Monday, 24 October 2016

Gaming at the Spiel!

Here is Will's Essen report:

First up the image dump then Will'\s report!

I arrived at midday Friday and met rob by the Iello stand. Rob took me round the halls. two observation. Firstly Essen got a lot bigger and now has two hals full of the ‘lesser’ games companies and people building hype around their kickstarter. Secondly Essen got busier. Rob tells me it was even more busy on the Thursday but even though it was bigger the place was rammed. Having had a good look around we kicked off Essen 2016 with a game of...

Game 1: Alien Vs Predator (Friday)
Rob had had the game sitting in a box for a while and the board was free so we thought now was the time to learn to play. I took the predators, rob the aliens and the prodos guy took the marines. Rob’s hordes filled the board but were outfoxed by a closed door which gave my predators just enough time to brutalise the marines and Rob’s delaying force to get some trophies. Rob’s massive force eventually smashed through the door and collected up some unwilling victims but i managed to sneak off the board with one wounded predator and his trophies. He would tell great tales of his two fallen buddies. Having played it it thought it was fantastic. i really like the asymmetry in the game where the marines are really squishy but not a great threat so pred and alien tend to attack each other. i was very close to buying a pred faction but you can’t play it without the boards so decided to encourage rob to dust off his game. 

Game 2: Jorvik
It was nearing the end of the day and rob was in a long queue at iello to get his copy of their new drawing games signed by everyone involved in it. I wondered off and saw a table free of Jorvik. This is a reworking of a game about german merchants. sound terrible i know and suspiciously Euro. However with a viking skin over it i found it highly entertaining and tactical. You play through a year (4 seasons) where you essential bid for cards which give you abilities and ships with good to convert into points. My critique of these games in normally that the theme seems think to no existent (hello keyflower) or are not as interactive as i would like (race for the galaxy) but this had it all. you can choose to bid on things to just raise their price but there is an opportunity cost for doing so. there are also two different methods of bidding on different bits of the board. Well i loved it and it is named after where i come from so i had to buy it. After this i met up with Rob again who had a lovely painted game lid and we went off for some disappointing Chinese.

Game 3:Raptor (Saturday)
In an attempt to get a game of Inis we rushed to the booth but had to settle for Raptor. Another asymmetrical game with one player being the hunters and the other the raptors. the hunters are looking to sedate and steal the raptor babies and the raptor mother is trying to kill the hunters and rescue the babies. Rob plumped for the raptors. the game uses a very interesting action system similar to mission red planet where each player has a 9 card deck with a special action and a number. both player play one card and the person with the lowest number gets the special action first and the others  gets actions based not he difference in the numbers second. The game was great as sometimes you wanted actions and other times the action but then you had to guess what the opponent would do so you could do what you wanted to do without giving the opponent too much ground. There was another tension about when to play your reshuffle card to replenish you 9 card deck. rob started well eating a few of my hunters but i used my special actions to set fire to the board to cut off the last baby dino i needed got away with my prized specimens. Really enjoyed the asymmetry and card mechanic. the downside is it isn’t scalable to more players. i would very happily play it anytime but if i was offered another 2 player game like dark age or kings of war i would rather play that. On the other hand i keep thinking i would like to play it s may pick up next year.

Game 4: Toast
In this game you are a courteer with a special power trying to kill one of your rivals and stay alive yourself. you kill them through adding poison, wine and antidote tokens to your cups and your opponent/s. there are a variety of actions like switching cups and looking in your own cup and putting one of your tokens in a cup. Once someone is out of tokens you ‘drink’ and tip your cup over. if you have more poison that antidote you are dead and you score. We played our first game one on one which was fine but a complete crap shoot. Having said that I won. For our second game we had two swedes come along to play with us. Rob had a character with an ultimate poison that there was no cure for and i took great delight in the last action of the round switching my cup with one of the swedes killing my target with the ultimate poison. Dave got this so didn’t think the groups needed another copy. great party game. makes you feel like there is some control but ultimately about causing as much mayhem as possible or bluffing you are.

Game 5: Orc Quest
This was a prototype card game by a French game studio. each player takes the role of an Ork hero who are marauding around looking for encounters (fight, hunt or trap) in the deck or their hand to win glory and the other players do the same in turn. the other players have instants  to screw other players attempts as well as loot cards they are trying not to play out in their hand to give the chance to others to steal them before scoring at the end. Some loot though had an ignore effect but meant you couldn’t score it which added an interesting tension in decision making i.e. if i play this mirror to swap hand with my opponent i won’t get the 4VPs at the end so is it worth it. The difficulty level was represented by 3 different colours of dice you would roll to get the required score. The missions are hard and i found a good tactic was to accept a very hard mission then us an instant to get one of the others to attempt the mission instead of me which they would fail and take a chunks of damage. While it wasn’t a completed game and there were a few kinks it had just the right amount of screw your neighbour in it without feeling like everything you did was pointless as you would just get dispelled as soon as you chanced your arm. I scraped a win by remaining alive and having killed a peasant, not very heroic but there you go. One of the things the guy showing us the game agreed was that they would need to make the peasant easier to kill. Will be looking out for it on kickstarter.

Game 6: Children’s Hiking Game
I don’t actually know what the proper name for this one was but it looked cool. there was a vertical mountain board and you had to climb it with your mountaineers (2 of connected by a rope) to take photos of yetis. our enjoyment of it was hampered by there being no one to show us the game and no english rules explanations. we tried t play it the way others were by rolling a special dice but it just constantly cause avalanches which sent out hikers back to the bottom again and some turns went on and on as neither rob or I could roll a hiker move result so the other rolls were moot. Maybe it was an excellent game if you could read the rules, and the execution looked great, but if it played anything like we played it it was not a classic.

Game 7: Banana Bandits (Sunday)
We had walked past this game a few times and it was free Sunday morning so we hoped on for a 3 player game with the demonstrator. The board was a 3d tower block and we were members of a monkey gang trying to get elected leader by punching each other and collecting the coins that dropped from the monkeys you punched and exchanging them for a banana chip at the top of the building. There were the requisite power-up/screw your neighbour cards as well. the game play was fine but i found that it was quite difficult to get away from anyone to stop yourself being smashed and dropping coins. there wireman areas of the board whhere you were the required 3 spaces away so the tactics seems to be all about punching your opponent one way and scampering the other and hoping they went after the other player so you could scamper back and pick up coins the next turn. what i enjoyed most was how the demonstrator really went for it to win and i felt a bit bad as i  put myself in an unassailable position and he decided he didn’t want to play anymore. I can see how this could be fun with more players, it would be chaos, i think other games would be better for this (like the toast one above) and at lower levels the tactics are very 1 dimensional so a pass for me.

Game 8: The Mysterious Forest
This was a very fine looking Iello offering which is based on another property. we didn’t know what to expect from he game as is often the case i find with their games. Turns out it was a memory game where you lay out a certain number of forest, guardian and an end boss card face down. For a 2 player you alternately look at cards on the track to see what equipment/items you will need to stock your pack with on the trail. you then take it in turns to roll four ‘item’ dice and choose two items to put on your hared pack are. this goes on until the pack is full. once the pack is full you take t the train, discarding things in your pack to complete the different steps and finally beat the big monster. the production quality of the game was brilliant but the game play was too simple. The track could be made longer to make it more difficult but one game was enough for us.

Game 9: Treasure hunter
this was the surprise game for me of the event. I tend to overlook Queen Games as they always seem to have neat ideas but never do anything other than cardboard. i like a nice miniature in my games so nothing they have done has really inspired me to try it. We happened upon a free table with a copy of treasure hunter on and i saw it was designed by Richard Garfield of MTG fame and was lured it. Turns out this is a great drafting game where the cards are three colours of hero, dogs, combat boosting cards, a few special cards and coins. All have different values. on the board you have 3 adventure zones (Green, blue and red) with a ‘low’ and ‘high’ treasure on each. the treasures were randomly generated and so the low could be better than the high. the relevance of the high and low was just that, once the draft was complete, you would play to all of your hero that corresponded to the colour, add up their value, play any bonus cards on your or other peoples guys and then the person with the highest total would take the high treasure and the lowest would take the lowest. once you had done this for all three zones you would have to pay a toll to the goblins to get back home with your treasures. this is where the dogs came in as you could use them to scare away the goblins and not pay any tolls. Many of the treasures were not worth anything but gave you an alternative option for scoring i.e. 1 gold for each goblin defeated, a one off bonus of 3 gold per blue hero played, a one of bonus for each hero with a strength below 3 played this round, etc. this meant that you had to be aware when you were drafting of how to maximise your bonuses while also not letting your opponent get there’s if possible. I really enjoyed it and a bit annoyed i didn’t get it as it was a lot of cardboard and the lady in the left luggage had lost been injured trying to carry my backpack as it was. next year i will get it for certain. fun, quick and it has drafting with lots of different strategies. good game.

Game 10: Ice Cool
you all know this one where you flick the penguins. i was riddled with flu by this stage and rob saw me being slightly delirious as his chance to break my 100% win record (if we don’t count the children mountain climbing game which i felt we both lost). I was concerned as rob executed a curved room jumping shot first time out. fortunately for me it turned out to have been a fluke and i managed to grab the only fish in out best of three series. 

Game ?  : the fantasy version of star realms
Cant remember when we played this but it is essentially the same game as star realms but with a new skin. i did really like the fantasy elements and it spoke to me more than star realms, which i like a lot. I was going to get it but then totalled all of the expansions i would want to get and it was 80 Euro so decided, as i had star realm and expansions, i would stick with that. 

Final thoughts
In all really pleased i went and i have to say a big thank you to Rob for organising and guiding me before and during the Essen. think we got a decent amount of gaming in. The hotel we were in didn’t have the gaming facilities we were used to but we played so much during the day i was fine with that and i have n unhealthy enjoyment of sleeving my new games. I came away with Jorvik, Oceanos, pocket madness,  Happy Salmon (forgot to write this one up but a silly game where you try and get rid of your cards by slapping hands in various ways with people with matching cards). With two of you i had an issue with waiting to play games given most are best with 3+ players. In previous years we would wait for a table to play a game we really wanted to play but with two of you you don’t know who you are going to be paired with (I have been stuck with people who really over think their first game) or it gets awkward when 3 people turn up and want to play a 4 player max game. i was fortunate in both Jorvik and toast paired us up with great people but they were games i just wondered into and hadn’t waited an hour or more to play. I look forward to next year when we can queue knowing we will get a table to ourselves to learn some new and exciting game. Finally the games i  would have liked to play but didn’t despite trying were adrenaline, colony and Inis. Looking forward to next year already.


  1. Thanks for the write-up Will! Commiserations to Rob on the defeat streak ;) You'll be glad to hear I've already ordered Adrenaline so hopefully we'll be able to meet up and play it sometime soon.

  2. i look forward to playing it. we saw it a from a far and looked good but needed a full set of players to be at its best. don't suppose you ant to get colony and inis as well to complete the set?