: il canto della sirene.





As is the case around the world, certain games are already in the mainstream, and they have an audience. Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! had multiple booths devoted to selling new and used cards, and Monopoly Tex (another western!) had a spot near the entrance to catch those just entering the pavilion.




The prime spot in the exhibition hall, however, was devoted to Bruno Cathala's Kingdomino, which had won Gioco dell'anno (game of the year), just as it had won Spiel des Jahres in Germany in July 2017 and been nominated for As d'Or in France in February 2017. Whatever our individual tastes in games, good distribution partners often allow for the same game to hit multiple markets around the world at roughly the same time, and some games hit the spot for more players than other games do.




I spent a couple of hours walking the hall, taking pics, noting what was new to me (both the games themselves and versions of existing games, although I'm unlikely to spend time adding game versions to the database when other projects are still in the docket), and surveying what folks were playing, then I walked through again with the video camera running. Again, I'll post that video later once I can.

While I'm taking home only a few games from Lucca, such as the Italian edition of Tichu from Uplay.it, I loved having the chance to see the fair firsthand and experience what I've heard about from afar so many times. I'm curious to think about what this fair would look like in a U.S. city, but none of the ones near me are centralized in the way that Lucca is. Any suggestions for cities that can be taken over in the future?

I'll post another round-up of pics from Lucca in the near future, both of games and cosplayers. For now, you can just imagine yourself being part of the crowd...


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SPIEL '17: The Day After, and Plans for Lucca

W. Eric Martin
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SPIEL '17 is over — but you knew that already, didn't you? All the tweets have ended, and the #SPIEL17 hashtag is being used only by those like me who still need to filter through hundreds of images taken and not yet shared.

Everyone is posting pics of the piles of games they took home from SPIEL '17 in order to prime their gaming groups in anticipation and establish a playing agenda for the next few weeks or months. I'd share pics of all the games that BGG is bringing to BGG.CON — which opens in just over two weeks on Wednesday, November 15 — but I don't have any as we did things differently this year. In years past, we'd box games and palletize them in the back of the BGG booth, carting them out only on Sunday after the fair ended.

For 2017, the time between SPIEL and BGG.CON is the shortest it's ever been, so we brought BGG.CON co-organizer Jeff Anderson to SPIEL '17 to serve as an extra pair of hands. Jeff used a handtruck during the day to move stacks of boxes to a truck in the parking lot, where he then further prepared them for the trip to Dallas. On the Monday following SPIEL, he planned to drive the truck to Frankfurt, where they would be air-shipped on Wednesday for arrival in Dallas by Monday, Nov. 6, giving the con crew roughly one week(!) to process 47 giant boxes filled with hundreds of games. That number is a bit misleading as a few boxes contain only promos that will show up in the Geek Store and one box consists of games I shipped home for myself since I'm still on the road (see below), but in any case, we shipped hundreds of games that will be available to BGG.CON attendees.

In addition to those boxes, we've asked a few publishers to ship games directly to Dallas for use in the BGG Library. We ask publishers who demo games on air in the BGG booth during SPIEL to donate games for use in the Library, but sometimes publishers sell out their stock without having set aside copies for BGG or the person who agreed to donate games doesn't tell the presenter to bring copies or the originating publisher can't get us copies in English or a dozen other things happen. This happens every year, of course, because SPIEL prep is a messy business, but we've already talked about how to put better processes in place for SPIEL '18 to ensure that we'll have all the new games on hand for attendees of BGG.CON 2018 in November. Failing to plan is planning to fail, and all that.

As for our SPIEL '17 coverage, you can see all of the material recorded on our Twitch channel, albeit with labels that don't match reality, given that we have four videos labeled "Day 3" and three labeled "Day 1". Whoops. Go by the day of publication instead, and cross reference that with our posted broadcast schedule, keeping in mind that "Day 1" for us was actually Wednesday, October 25, the day prior to SPIEL '17 opening. Many thanks and much Geekgold to MentatYP for posting summaries of the daily broadcasts with timestamps in that schedule thread. We'll post the individual videos on our YouTube channel and the BGG game pages as soon as possible, but I'm not sure how much we'll be able to edit given our need to prep for BGG.CON. That job is in someone else's capable hands, so we'll see...

As for me, I left Düsseldorf far too early on Monday morning and headed not west to the U.S., but south to Italy to attend the Lucca Comics & Games fair for the first time. I've seen pics of the incredibly crowded streets, and I know the fair is more about comics than games, but given that the fair starts on November 1 — only three days after SPIEL this year! — I thought it made sense to attend. What's more, I'll meet my family and in-laws in Rome afterwards for a few days of actual vacation. Woot!

Naturally I kept my eyes open for games during my travels, stopping into a toy store in the Munich airport to see this array of games:




This display features what might be considered a standard line-up of hobby games with the mainstream offerings, with many of those same titles appearing in an Italian toy store in Pisa:








"8-legged stretchiness"


As in Germany, advent calendars are a big deal in Italy, such as this very special one from Ravensburger in which children are taught all the scientific principles they'll need to know in order to kidnap Santa Claus. Educational!




Pisa also has some impressive graffiti along the tunnels that separate rows of houses and apartments:





Although far more common than images are tags reminiscent of my teenage years in which you felt that you had to publicize your cause the only way you knew how:


Clockwise from upper left in my rough translation: "Better no lying than lying", "No GMO", "Too much order creates disorder"


And since I was in Pisa, I took a walk around town to see You Know What:




While there, though, I mostly took pictures of other people taking pictures, finding it fascinating to see other people take this one idea they've seen others do and re-enact it:





Of course some people have different models for the fantasy images they want to recreate:


Wishful thinking, dude!


My approach to gaming conventions mirrors my attitude here. At conventions, I'm often content to walk around watching others play games instead of playing games myself. I observe their experience of the thing and their interaction with it, often because I've played the game myself and am curious to see whether they respond to the game similarly. How well did I read the gameplay and the experience that the designer and publisher tried to create?

In the end, though, I gave in and posed with the tower with the standard pose that everyone else does:


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Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:00 pm
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SPIEL '17: Pics from the Press Room — Charterstone, Gaia Project, and More

W. Eric Martin
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The first day of SPIEL '17 is over, but as is often the case for me at conventions, I'm not even caught up to date after SPIEL's 0th day, that being the press day in which you get to take pics of all the new games in the press room. Here's a sampling of the 250 pics that I took on Wednesday, a ridiculous amount of photos to take given that I can hardly post them all publicly in a reasonable amount of time — yet not taking them also seems wrong given the opportunity. Hmm...


Charterstone


Frank Heeren from Feuerland Spiele told me today that their line on opening day stretched from their booth (about one-third of the way into Hall 3) to almost the back wall of Hall 3, a distance he estimated at 200 meters. Charterstone above and Gaia Project below were among the most anticipated new titles at SPIEL '17, and the Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade expansion further down hasn't been a slouch either.

Gaia Project


Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade


The 2016 Brettspiel Adventskalender came in two formats: one giant box in which each item was packaged in an individual space and a compact box in which all the promos were stacked togethere. The 2017 Brettspiel Adventskalendar is once again giant, and Matthias Nagy of Frosted Games told me that the large size is due to a special The Castles of Burgundy promo that can't be folded, which means that a small size box would still have been roughly two-thirds the size of the large box, which means it wasn't worth the hassle to offer in two sizes.

2017 Brettspiel Adventskalendar


You know what photographs terribly most of the time? Card games. They look somewhat lifeless or the light glares across them, obscuring the faces. In any case, here's one of Alexander Pfister's new titles at SPIEL '17, co-designed by Dennis Rappel and published by Österreichisches Spiele Museum e.V.

Tybor der Baumeister


One month ahead of the Justice League movie, Spanish publisher ABBA Games has brought its Justice League-themed game (which we previewed at SPIEL '16) to market.

Justice League: Dawn of Heroes


Another title that's not in the BGG database, must less on our SPIEL '17 Preview, is Terraformer by Russian publisher Rightgames. We'll see whether I can manage to discover what the game's about in the next few days.



Looking forward to running through these scenarios, whatever they happen to be, and Space Cowboys has already stated that they're working on more.



Simple yet appropriate decorations on the 2F-Spiele table.



Not sure what to make of this as "Pylos Brexit" seems like a joke, yet someone went out of their way to number boxes as if these were part of a limited edition production run and demo them in the press room. Bizarre.

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Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:15 pm
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SPIEL '17: Set-Up Day, Late Surprises, Missing Games, and Outrageous Booths

W. Eric Martin
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It's amazing how good eight hours of sleep can feel sometimes, and I should enjoy it since I probably won't clock that number again for several days. I landed in Düsseldorf, Germany around 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday after not having slept on the red-eye flight, made my way to Essen with designer/publisher Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games (who I taught The Game on our sideways-turned suitcases while waiting for the train), then hung out at the Messe during set-up for SPIEL '17 until I collapsed at 21:00. Such is the convention life sometimes.

You can't see too much in the way of games in the publisher booths right now because most booths are still in a state resembling this:


Zoch Verlag


The walls and banners might be in place, but that's about it. Heading out to Hall 6, you'll find this group getting ready:


Yu brothers Brian and Dale at right


Unlike all the game publishers at SPIEL '17, BGG's convention opens on Wednesday, Oct. 25, with us starting to broadcast livestream game demos at 10:00 (GMT +2) and continuing until 18:30. (Yikes, that's less than four hours from now. Type faster, Eric!)

Our broadcast schedule is packed for five days, yet we can't even begin to cover ever single new game at SPIEL '17 as I'm still learning about some of them, such as Across the Iron Curtain, a new game from Kolejka's Karol Madaj that's co-published by Czech Board Games and Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (Kolejka's original publisher). Across the Iron Curtain is a cooperative game for 1-6 players in which you're trying to help characters escape from Communist countries to the West. CBG's Jakub Tesinsky told me that game originated from an effort to give kids and teenagers an idea of what life was like for some families when Europe felt divided decades ago between East and West.

I just added this title to our SPIEL '17 Preview, and now I can't get that to fully load for me. Great timing! I'm sure that Scott has nothing else to prepare for in the next couple of hours and will fix that soon...


Forest Fire was the CBG surprise at SPIEL '16


Games are also lacking with some of the vendors, including Japon Brand, which has had all of its games held up in customs. In mid-2017, convention organizer Merz Verlag sent notes to all of the vendors to remind them that the products they sell must meet certain packaging guidelines. An excerpt from one such letter:

Quote:
Please note that we were required to point out that all products presented at fairs in Europe need to fulfill the conditions of the Directive 2009/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the council of 18 June 2009 on the safety of toys.

This Directive shall apply to products designed or intended, whether or not exclusively, for use in play by children under 14 years of age.

Therefore only toys/games can be sold to the public, if
1.) the toy/game is provided with a recognizable and durable serial number,
2.) the producer and his contact details are indicated on the toy/game (European address required)
3.) required safety notes in German language are declared clearly visible and understandable on the toy, the label or on the box,
4.) the CE marking is indicated clearly visible on the toy, the label or on the box.

This list is not conclusive, you will find the full text of the directive via the following link: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/DE/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32009L0048

As noted in the letter, this directive has been in place since 2009, so it's not new, but apparently someone has decided to forgo the spot inspections of earlier years and crack down on publishers across the line. Multiple publishers have had to get German language choking hazard stickers (shown at right) from Merz Verlag so that they can apply those stickers to products before making those products available for purchase.

What's more, another note that I've seen mentions that if these standards aren't met, then "no sales (also no advanced sales) is allowed in any way". Thus, paying ahead of time outside of SPIEL and still acquiring the game at SPIEL would be prohibited. I'll be visiting multiple publishers on Wednesday to find out who else might have their games go missing and whether these problems can be resolved in the next couple of days.

[Update, Oct. 25, 14:33: Japon Brand's games have now been cleared and will be available at SPIEL '17.]

Right now, though, the only place you might find games available on Tuesday are at some of the used game vendors, many of whom already have their mountainous stacks ready for gamers to paw through.




This vendor is near BGG's booth, so we'll have to keep checking to see whether any treasures pop up as the owner keeps organizing the stacks. Me, I'm just curious to see how many copies of Lotti Karotti move by the end of Sunday...

Speaking of moving, some publishers have really upped their game in their display booths for SPIEL '17. KOSMOS has multiple backlit display banners in their open-air booth, and AMIGO Spiele has these as well, with the banners projecting only about 4 cm from the thickness of their normal walls. (I used to write for trade publications in the 1990s and early 2000s, and I did many articles about advancements in sign and banner technology, with the creators of that technology being as eager to talk about their work as the game designers and publishers that I interview today. It's great to speak with people who are passionate about their job, whatever it might be, as they give you a new perspective on some aspect of the world you might never have considered previously.)


KOSMOS


The real convention game-upper, however, is Asmodee, which has unveiled a new logo:


Shadow of my head not included in all versions


And spent a kajillion dollars on a series of displays that resemble booths from E3 and PAX more than SPIEL. You can't get the full effect in this image from midday Tuesday when its booths covering 40% of Hall 1 were still being constructed:




But this video will give you a better feel for how SPIEL attendees will be bombarded once Thursday arrives and the doors open onto this spectacle:


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Wed Oct 25, 2017 5:43 am
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Printing Your SPIEL '17 Picks

W. Eric Martin
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BGG's SPIEL '17 Preview is nearing one thousand listings, and given that I'll be updating the preview for one more week — and that my inbox has recently been hit with plenty of late submissions — I'm sure that we'll pass that total before SPIEL '17 opens on Thursday, October 26.

Scott has updated the preview with an export function that generates a CSV list of whatever you're looking at. To get a concise list of your picks, use the prioritization buttons as you like, sort the list as you like, then use the filters to see only what you like, then export the list and print it.




I hope you've been enjoying all the designer diaries and game previews that I've been running. If so, you'll enjoy what's coming next week as I'm doing more of the same in order to give you an advance look at as many SPIEL '17 releases if possible. If not, well, I invite you to watch this fascinating video that demonstrates an unusual painting technique:


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