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SPIEL '19 I: GeekBuzz, Fairplay, Attendance, and a Few Game Announcements

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
SPIEL '19 is over, and (fingers crossed) all attendees have returned home or have purposefully gone elsewhere and aren't merely stranded at airports. Con crud is underway in some percentage of attendees, and I would urge attendees of all conventions to bump fists instead of shaking hands to reduce the incidence of this annual malady.

On a more positive note, let's recap some of what happened and what was announced during SPIEL '19:

• Convention organizer Friedhelm Merz Verlag says that turnstile attendance at SPIEL '19 was 209,000, which is 10% higher than the 2018 total of 190,000. An excerpt from the press release following the end of the fair:

On the occasion of SPIEL '19, the Association of Games Publishers (Interessengemeinschaft Spieleverlage e.V.) reported growth of 4% for the year 2019. Over the past five years, the German board game industry has grown by over 40%. Among all toys, classic games and puzzles are the most important product group in the Christmas trading period.
From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Given the hundreds of games for sale and on display at SPIEL '19 — with more than 1,200 titles on BGG's SPIEL '19 Preview — it's impossible to see everything firsthand, which means you start looking to the wisdom of the crowds to help determine what you might want to investigate.

At SPIEL (and Origins and Gen Con), BGG runs a GeekBuzz system that allows attendees to thumb up whichever titles appeal to them for whatever reason they want. Each attendee receives a unique log-in code, and they can use GeekBuzz on the laptops in the BGG booth or log in on their phone or personal computer. People can still thumb up games for a while after the show ends, which is a nice option since (again) you can't experience everything while the show is underway. You can check out the complete SPIEL '19 GeekBuzz leaderboard in full if you wish, but I'll list the top fifteen titles and their originating publishers here:

Board Game: The Magnificent
The Magnificent, Aporta Games
Aquatica, Cosmodrome Games
Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula, Board&Dice
Barrage, Cranio Creations
It's a Wonderful World, La Boite de Jeu
Bruxelles 1897, Geek Attitude Games
Cooper Island, Frosted Games
Glen More II: Chronicles, Funtails
Ecos: First Continent, Alderac Entertainment Group
Terramara, Quined Games
Black Angel, Pearl Games
Azul: Summer Pavilion, Next Move Games
Maracaibo, dlp games
Last Bastion, Repos Production
Teotihuacan: Late Preclassic Period, Board&Dice

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Fairplay magazine has been polling SPIEL attendees since before my first SPIEL in 2004, and in its current incarnation, it asks people to complete forms that rate games from 1-5, mirroring (as far as I understand it) how students are graded in the German school system. Fairplay posts compilation lists a few times each day of SPIEL that lists all of the games that have received a certain number of votes and have at least a certain minimum score. For its final list, Fairplay showed the fifteen titles that received at least thirty votes and had at least a score of 3.5:

Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Die Crew, KOSMOS (4.1)
Crystal Palace, Feuerland Spiele (4.0)
Marco Polo II, Hans im Glück (4.0)
Azul: Summer Pavilion, Next Move Games (3.9)
Barrage, Cranio Creations (3.9)
Carnival of Monsters, AMIGO (3.9)
Res Arcana, Sandcastle Games (3.9)
TEAM3, Brain Games (3.9)
Dinosaur Island, Pandasaurus Games (3.8)
Kitchen Rush, Artipia Games (3.8)
Rune Stones, Queen Games (3.8)
Cartographers, Thunderworks Games (3.7)
Cooper Island, Frosted Games (3.7)
Terramara, Quined Games (3.7)
Palm Island, Portal Dragon (3.5)

Not a huge amount of overlap between those two lists! Only Azul: Summer Pavilion, Barrage, Cooper Island, and Terramara appear on both, and looking at a few details on them suggests that they're being created by two slightly overlapping audiences. The Fairplay list, for example, includes the 2017 titles Dinosaur Island and Kitchen Rush, which were released in German-language editions at SPIEL '19 from, respectively, Feuerland Spiele and Pegasus Spiele, as well as the 2018 title Palm Island, which is new in German from KOSMOS.

BGG's GeekBuzz, by contrast, doesn't dip into the German-only titles, with Die Crew — full title Die Crew: Reist gemeinsam zum 9. Planeten — appearing at #114, which is below Baby Crews which is one of three titles from Jumping Turtle Games, with all three of those titles ending with the same number of votes at positions #101, #102, and #103. Things that make you go hmmm...

Marco Polo II hardly did better, appearing at position #93, and Carnival of Monsters was a Gen Con 2019 release in English with a rulebook that English speakers would not want to wade through in German.

I'll note that GeekBuzz had 897 participants, with 647 items receiving at least one thumb and the top five items each receiving more than one hundred thumbs.

Board Game: The Liberation of Rietburg
• Speaking of Die Crew, Thomas Wetzel from Thames & Kosmos says that title as well as Gerhard Hecht's Die Befreiung der Rietburg — which is set in the world of Michael Menzel's Legends of Andor — will be released in English in the first half of 2020. (Lost Cities: Auf Schatzsuche, on the other hand, is not scheduled for an English-language release in 2020.)

For those not familiar with Die Crew, it's a trick-taking game for 2-5 players that includes fifty missions, with the missions starting simple, e.g., that round's commander (the lead player) must capture a specific randomly-determined card in a trick, then getting more complicated. The rules and mission book are solely in German, but that didn't stop many English-speaking attendees from buying a copy anyway on the assumption that someone would translate it all — and that's already happened.

Board Game: Nova Luna
Stronghold Games will release Nova Luna, an Edition Spielwiese title from Uwe Rosenberg and Corné van Moorsel, in English in the first half of 2020.

• In 2020, Asmodee Digital will launch adaptations of two well-loved board games: Blood Rage and A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. Both games can be played solo versus an AI, and both of them have nebulous trailers that reveal nothing about the look of gameplay: BR (here) and AGoT:TBG (here)


I have many more notes from SPIEL '19, both from publisher and designer meetings and things seen in passing, and I'll put together another post along these lines soon...
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