Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Not Mine Shaft #12 That Has Me Checking Ticket Prices To Essen

I've been told that Essen, Germany, is not a tourist hot spot. (When the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is the first place to visit listed in your Wikipedia article & the Bauhaus architecture of a mine shaft is considered the symbol of your city, you probably aren't banking on high levels of vacationers plopping down Euros.)

But once a year in late October (the 22nd-25th this year), the
Die Internationalen Spieltage SPIEL takes place at the Messe Essen (a huge convention center) and the largest collection of board/card game players & collectors happens... 44,000 square meters of games! (BTW, the name is roughly translated "The International Game Days"... but most of the boardgaming world just calls it "Spiel" - German for 'game' - or "Essen.")

Even though I've never been able to attend (and that isn't changing this year), I'd love to be one of the 150,000 or so folks who get to preview games... and buy them! Unlike the New York Toy Fair here in the U.S., this is a family/gamer-oriented event (as opposed to being focused on retailers). The closest I get each year is the adult version of what I used to do to the Sears Wish Book as a kid - page through the "catalog" and circle the pictures.

The "catalog" doesn't actually exist, of course - but thanks to BGN (
Board Game News), you can peruse English translations of information about many of the new games about to be released. What follows is my virtual edition of my Essen Wish Book Wish List!
  • Ra: The Dice Game - I've already played this (it was released before Essen) but I'd like a copy of my own. Takes the very interesting Egyptian-themed auction game (Ra) & turns it into a very interesting Egyptian-themed dice game.
  • Abandon Ship - a Knizia push-your-luck that BGN describes as a mash-up between Colossal Arena & Royal Turf. Since those are two of my favorite Knizia games, I need to give this "rats deserting sinking ships" game a try. (BTW, Dr. Reiner Knizia is a well-known game designer, for those of you reading this without extensive gaming background.)
  • The Adventurers - if nothing else, the theme (looting an ancient temple a la Indiana Jones) and the bits (the pieces look great!) warrant at least one play.
  • Macao - Stefan Feld has made some very interesting designs for Alea... so this dice-based resource management game is a must play.
  • BasketBoss - Corne Van Moorsel's StreetSoccer is a splendid small backgammon-ish soccer board game that manages to get the FEEL of soccer right - so I'm hoping that BasketBoss will do the same for basketball (or at least basketball management.)
  • Dungeon Lords - this sounds like Space Alert/Galaxy Trucker in a fantasy setting... only you're the bad guys, not the good guys.
  • African Park - the theme (building zoos) is fun... and I like that they borrowed the whole "can't put these guys together because one of 'em will get eaten" mechanic from Ark.
  • Maus au Chocolat - looks like a family game about mice (and other disgusting creatures) working in a confectioners shop. What's not to like?
  • Agricola: Die Moorbauern - I haven't played Agricola in a while, but I like the game enough to have wooden wheat & veggies... so I'll definitely end up with the expansion.
  • A Brief History of the World - it makes me sad that the Ragnor Brothers are finally getting around to shrinking their monster game, History of the World, just after I found a reasonably priced copy. (Sigh.) Still, I love this game system enough that I'll probably end up with both of them in my collection.
  • the Sylla expansion in the Ystari Box - I think Sylla may be one of the best of the 'interlocking usage' games out there, particularly because it evokes the theme while keeping the decisions tight & difficult. The expansion (adding a new Great Work, 2 new characters & 2 new disasters) will add some variety & open up some new strategies.

Will I buy all of these? Of course not. But I want to play all of them - and I'll happy try others as well!

BTW, somebody will ask "where's the Haba releases?" Most of them were released earlier this year to make them eligible for the Spiel des Jahres. There may be others, but BGN hasn't reported on them... yet.

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