Thematic Solitaires for the Spare Time Challenged

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Meet me in Essen – and read my guide for SPIEL beginners

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Microbadge: Fan of Stonemaier GamesMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Geoff EngelsteinMicrobadge: Level 18 BGG posterMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
The best time of my work-year starts in two weeks.

Yes, in just 12 days I’ll leave Denmark and go to SPIEL in Essen.

If you’re not interested in me but are here only for my Essen tips cry, then scroll down to the horizontal line.

I’ll be at SPIEL Thursday to Saturday. 3 days of games, 3 days of fun. 3 days of mayhem, 3 days of meeting friends, and 3 days of making new ones - and maaaaany hours of wearing a facemask .

If you’re also there and spot me, then please say hi – I’d love to talk to you (well, unless I’m on my way to a meeting) .

Below is a recent photo of me. I still have morning hair and puffy eyes and that’s likely what I’ll look like down there, since the sensory overload and tens of thousands of steps walked is tiring. Like in the photo, coffee will gradually resolve the issue :-)

External image

Given that we’ll all be wearing facemasks this year it’s probably easier to recognize my t-shirt – well, t-shirts, because if I didn’t change it, the smell of sweat caused by the heat of the crowd and the nervousness of an introvert meeting strangers would keep you so far away that you wouldn’t be able to make out the logos on them. Speaking of logos, I’ll either wear a black t-shirt with a Stonemaier logo on the front and a Automa Factory one on the back or an orange Stonemaier t-shirt.

If you’re at a specific booth some of the time and would like to say hi, then let me know where and when and I’ll do my best to drop by.

One of the highlights of my visit to Essen will be meeting some of my fellow Team Automa members Lines Hutter, Lieve Teugels, Karel Titeca, and perhaps Nick Shaw. Another highlight is meeting Shadi “Oniverse” Torbey and see the preproduction copy of my game, Skoventyr, which he’ll bring because he’s the publisher of the game.

Guide to SPIEL and Essen

If you’re going to SPIEL for the first or may second time, here are some tips that you might find useful.


U-Bahn (subway) U11 is the only public train line going to Messe Essen where SPIEL takes place. If possible, avoid U-bahn stations that are downstream from the Essen Hbf (Hbf = Hauptbahnhof which means central train station), since AFAIK after that the trains can get so crowded that it’s hard to get on.

If you go to Hbf and see trains arriving that are too full for you to fit in. Don’t worry, new and empty trains start from there.

On that note: If you have issues standing in a tightly packed train that drives underground, then don’t use the train or at least get off before Essen Hbf from where there’s less than 3 km to Messe Essen. Walking is an alternative and it’s been easy for me to get a cab from hotels and Essen Hbf, but I haven’t tried that when going to Messe Essen in the morning where demand will be high.

U11 has so many trains going that you don’t need to time your arrival with the schedule if you’re willing to wait a few minutes.

When getting on U11 take the one going towards Messe West-Süd/Gruga and get off at the last stop. When you get off just follow the crowd and you’ll get to the right place – you need to try really hard if you want to get this step of the journey wrong . You can also get off at the stop before that: Messe Ost/Gruga Halle but if I remember correctly that requires you to walk further.

Going home, take U11 from Messe West-Süd/Gruga (end station). You can’t go wrong, since all trains departing from there are U11 in the right direction. Getting on the train from Messe Ost/Gruga station is likely to be hard if you leave at closing time because those getting on at Messe West-Süd/Gruga will fill up the trains.

You can find U11 and full Essen trainline maps here.

For a single trip to or from Messe Essen buy a preissstufe (price category) A (A3 to be exact but IIRC that the ticket machines only says “A”) EinzelTicket (single ticket) for €3 in the ticket machines before getting on. Alternatively, you can travel as much as you want on a 24-StundenTicket (24-hour ticket) for €7.30.

If you’re going back and forth 2 days, then go for a 4er-Ticket at €11 allowing 4 trips or a 48-StundenTicket also (€13.90) to ride as much as you want for 48 hours. A 10er-Ticket at €23.40 for 10 trips is an alternative option.

I do not give any guarantees that this information is correct and won’t refund you if you get a fine .

If you find the route system confusing, you can use the DB Navigator app, which can be set to use English, to navigate it all.

Personally, I often walk instead of taking public transportation, but that’s of course a matter of preference and how much you want/is able to walk, because you’ll likely walk a lot at SPIEL.

A small tip: Bring cash. More or less all ticket machines in Essen have refused to accept my credit cards (Master Card and Visa from a major Scandinavian bank). Also, many booths at SPIEL do not accept credit cards and among those that do I have also had trouble with some of my cards. Some banks have ATMs outside that can be used outside of business hours and there’s (at least) one at Messe Essen as I’ll describe below.

Messe Essen

As for Messe Essen itself you can see the hall plans in the SPIEL guide here. It also contains a list of all exhibitors along with their booth numbers which is searchable in a PDF reader. A few publishers registered too late for inclusion in that guide, they can be found here instead.

The booths numbered with a hall number, a letter, and a 3-digit number, e.g. 3H113 for Feuerland Spiele. The halls are organized in an easy to navigate grid system with the letters indicating columns and numbers indicating rows. The first of the three-digit row number is AFAIK always 1. As shown below the official hall maps are labelled with these numbers, so in almost all cases you can find the booth you want easily.

This year there’s an app with maps and a search function for publishers, toilets, etc. Search for SPIEL ’22 in the App Store (I assume it has the same name on Android) to get it.

In the real-world halls many (all?) entrances/exits have an overview map showing how the halls are placed in relation to each other and a text telling you which hall the exit leads to. Galeria (also denoted GA) is not a hall per se, but a very long, wide corridor that has some booths and food. These maps are typically placed above the exit, so that they can be seen from a distance by looking up even when you’re down in the crowds.

Time can be saved by using the outside spaces between the halls because you bypass the crows and can often do a shortcut.

WCs are easy to find, just walk around the perimeter of the halls or check the maps/app.

Food is also easy to find, but if you want to sit on a chair while eating, a good bet is to go to the large open space by Eingang Süd/Halle 1. There’s a big cafe there that you can’t miss, but above it there’s a restaurant that you definitely can miss. You get to it by going up the anonymous spiral staircase that I have marked in the hall map below. I have always been able to get a seat up there.

Being willing to sit on the floor or stand up while eating gives you more food options and if the weather is decent, you can exit Galeria at the west end (go left if you enter from hall 2 or 3, right otherwise) where there’s a nice area with some greenery and places to sit. Some of the outside spaces between the halls also have places that sell food and have seats available. Essen can be chilly that time of year, though.

If you exit Messe Essen temporarily make sure to get a wristband from one of the attendants. They’ll usually ask you whether you want one just before you walk out the door.

IIRC there’s an ATM if you leave hall 3 via the main exit (I’m not sure whether you can actually get out of Hall 3 anywhere else), go right and follow the building for maybe 50 meters. I could be misremembering and it might be hall 1 instead, but I don’t think so and the exits of those halls are very close.

Other tips

* Bring CE marked (EU certified), N95, FFP2, or 3-layer medical masks face masks or you won’t be allowed in. Unlike last year proof of vaccination isn’t required.
* IMPORTANT: New guidelines will come from the authorities in late September, so check [url= ]the SPIEL home page[/url] to stay up to date on that.
* Remember to eat and drink enough.
* All of this is AFAIK/AFAIR – no guarantees are given.
* If you don’t like standing very close to other people in a huge crowd wait a few minutes after the opening time before going in and be aware that Saturdays and Sundays are very crowded inside so set off time for breaks outside. I once spent 15 minutes to go a few hundred meters from one meeting to another trying to go as fast as possible and using outside shortcuts – I’m not exaggerating, that’s how crowded it is.
* If you need help, you can go to the info desk in hall 1 as marked on the map below, that also shows the stair to the above-mentioned restaurant.

From gallery of mortenmdk

The info desk and restaurant staircase in hall 1.

If you spot anything wrong in the above, please let me know.

See you there.

From gallery of mortenmdk
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