Baghdad to Essen in 30 days; my Essen haul
Mike Stinchfield
United States
San Antonio
Texas
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One of the advantages to returning from my Iraq deployment to Germany this time of year was opportunity for time off and a scheduled Essen Spiel. Since I move to California soon for my next assignment, I was happy to take advantage of the fair this year. Sure it required sleeping in my car...and driving all the way across Germany in my clunker BMW...but the fair sure beat those Iraqi streets! I can even say that of the 3 hours Stau I sat in from Frankfurt to Wurzburg on the way back last night.

I put a hand written list together before the fair so I could easily find everything. One of my surprises was how physically small it was. I have never been to a game convention (gasp!) and did not know what to expect but I thought I would be walking a ways between halls; not so. Also, very crowded, even on Thursday and Friday (the only days I could attend). Not many native English speakers, but the Europeans were more than accommodating; always willing to speak English, even to each other. Yes America, this includes the French and Germans! Fantastic people! Anyway, my list worked well but not really necessary as everything was easily located.

When looking for games to purchase I used several criteria. First was what I had read here on the geek, second was to play it myself or if that was not possible to watch people play to see if they looked like they were enjoying it, third was that is was easy to explain, fourth if it was likely going to be easily available in the states anytime soon, and lastly if the wife and my 12 year old would enjoy it.
So that and a bunch of Euro burning a hole in my pocket led me to the following games.

I don't know when I will ever make it to Essen again, but I am sure glad I got the chance.
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1. Board Game: Space Alert [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:147]
Mike Stinchfield
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I must admit I picked this one up purely on pre-Essen hype. To tell you the truth, people I watched playing the demo game really looked kind of unexcited. So this one did not really live up to my criteria. I hope I end up being wrong. Purchased.
 
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2. Board Game: Kraków 1325 AD [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:3040]
Mike Stinchfield
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I told myself I would pick this up prior to the show. What sold me on this though was the artwork. I know everyone is talking about it, but it really is phenomenal seeing it all set out at the booth. That and it was just motivating to be their first customer back in the smaller part of the show. People I watched playing seemed to pick it up quickly and enjoy themselves. The cooperative/competitive game mechanics are intriguing; no pun intended. Purchased.
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3. Board Game: Wasabi! [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1185]
Mike Stinchfield
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I was asked by a new friend to pick this one up for him. I am glad he pointed me this direction. I played through the game, twice (4 players). It met my criteria for an easily explained game that my family will enjoy. Unique theme, cool components and minimal down time. However, as the tiles, fill the board it becomes a bit of a brain burner and I can see some AP kicking in for some. I am not that impatient of a gamer so I do not mind that fact. Great game. Purchased.
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4. Board Game: Powerboats [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1326]
Mike Stinchfield
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Another one I was asked to pick up and it is terrific. I am a sucker for racing games so this was a bit of a no-brainer. The dice mechanics work well and the islands create a "beyond tactical" feel where you are really having to plan ahead several turns if you want to win. Luck figures in appropriately. Easily explained, surely appealing to kids, and lots of laughs accompanied my 3 plays of this. Purchased.
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5. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:362]
Mike Stinchfield
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I have to say it the Wabash Cannonball graphics never interested me enough despite the positive critiques. Besides, I already have a railroad game.... This was my game of the show. Fast playing, easily explained, moves quickly, very little down time, strategic, tactical, now it has some decent artwork. I know some people are disappointed by the artwork, but hopefully this will attract a lot more like me to this phenomenal game. Purchased.
 
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6. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:36]
Mike Stinchfield
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Why did they decide to put the booth that was likely to be the most popular of the show in a narrow corridor of booths? Crazy crowded. I like Agricola and so does my family. People playing looked entertained. I picked up the Australian edition. I played solo once to check it out since bringing it home but it just needs multi-players with the Caylus-like building mechanic. Purchased with Vegi/Animeeples for my Agricola copy.
 
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7. Board Game: Snow Tails [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:600]
Mike Stinchfield
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I knew nothing about this before going to the show. Truthfully a game with this artwork and named Snow Tails is far from appealing to a testosterone driven infantryman like me. Well, didn't I say I was a sucker for racing games? This is very good. My kids will love it. It is thankfully meatier than the Antler Island game by the same designers which my kids also enjoy. The only confusing aspect I have come across while solo-testing is the corners. I think I have figured it out, but the counting of drift and forward movement gets a little more tricky with overlapping spaces in corners. One more example in the rules would of helped. What sold me was an excellent, Scottish-accent-laced, explanation by one of the Lamont brothers, and the large amount of track pieces for variety. The rulebook can also be laugh out loud funny in parts, which is a plus. Purchased.
 
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8. Board Game: Memoir '44: Mediterranean Theater [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Mike Stinchfield
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Yes, I am a completest. Yes, I can pick this up in the states soon. No comment. Purchased.
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9. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:191]
Mike Stinchfield
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Pre-Essen hype preordered. People looked like they were having fun. I got it home to 2 copies of French rules and 1 German. Arggh! Luckily they are readily available here on the geek in English. Looks great set up, and I think the family will really enjoy it. Coop games are always big. Purchased.
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10. Board Game: Fairy Tale [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:743]
Mike Stinchfield
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New card graphics look great. My 2 year old destroyed some of my cards on my at-home copy so this was easy. Purchased.
 
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11. Board Game: Giants [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:886]
Mike Stinchfield
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I did not get to play this. Phenomenal components and artwork. I read through the rules several times before deciding while I watched several groups enjoy themselves. Purchased.
 
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12. Board Game: Comuni [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1837]
Mike Stinchfield
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San Antonio
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Two reasons for this: it jumped quickly to number 1 at the Fairplay booth and people were genuinely enjoying every game I observed. I would best describe it as a simple, interactive, traditional Eurogame. Purchased.
 
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13. Board Game: The Princes of Machu Picchu [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1070]
Mike Stinchfield
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San Antonio
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Great components, many people enjoying this, a few confused looks so I think it is probably the most complex of the games I picked up. Purchased.
 
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14. Board Game: Dorn [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:3460]
Mike Stinchfield
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San Antonio
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I love the pencil style artwork. I sold myself saying that my wife might actually play this with me. Purchased.
 
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15. Board Game: Um Reifenbreite [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1124]
Mike Stinchfield
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San Antonio
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I had 8 Euro left in my pocket:-) I am a sucker for racing games. Purchased on the way out.
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