SPIEL at Essen 2013 - Plays, purchases, and experiences
Alain Baum
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Wow, I just realized it's been the twelfth time I've been to the SPIEL fair at Essen. As usual, it was a great experience, so I'll take the chance to tell what happened before, during and after the fair.

Note that some games were bought by my gaming buddy who accompanied me on the trip.

I added a verdict for the playtested game, using emoticons. We do need a neutral emoticon, because some games left me indifferent, but snore is sometimes too harsh to put it.
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1. Board Game: Hotel Tycoon [Average Rating:5.46 Overall Rank:16671]
Alain Baum
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I usually book the Ibis at the train station (Hauptbahnhof), since it has a good value compared to the price. Unfortunately, when I booked in January, it was already sold out. Booking.com suggested the Welcome Hotel which was a bit further, so we (me and fellow geek greinart) booked that one instead.

Then it was time to wait.
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2. Board Game: Which Way, Please? A Map Reference Game [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Alain Baum
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Cartography is a hobby of mine, so I was eager to start on the maps for the fair. I started doing those in 2007, IIRC, and publishing them to the Geek in 2009.

Since there were no official maps out yet, in early September I started to assemble the maps of the Cutting and Welding fair. The eventual gain from this effort was minimal, but I did post about it here (Essen 2013 - Cutting and Welding the New Hall Plans).

With the awesome help of fellow geeks, I had a non-final map after a few weeks. When the official maps came out, it went that much faster to do the final version posted here (Hall Plans 2013 are ONLINE! (With detailed maps)).

I first posted the PDF in my public dropbox folder. However, fellow geek bruddermarc, who is the president of our gaming club Spillfabrik, asked whether the map was also on our site (since I am its webmaster). I thought it was a great idea and moved the map to our server.

I told my mom about this, and she went and posted the link on her Facebook account on October 21st (since I don't use FB). At that time (as I later noticed) our web traffic skyrocketed from around 250 MB a month to 700 MB a day!
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3. Board Game: Heroscape: Arrival of the Master [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
Alain Baum
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As usual, we drove to Essen on Wednesday afternoon. We arrived with minimal delay and checked in at the hotel.

The Welcome Hotel is situated two subway stations north of the Hauptbahnhof. It is an okay alternative for the Ibis, but it does not feature a decent area for after hours gaming. The breakfast buffet is adequate, although I had to notify the waitress that some of their selection of crisp bread was way past its expiration date (thankfully still edible). The bed duvets seemed to be made of a thermonuclear material, because it became quite hot under them.

After checkin, we bought the subway tickets and made our way to the Grugahalle to buy our tickets in the Eventim presale shop.

This year, three of our Spillfabrik friends were at the fair. Jeia was a game explainer at Pegasus, Christian was game explainer at Ravensburger, and Dennis presented his new game: TF22: RELOAD! Other members who weren't working at the fair, but only visiting, were due to arrive on Thursday.

We had dinner with Dennis and Christian at the Fritzpatrick's Irish Pub, since they wanted to watch the Champion's League. I heartily recommend this place (for the food, I couldn't care less about the soccer), although unfortunately they were out of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
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4. Board Game: Space Sheep! [Average Rating:5.23 Overall Rank:16288]
Alain Baum
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Tested

Come Thursday and we entered the fair. The doors opened ten minutes early and we made our way to the Stronghold Games booth, because there were three games I wanted to test: Going, Going, GONE!, Space Cadets: Dice Duel, and Space Sheep!.

We started with the latter, and boy, did it tank. The game explainer started a game with me, Guy and another visitor. After the explanation, we asked to try the first few moves without timer, to get a grip on things.

After a while it looked like we were in a total deadlock, everyone was spinning the pawns around in his head without getting anywhere, and after a few moves, all three of us said, "Thanks, but that's not for me."

Verdict: yuk

Since the other games' tables were full, we moved on to:
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5. Board Game: Völuspá [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1783]
Alain Baum
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Tested

This game was not new, but it was on display since they published a new expansion for it: Völuspá: Order of the Gods.

The other visitor had left, so we played a few turns of a three-player game. This was much less of a brain burner, but I found it to be pretty dull and, despite the gorgeous artwork, very abstract.

Verdict: snore

And we moved on to:
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6. Board Game: Going, Going, GONE! [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:3007]
Alain Baum
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Tested

Being a fan of Scott Nicholson's "Boardgames with Scott" videos, I was eager to try this game. We playtested a full game with a lady, and it was quite enjoyable. While it did make our list of considered purchases, in the end, it didn't get bought.

Verdict: thumbsup
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7. Board Game: Concept [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:631]
Alain Baum
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Tested and Bought

I had plenty of Repos Production games on my list, but the only free table was for this game. The young lady who explained the game did her best, but playing this game with three is not the same experience.

Nevertheless, I saw potential, and I added it to the purchases list.

Verdict: thumbsupthumbsup
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8. Board Game: Might & Magic Heroes [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:3231]
Alain Baum
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Seen Demo

The booth was too small for this game to test, so we asked for an explanation and a sample turn. To me it looked like an interesting mix of Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game and Mage Knight Board Game. We texted a friend of ours who'd stayed at home and who was interested in fantasy/dungeon games, but by the time he expressed his non-interest, the game was sold out already.

I'll put it on my wishlist nonetheless. Maybe for Secret Santa ...

Verdict:
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9. Board Game: Lectio [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:2613]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested

The Korean booth had this game, which resembles a Tichu clone with Mahjong-style tiles.

The playtest was quite pleasant, but in the end it didn't make our purchase list.

Verdict:
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10. Board Game: Dice Run [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:6745]
Alain Baum
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Tested

We had already tried this game in Essen when it first came out in 2002, but I could remember nothing from it.

The playtest with the explainer was okay, but, like Lectio, it didn't end up in our shopping bags.

Verdict:
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11. Board Game: Galapagos [Average Rating:5.34 Overall Rank:14834]
Alain Baum
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Tested

It was now early afternoon, and the fair was packed full. Tables were at a premium, so we moved to the huge AMIGO booth. They have always tables available and allow borrowing and switching games around.

Galapagos is sort of a very dumbed-down and pacified RoboRally. We played with two French-speaking people and had a decent enough time, but there was nothing memorable about it.

Verdict: snore
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12. Board Game: Word on the Street [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1598]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested

This game was published this year in German, so we tried it with a young couple. We played a few key rules wrong, but nevertheless, I saw the appeal of the game... for the English version.

In fact, I propose that this game just does not work in German. Germans may compose words by chaining them together. A phone booth is a "Telefonkabine", a desk drawer is a "Schreibtischschublade". If you routinely have correct words that are 20+ letters long, this game suffers. In our game, a "room in a school" became "Wirtschaftswissenschaftsraum" (room for economic science). This way you can one-shot letters, killing the game, which is too bad, since the game idea is a sound one.

Verdict: shake
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13. Board Game: Flash 10 [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:9853]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested

After Word on the Street, we tried this quick filler, which has some similarities with Ligretto. It was okay, but nothing impressive.

Verdict: snore
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14. Board Game: Polterfass [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:4258]
Alain Baum
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Tested and Bought

Another filler, but this was a very fun one. Rolling barrels instead of dice is a nice twist. The game mechanism takes a few rounds to really get the hang of it, but it's quite fun.

Verdict: thumbsup
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15. Board Game: Quantum [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:398]
Alain Baum
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Tested

We played this with four players, and after only about 25 minutes, one player had won the game. We may not have been playing in the intended spirit (not aggressive enough?), but in any case, the experience left a bland taste in our mouth.

Verdict:
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16. Board Game: Desktopia [Average Rating:6.23 Unranked]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested

This disk-flicking game works with scenarios, and a two-player scenario was set up. It featured only two different units on each side and the result felt imbalanced and boring.

Verdict: shake
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17. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:227]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested and bought

We concluded the day with one of Uwe's newest creations, having reserved the table in the morning. This mix of a light Ora et Labora and Witch's Brew plays very well and is much more accessible than most of Uwe's other designs. We didn't get to play an entire game, but the experience was pleasant enough.

Verdict: thumbsup
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18. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Bought

Since trying TM at last year's Essen, I had my eyes on it. Now Feuerland Spiele sold it bundled with Glass Road for 80 euros. Since both games are worth their money, this was a great opportunity.

Included in the sale was the goody Terra Mystica: 4 Town Tiles.
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19. Board Game: Power Grid: Australia & Indian Subcontinent [Average Rating:7.99 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.99 Unranked]
Alain Baum
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Bought

This has become a tradition of mine, to always buy the newest map pack for Power Grid. Definitely need to try this, what with those extensive rules changes.
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20. Board Game: Linq [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1950]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Bought

I had my eyes on this party game since its Kosmos re-issue two years ago. It was now sold for 5 Euros. Guess I can't go much wrong at that price...
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21. Board Game: Paris Paris [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:3082]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Bought

Since playing this on BrettSpielWelt, I've been wanting to buy it. I finally found it at a second-hand booth for 8 Euros. However, this purchase had a bit of a sequel -- see below (Firefly: The Game entry).
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22. Board Game: Der Löwe ist Los [Average Rating:2.00 Unranked]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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This concluded our first full day at the SPIEL 2013. We were quite impressed with our number of tested/viewed games (14!), and we already could start punching out our purchases at the hotel.

Dinner took place with our friends from the Spillfabrik at the Löwe Bavarian restaurant. While the food was excellent, the service was really bad. I can understand food taking long to serve, but waiting 15-20 minutes for a beer is a disgrace. It was also very hot inside.
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23. Board Game: Mascarade [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:969]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested and bought
On Friday morning we returned to the Repos Production booth. There was a free Mascarade table, so we joined two charming sombrero-clad young ladies and three other visitors for a 7-player game.

The game was very enjoyable, despite us playing a key rule wrong: when someone's card was revealed to all players, and his card wasn't swapped until he was next up, he had to do the swap action. The rulebook states that he is allowed to do any action unless he was revealed the immediately preceding turn.

I actually prefer our "wrong" way of playing.

Verdict: thumbsup
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24. Board Game: Terror in Meeple City [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:698]
Alain Baum
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Tested and bought
I've waited for this game since it was first announced in 2011. We waited for a table to become free and finally got to play it. It was a blast, as expected, and it made our purchase list.

Verdict: laugh
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25. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:551]
Alain Baum
Luxembourg
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Tested

I'd seen a video of this game before the fair, so it made my "to be tested" list.

While it's by no means a bad game, the only gimmick is the meeple placement and payment/cost based on meeple position. Otherwise it was just another eurogame we all have plenty of.

Verdict: snore
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