The SPIEL Games Convention at Essen / Germany


The SPIEL 05

13st to 16th October 2005

Tuesday, 11th of October

Okay, lights on, camera running, micro is open...

Folks, here is Essen / Germany !

Once again a year has passed, and here we are again, starting with my anual reports from the SPIEL 05 at Essen! For me, much has happened over the previous year, with the most prominent fact being that I have moved back to Essen about a month ago. In the meanwhile, our new home has been finished, and now I am rather looking forwards to this year's convention. I am now living approximately 250 meters from the convention area, so it seems that the working conditions couldn`t be better...

What I am not able to guess yet is how much time I will have to write up any coherent reports during the convention this year. Okay, I am on holidays and I will be at the con for all four days, but never in the previous years have sooo many people announced that they are going to visit me. Old classmates, friends from work and even G@mebox co-author Doug Adams from Australia are comming this year, so I guess I will be spending plenty of time with my visitors.

However, I will at least be able to feed you with some fresh pictures, and that's just why I have sneaked into the convention area this day to get an overview how the preparations are proceeding.

On first sight I got the impression that - compared with previous years - there was less activity on most of the exhibitor sites. Since wednesday already is the day off the press conference and the major day for the presentation of the news to the journalists, it seemed a bit odd that many of the smaller exhibitors were not even working on setting up their booths. However, this changed a bit over the day, but it still could not catch up with previous years.

The used games market always is an exception, with many of the dealers already arriving and setting up on tuesday. This was not different today, although here as well there seemed to be a certain degree of collectors missing. This could either mean that the used games section is losing a bit of interest for the collectors (I hope not !) or that the security on the convention area has tightened so that much less "unauthorized" people could get an entry today (this seems to be the liklier case).

Anyway, the best news I can offer for today is that the SPIEL once again has expanded the total exhibition area and has once again added more than one hall to the total. It will be interesting to see which new exhibitors have found their way to Essen and how the new space will be used.

Anyway, tomorrow the fun will start! See you back here soon!

Wednesday, 12th of October

Okay, here we are again, and today the real action has started...

Going to the convention area early this morning, I noticed that many of the exhibitors must have spend their evening with preparations deep into the night, since the convention area now looked much more ready. Still many of the smaller publishers keep arriving, but all the major publishers have finished setting up their booths.

Timely at 11.00 AM I entered the Press Conference, the formal opening of the convention. As in previous years, Mrs. Dominique Metzler from the Merz Verlag led the approximately 300 assembled journalists through the show, introducing everybody to the major news and facts of the convention.

In her presentation Mrs. Metzler actually confirmed a fact which I did already observe yesterday. The total size of the convention area had grown again, and once again a new record concerning the number of exhibitors was reached. Thus, this year a total of 724 exhibitors from 30 nations have booked a booth, and for the first time publishers from all 5 continents are present at the show.

Talking about foreign publishers, the number of exhibitors not coming from Germany certainly has increased by a good measure, so that at the SPIEL 05 the proud amount of 39 percent of the exhibitors is from foreign countries, coming even from (in gaming terms) more remote places like Singapore, Russia, Korea, Japan or Nigeria. Overall, this underlines the increased meaning of the SPIEL for worldwide gaming companies, since any company trying to reach good sales numbers cannot afford to miss booking a booth at Essen.

Known already to the assembled press but not as yet formally announced, Mrs. Metzler also "revealed" the winner of this year's Deutscher Spiele Preis. This year the award went to Louis XIV from ALEA, a sub-label of RAVENSBURGER which did not win this award for the first time, since the label usually stands for strategy games of high quality.

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2005

  1. LOUIS XIV von Rüdiger Dorn (alea/Ravensburger)
  2. NIAGARA von Thomas Liesching (Zoch Verlag)
  3. MANILA von Franz-Benno Delonge (Zoch Verlag)
  4. UBONGO von Grzegorz Rejchtman (Kosmos)
  5. HIMALAYA von Régis Bonnessée (Tilsit Éditions)
  6. IN 80 TAGEN UM DIE WELT von Michael Rieneck (Kosmos)
  7. SCHATTEN ÜBER CAMELOT von Bruno Cathala und Serge Laget (Days of Wonder)
  8. JAMBO von Rüdiger Dorn (Kosmos)
  9. DAS ZEPTER VON ZAVANDOR von Jens Drögemüller (Lookout Games)
  10. VERFLIXXT! von Michael Kiesling und Wolfgang Kramer (Ravensburger)

Thursday, 13th of October

The waiting has ended, people are crowding in - here we go again with the 23rd SPIEL having officially opened its gates for visitors. As always, quite a lot of people were already queuing at the entrances even an hour before the gates were opened, but once the clock stroke ten a sheer unending stream of people kept pouring in.

Myself, I spend an interesting day talking to some of the major publishers and playtesting a few of the games from smaller publishers. Overall, many of you had asked in previous years to get more news from smaller publishers since I will reviewthe bigger after the convention anyway. Thus, due to my tightly packed schedule this year, I have decided to concentrate on doing just that - mainly giving some news from small companies.

And here we go then, with me plunging straigth into the busy world of the convention, starting with a playtest of the medieval cardgame Havoc - The Hundred Years War by SUNRIVER GAMES.

As indicated by the title, the game is focused on battles in medieval England. The players will need to fight with their armies through a number of battles, and depending on which battles are fough the winners and sometimes also the people comming third and second will be assigned victory points.

During play each player receives playing cards with different colours and numbers. These cards also bear beautiful, fitting illustrations of different kinds of troops, but of importance in this game only are the cards and numbers. The game's main engine is actually based on Poker, since the players will need to collect cards in order to get a straight, a flush, a Full House etc.

In his turn, a player either is allowed to draw two new cards either from the open display or the random stockpile and then discard one of the cards on his hand, or the player may cry "HAVOC" and open the next battle. Usually the players tend up to build their hand of cards a bit before the next battle arises, but it is always up to the active player to decide whether his hand of cards is good enough to wage the next battle.

In the battle, the players in turn may either add up to two cards from their hand to their battle display or they may pass and drop out of the battle. Like in poker, the players now can play cards which allow them to get a more valuable display and after all players have either dropped from the battle or finished playing cards (up to a maximum of 6 cards) the player with the most valueable display has won the battle. He will receive victory points as listed on the battle card, all battle displays will be discarded and the game continues with the next player who now may either draw new cards or call for the next battle.

A few special rules offer a greater variation from Poker: So a player is allowed to play a Battle Hound into his battle display. After the battle has been resolved, he can use the dog to fetch him one of the cards from the table before everything is discarded. Furthermore, the last player who won a battle gets to be the new "Peacekeeper". If the Peacekeeper gets to play for three times before the next battle is called, all players except the Peacekeeper will lose one of their cards. This should encourage battles and some progression in the game.

Havoc is a rather successful example of what can happen if somebody takes up an old and well-known game and builds a new game around it. Although the game certainly keeps reminding the players of Poker all the way along, to my like it is much more interesting than Poker and gives the players a much better, competitive gaming atmosphere. Rounded up with a nice design, it`s a cute little game.

Another small publisher which you will know from my reports of previous years is WASSERTAL with their rather successful Railroad Dice. The initital game of Railroad Dice was well-received by the public two years ago, so that on the convention last year a nicely boxed set of the game was released and at the SPIEL this year even an all-new Railroad Dice 2 followed its predecessor.

The new game comes with a new set of rules, making it quite different from the older - still available - Railroad Dice. In the new game all the players will have a station/city on a very small playing area, and during the game they will basically try to build rails from their cities to the other cities on the gameboard. However, a player may not continue his rails once he has connected a city, but he has to build an all-new set of tracks to EACH of the cities on the gameboard so that - as the game progresses - its gets more and more difficult to finish tracks since the gameboard gets more crowded. There also is an element of transporting passengers and purchasing engines in the game, and thus the players can score by connecting towns and moving passengers from them.

Overall, Railroad Dice stands for a history of success, since within the short time of three years WASSERTAL got acknowledged as being a serious producer of small but high-quality games. This does not mean that it is easy for a small publisher to come to Essen and start a rise like this, but - as WASSERTAL demonstrated - it is possible to start from scratch and to find a position on the boardgames market.

Making my way to the next game to playtest, I was able to get this shot at the booth of QUEEN GAMES, already revealing one of the new games which is deemed to be released in 2006. More of the current news at QUEEN will follow one of the next days, but it was nonetheless interesting to see that once again a major publisher woul take Japan as a background for a new strategy game.

The next game I playtested was Camelot Legends - by pure coincidence another cardgame set in medieval England, but this time with a much more mythological background. The game takes up the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round table, and it comes with a big set of different Knight-cards which - during the game - will be assigned to three different questing locations (Camelot, Forbidden Forest, Castle). Each of the Knights has a total of six attributes (battle strength, diplomacy etc) which are displayed by numbers on their cards.

During each player's turn, a new event card will be revealed and is assigned to the corresponding questing location. As for the active player, he now is allowed two actions which consist of either playing a Knight to a questing location, drawing a new Knight card or moving one or two Knights between questing locations. If the company of Knights of a player at a certain location with their combined attributes can meet the demand of one of the events assigned to this location, the player actually may solve this event and take the event card to his victory display where it will count for victory points.

With this being the basic playing mechanism, the game gets much more interesting if you take into consideration that each Knight also possesses a special attribute or skill. These skills differ pretty much, so that they sometimes may influence the attributes of other Knights or allow their player a special action in circumvention of the normal rules. There are even more advanced rules in the game, allowing for duels between the knights and taking fractions into consideration, giving the players an even greater tactical degree to deal with.

Overall, Camelot Legends shows many rules which are known from one game or the other, and when you are new to the game it may get really hard to keep track of the different special attributes available. However, with the publisher Z-MAN GAMES being still quite new to the boardgame scene, it certainly must also be pointed out that the game comes with a rather beautifully designed set of cards and it is my guess that - once players really are used to the game and the attributes of the Knights, the game offers a quite good degree of playing fun.

Next I made my way over to the DAYS OF WONDER booth. Here I wanted to see the new set of painted Miniatures for Shadows over Camelot which was released for the SPIEL 05, but before I got to talk to a press representative I found to rather beautiful game displays which I wanted to share with you.

As you can see, these displays are great, three-dimensional playing areas for Schatten über Camelot and Piratenbucht, and I must say that they formed a great playing area for demonstrations here at the convention - although they are certainly much to big-sized to be used in a medium sized-home. However, the detail of the playing areas and also of the newly available painted miniatures was rather amazing, and especially the playing areas would have made the designers at GAMES WORKSHOP proud as well.

Something which I hinted at last year but which is now much more concrete is that there most certainly will be a special re-design of the successful Memoir '44 especially for the german market (which is not too good for selling wargames). So, it is rumoured that a Fantasy Version of Memoir '44 is going to be released next year.

Another, even more concrete news I got from Bruno Cathala, author of Shadows over Camelot. He told me that his new Fantasy-SciFi game Mission Planete Rouge was released by the french publisher ASMODEE a week ago, but that it would also be clear that an english version of the game would be released next year!

A game I really was anxious to tell you about and which seems to be one of the real convention highlights is the game Cash`n Gun$ by the so far rather unknown publisher REPOS PRODUCTION. I have read some news about the game before the convention, and I was eager to see whether it really was that funny as I expected it to be.

The game is about a group of gangsters who has landed a successful coup and which is now falling apart when it comes to the distribution of the spoils. Each turn a random number of banknotes are turned over and the players will have to see who gets a share of these notes.

In effect, this is done by each player playing one of his gun cards. At the beginning of the game, each player has a total hand of six gun cards (7 "Click", 2 "Bang", 1 "Bang Bang Bang"). At the beginning of each round, all players simultaneously place one of their gun cards face down on the table. Before these cards are revealed, each player takes up one of the guns included in the game, and again simultaneously each player points his gun at one of the other players.

Now a player may decide to drop out this round, meaning that he cannot be hit but that he will not get any of the banknotes either and further that he will receive a "chicken"-penalty by loosing a banknote of the smallest denomination at the end of the game. Then the shooting is dealt with, with each player turning over his card. If it is a "Click", nothing has happened to the player whom he has aimed at, but if it is a "Bang" the player is hit, receives a wound and will not participate in this turn's distribution of the spoils. An exception is the "Bang Bang Bang" card - it causes one hit as well, but the target of the shot will not even be allowed to turn over his own gun card, preventing him from acting this turn. If a player has received three hits, he it totally out of the game and has to watch the others finish it.

This way the game continues until ten rounds have been played and all players have used all of their gun cards. After the last round the player with the most valuable banknotes will have won the game. However, the contents of the game box do not stop here, there even are more cards included allowing for special abilities of each player and even for including a cop whose goal it is to remain undercover and to try to take delaying actions without being discovered until the police arrives.

Today I played the game with a group of four strangers, and it was incredible how much fun we had while playing it. Playing the cards, pointing the guns, threatening, swearing, groaning - there was so much action on the table that I enjoyed myself throughoutly. Although Cash'n Gun$ is no boardgame in the typical sense, it absolutely entertaining to play and also comes with a very nice, comic style artwork. For me, it certainly is a MUST-HAVE, of this year's SPIEL.

Finally, before closing the reporting for today, I have to add one more observation: it is getting more and more common for the publishers to hand out little expansions for their successful games at the SPIEL. While this was a rare thing to happen years ago, just today I was able to collect a River-Expansion for Settlers of Catan and additional counters for China and cards for Bang (both ABACUS). Furthermore, games like Cash`n Gun$ or Havoc each came in special SPIEL-versions, giving away free limited expansions if the game was bought at Essen.

Overall, I really welcome this procedure, since it makes the games even more interesting it also is fun to try to hunt down these items. However, I also understand that it makes it even harder to bear not to be at Essen, since such items only rarely will appear to be for sale elsewhere. But don`t worry, we still have...

The anual SPIEL Prize-draw !

This year the prizes were sponsored by KOSMOS, and I am proud to announce that I could get my hands onto 5 of the highly wanted River-expansions!!! So, if you like to win one of these, all you have to do is to make an entry in my guestbook. Please note that due to recent spamming I added a new guestbook today - you will need to make a new entry if you signed up yesterday!. Good luck to all of you!

Good night everybody !

Friday, 14th of October

Okay, and here we go again ! It was definately a short night, but there is still quite a lot of things to do, so I once again entered the convention for the opening at 10 AM.

As you can see from the picture above, the first game I went to see this morning was the new Um Ru(h)m und Ehre prototype game which will be released by ALEA next year. This game is focused about pirates being on landleave in the shabby harbour part of a town, and here the up to four players have to engage in Pirates-activities and to collect victory points.

The gameboard itself is constructed of several square pieces which can be put together to form a unique new gameboard from every new game. Spread on the gameboard are locations like taverns or pirate outfitters or simply spaces showing symbols of coins, brawling pirates etc. All these special places are interconnected by roads, and each of these roads usually have a length between 2 to 5 spaces.

At the beginning of a round of play, each player receives a total of 10 pirate figures for his own stockpile and an additional 5 pirates of his colour still remain in the common bank. On the gameboard, just one pirate of a special colour is placed, it will be this special pirate who must be moved by all the players in order to get to different places. The movement itself is done in a fairly easy way - the active player just needs to make a connection between the current position of the special pirate and the place where he desires the pirate to go by filling all spaces on the interconnecting road with pirates of his colour. This way the special pirate will arrive at the new location, and here the player can act upon the symbol which is printed on the location. However, the active player's pirates usually STAY on the gameboard, so that a player's stockpile of pirates keeps getting smaller during the round.

As indicated, the locations show different kinds of event/places which the active player now will have to deal with. At some places he simply is allowed to take a coin (purchases) or a Rum barrel (for adjusting dice-rolls), while other places like taverns or pirate outfitters are assigned special, randomly mixed stockpiles of markers from which the player may draw one. Some of these markers show victory points, whereas others may cause events to take place which may influence any of the participating players. Other locations still allow special actions, like brawling with the city watch or the taking of additional pirates from the bank into a player's stockpile.

When the players have nearly used up the pirates from their stockpiles, the round draws to its end and the players will try to get their remaining pirates for the night back onto the ship. Here a brawl for the best sleeping places (also victory points) arises, a duel of dicerolls in which the pirates who have first come back to the ship have the best chances.

In total, the game is played in five rounds, and the player with most victory points after these rounds will have won the game.

To say it right from the beginning - I got the impression that Um Ru(h)m und Ehre is a much lighter game with less strategic elements and more luck than many of the previously released ALEA games. Since the players often will have to draw random counters, I was strangely reminded of old adventure boardgames where the players travel around with their heroes and deal with random events. Of course, this does not mean that the players will not be able to develop some strategies while playing. So players actually can decide which way would be best to collect most victory points, and they may also hamper other players by moving the special pirate in a direction which does not seem suitable for the others. Nonetheless, it seems that the strategic element is not so deep as in other ALEA games, but this thesis can only be proven by further playtesting.

And now we come to...

Kulkmann's 1st convention WARNING!

Up here you see a new box from KOSMOS, titled Atlantis - Szenarien & Varianten. I was intrigued to see this box at the booth of a games seller, especially since I heard nothing about this box in advance of the convention. At the moment, the box is ONLY sold together in a tight bundle with a 10th anniversary version of the Settlers basic game, and you couldn't actually see the backside of the box because of the bundling. However, the dealer was kind enough to open up a bundle and even unwrapped one of the Atlantis boxes, and what I found inside was - at least to my mind - ridiculous.

In the box, some Settlers variants (I think its 12 at most) are included, but most of these variants were already included in the Settlers Book which was released years ago! So you get well known expansion tiles like the vulcano, the magic citadel etc. Even the announced Atlantis-Szenario was already included in that box. There are only very few new variant rules (city walls, castles, harbourmaster) which actually are new, and I think that especially the title "Atlantis" is rather misleading, since you would suspect the game to be focused one variants which all are more or less reflecting the topic of Atlantis. This is not the case, so I say to all Settlers-Fans out there: THINK if you really NEED this box!

Going a bit further into strange selling strategies, let me also take up a point which I commented favourably on in yesterday's report. As said, the producers more and more tend to release not only bigger expansions for successful games, but they also create small giveaways ("goodies") which are freely (or for a small fee) distributed at the convention. However, this morning I learned that HANS IM GLÜCK had produced a new mini expansion for Carcassonne, called "The River No. 2". While Jay Tummelson (RIO GRANDE GAMES) actually sold these small sets freely at the convention, the german version was not available since HANS IM GLÜCK decided to sell it only in small numbers through specialist gaming stores in oder to promote sales for smaller stores. I would say that the right place for such expansions would be - as in previous years - to be given/sold at a convention like Essen. The strategy to promote sales at specialst gaming stores - as honourable as that might be - to my mind does not correspond with the general production of an expansion set.

Making my way to the lunch meeting of the International Gamers Awards Committee, I still have a bit of time left and I once again dropped by QUEEN GAMES to dip a bit into Timbuktu, a new boardgame from QUEEN coming in one of the bigger sized boxes.

In Timbuktu, the players try to lead a caravan of camels loaden with different kinds of goods over a number of stages (depending on the number of players) to their final destination. At the beginning of the game the camels are loaden with the goods either following a fixed setup or - advanced - on the choice of the players. The camels of the players are lined up in five rows, but these rows of camels actually are mixed and not just consisting of camels of just one player. In their turns, the players now move forwards one of their camels using camel cards, and the camels then are allowed to move into the stables at the next stage where they - once again - are lined up in a row. However, the order of the row and even the row itself usually will not be identical, since the camels also are allowed to switch over into adjacent rows.

So far, the game does not sound rather unusual, but the most intersting part of the game becomes visible when you take into consideration that goods will be stolen from certain spaces on certain rows at each stage-station. The players get a number of hints by cards while still playing the round, and these hints they must interpret correctly in order to guess/know which rows will be endangered in the next stage-station and thus to avoid them.

The game comes to its end when all stages have been completed, and now the price of the goods which have made the voyage will be determined by looking how many goods of each type have been stolen. This results in the fact that a kind of good which has been stolen is more rare and thus it will fetch a higher price in the final counting. The game then will be won by the player with the most valuable goods.

Timbuktu actually seems to be a quite entertaining, surprising "brain teaser". You would not usually have suspected a game about caravans to have a guess-and-solve twist in its rules, but the stealing of the goods at each waystation and the determination of the final pricing of the goods at the end of the voyage both leave me with a good impression of the "novation"-factor of the game and also of the game's athmosphere.

Ariving now at the Convention Center's lunch area, I already found most of the IGA Committee memebers present at Essen having arived for the anual lunch.

On the picture above, you see (left to right) Ferdinand de Cassan (barely visible), Ronald Hoekstra, Stuart Dagger and the IGA chairman Greg Schloesser...

... while here you see Mike Siggins and Alan How ...

... and here Doug Adams and Mik Svellov (with Doug Adams having made his first trip around the world, coming from Melbourne, Australia to Essen.

Over the next hour, we discussed quite a few issues about the current standing of the IGA and its positioning in the future. Also, the results of this year's voting where discussed, since it had been a rather close final which had been run between Ticket to Ride Europe and Shadows over Camelot. I guess that there is no other place or time around the year when that many IGA committee members come together at one place, and thus a nice lunch meeting simply is prefect for a good discussion of quite a few points on our actual agenda.

Refreshed and hungry for more playing, Doug Adams and me made our way to the small publishers hall where we first enjoyed another short but funny go at Cash'n Gun$ to war up for the afternoon.

Deciding to go for a another funny looking little game, I went to the small and outside Germany rather unknown publisher Harald Mücke (www.spielmaterial.de) who had a cute looking game called Weihnachtspinguine (Christmas Penguins) on display. The game is set before the funny sounding story that Santa Clause has loaded up his slay with gifts at the Northpole and is now taking a rest before he goes on his voyage to deliver the presents. However, a bunch of rowdy Penguins (the players) now comes running for Rudolph the Reindeer and the slay full of gifts...

Thus, the players start to move their penguins over the polar area towards the slay by rolling the dice, but one player at the beginning of the game has to stay out because he will play Santa who has come running on order to save the presents by catching the penguins. Thus, that player will move Santa instead of his Penguin, and he must continue to move Santa until he has captured one of the other Penguins. The captured player then has to assume the role of Santa and remove his penguin, and the capturer now may enter the fray with his own penguin.

A rampage Icebear, cracks in the ice, landscape features and random event cards spice the game up and bring movement onto the playing area, resulting in a funny penguin hunt and a step-by-step changing playing area. Although from the rules perspective the game does not offer any real innovative breakthroughs, it still is a good, entertaining game which also comes with great looking playing pieces. To my mind, it's sometimes a shame that such small but notheless nice games even at Essen do not always get the audience they deserve.

And here comes another one with nicely looking playing pieces. Gordon Lamont from Scotland has made his way to Essen with FRAGOR GAMES to present his newest game Shear Panic, a game about managing sheeps within a flock which is going to be sheared.

At the beginning of this four player game, all the sheeps are aligned in a square around a black sheep with each player being assigned ownership of two sheeps (identified by coloured dots on the backs of the sheep). For the game, each player has a total of 12 mostly different actions which he will use up during the game, with these actions allowing him to push single sheeps or rows of sheeps into different directions, jump over sheeps, lign the sheeps up or even to take an U-turn and to change the facing of the whole flock of sheep.

By chosing an action, a player always also will trigger a movement of the game-progession-marker on the progression sheet, so that the game slowly progresses from beginning towards the end. This progression marker also divides the game into four phases, in each of which the players will have to position their sheep differently in order to score points. So, in the first phase the players score by getting their own sheep into adjacent position, while in the next phase Rudi the Ram comes into play positioning himself in front of the flock, allowing players to score higher the closer they get to stand to the Ram. Phase three then will allow the scoring for positioning a player`s sheep next to the black sheep, while in the fourth and final phase the dreaded shearer comes into play, now allowing the players to score highest if they have got their sheep at the greatest distance to the shearer.

FRAGOR GAMES came to Essen with 500 copies of the game, most of which were already on pre-order by players from around the globe. Thus, he was actually SOLD OUT on wednesday, even before the convention itself started. Judging alone from the cute look of the game with its custom-made playing pieces, I was not surprised to hear this news, but nonetheless I was happy to hear of the good selling success for FRAGOR GAMES since it showed once again that sometimes Essen could prove itself to be a boost for smaller publishers. However, with FRAGOR GAMES being virtually on a booth neighbouring WWW.SPIELMATERIAL.DE, the sometimes rather different acceptance of two games could't get more obvious. Both Shear Panic and Weihnachtspinguine have cute looking playing pieces which give the games an outstanding appearance, but while the booth of FRAGOR always is filled with customers this other booth only receives minor attendance from the public. And this actually is not justified by the quality of the games, since Weihnachtspinguine - although being not that innovative as the brain-teasing sheep moving mechanism in Shear Panic - is a game which certainly makes up in fun what the other makes up concerning strategy. Overall, I couldn't tell which game I like better, although I would judge Shear Panic to be much more difficult since it is a pure strategy game without any luck. The only factor which thwarts a players plans on a regular basis is the actions of the other players, since these can change the positioning of the flock so fast that it gets difficult to carry out with any long-term planning.

But now with the end of the convention day drawing near, we can turn to one of the convention higlights, with the crowd gathering up for the...

International Gamers Awards 2005

As in previous years, the awards ceremony for the IGA takes place in Essen, since it is the best time to have authors, publishers, committee members and the public together at one place.

And thus, once again IGA chairmain Greg Schloesser started into his speech to present the winners, first going on in German but later on, to the great delight of the attending oublic, switching back into english. So, this year's winners are...

Zug um Zug Europa (Ticket to Ride Europe) by Alan R. Moon in the Multiplayer category, and...

Der Ringkrieg (War of the Ring) by Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello & Roberto Di Meglio in the Two-player category.

Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello & Roberto Di Meglio


a Representative from DAYS OF WONDER

And with these images, I am getting close to signing off for tonight. However, having the rare opportunity to have Doug Adams here at Essen, let me present to you a final photograph...

... showing Doug Adams, Ralf Togler and me - which is nearly the complete reviewing team of Kulkmann`s G@mebox.

See you tomorrow !

P.S. Scanning through the guestbook entries, I saw several remarks wishing for slightly bigger photographs. Although my camera certainly could do this, there is a problem with the storage limit of the page and the traffic bandwidth. Placing a great lot of of larger pictures up into the net will mean that the traffic volume of my page would increase considerably, meaning that I would have to update to a larger webhosting package. Thus, I decided to do smaller pictures, but at least this allows me to keep all former pages of the website up as well...

Saturday, 15th of October

Phew, we are getting closer to the end, but as every year I am starting to get tired a bit due to all these nighttime typing sessions and the daily testing. However, it's great to see in my guestbook that a good lot of you is enjoying my babbling and my rather subjective choice of presenting some convention news, so let's not waste time and go right into the matter...

This day I started my testing activities with the new game Key Largo by the french publisher TILSIT. In previous years TILSIT only rarely had done games in other languages than french, but not they seemed to have learned that coming to Essen needed at least german translations and that makes at least their new games much more attractive for the broader public at Essen.

The game Key Largo is settled about a group of adventurers who has come to one of the Florida Keys in order to search the waters around it for ancient shipwreck bearing valuable freight from the time of the Spanish Main. Thus, each player receives a boat, a diver and a starting capital of 100 US$ at the beginning of the game, and the game will be won by the player who has accumulated most money after 10 days (turns).

Each turn, the players simultaneously and in secret decide which activities they are going to follow on the morning and on the afternoon. Here, the players can choose from five different kinds of actions: diving for treasure, going to the tavern, buying at the outfitter, selling at the market and taking tourists on a dolphin sightseeing trip.

The easiest way to get money is to take tourists on the dolphin trip, but here not a lot of money can be earned. However, the player chosing this action always gets to draw a special action card. This card he can keep secret and play later at a suitable time during the game, usually allowing him some additional benefit while performing the an other action.

At the tavern, a player can hire new divers and listen to stories of shipwrecks (allowing him to scan through one pile of wreck cards distributed around the island). At the outfitter, the player can buy hoses which allow his divers to go deeper and reach deeper wrecks or a harpoon which may be used against a sea monster. But the most important and dangerous part is the dive itself. If the player decides to go for treasure, he may chose one pile of wreck cards around the island (there are three different depths in which the wrecks can be found). From that pile he may draw as many wreck cards as he has divers which are equipped with hoses long enough to reach that depth. Treasures a player secretly takes to his hand, while the finding of a sea monster will eliminate a diver unless the player has a harpoon which effectively takes care of the sea monster. Finally, a player may chose to go to the market to sell his goods, getting money for it which will increase a player's wealth and winning chances.

The game plays rather smoothly with four or five players, and there is a nice element requiring the players to make some second guessing what the other players have planned for the day. At the tavern, the market and the outfitter the prices vary depending on how many other players are at the same time at that place, so that the players generally will try to avoid being with other players at the same time at the same place. Due to the available actions the game goes on quite entertaining and even more variation comes in through the special action cards which the players earn through dolphin trips. Coupled with a nice artwork, the game certainly can be recommended, although I would say the price of 35 Euros for which the game is sold at Essen is about 5 to 10 Euros too high.

Comming back to my loose series of stories of successful authors, I checked at the booth of PEGASUS to find Lutz Stepponat present the third game in his successful Return of the Heroes-Saga. With the new game Helden in der Unterwelt (Heroes in the Underworld), the Heroes of the players now enter a new domain, the Underworld known from greek mythology. Here a sinister madman is trying to take over the Underworld Empire to turn it into a real Hell, and step by step the Heroes now need to scout through the slowly depeloping Underworld in order to thwart the madman's plans.

The game follows all the basic playing mechanisms known from Return of the Heroes and comes with a new set of 4 additional doublesided (male/female) Heroes. However, the playing area has changed and it can be played either as a stand-alone game OR as an expansion to Return of the Heroes and Im Schatten des Drachen. Especially if the new game is used as an expansion, Lutz Stepponat has included all rules and needed counters to fit the new "sidegame" smoothly into the already existing games, so that the "Heroes"-world once again expands and slowly grows into a fantasy saga. Once again, Lutz Stepponat has shown a great example how far an author with dedication and endurance can get, and Pegasus now offers his three games for playtesting on a huge playing area.

One thing which certainly surprised me this year was the news about the delay which several of the publishers had to face at the SPIEL this year. KRIMSUS KRIMSKRAMS KISTE for example was having problems getting the games printed, and the people from KRIMSUS were just happy to receive a box of their cardgames on the day the convention opened for the public. Even worse were the news from PHALANX and RIO GRANDE GAMES, since both the Battles of the Third Age (War of the Ring) and Gloria Mundi did not make it to Essen at all, with the release of Battles of the Third Age even having to wait for another 2 months...

However, with their games having arrived, nothing actually did hinder me from having a closer look at the new games from KRIMSUS KRIMSKRAMS KISTE, a small german publisher specialised on doing cardgames of whom I have presented you some games in many of the previous years...

As it is usual for KRIMSUS, Mark Sienholz and Ralf Sandfuchs again did choose a prevailing topic for their games this year, and this time their focus had fallen on Egypt and the once great Pharao Krimsutep. So, they have released with Die Baumeister des Krimsutep and Die Pyramide des Kerimsutep two games which are related by the topic but which - measuring the era in which they play - are seprarated at least 4000 years.

Set back in the time of ancient Egypt plays Die Baumeister des Krimsutep, a game about building temples and avenues of obelisks at the borders of the river Nile. Thus, at the beginning of the game a playing area is prepared by forming a landscape with the included river and desert cards, and each player receives an identical set of building cards consisting of smaller and major palace parts, obelisks and an oasis.

The game itself then is played in six to eight rounds, with the number of rounds depending on the number of participating players. Each round is subdivided into two phases. At the beginning of the first phase the players secretly put down one of their building cards which they want to build later that turn, and then a game of trump using a cardset of sklaves and building materials of different card-values and several special trump-characters is played. The players can score some victory points in this phase, with special points being awarded for some special trum combinations or being alble to get most building materials of one colour. However, when the game of trum is over, each player also will have to add up the roman numbers given on the cards which he could gather, and the player with the highest result here will become the Pharao`s favoured architect for that turn.

In the now following second phase of the round, the players first turn over the building cards which they have placed face-down in front of them at the beginning of the round. Now the architect player gets to decide in which order the players are allowed to place their building cards at the playing area, and here once again the players can score victory points by building larger palaces or long rows of obelisks. Once all building cards in the players` stockpiles have been used up, the game comes to its end and the player with most victory points will have won.

Especially the first phase of the rounds, the game of trump, somehow reminded me of Mark Sienholz`s first game Beutelschneider which was released back in 1997, and here my impression was not wrong since Mark told me that the trump-mechanism in Beutelschneider actually still fascinated him so that he again wanted to do a game with a trump-mechanism. With Die Baumeister des Krimsutep Mark actually succeeded in creating a new game which takes up a trump mechnism, but which also offers quite more stretagical elements and a bit of a risk factor due to the building phase which comes second in each round. Overall, the game`s nice design and its smooth and enteraining cardplay left me with a good impression, so that I eagerly turned a few pages in the historybook to go ahead 4000 years in order to return to...

Die Pyramide des Krimsutep in which a bunch of glory-seeking adventurers actually dared to enter the ancient tomb of the long-dead pharao.

As with Die Baumeister des Krimsutep, a part of the playing cards contained in the game is used to for a playing area which is a square of 6 times 6 cards, showing the Pyramid of Krmsutep. At the beginning of the game these cards are divded into two factions of light an dark cards. These cards are separately mixed and then distributed into the playing area, with the light cards forming the lower and the dark cards forming the upper half of the pyramid. All these cards remain face down at the beginning, so that it will be up to the players to explore the pyramid and to reveal those cards.

It is the aim of the game to be the first player who actually succeeds in first carrying a Kanope (urn with ashes) and then a treasure out of the pyramid. At the beginning of the game, only canopes are available in the pyramid, and only when a player has succeeded in finding a Kanope and carrying it out of the pyramid a treasure will be taken and hidden in the pyramid by a procedure of taking up several pyramid cards and shuffling the treasure among them before re-distributing them.

A player`s turn is mainly driven by cardplay, with a player being allowed to play as many excarvation cards as he desires to do. These excarvation cards always shwo three possible kinds of actions, among them for example an ankh symbol increasing a player`s ankh-score, a secret passage, a torch allowing the banning of the frghtening mummy of Krimsutep or a god symbol. However, although the excarvation cards show three different actions, a player always only is allowed to use one of this actions.

The god symbols are used by the players for moving in the pyramid, since each pyramid card - be it already turned over or still face-down - also bears one of the five available god symbols. For his movement, a player looks up a pyramid card which bears the same symbol as the excarvation card he wants to play, and then he will need to find out if his total allowance of five movement points actually will take him to the new location. For this, a step over an already revealed pyramid card counts as one movement point, while a facedown pyramid card (which can remain facedown) costs two movement point to cross. However, when making the move and entering a still face down pyramid tile, a player always can opt to reveal this tile, in which case he will not allowed anymore to move freely over this tile but will have to follow the pathway as given on that pyramid card. Still, movement is not only a question of having the right excarvation cards, it also can be influenced by some special pyramid tiles like pits, ramps or secret chambers and also the rampant mummy of Krimsutep which is released when the first player has found a Kanope comes to hunt the players.

Overall, the game strongly reminded me of the old GAMES WORKSHOP classics Curse of the Mummy`s Tomb and Dungeonquest, and I this it would be quite correct to rate the game somewhere between both of them. Of curse, if you bear in mind that Die Pyramide des Krimsutep still is a cardgame you certainly will understand that the game is not as richly outfitted as the older classics, but still I was again surprised by the variety of playing components which the KRIMSUS people actually were able to squeeze into the small cardgame box. As for the graphics, the ilustrations on the cards fit quite nicely to the background of the game, with especially the adventurers being a quite funny looking bunch of somewhat familiar people.

A nice extra for which KRIMSUS certainly deserves additional praise is that, since the new games certainly have a certain likeness to boardgames, they decided to create full gameboards for both games which actually are available for download. Thus, a good deal of atmosphere can be added to the games just by visting the KRIMSUS Website, grabbing the gameboards, printing and assembling them.

However, Essen not only is a great place to visit the publishers and to see their newest games. If you are really lucky, you sometimes even can team up with a reknown author and playtest a prototype which has not been placed with a company yet. So, for example Andreas Seyfarth has created a new game about the building and manning of huge airships, and I was able to witness a demonstration of the new game. It`s a real interesting strategy game, but I think you will understand that I will not go into details since the game still is an unpublished prototype.

A game which I did not get around to playtest was the new electronic boardgame Die Insel by Ravensburger. The game is based on the same electronic device as was last year`s King Arthur, and so I asked people a bit what actually had changed in the new game apart from its look and the background story. Overall, RAVENSBURGER told that they had rightened a few problems which existed with the sound and touchboard mechanisms, and they also introduced slightly more strategic elements and a few more different speakers for the electronical device. However, people who played it still rate it as being a family game suitable especially for younger children, so that I would recommend this game only to players who rather liked King Arthur.

An other testing-session I went for today was at ADLUNG which had published quite a few rather popular cardgames over the last few years. Here I looked at their game Zauberschwert & Drachenei for which a new expansion named Helden & Zaubersprüche was released.

In this game the players take up the roles of sorcerers, battling to become the mightiest wizard in the land. At the beginning of the game each of the sorcerers has two magic points available which he will need to solve quests in the game, but he may always accquire more so that he eventually will get stronger.

During a round of play, the first thing that will happen ist that new questing cards will be revealed for the round. One less quest that players participating will be revealed, so that there alaways will be some competition between the players who will be allowed to participate in a quest. Together with the revealing of the quests, each player also will receive a basic "ration" of two magic points which will be added to his currently available score of points.

The next phase is the central phase of the game - the questing phase. Here now each of the players has the opportunity to send his sorcerer on one of the available quests. These quests often consist of the task to fight some monsters, and for this a player usually will have to spend some of his magic points. Sometimes however a quest card is not about overcoming of a monster, but instead it is a spell which the player will be allowed to pick up. If only one sorcerer has chosen to go on a particular quest, the resolution is simply that he may take the spell or has to pay a number of magic points in order to defeat the monster. For defeating a monster, a player usually will get some artifact cards and/or power tokens. However, if more than one player should actually have chosen the same quest, these players will have to decide whether they want to cooperate in defeating the monster (in which case their share the magic points costs, but they will also each receive a smaller award). On the other hand, if a player should decide that he DOES NOT want to cooperate, all present sorcerers will have to bid magic points for being allowed to fight that monster alone. Here the bidding must start with the amount of points required to slay the monster, and in the end the right to fight it will fall to the player who has offered most magic points who will then have to pay these points and will alone receive the offered reward.

When all quests have been dealt with, the players may deceide if they want to trade or play any of the artifact cards which they hold in their cardhand. There exist single card artifacts which may be directly played, but there also exist two-card artifacts of which a player must find both halfs before he actually may play them. Both the artifact cards and the spells a player may possess widen his range of action or his possibilities to score. So some artifacts convey additional power tokens if special kinds of monsters are fought while others might bring the player magic points etc. Spells also exist in some variety, giving a player a possibility to steal from magic points from another or bringing additional power tokens as well.

In the end, the game will be won by the player who has gained most power tokens after all quests have been dealt with. However, while this synopsis actually outlines the essential playing mechanism, I have skipped a few points which give the game a little more playing depth but which do not need to be mentioned here.

What I really like of the game it it comes with a rather unpretentious but nonetheless quite beautiful artwork. The creators succeeded in using only very few words on their cards and could deal with most playing situations just with symbols on the cards. Still, even the number of different symbols remains overseeable, so that the player is not flooded with many different symbols like in other games. Thus, the game is actually available with both german and english rules, which makes it quite attractive even for players outside Germany. As for the playing mechanism itself, it rather nicely conveyed the atmosphere of fantasy and sorcery without growing into anything like Magic - The Gathering or other full-size cardgames. As mentioned earlier, there also exists and expansion called Helden & Zauberspüche which enlarges the players choices a bit, adding more monsters to the game and also giving some additional rules for recruiting heroes etc. Overall, I found this testing quite enjoyable...

Another item which I covered in a line of convention reports several years ago was a 3-dimensional game of Settlers of Catan which had been created for exhibition reasons by Klaus Teuber. This year finally the 3D-game has gone into production as a collector`s edition of Settlers which is fully pointed and comes in a wooden treasure chest. However, the price for that game also needs to be paid from a treasure chest, since it costs the enormous amount of 289 Euros (which is well over 300 US$).

I do not know wheter you actually are informed about the current weather here in Germany, but this year has granted the SPIEL the best wheather I can remember from all my convention years. Although we are in the middle of fall, temperatures rise well over 20 degrees celsius which mean that people go around just in T-Shirts and that in all convention halls the great gates leading to the inner plaza have been opened. Although there are a few truck parking there, people all day crowd into this free space in order to play games on the ground, eat, practice fencing for life-rpgs etc. Its an amazing weather for the middle of October, but it simply feels great to step out in the air now and then. It makes me wish the SPIEL would happen earlier in the year, but this will never happen because it is fixed just at this date since it also is an indicator for the games market at Christmas.

A gamebox which actually made me rather curious was a game called Pirates! which has been released by RAVENSBURGER. I couldn`t find it in any of the press releases, so I went to get a game off the sheves of a dealer coming from the Netherlands to have a closer look at the game.

The game actually is a family game designed by Rainer Knizia. It comes with small plastic ships, cannons and crew members, and it allows the players to plunder some towns in the Carribean. When looking at the box I was a bit reminded of the old MB classic Broadsides & Boarding Parties, and the complexity of the game seemed to be likewise low. Players seem to manouver their ships and to roll dice to remove crew, mast and cannons from the sips. However, I did not get to play the game, since it was NOT AVAILABLE for playing anywhere at the convention. Asking the seller about this fact, I got to hear the rather strange sounding story that RAVENSBURGER (Germany) decided the game not to be suitable for the german market and thus not to release it. RAVENSBURGER (Netherlands) however went on to publish the game and even outfitted it with german rules, so that obviously different houses of RAVENBURGER in different countries followed different publication guidelines.

And now, we finally turn to the final game for today. Tomorrow my report will be much shorter since I have to attend several press dates and furthermore a couple of friend will arive which does not leave me with enough time to write up a report like today, but I can promise you that I have a game to tell you about which really is worth reading about...

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, 16th of October

Well, and here we are again! It`s amazing how fast six days of reporting can pass, and now already the SPIEL has once again closed its gates and we all are waiting for it to open again next year! Well, it`s just 360 days to go, so it shouldn`t take too long...

As indicated yesterday, I had a really busy day today. I had playtested a few games, but since I have to be early at office on monday morning I will only give you one more review to read today because I think that this game really is worth to know about. However, before going for this last review, let me first draw a few conclusions from this year`s convention...

An observation which has bothered me a bit already the last few years actually has grown into some kind of a fear, and that is that the german games market - as far as the major publishers are concerned - is starting to get overheated. When you go around at the SPIEL, for the one hand you get the feeling that companies simply want to push out as many games as they can in order to follow a market which seems to demand a rapid flood of new games every year. Many games which barely are a year old already have left the shelves again, or some smaller companies are selling bundles for discount prices at Essen which are well below the original sales prices just to get rid of the last games in stock. This price drop actually is also reflected by the used-games market, since for many years prices have risen there but now a decline can be observed. This goes hand in hand with the fact that at least one major collector there had announced that this would be the last SPIEL, and the dealers in the used games section fear that the flea market section might die out from the lot of low priced games circulating.

However, what the major publishers do not seem to observe is that the innovation factor in games seems to be decreasing considerably. Well, this seems not really surprising because of the load of games to be published each year, but still the publishers seem to be blind to the observation that they are weakening the rather high reputation of german games as being boardgames of high quality by publishing a good rate of games which are deemed to be off the market again in one year`s time. As Mrs. Metzler told at the press conference, the SPIEL never had a higher participation rate of foreign publishers, and already it seems that the foreign publishers (and some smaller publishers as well) seem to be more innovative and seem to have the more unique ideas than german companies. This is coupled with the fact that I was told be a representative from a major german publisher that many of them are going through company restructure, and here the consultants are driving for cost effectiveness by banning any major, cost-intensive boardgames and counseling to go for the small-games mass-market. This seems to be hazardous, but when you look at a producer like GOLDSIEBER which was well known for large, outstanding games some years ago it seems nonetheless to hold some truth.

However, there also are some exceptions, amongst them promising publishers like DAYS OF WONDER or ZOCH who hold true to the doctrine of producing quality boardgames, and these companies are seconded by foreign producers like TILSIT or PHALANX. As long as these publishers do not change their views, there is at least no danger that gamer`s game will get too rare...

Before turning to the final review, I also want to give you a small comment concerning the newest GAMES WORKSHOP product Die Minen von Moria. I had a look at this new starter box for the Lord of the Rings Tabletop Wargame today, and I have to confess that GAMES WORKSHOP has put quite a lot of thought and effort into this new box. If you compare it with other starter boxes of older editions of Warhammer, you now get a much more various range of miniatures with the box which allows to get a much better start into the hobby (this new box contains a brand-new Fellowship of the Ring, Moria-Goblins and even a Cave Troll). The great miniatures are complemented by a set of rather nice landscape accessoires like columns, Balin`s Tomb, a gate etc and also a new small version of the full handbook of the Lord of the Rings Tabletop Wargame, and from knowing quite a few older GW tabletop games I can only state that their outfitting of a basic game has changed considerably.

And here is also some other last minute bit of news!

FRAGOR GAMES was virtually flooded at the convention with questions about their lightning-fast sold out game SHEAR PANIC! Since hundreds of people have expressed a which to by a new print, there actually might come a reprint of the game. Also, some major publishers have seen the game with great interest, and thus there might perhaps even come a new edition of the game from a major publisher. So, you best watch the FRAGOR GAMES Website in the next months for any news about the game! BAAAAAH!

However, as all things must come to an end, let us now have a look at a final game for this year`s SPIEL. As you might have suspected it from previous years coverage, I have developed quite a liking for games from DORIS & FRANK, and thus I was quite glad to see that after about 4 years of abstinence they finally had created a new game: Arche Opti Mix.

This new game is a cardgame which comes in a box which is actually a bit smaller than the usual game boxes from DORIS & FRANK, but it is nonetheless a game which does not stand back behind the earlier titles in term of quality. The game is about loading Noah's Ark with animals, and for this the game includes a good variety of animal cards which will be mixed up at the beginning of the game. Also mixed within the lower half of this stack of cards are five rain cards forboding the comming of the flood, and when the fifth rain card is drawn during the game the main play comes to its end and the endgame will start.

Each player receives a hand of two animal cards, and during his turn a player is allowed either to load one or two of his cards onto the Ark or to draw more cards for his hand. The drawing of new cards is fairly easy, with the player first having to choose one of three open drawing cards and then also drawing a card from the random stock. After adding these two cards to his hand, the player then draws an other card from the random stock which then is used to replenish the set of open drawing cards back to three.

However, the loading of the Ark as a players other option is much more complicated. Here the players slowly will start to play animals from their hand into the common playing area which is used by all players (the "Ark"), but for actually playing a card several restrictions have to be observed. The Ark actually is composed of a long corridor which has and indefinate number of compartments to the left and right hand of the corridor, but each of these compartments only may be filled with a maximum of three animal cards. However, not all kinds of animals can be put into a compartment together: whereas animals eating only plants get along quite well, a flesh eating animal would kill other animals so that a flesh eater can only be put into a compartment with bigger plant eaters. Also, there are some shy animals which do not want to be near to a flesh eating animal, and so these cards even cannot be placed in compartments next to or opposite a compartment containing a flesh eater.

However, this only illustrates a part of the problem since other loading rules have to be observed as well. So some animals only like a warm climate while other prefer a cold climate, and thus a common climate in each compartment must be reached. Next rule for loading is that the Ark may not become unbalanced, and thus whenever loading an animal a weight indicator has to be adjusted accordingly to see whether the Ark sways too dangerously to one site so that the animal could not be loaded at all.

You might actually suggest that such problems could be solved by opening new compartments for otherwise unplaceable animals, and this certainly holds true for a few times during the game. However, a player has to pay for opening a new compartment and so he only can do so for a limited number of times. But if all goes well and an animal can be loaden, the player will be allowed to look at the animal`s class (five different classes available) and he will be allowed to place a marker at the according class card. When the game comes to its end, each class card will be evaluated and victory points will be awarded to the players who have majorities on these cards.

Still, before the game ends, first the endgame-phase has to be solved which begins with the drawing of the fifth rain card from the deck of animal cards. In the endgame the players are not allowed to draw new cards animore, but they still may bring any last minute animals from their hand onto the Ark provided they can pay for each card they want to load. If no player wants to load anymore, the game comes to its end and the victory points will be awarded.

I actually had to leave out some rules specifics in this review to keep it understandable. There also are rules for food to be loaded, a special one card "favourite animal" rule and rules for some cards with special abilities. Althogether, the full rules are a bit hard to grasp when reading them or playing the first game of Arche Opti Mix, but after a few games the strategic potential of the game becomes clear to the players and the game gets even more enjoyable. For me, the game is a perfect example what care and detail love can make from a simple cardgame, and I would certainly recommend Arche Opti Mix as being one of the few MUST HAVE GAMES from the SPIEL this year.

And now, continuing a tradition from previous years...

Kulkmann's Convention Hit

"Cash´n Gun$" by Ludovic Maublanc

Okay, if you look at it from a pure boardgamer`s and strategist`s perspective, this title would have been rightly awarded to the just described Arche Opti Mix. As a matter of fact, my decision was hard pushed to decide between those two games, but in the end I decided for Cash`n Gun$ from REPOS PRODUCTION because the game offers such an innovative and entertaining way of playing which simply could not go unnoticed.

Cash`n Gun$ actually might be seen as falling into the group of party games, but nonetheless it is a great game about second guessing and bluffing with its strategic elements getting better visible when you add the rules for specialist abilities and the undercover cop. However, taking into account the mentioned high innovation factor this game offers, the - for a small publisher - great comic art illustration of all components and the simple roaring laughter while playing the game it would think this award to be justified.

And here we are now, at the end of my coverage of the SPIEL `05 at ESSEN. Although I only could put a spotlight only at a very small part of the convention, I nonetheless hope that it was enjoyable to travel over the convention with me. Reading my guestbook I am rather happy to see that many of you liked my way of presenting the show, and such a praise is just what I need to keep up the motivation to get this task done each day. It certainly was a hard week again, but for me it was real fun to keep everything rolling. Nonetheless, if there are any final comments you might wish to make, please feel free to send me an email!

Concerning the awaited finalization of the prize draw, I am too sleepy to go through the procedure tonight, but the winners will be published up here at this site most certainly tomorrow evening.

And with this I close the ESSEN REPORT 05. Everybody take care and hopefully see you again next year!

Frank Schulte-Kulkmann (signing sleepily off....)

Monday, 17th of October

and the winners of the Prize-draw are...

Dave Peters
John Morgan
Kevin Whitmore
Tim K.

Congratulations to all winners!!!

If you want to have a peek at my coverage of previous conventions, follow these links:

Opening times

From thursday to saturday the convention is opened from 10 AM until 7 PM, on sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Travelling to the Messe Essen

If you arrive at Düsseldorf International Airport, it takes about 20 minutes to get to the Messe Essen by Cab. If you hire a car at Düsseldorf Airport, you go onto Autobahn A44 (blue signs), and at the next motorway crossing you go over to A52, direction Essen. Take Exit "Essen Rüttenscheid".

You can also go by train to Essen Central Station. If arriving there, go to the basement and take the Subway U11 directly to the Messe Essen.

If you want to arrange lodging at Essen, you best contact the Essen-tourism-center by phone 0049/(0)201/19433 or 0049/(0)201/88720-46 or -48. Perhaps they know where some Hotel-rooms are left...

Looking for the new games? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]


Copyright © 2005 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany