Spreading the love of board games one meeple at a time
I just had my first experience at the worlds largest game fair, Internationale Spieltage in Essen, Germany. As it says on the website, “Spiel in Essen means: Four days of fun, meeting friends, playing and testing thousands of games and novelties with gamers from all over the world.”
I was a little apprehensive about attending a game fair halfway around the world where the native language is not English. Until today I was a little worried that not being able to speak German would be a bit of a handicap. I thought that I might end up watching a lot of games being explained, and played, in a foreign language, while I tried my best to pick up the rules just by watching. Thankfully, I had my very own German-speaking interpreter (also known as my sister-in-law, who lives just outside of Essen and who gave me the tickets to Essen for my birthday). When Krista and I attended Origins Game Fair in Columbus earlier this year, we had the chance to chat with some people who had been to Spiel in Essen. The people we spoke to said that we would probably find that most people speak English. In fact, travelling around Europe so far I have discovered when Europeans say they only know “a little” English, they actually know quite a bit. Not at all like my Cereal Box French (that is, French learned by reading the French side of my cereal box).Walking around the exhibitor halls today, I found that any worries I had completely disappeared. I heard a good mix of German, French, Dutch, and American English from demonstrators, creators and customers alike.. Spiel really is an international fair attracting lots of different people, all with the same love of board games.
One of the first things I noticed about the fair was the large number of people walking through the crowded halls with dozens of board games. Some people had giant wheeled suitcases full of games. Others were pushing hand carts of product, strapped down with bungee cords, out to their cars. I remember being told at Origins that families will often go to Essen and buy their board games for the whole coming year; some to be played right away, while others are to be hidden and opened on birthdays and at Christmas. I definitely saw one person bringing home more boardgames then I currently own.
The fair itself was huge, which I was told to expect, and I only really got a chance to explore a very small portion of it my first day. I walked past crowded tables of games that really peaked my interest, and I’m hoping tomorrow or on Saturday that I’ll get to find one of those rare and coveted demo spots for myself.
Today I tried out (and purchased) a game called Samurai Sword, which is based on the same mechanics as the game Bang. I tried an interesting two player game called Siam where Rhinos and Elephants compete to push giant mountains, and each other, off the board to win. I also played a really fun co-operative game called Oh no… Invasion!!! This was another game we purchased and managed to play 3 times when we got home this very same day. Fighting a giant alien overlord was definitely my cup of tea.
Tomorrow, I am really going to try and get in on a game of Kingdom Builder, the Spiel des Jahres 2012 winner (Game of the Year), in hopes of trying it out before the weekend crowd arrives. Kingdom Builder’s designer Donald X Vaccarino’s second Spiel des Jahres winner (the other one is a favourite of mine – Dominion). I thought these where his only two games until I played Gauntlet of Fools today, a type of dungeon crawling card based game with his name on it.
All in all it really was a fun first day at Spiel. Looking forward to going back tomorrow to brave some of the crowds and lines that I managed to avoid today.