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Gen Con versus Essen

Folks from USA tell us that Gen Con is biggest board game convention on this planet. Folks from Europe say "Phew! Essen is and always was bigger and more important!". Tom Vasel pours oil to the flame and says that Gen Con not only managed to catch up with Essen, but grew up bigger and will dominate from now on.

What can I say. I am one of these lucky bastards who attended both Essen and Gen Con. Let me add more oil and tell you what I think.


Let's start with numbers.

Gen Con 2014 new releases? Eric W. Martin listed exactly 300 games. Not all of them were actually released. Not of them were actually new releases. But well, screw it. Let it be 300 new games.

What about Essen 2014? Eric W. Martin listed 502 games. Huge number but... Essen was cheating for years... Let me look into this list with a magnifying glass. There is more than 50 games on that list that - as far as I know - were already released at Gen Con and now are just listed again. And there is another 50 or so that are just German versions of already released English games.

It's more like 300 to 400.

Still, in terms of number of new releases, 1:0 for Essen.

What about number of visitors?

This is tricky part because Essen fair counts entries, not actual people. They say that 150 000 people visited fair for 4 days. It might mean that about 37 000 unique visitors entered the fair. It might mean that. We don't know for sure.

Gen Con says it clear and open - they had more than 60 000 unique visitors.

Looks like it is 1:0 for Gen Con...


What about gaming?

When exhibitor hall closes at Essen, gamers go to hotels and play all night long at hotel lobby, at hotel restaurant, at hotel rooms.

When exhibitor hall closes at Gen Con, gamers go to Open Gaming Area and play all night long. Or go to one of many game rooms at convention center. Or go to any restaurant or pub around Indiana Con Center and play. And in hotels too. And everywhere.

This is amazing - whole Indiana downtown around Con Center changes into Game city for this 4 days. This is freaking awesome - you walk the streets and there are gamers, all around, playing, talking, having fun.

Gen Con wins 1:0. Whole downtown is a convention center here.


Anything more?

Essen fair is a games fair - huge, insane huge exhibitor hall. And that's all it is.

Gen Con fair is a games convention. It has huge exhibitor hall. And it has insane number of other attractions. Game nights, tournaments, panels, larps, RPG... Thousands (yes, you read it right - THOUSANDS!) of events that take place there. This con runs 24 hours per day for 4 days without a 5 minutes break.

Gen con wins 1:0 and to be honest it is more like 10:0. There is so much more than just an exhibitor hall.


Exhibitor hall - closer look.

Gen con is all about new releases. FFG is bringing all their best. AEG is bringing all their best. And IELLO, and Stronghold and Plaid Hat and Portal Games too. We put the very best stuff we have and we make US gamers feel like in heaven.

Essen has new releases too, but this list of new games is more diverse. You find here super rare gems. Games from Japan, games from Poland, Spain, Italy, games from Taiwan and games from Russia, games from all different parts of the world. Many unknown companies, many small gems that you can browse and try and hopefully find a treasure designed by new designer.

I would call it a draw. I love those hyped games like Dead of Winter, Five Tribes or Imperial Settlers (yes, I am doing product placement here). But I also love to walk around those all small booths at Essen and look for games and publishers I have never heard of. This feels like a gaming adventure. Gen Con vs Essen - 1:1 this time.


Exhibitor hall - second closer look

Gen con is mostly about game publishers. Most of booths are game publishers.

Essen is about game publishers and game stores and second hand games stores. OMG! You can find there old games like El Grande or Tikal. You can buy games with super prices. You can negotiate prices. There are so many games on sale, there are so many chances to buy great games for something like 3 or 5 euro! Man, you just walk those corridors and you can not resist - special offers and discounts on every damn corner.

Essen wins. If you want to buy not-new-releases, Essen wins. Much wider selection and much better prices. Essen vs Gen Con 1:0


We may go on and on.

At Gen Con I can go and watch Indiana Colts match without even leaving convention center. Colts stadium is connected to convention center. How cool is that?!

At Essen you can find tens of grocery stores with huge selection of cookies, chocolates, sweets... Heaven!

At Gen Con I have wi fi on every corner of the street, in every store, pub, everywhere. Except exhibitor hall...

At Essen I meet gamers from whole Europe - gamers from Spain, Russia, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Croatia...

At Gen Con gamers are so friendly, so open, so kind that I am speechless. I don't know how to react when I face so much positive energy. I am blown up by kindness and openness.

At Essen people believe I can actually speak English...


Let's face it. I love both conventions. I think I might fell in love with Gen Con lately and I really am into this amazing con.

But Essen is still my good old love.

This will be my 9th Essen. And I can't wait to be there again. And I can't wait to meet many of you and to - beware product placement! - show you Imperial Settlers.

Portal Games, booth 1-C120, see you there!
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