Essen Spiel 2012 – What To Expect

Looking forward to the biggest board games show in Europe
The Spiel Logo

This will be the 3rd year I have been lucky enough to make the pilgrimage to the largest games fair in Europe, the Internationale Spieltage at Essen or Spiel for short (my earlier trips are recorded here).

This year I thought I would write a piece before the show; a show that last year attracted 147,000 visitors, hundreds of press, radio and TV journalists and 786 exhibitors from 34 nations. The show covers 46,000 square meters of exhibition space and once again over 700+ new board and card games are being released; games that span every age range, theme and style.

As I write this (early October) the games industry is working flat out with designers and artists putting the finishing touches to rules for new games after last minute feedback from play testers and proof readers. It involves late nights and much stress as the games publishers seek to hit the publishing houses deadlines. In many cases the games companies will only know when they get to the show if their latest game has completed the journey and will be available to sell to the eager public.

 Poseidon's Kingdom  - The box artwork
As examples of this Fragor Games 2011 release was Poseidon's Kingdom and the first time they saw of the finished game was when the boxes arrived at the show - no stress there then! However unlike others on this occasion there were no issues with the finished product.

Others were not so lucky; as one example Z-Man Games discovered that the eagerly awaited and much heralded game Ora et Labora by pre-eminent designer Uwe Rosenberg (the man behind the No 2 game on BoardGameGeek (BGG) Agricola) had arrived but when the boxes were opened the tokens had been mis-punched so although the German language version was available from Lookout Games the English language one wasn't - a disappointment for many not to mention an opportunity cost for Z-Man Games.

Voluspa - The box artworkBut as the publishing engines crank their cogs, so the marketing guys are busy raising the visibility of their games with discounts for pre-orders (see these two BGG Lists A and B highlighting all the games in this category), competitions and giveaways that attract visitors to the web sites of the likes of White Goblin Games who will be releasing more than 8 games at the show - Voluspa being one of them.

Advocates writing detailed notes and reviews about games that are yet to be seen in the finished form (see Paul Grogan’s work in support of Czech Games and their new games Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar Goblins Inc, Dungeon Lords: Festival SeasonGalaxy Trucker: Another Big Expansion and Galaxy Trucker: Anniversary Edition as just one example of this).
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - Part of the box artwork
Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill - The box artwork
Others like myself and Chris Bowler (of Unboxed: The Board Game Blog) were lucky enough to have been involved in early play-testing for games being released at the show. In our case Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill by Stratamax Games and so we have our own small interest in what the finished articles will look like. There are also those games that were released earlier in the year at events such as GENCON in the US or the Nuremburg Toy Fair and these will have been sent to favoured games commentators to help raise the visibility of games that publishers hope will make a big impression at the coming show.

Then there are all the visitors coming from round the world, some visiting the show for a day and others like our team of 18 going for all 4 days, plus all the gaming that goes on once the show has finished each day. Food in my experience so far is largely utilitarian, something to be consumed rather than enjoyed, be it Currywurst, Pizza or Chinese. With people in our group having gathered from around the UK, there is much to catch up on but mainly there are all those games we have just bought to play! So eating food can not be allowed to eat into gaming time.
Essen Spiel 2011 Day 3 - One of the many large areas where you can play demo games in Hall 12 (1 of 11 exhibition Halls
The visitors to the Spiel have an unparalleled opportunity to meet fellow gamers, talk with their favourite designers, get access to the latest games and scour the hundreds of trade stands looking for that allusive bargain / game. To varying degrees visits to the show are planned like a military operation, with plans of the halls printed and target games identified.

As part of the planning process gamers are scouring the web as we speak for comments and images on new games and amongst the geekier (me included) building a focus list of games they are interested in, seeking comments from fellow gamers that will help them make the right decisions when they get to the show. Again BGG enables this for its members and one member has helped by the creation of a List of Lists as a way of members canvassing for thoughts and feedback on the games they are interested in. If this wasn’t enough then this is also what is termed a maths trade attracting 2,500 new and used games for exchange from over 140 people across Europe..
Essen Spiel 2011 Day 3 - So many people want to play games they spread out onto the floor
Designing and publishing games are hard work, with much labour, frustration, and risk of mishap. In recent years, I heard of a UK game company who hired a rental van, which only just made it to Essen. As the journey progressed the vehicle developed mechanical failures. Somehow it was nursed all the way to Essen, was driven into the courtyard at the Messe, where it promptly "died". Stock was offloaded, and the vehicle was carried away on the back of a flat bed truck. At the end of the show, remaining stock, and other company items, needed to be palletted up, and then freighted back to UK. More expense and great inconvenience.
Essen Spiel 2011 Day 3 - A large scale demo of Gary Gouda, the new game from Haba
Once at the show there is a large area devoted to second hand games and a massive amount of space devoted to demo games where punters can just sit down and try out a game. Surprisingly and very pleasingly there is no hard sell. It really is seen as OK to sit and play a game for an hour or more and than walk away having not bought the game, although frequently this is not the case! An equally pleasing part of the experience is the way that you may come together with people from around the world and often that you have never met before to play the game, a situation that happened to me on a number of occasions last year. It really is a very social pastime!
Essen Spiel 2011 Day 3 - Three of the guys in our demo game of Hawaii
Obviously for many once we get to the show the planning will be set aside at times as games that have been overlooked or bargains hove into view and the human impetuosity takes over and the retailers dream ‘impulse buys’ happen!

So if you haven’t planned your visit this year, maybe it is time to start thinking about next year!

1 comment:

  1. And then there are each of the site visitors coming from throughout the entire world, several going to the demonstrate to get a evening and others such as we of 20 opting for almost all Four days and nights, as well as each of the gaming that goes upon once the demonstrate has completed every day.
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