Essen: A Newbie’s Hopes

Most people like to start out new hobbies nice, easy and slow. I’m guessing my decision for my first boardgame convention is not the norm. I’m going to Essen as my first ever convention. I suppose most people would also not try to demo for companies while attending their first convention. I, on the other hand, will be demoing for two publishers and Indie Game Alliance. I have come to grips with the fact that I am not normal, so if you want to know what a non-normal person is looking forward to for his first convention and specifically Essen 2014, then I invite you to read on.

Essen is one of, if not the, biggest boardgame conventions in the world. I have heard many great things, so I am expecting quite a lot. At the same time though, I really have no idea what to expect. Some veterans of conventions might look at my expectations and laugh out loud, but either way, this is what I’m hoping will happen.

  • To regret not taking off work the Monday after Essen due to exhaustion
  • Make some new friends
  • Play a game or two with my fellow Whose Turn is it Anyway Podcasters
  • Meet my skinnier, German doppelgänger (Stefan Feld) and other designers/publishers
  • Get some great deals on older games that I really want to buy
  • Make some contacts within the community (just in case I ever need to get a game published)
  • Find some games that I was not expecting to find
  • Buy a whole bunch of games (hoping for some good solo-able games especially)

In order for me to try to get all of this done I need a plan. That is not a problem for me. I am a planner, in fact, I love to plan. Maybe I missed my calling in life to be an event coordinator, but regardless, when I get to plan an event for myself I get a wee bit giddy. Essen is making me giddy…and frustrated at the same time. There are so many publishers/games/people and other things I don’t even know about that it is hard trying to get it all planned. I’m doing my best, but man there is a lot going on.

Every day I will be demoing for Bezier Games and then two of the days I will also be demoing for Stronghold Games, which crunches my free time down to limited, I’m excited to help out these two companies. I am a former middle school teacher and current Instructional designer (I create curriculum for colleges, conferences, camps, etc.) and sometimes I miss getting in front of a crowd and teaching. I can’t wait to show people Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Panamax, Subdivision, Space Cadets: Dice Duel, Kanban, One Night Werewolf and whatever other ones they need me to teach. I think it will be a blast to show people these new games and help them see if the game is something they will like to own as part of their collection. So come find me at one of those booths (I’m almost 2 meters tall, large and bald, so it is easy to find me) and let me teach you a game or two.

While participating in GEN Can’t 2014 I saw a lot of people staying up all night, practically until they went back into the convention. I have heard that Essen is a little different and that it doesn’t become a gaming city quite like Indianapolis does. I’m hoping that that’s wrong. Well, let me rephrase that, I’m kind of hoping that’s wrong. I do want to play after the convention closes for the night, but I am staying around a 15 minute drive outside of Essen in a Düsseldorf airport hotel so I will have to find places to play after hours before I leave to go back home. So, I hope I can find those games so I can play some games I am not planning on picking up and just to play more games in one week than I normally do in a month. So why do I hope Essen isn’t quite Indianapolis when it comes to gaming after hours? Well, sometimes I want to be the old man who goes to bed at 10 and complains about getting 8 hours of sleep. That and I don’t want to hear about other people getting to play a lot, but I’m not since I booked a further out hotel. I’m expecting to miss out on a lot of sleep, but I’m not sure if gaming with people in Essen into the wee hours of the night will happen or if my friend and I will be playing games we grabbed, just the two of us.

In all of my planning I have looked at the Essen games list multiple times, pre-ordered some games, noted which games I want that I couldn’t pre-order and which games I wasn’t completely sold on quite yet, but deserved my checking out. I decided to break my one list into three list and present my top 5 games to you while expounding on my top game of each category, giving you a peek inside my brain (scary, I know!).

The “I’m so excited, I pre-ordered the game” top 5 (in no particular order)

  1. Imperial Settlers
  2. Colt Express
  3. Castles of Mad King Ludwig (earning through demoing)
  4. Samurai Spirit
  5. Progress: Evolution of Technology (kickstarted)

Honorable mentions: Snowdonia: The Necropolis Railway and Neuhauser Brockerlbahn, AquaSphere, Town Center 4th edition, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Honor and Duty

The pre-order that I am most excited to get my hands on is the first game I mentioned: Imperial Settlers. I think the first thing that got me excited for the game (beyond it being designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, who just churns out awesomeness!) is the solo option. I love Robinson Crusoe as a solo game and Ignacy knows how to make a good solo game, so that got me interested. Then what pushed it over the top had to be the idea behind each faction in the game bringing different tactics to the table (pun intended). I am a huge fan of engine-building games where you choose what things to build and what combos to make to get you more and more. This game is full of this and it just makes me want to play every faction and take over the world as the Japanese, the Romans, and every other faction that exists now and will exist in the future. Knowing that future factions will come out, allows for so much replay ability too.

Imperial Settlers - Taken from BGG

The “Wish I could have pre-ordered the game” top 5 (again no order)

  1. Robinson Crusoe: The Voyage of the Beagle
  2. Pandemic: The Cure
  3. Diamonds, Panamax, and the other Stronghold Games
  4. Viceroy
  5. Nations: The Dice Game

Honorable mentions: Florenza: The card Game – War and Religion, CV: Gossip, Star Realms: Crisis (all of them).

Picking a top choice in this category was difficult. Diamonds, brings me back to my younger days of playing Euchre, The Voyage of the Beagle adds on to one of my favorite games, Viceroy looks unlike any other game I own, Pandemic: The Cure might make Pandemic even more of a gateway game. All of them look so good, but you may have noticed I didn’t mention Nations: The Dice Game. Well, that’s because in the end, I am most excited about that game. When I originally went to college my major was History Education. I absolutely adore history and the theme behind this game (thought I have yet to play the original, which makes me sad) just fits me so well.

Nations the Dice Game - Taken from BGG

The “I need to play or see the game before buying” top 5

  1. Massilia
  2. Dice Brewing
  3. Pandemic: Contagion
  4. Versailles
  5. Greenland

Honorable Mentions: Red7, Planes, Apocalypse Universe: Galactic Arena, World of Yoho, Empire Engine, and Galaxy Defenders

Markets, beer, diseases, interior design or a country most people forget to think about…ever. Which one is my top need to play game? I am going to have to say that Massilia is probably my top one and it’s not because of the theme. Theme-wise it would be Dice Brewing. I mean, I do live in Germany after all. Had pretzel-making been a part of the game, then it probably would be my top choice! I read through the rules of Massilia and the mechanics seemed pretty unique and it seems to require a lot of strategy which could really lead to some deep-delving like we mentioned in the podcast about winning games. I don’t do that enough and this game seems like it could get me excited about doing just that. So why didn’t I pre-order it since it is available for pre-order? Honestly, the 4 Euro wasn’t enough of a deal on a game I wasn’t completely sold on. The mechanics look unique, but I am not sold on how well they will work.  A bigger discount probably would have tipped me over the edge though.

Massilia - Taken from BGG

After Essen I will report back on my experience and make sure to comment on the games above.