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Convention Report: Essen 2007

By W. Eric Martin

Here are my reports from Spiel '07, the giant game convention in Essen, Germany which took place from October 18-October 21, 2006 in Essen, Germany.

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Headlines

November 10, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: Spiel Wrap-Up
October 24, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: Links to Other Spiel ‘07 Reports
October 23, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 20, 2007 (Day 3)
October 21, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 19, 2007, Part 2 (Day 2)
October 20, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 19, 2007, Part 1 (Day 2)
October 19, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 18, 2007, Part 2 (Day 1)
October 18, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 18, 2007, Part 1 (Day 1)
October 17, 2007 - Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 17, 2007 (Press day)


Articles

Convention Report: Essen 2007: Spiel Wrap-Up

By W. Eric Martin
November 10, 2007

I surveyed a few publishers that attended Spiel ‘07 to get their reactions to the show and to see whether they had any news to report. Let’s start with the company and game that everyone is talking about:

Lookout Games

Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola placed second on the Fairplay magazine list of top 10 rated games as voted on by Spiel ‘07 attendees, but the large amounts of German text on the 300+ cards had lots of people asking: When’s the English edition appearing?

The answer: Dunno. Lookout’s Hanno Girke has said that Z-Man Games has the option to do an English edition, and Zev Shlasinger is still deciding whether he wants to do it. Given Agricola’s list price, the English edition would likely have to be at least $60 due to the awful dollar/Euro exchange rate. (The exchange rate hit $1.45 = €1 on November 5.) Girke said that a French version of Agricola is possible, although not definite, and other companies have expressed interest in Dutch, Portugese, Czech and Polish versions, although these are all just possibilities for now.

What could make these other editions happen, though, is the strength of Agricola in both Fairplay standings and in sales. Lookout Games sold through the 900 copies it brought to Essen, and Hanno has said that the company needs to sell at least 60% of the print run in order to make licensing feasible. (Licensing cuts into sales of the German edition.) Lookout is now talking to German wholesale retailers in order to get distribution and reach that level.

Z-Man Games

Speaking of Z-Man, Zev says, “I have several things in the works but no news as of yet… Essen was great, although saleswise 2006 was better. I need to focus on one or two games only for next year AND make them available only through me.”

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on November 10, 2007 at 09:00 AM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (5)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: Links to Other Spiel ‘07 Reports

By W. Eric Martin
Updated: October 29, 2007

Scott, Dale and I have reported on our Spiel ‘07 happenings, and so have plenty of others around the gaming community. Check out the following reports for more on the show:

  • Trond Meistad has a multi-day Spiel report on Brettspill.no.

  • Mike Siggins has posted his standard thorough yet concise report on Spiel ‘07 on Funagain.com.

  • Bruno Faidutti has published a juicy Spiel report on his website that includes this awesome paragraph:

    Games can be ugly in many ways. Many are ugly in a minimalistic way, as if the publisher simply published the prototype, like Moai or Im Jahre der Drachen. Some, like Kingsburg, or Battue, have simply bad graphics, reminding of the worse RPGs, like Kingsburg or Battue.  Others are graphically overloaded, like Cuba or El Capitan, who look luxurious but not elegant. Even Tzaar, Kris Burm’s last opus, doesn’t have the classy look of its predecessors. Some games have really nice looking boxes, like Container or Gipsy King, but the components inside look much blander. And I list here only games which, from all I’ve heard, are really good! There are probably other ones which are both ugly and bad.

  • Frank Schulte-Kulkmann has once again turned out a fantastic Spiel report on Kulkmann’s G@mebox.

  • Game designer Angelo Porazzi has published a photo essay of Spiel on his website.

  • Richard van Vugt has included a video report of Spiel ‘07 on the front page of Gamepack.nl. (Quicktime required)

  • Andreas Resch has posted a Flash gallery of nearly 400 images on his personal website; make some coffee before you start the slideshow because it’s a long one!

  • Fairplay Magazine has posted the top 10 rated games as voted upon by Spiel ‘07 attendees. You can also view the complete Spiel ‘07 game list alphabetically if you want to see how the more obscure titles (i.e. those with few votes) rated.

  • William Bussick has posted a summary of his Essen experience on BoardGameGeek.
I’ll add more links as I run across them in my online travels…

Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 24, 2007 at 09:00 PM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (3)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 20, 2007 (Day 3)

By W. Eric Martin
October 23, 2007

Editor’s note: My final report was delayed due to illness. Hope you enjoy it.

My final day at Spiel started later than the 9am press time as I had to pack and check out of the hotel. Luckily I still got to hit a few booths before the hordes crashed in and raised the volume by 40-something decibels.

Mondainai

Designer Harald Enoksson was in a sparsely decorated booth that featured little more than 100 copies of his first two games: Seigo and StreetSmart. Seigo’s subtitle is Conquer the Japanese Language, and Enoksson describes the game as Civilization-like in how your holdings develop. As you collect the right Hiragana characters, you’ll acquire new skills, such as a cannon to take down enemy forces. The Venn diagram intersection of Civilization fans who want to tackle a four-hour game about learning Japanese must be tiny, but my friend Brian is one of those people and had asked for a copy. If he ever gets it played, I’ll ask him for a report!

Enoksson’s other game is StreetSmart, which creates city life in a highly abstracted form, with consumers spending money in neighborhoods or slums (which creates new buildings of the same type and color, which may or may not be the active player’s), gangsters who convert neighborhoods to slums, policemen who revitalize an area, smokers who burn down shops, and much more. The movement system was lifted from RoboRally, as Enoksson admitted, although he’s tweaked it for his game to move characters 1-3 spaces in the cardinal directions. Lots of variety is possible as the game includes numerous expansions which introduce garbagemen, electricity access, and more.

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 23, 2007 at 05:00 PM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (9)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 19, 2007, Part 2 (Day 2)

By W. Eric Martin
October 21, 2007

The second half of Friday started with a trip to the Land of Yellow, aka HABAville…

HABA

I’ve played only a few games with my niece and nephew and with random other children that people keep bringing into my house, and to my untutored eye, children’s games seem to be nothing more than memory variants, dexterity challenges, and observation tests. Even with this minute amount of experience, though, I can appreciate the difference between good and bad memory variants, dexterity challenges, and observation tests.

HABA has a stellar reputation, so Dale Yu and I took a look at the company’s fall lineup to see what stood out. Dale will likely be reporting on these games in more detail, so I’ll mention only two titles:

Kapt’n Kuck: I wasn’t clear how the game would play from the brief description that I saw before the show, but once you see the game in person, it all becomes clear. You play the game in rounds, and in each round all players but one don an eyepatch, then cover their remaining eye. The one active player lays out a number of cards face-up on the maplike gameboard. Once he’s ready, the other players get to look at the gameboard through a telescope of sorts which allows the player to see only a tiny portion of the board. The players must scan the board as quickly as possible, and when time runs out, they try to name the cards that they saw.

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 21, 2007 at 01:30 PM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (4)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 19, 2007, Part 1 (Day 2)

By W. Eric Martin
October 20, 2007

Another day of Spiel, another four hours of sleep to keep you going through it…

Race for the Galaxy

One correction to start with: In Part 2 of the Thursday Day 1 report, I listed Rio Grande’s new titles and forgot to mention the long-awaited arrival of Race for the Galaxy, despite me actually buying a copy at the show! I was practically sleeping while I wrote that report and thought that I was writing Wednesday’s report for some reason, so I didn’t mention RftG as the game didn’t arrive until late that evening. The days are a blur.

Army of Frogs

The first stop of the day was with John Yianni, who was showing off his new title, Army of Frogs. This game matches the look and feel of Hive to some degree, as the players build an island of pieces turn-by-turn while trying to connect all of their frogs. The frogs are bakelite and add a lot to the visual appeal of the game.

More details on the game play: Players take one of the four colors and ten pieces of that color are mixed in a bag. You draw two pieces randomly to start. On a turn, you must move a piece of yours already on the board by jumping it over other pieces to move from one end of the line to the other; multiple jumps are possible as long as you follow two construction rules for the frog army. You then add one piece from your supply, which may or may not be your color, to the board and draw another frog from the bag. The first player to connect seven frogs of his color in one group wins; if more than seven of your frogs are on the board, you must connect them all.

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 20, 2007 at 01:30 AM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (10)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 18, 2007, Part 2 (Day 1)

By W. Eric Martin
October 19, 2007

The flow of unexpected companies continued throughout the day—admittedly I was looking for them in order to cover those holes in the 2008 Essen Preview, so perhaps they stood out more to me than other companies. Here’s a sampling of their wares:

Dino Toys

Czech publisher Dino Toys had a Carcassonne-style tile-laying game called Cabo da Roca in which players construct a seascape and port locations turn by turn. As ports appear, players can start buying ships to sail around the sea and trade goods from one town to another. Different types of ships are available, with a pirate ship naturally being one of them, and players try to accumulate the most gold possible through trade and settlement. The authors are listed only as BB Team, and the promotional flyer says only “created by Czech inventors,” which seems somewhat odd.

Motiva

Motiva’s offerings seemed to fall in the crack between games and toys, such as with Desert Dice (pictured below) in which you use a magnetic tool to drag dice through sand towards your goal. Dice games were present in abundance, such as 6 Richtige: Each player starts with four dice in one or two colors (out of six). Your goal is to acquire a die of each color. Players take turns rolling a single die; the first player puts the die in the center of the board; the next player claims this die if he rolls higher or else his die goes in the center as well. Eventually someone claims the dice and the center empties. You have light decisions about which die to roll, but once you do roll, your chances are in fate’s hands.

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 19, 2007 at 03:30 PM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (9)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 18, 2007, Part 1 (Day 1)

By W. Eric Martin
October 18, 2007

After a few hours of sleep, I headed to Spiel for the proper opening of the convention. I had made an appointment to check out alea’s new release, but since Im Jahr des Drachen will appear in English before too long, I decided to cancel and head towards the booths of smaller publishers, those who I wouldn’t see except at Spiel. Thus, the first stop of the day was in the Cwali booth where Corné von Moorsel was still unpacking to prepare for the crowds.

Gipsy King

Gipsy King is von Moorsel’s new game for Spiel ‘07, although a mostly similar two-player version of the game called Land of Lakes is available online at his Mastermoves.eu. Gipsy King keeps the same features of Land of Lakes—take turns placing caravans on spaces around numbered lakes, first in ascending order, then in descending, with a goal of claiming fish in lakes and creating large groups—but expands the game play up to five players.

I played Gipsy King three times in the evening, twice with two players and once with four. The game with two is slightly different from the online version as players can place a double-wide caravan twice in the final round, to enlarge their groups and try harder to nab fish. The game with four plays much differently as the consequences of passing your turn—that is, skipping your caravan placement in order to stay at the front of the turn order chart to claim something better later—are harder to determine. With two players, I pass, you’re forced to fill the empty space around the current lake, then I go again; with four, you can’t be sure of what people are going to do, so if you really want to grab a space, you might have pass early and keep passing for several rounds or just forget it and try for something else.

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 18, 2007 at 09:00 PM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (6)  - Link

Convention Report: Essen 2007: October 17, 2007 (Press day)

By W. Eric Martin
October 17, 2007

A few nights ago, I went into a game store only to discover a disappointing selection of trivia titles and old-fashioned mass-market games like Monopoly: Bratz Edition and SpongeBob Squarepants Risk. I ran into a few other people, maybe in their late teens or early twenties, and we started talking about games. Naturally I mentioned Boardgame News and the advancements in game design over the past twenty years. Then I gave them the lowdown on the Spiel game convention—the show of shows in Essen, Germany where hundreds of publishers, game designers, and vendors have thousands of games on hand to demonstrate and sell. I mentioned a few titles that I thought might interest those new to modern adult strategy games, and they all seemed eager to attend Spiel themselves.

Then I woke up. When you start talking about Spiel in your dreams, it’s time for the show to start!

Thankfully that day has almost arrived. I’ve spent the last two weeks in Munich, visiting friends and pretending to take a few days vacation. In fact, I spent most of my non-traveling hours updating the BGN Essen Preview, reading rules, and otherwise prepping for Spiel, often to the driving dance beats played at the San Francisco Coffee Company. Don’t let the English name fool you—the café is as German as they come, with delightful café mochas, fresh-squeezed juices, an open door policy for dogs, and a relaxed attitude toward Americans who have their laptops plugged in for hours at a time. Outside the window I had a view across the Odeonsplatz of Feldherrnhalle and part of the Residenz, which housed Bavarian rulers for more than 500 years.

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Posted by W. Eric Martin on October 17, 2007 at 08:00 PM in Special Features > Convention Reports > Convention Report: Essen 2007  - Comments (12)  - Link

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