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Essen Spiel 2022 Retrospective

Updated: Feb 27

Well, where do I begin? After 724 miles, (and that's just me walking around the halls) I am home from Essen. Coming to the end of something you hype in your mind for so long , always brings mixed feelings. I am very tired, and not 100% physically well with a little bug (not Covid!), but my mind is full of happy memories. Close to 150,000 people graced the 6 halls of the show over the four days. Over 1,200 new games were on display. Publishers from all over the world come to Essen to try and get a little bit of limelight shined onto their game. In this retrospective, I will try and give a flavour of how the show was for me. As well as sharing the thoughts of a few friends.

The Logistics.

Getting to the show and the overall logistics of planning are always difficult for me. I have been with and without my family before. And I don't want to do it again without them. But the show is early October now, so not in UK School holidays, which makes it tough to have my children with me the entire time. They are 9 and 7 currently. But I also don't want to force them and my wife around the halls for too long. So, going for a day on my own, and then to have them join me for a day seems about perfect. This year, I was kindly given a lift by Marie from @Burton_boards which allowed me to travel separately from my family, without much added expense. Thank you Marie! My wife is happy to drive there as she grew up close to Essen, and knows the roads, route, and likes the journey. But I would prefer to be with them for this.

But having a day to myself before they arrived allowed me to do all the things I wanted to do, such as speak to some of my favourite publishers, and demo some great games. I book hotels in Dussledorf which is 25 minutes drive from Essen as they are way cheaper, and the city is awesome! I highly recommend it. Parking at the Spiel is fine. There are some queues, but it's cheap at 6 euros a day, and there are lots of spaces across nine huge car parks I believe.

The Highlights

With over 1,200 new games at the show, you have to be choosy! I created a short list using the BGG preview prior to going. The official Spiel App allowed you to mark your top games, and then it showed you where they were on the map too. Very cool. It would be nice if they could sync the BGG list to the Spiel app though. On my shortlist, I had 147 games. I knew I wouldn't have time to see them all but there you go! The heart wants what the heart wants!

On the Thursday, I had back to back meetings with publishers to talk to them about their games, and so I found that with these diarised events, and a few stops for food and drink, I didn't have that much more time for other things on day one. Checking out Redwood from Sit Down! games was a highlight though. It's currently on kickstarter and it is stunning both in terms of looks and gameplay. I love how you move your characters and then use school math class like equipment to assess your current view. It has interesting scoring options too. One to watch for sure.

My Day two highlight was meeting the design team behind The Red Cathedral and Walkie Talkie by Devir. Walkie Talkie is an awesome little card game that I demo'd then bought at the show. I love how simple it is to play, but how addictive it can be. Meeting Isra and Shei from Llama Dice was a real thrill for me. They were so humble and seemed confused at how excited and emotional I was to see them!

In Walkie Talkie, you have six cards with either a single letter or a single colour on. There are two cards on the table. One showing a letter. One showing a colour. 30 seconds is available per player. You will all play simultaneously, trying to get rid of your cards by playing a letter on a letter or a colour on a colour. All you need to do when you play a card is say a word that matches the card you are playing. For example, if you play a W next to the colour blue you could say Water. If you played a Pink next to a letter F you could say Flamingo. You can say anything you like as long as it is not a colour and it makes sense. Get rid of your cards in the time limit to win. All the cards are double sided, with a letter on one side and a colour on the other. If someone says ROGER, then all players must flip their cards over. If someone says OVER, then all players must pass their card to the left. It's a bit like The Mind meets Boggle! Great fun!

The Games

I came home with 14 games and two expansions. I was able to play nine games over the two days I was at the show. And was able to get a demonstration of a dozen more. My pre-show big hitters were Tribes of the Wind, Revive, Sabika, War of the Ring, and Flowar. I came home with none of these and only played only one!

Tribes of the Wind was the one I played. It was good. If a friend owned it and asked to play with me, I would happily do so. And I feel over a few games I could come to enjoy it a lot. But it felt quite abstract and the theme of rebuilding civilisation in a post-apocalyptic world was what draw me in. Sadly, feeling none of that as I played really put me off, despite the game being solid. I liked how the actions you could do were largely dictated by the symbols on the back of the cards that your neighbour had. Hence the card holders below, allowing you to see what everyone has on the back of their cards. The multiple ways to play and score was fun. I liked how the game ended by building your fifth treehouse, which could happen sooner or later, depending on each players tactics. But it was good, not great. And had no real new mechanic or clever moment, so without the theme, I was ok to move on.

I left War of the Ring and Revive as I felt they were somewhat over priced at the show. 50 Euro for War of the Ring, and 80 for Revive. At least Revive has a lot in the box. War of the Ring is basically just some cards. But both felt over-inflated for the show based on hype, so I left them to more keen/rich buyers! But I am very excited to play them soon.

Sabika and Flowar I would have got had I more budget! But you cannot buy them all, and as I didn't have time to fully demo them, I have left them for another time. Hopefully soon. Sabika in particular looks amazing. But here is what I did get. Please note, a lot of these are review copies and were provided by the publishers for review purposes.

STG 2022 : A cool demo game showcasing all the cool developers from their area, kindly given to me by @zlaiannah.gameroom who is making @eyeofzamrock

Scout by @oinkgms

Walkie Talkie by @devirgames@llama_dice

Something Wild Marvel by @funko_europe

Sagrada expansion @floodgategames

Kites by @floodgategames

Ted Lasso by @funko_europe

ET by @funko_europe

Night of Frights by @funko_europe

Toko Island by @helvetiq

Skate Summer by @pandasaurus_games

Vengeance Roll & Fight by @mightyboards

Starship Captains by @czech_games_edition

Wonder Book by @dvgames_official

Carcassonne Ukraine Map by @hig_games

Not featured in this picture as it was in the car somewhere at the time, after we played during the euro tunnel is Mada from @helvetiq

The Halls

I spent most of day one in Hall three. It was huge and had a lot of my favourite publishers located within it. Hall one and two was also very busy throughout and was full of amazing stuff. All three could be a full day, very easily. The Gallery connects to hall two, three, and four and five. Here, there were oversized games, children's entertainment including free mini buggies to ride, and lots of great food options. Hall Four and Five were a little smaller in comparison, but still huge! And full of great stuff, and hall six was a little quieter with some smaller independents, retailers, and peripherals. Everywhere you looked there was something awesome, and I honestly think you could spend over a week and still not see it all.

But you need to keep your eyes peeled because it can all blur into one. It is hard to separate individual people and games. Well, it is at least for me. But in one glorious corner of hall 2, you could find the Serbian Tabletop Guild. A group of designers and publishers from Serbia, joining forces to create something amazing. They even had a free promo game they were handing out that promoted each of their individual businesses whilst being a playable card game. How cool!

I was made aware of this by @zlaiannah.gameroom who I know from Instagram, who was promoting his upcoming kickstarter @eyeofzamrock It looked like Scythe on steroids, and I was instantly blown away! Just check out the scale and beauty of this! I cannot wait to see more.