The "SPIEL 97" Games-Convention at Essen / Germany



At the convention

Once more the happy days of gaming are over and the next "SPIEL" convention is far away in October 1998. 439 exhibitors from 17 nations found their way to the convention this year, and the number of 130.000 visitors on the 4 days stayed as high as the year before. All major game-publishers were present, and it was fun again to have four days of playing and testing many different games.

Without doubt, the best games this year were presented by Goldsieber-Spiele, which came to the convention with "Löwenherz", "Missisippi Queen", "Die Ritter von der Haselnuss" and some other new Cardgames. These games got the major german games-awards this year, and thus it was not surprising that many visitors found their way to the Goldsieber-booth to have a look at the new products. To my mind Goldsieber is setting up a new standard for boardgames, since they continue to publish pretentious games, and I think their design must simply be accepted as the best in Germany.

But let us not forget the other publishers. This year Queen Games is the publisher with the largest expansion of import games. After ICEīs "Middle Earth - The Wizards", they now have added the german editions of the Trading Card Games "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" to their products. It is astounding how fast the 1988-founded company seems to expand. Also from Queen Games are the games "Show Manager", which won the 3rd rank in the "Deutscher Spiele Preis"-award, and "Expedition" (8th rank), also being a sign for the high quality of the Queen Games products.

As I went over the convention, some games of various companies evoked up my special interest:

- The french publisher Eurogames / Jeux Descartes was at the con with some new games, but most interesting looked their new version of the race-game "Formule Dé". Itīs an easy playing game, but itīs nonetheless very entertaining and it captures the Grand-Prix-Atmosphere quite well. 2 Race-Tracks (Monaco, Zandfoort 1) are included in the basic game, and about 8 new tracks were for sale as expansions.

- The publisher Blatz, which is a union of Ass, Hans im Glück and Schmidt-Spiele had a new expansion for 1996īs "Spiel des Jahres" "El Grande". This new expansion is called "Großinquisitor & Kolonien", and by this box a new character, the Inquisitor, is added to the game. He is nearly as strong as the King himself, and he has new powers which he may use to fulfill his aims. Also included in this box are 4 colonies (Italy, England, France, The new World) which the players may reach by ship and which will add might to their owners. Also very good-looking was the new Reiner Knizia game "Euphrat & Tigris". In this game 2 to 4 players are taken back to the roots of civilization, the time of ancient Ur, Ninive and Babylon. Each player takes up the role of a dynasty, having 4 leaders (King, Priest, Peasant and Trader) whom he must use to build an empire and gain the most victory points.

- Parker also was at the convention, presenting 2 new Monopoly-variants. One of these, "Fußball-Monopoly" will raise the spirits of all european soccer fans. Here the players buy national-teams instead of streets, and a stadium must be build instead of houses or hotels. The other new variant is "Star Wars Monopoly". Here the players buy planets from the Star Wars Galaxy, and they may encounter protagonists from all 3 Star Wars Films. Also included are lead-miniatures and Imperial coins, and I think this will make this limited edition game a collectors item in a few years.

- KOSMOS, publisher of the famous "Siedler von Catan". was present with its new 2-players cardgame "Cäsar & Cleopatra" which is settled around a conflict of these historical personalities. They also presented the new Alex Randolph game "Halunken & Spelunken" and a special Settlers-edition called "Das Wasser des Lebens" (=The Water Of Life). This Settlers-variant plays in the Scottish Highlands and each player tries to build up the largest empire of Whiskey-Brewing. The map looks much better than the usual Settlers-Gameboard, and the game itself comes in an original Glen Grant Whiskey - Tube, including a small bottle of Whiskey.

- Doris & Frank also were present at the convention. Most remarkably is their new game "Ursuppe" (translates to: "primordial soup"). Here the players take up the role of amoebas hundreds of years before the human civilization comes. These amoebas can only eat and muliply, but during the game they can acquire many more skills like moving, attacking etc... The game has many components and plays best with 3 or more players.

- A negative experience was my visit at the Klee-booth. This publisher has thrown a "Tamagotchi-Cardgame" on the market. I donīt think that a real Tamagotchi is an enrichment of the gaming-sphere, and thus I detest a cardgame on these silly things.

The "Deutscher Spiele Preis" Award 1997

This year, the "Deutscher Spiele Preis" award nearly was a one-man-show of germanyīs present best-seller games author Klaus Teuber. After having scored a first rank just two years ago with "Die Siedler von Catan", he now again won this award with his new tactical boardgame "Löwenherz". But that was not enough for the "ever-hungry" game designer. His cardgame "Die Siedler von Catan" came on the 2nd rank, and his childrenīs game "Die Ritter von der Haselnuss" won the "Deutscher Kinderspiele Preis 1997". The pace at which this authot produces new games is incredible, but it is very good to see that his success doesnīt prevent him to take some time at the con for his fans. He was present at the Kosmos-booth, signing his games and discussing rules-questions with Catan-players. He even found the time to go on a promotional tour to a bigger store at Essen, where he gave away specially moulded Settlers-Robbers for free.

3rd rank of the award went to Dirk Henn for his game "Showmanager", which is concerned with the every-booming musical industry.

After having won the "Spiel des Jahres" award, "Missisippi Queen" also got the "Essener Feder" award, which is given each year to the game with the best rulesbook.

Finally the special award "Sonderpreis zum Deutschen Spiele Preis 1997" for extraordinary innovations was given to the game "THINK" from Ravensburger. The publisher received this price for bringing this new facette of pretentious games for grown-ups to the german gamers.

But one man was present this evening who could compete with the fame of Klaus Teuber. The whole audience at the awards-festival celebrated together with Alex Randolph his 75th birthday. The grand old master of the game authors received standing ovations, and at this place I want to add my own "Happy Birthday" for Alex Randolph together with my best whishes for the years to come.

A conclusion ?

This year again the "Spiel" has proven that the worldīs center for boargaming lies in the Ruhrgebiet in the middle of Germany. The organisators of the "Friedhelm Merz Verlag" found a very agreable coexistence for public playing on the one hand and commerce on the other hand. All the publishers had wide areas with tables to allow interested players to test their new games, and it was also possible to buy the new games even before they reach the gamestores.

Very positive was my impression of the section for used-games traders. The year before, the used-games were ībannedī in a tiny area which always was overcrowded, but this year a new hall was added to the convention and here the used games found all the space they needed. Another big plus was the big variety of used games available. Old MB games of the Gamemaster Series of the American Heritage Series, classic games like "Elfenroads" or "Kings & Things", german games from all over the last decades .... it all was there (But, as every year - the most wanted games were sold out 3 hours after the convention had opened on the first day.)

But there is still something to improve. If I remember the convention 10 years ago, there were large īfree gaming areasī with chairs and tables, and players could sit down there and play games they had bought or trade cards or do similar things. Over the years, these areas have shrinked away, and this year I just found a few tables in a remote corner of the convention. The players had to sit on the floor if they wanted to play any games they had bought, and I donīt think that this is a good solution for the future.

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Copyright © 2003 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany