Played in Essen: Thursday 26-10 (with impressions)
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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For a good 15 years or so, my gaming friends and I visit Spiel for a couple of days and try to play as many new games as possible to see if there's anything new that is a in any way an addition to what we already own and love to play.

My regular gaming group consists of five people, and in the past few years we slowly shifted from more heavy Euro-style games to light- or medium-weight games as they are easier to pick up and play on our game nights.

Furthermore I regularly play 2-player games (ranging from Lost Cities to Twilight Struggle) with my girlfriend and sometimes we play party-style games with both sides of the family.

This list features my thoughts on the games we managed to play (almost all partially) today. Keep in mind that over the years, my collection has grown to over 200 games. In order for a game to be bought, it must be either really much fun to play, or it has to have a new gaming mechanic or give me a new gaming experience.

If a game does not meet those criteria, it's a no-buy for me. A no-buy does not mean the game is bad, it simply means it is either nothing new, or not a game I would put on the table often enough to make me want to spend my money on it.

Want to read what we played on Saturday? Check my new Geeklist below:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/232011/played-essen-satur...
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1. Board Game: Gier [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:7909]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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Our first stop in Hall 3 (where we ended up spending all day) was at Amigo Spiele and as they had many empty tables, we sat down to try some of their new card games.

Gier was first up, as one of my friends put it on his 'want to check'-list.

We played for a few rounds and stole cards from one another, hoping to collect a set of six cards with the same value to win the game.

It was definitely not a bad game, but was also lacking in the 'fun' department. You are relying solely on the luck of the draw, and the few special actions did not give us any real element of control.

Not the game for us, and we collectively decided to end the game before one of us met the victory condition.
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2. Board Game: Pairs [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2011]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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The second game we tried at Amigo was Paaranoia, and was unfortunately again not something we enjoyed.

You get a starting card and in a turn you can either draw a new card from the deck, or pass.

Penalties are awarded to the player who passes (after which the round ends) and if the player draws a card which we he already has in front of him.

The round ending because of receiving a second card of the same value happened so fast, that sometimes one or two players didn't even take a turn that round.

That made playing this game feel fairly pointless, and again the fun factor was missing.

So the unlucky streak of us playing new Amigo card games continued again.
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3. Board Game: Schollen Rollen [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:9489]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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But then we played Schollen Rollen and finally an Amigo card game managed to get us excited!

In the style of Heckmeck you roll dice and instead of a tile, you now pick up fish from the central supply. If you roll a hook symbol, you can steal fish from opponents. Continue doing so until you roll all blue-sided dice. If you didn't voluntarily quit before this, you lose all fish gathered in the round.

This is the type of push your luck we like. See grumbling faces when your fish get stolen, try to encourage other players to roll one more time only to see them fail. With only four dice to throw, turns go by quickly, and the whole game can be played in under fifteen minutes.

A friend of mine ended up buying a copy, so this was our first pleasant surprise of Spiel 2017.
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4. Board Game: Loot Island [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:3418]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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We then left Amigo and visited the What's Your Game booth for a game of Loot Island.

Before going to Spiel this ticked many of the boxes to be added to the collection of one of us: Playable with up to 5 players, over in 30-60 minutes and turns go by fast.

We were happy to find out that was the case when we got to playing it. You play cards next to the board in ascending value, hoping that at the end of the round the most cards are at the treasure where your player marker also is.

Then you take treasures with which you can score points and win the game, but you also get curse cubes, of which you can have no more than 12 at the end of the game.

Icons on the cards are selfexplanatory after a few turns, and the possible actions are also easy to remember. The difficulty lies in managing your position on the board, making sure a treasure is worthwile, and keeping the number of curse cubes manageable.

Fun, just enough interaction and easy to play. This is on the short list to buy.
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5. Board Game: Montana [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:2642]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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I did not put Montana on my list, as it looked like another dry Euro game, and is only playable up to 4 players.

But when we were looking at the game we noticed the game was nearly over and decided on trying it anyway.

We were not disappointed! The game is about gathering resources so you can build cities on the modular game board. Whoever get rids of their cities first wins the game.

To be able to build cities you (of course) need resources which you can find at a market place. And who has to visit the market for you... of course your workers.

So you can use your turn doing one of the following:

1) Get more workers (spin the worker-wheel)
2) Visit the market and pay for resources or trade them in
3) Build a city on the modular game board

Difficult choices are to made every turn, as you need to keep an eye on where you want to build and what kind of resources you need in order to do so. Then you run out of money and/or workers, so then you need to focus on that.

I liked the fact that you only do one action each turn, so you can spend the rest of the turn when other people play, to plan a bit ahead on what you want to do.

It plays fast and should be playable in about 45 minutes. We did not finish the entire game, but were interested. It is too bad it is only playable up to 4, otherwise I might have considered buying it.
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6. Board Game: Dragon Castle [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:1587]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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Then we went to the Horrible Games (who came up with this name?) stand where they had a lot of copies of Dragon Castle out, so after a few minutes we started a four player game of it.

The explanation was done in 5 minutes and we were off to play. I noticed it attracted a lot of attention from passers-by.

What you essentially do is gather mahjongg-tiles from the central board, to play them on your own playing board. You try to make a group of as much tiles as possible to score points. After connecting four or more, you turn the tiles face-down. This then allows you to build on top of the face-down tiles in later turns.

When you score, you can put one (or sometimes two) temples on top of one of the tiles, which also gives you points at the end of the game. The higher the temples, the more points you score.

Some small rules were added to make sure the game keeps on flowing (no 'no more moves' problems, as you have when playing a Mahjongg-game on the PC) so it all was over within 20 minutes for our group.

We all found it to be a really good and fun experience: Simple rules, plays quickly, possibilities to add in special cards which make the game a bit more complex, and different setups for the Mahjongg-tiles to increase replayability.

On top of that, it absolutely looks gorgeous as well.

Both a friend of mine and I bought a copy of it right after the demo game we played.
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7. Board Game: Arena: For the Gods! [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:3066]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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Both a friend of mine and I had high expectations of Arena: For the Gods!

We like in-your-face games where we can attack eachother with some trash talk involved. We thought based on the description this should be the game for us.

You start the game with 20 life points, and the game starts off with a drafting phase. Everyone may spend life points to get the advantage to choose a card first. You do this four times and then all players have four cards in front of them, which allows them to play several special actions.

Then you enter the Arena and the fighting can start and up until this point I still was excited.

And then the Arena-phase (the main course of the game) starts.

You throw seven dice and try to make the most of your turn by spending dice-combinations to for instance move around the arena, attack other players or cast a magic spell.

Attacking hurts them and makes them lose life points. These are hidden, so you never know how many a player has left. When one person is out of life points, the game ends and the player who has the most life points left, wins the game.

Up until the Arena-phase started I still was looking forward to a game of attacking and seeing my opponents struggle staying alive as I launched attacks upon them.

But as soon as we were underway in the Arena, everything fell flat for us...

We never got the feeling of an actual battle. Every turn is a mini-puzzle to see which combinations of dice can optimize damage dealt to others. It just wasn't fun at all and the option to re-roll all dice even led to more puzzling as other were waiting on their turn.

There is really nothing for you do when it is not your turn, as planning ahead is impossible due to the fact that you have to roll on your turn and use the outcome, so the puzzling start again...

I am not saying this is a bad game, but it was so far off from what we expected that we walked away after playing three turns each in the Arena.



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8. Board Game: Ilôs [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:4225]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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My friends started a game of Ilos whilst I was selling a game, so I only saw the game being played for several rounds when I got back.

You build an archipelago with tiles, and as islands are discovered you play ships to then be able to enter the island and place your workers there. The workers gather resources, which at the end of the game you sell. Whoever gets the most money for their resources wins the game!

It had a nice card management system where you play a card, and then discard a number of cards in your hand to pay for using the card's abilities.

You can do as many actions per turn as you can afford, and it seemed to be a really fun game which can be played in under an hour.

Discover new islands, put workers in place until you have no more cards left and then the next player continues. My friends enjoyed it and from the look of it, it is definitely worth a try if you are into medium-weight games of this type.
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9. Board Game: Paper Tales [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:2319]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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At Catch Up Games we played a few rounds of Paper Tales.

This is a card draft game where you first draft 5 cards, and then play four face up. You pay the cost of the card with money, and then you run to several phases (war, income, construction, aging).

It played okay, but the problem for us was the amount of things to keep track of, even though you only have four cards (five in later stages) and maybe one or two buildings.

In every phase (or when a card is put into play) you trigger special abilities of your cards, and you need to keep track of this all of the time.

That did not go over well with our group, as it turned more and more into a solitaire experience where you are only managing your own cards, without needing to look at what other players are doing.

The lack of interaction made us end the game after a few turns, and no one in our group really liked the game.

The aging aspect of the cards was a nice touch: After a round you put an aging token on all cards. After the next round the second aging token is put on the cards and you have to discard them. This means you cannot rely on winning by getting a few strong cards in the first round, as they are gone after round 2.
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10. Board Game: Bärenpark [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:388]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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We were also interested in Bärenpark and found an empty table at the ASS-stand.

The game is simple: Expand your park by putting Patchwork-style tiles on your game board. Fill up one of the 4x4 squares completely, and you are awarded a bear statue worth a lot of points.

The type of squares you put your tiles on decides from what types of tiles you can pick one to play in a later turn.

It seems like a great gateway game for families, but I wondered during the whole game we played why I would want to play Bärenpark and not Patchwork, except that this can be played with up to 4 players. I like Patchwork better because of the clever time-track mechanism.

Maybe the expert variant will add something to the game to make it more interesting, but as we did not play this I cannot tell.

Not for us, but I can see many families with smaller children really enjoying this game.
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11. Board Game: TA‐KE [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:6127]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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At Huch we managed to get an explanation and play a few rounds of TA-KE.

It is an abstract two-player game where in every round you choose a chip from one of five stacks and then place it on your side of the game board.

The trick is that you trigger a scoring for the chip-colour that was under the one you picked.

After choosing a chip from a stack it is the next player's turn and he then has to choose a chip from another stack.

The mechanism was clear and it seems to offer a lot of strategic options. My only problem with it is that you, after taking a chip, immediately trigger a scoring.

This essentially degrades the game to a calculating game, where you evaluate how much you score and how much your opponent will score for every stack of tiles you can take a tile from.

Do the math, choose the chip, advance your and your opponents score marker. Rinse, lather, repeat and that really fell flat for us.

Once again I can see why people like this game, but it did absolutely nothing for us.
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12. Board Game: Cat Lady [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:1564]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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The German family of four playing this before we got to take a turn took about 20 minutes to calculate the score of their game of Cat Lady, so we were a bit worried about that when we started.

This was not necessary, they might have not been that familiar with a card drafting game like this as we already were.

We enjoy games like 7 Wonders, Treasure Hunter and Sushi Go, so therefore I was interested in playing Cat Lady.

In a turn you pick a row or column of three cards from a supply of nine (3x3)and put the wooden cat next to it. The next player then takes three cards they want, but cannot choose the same row or column of three you just cleared from the pool.

You collect cats, cat food, cat toys and other cat related types of cards. At the end of the game you get points in different ways for different kinds of cards. The most important kind being having cats which you also managed to provide with the food they like.

It played really well and really fast and within 15 minutes all cards were distributed and the game ended.

A really nice game which we ended up not buying as the price (20 euros at AEG) seemed a little steep for this small filler game.
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13. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:992]
Stefan Driessen
Netherlands
Asten
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We had never played Manhattan before so we really wanted to experience what this re-release of the 1994 game had to offer.

The game is really easy to play: Choose six skyscraper parts (which come in different heights) and take four placement cards in hand and you are ready to go.

The board consists of six areas on which you can put your skyscraper parts. You try to place them around the board to eventually score points for influence (most tops of skyscrapers in an area), being the 'owner' (having your skyscraper part on top) of the highest skyscraper, and simply by owning a skyscraper which isn't the highest one.

You can only place a part if you have a card which matches the position of the skyscraper on the board and you can only play a skyscraper part if you at least match the number of floors of the player with the most floors on the skyscraper you're building on.

An abstract game which we liked, but did not buy. Playability up to 4 is an issue in our group as we are almost always with 5 players. My friends also mentioned it made them think of Skyscrapers, a game they already own.
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