Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Fabrice Beghin,
Frédéric Delporte,
Etienne Espreman


No. of Players:
2 - 5



ESSEN The Game: Spiel '13 puts us into the role of gamers who roam the halls in search for the most prestigious (best) games. Already the layout of the gameboard and the many tiles and cards in the game suggests that the authors of this game must be real geeks, because Fabrice Beghin, Frédéric Delporte and Etienne Espreman went through quite a bit of effort to ensure that they would be allowed to use original publishers' logos, game covers and even the hall plans of the convention area to illustrate their game material. As a result, all the components carry a strong feel of familiarity for anybody who has visited the SPIEL '13, and it's now the question whether the game itself does well in continuing this spirit.

The seven rounds of playing focus on one full day at the SPIEL, with the opening of the gates at the beginning of round one and the closure after round 7. During these rounds the 60 publishers on the gameboard will receive their games on stepwise basis, with some games being available at the beginning of the day, whereas others will follow as the pallets in the courtyard are unloaded. Each publisher has only one tile of his game, and this tile will become available at some point during the day. During setup, the players have received 300 Euros each which they may spend to acquire games, and they have also drafted a hand of Wishlist cards which list games they are looking for. If they will succeed in getting these games, they will score additional victory points at the end of the day.

The process of moving in the halls and acquiring new games is represented by a simple but effective mechanism of action points. A player has an allowance of eight action points each round, and it costs one point to make each step of movement or to buy a game from a publisher. However, seasoned SPIEL visitors will know that games can become quite cumbersome, and so each game in a player's bag will lower his amount of action points, down to a minimum of 2 points when 6 games are carried. Since the game lasts only seven rounds, players need to get rid of such a payload as fast as possible in order to move effectively, and so they have to commute between the halls and their cars where they can safely stow the games away.

But which games should be bought? The value of a game in victory points depends on a number of factors, starting with the game's potential (as indicated on the game tile) and moving on to the popularity factor. Four different types of games exist in the game (worker placement, dice games etc.), and during setup of each round popularity indices for each type of games will be set. Every game belongs to one of these types, and if a game of a high-ranking type is bought the lucky buyer will receive a nice bonus in victory points. In addition, there also is the possibility that an event token has been placed on the game, and so it may be high in the buzz or contain goodies which also add some victory points value. Finally, there is also an open display of some more Wishlist cards which can be collected for free when such a game is bought, and players can also spend one action to sit down for a round of playtesting in order to draft a new Wishlist card from the deck.

There is also one intermediate and one endgame scoring which represent the three big polling stations of the show (Boardgamegeek, TricTrac and Fairplay), and players who meet the conditions listed on these Scoring cards by owning the correct combination of games of the required types will be able to score extra points as well. In fact, these scorings are just another fitting example how much care the authors have taken to give the game as much SPIEL-atmosphere as possible, and so there are many small twists in the rules which will be recognized by SPIEL-veterans: a press pass allows an early entry and so it will be used to indicate the starting player, the courtyards of the convention area can be used as shortcuts and to make a costly lunch-break (which brings back two additional action points!), additional cash can be gained (for victory points) at the ATM outside the halls and gathering crowds can impede movement within the halls.

From my perspective ESSEN The Game: Spiel '13 is a caring and faithful adaption of a day at the SPIEL, but at the same time it also works surprisingly well as a game. The mechanism of balancing movement against carried games puts up a quite interesting challenge for the players, and the stepwise delivery of new games keeps the game both varying and surprising. However, the players can count on the fact that each of the 60 different games will appear at some point during the day, and the later it gets the more probably it will become that a desired game will appear during the setup of the following round. So, the players do best if the constantly try to adapt their way through the halls in order to pick up a good opportunity, and doing this in accord with the popularity indices and the scorings makes the whole operation even more worthwhile. SPIEL visitors certainly will love this game for the theme alone, and on the cover you can find many people who are actively involved with the hobby of boardgames. However, you should really get it onto the table and play it in order to show those ignorant people back at home what a day at the SPIEL really means: it's not games - it's a hard test for all your abilities!

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Copyright & copy; 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany