Summary of 2 Days Spiel Essen - Games Played or Bought
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I am a medium- to heavy-weight Euro Gamer. This is a List of Games that I have played, bought or at least have been taught at Spiel Essen 2017 with notes and some early rating for each game. Enjoy!
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1. Board Game: Heaven & Ale [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:571]
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I drove to Essen Spiel 2017 Thursday morning (coming from Heidelberg). Because of traffic I did arrive 30 minutes late so the friend I wanted to meet had already begun a round of Heaven and Ale.

I sat down and watched the game. Tile selection reminded me a lot of Glen More, but scoring seems different and a little more complex. My friend liked the game, but it did not click for him (neither for me). Early rating 6.0 to 6.5.
 
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2. Board Game: Majesty: For the Realm [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:818]
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I left them to play Majesty at the Hans im Glück booth. I had this on my Want List and had already read the rules.

Very short and fun game, but with tactical decisions to make. 12 actions where you choose out of 5 cards to score points and eventually activate cards you have taken earlier as well. Played with a couple and another guy. He took all the queens because another player refused to pick them before him and scored around 150 points during the game, but only a few at the end of the game. He ended 20 points in advance of the rest of us.

I really liked the game but was unsure because of this “broken” score and the fact that the couple began fighting about the game. I did not buy it, but wanted to decide later. First Early rating 7.0
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3. Board Game: Charterstone [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:95]
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Because my friend still did not finish his game of h&a, I decided to take a walk around hall 3. I watched the queue at Feuerland Spiele Booth (around 200 to 250 meters). Apparently, Charterstone, Gaia Project and the Arler Erde expansion were all great games with a lot of buzz, so everyone wanted to get a copy. I was not interested in any of those: No regular game group for legacy games, already owning Terra mystica, not owning the base game. So I left.

Stopped by at Loot Island, Keyper , Montana, Agra and Alien Artifacts which were all on my list and did all look promising. Filled with anticipation, I decided to walk back to Eggert Spiele.
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4. Board Game: Loot Island [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:3413]
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We decided to give this years what’s your game? title a try. And what a pearl we did discover.

You can compare it to Lost Cities with 3-5 players and more options for manipulation. You need to make short time alliances with other players to get enough cards, but also get more loot than them in the end. You have some nasty options for scoring, but it never feels brutal. It plays in 60 minutes but gives you a lot of meaningful decisions on the way. Curses, weather, witch doctors... and a lot of loot.

I loved it and it was on my like list before, so I bought it. Early rating 8.5. I can really recommend this game by Aaron Haag, the designer of Yunnan, to anyone, esp. because it is 20€ only.
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5. Board Game: Agra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:1088]
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The opportunity developed to join 3 people for a game of Agra. My friend quit on it and I was thankful (he had 3 days and I had only 2). We arranged to meet at Transatlantic 1-2 hours later.

Agra is the most beautiful game I know (even more than Archipelago). Explanation did only take 15 minutes (to my surprise), but only covered the basics ofc. You are a trader in India trying to get commodities to trade with the Sultan, the guilds or the Notables. Gameplay felt intense and very deep, but the downtime was surprisingly short (due to favor and participate decisions). We mostly produced goods, tried the gardener actions and built some buildings. We did only deliver 3 goods and fulfilled one contract and decided to cancel the game after 30-45 Min, because we all had more stuff to do.

I liked the game so much that I thought about it for the rest of the day, even during 2 other games. I decided to buy it at the end of the day, to reward Quined Games for the stunning production quality and because it really thrilled me. Spent half my night with reading the rules surprise. Early rating 7.5 to 9.0 (as I have not played the full game yet) probably 8.5 or more. This will probably not get played so often, as the two games in my collection with comparable complexity (Brass and Mombasa) only get played 1 or 2 times a year. I prefer this to Gaia project or Keyper, and find it as interesting as Lisboa (which I did not buy because it’s too expensive). I recommend it to anyone looking for a (really) heavy euro game.
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6. Board Game: Transatlantic [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:1329]
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After eating a Döner (for 5€) and rejoining my friend we found a table for transatlantic (or actually 2 places on 2 different tables). This was on my must buy list initially. Unfortunatly it did not meet my expectations.

Transatlantic is an economic game with the card driven action selection mechanism know from Concordia. You build ships to first earn money with them. Later you score points, adjusted by shares you got from the different ship types. Gameplay was ok but the actions did not feel impactful enough (ok now I have some coal...). We stopped the game early as the others I played with felt similar.

I liked the adjustment that you get an action card and immediately do the action when picking up your cards. But I disliked the whole “kicking out others” thing, it often felt mean or disrupted my plans. Concordia’s best part in my opinion is that you don’t know everyone’s points until the end and can play without frustration to the last minute. Lastly, I missed the game board, even tough the ship cards looked gorgeous.

I decided to pass on this one and buy Agra instead. Early rating 6 to 6.5.
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7. Board Game: Noria [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2167]
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I went to Edition Spielwiese who unfortunatly only had 2 tables for Noria. We checked their booth frequently but never found an opportunity to try it. This was on my must buy list, so I decided to buy after seeing the good quality of the action wheels.

Noria is an economic game in a steampunk fantasy world. You produce goods using ships and manufacture them in your factories. Action selection works with a wheel with 3 rotating rings. Points are awarded for spent goods and manufactured goods, but the points are adjusted through player interaction. I watched 2 German language video reviews that looked very promising. Early rating after 1 play at home: 8.0
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8. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:61]
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The last game we played on Thursday was Clans of Caledonia. Michael played the full game of Transatlantic, but now he joined me again. They did Demo-Rounds of CoC at this booth which was great: They explained the absolute basics in 2 Minutes and taught the different actions on the fly. They prepared player order and clans to be fitting to those forced actions. That way, we managed to have an explanation and play a full round in 30 Min.

CoC is an economic version of Terra mystica. You place buildings and workers on a board and earn money and resources each round. You have an adjustable resource market too. Different things are rewarded each round and you get points for exporting goods and having different connected villages on the board. This was in my experience a little bit more streamlined than TM, because there are more resources and money is scarce.

This game really revived the good old TM mechanics for me. I decided to buy it. I hope everyone can try it at their booth, so they might soon be sold out (or are they already?). I bought mine Friday morning cause their first delivery was sold out on Thursday. Early rating 8.7
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9. Board Game: Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea [Average Rating:8.42 Unranked]
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I went to suprised stare games to meet Tony Boydell. Last year in Essen my friend Joshua and I played a brilliant game of Guilds of London with the author. Joshua bought one of the last Lookout copies of Snowdonia before the ran out of stock than. I missed the opportunity because I had already spent too much on new games last year.

I asked him about a possible reprint for Snowdonia and he told me that a Kickstarter for a reprint is planned next year. I was really happy that he recognized me from the game we played last year. I am really looking forward to that reprint that will also contain some new rule sets and every expansion. We did not talk about his prototype a nice cup of tea, but basically it is Snowdonia in India. Let’s wait for next year.
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10. Board Game: Captains of the Golden Age [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:6049] [Average Rating:7.04 Unranked]
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On my way to the exit, a pirate stopped me and invited me to a rules explanation of his creation “Captains of the Gold n Age”. I could not resist.

This game is a race to get contracts. You get those for trading some pepper but you need to travel through the whole map. On your way, players may attack you to steal your pepper. Improving your strength and your speed are key to defend against our opponents. According to the author, there is no luck involved and you can adjust game length quite easy.

This game seemed to be to much “in you face” for me. I still liked the booth and the explanation, so I want to recommend it to you. Early rating 6.0 to 6.5.

After this, I met with Michael to share some experiences and left the fair. My loot for day 1: Loot Island, Agra and Noria. I drove to the hotel (20 km east of Essen), bought some food for Friday, had spare rips for dinner. Before sleeping I read the rules of Agra as I have already told you.
 
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11. Board Game: Altiplano [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:666]
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Friday began with another unsuccessful try to play Noria. Michael and I decided to play altiplano instead. He was able to arrive early and reserve two seats.

This is really Orleans 2.0. It’s different tough, because it has a spatial aspect that limits your actions per turn and you get to draw every disc from your bag before you reshuffle. This way it really feels like your Discs represent goods instead of people. Furthermore you are thinking about totals instead of probabilities while playing because you know that you get to see every disc. I was able to collect almost all glass resources, got a bonus on them too and filled 5 or 6 of my columns in my warehouse. I won our (complete) game which really felt epic.

We both really liked this game. Unfortunately they had already ran out of stock on Thursday. Michael might have bought it , but I would not because it feels to similar to Orleans for me. Early rating 7.5 to 8 (though Michael rated it a 10.).

During the game i saw Joshua walking by and called out to him. He agreed to acquire Clans of Caledonia for me, which I suspected would run out soon.
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12. Board Game: Merlin [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1146]
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We did a 2 round demo of Merlin next. Queen staff were having lunch, so we needed to explain the game on our own.

This is a typical Stefan Feld point salad game. The round table board looks great. You get you points through accomplishing quests (tasks for game constellations) at the end of your turn and for area control areas at the en d of round 2, 4 and 6. You can often achieve everything that you need if you think about it a lot.

The game was ok, but did not feel special. We had no intention to buy it. Early rating 7.0
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13. Board Game: Montana [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:2643]
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Next I planned my remaining 5 hours. I still had 5 Games on my Want/Like/Interest-Lists: Noria, Alien Artifacts, Montana, Keyper and Kalimala. The evening before I had already adjusted my lists and crossed out 10-15 games. I still had interest in them, but well, you cannot see everything. So after the 5th unsucsessful try to get a seat at a Noria table, we gave up on this. We headed to hall 3. As the 2 Keyper games at the R&D-Games booth had just started, we decided to give Montana a try.

Montana is a light-weight race game where you collect money and recources in order to build trading houses faster than your opponents. It contains a dial to get workers, some modular praerie boards and a market/worker placement area. You try to make the best deals and get the most out of your actions, but need to watch your opponents also. There are a lot of tactical decisions and it feels really balanced and well thought out. It is a lot of fun also. Michael beat us all at this one as he built his last trading post first and also had a flask (that breaks ties).

I really liked the game, but found it too expensive for a light-weight. I had also used up my budget already. So I passed on this one and will probably not buy it in the future too, as a good friend of mine (Martin) picked up a copy. Early Rating 7.8.
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14. Board Game: Alien Artifacts [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1546]
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The Keyper booth was still crowded, so we headed to Portal Games. Alien Artifacts was in fact on my Need-List since every Dice Tower Reviewer (Tom, Sam and Zee) had it high on their Essen Anticipation lists. I really like Special-Power Card Games like Deus, San Juan, Suburbia, Dominion or Blue Moon Legends (though those are all quite different or not card games at all, i admit). So I really wanted to like this one.

Alien Artifacts is a 4X-Game broken down to 60 Minutes. You buy plans for new planets/technologies/ships and build them by using your resource cards. Those you get as an income each round, but you need have 5 (or more) matching symbols to build. Each card has a white site for ongoing benefits and a black site for scoring and interaction. It plays fast as you only do 1 action each turn.

Unfortunately, this game did not grab me at all. The dark colors disgusted me and the game seemed cold and boring to me. Some guys at our table were frustrated by some unsuccsessful early attacking actions also, so I did not come to the Mid-/Late-Game. Still, I knew that I did not want to invest more time into it. Furthermore there is no German Version yet and it features a lot of text, which limits the playing possibilities a lot. Early Rating 6.5
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15. Board Game: Keyper [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:1233]
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After my Montana play, I looked for Martin who was explained Keyper. I only listened for 5 Minutes, but what I saw looked really interesting. I like the idea of Worker placement with different specialist workers and changing worker ownership through the Keypers... Still the few things I have seen seemed like a lot of work. Michael and I decided to leave it there and try Calimala instead.

No Early rating.
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16. Board Game: Majesty: For the Realm [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:818]
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Since all tables of Calimala were still busy and seemed to be occupied for another 30 Min, I talked Michael into trying Majesty, as I wanted to give this game a second chance and to decide if I wanted to buy this.

Our game was a blazed. I was able to teach the game to Michael and a french couple in 7 minutes. We managed to play the game in about 25 Minutes, with 3 people playing for the first time. There was no fighting this time, but instead a light and fun experience for every player participating.

I really liked this game a lot more now. It just hit the spot of a light filler game perfectly for me. I also liked the production quality with the poker chip money. So I decided to buy it (as my last game since that used up the rest of my budget). But unfortunatly they were out of stock. NOOO!

Later I ran to a different Hand im Glück booth and they told me there might be some copies left at Spiele-Offensive. So I headed there and got one of the last copies, for 31 € (a little bit more expensive). I still was very happy. I really like those last minute buys at Essen.

Second early rating 8.0. Bought this game.
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17. Board Game: Calimala [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:1566]
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As my last game for this years Essen, we decided to give Calimala a try. I did not have this game on my radar when I arrived at Essen. But read about it in the Spielbox Essen Special. The Action Selection sounded so interesting that I had to try it.

Calimala is a game about silk trading in medieval italy. You try to sell silk by land and sea and also to contribute to the building of some italian cathetrals. There is a 9 Action Spot grid and you select 2 adjacent actions for use. But if someone else used the exact same spot late, you get to do the actions again. There is a lot of interaction going on there. Points are scored in 15 categories with 3/2/1 points depending on what you did contribute. There is a variable order of scoring and players trigger the scoring rounds with their actions. Furthermore there are some secret objectives because some scoring rounds happen a second time (with more points to get.

Overall, I really liked this game a lot. It reminded me of Hansa teutonica because of the looks and the player interaction. It is not a must buy for me ofc, as I want to play 1 or 2 more rounds before decidig if I want to own this. I am really looking forward to see how high this will rise in the rating. Early rating 7.5.
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18. Board Game: Loot Island [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:3413]
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After Calimala it was 18:55 and I needed to leave Messe Essen 2017. I drove back to Heidelberg the same evening. So here is a recap of what I bought with my Early Ratings:

Heavy-weight games:
Agra: approx. 8.5 65 €
Noria: approx. 8.0 45 €

Medium to heavy-weight games:
Clans of Caledonia: approx. 8.7 50 €

Medium weight games:
Loot Island: approx. 8.0 20 €

Light games:
Majesty: approx. 8.0 31 €

Price: 210 €.

Runner ups: Really good games that I would have bought with infinite money and infinite shelve space: Altiplano (8.0) and Calimala (7.5)

On Saturday I was able to play Noria with 2 players and Majesty with 3 players. Both played well and came up to my expectations. I had a great Essen fair and was really surprised that 2 of my Need-List items failed to deliver and that 2 of the games that I bought (and rated highest) were on my Maybe-List before I went to Essen. Did something like this also happen to you? What was your greatest hit of Essen 2017. I would like to hear about that in the comments.

Thanks for reading, have a good last day and get home well. This was my first big Geeklist, so if you like it, I would be happy about a thumbs up. Sebastian
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