I was an Essen booth monkey!!!!
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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I thought I'd wait for all the post Essen geeklists to die down before attempting my one as seen from a different viewpoint. goo

Last year was my first Essen trip as a visitor & I really enjoyed the experience.

This year I was not planning on attending until the following happened ...
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1. Board Game Publisher: Reiver Games
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
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A few months ago I answered a posting here on BGG by Jackson Pope, the (very nice) man behind Reiver Games, who was looking for gamers/playtesters living near him.

We met up (at the Leighton Buzard Game Day) and got on well. Since then we have been meeting regularly at Terry's house (tel999) to be involved in the playtesting of game submissions sent to Reiver Games.
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2. Board Game: Last Minute [Average Rating:5.64 Unranked]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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A couple of weeks prior to Essen Jack contacted me to say that his wife had to back out of going to Essen with him due to a thesis deadline fast approaching.

He'd got accommodation for four booked (his friends Lucy & Dunk who helped him out last year were helping again), and budgeted to be paying for travel for four, so asked if I'd got holiday to spare and fancied a trip to Essen where I'd only be paying for food, drink and games. If so, he would shout the travel and accommodation in return for helping him out on his stand!

I got the green light for leave from work & so gladly took him up on his offer. It was nice to feel that he had enough confidence in me to think that I'd be a good game demonstrator ... or as he put it ... Booth Monkey!
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3. Board Game: Travel Sequence [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:12579]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Early on the Wednesday morning we started our travel from Luton airport. With a healthy (!) breakfast of a blueberry muffin for me (it had fruit in so counted for one of my five-a-day! whistle ) and an iced croissant/danish thingy for Jack, we flew out to Dortmund.

A short bus trip, two train journeys and a taxi ride later, we were at the Messe Essen ready to begin setting up.
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4. Board Game Publisher: Reiver Games
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Reiver Games booth was situated in hall 4.

It was so interesting to see all the halls in various stages of construction and preparation rather than being all set as I'd witnessed the previous year! Such a hive of pre-show activity! I was still amazed by the size of the whole show/venue.

We had to wait for the pallet of games ...
It's Alive!

Carpe Astra

& Sumeria

... to arrive so busied ourselves with getting the banners in place, the tables set up etc.

Once the games had arrived, been unpacked, stacked & displayed we headed for our apartment and some well needed food! It had been a long day!
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5. Board Game: Sweet and Sour: The Chinese Restaurant Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Just down the road from our apartment was a convenient chinese take-away. The food was good & very well needed as it was around 9pm and we hadn't eaten since leaving Luton airport!

The portions were enormous, but we did our best to make short work of it!

Stomachs full, there was still some more preparation to be done!

Having a copy of It's Alive (from its original 300 print run) I was well versed in the rules of that game. I had, however, only played Sumeria once and had never played Carpe Astra.

We settled down to a game of each with me paying extra attention as I would be explaining these games pretty much non-stop for the next four days!
surprise
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6. Board Game: Café International [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:2085]
Andrew Burgin
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Kempston Hardwick
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Day One was upon us and we headed to the Messe Essen for 9am where the crowds were already gathering for the doors to open at 10. Once inside the anticipatory buzz from all the exhibitors was palpable.

Jack and I took our places, joined by Lucy & Dunk who had arrived late the night before, and waited for the doors to open.

The next four days were AMAZING & went by in such a blur.

I absolutely loved teaching the games and was not restricted by my almost non-existent German, or any other language to that matter. There was such a diversity of people from all over the world stopping at the booth and pretty much all of them spoke fantastic English.

The booth was so busy that the time just whizzed by. Often Jack would say to me "Do you want to take your lunch break now?" & I'd realise that four or five hours had flown by where it only seemed like five minutes!

So many really nice people stopped by to playtest the games that it made the whole experience extra enjoyable. I also got to meet a few geek 'names' that I'd heard of, plus meeting some game designers and distributors.
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7. Board Game: It's Alive! [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2629]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Of Jack's games, "It's Alive!" was the one I was very familiar with. A great fun game where players compte to be the first to build their own Frankenstein-style monster from body parts procured from the local graveyard!
zombie
Buy, sell or auction body parts but watch out for the angry villagers who aren't keen on your little hobby and will demand compensation ... or the return of body parts!

This 20-30 minute game for 2-5 players was always a good source of humour at the tables with all the possible 'body part' jokes for adults, and the slightly gruesome comedy artwork that appealed to the younger players too!

The game also plays on two levels; an easy 'first to complete your monster wins' option for younger players or the 'total value of the body parts with bonus for completing' option for the 'gamer' types.
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8. Board Game: Carpe Astra [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:5130]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Carpe Astra, which Jack co-designed, was a totally new one for me. With only one play under my belt, from the night before the first day, I was a little nervous at first at the thought of explaining/demo'ing it.

Players are the heads of different factions in the Galactic Empire where no-one is happy with the current Galactic Emperor & everyone thinks they can do a better job!

Players complete for influence in 6 different areas by connecting chains of their agents in order to win one of a limited number of votes from those areas.

About halfway through the 10 rounds all the votes will have been won over in varying numbers by all the players. This is the point when the players turn to slander. This involves their agents connecting negative chains to another player thus causing them to lose votes!

At the end of the 10 rounds the player with majority influence in a guild gets victory points with second place getting half. Whoever has the most victory points becomes the new Galactic Emperor.

Clever card play, tile laying, some screwage combined with most actions costing money (which is very limited), in a game for 2-4 players that takes 60-90 minutes, makes this a big game in a small box.

I needn't have worried as I really enjoyed explaining and playing this game.
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9. Board Game: Sumeria [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:2552]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Sumeria, Reiver Games newest addition, I had only played once before going to Essen & once the night before 'Day 1'. I had no worries with this one at all as it is such a simple game to teach and play yet it has such depth that it is very hard to play it well!

Basically an area majority game where your actions dictate the importance of the eight city-states on the board. You only have three options: place, remove or move your traders. Each action changes the ranking of the city-state involved. At the end of each of 6 rounds the players with the most influence in the top three city-states win culture/civilisation tiles which equate to points.

Originally for 3-4 players and lasting only 45 minutes (approximately) this is another big game in a small box that also plays in a very reasonable time.
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10. Board Game: Sumeria: 2-Player Expansion [Average Rating:6.48 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.48 Unranked]
Andrew Burgin
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Kempston Hardwick
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Sumeria now has this expansion (or as many people liked saying 'contraction') which allows the game to be playable with 2 players, making it a 2-4 player game.

The expansion was given free with any purchase of the base game at Essen.

For those who already owned the game it was only 2.50 euros to buy on its own.
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11. Board Game Designer: Dirk Liekens
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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The designer of Sumeria, Dirk Liekens, was also at the fair & he demoed his game at our booth on the Thursday morning & Sunday. It was nice to meet him too.
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12. Board Game: Friends [Average Rating:4.07 Overall Rank:15085]
Andrew Burgin
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Kempston Hardwick
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It wasn't all work work work. Jack gave me time to have a browse around the Messe, which I did, but I was quite happy to come back & demo some more.

I did have the Friday afternoon off from about 1.30pm & met up with my good friends Johan & Anna-Lena who were there for 2 days.

We had a quick browse together then left the fair & went for coffee before ending back at their hotel where we got to try a couple of the games they had purchased: Peloponnes & Fzzzt! I enjoyed both but did really badly at Peloponnes, ending with a final score of zero which was 2 points less than I started the game with!!!! blush Hopefully I'll do better next time!

We went out for a nice meal in the evening too & it was a great afternoon & evening spent with good friends.
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13. Board Game: Kraków 1325 AD [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:3062]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
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I only managed to get to play one game (other than the three I was demo'ing) whilst at the show which was the very good Krakow 1325 AD.

Peter & Melchior, the game designer & artist were in the next booth to us & were such nice guys that we had a good laugh over the four days. We even went out for a great meal and a few beers together on the Saturday night.

The game is a great partnership game for 4 players where you work as a team of 2 trying to beat the other team. However you each also have a secret identity with which you are trying to ensure that, when these are revealed near game end, you are in the best position to leave your team mate behind and win the game. ninja

I joined a game with 3 friendly guys, two of which were called 'Andreas' & the other (whose name I can't recall) got re-named 'Andrew' (by Peter who was teaching us) as he was paired with me, so it became the Andreas's versus the Andrew's!
I think I came second in the end.

The game also has a new 3 player expansion available in which all players are out for themselves.

A good fun game with some great artwork. It was also really nice to meet Peter & Melchior.
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14. Board Game: The End is Near [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
Andrew Burgin
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Kempston Hardwick
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Finally it was Sunday.

Lucy & Dunk had to leave early afternoon to get their flight back which left Jack & I to end the day and clear up.

Once the show had finished we packed away the demo games, took down the banners, and organised the games to be palleted up and re-shipped back to the UK .... a whole lot less than we'd started with!

The clear-up opration took us a few hours into the evening.

Seeing the whole place being stripped down was quite a sad sight as it had been an extraordinary four days.

We were both quite exhausted by the time we trudged back to the apartment. For our last nights meal we ended as we'd begun, at the Chinese take-away, for another nice meal.

Despite both being tired, being true gamers, we played three games of Gipsy Kings which Jack had picked up at the show.
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15. Board Game: The Home Stretch [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked]
Andrew Burgin
United Kingdom
Kempston Hardwick
Bedfordshire
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Monday was a fairly relaxed day as we didn't have to leave our apartment until 10am & didn't need to be back at the airport until 2pm.

We had a relaxed coffee followed by a browse around the game section of an Essen department store! Oh how I wish the UK ones were so well stocked!!!

The journey back to the airport was quite leisurely & we arrived in good time for check in ....

.... however our flight ended up being delayed by around 6 hours!!! shake

So, instead of being back in the UK at around 5pm, we ended up arriving back at 11pm. We were tired but still in good spirits!
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16. Board Game: Jumping to Conclusions [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Andrew Burgin
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Kempston Hardwick
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So, my surprise Essen trip this year was as a Booth Monkey for Jack and Reiver Games & I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience!

Jack & I got on really well and it was great to meet Lucy, Dunk and so many other friendly people.

My greatest conclusion from the whole game explainer/demo'er perspective was that, even after 4 days of near non-stop playing of It's Alive!, Carpe Astra & Sumeria, I didn't hate any of the games ... or Jack!
I take that as a testament to how good they really are; games and person!


I know not everyone will agree (you can't please everyone), but in my opinion the games deserve to bring Jack & Reiver Games much wider recognition and continued success.
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