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Our ESSEN 06 & 2 weeks in Europe report. Mini reviews, games purchased, lots of pics incl. designers, tips and more...
Houserule Jay
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I was extremely lucky to have gone to Essen, I was not planning to go at all but it just so happens I work for a German company. Well it also just so happens that they decided to send me for training in Germany and well it also just so happens my training ended on Oct 19th, yep, the day Spiel06 started in Essen, very fortunate indeed! [although I did miss the first day (always a complainer lol)]. Due to this huge stroke of luck, never having been to Europe and being an avid gamer along with the wife (flowercita), we decided to take a weeks vacation after my training to take in the show and see some of Spain and Italy as well (on the cheap, read on).

What follows is my fairly extensive report on games played, games purchased, hints and tips, my overall thoughts and things I noticed. Included in this are some pictures of games and designers as well.

I also have included some of the better pictures I took in Europe with a brief description of where and what it is which in turn basically summarizes our entire trip again with helpful hints along the way. Big shout out to Jon (Eyeofnight) for all his help and advice and the many others who gave advice in my many threads.

Sit back, relax, grab a java and prepare to embark on a journey through Europe which highlights Essen

P.S... 30 more thumbs to my first golden...
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1. Board Game: Via Bavaria [Average Rating:3.82 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
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The journey begins...

It all started in a little town south of Munich in Germany where the headoffice of my company is located. People there affectionately call this Bavaria and they are very proud to say they live there. They love their beer there and I had several people tell me it is looked upon like bread or water a necessity that could be drank instead of eating supper, some people were even allowed to drink at lunchtime. They all believe this is the best part of Germany and from what I saw I had to agree, the people were friendlier than I expected as well.
 
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2. Board Game: TrainSport: Austria [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:6734]
Houserule Jay
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One night after training we were lucky enough to have a visit to nearby Salzburg in Austria (you can actually see it on the game pic beside this text). This is the city Mozart was born in and it is one of the prettiest cities/towns I have ever seen which also neighbors the Alps. Some of the best pictures of my entire trip are from here and they make great desktops (see below)





Sadly we got there just as it was getting dark but luckily I figured out my brand new Sony H2 Cybershot just in time, it has a night setting & 12X zoom which worked awesome, I love these pics.



This was interesting to see, a full fledged game room right in the middle of Salzburg. There was actually 2 people playing Magic in the small store beside this room when I peeked in, sadly they didn't have many games and they especially didn't have Elfengold...
 
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3. Board Game: The Castle [Average Rating:5.69 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
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My last night in Bavaria Germany before I embarked to Frankfurt and then Essen we went to visit the longest Castle in Europe called Burghausen. Quite amazing, over 1 kilometer long in total, it was really more like its own complete town. Rich with history as you could imagine and I learnt some of it as we had a guide take us through.



 
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4. Board Game: Frantic Frankfurt [Average Rating:5.12 Overall Rank:10392]
Houserule Jay
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Next it was off to Frankfurt to meet flowercita at the Airport so we could then embark to Essen together. I took a midnight train from Munich and arrived at 5:30am right at the airport. This gave me just enough time to scope out the Airport for the 24hour lockers and the Omnibus, more on that later. The train seems to be the main form of travel in Germany and my research couldn't prove otherwise. It turned out to be one of the more expensive parts of the trip. We bought a German Country Twin pass which saved us some money, this allows you any 4 days in one month and you need to be travelling together. We used it from Frankfurt to Essen, Essen to Frankfurt and finally Frankfurt to Munich. That cost me about 300US and the ticket from Munich to Frankfurt was about 90US from www.railpass.com . Trains were convenient, fast, and quite nice and some of the ICE trains travel at 300km/hr though it doesn't feel like it at all. Stations were clean and very modern, especially if you compared Spain or Italy. I had a bitch of a time trying to sleep on them though as these did not have sleepers...UGGGG! The good thing was there no luggage restriction, this was a key issue later....



 
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5. Board Game: Hotel Tycoon [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:10743]
Houserule Jay
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We arrive! We got to the main train station in Essen around 9:30am Friday morning and I am chomping at the bit to get to the fair. First we have to get to hotel and drop our luggage and such. Thanks to some research ahead of time I knew exactly what train to catch and what station to get off. I'm a cheap bastard most of the time so we caught the subway suitcases and all, it wasn't so bad as it was part of the main station anyway and took less than 10 minutes.

We were staying at the Holiday Inn Express on Thea Leymann which was a 4 minute walk from Berliner Platz station. I secured a room ahead of time for 63 Euro a night including breakfast which was the best rate I could find for a double at a decent hotel in a good location at http://www.res99.com/nexres/reservations/availability.cgi. It turned out to be not bad at all and location was great, typical cheap continental breakfast however and lots of noise tranferrence through the walls too like doors slamming etc. This was par for the course in Europe we discovered so it doesn't detract too much I guess. We tried to eat enough to tie us over to supper and it worked. Great bar for playing games in at night which we did.

Once at the train station we ended up walking to the hotel (I had a map printed out) with our bags because there were no taxis to be found....honest! I figured by the time I tried to call one we could walk there and back and so we did, must of looked pretty funny 2 tourists toting luggage behind them walking down the street although apparently it wasn't quite as funny as the spectacle to come later that day.....
 
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6. Board Game: Spiel! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
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Finally we get to Spiel, it is now about 1 pm . It is jammed packed and the only thought going through my mind is I need to go get some out of print games before all the good ones are gone (and I know some were already on Thursday). I had heard you could find anything you wanted here at a good price but it was not to be this year. Several people complained there were a lot fewer booths for used games, this was one of my bigger disappointments with the fair.



Well we pretty much made a bee-line for Hall 4 once in and the haggling begun. Poor flowercita did not enjoy this first day at all, we should of left her playing games somewhere as almost the entire day was spent looking for and buying used games. The hall was packed also and it was hard to even get to the front of the booth where you could see or buy the games. I think I did pretty well considering and I got some pretty good deals. All told I walked away (well kinda limped see pic) from Hall 4 with 24 games in tow. I brought a big bag in anticipation and luckily one nice dealer gave me a box for the rest.



You would not believe how many people were staring at me walking out of the fair (nearly everyone I walked by). I didn't quite get it first, sure it looked heavy (and ohhh it was!) but other gamers must of done the same? I have seen the pics! In the end I think it was just curiousity as they were mostly trying to see into the box to see what I had bought. What did I buy you ask, flowercita (Vicky) will show you:



Tadsch Mahal, Candamir, Big City, Manhattan, Bohnanza, 6 Nimmit, Intrigue, Aton, Serenissima, Magellan, Carolus Magnus, Capitol, Elfenland, Adel Verpflichtet, Shark, Carabande, Druber and Drunter, Cabale, El Caballero, Anno 1503, Kahuna, Caesar & Cleopatra, Babel and Druid Walzer.

Now the other big disappointment of the fair, ALL and I mean all of the used games were in German. Thankfully lots of games have no text on the board or cards but then lots do and this stopped me from buying more than one game. The positive side to this was it was hard to believe how many games I found in 'shrink' and which ones, lots of others that were open had the bits still in the original bags unplayed and it looks like every game I bought is fully complete as well.
 
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7. Board Game: Die Säulen von Venedig [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1780]
Houserule Jay
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We did get one game in on the first day at the fair and it was this one.

The following is what I have entered into my comments for the game:

City buiding:role selection:hand management:tile placement:variable player powers

initial rating - 1 play 3 players and 1/2 play 2 players - Essen 06

Another enjoyable city building game incorporating role selection, there is a little more going on than that though making it worthwhile playing.

The start player each round is decided kinda randomly and this seems like a strange decision and maybe not a good one as their is some advantage to going first from what I remember. Each player starts the game with 5 cards with different roles depicted on them. Players decide secretly which card they are playing and then all are revealed and played out starting with the start player. Roles available are the usual: Take city tiles from supply, building city tiles on board, placing pillars; however there are some twists here. A lawyer role helps with building, there is a gondola placement role(for bonus points), a saboteur for destroying a building, a spy for stealing a card and a beggar to copy an action someone else played. There are also 3 roles that hand out a bonus if another card has been played at the same time by someone else. Points are handed out for a few different things including where and how you built a building, pillar points, gondola bonus and bonus cards. Once cards are played and points are given the cards are shifted to the left and the process repeats.

These roles are quite interesting and introduce some clever strategic card play, bluffing, double guessing and screwage into the game. Fun in a Citadels kinda way using the roles to help you or hinder others. A little planning required but not a deep game, play is somewhat dictated by your hand, what others have done and what you think they will do. A dose of luck in the game, I'm just not sure yet how well it can be mitigated or if it doesn't need to be and is a non-issue.

2 players didn't work so good as there is an inclination and incentive to build in your own areas and card play is blah, 3 was good and 4 might be better yet.



Later that night we played Taj and Bohnanza with Cynthia from Meeple People (HI!). It seemed groups were formed in the hotel bar and they didn't really seem open to accepting new players, at least that was the feeling I got when I was walking around looking for a group to join to learn a new game so we formed our own group. I was also very fortunate that Steen (stones_2000) agreed to bring his game WOTR to Essen so we could play later at one of the hotels. By the time we finished Taj and Bohnanza it was getting late but we did play 2 hours of a game after some explaination. Man I can't wait to get this to the table now, hopefully tomorrow. This will be a new fav for sure.
 
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8. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2589]
Houserule Jay
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My main goal of the second day was to play some new games and meet my gaming hero Mr. Knizia and hopefully have him sign our favourite euro Taj. We accomplished the latter part of that with a stroke of luck. We were at the Kosmos booth and looking around the whole Hall feverishly as we heard the doc was supposed to be somewhere in the Hall. While we were there thinking about how to find the doc I seen a familiar face come out of the little room with the closed door...



Mr. Teuber! A stroke of luck indeed. Sadly all the games I bought of his were at the Hotel so nothing to sign but we were happy just to get a picture with him.

Well after this I decided to ask the lady at the desk if Mr. Knizia was here or had been there already. She went into the little room and a few moments later came out and shook her head....damn! Well, where do we look next. I was thinking about just that when about 2 minutes later who do you think comes out of the little room....yes it was the Doc! I was so excited I didn't know whether to grab a pen, my camera, the gameboard or his hand. I sheepishly asked if we could have a picture with him and he graciously accepted.



Well that went so well that I then asked if he would sign my favourite Euro game and he agreed to, I also brought my RA board from Canada and he also signed this as well. I was so ecstatic at this point that I could of left right there and been happy I think, the highlight of my gaming life for sure.

Well with that accomplished I did want to find Mr. Kramer too but that would of been much harder as I had not seen a picture of him and no one seemed to know where he might be. I decided that I would look for his picture later on the net and try to find him Sunday. So off to play some games!
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9. Board Game: Leonardo da Vinci [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:635]
Houserule Jay
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I had heard enough about this one that we made the effort to secure a table to try it. Luckily there was an english speaker to explain the game but our soon to be opponents only spoke German. What follows are my comments:

initial rating one play 4 players Essen 06

Yes nothing new (hard to do that nowadays don't ya think?) but quite a good game here that I found fairly thematic, the theme actually helped me to learn/understand the game which was quite easy.

Rather than the placing worker comparisons it feels more like people are bidding in little mini auctions on the board which is actually what you are doing although it is kind of a combination of both. First place gets you the particular action free, second then can buy it for 2, 3rd then can buy it for more and so on. With your winnings you are planning to complete inventions up for grabs and you hope to be the first to do it for even more points otherwise some are shared. Most similiar to POF I think as there are multiple paths with a common goal in the inventions (works) and quite a few things to bid on here (which is the core game as well) like: obtaining more men, buying a robot, upgrading a factory, special actions and different resources. The main difference being that the same thing can be bid on and taken by more than one player making it feel a little more interactive. It also feels just a tad lighter than POF but optimal player numbers will be similiar I think with 2 and 3 not great (not competitive enough), 4 prime and 5 being good but pretty rough to get what you want unless a worker each was removed.

Fairly strategic, low luck, fast pace, small screwage factor, good balance and decent replay make this a great game. Not sure how long it would stay fresh though but great for occasional playing for sure.
 
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10. Board Game: Arkadia [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:477]
Houserule Jay
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This one caught my eye everytime we walked by it and once I found out who the designer was I really wanted to try it. My comments:

Area influence:tile placement:market manipulation

initial rating 1 play 4 players Essen 06

This is a solid offering from Mr. Dorn that I believe has some decent replay built in but as others have mentioned nothing new and nothing particularily interesting stands out here so might stale quickly.

Initial card distribution determines for you which buildings you will be able to place on your turn. On your turn you have the option of man placement, building placement or using one of your 4 flags, flags give you 2 more of your own men from the supply to place on the board later and you have the option to sell your colors for the current market value at this time so you do need to becareful when you use them. Building on top of "camps" give you neutral men which can be used for placment, these won't score you points but will help you to initiate scoring. After finishing a building and scoring you now get to place a tower in the "market" to help influence the future worth of the colors. That about sums it up, fairly simple and elegant but also lacking strategic depth.

Similiar to Australia in the placement of men and multiple scoring opportunites but I think I like that game a little more as it seems more strategic and harder to see the optimal move. It could be the player numbers I have had for each game though, this game might be a little more strategic with only 2 or 3 at the table ergo somewhat better, with 4 it is far more tactical but still good. A nice little screwage factor built-in with the placement of towers which as mentioned is influencing the market. Good pace so no big downtime factor, 60-90 minutes, very little luck, easy to learn but lacking depth and the sitting left of the weak player syndrome is present also. 3 probably optimal but it should scale well. I won't be buying as it is too similiar to Australia for ME to justify both but I will certainly play if invited.
 
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11. Board Game: Kreta [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:895]
Houserule Jay
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This had been on my want list for quite some time and I heard a rumor it might get reprinted in English and actually released in North America however when I seen it in the same booth as Die Saulen I wanted to test drive before the end of Spiel and no doubt buy it. My comments:

Area influence:role selection:hand management

initial rating after one play Essen 06

I like games with card play typically and this one is no exception. Cards are played to decide what actions you will take (building specific pieces, blocking, moving, scoring) and once down you don't get them back until scoring is completed so planning and tactics are important here. When you choose to build each piece you can place they have different levels of influence and you have a very limited supply, most are fixed pieces on the board but some are movable making it quite interesting. AP is limited due to your somewhat limited look ahead as most of the future scoring regions are hidden, this also limits your planning however but it is there and quite necessary, more regions known would drive up the AP so this keeps it playing fast. You have to decide where you will play your "key" pieces in order to optimize scoring as much as possible, this is tricky as if you wait you can lose the good spots but waiting can also pay off. Having the option of choosing when scoring takes place is interesting and it keeps the tension up, the player who initiates this also has a chance to change one of the future scoring regions...nasty.

Lots to like with strategy and tactics in good proportions, also a quick pace and great game length will ensure table time for this game. Waiting to see if this so called runaway leader problem shows up and if so it will be quickly mitigated with a variant of some sort, the most obvious being a limit on when scoring can be chosen. 3 looks like the sweet spot due to space and possibly AP/downtime with 4 but I will be playing with all numbers and update as I bought the game.

My second day purchases were much tamer as I knew about how much room I would have in my luggage and they didn't have a lot more stuff I wanted anyway, the stuff I did want that they actually had was pretty expensive too. Anyway I only picked up these the second day:

 
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12. Board Game: On the Underground [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:646]
Houserule Jay
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Later that evening at the hotel we were going to play another game of Kreta when I decided to ask the table next to us if they would let us join in on their game, I kinda wished we hadn't after about round 2. My comments:

initial rating one play 5 players Essen 2006

Comparisons to TTR are inevitable due to theme and the connection mechanic however game play is entirely different.

PROS:

- An optimization game at heart where you try to build routes that score you short term points but will also net you long term gains by being used over and over again the key to scoring in this game.
- Easy to learn and multiple ways to score.
- Theme was quite good, a very lazy traveller always looking for the most efficient form of travel in London, you want to be the one helping him the most.

CONS:

- First player or 2 to play in the game had an advantage IMHO as they get first choice to build and there only a few 'really good' spots. They should be limited to a 2 piece track placement on their first turn similiar in fashion to TTD with camels.
- AP prone but not in a 'deep' way per se, just pure analysis really so any more than 3 playing makes downtime almost unbearible.
- Almost no planning or strategic thinking possible making the downtime completely useless and boring.
- The passenger mechanic while a great idea comes at the price of fiddliness as you have to count out his best route after every move.
- Punishing but in a bad way, especially if you go last in a 5 player game and don't get built up in the center. Even in other scenerios if you are not in the key center areas then you will be 'trying' to catch up throughout the game more than likely without success. These center tracks keep scoring and once built are not removable locking other players out.

Bottom line I think was the concept was good but after 2 rounds I wished I was playing something better. I 'think' 2 will work okay and probably 3 will be the sweet spot and maybe acceptable for this but I'm speculating. Luck is present but I'm not sure at this point how big a role it plays, I think turn order is the big issue which doesn't change sadly.
 
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13. Board Game: Keythedral [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:429]
Houserule Jay
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Boy oh boy the show sure goes by fast. Now it is Sunday the last day already and there were so many more games I wanted to try and buy plus I still wanted to find Mr. Kramer now that I seen his picture. We never did find Wolfgang but I knew exactly where Mr. Breese was...in the Meeple people booth!!(or rather they were in his booth ). Now that we picked up this gem of a game we headed over there to see if he would sign it for us and he did, and he even gave us the expansion!! Thank you Richard.



We also got to briefly discuss some of the other "key" games, reef encounter and fowl play. I really want to try one of these last 2 but he was very busy so hopefully I will in the near future.

Now that I am in hall 4 again I am thinking I better go take one last look at what slim pickings are left in the used game booths. I did find a few more:



Vinci and Volldampf were kinda hiding under a sign which I think was the main reason they were still there, that is until I spotted them. Lost Valley I actually grabbed on the way out at the very end of the show from a store set-up in the middle of a hall, they were selling it for 20 Euro during the show and I snagged it for 10! I also picked up the new Catan expansion the Great River and resisted the urge to buy Pompei as it should be coming to Canada...must ...not bring ...too much Euro to fair...ahhhhhh!

Well there was a little time left after hall 4 so we ventured over to see if we could try the RAT game...
 
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14. Board Game: Hameln [Average Rating:5.88 Overall Rank:4473]
Houserule Jay
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This game looked and sounded intriguing and we didn't have to wait too long for a table.

My comments:

inital rating 1 play 3 players Essen 06

One of the better and certainly most original themed games I have played of late. I especially liked and hated the fact that when you marry the man has to pay to move into the new house...sheeshh a little too real there but it introduces nice little partnership and screwage aspects. Other cool things; piper coming to clear away rats and he can be influenced, the cat ability which seemed expensive however, and the choice of whether or not to kill off your kids can be interesting and important! The components are top-notch as everyone knows from the pics, I particularly liked the Piper but all of them were outstanding.

How does it play though is the big question asked especially by gamers not so overly concerned with bits. Interesting enough I wasn't entirely sure after one game which is usually not the case and I 'think' a good sign. During the game a few of the choices I made seemed obvious and even forced yet on my turn I wasn't really sure what I should be accomplishing outside of this as it is slightly convoluted. After the game I had a better idea but it wasn't until one of the brothers started discussing the game with me (had he been playing it would have been much different I think) and really touched on some of the finer points that the subtleties and some strategy appeared.

This is one of those games that I think would benefit from having scoring at the end of every round rather than only at the end of the game or maybe a midpoint scoring of some kind. I think it would add some tension and a little strategy as well. Also, I sure don't say this often but ADDING another round would be easy and cool, the game seemed to end just when it got really interesting and you have so little time to accomplish things; also it would still come in at about one hour or maybe less with less players. The fast pace ensures it zips by but maybe with the full compliment of 5 players 3 rounds would be enough though I'm not so sure. 3 players seemd good and 4 should be too and maybe best, 5 might be chaotic and crowded as is often the case.

This definitely needs more play to finalize a rating as before post-game discussions this was going to be a 6, now the potential to move a full point either way is there. This is one of those games that takes 2 or 3 playings before passing judgement so I recommend giving it that chance.

It certainly was nice to discuss the game afterwards with the designers and they really seemed like great guys.
 
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15. Board Game: Midgard [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1357]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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This was the very last game we played in Essen as later that night it would take us most of the night to pack, boy did that ever suck! Anyway this game sure didn't, it turned out to be my favourite from the show. It was a complete fluke how we even knew about it. Saturday when we left the show and were waiting for the train to come I spotted a fellow holding a game so I asked him about it. Turns out he lives 2 streets away from us (holy crap small world eh! If you seen how many people pile out of the show when its over it really is something else we met Eric) it is a final prototype that Z-man is going to publish. That was enough reason to go try it. My comments:

area influence:card drafting:hand management:set collection

initial rating one play 5 players Essen 06

The world is ending and some provinces will be doomed! Quite a surprise that this relatively unknown final prototype was one of the games I enjoyed the most at Essen. We had a chance encounter with the designer on the train after the show and learned that he lived 2 streets away (sheesh small world) and he just finished a new game that sounded cool enough for Z-man to publish. After some brief game desciption we sought out the Z-man booth the next day to play but sadly Eric wasn't there.

This felt like part war and part area control but a little more of the latter and different from other games in the genres. The game consists of 3 rounds and each player starts the game with 6 action cards and chooses one before passing the rest to the left and this continues until no cards are left and everyone has 6 cards. Then play starts by playing a card which involved several things like: invade a territory (move into), place a warrior from the off-board supply, attack and kill one opponent, horde card (major movement into one territory). Then there are the gold cards which kinda act like special power cards used to score a region, destroy a region(major screwage!), take tokens, take new warriors or draw cards. At the end of a round you collect tokens for provinces you were in and score points for provinces controlled in varying levels. At the end of the game you turn in any sets collected for more points. This forces you to spread out on the board in order to score large and I liked this aspect.

I liked the drafting effect as you got to see most of the cards out there and it helped to mitigate the luck somewhat that can be had by being dealt a hand. Still luck can stymie and limit you somewhat as I didn't get a lot of good gold cards in my game and also where the doom tokens come out as that is random, overall I think it was in good proportion though. Some gold cards seemed a little overpowered like destroy a region albeit I see now that we played wrong as all of the gold cards should be revealed, this would of helped to serve as a warning. I'm not sure I liked how turn order was decided, in our game one player held a high gold card and kept going first. The doom mechanism works very well, as your people die off you lose influence for the next round but gain points balancing the effect. I noticed card stock was quite thin but I'm not sure if it will be released that way. One other thing on cards was it seemed you kept seeing the same cards over and over again during the draft however I think that this is mostly necessary to ensure proper play and balance. 5 players was quite good even if a little chaotic, 4 probably ideal and 3 should be good too.

Fast pace, good length (60-90), interesting decisions, excellent scoring, serious screwage, good replay, strategy, great tactics and fun make this a great game.
 
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16. Board Game: End of the Line [Average Rating:6.31 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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That was it, the show was over and it was time to pack up and start the rest of our vacation heading to Barcelona and Venice. The show was an amazing time with some unforgettable memories. Some final thoughts on Essen:

- Do your research and have a plan
- Prepare yourself to accept the terrible cigarette smoke everywhere in Germany, especially the show
- Food wasn't as expensive as we thought, we were eating in the train station on the way back to the hotel for 5 euro each, not the best food but it was cheap and fast, both important at the time.
- I packed empty suitcases full of bubble wrap and the like on the way there so games would have protection on the way home.
- I also brought as little clothes and stuff as possible and 2 big duffle bags inside the suitcase on the way there in case I needed them and to save some hassle dragging around empty luggage everywhere. This turned out quite good in the end and I ended up using the bags(you need one at the show as well), we put cardboard on the sides of one and then ran out of stuffing for the other. This one the games got banged up a little but nothing too serious.
- Weight was a serious issue for me, I did not want to pay Air Canada anymore money as getting raped once was too much already. Anything over 23kg was going to be 35 bucks and I had one or two very heavy bags. We started opening up games and throwing out anything we could to drop weight. I also posted here to see if anyone had any other ideas and a few came up like putting the really heavy things in your carry-on as they usually never weigh it.
- I also had another big problem. We were going to Spain and Italy and not only did I not want to drag 8 bags around it would of cost a fortune on Ryanair. So I resorted to packing all the games into 3 bags and leaving them in the Frankfurt airport 24 hour storage for 3.5 Euro a day per bag, we were gone 6 days so not too bad, 63 Euro spread over 33 games. There was no way around this one unfortunetly.
- After the trip I ended up unpacking everything in the Frankfurt Airport and repacking all the games into 4 somewhat lighter bags from the 3 they were in. This was a major pain too but in the end I just came in under weight and won my battle of the bags not paying Air Canada another red cent.
- Certainly hard shell suitcases would be best and try to avoid bags, I kinda needed them.
- And now one final Essen pic, my pride and joy and a huge pain in the ass:



My goal was to have a stack taller than me and I just succeeded buying 33 games including 2 expansions. It all worked out quite well and I'm very happy to have them all home now safe and sound but I sure am glad I was prepared.

I think that covers most of Essen. A fabulous experience that I can hopefully repeat someday.

Now onto the rest of the Journey, far less writing and a few more pictures. You won't believe what we payed to fly around Europe....
 
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17. Board Game: Agora Barcelona [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:6705]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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To start we payed 1 Euro each to fly from Frankfurt Germany to Barcelona Spain. That is not a typo, 1 Euro. With taxes a whopping 40 Euro (60 Canadian) for both of us, unreal. Vicky was scared it was a scam or something and our trip would be ruined. I was scared they would cancel one of our flights, charge us extra baggage, lose our baggage etc etc. At first I really didn't believe it possible but thanks to the GEEK I posted and got some great advice.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1034350#1034350

Everything said there was exactly true thank you to all who posted. You do fly to Airports about an hour away from the main city which costs you a bit of time, money and extra planning, you do get herded onto the plane like cattle and the customer service was not the best. However all 3 of our flights were on time with no problems, well almost. Before our very first flight while we were waiting in line wondering just how this was going to go down, a gentlemen came over to inform everyone that no checked baggage would be allowed!!! The Girona (Barcelona) luggage handling workers were on strike. Crikey! They told me pray you don't have problems and now I haven't even got on the plane and WHAM! I asked him what the hell I am supposed to do with my bags, "you might have to catch the plane tomorrow instead". Ah no. This can't be happening, shit damn it why didn't we take Easyjet...Ahhh!

Well it worked out with a little creative thinking but it sure made for tense moments. We ending up leaving our 2 check-in bags with a kind lady at the store. After getting our boarding pass we went to retreive the bags and continued to security. Turns out lots of people were bringing 2 carry-on bags onto the plane when Ryanair specifically says you can only have one and they charge you for checking one in $3.50 Euro which I actually paid. Well I felt a little better but I was still worried they might say something when we boarded, nope all was well again.

So from Frankfurt we had to catch an Omnibus to Hahn Airport 90 minutes away, it ran every hour or so and we had the damnest time trying to figure out where to catch it and we couldn't afford to miss more than 1. We found it just as the bus pulled up, the gods were smiling on us. Once at Girona, I had rented a car through Ryanair for $59 Euro for 3 days and $30 more was airport tax for a total of $89 Euro, unlimited mileage, shit the little putt putt even had air, what a nice surprise as we endend up using it. So we drove to the hotel(with the help of maps I printed out) which was in Canet de Mar 30 minutes from Barcelona (also booked with Ryanair {3 nights for 125 Euro}) and got in around midnight Monday, long day. We did have trouble finding the right street as there were no signs! Well we learned later the signs are on the wall of the buildings next to the street...doh! Really helpful around midnight let me tell you.
 
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18. Board Game: Hit the Beach [Average Rating:5.12 Overall Rank:10218]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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This was the view from our Hotel/Hostel. As you can see parking was an issue and we did worry someone could sideswipe the car...boy that would of been bad but it didn't happan thankfully.





The beaches were beautiful, the coast was beach after beach after beach. The weather was awesome for the end of October, we went swimming at 2 of the beaches, about 26 degrees both days.
 
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19. Board Game: On Tour [Average Rating:5.25 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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We got some good advice from the owner of the Hostel. Take the train into Barcelona, 2.50 Euro each and 30 minutes. He then told us which stop to get off to find a tour bus called "Barcelona tours". This was a great idea rather than driving, parking, fighting traffic. They knew all the best spots already and it was 23 Euro each for 2 days. You were allowed to get off any stop you wanted (about 23) and get back on another bus, that was great, they ran every 10 - 15 minutes and the whole route non-stop was about 2 hours.



Before we actually got on the bus we took a walk along one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, I believe called La Ramblas.



It is packed day and night, weeknight and weekend full of people. Some interesting sights can be seen like:



Proving once again that some people will do anything for money.
 
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20. Board Game: eMemo Art & Architecture [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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The tour was stunning building after stunning building, details galore on all and lots with little statues on them, a lot of them by a famous architect named Gaudi. My pictures won't do the experience any justice but I'll show some anyway.



This was a very cool looking church way up on a hill, probably Gaudi's work. If you look closely you can see a ferris wheel in front of the church, sadly you could only go up there on the weekend.





This last building/church is one of the most famous and was absolutely amazing. I felt as though I was in the presence of one of the great wonders of the world. It is called "La Sagrada Familia" and sadly Gaudi died before finishing it. My pictures definitely don't do this structure justice but here is a close up of the detail in just one little spot on the exterior wall.



Just imagine that the whole building is made up from this kind of sculpting and you can see how astounding it realy was and how long it must of took to build it.


This last one is one of the buildings near the waterfront at night.



Barcelona and surronding area was beautiful and I can't wait to go back. You need 2 FULL days for that tour, we missed a ton of it but I just can't stay away from the beach if its hot. Next it was time to pack up and head to Venice. The night before leaving we tried the one game we brought (that was dumb only bringing one but room was very limited due to how everything was packed) Druid Walzer. This did not take with us and it is up for trade in my profile.
 
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21. Board Game: Venice Connection [Average Rating:5.38 Overall Rank:9723]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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We flew to Venice for 20 Euro each, total for both with taxes and all fees 80 Euro or 120 Canadian. We also stayed at another hotel booked through ryan air in treviso where the airport was for 90 Euro for two nights. It was nicer than the Spain one but in a very inconvenient location but I knew that from a forum I found. It still all worked out good even though the buses run like once an hour which was terrible. Venice was the most expensive place by far that we went to. Supper was around 35 Euro both nights however we treated ourselves to a nice restaraunt here.

Once we got to the island which was very interesting, [we took a train right over a large body of water (kinda freaky as there was water on both sides)], we were heading for the Piazza San Marco by Sea-bus where most of the main attractions are.





We didn't have the same luck with the weather here, it was warm enough like 23 but really foggy and cloudy the whole day.



This was a beautiful detailed building and part of a bigger building on the right side of it called Palazzo Ducale, a very important building with all kinds of incredible things to see inside. It cost 25 Euro each to get in and more if you went with a guide. What I didn't know was that for 5 Euro you could get a speakerphone type apparatus that navigated you through the whole thing.





This was a castle/palace of some kind and war was apparently fought here. There was a huge prison in the basement which you tour, a big armorery, and stunning paintings everywhere including the ceiling with most things trimmed in gold. We foolishly ate a 'snack' here, an expresso, cappacino and one piece of pizza for 14 Euro...ouch! Italy likes 2's I think, they have 2 courses in their meals and 2 prices in the cafes, a table price and bar price. I noticed this so I ordered from the bar, the kind gentlemen with very little english asked me to sit at the table and he will bring it, we paid the table price.

After this we wanted to go to the famous Rialto Bridge, the biggest bridge to span the main canal.


We had a very nice supper just under the bridge and then it was time for the ultimate taste of romance....



Yes the overly expensive but utlra romantic gondola ride. Prices were 80 for a short ride and 100 for a longer (an hour) more complete one, Euro that is. Oh boy I am in the wrong business...Crikey! We endend up taking a short ride for 70 Euro and it was very nice and romantic, especially at night, except the smell. Also, our friendly Gondola driver answered his cell phone, twice! We were laughing but really, for 70 Euro shut the son of a B&*&* off, paleeease.

Well that was Venice, short and sweet. We bought a few souvenirs before leaving the Island and then off to the hotel. The next day we started the VERY LONG journey back to Canada. This next flight cost us a whopping 30 Euro each, total of about 120 Euro for both. This was the one I was most worried about as if there was any problem and we didn't eventually get back to Munich, we would be out big time on Air Canada and have to buy another even more ridicously expensive last minute flight no doubt. Luckily everything went off without a hitch.
 
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22. Board Game: Flight Path [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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In the end we travelled around Europe with a big folder full of downloaded maps, links, phone numbers, flight numbers, hotel vouchers and the like. Some of the costs all in Candian funds:

Ryan Air $350.00 total for both - It cost me exactly that for just me to fly Toronto to Winnipeg return
Essen Hotel $300.00
Car & gas $150.00
Other Hotels $330.00
Train $460.00
Fair admin $75.00
Food & Misc $500.00
Transportation$150.00
Air canada $1100.00 !!
------------------------
total $3,400.00 + games($600.00) = $4000.00 for 10 days of bliss in Europe.

My plane to Munich and first 4 days before the 10 were company paid which helped a lot.

Finally, one last pic, the people that made a good portion of this trip possible....



We salute you Ryan Air and thank you too!

Overall we had a phenomenally good trip and everything worked out perfectly thanks to very time consuming and careful planning that in the end was well worth it. We can't wait to play some of the new games we brought home so we need to go now!

Thanks for looking everyone, we hope you enjoyed the report. Happy gaming!
 
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