Is this Essen or Hollywood? This is definitely the year of the sequel as everyone and their dog brings out another game in a well branded series.
Jumping on the seafaring bandwagon, Amigo offers us beans on the high seas with La Isla Bohnita (The Beaniful Island), the latest expansion for Bohnanza. There are the obligatory new kinds of beans plus ships which can carry your harvest to foreign shores. But beware! There are bean eatin' pirates in them there waters! If its from Uwe Rosenberg, its gotta be good!
In keeping with the seafaring theme, I understand that Reiner Knizia will be bringing us "Through the Beer" as the follow up to his smash hit "Through the Sausage". Go, Reiner!
Elfenland will be celebrating its first year at Essen despite its advanced pedigree (it won game of the year! What rock were you under?). As such, the much anticipated expansion set will be delayed till Nuremberg in the Spring. Amigo will be distributing a special card, however. The Elfenwizard is a new transportation card which allows the holder to fly over Elfenland (perhaps operating chit free, like the rafts, but over land?). The Elfenwizard, as you may recall, used to work for a company named White Wind but he has been bumming around since he was layed off and we're all glad to see him back at work at Amigo.
Hans im Glück check in with not one but two new items in the ever expanding El Grande series. El Caballero is an entirely new game in the same theme. This time Spain is out to conquer the New World in a big way. Can you claim enough land, kill enough natives, and ship home enough gold to keep your Grande fat and happy? Brought to you by the traditional El Grande team of Wolfgang Kramer, Richard Ulrich, and Doris Matthäus. 2-4 player; 90 minutes; 35DM.
König & Intrigant: Player's Edition is a collection of new cards for the second El Grande expansion. Remember the call for player submissions that was included in the rules for König & Intrigant? Well, these are the best card ideas submitted by players collected into an edition that lives up to the very high HiG standard. Cards designed by Dirk Geilenkeuser, Klaus Geis, Marwin Geuß, Thomas Harms, Olaf Jöris, Andreas Keirat, Claudio Maniglio, Claudia Schlee, Christian Schnabel, Godwin Solcher, Thomas Sülz und Stephan Zimmermann. Graphics, as always, by the tireless Doris Matthäus.
Doris & Frank take a similar tack with their expansion for Ursuppe. The expansion has bits for the 5th and 6th players and a 26 new genes, many of them suggested by Steffan O'Sullivan's fine web site. Ursuppe fans will be happy to hear that Doris and Frank have moved into a new house where they have room to store the unassembled bits for Ursuppe games. That means they can be assembling them any time at all! During breakfast, while playing games, in the shower - you name it! I think we can count on the supply being much more steady now! Congratulations to Doris who was all over all of the big awards this year. A game's just not the same without Doris' art...
The latest Settlers expansion is Cheops/Battles of Alexander, two new scenarios for Settler's games. Cheops was released as a poster last year at Essen and adds pyramid building to the Settlers mix. Battles of Alexander adds entirely new elements (of some sort) to the game (combat? - no! Say it ain't so, Klaus...). There are also five new games for the Settlers card game, all in a space saving package. Ha!
Richard Breese follows up his successful micro-release, Keywood, with a new game set in the 'key' universe: keydom. Players vie for control of the ancient secrets of the key in this game of backstabbing and politics. I played the prototype as I as passing through London this Spring and it was good fun. The final edition just arrived and production values are astonishingly good: full color, mounted board, wooden bits, color coded bit shields, the works! Run, do not walk, to the Graham Games stand and buy your copy now cause with only 300 in the run, they're going to be gone if you don't hurry.
Big news from Jay Tummelson and the Rio Grande crew: simultaneous (well, just after Essen, anyway - wassup with that?) English releases of many of the big, new German games. Look for Katzenjammer Blues by Reiner Knizia, Landlord! by Friedemann Friese, Samurai by Reiner Knizia, Caballeros by Kramer & Ulrich, Samarkand by Sid Sackson, Guild Wars (Pfeffersäcke) by Christward Conrad, Kahuna (Arabbana Ikibbiti) by Günter Cornett, OK! (Mama Mia!?) by Uwe Rosenberg, and Caesar & Cleopatra by Wolfgang Lüdtke.
If English releases are important to you (and there are certainly a lot of games that could use English editions), be sure to give Rio Grande your full support. Cheers to Jay!
To paraphrase another bolshy foreigner, "All Ravensburger is divided into three parts." The Ravensburger brand name is used for children's games and family games intended for families with small children. Games in that line include the hugely successful Labyrinth series (have you seen the new one? Circular board. Tres cool.) The FX (formerly FX Schmid) brand name will go on family games intended for families with older kids and a wider range of adults (gronky uncles, and the like). Games in the FX line are Take It Easy, Bluff, the old Gigamic line of abstract games and older Ravensburger games like Dorada in new, tarted up editions. The third part is new and very exciting to Cabinetland.
Alea is the latest division of Ravensburger and is entirely devoted to (say it with me!) gamer's games! (give me an Amen, children!) 'Alea' is Latin for 'dice,' but Ravensburger is taking no chances with Alea's first release: Ra, a game about the gods, people, and monuments of ancient Egypt by none other than Reiner Knizia!
Alea is headed up by Stefan Brück, who spent the last five years leading the game line at FX Schmid. Stefan's team at FX Schmid produced hits like Bluff, Take It Easy, and Basari. With his new charter Brück feels free to disregard 'mass taste' and give the gamers what they want: meatier games with great themes, stunning components, and slightly longer playing times. Alea plans to copy the successful Hans im Glück strategy of releasing two new games at Essen and two more at Nuremberg each year (although, HiG do try to cater to the gamers at Essen and a more mass tastey sort of game at Nuremberg...). If you want to know more, write to the man himself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the aforementioned El Grande series, HiG bring us the last in another important design series. Samurai is the last game in Reiner Knizia's tile laying trilogy (Euphrat & Tigris and Durche die Wüste are the other two games in this amazing series). This time Reiner takes us back to ancient Japan and the struggle as the Shogun fought for control. Players vie for control of three factions: the rice farmers, the priests, and the warriors. Just as in E & T players must balance control of the three factions. Lots of nice molded plastic bits. Great art on the maps and the all important player shields. Those in the know say this is the best in the series. Ya gotta have this one! 2-4 players; 45 minutes; 55DM.
Outside of their Settlers range, Kosmos will be offering Kahuna, the mass market release of Günter Cornett's excellent Arabana Ikibitti. Apparently, in the strange world department, Kosmos will be using the version of the rules that I cooked up while translating the game to English (to describe my German as poor would be very, very kind). The original (and correct!) rules will also be included as a variant.
Uwe Rosenberg strikes again with Mamma Mia! (hey, is this an Italian food sub-theme I smell or is it just the day old pizza sitting on my desk?), a card game about running a pizzaria! Players try to fill the most orders, correctly, and as fast as possible. 2-5 players; 40 min; 13DM.
Mary's Inheritance is a Reinhold Wittig game about the usual family skulduggery that occurs whenever wealthy, maiden aunts are about to kick off. Wittig is an acquired taste, so newbies should tread lightly around this release. 3-5 players; 30 minutes; 13DM.
Sammarkand is a game of oriental trade by that grand old man of strategy gaming, Sid Sackson. This is apparently Bazaar III, just to keep with our theme of sequels. 3M released Bazaar I, which is a rather dry set building excercise in which players exchange beads for other beads in the hopes that they are always trading up to the best beads. Bazaar II was released by Schmidt and confused everyone because it had nothing to do with Bazaar I. So to avoid that ire and confusion, Abacus have renamed Bazaar II to Sammarkand, waved an editorial wand over it, and served it up for your gaming pleasure. The theme is still set trading but, apparently, there is more meat on the thematic bone. 2-5 players; 60 minutes; 30DM.
In addition to the Bohnanza expansion mentioned above, Amigo is offering Hornochsen (Horns of the Ox), a 'professional' version of 6 Nimmt! (Take 6!). Apparently, this variant offers more strategy than the original.
Amigo is also capitalizing on its special relationship with Wizards of the Coast by taking over German production of the AD&D product line, but I suspect that is of more interest to German speaking gamers.
Pfeffersäcke is a game of medieval trade and travel. Players must balance developing their business in their current cities and establishing new trade routes and inroads into other cities. If you overstretch then you won't have enough money to fend off the other players when they finally make it to your town. Sounds like it could be quite good. Fugger, Welcher, Medici Lite? Nice bits, though. 2-4 players; 90 minutes; 60DM.
Kontor is a tile laying game set in 17th century Amsterdam and invented by Michael Schacht. The players attempt to lay out a canal system that favors their warehouses over those of their competitors. Players must pay to lay certain tiles and the field is restricted to a 7x7 shape. Several scenarios are included and with two sets you can play with four players. 2 players; 60 min; ?? price. You can see the bits at this site.
The long awaited, all color, all singing, all dancing Lords of Creation will finally, God willing, see the light of day. Huzzah to Martin Wallace and the whole crew at Warfrog for working so hard to finish this one. Good work! Lords of Creation is a relatively abstract board game about the creation of a new world and the settling of that world by the followers of the gods who created it (which would be the players, in this instance). Hordes of freshly created humanoids roam around beating on one another. When they can't find anyone to hit, then they stop, settle down, have some kids, and build temples, monuments, fast food stands, that sort of thing. Of course, then they become fat and lazy (ain't it great?) and any old barbarian horde that wanders by uses their recliner for a toothpick. It all ends in world domination (wouldn't it be easier to just engineer a world banking crisis then... oops. sorry. wasn't supposed to mention that to anyone that isn't from around here. just pretend I didn't say that...).
There are also two new Warfrog releases but I don't have much information about them, other than their names. Age of Arguments is a game about colonization based on a bidding system. Cloudbusters is a wargame set on a world where only the tops of mountains are habitable. Technology is Victorian steam-punk.
Nanuuk! is the latest game by Günter Cornett of Arabana Ikibitti fame. Eskimos build their igloos on an ice shelf and must hunt down the fish, seals, whales, and walruses while avoiding the dreaded Polar Bears! The ice shelf is slowly chipping away as the players move about. The game ends when the game ends (think about. think about it. there. you got it.) or when everyone is trapped by the crumbling ice shelf. Looks like a good one. Bambus continues to publish new games that think outside the box. 2-4 players; 45 minutes; ?? price.
Kris Burm reports that TAMSK, the first side game for the GIPF system, will be launched by Schmidt Spiele at Nuremberg. However, Schmidt will be pre-releasing a few copies at Essen so get on it, folks. If you've missed out on GIPF so far be sure to check it out. The winner of GIPF side games get to introduce new pieces (referred to as 'potentials' in the game) that have new and interesting powers. Once completted, GIPF should resemble some of the games from Iain Banks' fine book, Player of Games.
Glüsritter Spiel (Lucky Knight Games - no pun intended, I'm sure) is offering Rigatoni Intriganti, a game of pasta production and high-carb intrigue by Oliver Igelhaut. Players operate pasta factories in a highly competitive pasta town (no doubt somewhere in Southern Italy so be sure to practice saying Mama Mia! with a nice southern drawl). Some of the players are bent on controlling pasta production but others just want to control lots of pasta but no one knows which the other players want! Pasta comes in four colors - red, yellow, and green. Each turn four dice are thrown (two red, one yellow, and one green) then players bid for picking order. Each player picks one die and any factory they own of that color (everyone starts with one of each) produces as much pasta as there are pips on the die. Players may sell pasta and use the proceeds for hostile takeovers of pasta factories belonging to other players. Lots of bashing of neighbors, plots, and intrigue. Nice, very colorful game kit production, too. 3-4 players; 60 minutes; 35DM. Check it out!
Glüsritter Spiel are also offering Flower Power also by Oliver Igelhaut. This is a race game where players must try to land on flower spaces. Just coming home first doesn't cut it in this race: ya gotta have ten flowers, too. Sounds like being married. Anyway, two players each flash a movement card. Both of their pieces moved based on a comparison of the two cards. Sounds a bit like Pico (Igelhaut? Hedgehog-skin? A nom de game?). Might be interesting; certainly worth a test run. Hall 10, stand 1029.
Visjes (Little Fish), by Corné van Moorsel (http://www.euronet.nl/users/cornesab), is a nice little game about fishing in the Dutch Visjessea. The game starts with three types of fish and three populations of each variety. Sharks, whales, and viruses represent predators, factors which cause migration, and disease, respectively. The players boats trawl the waters, being careful (or not!) to not overfish any particular population. Then the healthy population multiply. Players must maintain their boats and may buy and sell boats, all for fish, of course! The first player to build a fleet of five boats (four in the six player game) wins. Players must look ahead several turns to plan the movement of their boats in order to prevent overfishing and to protect their fish populations from predators and disease. 2-6 players; 100 minutes; $40. Check it out on stand 939 in hall 9 at Essen!
Winsome Games have Lancashire Railways, a train game using an entirely new system. Martin Wallace of Warfrog fame does the design honors but there's no word on what the entirely new system might be.
Dirk Henn and Barbara Weber (aka db spiel) are offering Tendix, a sort of multicolored Othella/Reversi. db games are always worth checking out.
Card players will want to check out Wolfgang Wichmann's Joker Spiel. This small publisher is releasing a new edition of a North American card game known as Dog. Could be good but it might just wet on your carpets and eat your shoes.
Bodensee-Spiele are releasing two games based on the sinking of the Titanic. Titany is a dice game and Titany: The Icebreaker is a card game. There is wild speculation that, other than this one, short telegram, Bodensee may never be heard from again.
Relaxx have re-releases of Xanadu/Prince Joli Kansil's Zick Zack, a sort of word-based Mastermind, and Rudi Hoffman's Cafe International, winner of the 1989 Spiel des Jahres.
And last, but never least, that wild man with the green hair, Friedemann Friese, has a new card game on offer. No word on the theme but there are rumors that it involves booster packs! Friedemann does CCGs?! Is the world ready for that?
Thanks to Knut-Michael Wolf and his always amazing Spielplatz, Mik Spellov and his well designed Brett and Board, and all the helpful designers and publishers that wrote in with information.
Another great year at Essen! I'm sorry I'm gonna miss it!
Tune in next week for Mike Siggins' report from the floor.
See ya then,
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell