It’s Essen Spiel week! The most wonderful time of the year! If you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what I’m on about, Essen is the annual event that board gamers dream of. It’s our equivalent of the San Diego Comic Con, the cardboard version of E3; over 100,000 people flocking to a town in Germany to see what the games industry is going to delight us with over the next few months.
This will be my first Essen – actually, it’ll be my first visit to Germany – and I’m feeling a curious combination of excitement and nerves. I’m sure that once I arrive at the halls that’ll all bleed away as I scramble about looking at incredible games by publishers and indies from all around the world. I know that come Sunday I’ll have that feeling of it all being over too soon, that I should have grabbed more interviews… It’s going to be An Experience.
I’ve been looking through all the lists of new releases for Essen 2011 and – as is apparently customary – I’ve thrown together a few games that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on. Whether I’ll be able to try them all out, who knows? It’s a big old place and there’s a lot of people to see. Here’s hoping though…
Alcatraz: The Scapegoat published by Kuznia Gier
Let’s kick off with a co-op, albeit one with a difference. In Alcatraz: The Scapegoat you’re working together to spring yourself from the legendary American jail but someone’s got to be left behind. The aim seems to be to make yourself as indispensable as possible. You’re the guy who HAS to be taken along because you sure don’t want to be stuck on the rock. Part pick up and deliver, part backstabbing exercise in diplomacy, Alcatraz: The Scapegoat looks wonderfully cruel.
Bios Megafauna published by Sierra Madre Games
The mighty Dominant Species holds the crown when it comes to games involving evolution (for me, anyway) but Sierra Madre Games’ Bios Megafauna looks like it could well make a challenge for the throne. Your beasties are graded on a wide range of categories and must deal with competition from other animals as well as changes in their environment. How do you deal with such things? Why, through mutation or starting brand new species, of course. Apparently you can end up with vegetarian velociraptors and flying dolphins… who wouldn’t be intrigued?
Core Worlds published by Stronghold Games
Science fiction, barbarians, the invasion of worlds and deck-building. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from Core Worlds, a new release from Stronghold Games. They’re a company who have developed quite a name in producing beautiful new versions of some classic titles but are now spreading out into new IPs. In around an hour players will take their fledgling civilisation, develop new technologies, build up energy resources, launch fleets and destroy their enemies before them – hopefully. Core Worlds promises an awful lot but if it pulls it off, this could be one of the games of the year for me.
Dragon Rampage published by Eagle Games
Richard Launis’ strategic dice game has been on my radar a while and after talking with him for The Little Metal Dog Show I am now fully hyped for it. Playing as adventurers trying to blag as much treasure while screwing over your opponents and making sure to react correctly to what the dragon’s doing..? It looks like while there’s plenty of opportunity to take down your opposition, you’ve got to be careful to not dig yourself into a hole and throw away a potential victory. Also, the games available at Essen will come with a “special” board. No more information on that, but I’m a sucker for limited editions.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue published by Indie Boards and Cards
Yes, yes, I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign. I am an idiot. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be excited about this one. Another one scratching that itch for co-operative play, you work together to save victims trapped inside a burning building before it’s too late. Different roles have different special abilities but the thing that really appeals is the power to smash through walls in times of desperation. After raising a ridiculous amount on money, the Essen release comes with a promo role card, a double sided game board and a scenarios book. So much potential playtime! Here’s hoping I can grab a copy.
Last Will by Czech Games Edition
I had a chance to look at Last Will at the UK Games Expo and was immediately taken with it. Think Brewster’s Millions: The Board Game or Go For Broke for grown ups; Players are given a large amount of money which must be frittered away on luxuries like theatre visits and extravagant meals or investing in property that will be left to go to rack and ruin. I love humour in games and Last Will seems to have it in spades. Designer Vladimir Suchy seems like he’s on to a winner with this one, combining a bloody funny idea with some solid gameplay.
Power Grid: The Robots published by 2-F Spiele
I love me some Power Grid and there’s nothing better than having a full requisite of players sitting around the board, filling out and fighting for every space in every town as the game goes on. So what happens if you’ve only got four players? Or even less? Friedemann Friese has thought about that and has introduced Power Grid: The Robots. Acting as AI players, each robot will be given a randomised set of rules for them to follow in the game. The rules come on tiles that will be mixed up meaning that there’s a huge range of potential robot opponents. I’m really interested in seeing how it works. Oh, and there’s the usual extra card for this year too, Der Liefervertrag (The Supply Contract) that lets you permanently move one step back in player order. Could prove very useful.
Rumble in the House by Flatlined Games
Flatlined Games present a mad looking little game where players are encouraged to (virtually) beat the crap out of their fellow housemates. Everyone controls two characters and, in a last man standing kind of affair, must force the opposition out of the house. The earlier you’re evicted, the less points that character scores and after three rounds the player with the highest total is victorious. A very quick little party game (apparently it can be done in twenty minutes, even with six players) I hope this lives up to my expectations.
Schnappt Hubi! published by Ravensburger
I honestly have no idea if I’ll even understand this one but Ravensburger stuff is generally pretty easy to get your head around. Players are either mice or rabbits who need to chase down Hubi the ghost and get him out of the house. Sounds very weird but looks amazing. Schnappt Hubi! has two stages, the first where players build the walls of the house making a maze that – thanks to the electronic gizmo that comes bundled – will be different every time the game is played. The walls come in different types including some with holes that only mice can get through or cracks that can only be reached by the rabbits that jump. Yes, it’s very much a kids game but it really looks brilliant – definitely one to pick up.
With over seven hundred brand new games launching at Essen along with all the stuff that’s been released through the year, Aladdin’s cave has nothing on Essen 2011. I haven’t even started on the mini expansions that will be there; Small World Tunnels, Airlines Europe: Flight Ban, Carcassonne: Die Schule, Mr Jack Pocket: Goodies, Alhambra: Magical Buildings, 7 Wonders: Catan Island… How the hell am I going to get all this stuff home?!
If you’re there and you see me, do stop and say hello. Look for the bald guy with the wild look in his eyes wearing a shirt with – what else – a Little Metal Dog. This one, in fact!
See you in Germany!