Essen 2015: I Can But Dream [again]
Neil Horabin
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Hounslow
Middlesex
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An earlier investment for this year's event. I've prepaid for one game already, have reserved another this morning and there are a few kick-starters to hopefully collect there too.

The hotel - the Alte Lohnhalle in Essen-Kray - was reserved on our final night last year and this time I've booked three twin rooms so five buddies to spend five nights with in early October, result! The hotel is exceptional. It'll be my sixth stay there, I love it. Six of us does mean two cars, unless someone wants to provide us with a minibus that is. More luggage room is how I'm interpreting that, hurrah!

Last year I worked the whole of Saturday on the Bezier stand and it was great. Lovely people and meeting so many gamers as I taught Castles of Mad King Ludwig was brilliant fun, even though I managed to get one rule wrong, humph! I didn't think I'd be up for it again this time but as it gets closer I might. It will have to be with Bezier again, they were superb!

So what am I interested in? Way too many of course, but that's a given. Like last year here are my thoughts and a comparison to 2014's trip..
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1. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:378]
Neil Horabin
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Having missed out on the original there was no hesitation in pre-paying for this one to collect in Essen. Mr Eklund, dressed as an inuit, kindly scrawled over my copy of Greenland last year, good man! Fair chance I'll go for Neanderthals too, just worried about his costume if I commit.
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2. Board Game: Small City [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:1721]
Neil Horabin
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Alban Viard and Todd Sanders: what a combo! Am very attracted to Alban's brand of building games and picked up the 4th Edn of Town Center last year together with Clinic. Nice games and this looks another beauty, check out the photos on the game page. Only 750 copies, reserved mine this morning.
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3. Board Game: Exoplanets [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:2583]
Neil Horabin
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The boardgames coming out of Poland over the last few years have consistently hit many of my buttons and I go out of my way to ensure I take a good look at everything being produced there. Well worth having a look at these two geeklists: Games Produced in Poland, and Polish Publishing League Essen 2015 games list. Also our main family hol last year was into Poland, what a great place, hope to return before too long.

I've kickstarted this one and am sure they'll deliver for Essen, they have a proven track record. Last year I picked up a few Polish games: Ark of Animals, First to Fight, Cargo Train.
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4. Board Game: Samara [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:3667]
Neil Horabin
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Corné van Moorsel's latest has a very interesting time track and I love that sort of mechanic.. Thebes, Tinners' Trail et al. The kickstarter/Spieleschmiede campaigns have been well run and it's always a treat when the combined totals produce a flurry of stretch goals.

Picked up several crowdfunded offerings last year, The Ancient World, Essen the Game Spiel 13, Progress: Evolution of Technology, and Town Center as mentioned above. Very happy with all of those.
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5. Board Game: Barking Up The Wrong Tree [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:11147]
Neil Horabin
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The latest by those perfectly English gents the Ragnar Brothers. Can't believe this is struggling on kickstarter. They have a reputation, they have another fine looking game and need many more backers. Will try to promote this one further but what about the rest of yer?!!
 
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6. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.22 Overall Rank:27]
Neil Horabin
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Splotter. Essen. ✔︎
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7. Board Game Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Neil Horabin
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Am using this to cover off 'Odin's Söhne' which I am hoping will make it this year..

I'm so into Uwe. Picked up Patchwork and Fields of Arle last year, extremes of design but both immense. He is the man.

But unfortunately the game is now scheduled for 2016. Top of the list for next year then!
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8. Board Game: Hit Z Road [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1183]
Neil Horabin
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Another designer I can't get enough of. Zombies really aren't my thing but I guess as a boardgamer I should have a few in the collection so this will be this year's one. Impressed it's coming out of Space Cowboys, an interesting company putting together an awesome set of published games, good luck to them!

Nothing Wallace related last year, had backed up-front so was ahead of myself for once.
 
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9. Board Game: 1844: Switzerland [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:2679]
Neil Horabin
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Lookout are publishing this packed together with 1854 in one box. Great idea!

Last year's train games were mainly small: Cargo Train, Trick of the Rails, Colt Express and I picked up the corrected tile sheet for 1830 from Mayfair too. Could be time for another Railways of the World map methinks, or Ticket to Ride, where shall we go next?
 
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10. Board Game: Piwne Imperium [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:11549]
Neil Horabin
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So the fellows behind ExoPlanets are ultra busy, wonder if they'll have time to cram this one in as well. Sounds perfect to me but I'm guessing I might have to be patient on this one.. you can't rush a good brew!

Last year we found a good restaurant near to the hotel, don't tell them but James fancied one of their beer glasses so I was naughty and he has it at home. The problem on the second trip they had a King Ludwig beer glass and having taught the game all day there was no alternative but to give it a new home too. Forty-eight years it took me to turn to crime, ridiculous.
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11. Board Game: Guilds of London [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1157]
Neil Horabin
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Tony Boydell, what an extraordinary fellow, more extra than ordinary it's fair to say. Will certainly looking to support his latest, and having worked in the City of London, a great theme to boot.

Last year introduced myself to Tony to thank him for sorting me out some coffins, I mean you can't ask more from a man than to get you some of those.. anyway, we bumped into each constantly for the rest of the show, always a bright smile and a witty comment, top chap!

Second on the list for 2016 (sorry Tony!)
 
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12. Board Game: Haspelknecht [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:937]
Neil Horabin
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This is currently available on the Carson City kickstarter as an add on. Would like some info first as I'm trying very hard to be more prudent this year. Must at least read the rules through, see if it sounds okay to me, and get a look at the components. Doesn't take much components wise to get me excited: a bit of wood, a beautiful map, a lack of dice and I'm pretty much sold. Have had a look at the first two games in this trilogy but not bought one as yet, think this may be the one.

In 2014 I found that Richard Sivél and Peer Sylvester had joined forces for Wir Sind das Volk! I'd looked at games of both previously but never indulged. This changed everything!
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13. Board Game: Haithabu [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:6900]
Neil Horabin
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Talking of Spielworxx (and yes I should have been for the previous entry), here's something that sits up for me, 'pick up and deliver' I do love that mechanic although the current photos don't talk to me about it! Anyway, it's always worth stopping by their stand to see some serious gaming taking place. The sort of publisher I feel I should be supporting more.

Mücke Spiele are another in that category. Their amazing rug of their game Takamatsu last year would have made me buy the game if I hadn't ordered and paid for it in advance! Also picked up a load more bits and pieces from their Spielmaterial stand.
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14. Board Game: Kansas Pacific [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:4175]
Neil Horabin
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Hounslow
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A Queen release of a Winsome game. Would be nice to have a go at this one, those Winsome boys certainly keep tight reins on their products and it seemed too difficult to get involved. I like Peters' Paris Connection and train games in general are good for me.

Strangely have not purchased from Queen at Essen, I think of them as too big in a way, and I should be seeking out the smaller publishers, trying to find the niche games perhaps.
 
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15. Board Game: The King Is Dead [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1202]
Neil Horabin
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Aha, I mentioned Peer Sylvester before didn't I? Well this British themed game is promising, the task of using diplomacy to unite the disparate parts of the kingdom resonates still. I wonder if this might have a nice map?

Last year the coincidence of both Hansa Teutonica and Concordia releasing Brittania maps piqued my interest and my wallet suffered as a result. While the UK map is oddly shaped the terrain is relatively uninteresting I always think. Maybe that's just me living in the flatter parts of East Anglia originally.

 
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16. Board Game: Nippon [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:242]
Neil Horabin
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Middlesex
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Portugal also has a rich vein of form in the Horahousehold.. all down to three designers, Vital Lacerda, Paulo Soledade and Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro. They've already produced a list of great games: Vinhos, CO2, Madiera, Panamax, Kanban, and I feel sure this one will be added alongside The Gallerist.

Panamax had been on and off my watchlist last year after I felt it was getting a bit too much hype, boy was I wrong! We played a one round run through in Essen and it was superb, so pleased I got to play it there and buy the game, possibly my highlight off the show.
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17. Board Game: Perfect Storm: Alaska [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked]
Neil Horabin
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Hounslow
Middlesex
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Am hoping this one makes it to Essen this year. My dad worked in the trawling industry and so there's something about ships I like - he never did bizarrely! I also like weather in games - yes Mr Boydell you use it supremely in Snowdonia - and this works so well with shipping. Dad would be listening to the shipping forecast first thing and he received more than his fair share of calls in the middle of night when the North Sea was playing up.

Bought everything NSKN at Essen last year: Praetor, Progress and Versailles where I love the worker movement mechanic.
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18. Board Game: Polynesia [Average Rating:4.95 Unranked]
Neil Horabin
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Herr Doktor Knizia. Released in Russia only at present but I'm hoping it may be in Essen. Looks a good design to me - and hell what do I know? - so will be checking this one for sure.

There's always a buzz as Reiner walks through a hall, lots of admiring glances, drooling mouths, that sort of thing.
 
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19. Board Game: Porta Nigra [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:967]
Neil Horabin
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Kiesling and Kramer: Bacon and Eggs: Fish and Chips: Crumble and Custard. Perfect things in pairs.. I'm hoping that this gets a wooden box release this year, will sit perfectly beside Gluck Auf you see. Love the round board for this one too.

Not exactly round but far from square last year were La Isla by that Feld Superstar - I chased out of hall 2 and halfway round hall 3 to get him to sign my copy!! - and also The Staufer Dynasty. Both use the shape of the board well and I appreciate that sort of design decision. Well done!
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20. Board Game: Transatlantic [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:1233]
Neil Horabin
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The rondel, and more shipping too, great combo. Mac Gerdts has some pretty impressive designs under his belt so this is a must have for me. I held the door open for him last year and was frantically thinking of something to say as he whizzed past with not a glance in my direction, he doesn't know how lucky he was to avoid me!


 
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21. Board Game: Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1694]
Neil Horabin
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Was so close to kickstarting this but something prevented me. Anyway, very keen to have a play of this one, like the theme and Rahdo's run through made it very appealing to me.

In 2014 I was rather taken by the theme of Mondaini's Swedish Parliament 2014.. yet to play it but very happy with how it looks. Have managed to get a few heavier games to the table over the last 6 months and this one will be reaching the top of that list soonish!
 
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22. Board Game: Minerva [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2970]
Neil Horabin
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Interesting designer and love tile laying so when the Japon Brand pre-orders popped up this was top of the list. Thanks for all your great work!
Simon Lundström
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Täby
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Last year's best game from Japan for me is Colours of Kasane. Looks fantastic and plays nicely too, a treat!
 
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23. Board Game: Get The Cheese! [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:8269]
Neil Horabin
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Another Hayashi, lighter fare this one, with mice, cats and cheese, sounds fine.

Villanex was my second fave Japanese offering of 2014, quick, thinky and some great decisions to make.
 
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24. Board Game: Sheep & Thief [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:2916]
Neil Horabin
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My last pre order from Japon Brand, looks pretty, hopefully will work well!

We have a running joke at our gaming club where the worst games from Essen shouldn't make it back to England on the ferry. So, if a game is no good, it's a 'ferry' game. One of my Essen companions, James, picks up a lot of Japanese games and is a strong contender for finding the ones that are slightly poorer than others, in our opinion of course!

Last year I also picked up Isaribi and The Ravens of Thri Sahashri and whilst both were good I decided to sell them on. It's interesting having a punt on these games.
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25. Board Game: Greedy Kingdoms [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:6405]
Neil Horabin
United Kingdom
Hounslow
Middlesex
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Spearmint - A Different Lifetime
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I'm hoping that AEG will have their version of this available this year. Another great little Japanese treat!

Last year I was hoping to get Say Bye to the Villans but didn't see on their stall. I did manage to pick up Trick of the Rails which had been receiving great notices since it was first launched as Japon Brand did a rare reprint, hurrah!
 
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