Essen '13 Gaming Weekend
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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Last year I took the opportunity to visit Essen, having moved to Germany at the end of 2011. I was distinctly underwhelmed. I had intended to visit for a few days with a friend and hopefully spend the evenings playing swag in our hotel but he had to cancel and I decided to only go for one day. This year Mike was keen to take the opportunity to visit lest he miss his chance in the future and so we arranged to visit on Friday so as not to interfere with work

Michael Harvey
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Mike and I are both in the British Army officers.

Rather than fly solo I invited another couple of BGGers to join us and make an entire weekend of it in Herford which is centrally located for the others.

Alex H.
Germany
Berlin
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Alex has relentlessly stalked me here on BGG for years now and Essen seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet him for the first time.

Michael Weber
Germany
Wendeburg
Germany
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Yo quiero estar contigo, vivir contigo, bailar contigo
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Mixo has been my trusted local gaming companion since I moved here and although I have subsequently moved elsewhere in Germany and we're no longer within an hour of each other this was a great opportunity to re-activate our gaming rivalry.

So, join us into a foray of gaming debauchery as we glutted on games old and new over three days...
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1. Board Game: Rogue Agent [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:9219]
CJ
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Colchester
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Unfortunately Essen started off on a sour note of us. I had pre-ordered a couple of games from White Goblin, including Rogue Agent. We were expecting to play it on Friday night (Invasion only plays 2) but unfortunately it got stuck at customs and didn't make it in time. Whilst WGG will send it free of charge to my home address we obviously didn't get the chance to play it over the weekend.
 
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2. Board Game: Myrmes [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:406]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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Mixo asked me to pick him up some games from the fair as he wouldn't be attending this year. This offered me an opportunity to visit some publisher booths that I wouldn't ordinarily: Asmodee and Pegasus.

At Asmodee I needed to pick up the Myrmes replacement tiles (albeit from Ystari - they were at the same booth) as Mixo has the 1st Edition. I have a little message for Asmodee: Having a customer stand at your service desk waiting to be served and forcing them to listen to your assistance talking about crap with his random mate and ignoring you for 2 minutes isn't conducive to creating a good impression of your company. Forcing that person to then watch as someone brings some games to the desk to purchase, jump past you in the queue, and then have the same assistance immediately take those games and tell his friend that he can't talk anymore as he needs to work just adds insult to injury. Fortunately I was able to walk off and find a British assistant at the back of the booth who actually seemed interested in doing his job so kudos to him. I did manage to get the tiles for Mixo.

On the other hand Pegasus Spiele were extremely friendly and professional - kudos to you.
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3. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:226]
CJ
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Colchester
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Whilst we waited for Mixo to arrive and for my wife to prepare dinner we decided to get in some games of KoT. Mixo arrived before the second game so he played in one but then dipped out again to read the rules for some of his new games (in preparation). Game 2 was 4-player but the others were 3-player.

Each game saw Pandakai (Mike), Mecha Dragon (Alex) and Gigasaur (Chris), with the one time addition of Space Bunny (Mixo) smashing it out for victory. In the early games Gigasaur was annihilated early so I ended up having to read books to my daughter whilst the others finished. In games 3 & 4 Gigasaur came back with a vengeance...

Results were:

Game 1 - Mike
Game 2 - Alex (4-player)
Game 3 - Chris
Game 4 - Chris

We used the Power Up! expansion that I bought at Essen for the latter two games and whilst it was expensive for its physical components it's a good expansion. The addition of the evolution cards adds both an added level of complexity that the game benefits from as well as offering a nice option for the monster in Tokyo.

Unfortunately I couldn't be bothered to hang around and try and win the Space Penguin that was being offered as a promo. It looks awesome, though, so whilst the new expansion doesn't interest me I might try and track down that one in the future.

KoT was also the final game played on Sunday night when Mike, myself and my wife polished off the weekend with a 3-way affair of Pandakai (wife), Gigasaur (me) and Space Bunny (Mike). It was probably the longest game of the five played but eventually Gigasaur emerged victorious with 20 VP thanks to some nice evolution upgrades.
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4. Board Game: Space Cadets: Dice Duel [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:932]
CJ
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Colchester
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This was a game that I picked up for Mixo and whilst we played KoT games 3 & 4 he read through the rules. Following dinner cooked by my wife (Japanese katsu-kare) we settled down to a play-through that, remarkably, has been chronicled by the famed war correspondent Sir Fuzzy Lumpkins:

'The HMS Awesome, crewed by the renowned Captain CJ and fearless Petty Officer Mike, cruised from their home port in the early hours. Their mission - to protect the brave men and women of the Merchant Marine who had suffered desperate losses at the hands of a pocket-raider - the Bismarck.

After weeks of fruitless searching the sharp-eyes of a young ensign spotted a residual plasma trail and the alarm was raised; in the distance the prize loomed onto the view screen. The Bismarck - crewed by the dastardly Captain Mixo and his odious Gunner's Mate Alex - was dead-ahead and the brave crew manned battle stations, eager for the battle at hand.

The initial stages of the engagement were relatively quiet as each Captain sought to out-manoeuvre his opponent. HMS Awesome launched a mine and then sought out the minerals required to power its tractor beams. Then, success! Poor manoeuvring by the Bismarck left the mine dangerously close to her port side. Seizing the opportunity Captain CJ activated Awesome' tractor and first blood went to the British!!!

Realising they were at a disadvantage the Bismarck warp-jumped away and HMS Awesome slowly re-manoeuvred to close the range. She dropped a mine to limit the British options but then disaster struck and she blundered back into it. Doubtless someone would be executed that night...

Bloody and damaged, like a wounded bear the Bismarck sought to strike back and HMS Awesome reeled from a double torpedo attack that caused her fearless crew to man their damage control stations. As fires were fought, and brave seaman received medical care for the wounds, the HMS Awesome stayed true to her task and sought the decisive engagement.

With the battle poised for several tense minutes each side manoeuvred, seeking to gain position for the final strike. Each ship fired once, twice, thrice, and each torpedo slipped past its target as both ships were piloted with daring and skill. Then, finally, the remarkable seamanship of Captain CJ, and the unerring targeting of Petty Officer Mike, enabled Awesome to steer his ship into the Bismarck's wake and acquire successive target locks against an unshielded stern. Once! Twice! Success!!! Successive torpedo strike pounded the Bismarck's stern and she began to list. With power lost and the situation hopeless the Bismarck fell majestically from the sky like a noble bird or prey, mortally wounded. Minutes later her engines exploded and she was lost with all hands.

Bloodied but stalwart the valiant crew of HMS Awesome's guided her back into port. Just in time for tea and medals.
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5. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:239]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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All four of us are experienced players of BB:TM and I like to think I helped Mixo and Alex see the light and acquire copies of this gem. To date I have amassed 32 plays of this, one of my favourite games, and I can safely say that this one game will be difficult to ever surpass...

The teams broke down as:

Alex - Undead
CJ - Wood Elves
Mike - Dwarves
Mixo - Dark Elves

We played with the enchanted balls but removed the contract tokens (as I loathe them).

I sought to use my preferred Wood Elf target and ruthlessly target every star player I could. Unfortunately I was undone by some poor dice rolling and the viciousness of the Undead Mummy and within the first two rounds I fell behind in both fans and upgrades. Although the latter rounds saw my elves improve their performance it was too little too late and unfortunately by round 4 it looked hopeless as the Dark Elves and Dwarves streaked ahead in popularity. Instead, the Undead and Wood Elves focused on each other and sought to avoid the ignominy of the wooden space.

With the Blood Bowl over the final scores were tallied as thus:

Dwarves - 46
Dark Elves - 46
Wood Elves - 28
Undead - 23

With the surprising result of the score tying we looked to the number of upgrades to determine the winner. Mike initially claimed 8 and Mixo 9 but some confusion during counting led to the Wood Elves to request the league investigate the veracity of the information provided. The independent arbiter reported back and it was determine that both teams had unengaged in underhand shenanigans with 10 upgrades each. With their disqualification and ejection from the league the Wood Elves emerged victorious with the Undead in second place.

The pure unadulterated joy of this victory will live long in the memory
 
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6. Board Game: Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:281]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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I requested that Mixo bring this gem as I thought it would be a perfect game of viciousness to enjoy whilst drinking copious amounts of beer. It was.

Houses were assigned as:

Batiatus - Mixo
Solonius - Alex
Tulius - Mike
Glaber - CJ

The game played relatively quickly (a little over an hour) and was mostly played out with intrigue cards. The end followed this pattern when, from nowhere, Mixo played a succession of punchy cards and took his score from 9 to 12 in one fell swoop. Not to be undone the rest of us conspired to bring down the arrogant Batiatus and Good Solonius managed to acquire the final influence to contest for victory in the arena...

Unfortunately for Batiatus he had spent too much time dripping poison and conspiracy in the ears of Capua's good citizens whilst Solonius has invested all his time and effort in his arena champions. The tie-breaking contest between Solonius' champion, Spartacus, and Batiatus', the house slave, was short and bloody. There wasn't much left after the Thracian legend had finished entertaining the crowd.

The finish was followed up by the game changing hands as Mixo is keen to acquire a German-language version. Mike happily snapped it up for a very reasonable price.
 
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7. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:193] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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I'm a big fan of Dixit and I thought it was a good game to chill out in the early hours before calling it a night. Mixo made some comments about girl games but joined in nonetheless and after taking 5 minutes to teach mike how to play we fought threw fatigue and drunkenness to be as imaginative as we could be.

The key lesson I took away from this game was that you have to be very careful about mixing player nationalities. That, and apparently The Magic Roundabout isn't well known in Germany (poor fools) shake

Mike won comfortably.
 
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8. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:128]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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It's been many years since I last played Galaxy Trucker and, unlike Mike who loved it (his first play), I've now slightly downgraded my score. We only played two rounds due to the time (we pulled stumps at 0230 hours) and Mixo ingratiated himself with us all by turning the timer after a couple of minutes each round.

Obviously he knew what he was doing - he won easily.
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9. Board Game: Runewars [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:146]
CJ
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Colchester
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Saturday was our opportunity to get a big game to the table and I duly obliged by unleashing Rune Wars. We played through to the end of the 5th year as unfortunately Mixo had to leave us that afternoon but after five hours it seemed fairly clear he was destined for victory regardless.

The factions and tallies were:

Mixo (Waiqar the Undying) - 6
CJ (Daqan Lords) - 3
Alex (Latari Elves) - 2
Mike (Uthuk Y'llan) - 2

Had we played through to the end I doubt anything would have changed as the theft of a Shard from my hero by Mike and the heavy defeat my Siege Towers suffered against Waiqar removed any chance the Daqan Lords could claim victory. Although Latari had proven more potent in combat they couldn't seem to acquire any Dragon Runes and as winter fell the hordes on Undead swept across the land.
 
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10. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:274]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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Following Mixo's departure I offered up something lighter to play whilst my generous wife cooked us dinner (homemade pizza). I had previously acquired Hanabi and Alex and Mike were happy to play. It was the first time for all of us and whilst I had previously struggled to comprehend how it could be so enjoyable I now know. It's a great little game and I look forward to future plays. Our final scores were:

Game 1 - Failure.
Game 2 - 16.
Game 3 - 16.
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11. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:183] [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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The final boardgame event of the evening was a 3-player game of Small World. I'm decreasingly a fan of this game (I own it) but it was a perfect game for the early evening as we all sought to play something a little lighter.

Early on Alex's Stout Dwarves and Mike's Commando Orcs made rapid gains as my Bivouac Ghouls struggled to conquer much territory. This continued into the mid-game as Alex's Dragon Amazons and Mike's Sea Giants once again swept across the board. However, by this time I had acquired Diplomat Sorcerers and the low scores of my early turns were replaced with several high-scoring turns.

As the game moved on Alex tried his luck with Swamp Tritons and Flying Halflings whilst Mike guided Beserk Ratmen and Wealthy Elves. ultimately, though, their early successes were eclipsed by mine in the latter stages and (somewhat surprisingly [to me, at least]) I had managed to sneak a victory. The score stood at:

CJ - 148
Mike - 136
Alex - 110
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12. Board Game: James Bond Secret Agent 007 Game [Average Rating:5.05 Unranked]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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Saturday night was given over to games of the digital variety and I grabbed my N64 from the basement. We started off with a little bit of Mario Kart 64 before moving onto Goldeneye. Alas, this didn't last long as, after 14 years of loyal and valiant service, the console decided that it would age in dog years and die of old age.

Farewell, fond friend, you served me well.

At this stage Mike decided to get his head down so Alex and I watched Superbad before calling time at midnight.
 
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13. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:148]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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Sunday morning was our opportunity to head down to Herford town centre to enjoy a German brunch at one of the restaurants. This is an opportunity for my wife and I to go out to a restaurant with our daughter (20 months) and Alex and Mike were happy to join us. However, before that there was time for another game.

My wife took the opportunity to walk into town with the baby whilst we played Glory to Rome and joined her later. Mike and I had played once before (and Alex has played elsewhere previously) and I have been desperate to play again for a while. I have the Black Box Edition which is absolutely gorgeous and despite the delays in receiving my copy I'm delighted to own it (my sympathies to those who are still waiting).

Mike seems to be fairly switched on to how to play this, and Alex was able to take advantage of his previous experience - obviously. they both thumped me. The final score stood at:

Alex - 36
Mike - 24
CJ - 18

I'm not really much of one for games with as little direct confrontation as this but I really, really enjoy GtR. The learning curve appears to be significant but I hope to get more plays in the near future.

Once we'd finished we drove into town for brunch and then I dropped Alex off at the station. We then headed back to my house for what turned out to be one of the highlights of my weekend...
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14. Board Game: Omen: A Reign of War [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:950] [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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I had recently pre-ordered copies of Omen: A Reign of War, Olympus Edition and Hemloch: Vault of Darkness. Despite shipping to Germany costing more than the games themselves I was looking forward to receiving both (but especially Omen) as I'm really keen on card games at the moment and Omen has some really good reviews.

I'm really glad I paid out for them - Omen is an outstanding game. We played through four times (twice with the base game, once with Spirit, and once with Spirits and Heroes). We both absolutely loved it and this is now one of my favourite games. The fact that it is easy to teach, portable, and utterly gorgeous just adds to its charm. I'm looking forward to future plays and confident it will be easy to get plays of it.

Many thanks smallboxgames, you have produced an exceptional product.
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15. Board Game: Invaders [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3338]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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After Mike and I accompanied my wife and daughter on a trip to the park we settled down to play one of my acquisitions from Essen. We played through two games - me as humans and Mike as the aliens.

Unfortunately, playing humans was a disappointing experience and even though both games were extremely tight affairs it felt like I had been abused for 30 minutes each time. Mike concurred from the alien perspective and we abandoned Game Two (although he was again destined for victory) as neither of us found it enjoyable.

I suspect that I needed to sacrifice my Heroes more to acquire cards to make it competitive but that just seemed to be thematically perverse and, regardless, playing humans was joyless. I did jokingly offer to sell this one to Mike - his response isn't publishable on this website...

Results:

Game 1 - Mike won by draining my deck.
Game 2 - Mike won by reducing the power of Eurasia to zero (or would have if we had played through the last turn).

I'm not sure I'm going to be playing again anytime soon and I'm fairly confident that Mike will threaten me with violence if I try to make him play.
 
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16. Board Game: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:529]
CJ
United Kingdom
Colchester
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The final act of the weekend was to sell this game. I enjoy it well enough but I rarely play it and Mike is a big fan. We were both happy.

Many thanks to Mixo, Alex and Mike for making the effort to travel to my house - hopefully the experience was worth it and you enjoyed the weekend as much as I did. If we don't get the opportunity to game together sooner then mark the weekend of Essen in your calendar for 2014 as I fully intend for us to repeat it all.


The final tallies were as follows (the win percentages don't tally to 100 as they represent the wins for games played by each individual, which differs):

- 12 unique games played.
- 20 full games played (+1 called slightly early and +1 abandoned).
- 19 victories (+3 cooperative games).

- 9 games won by CJ (47%) of 19 competitive games played.
- 6 games won by Mike (32%) of 19 competitive games played.
- 2 games won by Mixo (29%) of 7 competitive games played
- 3 games won by Alex (25%) of 12 of 12 competitive games played.

Whilst the number of games played differs the incontrovertible fact is that my percentage is highest and therefore I emerge as the glorious champion. I shall revel in my glory until we meet again next year arrrh
 
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