Spiel Essen 2018 report.
It was that time of the year again, the biggest board game convention of the world, Essen Spiel was held from the 25th until the 28th of October. With about 80000 square meters of exhibition space and more than 1100 exhibitors it was even bigger than last year’s edition and my feet can acknowledge that. Six halls filled with board games, roleplaying games, miniature games, card games, fantasy related stalls, comics and so on. I do have a feeling that the games are getting more and more presence at the convention and are suppressing the rest a bit.
First things first, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the distributors, designers and crew for taking the time to talk to us about their new or to be released games. I also wanted to thank all of you who came by and said hello. It is just wonderful to be a part of such a great community that has a common passion, board games.
On Wednesday the winner of the Deutscher Spiele Preis 2018 was announced and to no surprise it was Azul from designer Michael Kiesling which has won many more awards this year including the Spiel de Jahres. On second place came the Gaia Project from designers Helge Ostertag and Jens Drögemüller. The third place was reserved for Rajas of the Ganges designed by Inka and Markus Brand. The honors of winning the Deutscher KinderSpielepreis went to Memoarrr! designed by Carlo Bortolini.
The convention was packed this edition. I have not received official numbers yet but the predictions are that there were well over 180000 attendees which is simply mind boggling. Walking over the fair it was hard to find a demo-table that was empty which is a great thing of course because that is what this convention is all about. People trying out games and maybe purchasing it afterwards. You saw smiles everywhere and lots of people carrying bags full of games that they had purchased. This is one of those conventions that is just fun to go to, al little bit exhausting but so much fun nonetheless.
The games were very varied this edition and especially to theming it would be hard to pick out one that was more outspoken which is good thing because everyone remembers the pirate or the mars year. For me it is always to pick out the hot games of the fair, but after talking to several people what they were most excited about trying out at the fair, two titles came up the most. Teotihuacan: City of gods and Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra. These have also received the most buzz votes at the boardgamegeek booth. I also saw a lot of Gloomhaven boxes being slugged around. Discover: Lands Unknown, the latest installment from Fantasy Flight Games also saw its release at the convention. Its premise that every game is unique seems to be one of the new trends that they are going for with the next one in line will be the card game Keyforge. I wonder how this trend will be received by the community but at first glance it seems to work because I saw several people carrying around more than one copy.
We’ve demoed several games but one that stood out to me was Escape Tales the Awakening. We were fortunate to get the game explained to us by Jakub Caban, one of the designers of the game. This game is an escape room style game with lots of focus on the branching story and no time constraint. No worries, we only played through the introductory room so you will see only minor spoilers. The game is set around a father who has a daughter that is in a coma. The doctors are riddled as to why this happened because physically there is nothing wrong with her. The father searching for answers comes into contact with another father who had a similar experience. He tells him about a ritual called the Awakening that he had to perform to make his son come out of a coma but that he better prepares himself for what is about to come. He gives him a book with everything regarding the ritual and that’s where the story begins. Everything in this game evolves around using actions to search for things. If you run out of actions something bad may happen. Usually each action you partake refers to a paragraph in the storybook that might lead you to a certain card. The game also uses an app for solving the puzzles and giving you hints if you are a bit stuck or don’t know what to do. The design is so elegant and easy, it is a bit reminiscent of the system used in the Unlock series but without the time constraint and much more story. The story is real immersive and guides you to what needs to be done and what actions you might want to do first but you are free to do as you please. Of course we only did play the intro of the game so we do not know how the story progresses but it should provide a captivating experience that you can repeat to try and reach the different endings.
One of the other games that we got explained to us and are eager to try out is Dicium. This Dice driven game comes with four completely different games in one box. A racing game, a cooperative dungeon game a civilization game and an asymmetrical ninja game. All these games use their dicium dice system which have a certain color and number. Each player has its own player board and can use their dice for their number or their color to activate certain abilities or actions on their board. For each game you use different boards and components yet the same simple system.
While we were there the folks of Geek Attitude Games were also kind enough to give us a preview of the upcoming expansion to Not Alone. As you might know the first expansion to Not Alone: Exploration just gave you more variability in the game with new places and new hunt and survival cards. Their upcoming expansion called Sanctuary adds a sanctuary to the game that the survivors are building while being stranded. This Sanctuary will provide the much needed help for the survivors to come out on top and even gives them a new win condition. When the Sanctuary is complete they are safe from the hunter and win the game. The hunter gets some nice new abilities to counteract and balance things out. It would also add a fifth phase to the round regarding the sanctuary. All things seen and told were still in prototype form so it can still change but it should give a nice all-round feel of what they have planned with the series and I for one can not wait to try it out.
I could go on for pages about all the great things we have seen and experienced during the convention like Warstones (a flicking war game which will soon have a kickstarter) or Resident Evil the boardgame or…, but it is time to start playing these games so that we can review them for your reading pleasure. Oh what a tough job…
Play with Honor
Some more pictures: