category: Board Games
tags: SPIEL Essen

← Humble Beginnings - Space Marines and Terrain | Essen 2023 →

This year, I was finally able to attend the SPIEL fair at Essen again.
The last year I was there was 2019 (IIRC, that was my 13th year in a row). 2020 was a virtual event because of Covid, and 2021 was in-person again, but I wasn’t able to go because of time constraints/family commitments.

This year, I went there for two days, Thursday and Friday. Although I had already planned to write this post before the visit, I was so thrilled to be at Essen again that I forgot to take pictures most of the time. The few pictures I made are all from day 1:

I played nine games altogether.

In the weeks before Essen, I went through the GeekPreview on BGG, but picked only short/small games. My favourite kind of games are actually heavy economy games, but given my personal time constraints at the moment, I wouldn’t be able to play them much anyway. I still have quite a few “big” games in my shelf that I picked up at Essen a few years ago, but played only once or never. So this year, I decided to focus on small/shorter games, ideally with interesting mechanics.

Because of that, my list completely differs from the “hotness” lists I’m seeing on BGG. I had a few of those on my “to play” list either, but didn’t manage to play them for various reasons.
For example, I almost managed to get the last spot at a table to play The Wolves, but someone else grabbed the chair about 3 seconds before I would have reached it.

Day 1:

1998 ISS (Looping Games)

Looping Games is one of the small, not-so-well-known publishers whose booth I visit each year to play the newest 19xx series release.
I think 1998 ISS was so far the 19xx game that I liked best, and I considered buying it, but it was already sold out on day 2.

The LOOP (Board Game Box)

This play happened by accident and I didn’t know anything about this game in advance. I was actually at the booth to check out My First Adventure - Finding the Dragon (which I also found in the GeekPreview) for my son.
Copies of all available “My First Adventure” books were lying on one of the gaming tables. While I was looking at the books, they were starting a new game at that particular table and had one spot left, so I just sat down - without even knowing the name of the game in that moment.

Village Rails (Osprey Games)

I first heard about this game because there was a contest on BGG one week before Essen, and then I found it again in the GeekPreview.
A small, but moderately complex (Age 14+) train card game sounded very interesting, and I really liked it after playing - unfortunately I couldn’t buy it because they weren’t selling any.
Someone told me they couldn’t get them to Essen in time because of customs issues - no idea if that’s true or just a rumor. Anyway, I ordered it when I was home.

Fancy Feathers (2F-Spiele)

I’m a fan of Friedemann Friese in general (Power Grid is one of my all-time favourites), so I’m going to the 2F-Spiele booth each year anyway.
Findorff (the other new game) also sounded interesting, but as I’m looking for shorter games, I joined a demo game of Fancy Feathers, liked it…and couldn’t buy it because it was sold out.
They expected to get new copies around noon on day 2, so I went back the next day and bought two boxes (so I can play it with four players).

Arabella (Side Quest Games)

The cover image with the cat is a bit strange, but they got me with the catchline “18XX playable in an hour”. As I said before, I like economy games…but never played an 18xx game so far (but heard they are generally long).
With my focus on smaller/shorter games, this game was an obvious target for me.

Day 2:

The Master Builders of Cologne (Ornament Games)

I found this in the GeekPreview and checked it out because of the Cologne theme (I’ve lived my whole life in the Cologne area).
It’s a pickup-and-deliver game about getting building materials from the city gates through the streets to the building sites of historical churches.
I didn’t play a “real” game though, just a short demonstation.

Honey Buzz (Elf Creek Games)

A worker placement game with bees creating their beehive, and producing and selling different types of honey.
The art and the components are really nice, and I liked the gameplay.
But didn’t buy it because of another personal rule: I avoid buying games that are too similar to other games I already own…and I already have a tile/worker placement game with insects.

Hidden Leaders (BFF Games)

An interesting card game with four factions (always four, no matter how many players) with four different winning conditions.
Each player is aligned with two of the factions, and the players play cards which influence the winning conditions, but can only win the game if one of “their” faction wins and they played more of this faction’s cards than any other player.

Swindler (Edition Spielwiese)

I picked this from the GeekPreview because of the mechanics. There are probably other similar games, but I don’t own anything like this: it’s a “push your luck” game where you draw tiles from one of five different bags and sell them.
It’s known what’s in each bag, and there are orders to fulfill so you know what tiles you need, but each bag also contains 1-n skulls, and your turn ends immediately when you draw one.