It’s that time of year again when all gamers of the world flock together to the largest games fair of the world: Spiel Essen! Publishers and retailers show their wares and demo their newest games. Artists and designers answer questions and sign your copy of the game, and many interviews are done by the BoardGameGeek crew. Well-known game reviewers such as the crew from the Dice Tower and Rahdo Runs Through can be spotted amongst the crowd, and you might even be lucky enough to shake hands or get your picture taken together. And so, after having visited the fair last year for one day, and deciding that one day wasn’t nearly enough to take it all in, we went for two days this year.

Day 1: Friday okt 9th 2015

On friday we went with 2 cars, together with my friends Hans (who drove), Paul & Brigit and Guido. My goal was to network as much as possible. I’m planning on starting my own games webshop, so I made some businesscards, and went about handing them to game companies, and asking them where I could order their games from.
One of the first stands I visited was the Plaid Hat Games booth in Hall 3 where I talked to Jerry Hawthorne, designer of Mice & Mystics, a great and beautiful cooperative fantasy game. He was also promoting their newer awesome games: Tail Feathers, Ashes, Dead of Winter and Specter Ops. We had been in contact a few times over at Ye Olde Inn, talking about HeroQuest and Mice & Mystics, and he told me he was coming to Essen, so I had to come and say Hi, and I handed him a pack of stroopwafels that I had brought along as a gift. People from outside the Netherlands seem to enjoy them greatly. He tweeted that the PHG crew loved them 😀
Then I headed for Hall 7, to pick up my copy of Ancient Terrible Things plus expansion The Lost Charter. I had backed it on Kickstarter, and later that day the designer Rob van Zyl would be there to sign your box. I also met the crew from The Dice Tower, and I just had to take a picture with them. Their game reviews are great. They certainly deserved some stroopwafels, so I gave Tom Vasel a pack to share, and he had to laugh because he had heard people telling him that the Dutch were so cheap, but they kept sharing food with them. It was a fun moment! Tom: Dutch people may be frugal and economical, but they would happily share with others!
I also brought a pack of stroopwafels for Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games to thank them, because I was a lucky winner of a copy of Space Cadets: Away Missions with all the Kickstarter stretch goals and extra’s, including a set of 6 painted heroes! We had a nice chat, and then I moved on to the Artipia booth in Hall 1 to pick up another game I had backed in Kickstarter called Project: Elite. My friend Corina was helping out at the booth, and after a little chat, I picked up my boxes. They were HUGE. So Corina told me to go and see her boyfriend Rindert, also a friend of mine, at the Portal booth to see if he could find a place for me to unload all those games for a while. Fortunately, Rindert was able to let me dump my boxes in his car in the garage under the Messe, so that I could continue unburdened. Thanks guys!
Then I went to the math trade, which was crazy, but everything went smoothly, and I traded some great games. I got the Kickstarter edition of Dungeon Roll, Monkey Mission and Heroica Fortaan for our son, two out of print expansions for the classic D&D fantasy boardgame from the early 2000’s that are impossibly hard to find. There I bumped into Richard Ham, aka Rahdo, who does game runthroughs, explaining how a game works, and then playing it on Youtube. He’s a very friendly guy, bumping fists with anyone who wanted to say “hi!”.
Then it was time to go and have my copy of Ancient Terrible Things signed, so I went to the Feuerland booth where Rob van Zyl was kind enough to draw me a cool doodle in my box lid. We had a nice chat, talked about my plans to open up a boardgames webshop, and I also got a card signed for my friend Corina. Their company name is Pleasant Company Games, and Rob certainly did that name justice.
Then I moved on to Sandy Petersen’s stand, where they were selling and demoing his amazing game Cthulhu Wars. His sons Arthur and Lincoln were there, as well as his wife, and all of them were very friendly and welcoming. I had backed their previous games Orcs Must Die the boardgame and Dicenstein, and for both I tried to bring in more backers by blogging about the games, and for Dicenstein I created some microbadges on BoardGameGeek to help promote the game. Both projects were successfull on Kickstarter, and Arthur thanked me for the help. He showed me the Dicenstein prototype dice, and those looked fantastic! It was great to talk to them about their games, and of course I brought more Stroopwafels. I also had a nice chat with their German friend Fabian Küchler, who talked to me about his yearly roleplaying event where a lot of Cthulhu themed games were played, and Sandy Petersen himself also attends. I got to roll a die to win a miniature figure from the game, and I got me a nice Hunting Horror mini! 😀

The rest of the day I spent visiting booths and networking with publishers. I also got some cool litho’s signed by game designers and artists, to put up on my game room’s wall. I talked to Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau, designers of Pandemic Legacy, and I met Eric Lang the designer of Blood Rage, Naïade who does great art for lots of games, and many more. Time flew by, and at the end of the day, I was exhausted, and all my business cards were given away, so it was a good time to go home. I picked up my stuff from Rindert’s car, met up with my friends, and we walked to the garage where our friend Hans had parked the car. As we got in, one of the rear doors didn’t lock, and a light kept blinking on the dashboard. Hans got out and tried to close it, but all attempts failed. He had just recently got the car from his work, a Peugeot 308, and it was brand new, so this was quite strange. He called the number for road assistance, and though the booklet stated help would be there in half an hour, the person on the phone told us it would take an hour and a half for a mechanic to arrive. Big sigh. After having waited for 2 hours, no mechanic had shown up, se Hans called again. They told us the mechanic had come, but hadn’t seen any cars with a Dutch license plate, and se he went home again. His excuse was that he wasn’t able to call a foreign number on the phone. Apparently, he wasn’t clever enough to simply call his own central and relay the message. Angrily, we told them we had seen no mechanic at all, and we were standing by the main road, so we would certainly have seen a road assistance car. They’d send the mechanic back asap, and it would now take another half hour. An hour later we were so tired from waiting for three and a half hours now, that we just got in, and drove home. We simply needed to hold the door from the inside. We got home okay, but we all decided never to buy a Peugeot ever. Worst customer service ever.

Day 2: sundag okt 11th 2015

On sunday my wife also came along, and Guido and his girlfriend Moniek also joined. This time I drove, and my trusty Ford Focus Wagon did not let us down. It also has plenty of space for games in the back! I had more time to look around and try out games, and my wife wanted to have a look at the Haba stand, to see if we could find a fun game for our almost 3 year old son. We tried out several games, but our favourites were Feuerdrachen and Obstgarten. We decided to buy the latter, as the first is a game we felt was a bit too advanced for a 3 year old. Maybe next year 🙂
I took some more pictures of games in play, and we also tried a game of Celestia, which looked nice, but was sold out. We met up with Rindert & Corina, who were having a day off, and we had lunch together.
Guido and Moniek played a game of Rush & Bash, a racing game reminiscent of Wacky Races and Mario Kart, and my wife and I went by the Japanime booth to check the prices on Krosmaster Quest. They were heavily discounting their games in order to empty the booth, so we ended up with Krosmaster Quest, the Frigost expansion for Arena, two character boxes (Multiman and Dark Heroes), a box full of single figure blind boxes and a playmat. We went back to Guido and Moniek, who decided they’d buy Rush & Bash, and I tried to fit all those boxes into my suitcase and bags. The many hours of playing Tetris in my childhood finally paid off.
After visiting all the halls and taking our time to see what new stuff there was to see (we tried a game of Curse of the Black Dice too, and saw people playing a very interesting looking game of Heroes), I went back to the Petersen Games booth to see if they had sold out their Cthulhu Wars games yet. They had about 10 boxes left, and I decided to pick up two signed copies for my webstore. Sandy was kind enough to also sell me his demo copy for a steal, and he also signed the box for me. I am thrilled to finally have a copy of my own! I will definately be demoing that at my game club. The boxes are about 5kg each, so lugging three boxes back to the car along with all my Krosmaster games was quite the workout for my wife and myself. But Guido and Moniek kindly offered a hand, and without any car trouble we headed back to Maastricht.
It had been a fantastic two days at Spiel Essen, the biggest games fair in the world. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. I only hope they’ll have more English versions of games available in the coming years, as a lot of (mostly older) games are only available in German. New games are generally available in English though, so make sure you read up on what’s new on BGG before you plan your trip!

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