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Essen Spiel! A few dozen two line game reviews.
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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This year, Lisa and I finally made it to Essen Spiel. I posted a long vacation geeklist with much more detail than anyone but Lisa and I are likely to want about the trip. This one will be different. This is just a capsule review of every game we played.

Hopefully these all make senses - our thoughts were typed up on my iPod, usually while stopped at a train station, since most other times we were too busy doing interesting things.
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1. Board Game: A Fistful of Penguins [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:2532]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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The first game we demoed at Essen!

B: excellent silly dice game with a good variety of combos to try for. The penguins letting you add or reroll dice gives lots of control.

L: cute light die rolling game with very little player interaction.

Verdict: Bought right away and have been enjoying a lot as a filler. thumbsup thumbsup
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2. Board Game: TSCHAK! [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2035]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We wanted to try Takenoko at the Asmodee booth, but it was all full, so we demoed this light card game.

B: amusing filler, but not really a lot to do or a lot of control.

L: didn't thrill me. Passing the hands in theory should mean the hands balance out, but if you happen to get the good hand with the good tiles... Would play it again, but not suggest it. Might be better with more players.

Verdict: Not going to buy, but would play.
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3. Board Game: Space Mission [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:3719]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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It was easy to get a game to try at the Hans im Glück booth, but much harder to find a table to play it on! We finally managed to squeeze in on one, and Lisa read the rules for Space Mission and taught myself and another player (who was happy to find someone who could teach in English )

B: fast paced set collecting. Simple mechanics, but it feels very fresh. Love the art/graphics.

L: very fun, fairly simple space exploration game. Can be frustrating if the cards don't come up well.

Verdict: Bought. One of our favorite Essen games. thumbsup thumbsup
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4. Board Game: Hawaii [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:341]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Since we had the table, we tried this. This time one of the staff there taught us, though she had to struggle with some of the English terms a little.

L: I really liked it at first, but thinking back on it there didn't feel like you had enough time to build things; there was no sense of accomplishment.

B: ohhhh, so few resources and so many options. I wasn't prepared for the dwindling resources. Need to play it again, but I liked it.

Verdict: Hmm. I think we need to play this again. thumbsup (for now)
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5. Board Game: Takenoko [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:162]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Back to the Asmodee booth for this cute game of growing bamboo and feeding a panda.

L: cute pieces. Very random with what goals you got and the die roll. Simple mechanics. Once the bamboo is grown, seems easy to draw already complete gardener goals. Need to play again, but the components are so cute it will be hard to resist buying.

B:adorable. Loved the components. Very fun trying to juggle multiple goals.

Verdict: We'll buy this as soon as its available. thumbsup thumbsup
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6. Board Game: Regatta [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:4583]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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This was set up on a table near the Asmodee booth, and I picked it up while we wondered what to do. It looked easy (its a kids game) so we gave it a quick play.

L: the boats needed flat bottoms so they didn't tip over. Basically Wings of War with a common deck and racing instead of fighting. Fine, but not one I'd buy.

B: cute kids racing game. Boats tipped over and slid a lot.

Verdict: Can't really fairly judge a kid's game.
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7. Board Game: Meltdown 2020 [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:4807]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We finished the first day at the Cwali booth with a little fun escaping imminent nuclear meltdown.

L: not visually inspiring, and there weren't many choices. Just shuffle the pieces around; it didn't feel like I was making big meaningful decisions.

B: disappointing for a Cwali. Not bad, but there just wasn't much to it. Felt like we had too much time; but that may have just been the die rolls. Or perhaps you are supposed to be less willing to abandon people in serious danger.

Verdict: would play again, but not one we'll get.
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8. Board Game: Ocean Limbo [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:5030]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Finished one day with Cwali and started the next with Cwali. This is a cute dexterity game where you slide pieces into the "trash" and try not to stack it up too high.

L: cute little dexterity 'fits' game, but I don't think it would have a ton of replayability.

B: fun and tricky, but I just don't see playing it much.

Verict: Cute, but just didn't seem like something we'd play enough to be worth getting. thumbsup
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9. Board Game: Die Brücke am Rio D'Oro [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:8477]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We got to play this on the full size giant version at the Spiel. With a real bridge (well, sort of)

L: very fun on the big life sized bridge. Interesting little roll and move game with some choices to be made, but not a whole lot.

B: bit of pushing your luck, bit of roll and move. Picking which die to roll gives you a bit of choice. Probably a good family game. Loved playing the big version!

Verdict: Not one we'd buy, but it seems like a good family game. thumbsup
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10. Board Game: Dungeon Fighter [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:625]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We played this dexterity dice-tossing co-op with three other players. Our teacher, unfortunately, couldn't stick around much after her initial explanation, so we were winging a lot of details. We perished on level 2, defeated by a black knight. At least we got past the dirty pig that beat the heck out of us in the first room

L: very amusing and fun, though we really sucked at throwing from a step away which bogged down the early game. I think the amusement would only last a few plays. Maybe good that it wasn't out in English, since I'm not sure how long it would stay amusing.

B: funny and fun. I suspect we got a lot wrong. I really want to play again, but I doubt it will have much re-playability.

Verdict: want to play this again, but I'm not sure we'd buy it. We probably would have bought it right after playing if they'd had it in English . thumbsup
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11. Board Game: Wiraqocha [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:2106]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We had to wait a bit to demo this one. You can pursue three different paths to victory, but it all seemed a bit awkward. I had holed up in defensive spots and was mining somnium (some odd mineral key to victory). This had me ready to win fast, which meant the players following me wound up having to burn tons of resources and waste high die rolls to stop me. They couldn't afford to pass the opportunity, since it was all so die based. Lisa snuck in to grab enough relics to win.

L: Need to keep a close eye on the other players to stop them. Also needed to do things you didn't want to to stop other players, which I really don't like.

B: felt like a valiant but unsuccessful try at combining Nexus Ops and Alien Frontiers. Die rolls dictated choices too much, and conflict was mutually destructive. Liked the concept, but the gameplay fell flat.

Verdict: didn't like this one. It felt like it had good ideas, but the gameplay seemed off. Would maybe be willing to try it again. thumbsdown
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12. Board Game: Teneriffa [Average Rating:6.10 Unranked]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Wow, this doesn't even have images yet! We sat down at an out of the way table to demo this small publisher game of merchants and building.

L: Not much to it. Obnoxious that you couldn't protect yourself from the following person thieving if the next person got in the way. Repetitive Not a horrible game, but nothing different or interesting to it.

B: Eh...not bad, but just not "grabbing". Different ways to score all wound up about the same.

Verdict: Not our kind of game. thumbsdown
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13. Board Game: Pictomania [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:649]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We'd already bought CGE's other new games without trying them, and we hopped into a demo of this, which is a very amusing and challenging party drawing game. We only played a few rounds, but that was enough to hook us.

L: wow, I'm a lousy drawer! Fun little pictionaryish game with good scoring mechanics. But you have to draw hard stuff!

B: only Chvatil could put a scoring system this good on a party game this silly and fun.

Verdict: Bought it. Have brought it to two game nights, and its gotten repeat plays at each of them. thumbsup thumbsup
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14. Board Game: Sewer Pirats [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1633]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We saw a demo of this finishing up, and the figures were so cute we just had to jump into the next game. Lisa managed to be first player by going "Arrr..." longest. She's very determined

L: I liked the different abilities of the different figures.

B: I admit it, the minis suckered me in. It's a good mix of set collecting and fighting for position, and the different animal's powers give you a variety of options.

Verdict: bought it. Despite discovering our copy didn't have rules, we've been enjoying it a lot. We're not too sure about the 'drafting' variant though. thumbsup thumbsup
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15. Board Game: Logan Stones [Average Rating:5.77 Overall Rank:6913]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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In the evening, we had about half an hour to kill some we tried a quick little game of flipping stones over and trying to make patterns of rock-paper-scissors.

L: Kind of an interesting twist on a memory game, but not to my taste.

B: fine for what it is, but not my kind of game at all.

Verdict: Not our thing
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16. Board Game: Square Up! [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:5887]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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This one we spotted sitting on a table and figured out how to play based on, well...how it looked. Lisa clobbered me two games in a row. Not surprisingly - she's the puzzle person

L: very quick puzzle game. Amusing, but not much 'game' value to it.

B: for a puzzle solving race, it's well done.

Verdict: hmmm...meh? Not sure what to say. Its trying to solve a sliding puzzle faster than the other person
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17. Board Game: Lamborghini: The Official Race Game [Average Rating:5.31 Overall Rank:8868]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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I'd wanted to try this, since its supposed to be a racing game with an economic element. Strangely, they taught it without that part. I won the race. Poor Lisa picked a driver that balanced speed and handling, but handling was almost useless.

L: didn't get to play with the economic part, but even if it was spectacular, the racing part wasn't very exciting.

B: draw a card and move. Want to win? Draw high cards. Lots of abilities to draft that made very little practical difference. Economic part didn't seem like it would add much. Might be good as a light family game but...eh, play Formula D with the basic rules for an easy race game.

Verdict: possibly the worst game we played at the Spiel. Which honestly isn't much of a condemnation; most of the games were good. Still, not one we'd bother with. thumbsdown thumbsdown
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18. Board Game: Interstellar Mayhem [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:5566]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We noticed this cool looking spaceship game and couldn't resist trying it. A fast dog-fighting game. Very light.

L: Fun space dogfighting game.

B: I look forward to blowing Tim at Denver Games up at it Good silly fast action space fight; I like how the dice track everything.

Verdict: We bought it...but maybe shouldn't have bothered. Ah well. The board is really neat at least
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19. Board Game: Helvetia [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:628]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Since Kosmos games often don't make it to the US, I really wanted to try this game about building a Swiss village and marrying into other player's family for various advantages. The Kosmos booth was packed; we wound up playing 2 player sitting tucked in a corner on the floor.

L: It was interesting how when you build a resource building, other players can take advantage of it.

B: delightful brain burner that moves fast and offers lots of choices. Interesting interactions with inter-marrying. Look forward to playing with more than 2.

Verdict: Bought it. Very cool. Can be a bit nasty! thumbsup thumbsup
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20. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:329]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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This was one of the big releases, so it had a lot of tables and we were able to get into a game near the end of Saturday. The demoer needed to find English and German cards so we could know what the score conditions were and the German kid playing with us could as well (his father spoke both German and English and helped translate everything).

Lisa clobbered us, with almost twice the score of anyone else. I couldn't do much - I kept drawing the same terrain all game.

L: with only one card, there's not many choices to be made each turn. Not a lot to it.

B: I can see this being popular as a family game, but aside from the varying scoring conditions I just didn't think there was much to it; where you could place was much too luck driven.

Verdict: Might be ok as a filler, but overall we just go for it. thumbsdown
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21. Board Game: Dive! Diver! Die! [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:5268]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We went to the Spiel Sunday morning mostly to play MMM (below). While we waited for more players, they taught us this quick push your luck game. We just played one round. Lisa was a bit greedy, and didn't quite make it back - though with a little more luck she'd have beaten us.

L: fun little push your luck game; very random depending on the die rolls.

B: decent push your luck game. Seemed very random; most of the fun was rooting for the rolls you wanted.

Verdict: probably wouldn't bother buying it, but would be happy to play it again.
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22. Board Game: Murder! Mystery! Mastermind! [Average Rating:6.76 Unranked]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We're fans of deduction games, but so far haven't found many we liked, so we were really looking forward to this one.

However...

L: interesting twist on a deduction game, but the 'betting' on the trial made it feel very random. The games wasn't long enough to actually figure things out, just to make good odds. I prefer my deduction games to focus on the deduction and actually figuring things out.

B: Like the concept, but it just didn't click; there wasn't enough deduction. Physical design caused problems; had to keep holding up your metal sheet, and you couldn't see the rules reference on the other side. I wanted more notes than were manageable with the magnetic tokens; good old paper and pencil would have worked better.

Verdict: disappointing. Maybe with some house rules and sheets of paper instead of the metal pads, but not one we'd get. thumbsdown
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23. Board Game: Dungeon Petz [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:88]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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We bought this at the Spiel, but didn't actually get to try it until we got home. More Chvatil goodnes, this time with raising little monsters in a very tricky balancing act of resources.

L: Very cute and light and fluffy! Except where its painful and agonizing with hard decisions.

B: Evil, evil. But very fun. A bit simpler than Dungeon Lords, but still a lot going on.

Verdict: Awesome nastiness. thumbsup thumbsup
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24. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:234]
Brian Modreski
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Another one we bought but didn't play right until we got home. We didn't know much about this, but it was a good surprise.

L: Quick, simple, elegant, yet it has a lot of decisions and depth.

B: Simple, but with a lot of possible strategies. Its surprising how different it plays with different starting money values.

Verdict: This has been quite addictive, and is probably our favorite game of the Spiel! thumbsup thumbsup
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