It is Monday, I am now already sitting at home, back from a very exciting and eventful weekend in Essen. Perfect time to share my first impressions – while they are still fresh – from one of the best, most fantastic and energizing boardgames events!
International Spiel Tage 2022, known also as Speiltag 2022 or simply Essen, is one of the largest tabletop gaming fairs in the word. I had already chance to attend those before COVID and have fantastic memories from that experience. With this in mind, I decided to travel to this year meeting – to feel the atmosphere, to check the new releases, to simply spent the time in Mecca of boardgaming!
I was lucky to be accompanied in that journey by Kuba (remember all our Gloomhaven games? Yes, that is exactly the owner of that title!). I also had a pleasure to meet Clio and his wife (a fellow blogger and history games geek!). So with such company we get into the Messe Halls on Saturday morning – as we planned to join last two days of Spiel.
The initial impact & sensation when you enter the halls of the fair is unforgettable. All those colors of the various booths, noise of the people playing the games, large crowds standing in queues to be able to test their desired game – you are simply immersed in completely different world, world of boardgames!
On my Tweeter feed and YouTube channel you could notice some live, on-the-spot information from the fair. Below I would like to approach it in more organized way – and what better way would it be if not by simply describing some / most / many of the games I had a chance to familiarize with!
There will be 13 short entries (ominous number!) divided into two, very broad groups – Wargames and Euro Games. I will share couple of impressions rather then fully describing the games (you will find the links to BGG in the titles). So, let us have a look!
While Essen features pretty broad array of games, usually focusing on EURO type, I found selection of very interesting war-related positions. Below the ones which made the greatest impression on me.
Undaunted: Stalingrad from Osprey Publishing
That was definitely one of the key titles I wanted to check at Essen – the newest part of Undaunted series. I was not disappointed – it really is a breath-taking product! Almost 400 cards, multiple scenarios and campaigns will make it a never-ending source of joy and excitement.
Some of the new features we shall see will be the possibility to bombard the terrain tiles to such extent that buildings will be damaged and then turned in rubble (each such hex has 3 versions). Also, some of your units will get promotions to veteran from scenario to scenario, while the quads where causalities were high will be demoted to conscript. And now you start to understand why so many cards and terrain tiles are needed – to reflect the changing environment and status of your troops during campaigns!
On fairs we played scenario 051 and I can proudly announce that my Germans managed to win 5-3 with Soviets lead by one of the colleagues from Osprey Publishing!
Blitzkrieg!, Caesar!, Dogfight! from PSC
Another “must see” booth at Essen was Plastic Soldiers Company stand. First, I had a quick game of Dogfight! – the newest product (to be published in 2023) in the “20 minutes” series. Pretty cool airplanes fights, various models, exciting battles. And of course, everything pretty quick and with minimal amount of space – man, those games are perfect for paying during travels.
While I was there, I of course played also Blitzkrieg! and Caesar!, getting copies of both in process. The last thing which draw my attention was prototype of Total War: ROME – The Board Game (you can see on picture 4 above). We will really get fantastic product soon and can’t wait to see it!
Fire & Stone: Siege of Vienna 1683 from Capstone Games
My third “must see” title was “Fire & Stone – Siege of Vienna”. I had a really nice chat and demo with the folks from Capstone Games. This is probably their first pure wargame (designed by Robert DeLeskie) and they did a really good job. The title is nicely published (components); mechanically it gives of course initiative to Ottomans, who have couple of ways to win the game. There is suspense, various strategies and some dice rolling.
We played 3 turns and I can definitely see potential in this medium-complexity wargame. Of course, I got a copy!
Triumph at Marengo from Histogame
A beautiful re-edition of one of wargame classics from Histogame by Bowen Simmons. It is so refreshing to see this system in action, fantastic, pastel map, vivid Austrian and French forces, interesting move and battle mechanics (no dice!). Admittedly, I missed that system and games based on it so far but I will definitely improve so you may rest assured more materials on this position will come.
The Chase of the Bismarck from VUCA Simulations
VUCA Simulations appeared for the first time in ESSEN with pretty decent and interesting collection of their games. For me the one which stood out was definitely The Chase of Bismarck – just look at the pictures above of that beautifully looking map. I really appreciate balanced approach to color gamma in wargames and here we see almost perfection.
In this double-blinded game each side has its own map and try to achieve success in one of the most dramatic stories of World War II. The game was available only in pre-order (but should be available pretty soon) so I definitely considering here enlarging of my collection 🙂
Sniper Elite from Rebellion Unplugged
How many wargames by David Thompson can you encounter on non-wargames convention? The answer is: many! I played the Undaunted at Osprey booth, I said hello to guys from Salt & Pepper who published Resist! and finally I had a chance to taste Sniper Elite from Rebellion Unplugged.
I love the concept of the German teams chasing the lonely US sniper who marks all his moves on special map. The mechanics for resolving the fire is very cool – as it can give up Sniper position. One can only rejoice on such a great implementation of computer game to the board!
Dice War: Light of Dragons by SunCoreGames
That was last game of the fairs for me and pretty interesting discovery. Light of Dragons is a dice game in which… you do not roll the dice! You have units with strength from 1 to 6, each with special ability. The goal is to get 10 points of killed enemy strength or occupy three ruins (see above maps) at the same time.
Very cool and quick tactical game which just got a new expansion!
EURO / STRATEGY GAMES
I played also a lot of non-wargame titles – some more strategy ones, some economic-based and also ones which are great for children (I could not come back home without such a title). Short selection below:
War of the Ring: The Card Game from Ares Games
That was a true discovery – a completely new game (premiere) from Ares games in the world of War of the Ring. The mechanics here are pretty cool – had chance to test them – you play in two teams of two: good guys (Gondor and Rohan) and bad guys (Saruman and Mordor). Each turn one or more territories from one of those factions is revealed and all players – using their various armies – fight to defend or conquer those areas.
The game plays pretty smoothly, is truly exciting (oh, we had very interesting situations when battle was lost in last moment) and of course beautifully produced!
Turing Machine from Le Scorpion Masqué
After War of the Ring I jumped to something completely different. Turing Machine is a fascinating and competitive deduction game. It offers a unique experience of questioning a proto-computer that works without electricity or any sort of technology, paving the way for a new generation of deduction games.
I lost but had a fun in this puzzle like game. Unfortunately, before I decided to get it it was already sold-out…
Joan of Arc: Orléans Draw & Write from dlp games
I admit – I played this game only by chance and due to free space at the table. I also admit – after a session, I purchased it fully aware of how great design (or improvement to Orleanis title) it is 🙂 This is yet one more of pen & pencil games (or whatever you call them) which are getting so much popular lately. But it has one fundamental improvement – much reduced downtime. You are not getting multiple resources or workers and then spent 20 minutes planning their best usage. No, you receive one at a time and execute action – which has an enormous impact on the game flow.
I was sure that would be perfect game for my wife so – tick! – another title bought!
Sabika from Ludonova
That was probably the heaviest EURO I had occasion to familiarize with. In Sabika, you play the role of one of the Nasrid (Granada) nobles who contributed to the construction of the towers, gardens, and palaces of this ancient monument. In addition to this, you have to establish trade routes through Europe and the Maghreb. These routes will provide you with sufficient income to be able to take on the demanding tribute that has been commanded by the Catholic Monarchs. In exchange for your work, you will receive military protection against the various conflicts of the Taifas Kingdom.
I was attracted to this title by its mechanics, beautiful look and… similarity in topic to Almoravid which I recently played extensively!
CoraQuest from Bright Eye Games
One has to bring from Essen some trophies for children, doesn’t he? I was pretty intensively looking and one of the best titles which I know will give fun to the whole family, or at least masculine part (75% 😛 ) was a pretty innovative Dungeon Crawler – Cora Quest.
The graphics are beautiful, the mechanics – interesting and allowing children to easily grasp the concept; the 10 scenarios and possibility to create new on your own (also a lot of community created) means you have enjoyment for many hours!
Twilight Inscription from Fantasy Flight Games
One of the last games played by me during the convent. As you can see on my blog, I had a chance to already attend three, full-six-players Twilight Imperium games, each lasting around 9 hours. This year we got – surprise, surprise – a pen and pencil (or rather, a marker and tissue) version of that great title – Twilight Inscription. I know I might sound like heretic but after playing that version, I think this is much more accessible and will hit the table more often than the base game.
So not misunderstand me – the game is complicated, tense, has negative interaction, etc. It is simply done in a way which allows you to have a great experience with the universe in much shorter time. Which, let us be honest, is critical point for many of us.
What can I say? I enjoyed Essen weekend enormously – two days after which I am exhausted and exhilarated! So much happened in such a short time frame – above you see only 13 games, and I had possibility to interact with many more. Spiel does not stop to positively surprise and energize. Hope to attend it some time soon again!