Essen: A Newbie’s Hopes part deux: the recap

Two weeks ago I wrote about what I hoped was going to happen during Essen 2014 and the games I was looking to grab. This post is all about what actually happened. First let me look back at the 8 things I was hoping would happen and let you know just how accurate my guesses were:

  • To regret not taking off work the Monday after Essen due to exhaustion.
    • Oh my goodness yes, luckily work was slow, but next year, I will take Monday off.
  • Make some new friends.
    • New life-long friends probably weren’t made, but convention-long friends were. This of course does not include the other Whose Podcasters since I was already internet friends with them.
  • Play a game or two with my fellow Whose Turn is it Anyway Podcasters.
    • This definitely happened in fact every night was spent with at least 3 of them and a random group of extras including Ryan Metzler and Ben Rosset (Did I just name drop? Yes, yes I did).
  • Meet my skinnier, German doppelgänger (Stefan Feld) and other designers/publishers.
    • Sadly I did not meet Stefan, but I did meet and had conversations with Iraklis (LudiCreations), Ignacy (Portal Games), Agnieszka Kopera (NSKN Games), Ted Alsbach (Bezier), Lucas Hedgren (Subdivision), Stephen Buonocore (Stronghold) Paulo, Nuno and Gil (Panamax), Ben Rosset (Brew Crafters) and Mike Fitzgerald (Diamonds) and others that I probably should remember but the post-Essen brain won’t allow me to.
  • Get some great deals on older games that I really want to buy.
    • This happened, but mostly through a no-ship auction from BGG. I picked up games like Zulus on the Ramparts, CV, Nations (Nate’s favorite) and Dungeon Roll (Rhiannon’s favorite).
  • Make some contacts within the community (just in case I ever need to get a game published).
    • This happened some, but more for reviewing sake than anything else which is great especially since I don’t know if I have a design in me or not.
  • Find some games that I was not expecting to find.
    • Nope, sure didn’t, but the limited amount of non-demoing time was probably a major contributor to that.
  • Buy a whole bunch of games (hoping for some good solo-able games especially)
    • Let’s just say my car was pretty packed on the way back and several of the games are solo playable, but whether they are good or not remains to be seen. Out of the four solo-able games I’ve played so far only two are good solo options: Flip 9 and Dungeon Roll.

Beyond that I mentioned my demoing schedule and how packed it was. I can’t say that I regretted that decision because both Bezier and Stronghold were awesome, but I can say I probably wouldn’t do as much next year. I thoroughly enjoyed demoing Subdivision, Castles of Mad King Ludwig and One Night Ultimate Werewolf and even though I did that for a total of just under 18 hours, I am not sick of those games in the slightest. All of them are amazing and I can’t wait to get them to the table. It was also fun to see people get how to play the game and then really enjoy it. Part of me wants to know how many of the people I demoed to ended up buying one of the games, but then again, part of me doesn’t want to know.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the after-con gaming. I had heard that it was not like Gen Con and while that was probably true I ended up playing games every night and having a blast. Part of the reason that happened though is because I knew people from the podcast who were staying at a central location and so we could head back there to play games. Every night, but one, we ended up back there and we had some great experiences. We played Tajemnicze Domostwo the first night and had a blast! It was so good that we immediately played it a second time instead of breaking out another newly purchased game. Then the next two nights we ended up playing games with Ryan Metzler and Ben Rossett, Tom Vasel taught half of us his game, Nothing Personal and we just hung out and acted like we knew each other our whole lives. It was crazy, but awesome. We didn’t hang out until 2 or 3 in the morning, but this old man was alright with that.

Looking back at my list of games that I wish I could have pre-ordered, I managed to get them all except Panamax. Now before Rhiannon jumps down my throat for saying I didn’t buy Panamax, I would like to clarify something. I wanted to buy Panamax, but since it is language independent and is published here in Germany as well, I didn’t feel the need to buy it immediately. I got to talk to all three designers and they are great guys and I am confident that the game is amazing, but I have to think about what will get played in my groups, and sadly Panamax got pushed back on the priority list because of that. I do plan on learning the game more and showing my friends the game so they can say if they are interested or not. My guess is that I will be buying it sooner rather than later. All of the rest on that list I picked up no problem.

Of the games on my “Need to see” list, I only ended up buying Dice Brewing and Empire Engine. To be honest I didn’t get around to see some of them, but I’m not sure I would have bought them anyway. I will be keeping my eye out for videos of gameplay though to see if they are for me and my gaming group, especially Massilia.

Lessons learned

So, my friend and I stayed at a hotel close to Düsseldorf Airport in a nice hotel that was relatively cheap and I would normally be very happy with that decision, except that it was about 15 minutes to the convention and 20 minutes to where we gamed most nights. That’s not horrible, but it made us sleep less, so next year the plan is to get in closer to the convention or gaming central.

I also demoed too much, like I said earlier. I think I would have been fine with demoing two full days or four half-days, but only having two half-days to check everything out made me miss a lot.

Biggest Regret non-purchase

Versailles was on my list, I watched a very good demo, it was the only NSKN game that I had not already bought, it was a good price, it looks unique and fun and yet I left without it. I have no idea why. I seriously cannot explain why. I will be getting this game in the future and I wish I would have grabbed it Sunday.

Top game played at Essen

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

I didn’t play a ton of games at Essen due to my demoing schedule, but I did play around a dozen or so. Tajemnicze Domostwo was the best of those overall. I liked a couple of the other ones a lot, including Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Subdivision, but this game was the highlight. It is essentially Dixit mixed with Clue (or Cluedo for the European readers) or as I like to say, Dixit with a purpose. It is a very unique and tough coop game that plays unlike anything I have ever played. Definitely go check this game out.

Top Game played since

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

The first game I played after getting back from Essen is clearly above all the others so far: Viceroy. Viceroy is published by Hobby World and the first thing you notice is the Russian name on the front and then you notice the awesome artwork. It is gorgeous, but the gameplay blows it out of the water. It is such a cool game that has you building a pyramid of power from the city’s different characters. You try to align jewels on one card with another and depending on what level you place a character in your pyramid, you get different rewards. Add to that a secret auction and this game’s strategy will get you hooked. I have only played it once, but I will be playing it several more times soon so I can do a proper review soon.

Biggest Surprise game

Courtesy of BGG

Subdivision didn’t make any of my lists on this Essen preview and yet I had to demo it. I was excited to get it, but I wasn’t expecting much from it. Boy was I surprised. While it isn’t a particularly heavy game, it packs a lot of good decisions into a 45 minute game. There isn’t a ton of player interaction, but I couldn’t care less. The game is good and after demoing it, I just want to play it more. One of the coolest things is that there are different maps with different difficulties that you can use. If you are playing newbies, then give them the easy map and you a harder map. This way you can both play as well as you can and the game scales it for you. How awesome is that?

Most exciting moment

One of the nights, while Tom Vasel was teaching some of us from the podcast Nothing Personal, others got to play a prototype of Ben Rosset’s upcoming game. I always enjoy playing prototypes and it’s cool to be able to do it with the designer, especially one whose games I have kickstarted. Probably the coolest part was that he asked for feedback and we were able to give our ideas. Who knows what will come of them, but it is neat to be able to do that nonetheless.

Overall, Essen was incredible. There are some things I plan on doing differently next year, but I am happy I did what I did, saw what I saw, bought what I bought and played what I played (except for one game, which I will not name). Until next year, Essen, I bid you ado.