Essen and Germany 2008
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My wife and I went to the Essen Spiel Fair once before, back in 2005. That trip, we toured the northern and central parts of Germany, then finished up in Essen -- after all, it's an awfully long way to travel for just 4 days! This time, unfortunately, I couldn't get the time off before the fair so we had to do it in reverse: start at Essen, then tour Germany (central and, mostly, the south). That's not ideal: it gets cold and wet -- there's a reason it's not the tourist season! But Mary (diceychic) did a FANTASTIC job planning the trip out for us. Campaign Coins-Andre joined us for a week or so after the fair, then it was just the two of us.

This is basically my blog of the trip. Pictures may make it here, but can be found at my facebook account:
- Totally screwed up order (initial upload)
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5
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1. Board Game: Airport [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
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Mary left Tue 21 Oct. I had to work that day and the next (just a half day), so couldn't leave until Wednesday. Our friend Becky kindly had driven Mary to the airport, and also took me -- door to door service (she's a lifesaver!)!

I flew from Raleigh to Frankfurt, then a short leg to Dusseldorf. That first flight, though, was HORRENDOUS: I just couldn't get comfortable, had hardly any leg room, and got little or no sleep the entire way. The flight to Dusseldorf was not bad, though. Mary picked me up and took me straight to the Fair!

Needless to say, I was pretty tired. Still, even though I do hate to say it, it was OMGEssen! I spent the most of the Thursday and Friday wandering around, looking (and buying on occasion), but playing very little. After my long flight, I was glad when the day ended and I could crash for the night soonish (although I think we went out to dinner with Andre?)


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2. Board Game: 2 de Mayo [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1025]
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2 de Mayo
10/23/2008, 11:38 (37.8 min)

Wandering with Mary now (she'd been off by herself a lot yesterday, doing the Press/Game Day Organizer thing), we ended up at the Gen X booth. I'd heard about this game from the BGN preview and wanted to try it (mostly b/c of Jason Matthews' comment that it was a good first game, or something like that). So we chatted -- the designer and company guys were VERY nice, and the designer-guy spoke excellent English which is always nice!

Assymetric game, feels like an abstract game with a pasted on theme. Each has their own event card deck, and different movement rules. At end of 10 turns, French must eradicate Spanish to win; Spanish must survive or have French not control 1/4 gates to win.
snoozefest (first play): (rank: 1)
diceychic (first play): (rank: 2)
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3. Board Game: Days of Steam [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:4270]
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Days of Steam
10/24/2008, 04:15 (33 min)

It's got "Steam" in the title ... MUST TRY IT zombie! Of course, I was crushed. I blame the jet lag (and yeah, I still had it!). It's a neat game, is "Carcatrain". But I don't think it's a must have.

Carcassone-like train themed pick-up-and-deliver game. Hand of 3 tiles: train tracks in diff configurations. May either move train OR play tile - track or city tile (choose from 2 face up or 1 face down; come with 2 cubes; must have 2+ tracks btwn cities when first played). Some tracks may be played over others. All give you 1-2 steam (movement pts; may save up to 6). Movement costs 1-2 MP/tile. If attempt to move on curve, derailed if roll
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4. Board Game: Kazaam [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:7091]
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Kazaam
10/24/2008, 11:37 (33 min)

Wandering with Mary again. Though she was mostly chatting, I wanted to play. The game is pretty good: reasonably fast, but with some decisions to make.

Set-collection game where you're trying to build a monster by collecting 9 parts. 4 actions, choices: draw tile, discard tile to collect resources, play tile (pay resources), or flip a played tile (monster part) to use its special power. game ends when someone completes their monster. Score VP fore face up parts, doubled if part matches player color; most VP wins.

snoozefest (first play): (rank: 2)
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5. Board Game: Ice Flow [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:2057]
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Ice Flow
10/24/2008, 12:17 (37 min)

I came by to register for the raffle, but it sounded interesting and I ended up playing a full game. It was close, too -- we could have all won on that last turn!

Race to get 3 eskimos across the board. Use rope to cross cracked ice edges, fish to swim 1 hex or distract polar bears.

Pretty good, quick race game.

snoozefest (first play): (rank: 2)
(first play): (rank: 1)
: (rank: 3)
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6. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2242]
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Automobile
10/24/2008, 18:13 (100 min)

After the day at the fair, we (Mary, André and me) went to Jung for drinks, then out for dinner with Martin and Julia. We had a bit of an adventure on the way to a great chinese place right next door: we'd parked in an illegal spot (Andre and I had convinced Mary it was OK; we clearly didn't know what the heck we were talking about!). As we walked out of the hotel, we saw a Meter Maid writing a ticket! We paid the 15 euro fee in cash, then moved the car to the spot Martin was holding for us! After that, we went to the restaurant and had a fabulous dinner -- thanks!

Afterwards, we all went back to the Jung (and I kept drinking!) and played this late into the night. MUCH simpler rules than usual Wallace games, but it works very well.

snoozefest (first play): 2630 (rank: 5)
diceychic (first play): 3990 (rank: 1)
Frog1: 3290 (rank: 3)
EricMartin (first play): 3120 (rank: 4)
Andre (first play): 3500 (rank: 2)
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7. Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1036]
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A Castle for All Seasons
10/25/2008, 04:07 (48 min)

Saturday! The day when the place is MOBBED by families! Last time, it had been impossible to find a decent place to play. So this time, I looked for an open spot to grab first thing in the day. Fortunately, Patrick had such a spot at the Rio booth -- thanks for letting me join! This was the first game we tried.

A worker placement game, sort of. Simultaneous action selection. Collect resources, build castle parts worth VP and deploy workers to VP-earning locations. Feels a bit like Pillars with some extra options and faster play. Maybe too fast ... it doesn't seem like you have enough time to rev the ol' engine! Definitely want to try this again, although I'm not sure I need to have it?

snoozefest (first play): 45 (rank: 3)
PatK (first play): 43 (rank: 4)
Jeremiah Lee (first play): 65 (rank: 1)
Karen Woodmansee (first play): 50 (rank: 2)
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8. Board Game: Strozzi [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1692]
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Strozzi
10/25/2008, 05:14 (21 min)

Same table, different game. Unfortunately, we aborted it: it has simplified Medici so its easier to get into but lacks most of the tension. None of us particularly liked the artwork either (sorry, artist guy -- we met him at dinner and he's very nice). No one felt the need to play this one out, although I hated it the least (~6/10 for me, I think).

snoozefest (first play): (rank: 4)
PatK (first play): (rank: 4)
Jeremiah Lee (first play): (rank: 4)
Karen Woodmansee (first play): (rank: 4)
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9. Board Game: Royal Palace [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1047]
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Royal Palace
10/25/2008, 05:55 (86.2 min)

Same table, game #3.

Worker placement game. Each place gives you different abilities which you use to place more workers, acquire new abilities and VP. Works very well although I'd prefer the original castle-building theme to this noble-collection one.

snoozefest (first play): 49 (rank: 2)
PatK: 42 (rank: 4)
Karen Woodmansee: 53 (rank: 1)
Jeremiah Lee: 47 (rank: 3)
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10. Board Game: Days of Steam [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:4270]
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Days of Steam
10/25/2008, 09:49 (46.5 min)
FTF

Took Mary back to try the game out. I still sucked at it. I think Aaron (the designer) won?

snoozefest: (rank: 4)
diceychic (first play): (rank: 3)
: (rank: 1)
: (rank: 2)
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11. Board Game: Robotory [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:3852]
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Robotory
10/25/2008, 11:24 (4.7 min)
FTF

Found the Japon booth tucked away in the back of Hall 4 (?)! Nice people!

Abstract game. Hex board with red, blue and yellow robots. Players start with 2 R, 2 B cubes. In turn, either play a cube to a hex, refill your cubes, or move a robot. Robots move over adjacent spaces, eating like-colored cubes (Y bot eats R or B). Eaten cubes removed from game. Play until no cubes in supply? Player with most robots on their side of the board wins.

Neat little abstract game, but I'm generally not a big fan of abstracts. I wouldn't mind having a copy, though (maybe in trade?)
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12. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
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Dominion

Rio Jay threw a little party and I was somehow (thanks, Mary!) invited. Dinner was at a hotel restaurant, but Jay arrived late and then was in meetings with Dale! Didn't get to talk with him at all, but thanks for the dinner -- we owe you one!

Played this with Chris Leonhard, who'd just learned it, after dinner. It's still fun, but I'd recently (just before the trip) tried it on BSW. BSW sure does make it easier to play (no shuffling; these cards were kinda sticky, too!)!

10/25/2008, 17:07 (15 min)
snoozefest: (rank: 2)
ChrisLeonhard: (rank: 1)

10/25/2008, 17:23 (11 min)
snoozefest: (rank: 1)
ChrisLeonhard: (rank: 2)
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13. Board Game: Confucius [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1997]
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Confucius
10/26/2008, 05:24 (113.8 min)

The last day! I'd been wanting to try this all con, but it's a long game and the tables have always been full! I finally managed to grab a seat. It's an interesting game, all about king-making (but in a way that works)! I was absolutely crushed, but I still had a good time. Very nice design -- one of the best of the show for me!

snoozefest (first play): (rank: 4)
AGallela (first play): (rank: 2)
(first play): (rank: 1)
(first play): (rank: 3)
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14. Board Game: COLORS [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:10973]
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COLORS
10/26/2008, 09:10 (11 min)

At the same booth (shared by several publishers), I was killing some time waiting for Mary to meet me, and decided to give this a try. It's another abstract, and I think the demo-chick let me win. But it's not a bad little game!

4 x 4 diamond. Each player has 4 markers in 3 colors (squares v circles). Start with 1 ea collor in home base. Get4 MP each turn: may advance or move laterally (if get to opposite base, returns to you). If create 3-color triangle, capture all opponent's pieces. Win by capturing all of a color or any 8.

snoozefest: (rank: 1)
: (rank: 2)
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15. Board Game: Wind River [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:4684]
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Wind River
10/26/2008, 10:06 (35 min)

Our last walk through. Wandering the halls with Mary, we stopped for a demo 'cause I'd heard something about it. But it played so quickly enough that we ended up finishing the game.

It's an abstract game themed about Native Americans. Try to get as many teepees to left side of board while feeding all of them on the way (hunt buffalo). Each turn, move 1 buffalo for each teepee you have in play (2 at start). Then feed your teepees (use saved food, or fed if n buffalos in hex); starved are removed from play. Then take 1 action: hunt = collect # buff - # your teepees in space (max 10 SAVED). (in each hex); spend 3 food to make new teepee (in same hex as current). Can't do either if sharing with another player's teepee. OR move one of your teepees 1 space.
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16. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2242]
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Gem Trader
10/26/2008, 10:45 (15.8 min)

A quick light filler with a generous amount of luck but still enough strategy to be fun. Like For Sale: acquire stuff (gems /- action cards, by open auction; random bonus cards) then sell (4 diff markets in sequence). Can play action cards during sales to modify earnings. Most money wins.

As a quick aside: those German (demo) girls speaking English are awfully cute!

snoozefest: 1570 (rank: 1)
German demo chick: 1290 (rank: 2)
diceychic: 1010 (rank: 3)
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17. Board Game: GemBlo Pyramid [Average Rating:4.92 Overall Rank:13968]
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GemBlo Pyramid
10/26/2008, 11:17 (33.2 min)

Taught by a cute German with an Australian accented English.

Get a bunch of numbered dice. On your turn, build a pyramid (may use dice on board and/or new dice): 3 in base, 1 on top. Top die must be same number as sum of bottom dice (ignore 10s place). Sum of all 4 dice must be greater than last player's total. If all pass, may build a new pyramid with any sum. Game ends when one player dow to 0-2 dice; winner?

The game makes my head hurt!
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18. Board Game: Escape from the Hidden Castle [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:2030]
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Escape from the Hidden Castle
10/26/2008, 17:18 (25.1 min)

I was tired and hoping for a quiet, quick dinner. We went to the place Mary and André ate earlier. We ran into Sylvio there, who was waiting for their own large party. So we joined them. We had a great time -- those Italians sure are friendly! -- but I was TIRED! While waiting for dinner, someone pulled this out. Everyone seemed to really LOVE this game; I guess it's OK ... fun enough to play along, I suppose. The company was better than the game, though (even though I wanted to go to sleep!).

snoozefest: (rank: 4)
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19. Board Game: Monopoly: Köln [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
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OUR POST-ESSEN TRAVELS.



We started by driving to nearby Koln (Cologne) and visiting the Dom (cathedral). The city has some bridges over the Rhine. Last time, despite our GPS, we kept missing the turns and had to keep driving back and forth several times. A few trips over the Rhine again (but less than last time!), then we finally found the hotel!

Then explored the Dom. We ran into Leah (marketing) and brother Max (rules, developing) from Out of the Box and chatted a while: they are so nice!

We climbed 100m of south tower and had some great views of the city. The cathedral is beautiful!

We had dinner at Argentinian restaurant near the hotel (City Class Hotel Caprice) - Ponchos. Really good sweetcorn soup! And the ribs were tough but OH so tasty!

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20. Board Game: Block Buster [Average Rating:6.36 Unranked]
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United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Block Buster
10/27/2008, 15:32 (18.3 min)
FTF

Went back to the hotel room. André brought some Godiva chocolates and Shochu - a sake like light drink from Japan, served with ice (not bad!). We played part of a game then started over because I'd missed some rule(s).

Each player has the same set of Blokus-like pieces. The board scales in size for 2-4 players. You set it up with shapes in specific locations. First piece may be played anywhere. Then, must play orthogonally adjacent to your previously played piece(s), or take penalty chip(s) to play elsewhere. Play till all pass. Score VP for control of shapes (by occupying more spaces adjacent to shape than any other player). For each shape, 3 VP for 1, 7 VP for 2; if ever control 3 during game, win immediately. Lose VP per penalty chip and for unplayed pieces (-1VP/square).

Good game but likely best with 2 unless everyone of similar skill.

snoozefest (first play): 17 (rank: 1)
diceychic (first play): 2 (rank: 2)
AndréBishop (first play): -1 (rank: 3)
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21. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:2055]
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Hillsborough
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Ticket to Ride: The Card Game
10/27/2008, 16:04 (33.2 min)

This was a free copy we got at the end of the show during cleanup (it's pretty grungy!), with no English, so we had to go from memory.

snoozefest: 80 (rank: 2)
diceychic: 92 (rank: 1)
AndréBishop (first play): 42 (rank: 3)
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22. Board Game: Monopoly: Trier [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
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Hillsborough
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28 OCT. Burg Eltz, Trier.



Spent the day at Burg Eltz - beautiful! Had to drive through a construction area to get there, though - hurray for GPS!

Got to Trier without difficulty. Walked to the main plaza and looked around a bit. Had dinner at Zug Domstein.

GERMAN ROAD SIGNAGE SUCKS!! IF YOU'RE DRIVING IN GERMANY, GET A GPS!
 
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23. Board Game: Monopoly: Trier [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
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29 OCT. Trier.

Started the day shopping for shoes for Mary: her new shoes have given her blisters! She ended up buying ssome Crocs (eventually) and was MUCH haier the rest of the day! We looked for power converters, too, so we could return Andrés. I found my own pair of Crocs while on the search!

It turned out to be a cold and rainy day! We spent a lot of time at the Dom, which is still in use and has some amazing stonework and carvings! Its major religious holding is the Robe of Christ, sealed up out of sight these days.



Saw the Porta Nigra, too: ancient Roman gateway in great shape still. The rain really started coming down in the early evening and André decided to head back for the hotel: he had no rainproof clothes! He ended up buying a 50€ travel umbrella! But the hotel did do his laundry for free!

Mary and I continued on, meanwhile, th Konstantin's throne room (HUGE brick building) and remains of a Roman wall and baths. It was getting dark so we headed back early.

Went back to Zug Domstein for dinner, this time the basement for Roman food. Good mulsum (white wine with honey and spices), OK salad but too sweet, good appetizers. Ham with figs wasn't very good. Peach desert souffle was good!
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24. Board Game: Ruby Gloom: The Game [Average Rating:5.86 Unranked]
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Hillsborough
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Ruby Gloom
20:46 (43.3 min)


Ate dinner at Zum Domstein, which has the oldest printed cookbook (on ancient Roman recipes) on display in the basement. I had their Bananen-Weissen Bier (a bit of banana juice or something poured in): was actually pretty tasty! Yummy potato cakes and great bread, too, but they charged 0.55€ per pat of butter!

We played this while waiting for desert. It's a simple card game (I think -- the rules translation isn't the greatest). Cards are 0-01 in 4 colors (great illustrations!), 4 specials, 4 Moons. Deal each player 6 random cards, into 2x3 grid; each flips a random one face up. Put 1 card from draw deck into face up discard pile. On your turn, may take top card from discard pile and replace any of yours, or draw from draw deck and either replace one of yours or discard drawn card. Replaced card discarded face up (?), replacing (drawn) card played face up. If draw Moon, must play it; replaced card passed to left, who must use it to replace card in same grid position (continue to left, with last player discarding card). If replaced face down card is Moon, pass Moon to left - played similarly. Round ends when someone has all 6 face up. Add value of cards, except if same # in one column (2 cards), their value is 0. Player with lowest sum scores 1VP. Play till someone gets to 3VP = winner!

Cute filler.
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25. Board Game: Monopoly: Trier [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
Snooze Fest
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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30 OCT. Trier, Speyer.

Had a quick breakfast then back outside -- not quite as cold, but still rainy. Saw the baths and walls again in daylight, then to the amphitheater: cool!



Stopped at BMW on the way out (driving over a Roman bridge!) so André could look for biker clothes (wrong sizes available!). Then Burger King for lunch on the drive to Kaiserdom in Speyer.
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