Essen Spiel 2010 – An Amazing Trip

Essen Spiel 2010 - Day 1 The Crowds Queuing to Get In
The Spiel is the biggest games event in the European calendar and sees people travelling from all over the world. It occupies 44,100 square meters of exhibition space for 4 days, from 10am and till 7pm, with over 760 exhibitors from 31 nations. Last year it attracted over 150,000 people.

A common theme that runs through my blog posts concerns the events I attend and how friendly / sociable everybody is (given the nature of the activity this should in truth come as no surprise, however society today almost conditions us to expect the reverse).

Essen Spiel 2010 - Day 4 The team just before we head home - Rob, Phil, Simon, Ian, Daniel, Paul, Ben and me
Well for this trip (being my first to the Spiel at Essen) I had talked to friends concerning how to get there and where to stay. This research eventually revealed that there was a group of gamers driving up from Exeter, meeting another car load from Hemel Hempstead and others from around the country once they got to the hotel in Essen; and they just happened to have space for one more passenger and a room available. So taking the plunge I met up with the group (knowing none of them) and headed off to Germany on Wednesday lunchtime and what a great group they were. Paul Grogan deserves special mention as both the organiser (very efficient), driver and as my guide around the show on the first day. It may seem strange that you need a guide however the show was unlike anything I had ever seen before (see attached photos) and a guide was most welcome, as the show was spread across eight halls.

Essen Spiel 2010 - Day 2 Crowds of people
The number of people was quite amazing. I had been told to expect crowds but what was to me most notable was that they represented a complete cross section of society. This was not the preserve of
males, adults or geeks. There were young and old, male and female, a complete cross-section of society, highlighting to me just what seems to have been lost in the UK, where games are a forgotten entertainment played mostly at Christmas or by hard core gamers. Oliver Richtberg (on the Zoch stand) underlined this thought when he commented that in the European games scene Britain and Ireland are often referred to as the ‘black hole’ given the inexplicability over what a small percentage of the population play games compared with the rest of Europe.

Essen Spiel 2010 - Day 2 People playing games everywhere
The other surprise for me was just how much space was allocated for us the punters to sit down, have the game explained to us and then be able to play a game for as long as we wanted (a couple of hours – no problem) before making a purchase, or not; there was never any pushy selling. The space may at times have been cramped but that was only because there were so many tables available and so many people wanting to play the latest games. There were around 400 new games being released at Essen this year!

This does not mean that you have to turn up with your friends to play. With close observation there are always games just being setup where you can wander up and ask if you can join. This approach gave me the opportunity to play a game of Zooloretto with the delightful Lisa Siewert and Sebastion Schwung; who suddenly found themselves not only learning the expansion to Zooloretto, but also having to teach me. Obviously with my complete lack of German language skills this also had to be in English which they did with patience and an excellent command of our language that once again put me to shame.
Essen Spiel 2010 - Day 3 Lisa & Sebastian playing Zooloretto
Zooloretto is a board game that has high quality playing pieces, a theme that will appeal to children (running a zoo and managing the animals therein) that when blended together led to it winning the Spiel des Jahres in 2007.

During the course of the game Lisa and Sebastian revealed that their families each had a round 20 games (not including children’s games) and that they would typically play games together a couple of times a month with their favourites being Settlers of Catan, Keltis and Zooloretto.

The games at the show come in every shape and size with themes real, imagined and abstract. But in this world the designers are not closeted away in some office somewhere but have a popularity that ensures that the good ones have their own fans who will order their latest games at the earliest opportunity. This is in part why the term ‘designer games’ is sometimes used for modern board games (their name will always appear on the front of the box).

The Artwork from the box for London
In this respect Treefrog (the largest games production company in the UK) had a tremendous success with its latest board game by the British designer Martin Wallace, London. London was released at the show with a print run of 5,000 and had sold out by the end of the show (albeit only 600 where sold at the show, with 810 pre-ordered 3,000 going to the US distributor Mayfair and 500 to the UK distributor Esdivium and shop orders to cover the rest). With such demand 4 of the demonstration copies where auctioned off at the end of the show. These games which would have retailed when new for EUR 40 all sold for a minimum of EUR 60, with proceeds going to charity.

As another good news story Prime Games UK also sold its entire stock of The Great Fire of London board game designed by another Brit’ Richard Denning, organiser of the UK Games Expo.

Lots more photos of the trip can be found here. Whilst the games played and aquired can be found here

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