Essen 2013 - my interest list, what I played, what I bought, and why
Richard Dewsbery
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As with previous years, I'm going to update this list with my views once I've played or seen games.

This started out as a list of Stuff I might be interested in at Essen 2013. This year's target is three games. Last year I bought far too many games home with me, with the end result that several of them have received either no plays, or far too few plays to justify their shelf space. So three is clearly the Right Number. Until I get to Essen, of course.

Last year I went over with the stated intention of buying five or six games, but overspent. Yet looking back on what I did buy, only three games were worth the money - Snowdonia, Keyflower and Escape: The Curse of the Temple. And only one of the three would make it into my all-time top ten (Snowdonia - which is just a fantastic game). Oh, and Love Letter, which was the bargain of the decade at €3, given how many hours we've spent playing it.

There were of course a couple of great games that I missed - Terra Mystica and Kemet - but I bought those later in the year anyway; it's not that vital to buy at Essen these days, as games are republished and more easily available than they were ten or fifteen years ago.

Each year I think that there are too many new games being released, from too many companies by too many designers. We've long passed the point where I can play all of the new releases, or most of the new releases, and this year I'll be surprised if I play more that a handful, as I'm going to be working at the Treefrog stand for a good chunk of the time.

And after far too many disappointments in the past, I'm not pre-ordering anything or Kickstarting anything, and I'd rather not buy anything "blind" either. So I'll be relying on all the usual sources and suspects to tell me which three games to buy. Looking for the Snowdonias, Agricolas and Puerto Ricos - no more dross or fillers, please.

But right now, these few are the front-runners. By all means chip in on the comments section if you think that there's something unmissable that I've missed.

EDIT - I'm now going to morph this list into an overview of my Essen.

For one thing, it seemed busier than ever. There are two things that make me say that.

Firstly, the halls seemed more crowded than ever. Now it's not easy to make direct comparisons - the change of halls from the old halls 4-12 at the Messe to the much larger halls 1-3 means that everything has a different layout. But despite the fact that the new halls had a greater surface area, they seemed more crowded - especially on the Thursday (I made a similar observation about Thursday visitor numbers last year). It was probably the coincidence of German half-term holidays and Spiel. Of course, it makes perfect sense for things to be planned so that the two events do coincide, but there have been a number of occasions in the past when they have not. And Thursday/Friday are noticeably quieter on the years when the two are in different weeks.

Secondly, people seemed to be spending more. It was harder to get a game at the tables, and lots of games sold out. Not just the games there in really small quantities, like the Japon Brand games, but lots of fairly big titles - Concordia, Lewis & Clark, Study in Emerald. Which was good, because as stuff sold out I couldn't buy it.

Not that this really helped me in my quest to buy just three new games. I ended up going over by two, as well as picking up several titles in trades. But only 5 new games was something of an achievement - and hopefully it means that they will actually get played and be appreciated.

One important thing to note, though - I didn't buy several games after playing them, and bought several games without having played them. Time will tell if that was a smart move.

Anyway, I'm now going to edit the list items to reflect what I played, what I bought, and why I made various decisions.
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1. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:314]
Richard Dewsbery
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Looking at the deluxe edition.

Abacus.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/85023/english-translat...

€60. Eeek. I could probably afford half that.

EDIT - having bought the standard card game version from Amazon three days before the show (together with Kingdom Builder for just over €10) I was disinclined to buy the deluxe version.

NOT BOUGHT

NOT RATED
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2. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:110]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://www.lautapelit.fi/viewLibDocument.asp?lang=7&sua=1&id...

€50

3-B108, 3-D103

EDIT - friends were playing it in the hotel Friday evening, and were sufficiently impressed that I thought I would make this the third game of my three. Not yet played it myself, though.

BOUGHT

NOT RATED
 
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3. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1635]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://www.ystari.com/prosperity/ProsperityUS.pdf

€33

3-B108, 3-D103

EDIT - I didn't see this being demo'd anywhere. that might have been because it wasn't, or might have been because I never noticed it. With the fair being 4 days long, and me demoing games for Treefrog on two of those days, time was EXTREMELY limited, so I didn't get to see a lot and had no spare time to go hunting. But I wasn't immediately struck by the graphics, so decided not to buy a copy. Yes, I'm that shallow. And I might pick up a copy in due course anyway, after actually playing it.

NOT BOUGHT

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4. Board Game: Relic Runners [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1588]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://cdn1.daysofwonder.com/relic-runners/en/img/rr_rules_e...

Played it. Hated it.
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5. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:226]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://boardgamegeek.com/file/download/ndroizhajg/glass_road...

€35

3-D100

EDIT - Each year amongst my friends at Essen there are games that several of us are interested in. If possible, we sit down and play the game during the show. If not, someone might buy it and we play their copy of an evening, working out whether the others also want to buy. The third option is to talk to others who have been able to play it, even if we haven't ourselves (as I did with Nations above).

This year, a friend decided to "take one for the team" and bought this blind. We played this Thursday evening, back at the hotel after the fair had closed.

Although it was on my interest list, I had largely written it off - I was pretty sure that I would be buying Caverna, and with a target of just three games I could not make two of them games by the same designer, let alone games which looked superficially similar.

But I was impressed by Glass Road. Although resource collection and conversion is important, it is not a worker placement game. Instead, it is a role selection game, more akin to Puerto Rico or even Race For the Galaxy. Each round, a player selects in secret five actions that they want to perform; and then goes on to play three out of the five actions. If somebody chooses the same role, you get to play your card early - which might open up the chance to play 4 or even 5 cards in the round; if nobody chooses the same role, you get to do that role twice. So careful role selection can give a player a big advantage. The resource management is handled well with a wheel akin to Ora & Labora, but with a built-in conversion mechanism (turning one set of goods into another type).

Some players have mentioned downtime. Now that was a HUGE problem for me with Lewis & Clark, as well as several other games. But it absolutely was not an issue with Glass Road. Because although players have to think about their card selection, everyone does that thinking simultaneously. Actually playing those cards - which isn't simultaneous - takes much less time. I like games which make you think; i dislike games which make you wait while other players do their thinking. Glass Road does the first without doing the second. Score.

So I played it, enjoyed it, and bought a copy the next day.

PLAYED

BOUGHT


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6. Board Game: Twin Tin Bots [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:3155]
Richard Dewsbery
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REJECTED

Rules - http://www.flatlinedgames.com/files/games/twin_tin_bots/rule...

After watching a video review/walkthrough, I can say that I'm unlikely to buy this. Partly because I don't need any planned movement games (Wings of Glory/War fulfils that particular niche, and looks prettier too). And partly because it looks like it may share some of the problems that Roborally did - that in order to be complex/confusing enough to be fun, there needs to be a reasonable chance that players make mistakes - which in turn means that you need to keep an eye on not only your own moves, but those of opponents. And done properly, that gets tiresome very quickly.

Just discovered that the RRP is €55. Even more definitely a "no", then.

EDIT - for the reasons listed above, I passed without playing it. It did look pretty, but that's nowhere near enough these days.

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
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7. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:71]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://zmangames.com/rulebooks/Russian_Railroads.pdf

€35

3-B108, 3-D103

EDIT - Another game purchased by someone taking one for the team. We played this Saturday night. It's a worker placement game - and a fairly pedestrian one at that. The game did not take as long to play as I had feared - certainly less than two hours. But we did finish early because I was hating it so much. We had managed to play 5 out of the 6 rounds, so I could see where it was going - me, rapidly heading for last place, getting behind at the end of the first round and getting further and further behind each round. What I struggled with was why. There were particular tracks - esp. industry - which you ignore at your peril. this is not a game where an unusual approach will provide a potential path to victory.

Further, I couldn't see where the variety was going to come from. Save for the order of engineer tiles - only one of which is added to play (and purchased) each round - I could not see what would change from game to game. Presumably the players' approach will vary, but mine won't - I didn't want to play a single turn more, let alone another 6.

PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
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8. Board Game: Nauticus [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1525]
Richard Dewsbery
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Unlikely to buy; I attached a rules explanation video, and could not detect any viable spark of greatness.

€40

EDIT - a friend whose opinion normally counts for a lot (he picked Agricola as a great game when it was first released, and Terra Mystica last Essen) said that he and his wife really enjoyed it. Which almost swayed me to buy a copy. But as I hadn't played it, and had my reservations, I didn't.

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
 
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9. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – Even More Buildings Big and Small [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Richard Dewsbery
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€10

3-B108, 3-D103

Get the English version!

EDIT - got this to add to a game I rarely play. But as it's small *and* is only an expansion, it doesn't count towards my three-game limit.

NOT PLAYED

BOUGHT
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10. Board Game: Bremerhaven [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:3368]
Richard Dewsbery
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€40

3-B108, 3-D103

EDIT - another game that I didn't have time to play, and I fight shy of buying without playing unless I hear anything really positive. Which I didn't.

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
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11. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://lookoutgames.datenaustausch.net/20131003_CAVERNA/Cave...

€70

3-B108, 3-D103

Plus points - it's like Agricola, only more so.

Minus points - I already own Agricola.

EDIT - I decided that I needed it even though I hadn't played it and have Agricola. So it became my second purchase of the three I was allowed.

NOT PLAYED

BOUGHT
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12. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:159]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://www.ludonaute.fr/Lewis/pdf/LCK_rules_EN.pdf

3-P108

€40

Not bowled over by the video explanation I've watched.

EDIT - Played this on the Saturday night. Two friends had played at least part of the game on the Ludonaute stand, so they were well on their way to thrashing the other players when we stopped. Why stop? Again, two of us weren't really enjoying it overly much, we had seen enough to make our own minds up, and we were very, very tired by then.

Why didn't I like it? Well, it's not an easy game to pick up; mechanically it was fine (although a little bit different to most other games), but conceptually I struggled with *how* to do particularly well. Although as far as I could tell I was lying either second or third in what is essentially a race to the finish line (rather than the usual contest to collect victory points). But mostly I was concerned about the game length outweighing the interest I had in it.

PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
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13. Board Game: Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1075]
Richard Dewsbery
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€33

3-C126

EDIT - as I didn't go into hall 3 very often - unless it was with specific intent - I didn't see or play this. Unless you count the chat I had with Brian Yu in the press presentation area on the Wednesday. Ultimately it came down to a decision between this and Augustus for the game that I would take home as a present for my 11-year old daughter. I went with the safe option (Roman bingo) rather than the cute option (little plastic ghosts).

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
 
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14. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:19]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules downloaded

€43

1-C108

EDIT - played on the Wednesday (another one where someone else was taking one for the team). The briefest of first impressions having played it five player (and won, by catching on to the importance of buying VP cards as often as possible) - it's OK, quite good, sort of like Hamburgum (which I didn't like) and Navegador (which I did, a lot). If I had been the one to buy it, I'd not be unhappy, but I don't feel a compelling need to get one myself. 7/10, maybe 7.5. I didn't feel that it was an 8, despite my enjoyment of other Mac Gerdts games. But it really dragged with five new players - I keep forgetting the cardinal rule, don't play a new game with the maximum player count unless it is very, very simple. On the plus side, it was different, it was straightforward and I enjoyed it - just not quite enough.

PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
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15. Board Game: Coal Baron [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:504]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://www.eggertspiele.de/uploads/glueck_auf_rules_gb_lr.pd...

€32

1-G149

EDIT - played on Thursday. It's a worker placement, cube-shuffling game. Cubes get added to players' mines, moved up and down in a little elevator, then dumped on contracts where they will score points. I think we played a third of a game, which was more than enough for me to reach the conclusion "nothing new here, move along". Kramer & Kiesling turn out games which are occasionally new and brilliant, occasionally weird and rubbish, and mostly workmanlike and alright. This was firmly in the "alright" category - it looked OK, nothing wrong with the components, and the little elevator is cute. The game play was ordinary - competent, nothing more. Once we played by the right rules, that is - at first we were taught to play the game quite incorrectly, and it was completely dysfunctional. But that's one of the dangers of playing half a game of something at Essen.

PLAYED

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16. Board Game: Florenza: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2808]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://www.placentiagames.it/Joomla2.5/index.php?option=com_...:fcg-game-rules&id=4:florenza-the-card-game&Itemid=216&lang=en

1-B103 1-D108

I almost didn't get this. Not because I couldn't find it, but because I decided that it was a game I wanted as part of a trade deal organised at Treefrog. The only thing is, I might not have been clear enough that it was the Florenza *card game* I was interested in (having bought Florenza the board game a couple of years ago). My friend tried hard to negotiate a swap for Florenza the board game, and was only narrowly persuaded to accept the card game in trade instead. Which is the one that I actually wanted, so everyone happy.

I've not played it yet, and it does look to take up a fair chunk of table space (like its big brother), but I'm looking forward to playing it.

NOT PLAYED

ACQUIRED IN TRADE
 
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17. Board Game: Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:601]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://portalgames.pl/en/the-legacy-testament-of-duke-de-cre...

€36

1-E142

I looked at this, I could easily have bought it or traded for it, but ultimately I passed on it, for no particularly good reason. Except the fact that money was not inexhaustible, space in the car was not inexhaustible, and I simply don't have the time to play all of these games.

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT

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18. Board Game: Canterbury [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:2331]
Richard Dewsbery
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Rules - http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/90595/canterbury-rulebook-...

Another one I didn't go looking for - or even see. Although I did wander past Stronghold's stand, I failed to notice Canterbury.

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
 
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19. Board Game: Keyflower: The Farmers [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
Richard Dewsbery
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€25

3-P105

Ordered and purchased from my local games shop (a somewhat sneaky way to get around my three game limit).

NOT PLAYED

NOT BOUGHT
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20. Board Game: Kohle & Kolonie [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:1901]
Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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Rules - http://www.spielworxx.de/app/download/6012349263/Kohle_und_K...

€55

1-D121

Yet another game I didn't try. Several times I walked past the stand without noticing it, but never went back to actually try it.

NOT PLAYED

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21. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:924]
Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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Rules - http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/94192/patchistory-english-...

€40

3-S119

All sold out long before I got anywhere close to it.

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22. Board Game: Yunnan [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1346]
Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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Rules - http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/93797/yunnan-english-rules

€35

3-E103

Another one I neither saw nor played. Someone was playing it in the hotel, but I failed to gather any useful feedback about it.

And I'm not a big fan of tea.

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23. Board Game: Age of Monarchs [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked]
Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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Outrageously long playing time, though. Someone would have to convince me that this is the gaming experience of the decade before I actually purchased it.

Once again, didn't see, didn't have time to go looking for it.

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24. Board Game: Sigismundus Augustus: Dei gratia rex Poloniae [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:4268]
Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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Rules - http://boardgamegeek.com/file/download/9bqtclvo4n/Sigismundu...

2-B130

Same again.

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25. Board Game: Hegemonic [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2700]
Richard Dewsbery
United Kingdom
Sutton Coldfield
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Rules - http://boardgamegeek.com/file/download/nczqg1s8dm/HegemonicP...

€60

1-A100

Sounds really good from a video review I watched. Not convinced that it will "fire" Eclipse though.

EDIT - sat down to play this on the Thursday morning. Had a third of a rules explanation. But this was the second time in a row where the experience at the Minion Games stand has been a huge let-down. The publisher - and he's effectively a one-man band - has his attention pulled in several different directions all at once (what with visits from manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, friends and potential customers) and the games explanation suffers; I understand the pressures on his time, but it comes across as being disrespectful and downright rude. Last year the experience at the Minion stand was the worst I had experienced, and this year was no better. We politely gave up on the exercise and went off to look for somewhere that our time could be better spent, because we were finding it almost impossible to follow a confusing explanation about a game which itself wasn't immediately straightforward. I'll not make the same mistake again next year.

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