Essen 2007 - a personal retrospective
Tim Synge
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Well, I always intended to write a long and entertaining report of my first visit to Spiel in October 2007. Somehow, October drifted into November, November became December and now it’s 2008. In a way, this is great news, as I am now in the same year on the calendar as Spiel ‘08! But I regret that I didn’t sit down and write a report back in October.

It’s too late to do it justice now, so instead I thought I would try to record a “Top Ten” list of experiences that will convey something of the magic of the event for a newbie. So, in no particular order, here goes. I'm not going to say anything about the games themselves, as that's been done by others already, and there probably won't even be exactly ten items, but hopefully you'll get the idea ...
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1. Board Game: Airport [Average Rating:2.60 Unranked]
Tim Synge
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I flew from Birmingham (about two hours drive from where I live) to Düsseldorf, catching a 7.30am flight on the Thursday morning. As I finally worked out that I could get the required two days out of the office only about a fortnight before the convention started, I knew that flight tickets would not be cheap and Birmingham turned out to offer the best combination of good prices and a direct flight. I dropped my overnight bag off at the hotel I had chosen, quite close to Düsseldorf's main railway station, and jumped on a train to Essen. I got to the convention by about 11.00am, which was just fine. So my impression here is that Essen is pretty easy to get to. I like the idea of driving there one year, but the pleasure of driving in mainland Europe would be entirely offset by the hassle of driving across southern England (and back again afterwards).
 
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2. Board Game: Key Harvest [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1310]
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I had reserved a copy of Key Harvest from Richard Breese before the event, in the hope that I would be able to get away. So one of my first stops in the convention was at the R&D stand. Richard very kindly signed a copy for me and I was able to watch him finishing off a game with a couple of visitors. He won! This may sound odd, but just seeing the designers of these games was awesome. I know they are just regular people too, but there was something quite fascinating about being able to meet people like Richard face to face.
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3. Board Game: Roads & Boats [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:271]
Tim Synge
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Splotter had a stand at the show. No new games, but again, just to meet the designers of Roads & Boats and Antiquity was great. And to hear them switch pretty seamlessly between Dutch, German and English was very impressive too.
 
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4. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:415] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
 
Tim Synge
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There was an area where chess was being promoted. In one corner was a table set up for Überblitz chess. I had never seen anything like this being played and it was utterly fascinating. Each player gets one minute to make all of his or her moves or else the game is lost. I am not a good chess player, but watching maybe half a dozen games in quick succession, you could see ebbs and flows across the board and each side almost took on an organic quality. Totally mesmerising. I was drawn back to this several times over the two days.
 
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5. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:34]
Tim Synge
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This isn't the first Essen 2007 list to include Brass, but I have to mention it because the Warfrog stand gave another opportunity to see a British designer in action. Martin Wallace in full flow explaing to a couple of tables at once how to play this game was a sight to behold. The game isn't the most straightforward, and I wasn't always entirely sure what Martin was talking about, but two tables of rapt Germans of varying ages hung on his every word and understood his every word - you could tell this because of the follow-up questions they asked.
 
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6. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:583]
 
Tim Synge
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And opposite the Warfrog stand were Valley Games. The reason this is on the list is because of the real buzz as the stacks of copies of Container arrived on Thursday afternoon. The hurried counting and double-counting by the guys on the stand of the number of copies that had been delivered, the realisation that the Essen special containers hadn't been delivered in the manner expected and the setting up of groups to count and bag the extras, all this gave a small insight into what it must be like to be a publisher at the show with a game that is just about to launch.
 
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7. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:606] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Tim Synge
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I really wanted to pick up a copy of Zooloretto while in Essen so as to avoid having to pay a sterling price here in the UK. Lots of shrinkwrapped copies on the various secondhand dealers' stands, but none of them were really sure whether English rules were included. So I passed. Then I was watching some people playing it at the main Abacus stand and I realised that they seemed to have English rules in front of them. A quick question at the counter and I was told that the Abacus new edition did indeed include English rules. So I got a brand new copy for only 18 or 20 Euros, which I was very pleased about.
 
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8. Board Game: Haunted House [Average Rating:6.21 Unranked]
Tim Synge
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At one point I walked into Hall 6. The best way I can describe this experience is that I felt what I think Harry Potter must have felt like at the point when, intending to go shopping in Diagon Alley, he travelled by "flue powder" and ended up in a neighbouring street that was altogether less welcoming and bright, indeed quite sombre and almost menacing. It didn't really seem like Essen at all.
 
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9. Board Game: Giro Galoppo [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:2577]
Tim Synge
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I didn't spend time playing games during this visit, as I really wanted to soak up the atmosphere and see as much as possible. I know that for many people getting to a table and playing and assessing a new game is really important, but I didn't play a single game during the two days I spent there. This gave me time to look around properly. I spent a bit of time observing games being played at many stands and, mindful of the family back at home, this included the Selecta stand. I chose Giro Galoppo as an interesting little game to take home and it has proved to be a good selection. I was interested to see soon after that Rio Grande are picking it up for an English edition. My copy has English rules, but I guess these arrangements are as much about US distribution as they are about availability of English language rules.
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10. Board Game: Catan Geographies: Settlers of Hesse [Average Rating:6.93 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.93 Unranked]
Tim Synge
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I followed in the footsteps of many and picked up various freebies and low cost expansions and variants. This was one of them and if I'm honest, I'll probably never play it. But it's all part of the Essen experience.
 
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11. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:230]
Tim Synge
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I had wanted to get a copy of this game for some time. Particularly because Keythedral is a favourite. I had been looking for a copy of the paperback book in England for a few weeks before travelling, but since World Without End, the sequel, had just been published, every UK bookstore I visited seemed to be out of stock. On Friday morning, on my way to the convention, I stopped at Essen mainline station, walked up into a pedestrianised shopping area and found a large bookshop, intending to buy a guidebook to the area. It had an English language section. There was a copy of the book, which incredibly cost me less in Euros than it would have done in sterling in the UK. Fantastic! Then, later on in the morning, I found a stand with an English language copy of the game for about 20 Euros. I don't think this was the Mayfair stand, but it was certainly a stroke of luck.
 
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12. Board Game: CityProGame Düsseldorf [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Tim Synge
United Kingdom
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As mentioned above, I didn't play games during the visit. This may seem like a wasted opportunity to many, and maybe it'll be different another year. However, during Thursday evening, Friday evening and Saturday morning (before my return flight), I took the opportunity to explore Düsseldorf. The city has a fascinating old town, some great river frontage and lots to see. Some great eating places in the old town and I sat out of doors to eat on both evenings. (What, in October? Yes!) Well worth a visit, and by all accounts a much more interesting city than Essen.

Oh and yes, I did buy a suitcase in Karstadt on the Friday night!
 
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