Played in Essen 2018: Saturday 27-10 (with impressions)
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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General Introduction:

For over 15 years now, 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 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.

As of last year, my girlfriend and I also have a monthly gaming night with three other friends, with who we always play one game of Pandemic:Legacy and after that whatever we feel like playing. They are relatively new to the hobby so we are still finding out what we like to play together. They do not shy away from more complex games and longer play times are not a problem since we play on weekends.

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.

Our second day of Spiel: A visit of Hall 1 and Hall 2

We hoped to 'clear' halls 1 and 2 on the always very busy Saturday of Spiel. One of my friends who was with us on Thursday needed to skip today and tomorrow, so there was just the four of us.

We arrived in time again to be inside just after the doors opened at 10 and since we entered in Hall 3 we decided on playing what we missed there on Thursday before moving on to Hall 1 and 2.

Again, we ended up playing over 10 games so all of us were really satisfied with the result. Doing a thorough preparation really paid off again, as we mostly played games we liked.

Want to see what we played on Thursday? Check the GeekList below!

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/247561/played-essen-2018-...

Want to see what we played on Sunday? Check the GeekList below:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/247728/played-essen-2018-...
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1. Board Game: Blue Lagoon [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:1975]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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We started our Saturday Essen visit at the Blue Orange booth with a game of Blue Lagoon.

It's an area control game in two rounds where in the first round everyone gets to play coloured chips on an island board, depicting 8 islands and water in between.

Every turn you place 1 chip anywhere on the board and you try to spread out across the island collecting different resources blocking other people's ways while doing so.

You score for sets of resources, collected statues and for connecting your chips to as many islands as possible. You also have 5 huts, which are important for the second round.

After all resources are gone or all chips have been played you do the first scoring phase. Then everything but the placed huts is removed and the board is filled up again with resources.

In the second phase you do essentially the same as in round 1, but the difference is that you can now only play chips connecting to your huts, or to chips already on the board.

The round ends again with all resources collected or all chips placed and then a final scoring phase occurs.

We all thought it was really fun. Turns go by quickly and every turn you have interesting decisions to make: You need to block paths of others to ensure access to islands and resources, but you need to make choices on where to focus as you can only play 1 chip per round.

Friends of mine bought a copy of it, and I am sure this will get a lot of play time.

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2. Board Game: Gravity Superstar [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:7380]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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Then we visited the Sit Down! stand for a game of Gravity Superstar. We also wanted to play Bad Bones here, but no table was available there and the game was alsmost sold out.

The game board in this game consists of several space tiles with floors on them, and each tile has a door on it. You start by entering a door and from there you try to collect stars (scattered around the board). Each star is worth a point, and sets of stars of the same colour score extra points.

Since you're in space you have to adapt to gravity and each player gets the same set of cards to move. Your options are:

- Move 1 left or right
- Move 2 left or right
- Jump up 1, then 1 left or right.
- Fall through a floor
- Rotate your character
- A wild card which lets you do one of the moves above again

You can also always decide to play any card in your hand as the 'move 1 left or right' action.

Should you hit another player while doing a move, you kick them out of space (and they enter again through a door) and steal a star.

As you do these moves, your character always falls until it hits a floor. You automatically pick up all of the stars in your path, and the game ends when there are 12 or less stars available on the board.

This one was fun as well. You carefully have to plan which move gives you the most stars and where it will land you so you can pick up more stars next turn.

A really clever mechanism and the game lasts for only 15-20 minutes, so it does not overstay its welcome.

No buy (yet) from anyone, but one to keep on the shortlist.

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3. Board Game: Spring Rally [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:11070]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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The Korean board game Spring Rally was up next: A simple trick-taking game with only three different suits, and winning tricks lets you race on the race track game board. It also comes with a small circular game board, 'the spring'.

Winning a trick let's you move as many spaces on the track as the number on the lowest card in the trick. Then you choose whether or not to set off your spring and you add the number of spaces on it to your move.

All players who did not win the trick get to wind up their spring to the next higher number. It first goes up until 16, but then you 'overwind it' and the number goes down again.

It was somewhat fun but for us too simple of a game: The trick taking is not that clever and the addition of the spring is cool, but to us it felt as a children's game. For them it's an excellent way to introduce them to what trick-taking is and I also think they will like the racing part.

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4. Board Game: Pikoko [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:4719]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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Another trick-taker on the list was Pikoko, so when we found an empty table we played a round of it.

Everyone gets a plastic peacock and is dealt 8 cards. You place them in the pea cock for all other players (but not you!) to see.

You only see all cards of the other three players but not your own and then you place betting chips on how many tricks each player is going to win that round. This is tough to predict for your own hand, but you wait for other players to put out their chips and try and guess how many cards you will take yourself.

Lastly you pick a card with a coloured peacock on it and put it face down: This stands for the bet you are most sure of and gives you extra points when it's right, but minus points if it's wrong.

Play begins and everyone plays with the hand of their left neighbour.

In the round we played we did not warm up to the game: Picking cards is fiddly as they are put firmly in the peacock. This looks great but is anything but practical. The aspect of seeing all cards but your own did also not do anything in terms of strategic options, or we did not see them.

After the round was over scores were pretty evenly distributed among us and so was our verdict: This was nothing for us.

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5. Board Game: Hanamikoji [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:254]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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My girlfriend and I saw a demo copy of Hanamikoji out at the Kosmos booth so we gave it a go as I had heard a lot of good things about this one.

This is a really elegant two-player game where you try to get Geishas to visit your 'restaurant'. Win over 4 of the 7 geishas and you win the game.

To do so you draw a hand of cards (with different values in the colour of the geishas) and on your turn you do one of the following:

- Place one card face-down
- Make two sets of two cards and the other player chooses a set, you get the other set and place it underneath the corresponding geishas.
- Offer three cards to the other player: He picks one and places it, you get the other two cards.
- Discard two cards

After this is done you check who wins over each geisha and if one player has 4 or more, he wins the game. If not you start a new round. If there is no winner after 3 rounds, the player with most geishas on his side wins.

We both thought this was really fun: Easy to learn, yet difficult in terms of what you do each round. This, for us, could be up in the category of go-to 2-player games like Patchwork, Jaipur and Lost Cities so we took home a copy.

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6. Board Game: Darwinning! [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:9873]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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In Darwinning you try, in three rounds, to get the most points with your species. Everyone picks one species and each one has its own place on the food chain ladder.

You then draw cards and play poker-style combinations. The winner of one trick gets to pick a card to add it to their player board and improve their species.

This is done in many different ways and there was our main problem with the game: I am fairly sure it works but we were introduced to so many possibilities and small rules about what should be placed where that we quickly lost track of it all.

Should we buy the game and play it again in a few months, I think it will be hard to explain and we would also have to look up several rules again and again, making it more of an exercise than a fun playing experience.

I also disliked the look of the game: It looks really cluttered and not pretty at all.

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7. Board Game: Tales of Glory [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:6783]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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High on the list to try was Tales of Glory, published by Ankama. We went over to their booth and lucky for us an empty table with the game laid out on it was waiting for us.

In this game you play 12 rounds of tile-drafting and every tile you collect is added to your personal 'kingdom'.

Eight new tiles lay open every round and by simultaneously choosing a numbered card everyone decides which card they want. Should more players decide on the same number, then the first player gets the tile, the other player(s) choose a different one in a catch-up phase.

Tiles could give you anything from potions and coins (used as currency throughout the game) to fame and power and, ofcourse, victory points.

There are also treasure chests on the cards, which you can open by constructing keys. The top- and bottom part of a key are on the sides of the tiles so when you lay them out correctly you get a key which opens a chest with more resources or points in them.

We all thought it played really well and I like the mechanism a lot. The game is over in about 45 minutes and plays from 2 to 5. It is not a novelty in terms of new or quirky gaming mechanisms, but just a good light-to-medium weight game with a pleasant play time. My girlfriend and I took home a copy on Saturday.

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8. Board Game: Spirits of the Forest [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:2079]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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In this game 48 coloured tiles are laid out in a 4x12 grid. All tiles show 1 or 2 different spirit symbols of this specific spirit (all 9 have a different colour), a number showing you how many spirit symbols of this colour are in the game, and, when there is only 1 spirit symbol on the tile, a power symbol. Some of the tiles then receive a face-down chip (depicting an extra spirit symbol, power symbol, or a 'get your gem back action'), all players receive two gems and then the game begins.

In a turn you can pick up one or two spirit tiles of the same colour, as long as you collect a maximum of 2 spirit symbols. Picking up is restricted however, you can only take tiles from the left- or right side of the grid.

In addition you have the option to reserve a tile for future collecting by putting a gem of your colour on it. Other players do have the option to remove your gem, but it will cost them one of their 2 gems as it is destroyed. The other player whose gem was removed gets it back for use in later turns.

You win the game by scoring points for majorities in spirit symbols, power symbols and by having at least one tile of every spirit in the game.

We had a lot of fun playing but were a bit put off by the final scoring: All of us struggled to keep out of the negative points you receive for not having any tiles in a spirit colour. The scoring itself is also a bit chaotic as we wanted to score all players colour by colour, and there is no way to indicate negative points.

Conclusion: Fun game with easy rules and interesting strategic options, but the scoring phase and final outcome kept us from buying it.

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9. Board Game: Trool Park [Average Rating:6.53 Unranked]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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Half-way through our play of Tales of Glory at the Ankama stand we stopped and switched to a table with Trool Park on it.

Here each player gets a player mat with empty round spaces on it and the goal is to fill up your board with attraction tiles and food stands.

This is done by picking a tile from the central game board where all tiles have their own letter. You secretly choose a letter and then you reveal to see if you pick what you want. The players who did not get to pick the tile they wanted pick another tile at the end of the round.

Choosing different tiles lets you move up in three scoring tracks (fun, food, thrill), which is important for attracting visitors. Having most visitors wins you the game.

Every round you also flip a weather tile, showing if it is rainy, sunny or snowy this round. This affects whether or not you score visitors at the end of this round, as not all attractions are suitable for each weather type.

After playing Tales of Glory right before this one, we all agreed that is was a more family-friendly version of that game. Definitely not bad, but not that interesting as this one loses the 'resource collecting' aspect of Tales of Glory while adding in the random weather factor. Less control and less options, so this was a pass for our group.

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10. Board Game: Twin It! [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:3851]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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At the Huch stand we played a couple of rounds of Twin It!. There was a time where Jungle Speed was my most played game of the year, and it turned out this very much resembled that experience.

Players have a stack of square-shaped cards and one by one players turn over a card and put it face up in the middle of the table. When you see a match anywhere on the table you need to quickly point at the two matching cards, because then you get to take the pair and score a point.

Be the first one to score five pairs (points) and you win the game. The differences with Jungle Speed are that it's about collecting points instead of trying to empty your player-stack, and that you put all cards on the table, instead of covering them up round after round with a new card.

The card patterns all look great and they succeed in tricking you into thinking there are matches on the table where there aren't, so you constantly need to be fully concentrated to win the game.

For us not something we would buy, but when someone does not have a pattern recognition party-style game in their collection, I would definitely recommend Twin It!

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11. Board Game: Shadows: Amsterdam [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:4153]
Stefan D.
Netherlands
Asten
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The last game we playtested on Saturday was Shadows: Amsterdam. This game is played in two teams and each team has 1 clue-giver. The rest of the team needs to guess what the clues mean in order to reach three 'clue-spots' on the central game board, while avoiding 'police-spaces' in the process.

The two clue-givers have a player screen in front of them, and behind it they get a mini-map showing them to which spaces they need to guide their team in order to have them find a clue. It also shows certain spaces the team should avoid.

The central game board is modular and every square shows a beautifully illustrated 'scene' of Amsterdam. The team start in the middle of the board and then race around the board to land on the clue spaces.

When the game starts both teams play simultaneously: Ten cards lay open for both teams and these cards also show pictures of scenes of Amsterdam. Each clue-giver can pick one or two cards at the time to give to the other team members.

They then try to make a connection between the cards given and what is shown on the game board to select a space they need to go to. If they choose right they get a clue token, but choosing the wrong space they could land on a police-space and receive a police-token.

The round ends when 1 of the teams has collected three police-tokens, or when a team has collected all 3 clues and then manages to land on an evidence-space (which is also shown on the mini-map the clue-giver has).

The first team to win two rounds wins the game.

We played it for a full round and while it was frantic and fun, we were not convinced it would be something to add to our collection.

The game aspect of giving clues by playing cards resembles games like Mysterium (which we own) and Dixit (which we don't) but it adds a racing aspect to it.

It's because of the racing aspect that I did not think it was as much fun as we have playing Mysterium. Because you need to be fast, you cannot think too long about what to pass as a clue-giver and where to move as a clue-taker.

There is also no time to reflect on what you were given and where you went if that was a wrong spot, as then new clue cards are passed and you need to move again.

The only time both teams felt that they did not make a blind guess as to where to go was when the card passed matched the tile in the game for about 90% (e.g. a boat card when the game tile showed a harbour).

That kept us from liking it, but I can see why other people would enjoy this game because of the frantic game-style. We all passed on the opportunity to buy a copy.

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