RogerBW's Blog

Essen 2023 21 October 2023

It's still the highlight of the boardgaming year, and I'm still going.

First step was the drive over, starting early in the morning to catch the cross-Channel train.

A distinctive giant warehouse, not far from the giant brick polyhedron of the NRW archive building.

No mask requirements this year; I think about one in fifty people was wearing one, and of course there were lots of reports of infection. Still, the high halls allow for reasonable air circulation, I was masked full-time, and I seem to have got away with it. (This is the sort of event on which I'm spending the amount of risk I allow myself.)

The show has been bought by a new company (though with many of the same people who ran it before) and the halls were rearranged—I suspect largely because the east entrance is, after many years of reconstruction, open again. So while recent years have been hall 1 Asmodée and other companies with way too much money, hall 2 high end publishers, hall 3 medium publishers and mass-appeal games, and halls 4-6 the interesting low end, this year a lot of the the big money was in hall 6, and things in general had moved around.

(Image from the official Essen app.)

I come to Essen mostly for the publishers and games I won't hear of anywhere else, and this time they were mostly in 3 and 4.

Only 200 or so copies of Nokosu Dice came to the show, and I'd hoped to pick one up on Wednesday after setup, but no such luck.

Subtle and sophisticated boardgaming humour.

Setup in the Galleria.

The fire safety leaflet in my hotel. I particularly like the translation of point 3.

My hotel was about 20 minutes' walk from the Messe (and I left the car parked under the Messe for the whole fair to avoid the notorious traffic problems). This electric-pedal hybrid was parked along the way.

Second try for Nokosu Dice, an hour before opening time. Sadly they weren't going to start selling until opening time, and I had to be at my booth by then.

Thursday's demos were mostly Astro Knights. I think calling it a simpler version of Aeon's End isn't entirely inaccurate, but nor is that the whole story. (The mechanics are broadly compatible, but I think Aeon's End is harder; certainly there are more things to spend currency on.)

As the wave comes towards us…

I took the afternoon to scan the show. Newsboys, a roll and write with some interesting complexity.

Those who do not understand the hatefulness of Cards Against Humanity are doomed to repeat it.

Promotional postcards tied to Welcome To….

Friday: a full day of work. The food trucks were closed when I went in, and closed again when I came out.

Today was mostly for Terraforming Mars The Dice Game, which I greatly enjoyed last year and quickly fell back into.

One of the more important stops on the way back to the hotel.

Real-life Flash Point.

Saturday, another full day. Axe-throwing was back. (And making a huge obstacle in moving between halls 3 and 4, alas.)

Back to Astro Knights today.

Just across the aisle from us, a game of being a senior Nazi: take the credit and loot in the early war, dodge the blame in the late war.

Sunday morning, and by turning up 80 minutes early I managed to get a copy of Nokosu Dice at last.

Mediaeval: Jan Žižka, in which you're a mercenary leader trying to profit while keeping your band happy.

Nekojima, in which you're balancing electrical wires across an island and trying not to disconcert the cats.

Various bag designs.

Tiny Mini Golf, in which you design a miniature golf hole and then another player tries to play it.

"If you let me live like a goblin in your warehouse, I will wrangle all your computers free of charge."

Maybe there wil be some point to this. But now that big money's in boardgames, there are a lot more bad media-property tie-ins, alas.

I'm sure it was just convenience that put the two major crowdfunding platforms across the aisle from each other. (Most of the actual board game manufacturers were around here too.)

Chaosium's Horror on the Orient Express prototype.

A lovely version of Modern Art. But I still have the tiny illicit Oink Games edition.



Kiri-Ai: The Duel, a 16-card two-player duelling game.

Emergency beer in hall 3.

"This game is my life" - plug up the patch panel first to win the card. On rounds after the first, you're only allowed to have one plug in motion at a time.

Not much in the way of third-party game sellers this year, and, well…

This game was clearly a labour of love. Or perhaps obsession.

Currywurst-Pommes mit Mayonnais.

Giant Under Falling Skies.

In the afternoon I was on Dulce, which I'd shown off last year. Got a few explanations in and played a few turns, but nobody was really in the mood for a full game. Feed the chicken!

Some of the other booth staff made up these Mystery Boxes to get rid of old inventory. They sold fast.

When respectable breweries go bad.

The final haul.

Terraforming Mars Dice + promo pack, Ensemble (that I demonstrated at UK Games Expo, but it cost more there and sold out quickly), Astro Knights (ex-demo), Nokosu Dice, Make It Happen (ex-demo), Similo (freebie with the Railroad Ink boards), two Onitama two-card promos (one of them an auction win), Railroad Ink Archipelago boards, Kabuto Sumo and its expansions, Riverside, Freehand, Newsboys. Not shown: Tuki (auction win).

  1. Posted by John P at 06:08pm on 21 October 2023

    That Intertwined game looks like it has the biggest single chart in any game ever! Even Phoenix Command didn't look that complicated.

    Got my ticket to Airecon NW, so see you in Manchester in December?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 06:18pm on 21 October 2023

    That game appears to be Navigational Portal, though this wasn't obvious looking at the actual stand. It's €349 and you don't even get to read the rulebook before buying. What I overheard made it sound like a race to find a way of combining numbers (and maybe operators?) on cards to get to a target number, which frankly would be a bit of a let-down after a presentation like that. (With vernier scales on some of the measuring tools!)

    Yes, I'll be at ACNW!

  3. Posted by Shim at 10:30am on 29 October 2023

    A decent haul. The navigation thing is impressive but also no thank you.

    Despite my best efforts I wasn't able to work out why the game is called Vaooow. It... does not seem like the kind of noise traditionally associated with pleasure.

    Completely agree on Cards Against Humanity. I tried it once. Don't people play games to have fun?

    I respect your life choices but cannot in any sense fathom how anyone eats mayonnaise. Even the thought is repugnant.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 06:07pm on 29 October 2023

    It is not entirely clear to me whether Vaooow is in any meaningful sense a game. I mean, you can buy a thing from the site that they describe as a game, but it doesn't sound any more sophisticated than sex position dice and other… I think the polite term is "novelties".

    I think the thing that can make CAH enjoyable is that it provokes the feeling of in-group bonding: "in my normal life I agree that rape is bad, but here in this group of players I can make a joke about it." But I am very bad at monkeying, and I don't really do a lot of that primate pack bond stuff. (Also since the game came out, having and airing hateful views has become trendy rather than embarrassing.)

    Shut Up and Sit Down have an excellent article from a few years ago about the basic wrongness of the game.

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