Monday, October 19, 2015

Essen in Full, Part 2

And so we continue our tale.  On Saturday I was slow to set off from the hotel and so headed out alone to the show.  We had a meeting point identified for later in the day so I had a chance to wander about alone and size up certain things in more detail.  On the Saturday in particular, whilst gaming would not slacken off, I would end up taking a lot more photos of miniatures.

I started up the camera at the Fantasy Flight Games stand (which, again, was enormous) for their wide selection of current and upcoming Star Wars Product.

Bantha rider and Smuggler to the fore
Currently in shops
 Some of this I already have, but no one except testers yet has the Hoth expansion, so these were the first sight in the flesh of these models for me:

A little tank, and Snowtroopers; Cool!
 Armada fans were also well served with the Wave 2 ships on display.  The new Star Destroyer is a beast:

Home One may be longer though:

Of course X-Wing players weren't going to be missed out, with vessels from the Rebels animated series seeming to be the next subjects:

Love the look of this
 Team Yankee was the main presence for Battlefront's Flames of War Series, and they had a very nicely done display/participation game:

Nicely done table, typical Flames deployments
Nicely painted models
Especially the 80's period US armour
 After missing it on the first two days I finally found Monolith Boardgames' Conan display.  I've kickstarted this one and so was very keen to get a look at what I'll be getting.

Some of the core models and the big ol' box
 What I'll be getting looks pretty awesome to me...

Having got myself $150 in the whole for this I was pleased to see the quality of the plastic miniatures, not to say the sheer number of them.  As this is likely to be the successor to Imperial Assault when we finish our campaign I for one was delighted with that.

Some of the expanded set of mini's
 That said I would've been happier to have got a demo of the rules, but there were only two display games, and every time we passed, and on several occasions tried to gauge the wait, there seemed to be no prospect of getting a go.  This was very popular though and one has to hope that's a good sign...

Nice 3-D terrain set up, slick game components
 Having met up again, we indulged in a bit of Jigsaw:  my small contribution to this monster is fron and centre.  I think it was about a 40,000 piecer...

Back into the fray.  10 Minutes to Kill is an elegantly simple assassination and detection game, that I proved to be terrible at!

Add caption
 Shortly thereafter I came across the demo stand for a game by Titan Forge Miniatures which I'd spotted that morning.  A cutesy tank battler.  Me and Dave had a go.

 Armymals in Action
 The game is a simple hex based wargeme, the equivalent of a paintball match in some ways.  The main game mechanic being the rolling of 6 dice - Yatzhee or King of Tokyo style - to generate actions and to purchase bonuses.  It's a great little light weight game with some strategy involved.  But in particular the plastic models and scenery are what really attracted me.

Pew Pew! 
One game later and 40 Eurons quickly changed hands, subsequently I checked the price on their website and found I'd saved myself at least £20 (mixing my currencies a bit)...

A little later we played the new game from the Creator of Magic: The Gathering; Treasure Hunter.  Overall a good solid card drafting game (pick one card from a set to build your hand then pass the rest on).  Not an instant need to own, but certainly a good game.

Saturday evening we went to an archetypally German collective restaurant/bar/gig venue/community hall/clubhouse and after the all you can eat and drink buffet, well, played more games.

Sunday morning and it was our last chance to pick things up.  I was torn over whether to buy another big box game, but knew my packing was going to struggle if I did; as a group we had a little space to spare so I could'e done.  In the end I wavered on the available choices and ended up with just some small bits and pieces, including a copy of the original Alhambra card game with a Dutch theme, specifically to annoy one of my gaming groups.

Me and Joe were first to the show on the last day, but getting there within the first five minutes was still too late to get a game of Conan, Joe tried an abstract martial arts game called Kumo.  It looked pretty, and was quite the abstract game.  I personally wasn't sold.

The centre of the board rotates.
 As might be expected for a French company, Studio Tomahawk games had a substantial presence, alongside Gripping Beast.  There were demo games of the Crescent and the Cross and Saga in evidence:

Using figures from the new plastic starter sets
One thing I noticed was the boxes of Plastic starter armies that were news to me.  The starter armies include four points of plastic figures and it appears  slimmed down playsheets & rules may be included (?).  Certainly the German demo set featured slimmed down rules for the Viking and Saxon starter sets.

As mentioned in the previous part of my coverage, all the big players in fantasy skirmish games were present, the scale and organisation of their stands put the best British operations to shame, here for example is the Corvus Belli stand for Infinity, which was always packed:
The demonstration games featured great figures, and great terrain, as was becoming commonplace.  But the massed spectacle of big wargames was never there.  Not that for these games that is every the intent:

Very pretty models
Very pretty scenery
As an aside, a portion of the show, maybe 10% or so - which is still a huge amount of floorspace - is devoted to comics, roleplaying, LARP and Cosplay.  Lots of trade stands were selling all kind of weird, including some fruity Japanese versions of 80's duelling books, cuddly Cthulhu's, nerd mouse-mats and rubber armour.  At one stage I ran into these guys harassing the comic artists:

Skaven get everywhere
 Not featured, pictures of The Joker and Harlequin that virtually every comic fanboy took (so they could trim the Joker out later, if you catch my drift).

Meanwhile with our wargaming theme still in mind I found the Rubicon Models stand and got pictures of their upcoming prototypes and current models:

 Some interesting choices there and the quality of the models are great.  I may have a project for some of these in future and I know they'll get my money over Warlord's equivalents every time.  No offence Warlord!

Time for a gaming break, for the last couple of hours we tottered around the show playing whatever we could.  Prodigals Club was a moderately complex Euro styled worker placement game about losing all your money and upsetting polite society.  Think of it as playing Terry Thomas in any film ever, or living the life of an Eton graduate with a role in politics:

I'm about to insult society with my knowledge of horseflesh
 Opinions were divided on this, with me and one other player loving it and the other two failing to be sold on the concepts.  I think in one case essentially playing a cad did not sit well on their moral compass.  I wonder what it says about me that it seemed like a delightful conceit?

Back to Mega Civilization, seeing it laid out on a table made it apparent just how massive it was...

Just the board and some of the components
We found a couple more games to play, winding up with the lightest fare of the weekend to close.  Looney Quest was a drawing game emulating the style of platform games.  Essentially you draw simple lines and shapes to hit or encircle targets on an image, of course you don't get to use the image to do it and you only have 30 seconds to get this done.  It was a simple, fun family game and a nice way to wind up the show.

Sunday night at the hotel was a quieter affair but revolved around the usual activities as our little group, now swelled to six, played more games and figured out the packing.  Monday was a free day but no one had any firm plans for it and in the end we just wandered around Essen in a fairly chilled manner until it was time to go home.  Essen it turns out has a lot of Goth shops, and German food is of course amazing, if you like meat, cheese and bread.

Thanks go to Matt and Joe for organising the trip.  It was a grand time.  I did think I might get gaming fatigue by about halfway in, but it was more like one of my snowboarding trips - you had all the time in the world to do what you went for, but no pressure to if you'd rather just relax; which tended to mean doing as much of the activity as you can rather than feeling pressured to do it and not wanting to.  I can't recall the last time I played so many games in such a short time.

Would I recommend it?


If you enjoy board games, you'll not find more choice than there is here, and if you can justify the visit as a holiday itself then the savings on games are phenomenal, most games are only 50-75% of UK prices.  Conversely miniatures pricing was more varied, but if you could buy it at home that would generally make more sense.  The opportunity for getting new releases is another big factor, but to have the best chance of finding what you want, be there in the queue to get in about 8am Thursday.  Sunday is bargains day, by which point companies with an eye on shipping costs for unsold stock and the bottom line are slashing prices everywhere.  The day to skip, Saturday certainly, just so busy!  And if all else fails, there's no better place to try before you buy.  All day long.

So, will I do it again?  Very probably.  Next time; road trip?....

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