I’d never been to Essen Spiel before, and there were a lot of delights awaiting me!
After hearing a lot about Essen, I was surprised to find it had quite a few ‘cute’ features amidst the rather grey industrial scene which seemed to cater to its yearly crowd of board game lovers. We were particularly delighted to discover a kind of water-pinball ‘game’ in one square (below), and by Essen Haupt-bahnhof was a kind of musical instrument you could play by walking on it.
We also ended up trying a great Vietnamese place and I got to sample a German ‘delicacy’, “Mezzo Mix”, which is half Coca-Cola, half Fanta, which cued my historically aware friend to explain the curious origins of Fanta (a Nazi replacement for Coca-cola after the Americans pulled out of Germany during the Third Reich)!
The convention itself was bright and shiny and very busy. The worst area was the food zone (‘galleria’) in the middle, where it was very difficult to get through people. There were 6 Halle in increasing order of obscurity; halls 1-3 had your bigger, well-known publishers (Queen games, iello, Libellud, etc) and your big hitter ‘family games’ (chess, scrabble, go), while halls 4 and 5 had the more indie games and some prototypes, and hall 6 was more oriented towards war games and miniatures.
We ended up playing lots of games and doing a lot of walking around what turned out to be a very large convention centre (I’m not sure how big it actually is, but I easily achieved my 10,000 steps a day despite sitting for long periods). Several of the games were so hilarious that we ended up creating memes that revolved around them (such as ‘catch the moon’, below).
One of our party bought a Japanese game that we tried out later in the evening, called ‘Idol Digger’, but the concept turned out to be more than just a little perverse – digging the next generation of pop idol girls out of the ground, trying to make monochrome or rainbow style pop groups and otaku (fanatics) while hoping you don’t uncover the ‘futsuunohito‘ (ordinary guys).
One of the games we played was a social rights game, currently a prototype, which had been designed by a wonderful German woman whose passion for what she wanted her game to do and convey was palpable and very admirable. The game revolved around a totalitarian society with a ‘social rating scale’ (like China intends to bring into force by 2020), in which your activities will be monitored and you can be ‘analysed’ (negative consequences) if you do suspicious activities like try to incite rallies (which can remove barriers to movement or grant the right to work/communicate/privacy). A fantastic idea that we’re excited to see get finished and kickstarted!
I bought a couple of games without playing them first (five out of the six below) but overall I’m happy with my purchases (a good idea was to ask several people their opinions on the games when the designers/trainers weren’t around).
In summary I am really pleased I went, though it was an exhausting experience and I am very glad that I took a day off either side of the travelling (which ended up being 8-10 hours each way – two/three trains plus the Eurostar). The games were quite heavy to carry back and next time – lesson learned – like all the other regulars, I will bring a wheelie case!!
Can recommend, such fun!