$10.00
Space Butler's seventh trip to Essen
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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It's been seven years since I discovered my love for boardgaming and started to make my annual pilgrimage to Essen, but this is the first time I actually put my thoughts of the fair down in written form (mainly because some good friends asked me to).
What you will find here are some personal thoughts about new games presented at Essen 09, and a listing of the purchases I made. All in all I think 2009 was a good, but not spectacular year. I've seen some very solid designs and interesting themes, but no game in particular that was so outstanding I bought it without a second thought. I mainly focus on small publishers, and you won't find any news on the following games here:

-Dungeon Lords
-Shipyard
-Stronghold
-Colonia
-Vasco da Gama
-Macao

The reason for this is quite simple: All of them will be available at my local gamestore next week, where I can test them in depth and buy a copy of the ones I like, so I had no reason to check them out at Essen (and in case of some games fight for a table place). I also read the rules of all said titles beforehand and none of them impressed me as much as I hoped, but time will tell.
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1. Board Game: 7 [Average Rating:5.22 Overall Rank:10239]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Explained

For the low price the box is full of components, unfortunatly the card quality isn't the best (I strongly recommend sleeves) and the rendered artwork certainly is a matter of taste. Apart from the physical aspects the game was unexpectedly complex, with different paths to victory and a lot of available options. I especially liked the sin card mechanic, where you exchange short-term benefits for long-term hindrances in form of the increasing chance of catastrophes. I can't really judge the game after the short Essen playthrough and I'm eager to play it a second time to see if the complexity and long playtime won't kill the fun (normally I like my fantasy games fast and furious).
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2. Board Game: Arrondissement [Average Rating:6.95 Unranked]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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The game felt very dry and the components were sub-par even for my forgiving taste. There's nothing wrong here mechanically (blind bidding, area influence, majority scoring), but the theme is definatly not my cup of tea (no offence to France though).
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3. Board Game: Bunny Bunny Moose Moose [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:2492]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Explained

Vlaada Chvátil has a knack for creating interesting and creative new games, and this is one of them. A very funny social game with top notch components at a bargain price. If you have no problem making a fool of yourself in front of other people you will have a blast. Unfortunatly my bags were packed up to the limit, so I will snatch a copy later on.
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4. Board Game: Caligula [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:4220]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

An intriguing (in the sense of the word) cardgame combining action selection with card manipulation. I like the fact that players will change factions constantly during the game and either try to assasinate the current emperor or defend him, depending which gives them the most personal benefit. As a three player game this aspect didn't really shine though and it was more a matter of placing your action markers smartly. I guess with more players the backstabbing and forming of alliances will give it a completely different twist. I will play it again for sure.
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5. Board Game: Carson City [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:230]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Bought (30 €)

This was my yearly "Game I buy without knowing anything about it" purchase, simply because a friend at the booth described it as a Caylus variant, but with guns.
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6. Board Game: Caterpillar: Age of Tank [Average Rating:5.92 Unranked]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

Ok, the theme was pretty wonky and the minimalistic graphic presentation remembered of oldschool Wallace games, but Caterpillar is actually quite good.
The objective is to pick up and deliver cubes with you little tank and attack other players to steal their cargo. What makes this game interesting is the action selection mechanic. You have six action cards available, and spend money to flip the cards, revealing different actions. This favors clever planning by spending the least money to get all your stuff done without slowing down too much. In my opinion if this game had a colorful map, a little revamped theme and nice plastic tanks (to fit more target groups) it would've been a candidate for a top game.
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7. Board Game: The Circle [Average Rating:5.84 Overall Rank:6468]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Gift

Got this one as a gift on Sunday from a gaming buddy who couldn't stand seeing an in his opinion great game goin for only 5 €. I must admit it also went under my radar and I never heard of it before, but now I'm eager to try it. At least the theme already looks promising.
 
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8. Board Game: The Eagle and The Star [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:2899]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Explained

Unfortunately the fellas at Gry Leronardo had some printer problems, and only a sorta-ready demo copy at their booth.
The game looks intriguing with an interesting theme (1920 Russo-Polish war). It combines a multi-purpose card driven system with the fog of war and step elements of a blockgame. Combat is diceless (combine strengthpoints, add an optional card, look up the CRT, apply step losses), simple and not time consuming, which is a good thing since there are lots of blocks on the map (not as much as in Eastfront, but certainly more than your average Columbia title).
The cardboard map ist huge and nicely illustrated, as are the cards. The price is very accepatble for a small publisher wargame of this size, but I fear it will be hard to obtain a copy for a reasonable shipping rate here. I'm still going to get this game somehow.
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9. Board Game: Fire Bulls [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:7333]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

This was the first game we tried at the Swan Panasia booth, although it was not my favourite of their lineup. While the artwork on the cards is superb and the theme very fresh (you actually play flaming bulls wrecking through the lines of an enemy army), there wasn't really a feeling of tension coming up. Espcecially in mid-game there were periods we just drafted card after card to get a fitting color combination, not very exciting.

On a sidenote the staff at Panasia were some of the nicest guys I met at Essen. They were friendly, always ready to answer rules questions no matter how stupid and you could negotiate a pretty nice discount when buying games in a bulk.
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10. Board Game: Fuzzy Tiger [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:6754]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played & Bought (18 €)

My favourite Panasia game. Tom Vassel already made a nice review of this game on Youtube and I pretty much agree with it completely. I hope some of their games will find a publisher outside of Asia someday.
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11. Board Game: Fzzzt! [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2021]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

I love Confucius, so I always pay a visit to the Surprised Stare Games booth. The guys of SSG are always so friendly and helpful, its nice to just say hello and have a little chitchat with them. Their newest game uses blind bidding to collect robots and salvage parts for schematics who earn you victory points. Since you use the robot cards both as currency and for generating VPs it gives the game a nice twist.
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12. Board Game: God's Playground [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:801]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Explained

One of the worst explanations I had during the show (I can understand if game explainers get grunty and reluctant to do their job on Sunday evening, but on Thursday noon !?).
As others have mentioned it really felt a little like Republic of Rome light, but the Treefrog price increase from 35 to 40 € and the narrow target group (very involved, 3 player only, long) makes me think twice if I want to pick this one up.
 
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13. Board Game: Guardians [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:3871]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Gift

The second gift I recieved at Essen. A gaming buddy picked up a starter for me and wants to teach me the rules in the near future. I actually never heard of this TCG, but according to the guys it is an overlooked treasure. I'm looking forward to give it a try.
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14. Board Game: Havana [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:638]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

I'd never expected it, but Havana fell totally flat for me. It's your typical "select action, get stuff, turn in for VPs" cardgame, but with so many random aspects (turn order, rescource bag, building tiles) that actual planning seemed to be impossible with 4 players. I have no reason to try it again when I can actually play San Juan or Race for the Galaxy instead.
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15. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:145]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Bought (8 €)

Clearance sale because the box was damaged.
 
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16. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:80]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Bought (20 €)

Part of the Heidelberger blowout sale. I watched a round of Imperial 2030 and the changes didn't really convince me, so I picked up a bargain copy of the original. At least I already know I like this one.
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17. Board Game: Kingpin [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:4499]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

An abstract tile placement and area control game with a gangster theme tucked on, at least that was exactly my first thought after playing it. It's ok for a quick filler game, but I already own several and the pricetag made me skip it.
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18. Board Game: Longships [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:7071]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played & Bought (30 €)

This was kind of a surprise hit for me. The game went completely under my radar, but luckily one of my buddies pointed this swedish design out to me. For what at first looks like an abstract cube deliverer, this game is suprisingly thematic. You trade goods or just pillage them (but angering the inhabitants in the process, loosing a safe haven to repair your ships), increase the size of your fleet, attack enemy ships to steal their cargo and sacrifice goods to the norse gods and recieve bonus cards for doing so. Said cards help you manipulate the winds, enhance your combat capabilites and prosper the surrounding countries (thus making them a tasty target for trade or pillage).

Although I got pretty trashed during the game I immediatly bought one of the 100 hand assembled copies available. I'm pondering to order some pewter longships and pimp it out a little.
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19. Board Game: Luna Llena: Full Moon [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:3456]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played & Bought (35 €)

I have a knack for the theme and really like the artwork of the game. The component quality is only average (very tiny chits who will be replaced by dice quickly), and the english rules are a bit unclear at times. Otherwise my first impression was very good, and I'm eager to play again.
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20. Board Game: Nostra City [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:2871]
 
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

Blind bidding game with a nicely fitted gangster theme and a serious take that effect. While I liked the overall concept, I found the vendetta cards too annoying and chaotic especially during endgame when everyone gets minus points whacked in their faces. There's also the possibility of a hidden traitor, so screwing up on bidding can actually be benefitial later in the game
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21. Board Game: Opera [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1482]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played

The theme is interesting, but the game felt long and a little on the dry side. I will definatly give it a second chance to see if it could fill a niche in my collection, but at the moment I doubt it.
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22. Board Game: Savannah Tails [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:2548]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Explained

Felt like a simplified verion of Snow Tails. I already think Snow Tails is quite simple (and good), so I passed on this one.
Maybe a better choice to play with kids though.
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23. Board Game: The Spoils [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:1957]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Played & Bought (15 €)

A nice Magic variant with top-notch and very macabre artwork. Sold at a crazy bargain price (picked up a 2-Player starter and all 5 Precons for an additional discount).
 
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24. Board Game: SPQR (Deluxe Edition) [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:793]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Bought (35 €)

It's been awhile since I last played SPQR, but with that pricetag for the whole deluxe package, I couldn't resist.
 
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25. Board Game: Tokyo Train [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2143]
Nils R.
Germany
Aachen
Nordrhein Westfalen
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Explained & Bought (8 €)

Hilarious party game that plays best with 8 people when everyone is waving his arms around and shouting pseudo-japanese gibberish at each other. The artwork is cute and the added metal box a great bonus given how cheap this game is.
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