From: (Emanuel Soeding)
Subject: My Essen report....


Now that I've returned from Essen, I'd like to give those of you who weren't there a brief overview of what I saw. I wasn't able to see everything in two days, but I hope I saw most of the games that were worth mentioning.

The Thursday was incredibly crowded, probably because it was holiday in NRW (the part of Germany where Essen is). Friday was better, and I even had a chance to play the new White Wind games. What I did first on Thursday was go down to the "fleamarket" to look for used games. I was really surprised for two reasons: Almost everything I could think of was available! The stuff was horribly expensive!

I didn't buy anything there. Indeed, this year was a bit disappointing if one was looking for really cheap bargains. There were only a very few good games on sale but lots of games I didn't like. Maybe other people had more luck than I did, but I didn't make any of the really good deals like in the last few years.

On the other hand, there was a really remarkable number of new game releases, mainly by small companies. I list the new games I saw later.

Another remarkable point was that there are more and more foreign companies coming to Essen who present a lot of very nice games. So, again, I saw lots of things I didn't realize existed before. There were Mayfair, Australian Design Group, happy Warfrogs, the incredibly nice guy who made Keywood, WotC, TSR, Flying Buffalo, Ludodelire, Jeux Descartes - Eurogames, the British distributor of Ransom (forgot the name, remembered the game) and some other mainly English companies whose names I forgot (I do remember some of the games though).

I also met a lot of interesting people - Ken Tidwell was there as well as the English magazine and collectors scene lead by Mike Siggins. Also lots of German collectors scanning the fleamarkets for rare items (I don't count :-) ).

Ok, now lets see whats new:

Bad news first: Franckh Kosmos - lots of HOT AIR! What a dissappointment, the Siedler "add on" will be released next year at the Nuernberg toy fair. So - everybody will still have to play with 4 players.

White Wind had three new games (you know that): Tricks, Rainbows and Elfen Wizards. I played the cardgames completely and half a game of Elfen Wizards. I liked Rainbows very much, but didn't like Tricks. Rainbows is a game of buying cards of different color and placing markers on a multi colored board. The aim is to form colored rows with your markers. A nice card game, you need luck, but also some skill to master it. I didn't like Tricks, because its too much "all or nothing". Its a card game similar to "Was sticht". You select your cards in the first stage and then play a simple cardgame taking tricks. You'll win if your suit gets trump; you can't calculate anything if it doesn't. Maybe someone else can tell me whats good with it. There must be something, because many people bought it. Elfen Wizards is definitely a good game, however, I do still not know if it's just good or very good. Its a game of dice rolling and negotiation. A clever mixture of both, where you can influence a lot if you can convince the others to play to work against another opponent. However, only half a game is not enough to say too much so I'll have to play a full game tonight. There was also a set of new cards for Phantoms of the Ice called Phantoms II. I didn't take a closer look at it.

Adlung: a new little cardgame - Speed for 2 players. Very easy, very stressful! Get rid of your cards faster than your opponent. Both players play at the same time and add cards to one of the stacks on the table if one of the three cards in their hand matches either color, symbol or number of the top cards on the stacks. Its really simply a matter of speed and concentration. Highly recommended!

Das DTM Rennspiel (or similar name): An incredibly nice car race game, with the nicest car models I've ever seen to come with a game. Most game tables will be too small for the board. I heard the game should be great, but we will know that soon since Ken Tidwell bought one and will probably let us know soon if he liked it. Unfortunately, quality has its price: it was about $66 in Essen!

Fanfor: In dubio pro reo, heard it wasn't good, but it looked interesting, with paragraph cards. Maybe some kind of communication game?

Moskito: Kunststuecke. Looked very abstract. Many people said it was nice, but I think it may be a matter of taste. May people won't like it because of its very simple design. It is played on a squared board where you place and move tiles on it (hard to explain what it looked like). Imagine something that reminded me a bit of a squared Tetris screen (...what, you don't know Tetris???).

Hans im Glück: El Grande. A wargame by HiG! Two friends tried it and said it was GREAT! It definitely looked great and interesting, and I would have bought it, if it didn't cost about $55. I'll wait to get it cheaper at a mailorder house. As far as I understood the system is based on cards. High cards let you move early but dont give you any new troops. Low cards give you lots of troops but you move last (which is a disatvantage). Every player has the same cards for the entire game. However, lets wait for the reviews - this one is very interesting!

Abacus: Ole. A small cardgame that didn't look too interesting but may be worth to try. I don't know.

3F: Foppen. Another nice cardgame by Friedemann Friese (Falscher Fuffziger, Paparazzo, Wucherer). Get rid of your cards first. The game is played in tricks. The player with the lowest card doesn't play a card in the next trick. Very interesting mechanism. Recommended!

Gold Sieber had an expansion for Sternenhimmel: the thirteenth constellation, the Snake with 13 stars, which is always played last. Might be a good addition to the game since I always was a bit disappointed about the end of the game.

Queen Carroms: Terra X - a remake of the old Ravensburger game Wildlife Adventure without any major changes. Totem, develop your Indian village. Sounds interesting doesn't it? I thought so, too, but it seems the game is boring because you can't catch the leading player. The players can only influence the game by casting spells about the fertility of women, the sex of babies born, about a sucsessful hunt and similar stuff. Because the leader gets more spells than the others he'll allways lead and as far as I saw, there were no spells to hurt the opponents. Maybe this game is good with a few fixes.

Franjos: Tahiti. Looked interesting, allthough I usually don't like the Franjos games too much. Lets wait for a review. Its about sailboats surrounding an island (maybe they should have called it Muroroa and spice it up with some combat elements? :-) ).

Hexagames (back from the vault): They rereleased Karriere Poker and Koalition. They presented two new games, Odyssee and Osiris. I played Odyssee, and didn't like it at all. You sail over the hex-board collecting event cards. Thats it - boring. Osiris looked much better. A combination of Kalahen with memory effect. I'll definitely try it.

Warfrog (from Manchester): Stockers a race game I didn't try and Sixteen thirty something, a voting game that is set in the 30 year war. It seems to be very good. I bought it to try it, so I have to say its good, and at the moment I would still recommend it. Lets see what I think after I played it the first time :-)

Keywood, the game reviewed in the Game Cabinet, was there, too. There are still a few copies available. The price was very reasonable: about 27$ (incredibly cheap for a handmade game I think).

Ludodelire: The GP of Japan track was available. Also a Formule De tournament set, with the tournament rules, some winner cups and another new track which is not mounted (I think it was Mexico) and some other stuff probably no one needs.

Ransom was available, too. Many people may know this game about buying property in New York and erecting skyscrapers, but I hadn't seen it before. Looks nice - Recommended.

Jeux Descartes presented a French version of Caesar Alesia which has been available here for a few months already. Great game components but only French rules. No French - no game.

Ciao Manu

It was great meeting you at the show.

I've heard good things about Tahiti and now wish I had not resisted it at the show.


The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell