Day 1 of Essen 2023 is over. It’s been a long day, having only gotten 4-5h of sleep due to probably the worst AirBnB I ever had. To make things worse, the Deutsche Bahn decided to replace the Duisburg – Essen train connection with shuttle busses. Still, it’s been exciting to be back to Essen after so long. I think it has been 8-10 years for me. Lots of interesting people to meet and games to pick up. Here is a short write up for all those that couldn’t be here or are planning to come to Essen on one of the remaining three days. Enjoy!
Getting little sleep had the advantage that I was at the conventional hall with time to spare. I had chosen to enter via entrance east, despite it being the farthest away from hall 3 (which contains the majority of board games that are of interest for the BGG crowd). The reason was simple: I had planned on picking up a few games that were known to be short in stock and as chance had it, using entrance east was the best route for that.
One nice thing about entrance east is that a whole convention hall is basically used as a staging area. At 9:00 with one hour to go, only few people had already gathered here. I assume a lot of people had chosen to enter via the entrance west, which is closest to hall 3. Over the next hour, things filled up steadily though. Everyone was relaxed and in a cheerful mood, people sitting on the floor, grabbing coffees. It’s a nice thing to have this hall to wait inside where it’s warm. Thumbs up so far.
As the doors finally were lifted, I took a quick snap towards the back of the room. A sizeable amount of people had gathered and it started to feel like a Spiel! We were off to the races.
My first stop was right around the corner to pick up one of the English copies of Sky Team. I was looking forward to play this for a while now and since there is no German edition yet, this was THE chance to get this fun 2p game. Queue took just 5 minutes of wait time, payment via credit card worked, good start.
My ultimate goal was the Delicious Games booth in hall 4. However, I spontaneously decided to take a detour to Arcane Wonders and pick up a copy of World Wonders. This game seems like it’s right up my alley and I wanted to play it ever since the Dice Tower gave it such a glowing review. Copies went fast and this is likely the game that sold out first at Essen Spiel 2023. Arcane Wonder had only brought a few copies and at least half of them were on pre-order. As the fair closed down, I asked at the booth if they would have further copies tomorrow. The answer was no. The only chance to get a copy will be on Sunday IF someone doesn’t pick up their pre-order. The German crowdfunded edition from Spieleschmiede is a bit delayed and nobody knows if it will ship next month or slip into early next year. So it was great for me to get a copy now and I hopefully will be able to post a written review to BGG in the next couple of weeks.
Next over to Delicious Games. Evacuation had been my pick for “the one game to get” for this fair. Apparently, a lot of other people also thought that way. When I arrived, the queue had stretched all the way to the end of the hall and started doing a U-turn towards the booth again. I stepped into line anyway (was about 40min wait time) because I definitely wanted to take this one home. But I wouldn’t have had to worry. After lunch, the line had noticeably shrunken down and by afternoon, it was barely longer than the Delicious Games booth. Apparently, the company has once again managed to pack their hot new game in sufficient numbers and make it the definite-buy for a lot of people (similar to Woodcraft in the year before).
These were my main three purchases I wanted to make. After that I strolled a bit through the halls and ended up at Hegemonic Project Games, the makers of Hegemony: Lead Your Class to Victory. I almost missed it but then stopped in my tracks: What was that???
By chance, I ended up chatting to Vangelis, one of the two authors of Hegemony, and he told me a bit about World Order. What he told me sounded like what I had been looking for in GMT’s Mr. President: The American Presidency, 2001-2020 but as an asymmetric game that plays in 2 hours and doesn’t have preconceived notions on who’s good or bad. I recorded the conversation and will probably post a transcript in the next couple of days. Let me sum it up this way: if they would have had a copy, I would have bought it immediately. Really excited about this one and Vangelis was such a nice guy, too! Will be coming to crowd funding in a couple of months.
At the same booth, I also found my favourite little accessory of the fair: official card dividers for Hegemony, 4€! Love it! Unfortunately I don’t have them handy right now. Will post a picture tomorrow.
Then I tested Senjutsu: Battle For Japan, a Japanese-themed, card-driven brawler/battler. As expected: lovely minis, great artwork, completely not my type of game 😀 The rules teach wasn’t great so both me and my opponent were clueless what the heck we were supposed to do (or rather what a good move would be). Still, it seemed to me like a veeeeerry fancy bluffing game. I might try a full game at another point in the future, but basically I’ve scratched it off my list for good.
Near by, I stumbled over a display of the upcoming deluxified Food Chain Magnate edition. I was skeptical of the renders, but in person, this actually looked quite nice!
Not far away lay a pre-production copy of Flamme Rouge: Grand Tour. Unfortunately there was no one around that could have given me more details. Still, it’s good to see this expansion finally becomes a reality.
For those interested, I snapped a picture of the content list:
Over to a quick round of Papertown. Nice, but felt rather unremarkable to me.
Next up: Skyrockets, the successor to Kites. I had been doubtful if I would need this but I was pleasantly surprised. It was pitched to me as “the thinking man’s Kites” or “Kites meets The Crew”. There are 30 (!) missions in the game, think of them as different mini games all based on the core Kites mechanism of playing a card and flipping two coloured sand timers as a result. Things get as crazy as one player placing the timers behind the game’s box and then having to direct other players which colours to play or not to play. I picked one up. I adore Kites, but it felt too same-y too quickly if played repeatedly with the same group of people. Skyrockets fixes this but from a charm perspective, Kites is still the one that looks more lovely and is also more family friendly.
I also had a very nice chat with Tim Fowers about Burgle Bros.. Apparently he is working on a poker/card-based expansion for Burgle Bros 1. It sounded totally crazy and fun, definitely will have to check this one out. He said a prototype is up on BGG and he’s looking for feedback.
After a quick belayed lunch, the highlight of the day: I met up with the Martin Wallace to talk about the Brass-es for Origin Stories – An In-Depth Interview Series. Honestly, it was such a pleasure to meet him and talk to him. I was so into it that I have no idea how good the interview ended up being. 😀 I’m looking forward to listening to the recording and starting the editing process.
Towards the end, he showed me a prototype of Steam Power, his next big train game. You’ll have to wait for the final written interview, but what he told me about it sounded pretty exciting indeed. We didn’t have much time so we just threw some prototype components on the map for this shot. The cloth map in reality looked quite lovely, the shot doesn’t do it justice.
My final trip for the day was to the Itten booth. I unfortunately had misjudged the interest in Nuts a GoGo! (thanks Eric!) and so it sold out almost as quickly as World Wonders. Unfortunately, a good part of their shipment got stuck in customs and they have been trying to free it up in time. They told me there is a chance additional copies might arrive either tomorrow or Saturday IF they can get the customs issue resolved. Finger’s crossed.
Instead, I demoed and picked up a copy of Viking See-Saw which was surprisingly fun! This is a no-brainer: tiny package, approachable, fun, inexpensive. Just get it!
But what stopped me in my tracks was this: a new expansion for Tokyo Highway. It’s not available yet and will come to crowd funding in the next couple of months. It contained crazy stuff like an airport and I wanted it as soon as I saw it. Weirdly enough, the cars are made out of rubber (instead of the original wood) and the wooden streets have pads underneath them to make things a little bit less slippery. Not sure that’s what the game needed because I actually like the chaos of the original. Still, very exciting.
And that’s it for my first day at Essen 2023. A friend asked me about the new hall concept. Well … on the one hand, it’s nice because pretty much everything of interest to me is in hall 3 and in parts hall 4. That makes for short walks. On the other hand, hall 3 was slightly crowded already (can’t imagine how it will be on the weekend) and it seems more difficult to have happy accidents/discoveries. Will have to see how it will turn out tomorrow. Food situation was surprisingly good with lots of food trucks outside.
To sum up day 1: exciting to be here again but Essen has gotten more predictable. I don’t think there are really any more “hidden gems” to discover, both because the BGG preview is so good and everything is condensed and focused with the new hall concept. I’m happy with my purchases but the most exciting things are the upcoming projects people have told me about, from the Burgle Bros expansion to World Power to Martin Wallace’s upcoming projects. Still, looking forward to the first play of Evacuation on the weekend.
Big shout out to all the nice people that took the time to talk to me! And also to all the YouTubers I stopped to say hi to. I found it difficult to really start a conversation because basically nobody knows who I am (I guess one of the benefits and drawbacks of writing about board games instead of having a YouTube channel), so there’s no common ground yet. Still, pretty much everyone took the time to stop and chat, even if I mostly kept it to saying thanks for all their hard work. In particular a shout out goes to Amy & Maggie (a.k.a. ThinkerThemer), Zee Garcia, and Thomas from Betterboardgames (popular German YouTube channel). Next time, let’s have coffee and a longer conversation 😀