$10.00
woodnoggin's Fourth Essen
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Here's another report from that sickening temple to profligate consumerism. I'd skipped the last couple of years and found that the fair had expanded in my absence, with more halls open and more games to investigate. Phil and I trekked the halls on all four days; this is the story of what we found. First, a photo of what I brought back:





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1. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:92]
Rich P
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Stefan Feld was staying in the same hotel as us. I was watching him at breakfast. On Thursday he took an egg and surrounded it with six different slices of meat. On Friday he took a croissant and surrounded it by the same six slices of meat. On Saturday he took a bowl of cereal and surrounded it with those six slices of meat again. I think Sunday involved fruit. Each day, Stefan Brück looked on approvingly.
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2. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:229] [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
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THURSDAY

I didn't really bother with many pre-orders this year since I hadn't read up on what was going to be at the show until the week before. For some reason I couldn't summon the enthusiasm until the Spiel was nearly upon us. So, first thing on Thursday morning, I headed straight for the Japon brand booth to see if I could get one of the spare copies of Trains. Even if I didn't like the game I knew I'd be able to shift it on without difficulty, since the buzz around it was deafening. So I queued up and I got to fourth from the front before they announced they'd sold out. So close! I did pick up copies of Love Letter and BraveRats while I was there, both of which subsequently sold out too shortly afterwards.
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3. Board Game: Columba [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:4824]
Rich P
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The first game I tried was this pigeon-themed tile laying game. In it you play 2x2 cards to cover up pigeons of certain colours. When you do, you get a token of that colour and you need four specific tokens to complete your goal card. You have a few dovecotes you can use to claim territories which will score you points at the end of the game. Collected tokens can also be added to the board later to expand your territory, or converted into hawk tiles to separate regions and reduce your opponents score. It was a nice production with great pieces, an unusual theme and decent gameplay. I was glad to have played but didn't feel like I needed to own a copy as I couldn't see it being something we'd want to play again and again.
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4. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:105]
Rich P
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Although I'd already bought the basic-looking Japon Brand version, I also picked up the AEG edition which came in a tacky velvety bag. The bags later sold out and the price went down as a result. I wasn't sure which version of the game would be preferred by friends back home, so I bought both (they were cheap). I don't really like the art on either of them - the Japon Brand one looks amateurish but at least has a choice of princesses/princes while the AEG version exhibits the usual annoying sexism of fantasy games, with a busty tart of a princess. I like that the Japanese version came in an envelope sealed with a teddy bear.
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5. Board Game: Gauntlet of Fools [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:2654]
Rich P
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I read this described as Munchkin done right. Players bid for a combination of adventurer and weapon, then send him through a dungeon of dangers to see who can end up with the most treasure after everyone has fallen. I suppose the fun part should be the bidding ("Boasting") phase, where everyone can offer to handicap their chosen adventurer in order to get to be the one who takes him through the dungeon. Since we had no idea which abilities were good, we didn't do much boasting but there are some fun ones you can pick: "without lunch", "with one hand tied behind his back", "hopping on one leg" etc. Our game mostly consisted of running through the encounter deck, fighting monsters via dice rolling and collecting treasures. I can see some groups really enjoying this game, it's an archetypal "beer and pretzels" sort of thing. It was like a very trimmed down Galaxy Trucker - construct your ship/adventurer, then encounter things in space/a dungeon and see who comes out best. Well done to the demo guy wearing chainmail for the day. Phew!
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6. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:249]
Rich P
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I'd read something about this game beforehand and wanted to try it based on the designer's previous work, but wasn't expecting too much - it looked a bit abstract. It is, but the cards make it feel less so and this was a surprise hit for me. The rules sounded complicated at first, but it all came together after a few turns and the strange icons began to make sense. Everyone plays cards to construct a city together, though it's not co-operative. You're collecting special abilities along the way that improve your future actions and eventually provide extra scoring possibilities. As you build more of the city, more cards are added to the shared deck and better abilities become available. There's a good feeling of progression. I bought a copy.
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7. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:42]
Rich P
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It was getting good reviews and lots of play over the course of the show. I bought it early and still haven't tried it. Also picked up Mutant Meeples as we like Ricochet Robots but have some friends who refuse to play games involving robots!
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8. Board Game: Enter the Passage [Average Rating:6.20 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
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This came free with Suburbia and Mutant Meeples. I know nothing about it or the books it's based on.
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9. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:22]
Rich P
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Sheffield
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One of my few pre-orders which was getting good reviews from Geekbuddies who'd played it prior to Essen.
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10. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:214]
 
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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This looks lovely and a rules read-through convinced me it would be interesting enough to try. I'm a bit concerned about the long playing time, but the exploration and collectively dealing with a potentially rebellious population sound fascinating.
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11. Board Game: Like Dice [Average Rating:6.32 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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A small card game about dice. Sounded puzzley so I thought it worth a shot.
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12. Board Game: Why First? [Average Rating:5.63 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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A series of race games where the winner is the second-placed player, and the final winner is the one who did second best overall! I couldn't resist this perverse idea. It's quite a simple production, with folding card figures to use as playing pieces.

After I'd bought this, the woman at the booth tried to sell me on Turned, describing it as a zombie game that was different from all the other zombie games I might know. I had to interrupt her and tell her I don't like zombie games, at which point she looked confused and a bit shocked as if she couldn't comprehend a gamer not liking zombie games. No, really, I hate them, but I'm sure I'll enjoy the game I’ve just bought from you. Can I go now, please?
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13. Board Game: 7 Wonders: Leaders – Esteban [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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I bought a 7 Wonders t-shirt and collected a few promo cards I was missing: Esteban plus a load of Ghost Stories characters (Crazy Shaman, Chuck No-Rice, B-Rice Lee, Jean-claude Van Rice and Steven Qi-Gal in one pack). Good to see these being made more widely available.
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14. Board Game: Power Grid: Northern Europe/United Kingdom & Ireland [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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The Industrial Espionage card was available for a small donation at the 2F stand. I didn't bother with the First Sparks equivalent card, not owning that other game. The new map came in English at the Rio Grande booth, and that seems to have been the right choice as I now notice the English rules aren't online yet.
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15. Board Game: PAX: Nocturnus [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
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I bought the expansion cards and asked if I could also get the Peloponnes tiles. Bernd told me I had to buy Porto Carthago or Pergamemnon to get them. When I pointed out that I already owned his other games, he asked me my name. I told him and he said he remembered me and let me have the three tiles. He must have a good memory, it's not like I've had long email conversations with him.
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16. Board Game: Agricola: Belgium Deck [Average Rating:7.11 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.11 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
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The LookOut Games booth had the Pi deck in English, but not the Belgium deck - I found that at the Z-Man booth but Phil didn't realise it was there and missed it before it sold out. The L-deck cards were scattered around the halls again, and this year I didn't have much success at getting them. One of the LookOut staff told me there was a complete list on BGG of what I should be looking for, but I couldn't find one, so I don't even know what I'm missing. I got the pink playing pieces for a charitable donation.
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17. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker: Another Big Expansion [Average Rating:8.13 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.13 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Can't wait to try this out, even though I haven't fully explored the last expansion. The game is really fun with the right players. The Czech Games booth had some large (3 inch) Galaxy Trucker spacemen, but I'm not sure if they were for sale or what the deal was with them. I got a free Dungeon Petz badge with my purchase and it took quite a while to decide which Pet I wanted. I went for one with a large grin of sharp teeth in the end (Lifffard). Also got the bonus Petz thrown in free.
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18. Board Game: The Ladies of Troyes [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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I went to the Pearl Games booth with the intention of getting the much nicer sounding 'Les Dames de Troyes'. I changed my mind when they told me the rules weren't online in English yet. I could work my way through the French rules (or, easier, get my partner to translate it for me) but it would be a bit more effort than strictly necessary, so I settled for the English one. It's a shame that Z-Man felt the need to translate the title, but I guess foreign names don't sell too well in the US.
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19. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2580]
Rich P
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I picked up various little extras over the course of the show. I raided the boardgame bits stall twice for cloth bags, plastic boxes for keeping decks of cards in and an assortment of cubes and meeples.
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20. Board Game: Spice Merchant [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:5607]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Back at the hotel, we gamed on into the night. This is a kind of quick share-holding game in which you play cards to strengthen the colours you have an interest in, or to stake a claim in other colours. One or two of your shares are kept secret from the other players at the start of the round. This game was alright, but I felt like the hand size was too large such that players could pretty much play whatever they wanted to at any time: there wasn't quite enough pain to the game! I was clearly too tired to play this properly as I forgot a key rule twice in the same game. Oops.
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21. Board Game: Sheepland [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1899]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Fluffy theme belying an investment game with a spatial element. You buy shares in types of landscape and then move sheep around so that more of them are on your favoured landscapes than on your opponents. As your pawns move around the board, they automatically fence off areas, limiting where sheep can be moved to as the game goes on. I enjoyed this and Phil bought a copy. A good game which doesn't outstay its welcome.
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22. Board Game: Völuspá [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1344]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Abstract tile laying with Norse mythology stuck on top. Each tile has a special effect, you play one each turn, score some points and draw a replacement. Simple enough, but with several twists due to the tile powers. Pretty good, but went really slowly towards the end as everyone tried to optimise their placements. I'd play it again with quick players, but I'm not keen on dragging it out to squeeze a few extra points out of moves.
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23. Board Game: Shinobi: War of Clans [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:5659]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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A samurai-themed card game where everyone has a secret colour and they'll win if that colour is represented by the majority of cards in play at the end of the game. You can play samurai cards from your hand only to give them to opponents, then you can move cards from one player to another, and attack with your cards (but not against the person you moved cards from). Larger groups of the same colour will defeat smaller ones. So cards are moving round, coming in and out of play and you're constantly striving to ensure your colour will be dominant at the end of the game, perhaps without making it too obvious which colour you are.

This game has some good decision-making to it, plenty of choices to consider. Even though it has attacking, you're never really picking on someone as you're not sure which colour they are and cards move around so often that ownership isn't really an issue. I liked it. We played with four players (out of a maximum of five) so one colour belonged to nobody. It seemed best this way, as you were never sure whether your actions were hindering an opponent or the colour that nobody cared about.
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24. Board Game: Atlantis Rising [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1665]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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FRIDAY

Seemingly impossible co-operative worker placement game with dice. You really have to get off to a speedy start here as the game hammers you from the outset. The invading Atheneans are a constant, increasing drain on your workers which makes it hard to get anything done. There's a bit of resource conversion, some special power cards and the usual 'do good stuff, then do bad stuff' pattern of co-operative games. It was just about OK, but I imagine the difficulty is supposed to encourage you to try again to beat the system, but it actually served more to put us off.
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25. Board Game: Qwixx [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:659]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Got a demo of this filler dice game, somewhat similar in feel to Level X. Bought it along with Sticheln later in the show.
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