Our 2017 Essen Spiel overview by the games we played there.
Jonas Vanschooren
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Hey everyone, this year for the very first time we went to Spiel in Essen.
We spent 3 days exploring the fair and playing games.



I originally posted to What Couples Have Been Playing - October 2017, a list where we from the guild A Couple of Gamers talk about the games we play every month.

I decided to copy al the posts and put them in a separate geeklist aswell.
Hope some of you out there like our adventures.
This list covers the Essen fair by the games we played their.
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1. Board Game: Bärenpark [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:387]
Jonas Vanschooren
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The last couple of days we went to Spiel in Essen for the very first time. We arrived on Thursday and after a quick checkin into our hotel we went to the fair.
We spend our day just looking around and be mostly overwhelmed by everything there. We picked up games that we would have gotten anyway, and just looked around checking out the booths, the games, the stores and tons of tables with people playing games.
We explored the different halls, checking out the games on our list and lots of other cool stuff.
We had a great time but tired from the long day we went to the hotel early to freshen up and go to town for a nice dinner.

In the evening we played a game of Bärenpark in the hotel lobby.
Playing on our little table (the big tables all where full, it seemed a bit like the fair ), a drink and a great New game. We had a great time.

Bärenpark is a neat Tetris like tile laying game. Placing tiles on your boards and covering the icons there gets you new tiles and new boards. It's a fun puzzle and there are a bunch of different end game bonus point tiles to keeps things interesting and different.

We are very glad we picked this up and ended our first day in Essen playing this.
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2. Board Game: Overbooked [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
Jonas Vanschooren
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On to our second day (Friday) on Spiel in Essen. We started our day looking around a bit more and checking out some of the booths for games high on our list. Lots of people so much to see, we ended up at the booth for Overbooked a game on Kickstarter now of which I'm a backer that wasn't fully convinced yet.
Looking around there a table became available and we sat down to try it out. 2 friendly guys from Wienen (I believe) sat down to join us.
We got a quick explanation and dove right in.



We had a great time, it's a rules light but deceptively deep game.
The way you score the different people, how you want to get the red discs,the lovers next to each other, the white discs the children need to be surrounded by adults (every non white disc), the other colours are friends. Those you want to group together for majority bonuses.
The cards with companions of people you must place you get from a market. If you want to skip the old cards you need to place a meal voucher on every card you skip. Lots of different cards, most have a few discs on them in a pattern, some let you place discs on a window, ails or middle seat.
Puzzling with the cards to fill up your plane is very fun, getting those lovers next to each other, the children in a corner with adults around them, that big group of yellow friends together that needs 1 more to take majority from your opponent. It makes for a fun puzzly game.
A little bit of the tension in getting majority and maybe snatching up a card you wanted will probably be lost in a 2 player game. But we felt the puzzle in placing passengers is more then strong enough to make this a great couples game.



We had a blast playing it and are excited to get a copy of our own. I'm now a fully convinced backer.

After a friendly farewell with our gaming friends and the guy at the booth we went on to find another game to play.
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3. Board Game: Fog of Love [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:898]
Jonas Vanschooren
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So on to our adventures in Essen. After a bite to eat we wandered on coming closer to the booth for Fog of Love. My gf placed this on our list so I wanted to check it out for sure. They had a nice booth, lots of heart balloons, pink candy, stuff like that.
Looking around the tables a couple of girls playing told us they where almost done, so we waited around a bit and sat down when they finished.
We got a nice explanation how it worked, got helped with creating our persons we where playing (you pick some card, and give some to your partner, I for instance turned out being a broad shouldered criminal which I named Reginald).
You get some markers from what person you are in different attributes on the board (like thrustworthy and extravert).
During the game you each in turn play a scene card, these create situations where sometimes your partner makes a choice, sometimes the both of you do. You make a choice (a,b,c) by taking your a, b, or c disc and revealing at the same time.
By what answer you pick you get a marker in the positive or negative side of attributes and you gain love (sort of end game scoring).
You do this in 3 sort of rounds (different chapters).
Will doing this you try to full fill 3 end game scoring cards and also pick one of 8 plot cards (not sure of the name).
Certain choices in the game make you discard plot cards, sometimes specific, sometimes by choice. By the end of the 3 chapter you must pick 1 of your plot card, cards like "friends forever" here you need low attribute in the green color (forgot the name) (this is the sum of discs in the negative side minus the sum of discs in the plus side, for this card it was from both players but others had only your own) , and the sum of your love (the end game points mentioned above) must be over 60 I think. And your partner must also pick a plot where you stay together.
Another was a card where you broke up with your partner, winning if your partner stayed in the relation, you had a high (or low) rank in something and your partners love was below 18.



I don't think I'm explaining it well but it all makes for a very funny role playing game where you come across very funny situations and telling a cool story. We had a very fun time playing and my gf who normally isn't that into those role playing board games really liked it.

Unfortunately cause of problems with shipping they didn't have the game for sale but we wrote us down on the list to be contacted to get a copy after Essen.

Our second game played on the Essen fair and another success. On to a third one?
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4. Board Game: The Palace of Mad King Ludwig [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2526]
Jonas Vanschooren
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So on towards the end of our second day at Spiel in Essen.
Not finding a table for our top games on our list we decided to give this a go. We like Castles of Mad King Ludwig a lot so we where curious about this one as well.
We sat down with a friendly couple from the UK to try this out.
Got a great explanation from a very friendly guy who gave pointers during the game and was there to answer any rules questions we had.



In this you are getting tiles from a market, the oldest are free, newer cost swans, 1, 2 or even 3 for special actions.
Your placing your tiles in a communal castle connecting theme via same colored corridors (or gray ones which are jokers) getting swans in that color, you mark the tile with your tokens. If other players connect to a room that you own you also get a swan. And if a room you control gets finished (al openings connected) you get a bonus (free swans, special abilities, end game scoring opportunities,...).
As the game progresses the moat around the palace grows, if it fully envelops the palace the game is done.
You get points for a lot of the same rooms, 1 (or more) of every type, sets of different colored swans, hidden end game scoring, public end game scoring, ...
Lots of interaction, your constantly blocking opponets, triggering their rooms.
It seemed to us with just 2 this would be a pretty cutthroat game. And it just seemed to work better with more, so we decided to pass on this and not buy it.
We did really enjoy our 4 player game but we rarely play with 4 at home.

The end of our second day, it was getting late so we went to the hotel on the way getting a quick bite to eat.
We spend the evening punching out some of our new games and reading the rules a bit. We where tired so we didn't play a game that evening.

On to day 3 at Spiel in Essen.
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5. Board Game: Loot Island [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:3389]
Jonas Vanschooren
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On to our 3th (and last) day at Spiel in Essen.
We started our day checking out our hotel, but leaving our car parked there and just taking the subway again.
We arrived at the fair greater by a huge mass of people, it seemed even more crowded then the days before.
But we wanted to try out more games. The day before was really our first time at a convention we really tried out a bunch of games and we really had a great time, so on we went.
We came across the What's your game booth which had a lot of buzz the last days over this rather light game for them.
We stumbled across an table with room and where joined by a friendly lady from Germany and a nice guy from France. We got a quick explanation, and where helped a bit the first round, but after that we where playing this smoothly on our own.

In this game you are treasure hunters, trying to collect the most treasures. But the treasures are cursed, so you pick up curse cubes aswell. These you can heal (mostly by instead of taking a treasure, discarding it), and you will have to cause by the end you can't have more then 12 cubes or you die.
To get treasures you are playing cards at sides of the island. Cards have different colors and numbers. Same colors on a spot from low numbers to high. To play one (or more) cards on a spot you place one of your discs there (and you only have 3). There are 8 spots (2 on each side) on the island, 2 will get scored every round, depending on which side your ship is on. More cards on a spot mostly means more treasures to pick from, if you got your disc there. (Lowest disc gets first pick).
There is more to it, there are also little islands you can activate to do special stuff (like move the boat or put your disc in the bottom of a stack it's in), there is an event every round.
We had a great time playing this, it's a fun game with lots of fun moments.
I flipped through the rulebook to see how it would work with 2, you get a 3th dummy player in the mix, which you control one after another. We also asked about this and discussed it with the other players and everyone agreed it would be best with like 4 or 5.

We really enjoyed playing but decided it's not for us.

A good start of our 3th day, on to more.
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6. Board Game: Claim [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:3507] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Jonas Vanschooren
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We walked on to the booth of a Dutch company, White Goblin Games. We where there actually looking at another game (more on that later ) but noticed this laying on an empty table. We sat down to try this trick taking game for 2 out cause it got recommended by
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Before I could read through the rules we got joined by a friendly guy from the booth to explain it.
The game plays in 2 rounds, first round you are trying to win (or lose) the card on display, lose gets a random card instead. You play 13 cards, so getting 13 cards back. Round 2 you use those cards, this time cards you win go in your scoring pile.
There are different factions, goblins, knights, undead, ... they got special powers when you play them. You try to get the most cards in 3 or more of the 5 factions. If you manage that you get voted the new king or queen.

It's a very fun game which we enjoyed a lot, we played it twice in a row cause the first game we really needed for everything to click. The second game played very smooth and we really liked it.

After our second game we decided we where going to get this, but before going to the shop we wanted to try something else at there booth....
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7. Board Game: Montana [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:2638]
Jonas Vanschooren
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So we are still at the White Goblin Games booth in Essen. And managed to get a table to try out Montana. This I noticed a while back when Rahdo posted his runthrough on it.
I was intrigued but not fully convinced, so very eager to try this.

We got joined by 2 guys from Germany and got our rules explanation.



You are trying to get your settlements build as fast as you can, but to build them you will need to spend turns getting workers (by spinning a spinner, very fun thing to do we found), and send your workers to town to get resources. Every time a player sends workers to town there is a market phase at the end of the turn for everyone. In this your are bidding pumpkins (in Montana pumpkins where a very valuable commodity) to do resource upgrades (you will need upgraded stone and clay to build your settlements).



Now on to building settlements, you can build up to 3 in a turn. If you build on a spot with a cow you get that (cows are sort of joker resources, you can exchange em for pretty much everything), some spots have a double house icon, those are more expensive. But if you build on them you get to place 2 settlement tokens on top of each other. Also if you build 4 settlements in a row, you place an extra settlement token on the 4th.

This definitely is a race game and it speeds up fast. By the end we where al very close to building our last settlements but my gf did it first. She was first player so we al got a turn but nobody could build so she won, hooza.

We where very pleasantly surprised with our play. Also it seemed to offer nice scaling rules, tighter board, more settlements to build. And enough randomness in setup to offer variability. And it's very fast, our first game played in less then an hour. That's a full game, not a shorter version.

We left the booth with 2 new games under our arm, this and Claim (see my previous post). Great start of our day.
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8. Board Game: Merlin [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1143]
Jonas Vanschooren
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Our adventures in Essen are coming close to an end.
We have been trying to get a table to try this out from the whole day, we stumbled upon 2 people from Italy that just sat down for this. They where waiting for 2 friends to try the game with, but unfortunately for them but lucky for us they couldn't reach them so we could sit down and give this a go. We had to wait a bit to find someone to give us a rules explanation.

So on to the game. Normally this game goes for 6 rounds with a scoring phase after every 2 rounds. For the demo we only got to play the first 2 rounds and do a scoring.
Every round everyone throws 4 dice, 3 in your color and 1 white die.
Then in turn order everyone uses 1 die to do an action. Your own color dice move your personal meeple on the action wheel (can only move clockwise) and you get the action of the space you land on. The white die moves merlin (he can go clock or counter clockwise) and let's you do the action he lands on.
There are actions that let you activate the section of the board you are on, and other actions just let you do general stuff.
You also get objective cards in your hand, these give points if you do certain things (like have a number of flags, or shields), you can then turn them in for points and get a new one (either from a display or draw blind).
The flags you collect give a 1 time special thing you can do if u use them (like instead of doing the action your meeple ends on, you get to do the action an opponents meeple is on).
Shields help you defend against raiders (you get 3 random raiders every round), if you don't defend against them they give minus 3 points in scoring.
There is also building houses (on a side board), getting influence in the different sections of the board, ...
There are a lot of ways to score points.

We did enjoy our demo, but after it we didn't really know what to do. Should we get the game or not? We felt the short demo didn't really show us the full potential of the game. We where also unsure how it would be with just 2 cause it seemed to us some of the things in the game started shinning with more (the influence, some of the special abilities)
Since we already had so many games picked up we decided to pass for now.

Later that evening in the car going home we discussed it some more and started thinking maybe we should have picked it up. Both of us did enjoy playing it. Maybe we will pick it up somewhere in the future, but for now neither of us is really heartbroken we didn't buy it yet (so many new games to play already).

By now it was getting late, but we wanted to try to do one more demo. There was still one game we where curious about (more actually but there was one that was still for sale and that was high on my list). So we went on to try to do one more demo (spoiler, we managed to get a table, more in my next post).
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9. Board Game: Pulsar 2849 [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:551]
Jonas Vanschooren
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So here we are now, on to our very last game we played in Essen.
We had dropped by the booth a few times already but it was always full.
The people at the Czech Games Edition booth where very friendly and every time took an effort into trying to find a table. And we finally did. We got joined by 2 people from Germany (funny side note, the girl studied in Antwerp, a city not to far from where we live).
Really nice how at every table there was someone from the booth present for the whole game.
We got our rules explanations as we played, just giving us the new information as it became relevant. The demo was also shorter (only 5 instead of 7 rounds), and they left out the HQ.



This is a dice drafter, where you get 2 dice per round. If you take lower dice you go up either the turn order or engineering track, high dice you move down. You then use your dice to explore space, flying your spaceship and exploring planets, unlocking abilities (1 time, every round or endgame scoring). Tons of stuff to do, different end game scoring, different abilities every game. Tons of replay and variability.

We just had a great time playing this at the booth. We played on to 19h while the whole time our demo explainer stayed with us helping us as we played.
In the end we decided to buy the game before going home, both of us just really enjoyed playing it.

It was a great end to a perfect first visit to Spiel in Essen.
We took the subway to our car, stopped to get a red bull and started driving back to Belgium. Tired but very satisfied, next year we'll be back.
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10. Board Game: Deutscher Spielepreis 2017 Goodie Box [Average Rating:7.87 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.87 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.87 Unranked]
Jonas Vanschooren
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So back home, our loot from Essen displayed on the table.



A bunch of new games, some we played already, some we haven't yet.
We'll be reporting on them as we play in the What Couples Have Been Playing - October 2017, from this and next month's.



These are our kickstarter pick ups from Essen.
Already played Kitchen Rush (report on that will follow), the rest will come.



Big pile of games we bought without playing them, most where already high on our wishlist. We've played a few already, rest will follow soon.



And last the what we played in Essen corner, what we bought cause we loved our play and some promo stuff in the back.

And we'll end this all with a pic of one of my gf's favorite moments. Meeting one of her favorite (number 1 even?) designers.

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