It's been a month since the conventions, and I’m still trying to get over the fact that I went to Essen last month. The only problem is, now that i’ve been, I kinda want to go every year… (wishful thinking). Here is my comprehensive overview of what I experienced, starting with some video of the 3 different jam-packed halls of the convention center, Messe Essen.
Even though the hall was packed with board gamers, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I got to playtest a lot of games, pretty much all the ones I had on my list, plus some. I ran into some of my favorite designers, who were kinda just walking around the hall, acting like they weren’t famous Even though it felt much bigger than GenCon, for example, I still felt like I got to see everything. That doesn’t mean I wanted it to end, I could have easily spent another week and not have gotten my fill, but I did feel satisfied after I left (unlike my last visit to GenCon…)
Tips and Tricks :
- Stay near the hall if you can, yes, hotels sell out fast, but it’s really nice to be able to walk to the hall. So what is considered close? The location pin is the convention center on this map and the bed was my hotel, which was about a 3 minute walk. A friend of mine stayed at the star and it was about a 15-20 minute commute on train. The train does drop off right in front of the the convention though, which is super convenient.
- Don’t pre-purchase any train tickets, they are cheaper day of
- Getting to Essen : I flew into Dusseldorf, but regardless of where you fly, you need to get to the city of Essen. Train is the cheapest (it was 11 EUR for my trip from the airport), and I found that the majority of people spoke pretty good English to help you navigate your way to the correct platform. The double decker trains are much faster than the single level trains, just for reference. Once in Essen, you want to take the underground U-11 to the Messe/Gruga stop, which spits your out right at the convention hall.
- If you pre-purchased your tickets online, be sure to print your tickets out ahead of time as they do not have the available there. Also make sure they have a barcode on them, for some reason mine did not print with the barcode… thankfully, the information center in the lobby, was able to look up my ticket and reprint them based on the order number. Also, be sure to keep this paper because you re-use it everyday.
- Here is a map of the hall found in the program that i’ve labeled with some points of interest. The program itself is completely in German, which rendered utterly useless for me, but boardgamegeek always has a nice list of what is being released and which booth numbers games can be found at. I pre-researched this prior to my trip and had my list ready to go which really helped and saved time while there. I highly recommend doing this instead of trying to figure it out while there, unless of course you know how to read auf duetsch!
- you can buy tickets on the website for next year starting in July 2015. Tickets were 29.00 EUR in 2014, which included the 2.0 EUR pre-purchase fee. You can purchase tickets when you get there, and most locals were doing this. However, If i’m flying all the way to Germany to attend Essen, I just felt better knowing I had my tickets already.
- There is great thread on BGG that was posted a few years ago, that answers a lot of questions about Essen, some of which might be a little outdated but definitely worth checking out. I’ve listed the questions it covers below, and gave a few sentences on each based on what I experienced this year. 1 What is it? Huge (perhaps the biggest) international Game Fair, held in Essen Germany. Newest releases for the year, meet favorite game designers, and mingle with an folks from all over the globe. 2 Where is it? I just answered that, pay attention! 3 When is it? October of every year! 4 Is there a website? Other useful external sites? http://www.merz-verlag-en.com/ 5 Why go? Because you like board games? 6 Why not go? Because it’s crazy expensive. 7 How to get to the city Essen? I flew into Dusseldorf and listed how I got there (by train) above. a By car (taxis, parking?) You can always call a cab at the airport, but it’s going to cost you much more than taking a train. And the train system is just so flipping convenient. If you rent a car, which isn’t entirely necessary, there is a parking garage. Although i’m not sure how much it costs. Most hotels provide limited parking, and it usually costs. b By train (prices, booking online?) from Duesseldorf it was 11.00 EUR, which also included the underground to Messe Essen. c By plane (UK, US, other, prices?) My plane ticket was $1508.00 But my itinerary included a stop in London for a week. So I imagine it would have been a few hundred less if i had just flown to Germany and then back home. 8 How to find a hotel?– B&B, apartments I used the hrs.com, hotels.com, travelocity.com, and expedia.com to find my hotel. I also found that you could just use the major search engines to find a list and then check to see if the hotels had their own website, and a lot of times it was cheaper to book directly on their website. 9 How much is a room? My room was €199.00 /night, which was about $250.00/night USD. However, I booked kind of late, and it also included a FULL hot and cold breakfast (one of the best I’ve ever had…). My room also had a living room, which I was able to invite friends back each night to play games, which made it really worth the extra cost to me. But depending on how far away you are wiling to stay, it gets much cheaper. Obviously if you book early, it is also cheaper. There are universities where you can book a dorm style room for about $60/night as well. 10 How to get to the show? Local transport, u-bahn, trams, bus, stations, taxis, maps. The stop on the U-11 is for Messe Essen, I think it was called Messe/Gruga. 11 How to get a ticket for the show? Can you get a ticket in advance? Do you have to get a ticket in advance (pre-booked)? Does the show sell out of tickets? Can you re-enter the show? What kind of tickets are available? I spoke about this a bit above. Locals were buying right at the show, but i’d suggest purchasing (and printing) your tickets in advance. There are day passes, and full weekend passes. 12 Cash or credit? In the show, around Essen in general. THE SHOW IS ALL CASH! Euro’s only. The ATM at the hall seemed to always have a line. So if you want to avoid ATM fee’s try to bring some cash with you. 13 Are games cheaper at the show? Yes and no. I live in Orlando, and because of that, I am lucky enough to have Coolstuff Games and Coolstuff has the best prices I’ve ever found. But I did find some games at the show cheaper. I also had Coolstuff bookedmarked on my phone so I could reference it quickly (albeit internet was a bit slow and there is no free wifi, you need international on your phone if you are planning on using the internets!). If there was a game I wanted and it was listed cheaper at Coolstuff (AND if it was going to be in stock reasonably soon) I would just wait and buy it at home. Because you have to take into consideration, you need to get these games home, whether you are fitting them in your suitcase, or shipping them back. I ended up shipping mine home via DHL and it costed me about $120 for 32 kilo’s. 14 Food – can you buy food in the show? Can you bring food into the show? Are there supermarkets near the halls? Are there places nearby to eat? How much are meals? Yes to all the above. Prices are normal convention prices that'd you expect, a bit high. However, I thought the food quality was pretty decent, for a cafeteria. 15 Smoking? Not that I witnessed. 16 Tips for visitors – ATM, bags, freebies ATM outside of the hall that was always packed, freebies are all over, check out the promos list on the geek before leaving. There was a scratch off in the program for a free game of coloretto, but I already own it so I didn’t bother trying to make room in my suitcase... When your are limited in space, every little bit of space is valuable, gotta make sacrifices 17 Games shops in Essen? You can buy games everywhere. 18 How to prepare? Hall guides? The program is in German, so pre-plan making use of all the valuable information BGG/users provide prior to the show, such as game releases and booth numbers, and promo lists, etc. Because unless you read German, the hall guide is pretty much useless. 19 How much luggage do airlines allow? Usually one checked bag per customer, but depends on the airline, so check the website. 20 I can’t read or speak German at all, is that a problem? Nah. Unless you want to read the hall guide. Most people I spoke with, could speak English. Even the Demo's were for the most part explained in English. 21 Do I need a passport or a visa to enter Germany? Duh. Unless you live there already. 22 Apart from the show, is there anything else for a tourist to do in Essen? OF COURSE! Walk around, take in the sights, eat the food. I would even suggest booking some extra travel while you are there because it’s cheap to travel around Europe, its getting across the ocean that is the most expensive. I visited Hannover, and Hamburg while I was there, and even took an hour plane ride to London and stayed there for a week (although London itself is expensive) I’ll probably do Berlin and maybe Amsterdam if and when I go again. 23 Is the show suitable for children? Yep. There are TONS of games to play there with your kiddos. But keep them close, it’s easy to get lost in the masses. 24 What’s the weather like during the show days? It was cool while I was there. Sweater weather, but not overly cold. 25 Are there many restrooms/toilets at the show? There are restrooms in the lobby that did the job just fine. 26 I hear the show is pretty big, is it easy to find someone if you get lost? If you have a phone, otherwise, I’d suggest deciding on meeting place if you get separated. 27 What is disabled access like at the show? There are ramps but it is pretty packed with people so be careful if you are in a wheel chair or cart. 28 What’s the best way to get games home? Can I ship games from the show? I didn’t see a place to ship games from the show, and I asked around, so i’m pretty sure you have to get them home yourself. Now that i’ve done it, here is my experience. I shipped mine home at a DHL location. Using the cheapest method, it took about 15 days, and costed 94 EUR for 32 kilos. I WOULD SUGGEST YOU BUBBLE WRAP YOUR GAMES LIKE CRAZY. I used packing paper and plastic and most all of my games had some dings and dents, even though they seemed pretty secure at the time of packing. The shipping method is totally electronic, so expect your box to be dropped, banged, and flopped during the process. If you can bring an extra suitcase along, you can check it at the airline cost, but also be aware how they are handled during the flight process (probably better than DHL). 29 I want to meet up with certain geeks to trade games. How can we do this? Is there a central location to meet? The lobby? or the cafeteria would be best I guess.
I will leave you with information about games I brought home from Essen that I of course liked enough to ship home! Others that I wish I could have brought home, and a few I really hated… actually, “hate” is kinda a strong word… you know what, I don’t care, I hated them. Enjoy! Preface: I tend to ramble...
Included in this video : La Isla 00:11 AquaSphere 03:10 Terra Mystica Expansion 03:30 Sushi Dice 05:40 Pina Pirata 07:18 Evolution 09:46 Castles of Mad King Ludwig 11:34 Pinocchio 13:19 Greed 15:25 Spyfall 15:56 King of New York 19:50 Pandemic : The Cure 20:32 Abraca What? 22:35 Yardmaster 23:43 Crazy Circus 23:53 Looney Quest 25:05 Fields of Arle 27:05 Tragedy Looper 28:31
IF you have any questions about Essen that I did not cover, I'd be more than happy to answer them, comment below!
Great post covering a lot of stuff! Also your own version of the shorter and updated faq should be really useful to a lot of people. Thank you for posting this!
If you dont mind I would like to comment on a few of the answers a little bit.
9: Cheapest option seems to be hostels, that start from around around $25/night, but if you have already spent a lot of money on travel its worth spending a little more to get a proper room.
12: Although most restaurants and shops in Essen accept cards, a lot of the (especially grocery stores and supermarkets) only accept debit cards, and NOT credit cards, so it is good to have some cash on hand in case your card is not accepted.
21: Germany is part of the Schengen agreement, so for residents of these countries (most of EU, with a few exceptions, as well as cooperating EFTA countries) do not need a passport to enter Germany. However your hotel might require one for valid ID.
22: The Zollverein coal-mine museum is on the UNESCO world heritage list, and is worth a visit if you have the time. The Grugapark outside the messe is also quite pleasant if the weather is nice. As for nearby cities Koln (Cologne) is very nice, and the cathedral there is a magnificent building.
23: The show is not for younger children. You are going to be in the halls for quite a few hours at a time. You will be on foot and it will be very crowded. Sure there is a lot of stuff to do for kids like the giant trampolines, the participation shows, gaming at haba booth, but unless you want to stay at those locations the whole day, or your kid wil not get bored having to follow you around demoing grown-up games and shopping I would not bring them. I would advice around 12 years+ and make sure you have a foolproof way of meeting up if you get separated. It is easy for a child to get lost in the massive crowds (and quite scary to I would imagine).
26: Make sure to have the phone on vibrate, as you will likely not hear it most of the time. Also if assigning meeting points also assign set times for meeting up there, but it is easy to lose track of time when wandering the halls.
Should you stay at the Atlantic (which I hear is literally next door to the Messe) or are there other equally near and cheaper hotels?
No one should be under the impression that the Atlantic is the only way to properly experience the Messe and Essen (unless you really need instant access to your living space at any time). It isn't a big deal to take the 8 minute subway from the Hauptbahnhof (Main station) if you're staying in the city centre. All the larger hotels near the main station that I have visited have dedicated gaming rooms or allow gaming in the lobby during the evenings. Living close to restaurants, convenience stores and shops doesn't hurt either.