Essen 2009 impressions (yet another list)
Mark Gerrits
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This was my first Essen and I have to say it was an absolute blast. This is the story of three days of spending way too much money and playing tons of games, all in convenient BGG list form.
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1. Board Game: You Robot [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:6485]
Mark Gerrits
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Arriving at the fair, I was rather apprehensive about joining a game as a single non-German speaker. So I simply wandered around for a while. Until I came across a crazy guy in a sombrero, loudly crying out for new players for this little game called You Robot. And that's how I popped my Essen cherry.

You Robot is a pretty fun party game, played in teams of two. You take turns trying to get the other player to adopt a certain pose, using only three cards, which you can move and rotate and on which you can point at details. For instance, you could point at the left leg of the robot body on one of the cards and then move a card with an arrow upwards to have the other player lift his left leg. Of course you're not allowed to talk to each other, making it the ultimate language independent game.

It's a bit flawed though, all teams are playing simultaneously to try to end fastest, but that means you end up looking at what the other players are doing as much as what you're partner is telling you to do.
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2. Board Game: Gipsy King [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2575]
Mark Gerrits
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The only older game I bought. I've played Gipsy King quite a bit online. It's a great game that's all about knowing when to pass your turn. I'm curious to play it with more than two players now. And to try out the free expansion that came with the game.

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3. Board Game: Atlantis [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1714]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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As a big Colovini fan, this was high on my list of games to try out and it didn't disappoint. It's all tactics and not much strategy and that's just fine by me.

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4. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:239]
Mark Gerrits
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Played this at the hotel. I'm not a huge fan of farming games but this one was quite nice, mostly because of the unique card selection mechanic. We did play it slightly wrong though, not discarding empty fields. It's a game I won't turn down when it's brought to the table but nothing I'm eager to buy.
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5. Board Game: BasketBoss [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2971]
Mark Gerrits
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I needed to spend five more euros at the Cwali stand to also get the Powerboats expansion besides just the Gipsy King expansion. I could've gone with one of their older games which were just the right price but they didn't really appeal to me. So I tried out Basket Boss which turned out to be a fun, light auction game with a great theme. Another play session at the hotel that night seemed to confirm my first impression. Still, it's a Cwali game so it might reveal hidden depths later on, not that it really needs them.

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6. Board Game: Gonzaga [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2320]
Mark Gerrits
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I was curious about this game as a possible replacement for Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride, to play with my parents. It turned out to be quite fun and looked great. But at 40 euros it was just too expensive for what it had to offer.
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7. Board Game: The Great Fire of London 1666 [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1906]
Mark Gerrits
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I signed up for one the playtesting sessions for Great Fire and it was an absolute blast. I love how the mechanics feel quite elegant without any fussy rules, yet they're completely interwoven with the game's theme. This will definitely be the game to check out for those people who complain about the weak themes in eurogames. I can't wait until I'll be able to buy it.
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8. Board Game: Assyria [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1291]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
Leuven
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I enjoyed playing Assyria at the Rio Grande booth. It definitely plays better than the initial rule explanation made me fear. I went back and forth a lot on whether or not to buy it but eventually decided not to because the 3 player setup looked somewhat unbalanced.
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9. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:202]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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I'm not sure we completely understood all the rules from the crazy German guy's explanation at the Z-man booth but nevertheless we had a lot of fun. It doesn't feel too heavy but still seems to offer a lot of depth. Unfortunately they sold their last copy while we were playing. But luckily the game is language independent, so I picked up a German copy from Lookout Games (and Magister Navis is a cooler sounding title anyway). The play session also showed one of the other great things about Essen besides all the new games: where else do people from Belgium, Germany and Hong Kong get to sit together for a friendly game of colonization?

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10. Board Game: Strada Romana [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:4865]
Mark Gerrits
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Strada Romana is a resource collection game that looks like a race game (even with some horse betting thrown in). And at times it feels like an (easy) puzzle game, trying to figure out how you can get a hold of the right two resources in the same move. It was the end of the day so some of the resource cubes had gone missing which caused us to run out before the end of the game. But until then we'd had a lot of fun. The game's pretty light but I think it'll make for a great filler.

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11. Board Game: Fzzzt! [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:2977]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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A quick blind auction game with some Dominion-like card management. And it costs only 8 euros. That's pretty much a no-brainer to buy. It didn't hurt either that I'd already enjoyed a game of it at the hotel.

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12. Board Game: Opera [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2039]
Mark Gerrits
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My favourite game of the fair. I was actually a bit skeptical of it at first, because it looked like it was getting hyped based solely on its theme which didn't promise much for the gameplay. But even though we made some small mistakes with the rules, it was the best game I played at Essen this year. There've been some concerns about a runaway leader problem here at BGG the last few days but I think those impressions are mainly based on incomplete demo plays. I certainly didn't notice the problem while we played the game at the hotel.

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13. Board Game: Klondike [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:3977]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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This was a kids dexterity game that was brought out at the end of the night after much beer had already been consumed. It's a game of gold panning where you swirl around a big metal pan trying to keep yellow marbles inside while getting rid of black and gray marbles. The other players can bet on how well they'll think you'll do. Surprisingly, my usually clumsy self was quite good at it. Kids will probably love this. Plus it has an awesome big raccoon piece (which is absolutely essential to the game)
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14. Board Game: Tarantel Tango [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:4895]
Mark Gerrits
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And after some more beers, this was brought out and I probably haven't laughed as hard in months. You basically go through your stack laying down cards while making the noise of the animal on the previous player's card, but ONLY if there was a spider on his card (twice for two spiders).If there's two animals on the card you skip a spot when putting down the card.

If you mess up, you take all the played cards. First one to run out of cards wins. We played with an additional house rule that if you don't spot the previous player's mistake, you yourself have to take all the cards. It sounds simple but it quickly gets chaotic and mistakes are made all over the place (especially with the deadly goat-donkey combo!) Great party game. I'll probably pick it up when it hits the toy stores here.
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15. Board Game: Tobago [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:389]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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I've got mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand, it looks great and eliminating cubes from the island is just a really fun action to take. But on the other hand the game itself just feels incredibly light, even for a family game. There's just not any meaningful strategy or tactics that I can discern. This probably wouldn't bother me with a small card game but with a big, showy game like this, it's put me off of buying it.
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16. Board Game: Imperial 2030 [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:166]
Mark Gerrits
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My introduction to Imperial. The other players, all Ibis compatriots, were already familiar with the original game and seemed to agree with each other that this was a definite improvement to an already great game. Judging it just on its own merits, it was indeed a great game. I love that while at first it might look like a war game, it's actually a financial game at heart where wars are used to influence the economy. It's all wonderfully cynical.

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17. Board Game: Infinite City [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:2456]
Mark Gerrits
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I was pretty interested in this game until I actually got to test it out. Unfortunately it's just way too random. I probably would've still bought it for 15 euros but at twice that price it just wasn't worth it.
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18. Board Game: Caligula [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:6691]
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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I love the rules for selecting actions and determining their order in this game, not to mention the theme of assassinating a whole slew of Roman emperors. Based on those strengths alone I bought a copy after a short demo play at the fair. When playing it at the hotel, those parts were still lots of fun but the actual assassinations fell a bit flat.

Thinking back on it, I suspect it might've been some bad group think on our part. If we'd bid much more aggressively during the plotting stage (which would make sense, as bidding the most gets you a valuable extra point and drives other people out of the conspiracy), the assassinations themselves would become much more dicey instead of the foregone conclusions they were now. Which in turn would open up some nice opportunities for backstabbing. I'm eager to try out the game again with this in mind.

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19. Board Game: Dominion: Seaside [Average Rating:8.06 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.06 Unranked]
Mark Gerrits
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I'd grown kind of bored of Dominion so I didn't check out the Seaside expansion at the fair. But a quick game Sunday evening has significantly raised my excitement levels again. It seems to add some genuinely new elements to the game. I'll probably wait for the Dutch version though.
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20. Board Game: Power Grid: Factory Manager [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:691]
Mark Gerrits
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I still haven't gotten around to playing Power Grid so I can't compare Factory Manager to its daddy.

When we played Factory Manager on Sunday, everybody was surprised by the quick playing time. The game seemed over just when everybody's factory really got started. I liked that though, it made for a very tight game. However, I don't hold up high hopes for much replayability. I'd love to play another game but I think after a few of them you'll have pretty much figured out a good winning path. From there, only increasingly small optimizations will be possible over repeated plays, which would get too dull for me. I'd love to be proven wrong though.
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21. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:106]
 
Mark Gerrits
Belgium
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This is a light two player card game but it looks absolutely stunning. I love the colourful cards and cardboard chips. Even the rulebook and box insert burst with colour (yet it doesn't get gaudy). The game itself has some nice push-your-luck elements. It seems like an ideal gateway game for partners. It feels a tad more gamey than Lost Cities but with less arithmetic (during the game at least, there is quite a bit of adding up to do at the end of a round)

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And that was the end of Essen for me. I had an absolutely great time. I played with lots of nice people at the fair, most of them Germans who were happy to sit through English rule explanations for my benefit. If you're thinking about going to Essen next year but are afraid of the language barrier, don't be! And then there were my fellow Ibis guests who were great fun to hang out with and introduced me to many great games (which was no small factor in depleting my wallet, but that's all forgiven!).
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