The last week flew by! Being at SPIEL is always so intense. Many very long days that are fun, exhausting, and interesting at the same time. Because we noticed it’s hard for friends and family to imagine what a board gaming convention looks like for us, we thought we’d give you a short diary of what Spiel 2023 looked like.
WEDNESDAY – Day zero
We arrived on Wednesday evening and hung out at the hotel with the cool people from NPI, and JonGetsGames that we hadn’t seen for four years and met Tom of SUSD! We ended up playing Planta Nubo. According to Heinze, it felt like a lighter Feast for Odin but not having played it I cannot second that. It definitely is a Uwe Rosenberg game that offers a lot of options! I did think the way you chose your actions on a grid with tool tiles was very clever though.
THURSDAY – Day one
On Thursday, the madness that is called SPIEL began. Spiel is way more focused on the business and social side for us instead of shopping and demoing games. However, since our first meeting didn’t start before 11 AM we did have time for a short game and sat down to play Beacon Patrol. After having heard the rules, we wondered what ‘the game was’ but that quickly clicked when we started playing. It’s a tricky little co-op puzzle that falls in the same category as Dorfromantik, I think? We haven’t played Dorfromantik, so that’s a guess. The game also comes with two modules that can be added, after playing one game, we did feel that we would need to add those to make the game a bit more interesting for us. The presentation of the game is fantastic though, we really like its simple and cozy look. We also had a good time checking in with Raina Medina while she was working at the booth.
We had a meeting with Synapses Games and learned about Pyramido which was a fun puzzle tile stacking game. It has some similarities to Kingdomino with an added stacking element. We enjoyed the demo DutchYoda gave us and think this will be a game that a lot of people will like. During our demo, we also finally met Danni Loe after all these years of having contact online! And when Dave of Luzapalooza dropped by – we were reminded how many lovely people we always get to see in Essen.
We quickly hurried to our next meeting at Gigamic and were shown their new lineup and we are always impressed by their production quality! Things that stood out for us are the new season of their 30-minute RPG series, Critical: Sanctuary and their little card games Wool Gang and Line-it looked great too. Rory from Hub Games also recommended Line-it to us later at the show!
After getting lunch and roaming the halls some more, we had a meeting with the always-fun Thibault of Studio H! Their big title this year was Virtual Revolution and their booth really nailed the futuristic neo style. We always love to to ask about the work that went in a booth, because it’s often quite overlooked. Virtual Revolution is thematically really up our alley and it sounded like it might be a little like New Angeles, only… shorter?! And that is a combination that we would really enjoy! We haven’t played it yet but are looking forward to it. I don’t really remember what we did the rest of the day at Spiel. We probably bumped into lovely people and I finally picked up a copy of Tinderblox which is not available in our country (unless you pay triple the price). It’s a silly small dexterity stacking game, easy to take along and fun to play. We ran into Anne from Leder Games and she gave us two very rad Shark pins!
In the evening we had dinner at Fritz Patrick’s Pub and attended the Gaming Rules! meetup and hang out with Jeroen and game artist Roland MacDonald. Later that night, we had the pleasure of meeting game designers Trevor Benjamin and Brett Gilbert! We also had a great time chatting with Ian O’Toole whom we hadn’t seen since 2019.
FRIDAY – Day two
Our first meeting wasn’t before 12 PM so that gave us the chance to walk past some booths with whom we didn’t book a meeting but we did definitely want to say hello to (and drop by some stroopwafels). We first spotted Ian at the Floodgate Games booth and had a great time chatting and he introduced us to Dani Standring! We got a copy of Skyrockets which was described to us as a gamer version of Kites. We’re going to find out when we get it to the table! When walking past Arcane Wonders we spotted Beneeta Kaur and talked a bit. We continued our way and had a meeting at Horrible Guild and had a great talk about their new games Quicksand, Sunrise Lane, a Lord of the Rings version of Similio, and the new expansions for Railroad Ink and Evergreen.
Time for a breather and some lunch. During lunch, Ross from MoreGamesPlease and Dominic from Northstar Games walked by and we had a nice chat. On to the next meeting, with our friends at Board & Dice! Their biggest new title is of course Nucleum and we can say that is the densest game we’ve taken with us. It’s heavy! It will probably take us a little time before we get to play it due to its complexity, but we are curious because a lot of people seem to like it. We also learned that the company is also going to release a little less heavy games in the future and the prototype of Windmill Valley that was shown to us looked really promising.
The rest of the afternoon, our schedule was free! (Except for a secret meeting with Brooke from Leder Games some people shouldn’t know about) Time to look at some things that were on our list. We couldn’t find the cool edition of Can’t Stop we thought would be there alas! We will probably just have to make and design our version… what a shame. 😉
The night before Trevor and Brett told us that there was a sequel to Mandala, called Patterns. We went to the Lookout Games booth and while waiting for a free demo table we looked around the booth and were curious about the game Tipperary. I grabbed the box from one of the demo tables to take a look at the back and behind it… were Paula Deming, Matthew Jude, Ilka from Luzapalooza, and Steven! They had just started the game explanation and invited us to join in since the game goes up to five players. We had a great time playing the game! It was a lighter tile-laying game with different ways of scoring points and it felt like a really great family game.
When the halls started to close, we went to the Pandasaurus Games booth because they were having a little party, there are always a lot of small parties after hours in the halls, and we heard of at least five that were going on that night. It gave us the chance to chat with the owners Nathan and Molly, and had an interesting conversation with Brian (designer of Dinosaur World) about how differently Europe and the US value art and sports. We also met the guys from Board Stupid and hung out with Beneeta, DutchYoda, and Banzainator. After that, we went back to the hotel and played games until midnight with Duncan (Rebellion Unplugged), Peer Sylvester, Ian and one of his friends. We started out with Trio, which actually is a fun little game but it requires a working memory. We were all tired and sleep-deprived so most of our memories were shot which made the game even funnier. Peer & Heinze clearly did not suffer from the same issues as the rest of us did though, haha. After he probably thought we were so great at memory-based games, he suggested we played the co-op game Order Overload (but an edition with only Oink/Itten games titles). Let’s just say that that did not fare well for us but was hilarious nonetheless. We also played a game of Sunrise Lane and after another drink, we called it a day. Saturday was going to be a busy day.
SATURDAY – Day three
After a meeting at Funforge, we picked up a copy of Mlem: Space Agency, a game that was recommended to us the day before, it has no English rules yet, so hopefully we’ll be able to figure out if it’s good soon! After that, we had a meeting at Osprey Games and it’s always so lovely to chat with Benji and Emily. We tried to pry loose some extra information about the new Undaunted 2200: Callisto but they were very professional about it. We already got sent a copy of their new game General Orders a few days before Spiel but we haven’t had a chance to play a full game yet but the half game we did play showed some depth in strategy we didn’t expect when we started playing.
We had a quick lunch, where we bumped into T. and learned some interesting and very funny things about shipping products to game stores. Then we walked by Ion Games because our friend Jeroen was giving a workshop about painting minis. He was doing great, yay! We continued our way to the Wise Wizard Games booth where we had a meeting with the owners, Rob and Debbie whom we hadn’t spoken to in a long while. It was great seeing them again and they told us all about their new game Robot Quest Arena which sort of stole our hearts. The big board and chunky robots, combined with the simple base rules but room for strategy really sounds great to us. We’re sure many of our friends will enjoy playing this. We also bought the two expansions, extra robots, so you can play it up to six players instead of four. Rob also introduced us to Kapow! which is a buildable dice game.
After walking the halls and having a very short meeting with Brooke and Anne from Leder Games, we ended up sitting down in the Press room for a little while to escape the crowds for an hour or so. We then made our way back from hall 7 all the way to the other side of hall 3. It took us 18 minutes, which was quite OK with so many people! We had a lovely meeting with Matthias and Annika of Deep Print Games and they told us all about their plans for next year, which were impressive! We were also invited to their dinner party after the show at their booth and having a buffet in the Messe certainly was a first for us. Eerko and Susan from Board Game Stats were also there so we had a great time.
After catching the underground back to our hotel we played a game of Tangram City at the hotel. That was a cool game! It’s different from the usual Tetris-shaped tiles you see in games but also way more challenging. A nice variation if you enjoy such tile-laying games, it’s simple but very enjoyable. 🙂
SUNDAY – Day four
I notice that my memory of the last two days is getting hazier, but I’ll try to keep this up. We started the day by stopping by the Czech Games Edition booth and met up with Jana. Their big new releases are Kutná Hora: The City of Silver and the new expansion for The Lost Ruins of Arnak. Kutná Hora looked a little heavier than we are used to of CGE so we’re curious about the game! After that, we walked through the Galleria and saw Rory and met Toby from Steamforged Games. We love how that is what always seems to happen at SPIEL. You walk around the halls and meet all kinds of people and make new connections. Another coincidental meeting would happen ten minutes later when after picking up a copy of Tokaido Duo we passed the HeidelBÄR booth and spotted that Erik a Sundén was having a meet-and-greet there, promoting his game Hungry Monkey! We really enjoyed his game Whirling Witchcraft and so we sat down and played a round of Hungry Monkey with him and it was really nice meeting him.
After that, it was off to Lucky Duck Games where we got to play a prototype of Fall of Fafnir. If I had to explain it I would say it’s a combination of Fireball Island and a semi-cooperative tower defense game. During your turn, you run around to build defenses, gather resources, and defeat monsters to gain runes, which can be used in the end game to defeat Fafnir. During Fafnir’s turn, he builds up his attacks and might unleash his mighty breath attack which a done by rolling marbles from his mouth towards the village you are trying to protect. We have some pictures and videos we will put on our socials this week because it’s quite the spectacle!
We finished Spiel by catching up with Bert from 999 Games. We met Bert on the first day of our first visit to Spiel, six(?) years ago and have been friends ever since. We talk about cool games we’ve seen that might fit the 999 catalog and share Spiel stories before heading back to the station to catch the train home.
So now you know why I’m quite tired and today’s comic is very true. Many thanks to all our readers who came and said hi, we really appreciate it! <3 I hope you enjoyed this long report on our Spiel while we’re off to start playing some of our new games!