The disappointments of Essen 2010
Martijn Vos
Netherlands
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As usual, Spiel had lots of really great games, but it also had a number of games that were highly anticipated, but failed to fulfill their promise or failed to live up to the hype.

This list is for those games. Please add your own.
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1. Board Game: Caravelas [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:7592]
Martijn Vos
Netherlands
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Before Spiel, many people on BGG considered this a decent contender for the top games among this year's new releases. I hadn't seen many games on Portugese discoveries yet (though this year it seems to be one of the big themes), and it has an interesting movement mechanic where following currents is free, whereas passing some obstacles can give opponents free moves.

In practice, everybody races out to grab as many discoveries as possible, and after everybody returns to Lisbon with ships laden with goods, there's nothing to explore anymore, and everybody still needs to sail to all corners of the world a few times to get to the victory conditions. There's really not a lot of game left.

And with 2 players, the destination cards are completely meaningless. Every discovery is simply worth 5 extra points, and it doesn't matter who actually holds the cards.
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2. Board Game: The Phantom League [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:4956]
Martijn Vos
Netherlands
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How I wanted to love this game and bear its children! It's inspired by the '80s computer game Elite, and it does a very good job at capturing the atmosphere of being a hotshot commander of your very own space ship, building a reputation for yourself either by exploring new systems, fighting pirates, fighting rivals, smuggling illegal goods, or just trading legal goods and throwing big parties with your profits.

I'm sure the final version of this game, the version that should have been the initial release version, will receive a 10 from me. But I have trouble giving the current version more than a 6.

Sure, it's not entirely their fault that the Chinese factory didn't check whether the components actually fit in the box (though anyone who's done business with Chinese factories knows that you need to specify and double check absolutely every little detail, exactly to prevent these kind of fuck-ups).

But the rulebook is already obsolete. Many of the rules I had explained to me during the demo game, were nowhere to be found in the rulebook. Apparently there's a new version of the rulebook already available online, but couldn't they at least have printed those out and stuffed them into the boxes?

Doing your big release with only an early play-test version of the rules is really not a good idea. But with some polish this one might still turn out very well.
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3. Board Game: Vinhos [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:349]
Martijn Vos
Netherlands
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Another game with great expectations. Another contestant for the best new release at Spiel 2010.

Unfortunately it's not a release at Spiel 2010. They didn't make the deadline. No boxes for sale at all. You can order them and they'll be delivered half November. I bet they would have loved to see huge stacks of boxes disappear over the course of the fair, but instead they only have a list of names.

The game itself is actually pretty good. Of all the wine games of this year, it has by far the best simulation of all the factors that are apparently important in wine making (I had no idea!). The idea that I've got a really good port aging in my cellar is simply awesome.

But real vintage port can already break through the max limit on value for sale or export (12, whereas a port can reach a theoretical value of 15).

The real problem that keeps this game from being an absolute winner is that it's just too complex. It's incredibly fiddly. After the demo game, I still completely fail to understand how the wine festival works, which is a major aspect of the game. There are wine critics you need to appease, wine experts that you can hire to assist with a huge variety of aspects of the game, and on top of that, they also play several roles in the wine festival that I don't fully grasp yet. And then you can hire oenologists that will make your wineries more efficient. As if you'd every get around to hiring them, as there's so much other stuff to do.

I think the game would be a lot easier to learn if you just kicked the wine festival out of the basic game, and started by simply focusing on making good wines instead.

I still ordered a copy, though.
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4. Board Game: Grand Cru [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1845]
Martijn Vos
Netherlands
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That other wine game. Well, one of the others, as there's also Toscana. I liked this name the most though. I love Grand Cru wines (though I rarely get the chance to taste them), and I was really looking forward to play a game that would simulate making the best Bordeaux wines, buying the best ground, planting the best grapes and aging them carefully. I was secretly hoping that this would be a better game than Vinhos.

Alas, Pinot Noir doesn't become better with age in this game, it simply has to be aged a certain amount before it's even possible to sell it. And aging it more doesn't make it any better beyond that. I was also expecting different kinds of ground to matter (which is what a description I'd read suggested), but it doesn't.

It's not a bad game at all. But where Vinhos is a bit too complex, this one is a bit too simplistic. Still, I really like the concept of starting with no money at all and the game ending when you finally get out of debt again.
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5. Board Game: F├╝rstenfeld [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:2274]
Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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Friedemann proves again that his creations are hit or miss. This time it's a miss. While the game suggests various routes to victory, one player in our game demonstrated on the first try how to play this. Build an early construction building (if you're lucky to have it in your first or second hand), build three resource fields as soon as possible supported by the building that lets you convert resources to another resource. Add the bank somewhere in between to accumulate enough money that you can build two palaces each round. Nothing more to see here, replayability is close to zero once you figure out that it's all about card distribution in your deck. Too obscure and fiddly for families, not interesting enough for gamers. The drab design doesn't help. A real shame since the design is a selling point in Power Grid or Factory Manager.
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6. Board Game: Master of Economy [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:5538]
Phreaky Hamster
Netherlands
Vinkel
Noord-Brabant
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I had great hopes for this game, but too bad...

The game was explained to me, but I lost the guy halfway. I didn't think it sounded good, and I thought the production quality wasn't that good ...
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7. Board Game: Black Friday [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2110]
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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This was painful to play and I can't see any improvements down the line. The market rose (a little) over around 4 rounds then crashed and burned and stayed rock bottom for the next 15+ rounds, we decided against working through a couple more rounds just to finish off as there was no way to make enough money to buy more silver.

The story arc of the game was just depressing and unenjoyable. Having siad that, I really liked the mechanisms and the mild control produced. If reused in a better game I'm sure I'd love them. The board also looked awful.
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