Elektros Essen 2010 experience - report from a first timer (with lots of pics!)
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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It started almost a year ago with my newly discovered enthusiasm for boardgames. I followed the Spiel 2009 over Boardgamegeek closely and even preordered the War of the Ring Collector's Edition just because of the gorgeous pics the people brought back from Essen. I knew at that point that I couldn't resist to go there someday.




The report is separated into the following categories (if you want to skip parts of it):
Preliminary Skirmish
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Played Games
The Loot
Some Numbers
The End

Enjoy the read!
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1. Board Game: Skirmish [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:8404]
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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Preliminary Skirmish

Just 2 or 3 weeks after following Essen 2009 online I went to a smaller fair called the Süddeutsche Spiele Messe in Stuttgart (see also my report Not quite Essen, but maybe close - my short report from the Sueddeutsche Spielemesse 2009 in Stuttgart), where I collected my first experience on a game fair. But it didn't take me long to realize that the boardgame world is all about Essen, and I definitely had to go there in 2010.

So in early summer 2010 I finally decided to go to Essen, no matter what. I also tried to get some of my friends to go with me, but no one was as excited as I was about the fair, so no one was willing to give up 2 valuable vacation days to join me in my quest for the holy grail. So I knew I had to go alone, because at that time my girlfriend Tina was about to study for her promotion as a doctor in biology, so she also couldn't join me. Some weeks before the fair I finally decided to go to Essen by car, because I would have more flexibility when I travel and how much I could pack (compared to plane or train).

I also noted that I still had no roof over the head for the 3 days I planned to go to Essen. I rembered fellow BoardGameGeeker...

Virre Linwendil Annergård
Sweden
Stockholm
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and his idea to try to CouchSurf (www.couchsurfing.org). I immediately created a profile and sent some couch requests. It went very well, because later at the same day I already had two couches to surf on, so I even had a choice! I decided in favor of Sofia who is living near the University of Essen and already had some experience with Boardgamers that have surfed her couch in 2009.

Now it was time for more preparation in form of lists and a geeklist:

Elektros Essen 2010 Watchlist

I printed out the Spielbox list with all the new games sorted by publishers and halls, and I also made me a list of items I wanted to bring to the fair.

And then the moment we all waited for was finally upon us.
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2. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:43]
Marc
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Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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Day 1

I slept pretty bad in the night before, I guess I only catched around 3-4 hours sleep until my alarm woke me up at 5 AM. I already packed the car the day before so I just had a small, quick breakfast, hopped under the shower and got ready for take off to the holy land! It was still dark, and the streets were empty, so I had an average travel speed of around 125 km/h and arrived in Essen after almost 450 km in the spectacular time of 3:45 hours at around 9:30 AM, 30 min before the doors would officially been opened.





The sun was shining, but it was cold and there was already a lot of traffic around the fair. I got a good parking place and walked 5 min to the main entrance. The were already long lines in front of the cash registers, so I stood at the end of a line which later seemed to be the wrong one, because it took us 1 1/2 hours (!!!) to get a ticket, as their software crashed and they had trouble generating the tickets. I almost froze to death, and my feet and my finger hurt because the line didn't move for ages, it was really painful. My first Essen experience couldn't start worse, could it?





notice for Essen 2011: buy a ticket BEFORE the fair

Some nice people in the line invited me to join their group and buy a rebated ticket (I went right for the all seasons ticket, because I didn't want to stay in that line again, ever). I almost couldn't believe it, but it was true, after this long time in the line I finally had what I wanted.

I entered the building and immediately stumbled across my friend...

Guido Heinecke
Germany
Konstanz
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He is no longer working for Asmodee, but he is managing the German version of the nice French boardgame website http://trictrac.net now, that got launched one day before the fair (check it out at http://de.trictrac.net)!

The place was already packed with people as I entered the first hall, and the first thing I noticed was this:





Well done, Repos, eh? Luckily I had preordered and picked up my copy right away. and I even got a 7 Wonders shirt too for 5 Euro (although I couldn't preorder with the shirt). Thanks for that. So 7 Wonders was maybe THE buzz-game in Essen, and it was the first game I picked up, because I was fearful that they would sell my copy

After that we just strolled through the different halls to get an impression of the fair. It was only Thursday, beginning of the fair, but it was already very crowded. I felt like a child in a Wonderland, I just couldn't believe my luck at that moment, and I almost couldn't concentrate on the walking, because I was staring at the tons of coloured stuff around me. We landed in the role-playing and trading card game area and sat down for a game of Ascension: Deckbuilding Game. Guido already knew the game, so he explained me game in 5 min. I was kind of lucky and beat him 68 to 67



After the game we strolled around some more, and then we decided to split up so that I could have a look around for myself because I wanted to get all the promo stuff on the first day, and he wanted to chat with the people and collect impressions for the nice articles about the fair on his website.

Later in the day I went to Z-Man Games and saw a free seat at their gaming area. I sat down and it turned out that the designer of Onirim, Shadi Torbey, was demoing his game. A dutch player joined me and we tried to win, but failed miserably after I drew 5 consecutive nightmares which depleted the draw pile before we both could find the 8 doors we needed to win the game. I thought about getting the game (nice, fast co-op for 1 or 2 players), but I forgot about it, and later on it was already sold out, too bad
Also at Z-Man Games there was Merchants & Marauders, which was not meant to be there, but it seemed that they pulled it off in the last minute, what a nice surprise! It looks really beautiful, and, of course, also sold out (nice deal for 40 Euros).



Essen almost killed me, because after 3 or 4 hours of running around, playing games, getting promo stuff and just see whats there, I almost forgot to eat and drink something. So I finally went to the inner courtyard because it was then 10 hours ago that I ate something (small breakfast, you remember?).

notice for Essen 2011: force myself to eat and drink more

Then I went to Adlung-Spiele to try some of their new games (I love Meuterer, Verräter and The Castle of the Devil). I watched some games first and then joined a group to play Adlung Land and then Antigua. Adlung Land was very funny (they have built in references to almost every Adlung-Spiele game) and I bought it immediately (it also sold out on Saturday!), but I wasn't too excited about Antigua, although its from the author of Grand Cru, which I also preordered (and was already waiting at home).



As I was looking for the Quined Games booth, fellow boardgamgeeker...

Virre Linwendil Annergård
Sweden
Stockholm
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...noticed me (because of my banner that had my BGG avatar on it) and talked to me for a while. We had a nice, small chat about our first impressions of the fair, and then I went on to meet...

T'Leynti
Netherlands
Oud-Beijerland
Zuid-Holland
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... because she was the one that asked me some weeks before the fair if I could help Quined Games out by demoing the game Era of Inventions for a day. I did like the idea to see the fair from the other side, and I accepted her nice offer. I talked to her a little bit, picked up the exhibitor ticket for the next day, and went back to the entrance.

The show was over and I met again with Guido to get something to eat (we were in a nice Mexican restaurant near the fair where a lot of people from the fair went - they even played 7 Wonders there) before going to the place I will stay for the next 3 days at the place of my CouchSurfing host Sofia. Okay, technically incorrect, I didn't sleep on the couch (because it was too small), but I got a good mattress for the floor.



When I arrived at the place at 10 PM, my couch surfing host Sofia was greeting me at the front door. She is a very nice and very kind person, and she also has made some experience with CouchSurfers last year, as she hosted some guys from Italy and New Zealand, that were also in Essen for the fair. There was also another guy sitting already on a couch, which I thought was her flatmate. We talked a bit about the fair and boardgames, and I wondered, or better, was happily surprised, that her flatmate is also into boardgames. After a while I slowly realized that he wasn't her flatmate but another CouchSurfer like me who was here for the fair, d'oh!

Alexander Lauck
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So you see my mind was already playing games with me (haha), and I was just slowly recovering from a very, very long day full of excitement. Before it was 12 PM we agreed to get some sleep, because it would be another long day on the fair for me and Alex, as we both would hace to demo some games.
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3. Board Game: Era of Inventions [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:4504]
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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Day 2

The second day started with Alex and me getting up early (our CouchSurfing host Sofia was still sleeping - she would join us later), to get to the fair around 9 AM. We both had exhibitor tickets so we could use the public transport system (U-Bahn 11) for free. It took us just 10 min from the University of Essen to the fair. With the exhibitor tickets we could get into the halls 1 hour earlier. I was the first one at the Quined Games booth, so I just took some pictures before the place was going to be flooded soon again:



Today would be a total different day, because I would get into the role of a rules explainer. I was quite a bit nervous, because I haven't had to chance to play Era of Inventions before, but had to explain it to others that wanted to get a feel for it and, in the best case, even buy it. I was prepared though - I read the rules 3 times a week before the fair and even made a 2-page summary of the most important parts. I put on a t-shirt of Quined Games and started right away with my first group! I wasn't so sovereign explaining the game at the beginning, but it got better constantly as the day progressed.



The time went over very quickly today, and I lost my voice early because I am not used to talk so much in such loud surroundings. I got some candy from some players and drank a lot, so that kind of helped to keep my voice alive for quite a while. The guys of Quined Games were very nice and kind to me, the always asked if I needed something to drink or to eat, because I almost didn't not make any break at all. Yeah right, I explained a game I haven't ever played for 9 hours straight. Even the author of the game, the very cool Anthony Daamen, was a bit impressed by my performance, because I almost grabbed all the German speaking groups that wanted to learn the game. I even had a group of resellers that bought around 10? copies of the game after I explained it to them. I was so much in action all the time, I just couldn't stop



notice for Essen 2011: take more cough drops with me

Before my last round of the day I noticed a German couple at the other table. I thought the face of him looked somehow familiar to but, but didn't bother and started to explain my group of English players the game. After the game I asked the guy from the other table if he isn't Matthias Cramer (because it was him he reminded me of), and he said yes!
He is the Author of Glen More, and I told him that I want to try his game just because of the theme alone, as I was in Scotland some years ago and really liked it. He was laughing and confessed that he has never been to Scotland, but that he did some research on the Internet and asked friends of him for advice. We had a nice little chat, and these small anecdotes are what makes Essen such a great experience, I guess.



At the end of the day I got my copy of Era of Inventions, and Antony even signed it for me. Thanks again to the girls and guys of Quined Games, and especially Leonie, for letting me be a part of this. I enjoyed it very much.

I was meeting at 9:30 PM with Alex to head back to Sofia's apartment. As we got out of the subway she already came towards us because she wanted to pick up another CouchSurfer, Betsy from Columbus Ohio, who was also here for the fair! Sofia even scheduled a gaming night so that we all could try out some new games that we brought back from the fair. Sofia already prepared a nice dinner for us CouchSurfers, and we chatted and while (about movies, tv-shows and, of course, boardgames) and drank some wine before we started to play Code 777 by Stronghold Games (which Alex was demoing for):



It was very fun and a real brain burner. My brain was already aching from the 9 hours of demoing Era of Inventions, but I did okay, and so did the girls. After this we decided on Survive: Escape from Atlantis!:



This is fast, fun, semi-co-opish but very mean game, where Betsy won and I was third. Poor Sofia only brought back 1 person alive
It was already late, around 2 AM, and we decided to call it a day and go to sleep.




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4. Board Game: Thunderstone [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:559] [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked]
Marc
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Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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Day 3

We woke up later than on Friday. I went to a nearby market with our host Sofia to get some food for breakfast. My head was hurting badly, and I followed her like a rotten, mindless zombie just carrying the stuff in silence she put into my hands. I guess I have to do a quick equation now:

lack of sleep + lack of food + lack of water + immeasurable excitement = bad for your brain

We four had a nice breakfast altogether (squash, wraps, waffles from Bruges that Betsy brought with her), afterwards Alex and I took Betsy with us to the fair, whereas Sofia wanted to join the two later with my ticket, that I would give her after I had left. We arrived pretty late around 10:30 AM and we had to leave Betsy at the entrance because she needed a ticket and the lines were still pretty long. I had to say goodbye to both of them though because I planned on leaving early (around 2 PM) today and wasn't sure if I would meet them at the fair again. It was really nice meeting them, they really enriched my experience in Essen.



notice for Essen 2011: take more time to play games

For my last 1/2 day I had no big plans. First I wanted to get a game for a little girl in your family, Lego's Shave a Sheep. I was watching some grandparents play it with their grandchild, they invited me to join, and after a quick 10 min game I decided to buy it (but it was Sofias idea in the first place because she played it the day before). It was the very last copy of it, so it was the most popular Lego game title at the fair!



I wasn't sure about the Tree-Deck for Agricola on the first day, but I decided that I will get it today if its still there. Luckily it was, and because of this (rather small) purchase I also took part in a lottery at the 2nd booth of Lookout Games where I won the game The End of the Triumvirate.

After that I bought some wooden cubes for Era of Inventions, because the white ones and the blank ones are not distinct enough from each other so that you sometimes mistake one for another (you can get those cubes from http://www.bedi-holzspiele.de/).

I visited the BoardGameGeek booth again to make my ratings of the games I played so far at the fair. They were rather busy because of the live-streaming and I haven't really had the chance to talk to one of the godfathers of this website. But it was nice anyhow to see how much effort they put into this!





I was going back to the Quined Games people for the last time, to say goodbye and wish them another 2 days of good sales. I also met Virre again, and we chatted with Leonie for a while before I left and strolled around to have a closer look at some intersting new Kosmos Games (Shadow Hunters and Der Pate). I would have loved to get Shadow Hunters (I even saw it for under 20 Euros, and especially as Halloween is coming up), but I had to resist and force myself to some modesty because I already had purchased a bag full of games.





notice for Essen 2011: bigger budget

I then sat down for the very last time to play a demo game of the German version of Thunderstone at the Pegasus Spiele booth. The guy explained it in detail, and we played a nice 3 player game, where I played intuitively with Dominion in my mind (= getting rid of bad cards early is good). I won the game with 17 to 12 to 9 and got a nice promo card for attending.



After the game I jumped on the subway and got back to Sofia's place where I left my car and my purchases. I gave her my ticket, so that she could go to fair and meet Betsy and Alex, and then I said goodbye to her. My very first CouchSurfing experience was great because she is such a nice person, and she hosted 3 boardgamers at once during Essen 2010, how can that be any bad??? I even wanted to give her a game as a present as she was such a good host to us, but I couldn't find what I was looking for (I wanted to get her St. Petersburg, because she grew up there). Instead I got her the movie Bonnie & Clyde by the late Arthur Penn, which she doesn't know yet (as an art student she is also very interested in film an film history and such).

I packed all my stuff together, put it into the trunk of my car, and drove back to my hometown in about 4 hours. I was tired but happy when I arrived at a small town near Stuttgart at 7 PM.

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5. Board Game: Great Board Games [Average Rating:6.29 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.29 Unranked]
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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Played Games

Ascension: Deckbuilding Game
It's a rather quick game: quick to explain, quick to understand, quick to set up and quick to play. I kind of liked it (although I am not sure if I really like the artwork that much), but I guess I will have to play some more rounds to form a view on it. Its much more tactical when you compare it to Dominion, but that doesn't make it less interesting. I also liked that you could get a practical travel box and nice, fitting sleeves for it for 10 bucks at the fair.

Onirim
Onirim is a nice little filler game that you can play solo or with 2 players. Though the only interaction in the co-op mode are the community-cards that can be used by both players, and the decisions that you make when you have to deal with drawn nightmares. It has nice artwork and plays very fast, and as a nice bonus has already 3 expansions built in for some long term motivation. It sold out at the fair.

Adlung Land
Adlungland is also, like all other Adlungspiele games, based on a deck of around 60-70 cards. Its a fun game where you have to choose wisely where and with what you expand an amusement park called Adlungland to get the most money out of it. The artwork is sweet and the designers referenced almost every Adlungspiele game to date. It can be played from 2 to 4 players and should qualify as a nice little filler game for all ages. It sold out at the fair.

Antigua
In Antigua, that is also a 60 card game from Adlungspiele, you hire different crew members that fulfill different needs on your pirate ship, with which you cruise around on a limited sea area to look for islands and treasures on these islands. It has a nice mechanic when fighting against each other for the loot, but I wasn't too excited about the game because I found the role selection rather confusing.

Era of Inventions
Okay, I still haven't played it yet, but I would say that explaining it for 9 hours straight qualifies me for making a small statement. From the first look it didn't seem that interesting, but I underestimated the game a bit - its a really nice and well designed worker placement game with a refreshing theme (inventions) and a nice mechanic (patents) that adds a little twist to the game, and that leaves you with some tough decisions during the game (should I produce and let the inventors get points for it? should I patent my inventions, or do I need more factories?...). It seems balanced and should play well with all numbers of players (3, 4 or 5).

Code 777
Its a remake of a game I haven't played before. Every player displays a code visible for all other players (but yourself), and then you have to deduct your number by getting more and more information about the numbers displayed through cards. Its a nice brain burner garnished with a little push your luck.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
Survive is a fast and fun and very mean remake of a game I have played about 20-25? years ago. The thick cardboard tiles (the mountains are massive), the ships and monsters are nicely done, although the board and tiles look somewhat photo-esque. so the style is not exactly what I would have preferred. It plays fast and uncomplicated and is, the rather brave price in mind, a little bit too light for my taste.

Thunderstone
Thunderstone surprised me. It looks a lot like Dominion, but it has some nice distinct mechanics that I really had fun with, especially the upgrading of the heroes with experience points cards that you have to get by killing some monsters in the dungeon first, and, of course, the theme of the game - it really feels like a dungeon crawler. I wonder how the long term motivation for this game is, and if you can have as many different strategies as Dominion offers (depending on the displayed cards), so I really want to see more of the game now. It sold out at the fair.

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6. Board Game: Loot [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:1680]
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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The Loot



Grand Cru (Limited Edition with a wooden box and some bonus tiles)
7 Wonders (Limited Edition with the 8th wonder Manneken Pis and a t-shirt)
Era of Inventions (Masterprint Edition with the "Golden Goal" micro-expansion)
The End of the Triumvirate (won at the lookout lottery)
Famiglia
Adlung Land
Haggis
Friesematenten
Wizard Extreme
Die Fürsten von Catan

The Promo stuff:
Power Grid Lagerhalle (one for me, and the others for SubtlyArtistic and ycyclop)
Power Grid Fluxkompensator and Umspannwerk (the Essen 2009 promos)
Sancho Pansa (for the Game Don Quixote which I don't own (yet))
Heuriger and Gemischter Satz (for Grand Cru)
Thunderstone promo card (after playing a Demo round)
Friesematenten promo card (from Hieken)
Mannekin Pis (8th Wonder for 7 Wonders)
Jean-Claude-van-Rice (promo card for Ghost Stories, which I don't own (yet))
Agricola tree deck
Agricola Austrian deck
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7. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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Some Numbers

0 Euros spent for a bed/roof over my head (thanks to my CouchSurfing host Sofia!)

0 Euros spent for public transportation (thanks to Alex who had a spare ticket for me!)

0 Euros spent for food/drinks on the fair (thanks to my lovely girlfriend Tina that made me some delicious sandwiches)

9 Euros spent on the first evening for beer and mexican food (I just ate a starter because I just wasn't hungry enough)

20 Euros spent on a speeding ticket I got on my way back due to distraction by thinking too much about the fair

24 Euros spent for a group season ticket (thanks to the kind people in the row that let me join their group)

100 Euros spent on fuel/gas (argh, I could have bought a lot more games...)

180 Euros spent on games, promo stuff, expansions or miscellaneous game accessory (sleeves, cubes...)

1000 km traveled by car (it was worth every meter!)

4 nice BoardGameGeekers met personally (hieken, Narl, Alex and virre)

3 nice CouchSurfers met personally (Sofia, Betsy and Alex)

90 min spent in the cold waiting in front of the counter at the first day of the fair (because their software crashed)

8 new games played at the fair (much less than I intended to)

1 game played on the fair, of the 10 games I brought home with me (blind buys are the new trials!)

9 hours straight explaining Era of Inventions (without having it played yet myself)

2 Kilos body weight lost because I almost forgot to eat and drink properly (because I was so excited at the fair)
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8. Board Game: Endpoint [Average Rating:6.40 Unranked]
Marc
Germany
Pliezhausen
Baden-Wuerttemberg
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The End

I enjoyed Essen very much, although it was more exhausting than I expected. I would always go again, and even more days. 2 1/2 days (with 1 day blocked because of demoing) was a bit short, I would have wanted to try a lot more games. So next time I will try to get the full monty (4-5 days)!

I hope you enjoyed my first Essen report and maybe even got some useful information out of it!

If you want to see all the pics I shot during the fair then please have look at my homepage.

See you next time
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