RogerBW's Blog

Essen 2022 12 October 2022

At the start of October I went back to Internationale Spieltage SPIEL, or "Essen" as it's generally known in the boardgaming world.

The last one I got to was in 2019; 2020 was cancelled, and while 2021 did happen I didn't think it worth the risk. This year's show was fully masked (there were some people making exceptions of themselves, but very few), and I went back.

I was working for Indie Game Studios again, and arrived on the Wednesday to help with setup. We've previously been in hall 3, but this year took a step up to hall 2, with rather more passing traffic.

I love the feel of the show outside opening hours, during setup or before we start for the day.

The first game I demonstrated was Dulce, a multiplayer solitaire engine-building game with some unfortunate visual design choices (the four non-white colours of cube need to be matched to particular coloured spots on the game board and tiles), but one that has some interesting tweaks – and a chicken meeple per player (when you would otherwise waste resources, you can feed them to the chicken, and later extract eggs). Not perhaps a tower of originality, and the theme is only loosely attached, but still good fun.

At the time I had no idea what these people were promoting. (But I'm an old-fashioned sort of chap; if you ring a handbell near me, my first thought is that you have the plague.)

I also showed off some Aeon's End: Outcasts, and a couple of games of Quest – which feels very much like "Avalon 2.0" on first exposure, making some tweaks to the game beyond what could easily be done with expansion content. (I still prefer The Resistance's framing, but there isn't a version of this game in that setting.)

Seeing the show on Thursday afternoon: Layers, in which you have to assemble cards (with holes in them) to match an image…

And Unconscious Mind, kickstarting soon, loosely based on the early days of psychiatry (though no mention that most of Freud's theories were based on not believing how much incestuous rape his female patients reported, so he assumed it must be some sort of psychological disturbance causing them to make things up).

Rallyman DIRT prototype at Holy Grail Games. It's getting closer!

Null Signal (formerly Project Nisei) Netrunner cards. I don't need another two-player duelling game, so please buy my copy of Sakura Arms.

In principle I already knew that Heat was from part of the Asmodée private-equity-fund-owned monolith, but when I saw this massive demo area for it I lost all my enthusiasm for buying it. (Also Asmodée never sell below retail price at Essen, or include extras; they're relying on you wanting the thing right now. I have enough games for right now. I can wait.)

The other game I showed off, Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game – a prototype with 3d-printed dice. For me this fixes many of the things that cause TM not to appeal: cards mostly don't have prerequisites, so you aren't forced to commit to a plan without any way of causing it to succeed, and if nothing else is working for you you can always draw more dice. It's still on Kickstarter until Thursday afternoon (UK time), though the postage is a bit steep to the UK; if I'm working here next year I'll probably buy it with booth credit.

A rare view through the courtyard during setup on Saturday.

Essen crows.

On Saturday night at the Dice and Mystics meetup, I played Findorff, which is not at all the game it appears to be: the map is almost irrelevant except to track the game timer, and most of the play happens on one's private board. But unlike many games of the Brown Euro genre, it didn't drag on, and I even made a creditable showing.

We showed off AuZtralia: I avoided demoing this, because Martin Wallace designs and I don't really get on, but other people had a good time with it.

Sunday morning: modified film posters!

Gaming terrain!

Blinded battleship-hunting!

A racing game I've never heard of! Not that I'm particularly an expert on racing games, but I do seem to play quite a lot of them.

Among Cultists, coming soon from Godot Games (makers of Human Punishment). They also had a huge prequel boardgame to HP.

The most important thing to eat at Essen, a spiral fried potato.

Open Bricks. I have no idea how good they are – at least some of the expense of actual LegoⓇ comes from the cost of the very fine manufacturing tolerances – but I like the idea.

I'd been planning to try playing Mountains out of Molehills but it wasn't available for demo, just locked in a glass case.

Axe throwing was available.

This looks intriguing: fully co-op, scenario-based.

Can't remember what this dragon was for. Didn't seem to be related to any particular game.

This game was originally, in theory, going to be available at Essen 2019. It was still only in the demo stage.

Across the alley from my hotel, in case of late-night peckishness.

A French supermarket sandwich. This is why we need to be in Europe.

The final haul (not counting things bought or picked up for other people). Quest and fully-expanded Avalon in a single box; Dulce (ex demo copy); Path of Light & Shadow and its Solstice expansion, bought with demo pay as it looks intriguing and one of my fellow demonstrators was enthusing about it; Netrunner cards; and the Folded Space insert for Rallyman GT, an unexpected gift from the publisher. Also a set of dice from Chessex for use with Xia: d6, d8, d12 and d20 in each of the five player colours.

The other part of the Essen haul.

Other planned things that didn't happen in the end:

  • I'd thought about getting Spirit Island, but there was no show offer.

  • I'd planned to try Turing Machine but it got lost in the Asmolith.

  • I had a look at demos of Septima and Astra, both from Mindclash Games, but did't get enthused. I'd still really like to play Septima before I buy it; Astra I think I've probably seen enough to decide against.

  • Riftforce Beyond wasn't available anywhere.

  • Spaceship Unity was apparently for sale, but the only demos were big formal events and I really need to know more about this before committing myself.

  • I'm still interested in Roll Camera but again I think I need to play a full game to work out whether I'll want to buy it.

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 09:54am on 12 October 2022

    My arteries are clogging just looking at that spiral fried potato. That french supermarket sandwich does look very nice though.

  2. Posted by John P at 10:19pm on 12 October 2022

    I playtested quite a few of Martin Wallace's games back in the early 2000's. But he liked using auction mechanics too much & I hated them. Because you had to wait your turn to bid, you could find yourself priced out before you got a chance to join in. When the auction was to determine turn order, that meant you ended up at the back and it became vicious cycle. It just put me off any of his games.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 10:30pm on 12 October 2022

    He's well-respected in the game designer community, and many people enjoy his games greatly – particularly A Study in Emerald and Brass and Wildlands. So I'm always at pains to say "his games and I don't get on" rather than "I think they're bad games".

  4. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 11:00am on 13 October 2022

    Looks like you had a fun and productive time in Essen. I doubt I'll ever go because my taste in games is very specific, and Essen seems mostly about the types of games I can take or leave.

    Still, spiral fried potato... yummy.

    Getting back in Europe... would they even want us?

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1