Essen Games synopses
- Quick Essen Games Report (first trip to Essen)
First off, huge thanks to Martin and Geoff for all they did with
helping organize things. Without their efforts, I almost certainly would
not have come. Also a big thanks to Mario for a day of games and letting
us stay with him Tuesday night and rides and car storage. His parents'
hospitality was also simply wonderful! It was also great to see old friends
and meet so many people I only knew by email.
We spent a few days around Germany but I am going to avoid the length
this would be if written as a trip report and focus on short comments on the
games. Almost all of these comments are after a single playing. Also, a quick
comment on the ratings. I am not a person that is very reluctant to give out
9s and 10s but none of the ratings below are above 8 (with one exception for a
game I actually played before Essen) and I don't expect that to change much -
some could maybe go up to 8.5. Thus, I found nothing to be fabulous but I also
found very few really bad games. Feel free to ask me for more details on
anything in particular.
Atilla (HiG) - Played twice. Bruno's description of this as a stock-market
game is excellent, really. The board play and battles are not really that
interesting. The most important thing is to focus your efforts in the right
places/colors and control the timing of the scoring rounds. Nobody in my
two games had any problems with the color reuse isues.
Initial Rating: 7.5
Babel (Kosmos) - I think it at least 90% likely we were playing this game wrong
and so think any kind of opinion is premature. Will try again with correct
rules. If we actually were playing it right, I didn't like it much.
Balmy Baloonists (Up & Away) - Interesting game and very different. Race game
played on a radial board which one must circle. I felt that certain cards
(the Weather cards) were overly powerful compared to the normal cards. Also,
in our particular game the players finished 1-2-3 in turn order on the same
turn which didn't seem good but perhaps it was a coincidence. I also had some
troubles in reading the cards due to the radial board setup but that may have
been just me.
Initial Rating: 6
Bongo (Heidelberger Spielverlag) - Quick little game much like 'Set' of
looking at things (dice) and spotting patterns. Very fun. Designed by
Bruno Faidutti who also taught it to us. Immediately after, all 4 of us
Initial Rating: 8
Carcasonne (HiG) - I had played this in prototype at the Gathering. Since
then, it has changed quite a bit, being made somewhat simpler and largely
removing the conflict aspect in the prototype. However, both versions were
excellent. Tile-laying game where each turn each person lays a single random
tile in a location of their choice and also may add a influence piece to try
to control areas of the board (roads, castles, farms or monasteries).
Initial Rating: 8
Cartagena (Winning Moves) - I did not enjoy this one very much but many others
have. We played with the advanced rules of everything open and this led to
some slow play as players analyzed things too much. Also, a very bad move
on the opening turn largely threw the game to one player which was a downer.
I later taught the game to Annemette and Asger but didn't play. When I came
back, I found them playing it a big 'wrong' but I think the way they played
might have been better. They played with secret hands and also let one
select any card of the initially 12 face-up cards for their hand; didn't have
to be the first one.
Initial Rating: 4 (but could move significantly)
Derby (dbSpiele) - Interesting betting/race game. Each turn one plays (from a
very limited choice) two cards to move 1-6 horses of a set of 9 horses
differing numbers of spaces. One also has a betting card for each of the 9
horses predicting where the horse will finish. Each turn one may swap 1
betting card of one of the 3 horses which were NOT eligible to move via your
play. Somewhat random and has the "if lots of people want White to finish
highly, it will" problem but the ability to swap betting cards reduces this.
Initial Rating: 6.5
Doge (Goldsieber) - I think this one has a couple of fundamental problems.
The goal of the game is to get 1 Castle in each of 7 districts, 8 castles in
6, 9 in 5, etc... The first goal seems clearly easier and is what everyone
in our game tried to do. This led to several major problems at the endgame.
Firstly, if you are trying to get a Castle in a district where all the other
players already have one, you are likely to get it very easily as they have
very little incentive to fight for this region. Secondly, if one is only
1 Castle shy of winning, one can focus basically all (10 of 12 total influence
points I believe) on that region guaranteeing you get it unless someone else
does the same thing, which in most cases would be extraordinarily costly for
that person. If these two problems combine, it is even worse. I liked the
board and components and serial district resolution scheme but the above
problems ruined the game for me.
Initial Rating: 5.5
FlickWerk (2F) - Another puzzle game where one assembles 9 of a possible 12
puzzle pieces into a designated configuration. Kind of neatv but has some real
problems. First off, some configurations are simply impossible and yet it
takes quite a while to figure this out. Secondly, like Ricochet Robot, the
best person will almost always win. This is ok with me but the problem here is
that the round ends immediately when someone finds a solution - there is no
possibility of a 'better' solution as there is in RR - it simply works or it
doesn't. In our game, I believe there were 2 players who Never found a single
solution. I recommend Bongo for a similar style of game much more highly.
Initial Rating: 5
Ivanhoe (GMT) - New version of Knizia's Attacke, which I hadn't played. I
found the cards, particularly the specials, to be too unbalanced, and the
winner of a token to be too highly rewarded. I am not sure in our game I could
have won a single token no matter what I did.
Initial Rating: 3.5
Java (Ravensburger) - Those who like Tikal will likely like this and those who
don't, won't. I don't. The game is really extraordinarily similar to Tikal
with the same style of artwork, a similar board, action points (6 instead of
10) and a little reference card for the many ways you can spend them, temples
which can be built up to 10 and score, guys which walk in from off the board,
etc... The water tiles also seem to have some troubles as they are just too
good in the early game. I actually liked it slighly better than Tikal but
for me, that isn't saying much. Try it if you like Tikal.
Initial Rating: 6
Keytown (R & D) - New game in the Key**** series from Richard Breese. Not
really that much like either of the other games in practice, however. Tiles
are played openly to 3 different types of regions to achieve 3 different
goals. I think the bidding scheme for being 'start/controlling player' is
basically broken but this could be fixed. I enjoyed the game I played enough
to buy it but don't expect it to get much play.
Initial Rating: 6.5
Lord of the Rings (Kosmos in Germany, Hasbro/WotC in the US) - Excellent fully
cooperative Knizia game where the players ALL win or lose against the system
with the difficulty being Very easy to adjust and the game working for 2-5
players. Players play through four small scenarios for Moria, Helm's Deep,
Shelob's Lair and Mordor. I actually played this before I went to Essen twice
and didn't play at Essen. Dave Farqahr was teaching the English version at
Essen and I was glad to meet him after exchanging some email a while back. I
find this game extremely successful at pulling off a 'cooperative game' and
would highly recommend it for playing with families most of all. I think the
art on the cards is excellent, although the boards are only ok. Depending
on how things go, I could easily see this winning SdJ for Knizia. Different
enough game, however, that this is very hard to really predict.
Initial Rating: 8.5 (and could become a 9).
Lunatix Loop (Locust) - Light racing game where players try to be first to
complete 3 laps around a track. Each turn each person simultaneously secretly
chooses one of 5 action cards (Ram, Decelerate, Drop Oil/Spikes/Glue,
Accelerate, UTurn) to play and then cards are acted on in the listed order
(with Speed then race Position as tie breakers). I have played it twice and
really enjoyed it both times although I really think there need to be more
special cards (much like the Option cards in RoboRally and only available when
making a pit stop) and hazard cards (and that these need to be worse than
they are). One really interesting element the game has which I can't remember
seeing before is 3 Luck (mulligan) chips which let you cancel any bad card
draw and get a random new one 3 times during the game. Making good use of
these is critical. This one also deserves kudos for its graphic design from
a one-man company. The icons on the cards are incredibly clear and easy to
figure out. The special cards summary on the back of the rules is also
excellent and easy to use.
Initial Rating: 8 (could go up a bit but probably not above 8.5)
MotorSport (or MotorCross - can't remember) - Dice-based racing game where
players roll dice (1, 2 or 3) to move around the track. At various points,
one is forced to either roll less dice or take a risk (like 1 in 36) of
having your car knocked out of the game. Given that the race is 6 long laps,
this is a hard decision. Quite fun but very expensive (about 160DM or
about $70). It actually seemed like it really might have been very random
but I nevertheless really enjoyed it.
Initial Rating: 8 (but could go down a bit)
Online (Hasbro Germany) - Just plain bad. Cards are very ugly. Theme doesn't
work. Certain cards are much better than others and who wins is therefore
largely random. Don't even think about it. Amazingly, they had a huge booth
just for this game. Worst game I played during the trip.
Initial Rating: 2
Stortebeker/Corsairs (HiG) - Fun game of playing pirates competing to be
the first to board and sack galleys. There are 4 simultaneous fights for
galleys and players can participate in as many of them as they wish but if
someone else takes it before you can (and you can't immediately retalitate
and 'overtake it') you lose any effort previously expended on it. Played twice
and enjoyed both games.
Initial Rating: 7.5
Traumfabrik (Hasbro Germany) - Knizia game of making movies. Despite not
understanding the scoring rules for 90% of our game, I quite enjoyed this one.
Players buy Actors/Directors/Cinematographers/Special Effects/Music/etc...
and place them in movies. The buying is done via an auction where the winner
pays his chips bid, evenly split, to the other players. Art and graphics
design are quite nicely done (with one exception) and the theme worked for me.
Initial Rating: 7.5
Wanted (Alea) - New game in Mystery Rummy series with an outlaw theme where
players simultaneously compete to capture 7 outlaws (color sets). The best
thing, as with the other games, is to hold all your cards and then suddenly
play them all at once to go out. However, this is very risky and I got no
cards out in the last round as I tried it - another player was quite lucky in
how quickly he went out. One really nice thing is that this one should work
well with all of 2-4 players (certainly 3 and 4) whereas the prior games
clearly worked best with only 1 specific number (#1 with 2, #2 with 4). After
playing, talked with Stefan Brück of Alea and co-designer Richard Borg a bit
about it. The Sheriff cards (like the Gavel cards from before) are quite
powerful but more than balanced against that are that you can only play 1 per
turn. It is in fact really bad to draw too many of them.
Initial Rating: 7.5
http://www.lasthomelyhouse.com/ (the Last Homely House)
- Aaron wrote:
> Quick Essen Games Report (first trip to Essen)Great report Aaron! Thanks for posting it...
Any word on 'Empires of the Ancient World'? (or similar title?!?). The
title has me intrigued but I've not been able to dig much up on it except
for a paragraph on Bruno Faidutti's site (http://faidutti.free.fr/).
Another question - is there so much German on the LotR game that it would be
a problem for us non-German types? (I suspect either Matt or Aaron can
http://www.gis.net/~dber (South Shore Gamers)
> Another question - is there so much German on the LotR game that itNot so much that it would be unplayable, but I think it would
> would be a problem for us non-German types? (I suspect either Matt
> or Aaron can answer this).
seriously detract from the game. A non-trivial part of the game is
the progression through the narrative, which involves some text on
the board. I've got an English copy, and would mildly recommend
against getting the German version. The text adds, and having to use
a crib sheet would be ok, but be less than optimal.
- In a message dated 11/1/00 3:45:46 PM Eastern Standard Time, matthew@...
> I've got an English copyMatthew,
At the risk of sounding pedantic, do you mean the English/UK version, or the
US version? Anyone know how they differ? Either way, I'd love to play.
and Mark, in the spirit of your recent question to Pat:
Exactly which part of you is it that fears elimination? Which part is
suspicious of cooperation? And which has faith in Knizia? Do share...
> At the risk of sounding pedantic, do you mean the English/UKversion, or the
> US version? Anyone know how they differ? Either way, I'd love toplay.
UK version. As far as I know, the US version is not available
anywhere at all yet. As I understand it there will be:
Kosmos version in German
Hasbro/Sophisticated version in English (UK)
Hasbro/WotC version in English (USA)
> From: "Dave Bernazzani" <dber@...>Actually, I should have included this but forgot. Glad you reminded
>Subject: Re: Essen Games synopses
>> Quick Essen Games Report (first trip to Essen)
>Great report Aaron! Thanks for posting it...
>Any word on 'Empires of the Ancient World'? (or similar title?!?). The
>title has me intrigued but I've not been able to dig much up on it except
>for a paragraph on Bruno Faidutti's site (http://faidutti.free.fr/).
me. One of the first things I played although we didn't finish the game.
The board is kind of Civilization-like with areas of different strength.
Players start in one space and then expand outwards from that area, conquering
neutral areas or battling other players. Areas are worth victory points
during the scoring rounds after turns 2, 3, 4 (card play rounds 19, 27, 34)
and some also provide resources (trade blocks) at the start of each turn.
On each card play round, a player has a choice - draft a card from 6
available cards, lay down trade blocks which will score victory points if they
survive till the next scoring round or attack an area. Players can also
'clear' the cards by spending 2 trade blocks ala Show Manager. The cards you
can take are 'army' cards used in battles and personality cards (like a
Merchant or General (different name though) or Diplomat) which give you special
If a player attacks a neutral area, it is a simple die roll to take it
over (usually about a 2/3 chance to succeed). If he attacks a
player-controlled area, they fight a battle using 5 of their army cards (each
player also starts with a small, weak army) in a battle like in "Power Play"
where each player orders their cards and then they are compared one by one and
you need to win a majority of the 5 rounds of combat. Each army type has
special abilities and it is really good to achieve the right match-ups but of
course very difficult. After the battle, if the attacker won, he takes over
the space. Also, each player can lose some of his army cards during the
battle, more if he loses. There are also Naval battles and Siege battles which
work similarly but where certain units are particularly well suited (like
Galleys or Siege Towers).
We only played about half the game (which is about 3 hours long) and it
was very combat-intensive. I found the battles fun but the board play didn't
really appeal to me but, again, we didn't play the whole game and may not
have been playing well (and I was losing) so it is hard to judge but my
initial rating would be about a 5.5.
>I agree with Matthew. Either buy it from England or wait for it to
>Another question - is there so much German on the LotR game that it would b=
>a problem for us non-German types? (I suspect either Matt or Aaron can
come out in the US, especially if you want to play it with families which is
what I think it is best suited for. There is enough text to be a problem
for many people.
>http://www.gis.net/~dber (South Shore Gamers)
ps. Btw, sorry about the bad reformatting Egroups is doing to my messages.
I am not sure why they feel the need to add spurious newline characters when
my lines are 79 characters or less which is standard.
- --- "Aaron D. Fuegi" <aarondf@...> wrote:
Empires of the Ancient World comments Snipped
> We only played about half the game (which is aboutGreat report Aaron!!! Thanks so much. One other
> 3 hours long) and it
> was very combat-intensive. I found the battles fun
> but the board play didn't
> really appeal to me but, again, we didn't play the
> whole game and may not
> have been playing well (and I was losing) so it is
> hard to judge but my
> initial rating would be about a 5.5.
question, did you get a chance to look at Martin's
other game - Way Out West?
Craig W. Massey
Do You Yahoo!?
From homework help to love advice, Yahoo! Experts has your answer.
> From: Craig Massey <cwmassey@...>Thanks. Sorry, didn't get a chance to try out WOW. Too many games -
>Subject: Re: Re: Essen Games synopses
>Empires of the Ancient World comments Snipped
>> We only played about half the game (which is about
>> 3 hours long) and it
>> was very combat-intensive. I found the battles fun
>> but the board play didn't
>> really appeal to me but, again, we didn't play the
>> whole game and may not
>> have been playing well (and I was losing) so it is
>> hard to judge but my
>> initial rating would be about a 5.5.
>Great report Aaron!!! Thanks so much. One other
>question, did you get a chance to look at Martin's
>other game - Way Out West?
too little time. However, there is quite a comprehensive report on B&B at
Info and pictures from Empires is there too at