by Moritz Eggert
Essen 2006 slowly comes along and with it many new games. I will try to make a more detailed overview here, with some personal comments about the games. I will only talk about games published by Euro publishers.
All these infos are mostly taken from the excellent Spielbox at wwww.spielbox.de and are of course subject to change.
Friedemann Friese might or might not present a fantasy dungeon adventure game, which is interesting as his last games leaned a little towards the genre, especially Fearsome Floors. There will also be a new expansion for Power Grid or Funkenschlag with new rules and an experimental game board that is, in the words of FF, "not what you would expect".
I can already suggest the title for the Fantasy game: "Fantastische Festungen" or, in english "Fantastic Fortresses". It would be the first FF title that actually makes sense for a change
will publish the German version of Gloria Mundi, a game by James Ernest and Mike Selinker of Cheapass fame. The game looks gorgeously produced and will make the players fight for survival during the last days of the Roman empire. Is this a new trend: make lavish German editions of American games instead of the other way round?
will publish a heavy line-up of card games to expand their already leading position for card games on the market.: Megastar by Friedemann Friese where one collects rock band lineups, Elefant im Porzellanladen ("The Elephant In The Porcellain Store", which only makes sense when you know that there is a German saying behind it) by Michael Schacht, Null und Nichtig bei Reiner Stockhausen and Sitting Ducks by Keith Myers, the latter a kind of computer game conversion based on the popular "Moorhuhn" computer game, which paralyzed German offices for years.
will present a new version of Rette sich wer kann, not the Rudi Hoffmann game where you have to save as many sailors as you can from a sinking ship, but the Ronald Wettering game with a similar theme, which will be called Seenot im Rettungsboot. This will be quite a change from their game Fritten aus dem All ("Fries from space", I'm not kidding), which we reviewed not all too favourably on our website a year ago. Still, the guys from Argentum, basically geek gamers who founded their own company, have to be commended for their initiative, and I will certainly take a look at this game.
might or might not present Greentown (working title), the new Günter Cornett and Michael Uhlemann game for 2-4 players where players have to earn money peddling wares for wandering tourists. As this is a German game one can expect that renting outhouses for the tourists more humane needs could be part of the game design, but I personally always look forward to Günter Cornett's Games, outhouse or not!
presents a kind of RoboRally without robots. In Corné van Morsel's Factory Fun players have to control different machines to produce different coloured wares for money. The longer the game progresses the more complicated it becomes, as the connections between the different machines become increasingly intricate. I guess "Sweat Shop Fun" didn't sound as intriguing.
have a game with the working title Civilization - The Card Game. With all the troubles of Eagle games recently they might as well keep that name. Graenland is the ancient name of Greenland, and is another card game by this company where players can take over the role of Erik the Red and cultivate an island.
is cultivating a mysterious aura. Of course there will be an expansion for Ticket to Ride, but In their game Cleopatra and the Architects they hid a promo card with a huge footprint on it, but without a game name. It could be "Yeti-The Hunting", or "Bigfoot and the Builders" for all we know. Or will it be the German edition of "Monsters Menace America"?
is presenting a game about, drumroll, big surprise, Leonardo Da Vinci. Players represent inventors who try to score points with their inventions. The art design and game mechanics remind of a perennial favourite: The Princes of Florence, which comes as no surprise when you think about the fact that the historical time is the same. If this game will be rather abstract like "Princes..." or more thematic remains to be seen.
Figaro is a new game of the ultra-rare breed of Reiner Knizia card games. Did I say ultra-rare? Well, I was joking. In the game players try to reach the throne of the King (or to come close to it) by playing cards of one colour in front of them. The game is thematically similar to Viva il Re by Knizia, which was on the "recommendation list" of the Spiel des Jahres award in 2004.
will show the prototype (only) of a card game with the title Venus Connection. Players have spaceships, build trading routes, expand their equipment...If you think of the old classic Richard Hamblen game Merchant of Venus, then... you're right, as designer Heinrich Glumpler says explicitly that he wanted to evoke the feeling of that game, albeit in a simpler, more fast-playing game for 2 players. This sounds very interesting, but won't be available for sale yet, you'll have to await Tom's review for this in another year.
is a small new Dutch company who already presented a small card game at Essen 2 years ago. This time they have Tavern, a fantasy card game for 2 players, where old battle-hardened adventurers open up latrines... eh, sorry, taverns and compete for the most guests consisting of Trolls, Goblins and the like. If this sounds like Dungeonville, where players compete to own the dungeon that has the most visitors, eh... victims, you're absolutely right. Even the artwork looks a little like Kovalic, but with a Dutch twist. We will see if the game tickles our fancy, I am personally a bit tired of light fantasy card games with cartoon drawings lately...
...again, in no way related to me, are presenting the eagerly awaited follow-up game to Antike, which will be called Imperial, and which takes place in imperial instead of ancient times. Again the mechanics will be diceless and without luck, so this could be an interesting game for Civilization type game fans.
I was personally a bit disappointed with Antike - the action wheel was a fantastic mechanic, but as the game is so abstract and calculable the person who went first always won in our group. Imperial has hopefully a solution to this problem.
Eggert will also have another space trading game called Space Dealer. I wonder if Edition Erlkoenig knows about this? If you go after the name one could deduct that this game is about spaceship merchants dealing drugs instead of wares, so fear not, Edition Erlkoenig!
might not mean anything to you as a name, but Shear Panic will. They have a new game with them, called Hameln, for the first time professionally co-produced with Ludofact. Hameln is the German name for Hamlin, so rats and a certain piper do play a role in this game. The rat figures look as sweet as the sheep in Shear Panic, which is quite an artistic achievement. The game looks more involved than Shear Panic and involves a real board and a multi-layered action system. One can be sure that this game will be a huge hit for the figurines alone.
Is continuing to create Fantasy Sports games after last year's
. This time it's a game with the unfortunate title
, a kind of Wrestling Match with fantasy types. It's supposed to be a quick, fast-playing card game for 2-5 players. Expect the rules to be... well, in Italian... even if they are supposedly in another language. But seriously, I personally liked Peacebowl, it is a fun "Beer & Pretzel" game, and we didn't have a proper wrestling game since Avalon Hill's Wrasslin'.
is a small one-man company, who already produced the pirate game Treasure Island. The new game, Take it to the Limit, is based on the older already published design Hextension by the same author. The game looks a little like a hexagon-cut out map of Transamerica, and unsurprisingly players try to connect lines of the same color to create an ongoing line from one end to the other.
is one of the more reliable German publishers and also the producers of the infamous pecunia non olet (also known as "that latrine management game") game, about which I'm joking from time to time. Their flagship game for Essen 2006 will be Die Säulen von Venedig (The columns of Venice), created by the same designers as pecunia non olet. Again this game goes down to the deep and dirty. The game has players select one of 11 venetian personalities, who try do build up the lagoon city from the ground, or rather muddy earth up. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it! Players secretly select roles from 5 different action cards which are then passed on to the next player. The Lagoon city is built from tiles resembling Carcassonne, but players will also use lots of cards and wooden pieces. Venice is a favourite topic in German-style games, so this new game will have some stiff competition.
is known to everybody as producers of most excellent and often prize-winning games like Thurn and Taxis and Carcassonne. They will present two new interesting titles. The first one will be Tavula, by Marcel-André Casasola-Merkle, who holds the title of being the game designer with the longest and most complex name. His games are usually very good, though!
Tavula is the second Hans im Glueck game with a strong fantasy element, after Ohne Furcht und Adel. Players build up a mythical island threatened by gods and the forces of nature made from hexagons, which are also placed above each other, a little like in Heroscape. Astonishingly the 2-4 player game can be supposedly finished in under an hour - how about that for an empire-building game?
Kabale und Hiebe is a pun on the name of a Friedrich Schiller's famous theatre play "Kabale und Liebe" (Shenanigans and Love, I have no idea what the "proper" English title is), and translates to roughly "Shenanigans and punches". This game will also be in the fantasy genre, featuring the beautiful illustrations of the illustrator of Ohne Furcht und Adel ("Citadels"). Players compete in a fantasy kingdom populated by Dragons and Wizards, but also this game is supposed to be quick-playing and relatively simple. Game Designer is Lutz Stepponat, of Return of the Heroes fame. Expect both of these games to be very good!
is a new publisher, who will produce a film tie-in game based on the popular German children's books "Urmel aus dem Eis" (Urmel from the Ice), a little dinosaur who comes out of an iceblock and has friends like a little pig and a walrus, all of them talking of course. Pictures of the game make this look a little like a variant of Verflixxt by Wolfgang Kramer, a race track made up of octagonal tiles. Designer Klaus Zoch who produced games like Zicke Zacke Huehnerkacke but also Manila will guarantee that this is not the usual bad-quality film tie-in and that this is also a gamer's game, even if it is designed to be accessible for kids.
is continuing to revive the crime party game genre with Jenseits der Schoenheit (Beyond Beauty) in which players have to solve the murder of a famous beauty surgeon. Sadly this game will only be of interest for native German speakers.
is a big player on the German game market, as they produce Settlers of Catan. They will present Kampf um Rom (Battle for Rome), a Catan-descendant game like Elasund - the first Settlers, in which players try to reach the usual number of 10 VP's first, by conquering and settling the lands of ancient Europe.
Die Säulen der Erde or "The Pillars of the Earth" is based on the popular book by Ken Follett, but little is known about the game except the cover. The theme will certainly appeal to Joe Steadman, formerly the Dice Tower, as anybody who has read the book knows that it's about building a huge cathedral in a medieval city. Joe will be sad that this game doesn't allow you to nuke your opponents or to destroy the cathedrals of your opponents by attacking them with Waffen-SS-panzers and heavy artillery, but this is a Euro-game after all!
who will get the price for the cheapest game offered at Essen. Musketier-im Auftrag der Königin or "Musketeer - at her majesty's service", no, it's not a James Bond game, will only cost 4 ,-EUR at Essen. This is a travel game played only with cards, as players try to avoid the evil henchmen of Cardinal Richelieu as they travel to Paris as quickly as possible.
This could give you an idea for financing your Essen trip: If you buy 200 games for 4,-EUR you can later resell them for 10,-EUR, and make enough to earn 1.200,-EUR, enough to pay for the flight and the hotel. Great idea, isn't it?
is a small self-publishing venture by Stephan Riedel. Fliegen naschen (eating flies) is a children's game and less interesting for us, but Fleet 1715 is a deductive game about the sinking of the Spanish Fleet and looks very interesting. It can be played in a group as well as solitaire, and I have to say that I am interested in how a game about the sinking of the Spanish Fleet can be deductive. So who DID sink the Spanish Fleet? I can only say: Nobody EVER expects the SPANISH INQUISITION!!!
is not the name of a publisher, but a new abstract strategy game that will be presented by Claudio Gelosa. Fans of abstract games will love this, as this seems to be a game that uses rotating plastic hexes that create an ever-changing board, others will be bored to tears by games like this. Like Gipf this seems to be an ongoing project with several scenarios and variants for 1-6 players planned for the future.
is another strategy game producer. Their game Mojo wins the invention award with the idea of using a mousepad as their board for a strategic game in the Connect 4 vein. Although I have to say that this doesn't make sense at all -if you want to use the board as a mousepad you can't play the game or vice versa, but both is not possible. Perhaps there is some deeper philosophy at work here, who knows. What will be next? Dishwashers that double as board games? Wow...
who are known for the excellent Lost Valley will present some new variant games on the popular Anno Domini principle. In Anno Domini one has to place and guess historic events in a timeline, in Ausgerechnet Buxtehude (English: Buxtehude of all places) one has to arrange places on a north-south axis, and in Schneller als Kurz (quicker than short) one has to judge the length of events, not their date. Another game which will be called "Dumber than dumb" in which you have to judge various degrees of stupidity is nothing but a tasteless rumour by yours truly.
is working on a new follow-up game to Das Zepter von Zavandor, the successful Outpost variant/reissue. Die Drachenbändiger von Zavandor (The Dragon Tamers Of Zavandor) will feature beautifully illustrated dragon cards, but apart of that little is known about the game except some fantasy background. They will also coproduce a new 18xx game called 1861, which will cover the Russian Rail system. There is also talk of a configuration program that will make bookkeeping for 18xx easier, but this will have to compete with many already existing fan-made programs of course.
is an Italian company that will present an interesting tabletop game that can either be played historically as a wargame or as a fantasy game. The game will be called Mindstalkers, but so far the designers haven't overcome the seemingly biggest hurdle for Italian game companies: a solid translation of their rules for foreigners.
never had this problem, and this is why we are fans of their great games like Oltremare. Hermagor will be the new game by Emanuele Ornella, and again trading will play a role, this time in a loose fantasy realm context. Be excited about this one, I'm sure Emanuele won't disappoint us.
comes along with a satirical game that actually looks like a really new game theme. In Guru players have to convince other players of their own sect and of the evilness of the other players' sects. Members of the Moon sect or Scientology won't be delighted, and it might hurt some religious feelings if taken too seriously, but I hope there is a good game beneath the idea so Tom Vasel can check it out without using a crucifix for protection.
has a huge line-up or Euro- and simulation titles again, and will be of course very interesting for gamers, as they usually have one of the biggest booths at the fair. After the "Lord of the Rings" hype has died down they will concentrate again on historical titles. Justinian takes place in Byzantine times and is by Leo Colovini, this will probably be more of a Euro game. Italia sounds very interesting to me, as it is a further development of the famous Britannia system for ancient Italy, designed by the legendary Andreas Steding who is one of the few designers who designs both heavy- and lightweight games. This game will only be available in a special limited edition. Anasazi is the new game by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, excellent designer of Carcassonne fame. Also here the theme is interesting, as players try to uncover the secret treasures of the mysterious Anasazi, a North-American native tribe who vanished in the 13th century.
Finally there is the beautiful looking Emira, in which rich oriental sheiks try to assemble the most beautiful women for their harems. This won't be family game of the year in the US because of it's theme, but gamers will be delighted by the wonderful board designed by Franz Vohwinckel. Hey, at least it isn't about toilets in ancient Rome, folks!
will present High Voltage an interesting tile-laying game in which players secretly control Energy Consortiums who try to connect their power lines. The hitch is that each connection gives points to the player who closed the connections AND the players who own the connections . This seems to be a more abstract Power Grid.
will present the new Wallenstein variant Shogun, about which Rick Thornquist has already reported intensely. Another interesting game will be The Thief of Bagdad by Thorsten Gimmler, in which player compete as the heas of thieves guild's in mythical Bagdad. There is also talks about an Alhambra dice game, that will be a completely new design in the Alhambraverse which of course lies right next to the Buffyverse.
will present the expansion for Reef Encounter, Reef Encounters of the Second Kind. In addition fabled Richard Breese will bring along a limited edition of his new Fowl play , again a freshly themed game in which players represent wild foxes who raid farms on a hex based board.
had a lot of succes with Cash'n'Guns, this time they have a card game which sounds a little similar to The Great Dalmuti. Players compete for the best jobs on the pirate ship Santy Anno, whoever plays his cards right will be captain, but the others might end up paying for the beer and cleaning the table, or even worse: write the review for boardgamegeek!
I continue with a weird game,
Hystericoach by Scribabs Games. Here two coaches have to quickly place soccer players as cards on a board, then they have to command the other players to move these players to score a goal, but apparently they aren't allowed to say HOW they should move, they can just say the name. So if you enter the big halls of Essen and hear a bunch of people scream Ballack, Ballack, Ballack it will tell you that the Hystericoach booth is close.
is taking over Eagle games. At least in Essen - where formerly Eagle games populated a huge area of the Essen fair with giant tables and huge miniature set-ups Pro Ludo will now present it's increasingly interesting line-up. Of course there is Dungeon Twister and it's various deluxe expansions, but there are also other games.
There are three resissues of formerly popular games:
Spiel der Türme (the game of towers) is an older Rudi Hofmann game from 1993 which nearly made Spiel des Jahres award back then.
Die Fürsten von Florenz (The Princes of Florence) returns with a vengeance in a graphically and rules updated version co-produced with several European publishers. It's great that this classic Euro game is available again!
The oldest reissued game in the Pro Ludo lineup will be Ave Caesar, the classic Eurogame of Roman chariot racing. Race on, Sweet Chariot, is all I can say!
And we should not forget the long awaited Tempus by Martin Wallace, which will be embraced soon by Tom in a surely loving review.
landed a huge hit last year with Verflixxt, the clever racing game by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. It now has announced the first of a line of expansions, something that does not really surprise. The title will be extremely creative, it's called Verflixxt - Die erste Erweiterung.
is the name of a new Belgian small company. Tim De Rycke und Sander Vernyns have won last year's "Games and Toys Award" in Belgium, which has now allowed them to produce their winning game Experiment, which will be available in Essen in 1000 copies. Let's hope the game is not only an experiment but in fact good. Little is known about the theme or details yet, so you'll have to wait for the post-Essen reports, I only know it's a card game.
Will present a game that has been invented by Reiner Knizia, whose year 2006 will rank as one of his laziest output years, with only 2065 designs published by 289 companies. Reiner- get your act together again - we're disappointed that you're so lazy!
This will be a children's game called Primo Calculino, and it's about teaching mathematics to youngsters, who have to guide a little shopowner called Johann through the motions of selling his wares. "Advanced Tobruk System" this ain't, that's all I can say.
Must be the weirdest name for a game company EVER. They present the game Couples, in which you have to find matches for your male or female cards. The graphics of this game aren't exactly breathtaking, but you might be interested to know that it is actually possible to couple the statue of liberty with German pop singers in this game, so if you ever wanted to do that, go ahead, buy this game (and ask the publishers, where their silly name comes from!)
Is another great silly name - although this company is American I mention them because they feature one of my favourite themes: Zombies. And the Zombies put on a marathon in the pacifist, non flesh-eating game called Zombie Rally.
has published controversial games like Popeln, where players have to find the biggest boogers in their noses (I'm not kidding). See also our dysmal review of that particular game at our Westpark Gamers site. This time their theme is relatively harmless: in Sport ist Mord (sport is murder) players try to be physically fit without dying from a heart attack. I assume this game is especially appealing to New York stockbrokers, who spend hours at the fitness studio after a gruelling day at the stock market.
…is a French company with yet another game about Metros, or subways as they are liked to be called in the US. The twist is that the city where players build their lines is in hexform and the subway line counters are triangular. You don't think it's a big twist? Well, you're probably right.
Is a German company which presents a game about - hold your breath because it's so exciting - aluminium trading in Brasil. But this is actually a politically correct cooperative learning game, in which players have to deal with the different interests of the state, the aluminium companies and the natives losing their homes in the rainforest, who of course have the poorest deal of the lot. This game should teach all evil imperialistic capitalist swines a lesson. Unfortunately they probably don't have time to neither game nor visit Essen.
...is a company founded by the famous Alan Paull (with two "l", by the way) , who was involved in the great line of Standard Games' in the 80's, and invented games like Cry Havoc!, City of Sorcerers or Thunderin' Guns. His new game is called Tara, Seat of Kings and takes place in ancient Ireland, where players try to become the Ard Ri, or "High King". The game will be published in two language editions and looks very interesting. We used to have an obsession with City of Sorcerers, and if Tara, Seat of Kings is only half as good it will still be a very interesting game to check out. I certainly will.
Is the only game company that is called like a cheese (Tilsiter is a popular cheese in Germany) - but their games certainly don't stink. They will present an expansion set for their succesful game Himalaya which makes the game playable for 5-6 players and introduces many variants. Himalaya was on the selection list for the "Spiel des Jahres", so an expansion seemed inevitable.
Is a danish company, and they will bring only 160 copies of their gangster-game King of Chicago, so you better be one of the first in the Essen halls. In my opinion there has not yet been a definitive gamer's gangster game yet, although there were many attempts like Organized Crime or the horrible and heinous Gangland, a game that is so bad that it will burn a hole in your table (and your brain). Let's hope that King of Chicago will be a valid attempt to create a good game on the theme. The game material looks certainly promising.
Is going to publish the game Ur by Paolo Mori. In this game you visit old Mesopotomia and build temples to gain more influence. Sounds old to you? Well, it's not the dernier cris of themes, but as the gameboard looks more like memory than your usual Reiner Knizia game this might mean that the game is actually different. We will see.
Is one of the big publishers and has a large line-up of games, among them a completely new edition of the popular Cartagena game. Richard Garfield, probably in an attempt to take over the German market, has created a new card game called Auf die Palme (which means "up the palm tree") which sounds decisively harmless because it's about birds finding food on trees. Blokus Trigon is a Blokus variant with triangular pieces, nothing world-shattering of course, but the company knows that at least one missionary in Korea will get a copy, so they took the risk.
Gezanke auf der Planke (or "Panic on the Plank") is a very interesting looking family pirate game in which players can - in best "Lifeboat" style - push the pirates of their fellow players over the plank into the maw of a very hungry shark, while saving their own ones. I don't know if they have to break their promises to other players before doing this...
Publishes their usual array of train games or expansions to already existing train games. "New York Central" is a new card game that has exactly the same theme as the classic 1830 by Francis Tresham, Wooden Shoes and Iron Monsters - interesting title by the way - covers the train building times in the Netherlands, and there is also an Age of Steam-Expansion for the Eastern US and Canada, which might or might not feature a poeppel or pawn or meeple representing Rick Thornquist.
is one of the big success stories of the last 2 years, with their games Caylus and Ys. Their new game Yspahan takes place in 16th century Persia and has players represent avid traders and merchants. Rick Thornquist has played a prototype of this game and seemed to be very impressed by it, he will probably tell you this in his section of the show as well. Expect nothing less than a new "gamer's game" from this great company.
...usually has games with lots of wooden pieces, but the new game Salamanca by Stefan Dorra seems to be an exception, an empire building game that takes place in old Spain. Zoch will also have the hotly awaited German edition of Shear Panic, called Haste Bock. "Haste Bock" can actually mean "Are you horny?" and has a very different double meaning than Shear Panic. It's those bloody perverted Germans again - games about toilets are not enough, now we have games about horny sheep? When will this end?
I end with a game that actually WON'T be featured in Essen, because it has been - drumroll - banned from the show, the game War on Terror which already has incited long discussions on Boardgamegeek because of it's theme. My personal opinion is that when you can make wargames about the Iraqi wars (and there are many of them) one should also allow to make satirical games about terrorists, but that's perhaps only my opinion. Interestingly this game has not only been banned on the Essen show but on many other game fairs as well. The true test will of course be if the game is any good, being provocative is not enough in my opinion, the game has to work as well. Have you ordered your preview copy already, Tom and Sam from the Dice Tower? I have....
Your fearless correspondent from Munich, Moritz Eggert
Note: please excuse the missing links, pics, etc., this is meant to be a personal comment on Essen, and boardgamenews.com and spielbox.de already a perfect job of presenting the games in complete fashion, so better go there if you want to read more details.