Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Spiel Essen 2021

The Spiel in Essen is the biggest board game convention in Europe. Usually happens every year, but obviously not last year. And because it isn’t that long ago that I rediscovered my love for board games, I actually haven’t gone there for three decades. But this year I went. Unfortunately on the worst day, Saturday, but work prevented me from going on the first day, which is more quiet. Maybe I’ll do that next year. Overall it was a success, and I bought 4 games: The “new beginning” expansion for Paleo, which was released on day one of the convention; Destinies plus Sea of Sand expansion, a game I was on the fence about and then succumbed to the convention rebate; Suspects, a new card-based detective game; and finally Mortum: Medieval Detective, a game I had never heard about before, but was intrigued by the detective story meets Witcher-like world setting.

The main negative point is that after a full day of visiting the convention, I’m not sure that I have seen everything, but my feet hurt too much to continue. Given the pandemic, the organizers could have spread out the booths a bit more, there was unused space at the back of the halls. But at least you needed a Covid certificate to get in. I didn’t get to play as many games as I would have liked, it seemed it was easier for small groups than fir a single person to get somebody offering them to show a game. So I squeezed in with other groups, and played Paper Dungeons and Oathsworn. Not sure whether I will get these games later. But while I didn’t get to play much, I got a lot of short explanations on games to find out whether I would be interested. Malhya is definitive maybe, although it seems to me that the game has been under development for a rather long time, since 2018, and still hasn’t even launched the Kickstarter.

I was a bit hampered by the fact that I like thematic, story-driven games, preferably played co-operatively. But in a European board game convention you unsurprisingly mostly see competitive Euro games, with all sorts of worker placement, tableau building, and other mechanic-heavy gameplay elements. Even Destinies, while story-driven, is competitive. I’ll have to play it once with my wife to see how much that bothers us, otherwise I might have just to play it solo. Only one of the games that I backed in crowdfunding (Nova Aetas Renaissance) was represented at the convention. I would have loved to see more of them, to get at least a first glimpse while waiting for these Kickstarters to deliver.

At least I didn’t overdo it on the spending. I took an airport hotel 15 minutes by car south of the convention, which was a lot cheaper than the hotels in walking distance. I was happily surprised that they charged me only 6 bucks a day for parking at the convention center. And I paid only 175€ for those games I bought. I even saved money by eating ouside the convention, but that was more to take a break and bring the games I had bought back to my car, so I didn’t have to lug them around. I had a really fun time overall, but I’m happy I took a hotel instead of driving back home after a long convention day.


Probably a stupid question: you talk about the many games you buy, but do you actually play them often afterwards? I stopped buying new games when I realized, by looking at the ScorePal app, that the actual number of plays our groups does for each game is minimal before moving to the next one.....
Pandemic Legacy, which is a legacy game, so only one playthrough, actually ranks #1 in number of plays when it comes to "big games", the only ones ahead of it being quick games like Splendor or Sagrada or The Isle of Cats.
Now, some games just look great on paper and actually suck when you play them, but some are great games which end up stored in a closet way before we actually enjoyed them fully (stuff like Great Western Trail or Caverna or Terraforming Mars require several games before you can really appreciate them).
At times I get the feeling that boardgames are just the next consumerism fad.....
As I write this, I am in the middle of a game of Destinies with my wife. She likes it, so we will probably play some more. We play something nearly every weekend, unless we are going somewhere for the weekend. We also tend to take a game or two with us on holidays. And some games I play solo.

But you are right insofar as in terms of hours played, I get more mileage out of videogames. We played only like 15 scenarios of Gloomhaven before moving on. But then again, if you play a game until you get bored of it, that might be "enough", regardless of what the length of the campaign is. And I still have far more unplayed Steam games than I own unplayed board games. :)
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