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Last night I went and uploaded my pictures, which can be found in my Essen 2005 photo gallery. It's a small set of 80 or so pictures, but at least it'll give you some picture of what was going on. Have fun!

Last day of the fair! Sunday would be a definite no, since we have to leave for the airport before the fair actually opens. At the breakfast, there were a lot more people than before - the first sign of the weekend action. Lots of guys I had seen at the Gigantoskop stand were there, and also Ward Batty.

After breakfast we headed to the city center. I wanted to see a bit of that, and I needed to get a gift for Johanna. We went through few department stores and a curious beast, a four-store shop full of men's clothes and nothing but men's clothes - that's something you don't find in Finland. I found something nice, and decided it was time to head to the fair. I sent a SMS to Tero and Maija, who I was to meet today, but got no reply. Tero is one of the criminal masterminds behind Kumpulan pelikerho, Finland's second most significant board game review site and Maija is his wife.

When I entered the hall, I tried to call him - no answer. I didn't panic, as that was expected. I started to make my way to hall 9 to pick up Fairy Tale for Tommy, a late addition to the shopping list (the good and bad sides of having Internet access during the fair... but it was a very polite request and not a big deal). On my way I tried to make another call, Tero heard it and it turned out they were in the hall 9, pretty much where I was going to - they had just picked up a copy of Fairy Tale for Tero.

The guy at the What's Your Game booth told us where the designer was, so we headed there to get our games autographed. I had missed the booth on previous days and kind of crossed off Phantom Rummy, one of my original want list games. However, now that I was there, I was under budget and designer was selling the game - why not? So, we got four games signed: two copies of Phantom Rummy, two copies of Fairy Tale.

After reading the rules and browsing through the cards, Phantom Rummy looks pretty much like what I expected - a curious Mahjong variant. Tero, a big Mahjong fan, would have been the perfect opponent for that, but for some reason we didn't try the game. Maybe at the Helcon, then? Of course, with all the games I've planned to play at Helcon, we'll probably have to extend the event with a week or so.

So, anyway - we did a bit of wandering around, Tero and Maija were buying some games. Tero had a big list of his wants and his friends' wants, while Maija was working more on an open-minded "hey this seems neat" basis. She certainly made some interesting picks! She bought some kind of Mandala game - well, I'm not even sure how much game there is in that.

Her best purchase was by far this Haba game we saw. Kayanak, I think it was called. It's about ice-fishing. The board has a neat gimmick: it's a cardboard sheet with holes in it and you put sheets of paper underneath to create an impression of ice covering a lake. To fish, players punch holes through the paper and then use a magnetic fishing rod to catch metal balls underneath the ice. Very clever and fun! The Haba games all looked really good, I think they would be pretty hot if I had small kids.

We wandered around, looked for bargains and bought games (well, they bought), but we did also play games. After all, there's a limit on how much you can shop. First game was a return to Angkor. I played two games against Tero, and my opinion improved a bit: with two players, Angkor is fast and fun. The "take that" thing becomes a smaller issue, as it's clear who you have to beat. Still, I'm not buying.

As the Schmidt stand was a good place to be (it certainly was one of my favourite stands), we moved into a better spot - the same corner we used on Friday - and got Maija to join us. She wanted to try Diamant, which I taught them. After all, I have an extensive experience of about 30 minutes of it in BrettSpielWelt (by the way, the amount of BSW t-shirts was unbelievable - it's certainly a popular site amongst German board gamers). It was fun, sort of, but it was also obvious that Diamant isn't a good three-player game. However, Tero and Maija saw the potential for fun the game has for several players, but like many others before them, they thought the game should be priced around 10 euros.

Maija or Tero was interested to try Hazienda and why not - a new Kramer game is a new Kramer game, no matter what Rick Thornquist or anybody else says. Unfortunately we didn't have Andreas to explain the German rules for us, so the task fell to me. Guess what? I made it! We played the game successfully, and I have a pretty strong feeling that we got it right, too.

It's good. It's about farming land, kind of. On your turn, you can do one of three things: you can play cards, buy stuff or farm the land. Cards are either land or animals. If you play land, you can start or extend a farm. Farms score two points per hex, if they're at least three tiles. Animal herds start from farms and try to reach to the markets on the board to score money. It's very much like the oasises (that can't be a word) in Through the Desert.

Buying stuff is either cards or bonus stuff: lakes and haciendas increase the points you get from land or animals. Farming gives money (or was it points?) for farms; I now realize, that we actually forgot that option completely, we didn't use it even once. That would've been a good thing to do... Well, that's life on the fast lane, you can't remember everything.

The game is scored twice, depending on the animal deck. Biggest source of points are the markets: you get points depending on how many markets you connect to. The scoring method is the triangular number system, so each new market is better and better. Getting the animal chains in play is difficult, though.

The game's really quite exciting - it's fairly short and tense, as you have lots of things you want to do and time and resources to do just few of them. It's all well executed, but I think Rick was still right: five or so years ago it would've made a much bigger splash, now it isn't that impressive. Still, I'd say it's pretty solid eight, or at least seven and a half. Maija enjoyed it so much she hunted down a copy, even though she lost badly thanks to a lack of markets. I think she didn't quite figure out the game from my explanation, but it got much clearer when she actually played the game.

At some point we were wandering through the halls, looking for some place to try Tero's new Sushi Express. We saw an empty table - but it had an Othello set on it. I wondered if someone would mind, if we played Sushi Express on that table. Well, we did play something on that table, but it was Othello. Maija kind of coaxed us into it somehow, while she went off to check something she had seen - that's a pretty good work, since we both kind of hate Othello. Well, we played it, it's been documented on film and Tero kicked my butt.

We noticed the Settlers of Catan world championships were going on at that hall. I remembered the reason Andreas was at Essen: he was one of the Finland's representatives. I found him; I don't know how he was doing, but he didn't look happy when I snapped a picture. I also found the other Finnish guy - don't know who he was - and photographed him, too. Somebody should do some journalistic photography here, I think!

So, we actually went to the cafeteria to play Sushi Express and eat something. For some reason we all ended up having the same kind of sandwich - I don't know, but maybe it was because they had exactly one kind of sandwich available. Sushi Express turned out to be a pretty good game. Tero is a big fan of Michael Schacht and didn't seem disappointed either.

Each turn begins with guessing: players choose a number between two and twelve. Then, two dice are rolled by the player who chose the highest number. If he rolls his number or more, he and everybody beneath him gets to drive their vans around the Sushi city. The number of steps depends on the number chosen. If the roll fails after two tries, the loser gets an action card as a consolation and the next highest number gets to attempt the same thing.

The aim of the game is to pass the Sushi Express office as many times as possible. At each pass the passing player gets a customer. Customers are points in the end: first of each colour of customer is three points, rest are one. There are also tip cards: the player with the least tips loses few points in the end.

It's simple, but fun. There are even some decisions to make: do you set your aims low or high? A roll of ten is great, if you can make it. Sometimes taking a risk is good, sometimes you want to be sure and take a two. It has nothing to do with sushi, but I don't think that's really a valid complaint - it's like complaining that Don has really nothing to do with mafia. At least I never expect a strong theme from a light filler game, and that's what Sushi Express is.

Tero and Maija hadn't tried Fettnapf yet, so introduced it to them (my total so far: nine games, seven people). We played two rounds and they liked it. Maija was particularly fond of it, after winning the first round. They bought it right away, and why not - it was only five euros now. The price had dropped from Friday one euro.

Our very last game was Verflixxt, played on the already surprisingly empty Ravensburger stand. Once again I explained the rules, which are very simple. The game was actually pretty good, especially for a roll-and-move game. Maija didn't like it at all, but I thought it was decent - it would certainly be a good, fast family game.

Of course, I saw lots of interesting stuff today, so here are some miscellaneous things. Remember "Beautiful wooden components" from Medina box? That's nothing! How about "Mit echtem sand", "With real sand" - I have a picture of the game, but cleverly I didn't get the name. Anyway, it's a game of sand worms from Drei Magier Spiele, and the box has some fine sand in it. How they stop it from falling out of the box is a good question. Edit 2005/10/18: the game is Sandwürmchen or Baby Sand Worms and apparently there's a plastic lid involved.

We also met a German guy, who heard us speak Finnish and asked us if we were from Finland. That's nothing, but he asked us in Finnish! His Finnish was even very good! Amazing, that's something you don't get every day. He was quite surprised when he heard we had come all the way from Finland just to attend the fair.

We also played "spot the designer". It really drove in the point that yeah, I'm not just a geek, I'm a really geeky geek. Everybody and their friends knows who Reiner Knizia is and some might even have seen his picture. But who can recognise Knizia, Dirk Henn (Tero got his copy of Timbuktu signed by him), Bruno Faidutti (he said my blog was good; thanks, Bruno!), Doris from Doris & Frank (she drew a nice hedgehog on the cover of Tero's Arche Opti Mix when Maija asked her if she was Doris - I wasn't 100% sure), Jay Tummelson, Mike Siggins, William Attia, Klaus Teuber and so on... It seemed like I was all the time pointing out people to Tero and Maija: "See that guy in a yellow shirt? He's the designer of Caylus", that sort of thing.

Of course, getting everything possible out of the Essen experience, you should either study the pictures of the various designers (Geek has lots of them, designers posing with their games, I think Jon Power has taken many of those) or get a friend who'll recognise people. Of course, that only matters if you're geek enough to be excited about seeing game designers...

What else... I got two more bags of Carcassonne candy. I continued to hunt for Stefu's Gauner Trio, but still had no success. Sorry Stefu, I did ask it around but nobody had it. I did notice there were really many soccer games - maybe even more than Sudokus, maybe. It was certainly a popular theme. The implementations varied a lot. Tero was interested in them, and got one of them, a Japanese soccer chess game or something like that.

After the fair, it was dinner time. We returned to Il Pomodoro, where we had dined on Thursday. Located at Rüttenscheider Str. 227, it's a nice little Italian trattoria. The food was great, once again, and the service was good. If you're in the neighbourhood, go check it out.

Back at the hotel room, we returned to Caylus. Again we all employed pretty much the same strategies: I built residential buildings and made some monuments, Raija jousted a lot to score royal favours and built the castle most, while Ismo built lots of buildings. There was more fighting this time: provost was manipulated and the turn order changed many times, mostly because of the jousting field.

Raija got a good lead and tried to keep it by attempting to make the game end sooner. She was one turn too late, as in the very last turn I was the only one to build the castle and I used the royal favour I got to build the best monument in the game, scoring a whopping 25 points for me - considering my total was 95, that's a lot! It wasn't easy, though, so I consider my victory well-earned.

Caylus is great, great, great! So many roads to victory, so many tough choices. I'm looking forward to try the game with more players, it should get pretty tight. This time the game took us about 100 minutes, which is good. We finished the evening with Havoc, where I did better this time but still came last. My four of a kind of tens in the last battle was beaten by Ismo's six card straight flush, and I can certainly respect that. Havoc is good, too.

So, that's it. The fair is officially over for me. It was fun, most of the time, and I got a suitcase full of games - all aren't for me, but that's not a bad thing at all. I spent a lot of money, but will get some back when Tommy and Ansi pay me their share. I was under my budget, because I didn't buy Third World Debt or KaiVai. For me, the fair was a pretty amazing experience, but I think a lot of it is the first time charm. I know I'm not going next year and to be honest, I don't feel sorry about it. I can live without it.

The fair is definitely a must for all serious boardgamers. Some will love it a lot and get the cravings every year, some won't be that addicted, but all should experience it at least once. My hunger is satisfied now - I've seen it, I'm happy. Of course, I would like to go again, but only if I had lots of unneeded money floating around (or someone paid my trip and some of the expenses too) and I could get some good company like Tero and Maija to come with me.

At some time during the next week, I'll post some kind of a summary, which will include some tips for Essen newcomers, things I've learned. Photos will also come later - I'll probably add some to these entries (I'll post a note when that happens) and for really picture-hungry, there'll be a big gallery. That'll take some time, however.

Morning notes: I finished up packing the games. They filled my suitcase, with some card games in my backpack. So, I bought just the right amount of right-sized games! Lucky me!

Here's what happened yesterday:

Today was the day! I went downstairs to use the hotel laptop to send my reports, which I did, and then headed back to the room. I glanced towards the dining room, and who did I see? Reiner Knizia, of course, and he was just leaving. As he wasn't eating, I thought it wouldn't be terribly rude to go and ask for his autograph. Of course, I just happened to have my copy of Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck and a pen in my pocket... So, now I have Knizia's autograph! Hooray! He's made better games than Heckmeck, but that's all I had.

Before I went to the fair, we played few rounds of Fettnapf. With the games I played later, my total comes to seven already. It's a good game, I quite like it. It's definitely one of the highlights here, simple but fun. There's always a place in my heart for games like that.

At the fair I was supposed to meet Saku, Andreas and Scott. Saku e-mailed me earlier this week, as he had noticed my posts on the Finnish Boardgame Society forum. The guys had me waiting for 50 minutes, but eventually arrived. They were coming all the way from Bochum and had made some crucial mistakes with trains or something. I was fairly pissed off, but playing games made me settle down.

First thing we tried was Quo Vadis?, which I almost remembered. It must've been years since I last played. It was pretty good fun, I won and all. The new Amigo edition looks pretty smooth, it's quite small. The hideous plastic senators have been replaced by small wooden cylinders, which is a pretty good move if you ask me.

The actual reason why we went for Amigo was Fettnapf, of course. I thought the guys the game and we had a pretty ugly match... By the time we shuffled the deck first time, everybody was at three blunders. That's lousy play, believe me. After that I had a meeting with the Tactic people, their game design director (or something like that) Kati Heljakka and the game developers at their Gamestorm unit. Their DVD Sudoku was presented at the fair.

After the meeting I regrouped with the guys. They told me they had seen the English copy of Elasund I was after, so I went for that. So, whoever it is that wins the game at Helcon, thank Saku, Andreas and Scott for getting the English copy instead of a German. I later had the game signed by Klaus Teuber, who had a signing session. Interesting enough, Reiner Knizia was there too. Andreas rushed to buy a copy of Quo Vadis, but by the time he was back, Knizia was gone. Too bad for Phil, who the game was going, I think. I'll add pictures here later, I guess, and then you'll see my photo of them both signing a game at the same time.

Next up was Angkor, which the Gamestorm guys recommended. When we went to the Schmidt booth, some guy was returning the game at the desk, where I picked it right away. We didn't get a table, but we found a nice little corner. I guess you don't get the full Essen experience unless you play on the floor!

Angkor looks good (except some really cheap-looking plastic bits) and plays pretty well. Basically everybody's trying to build a neat temple city for themselves and at the same time attempting to drown everyone else's temples in the jungle. Good tiles on your board, bad tiles on opponents boards. Quite simple.

This means, of course, that the game is very "take that"-ish. Group beating is forbidden (you can only play four jungle tiles on someone each round), but certain beat-the-leader attitude is mandatory. However, victims of jungle overgrowth can hit back by playing a piece that scores points from the jungles, so there are option. You can also stop the jungle by placing water tiles.

It's quite interesting, but doesn't make a good game in the end. First of all, I don't like that kind of conflict. I know that's a personal preference, very much so, and some people will really love this kind of interaction. I don't, and Angkor isn't for me. Another annoyance was the end game trigger. There are five princess tiles and when they come up, the game's over. There's no system to guarantee anything, so they could be the first five tile draws. Our first game was pretty short and really unsatisfactory.

Our second match was longer and much better, but still... I don't know, I just don't like the whole "who should I beat next"-thing that's going on there. I'm more in the multiplayer solitaire camp. Fans of conflict and interaction will like Angkor better. I do agree it's pretty easy to learn and you can get going pretty fast, that's always good.

Next up was a Queen game, Raubritter. It's by Rüdiger Dorn, which is certainly interesting... It's basically a tile-laying game. Each player has an identical stack of tiles. There are castles, villages and cities. They can be on plains or forests, and there are also empty plains, forests and mountains. Whenever you get a castle, you get up to five knights, who spread out from the castle and enter the neighbouring areas.

Each area holds four knights. In forests, you must play at least two and in the mountains at least three. Whoever has the last piece on top of the pile, controls and scores it. Castles are worth one point, villages two and cities three. Our verdict? We hated it. I mean, the game is terrible. It's both boring and frustrating.

The main problem is that playing your knights feels often pointless. Why should I put my knights here, when the next guy can build his castle and just roll over my knights and rob all my points? You continuously set things up for your left hand neighbour. There are tricks you can do to make the locations your knights guard harder to reach, but that's difficult. It was very annoying game, which I won't play again.

Scott wanted to try Aloha, which is a new game from Cwali. We did that and were able to get a table. Aloha looks a lot like Sunda to Sahul, except it has hexagons instead of puzzle pieces, but the elements are same: jungle, beach and sea. Players try to explore the island and place beach chairs on the beach. Who has the most chairs on the longest beach scores the biggest points!

One interesting hook is the certain push-your-luck element in the game. You can explore as long as you wish, but if you hit a tile you can't place on your current location, you lose all the chairs you've placed on that turns. That was fun. It is also fairly frustrating. In general the game felt a bit fiddly. Kind of fun, but not fun enough to buy the game. The idea is certainly nice, and the game is much better than Raub Ritter and compares favourably with Angkor. Corne van Moorsel was also a friendly guy.

That was the games, then some general notes... I visited Splotter stand, as I wanted to find out why Indonesia was based on Indonesia, of all the countries in the world. Jeroen Doumen, one of the designers, told me the theme was picked, because Joris Wiersinga, the other designer, was on a holiday in Indonesia and thus they decided to make an Indonesia-themed game. You can take that explanation any way you want, but hey, it's as good as any other...

I was at the IGA ceremony, introduced myself to Mik Svellov. Greg did good job on the awards ceremony, his German speech sounded pretty convincing to me. Not that I understood much of it, but anyway. As you all know, the awards went to War of the Ring and Ticket to Ride Europe, so we saw lots of Italian guys, but no Alan Moon - he wasn't at the fair. I also saw many of the award jury, like Alan How and Mike Siggins.

I heard Big Kini was the biggest thing (it was allegedly on top the Fairplay ranking), but I couldn't get in a game. However, I did manage to find a copy of Müll & Money, on which we had already given up hope. I saw one copy at a game seller and it took me about three seconds to grab it. Ismo and Raija wanted it really badly, so it was a very good thing I found it.

What else... I got a small bag of Carcassonne candy, they're fruit-flavoured, meeple-shaped and way too cute to actually eat! I saw and chatted with Don Bone of Sagacity Games and Knut-Michael Wolf of Spielbox. I got my wrongly-collated Havoc card changed. I had a good time with Saku, Andreas and Scott, after they arrived. Andreas gets the award for the best rules guy of the day - we only used the services of a one Amigo guy to answer a question about Quo Vadis, and he didn't quite understand the question.

After a long dinner at the Pinocchio restaurant near the Messe hall (word of warning: we spent there over two hours, of which we spent about 15 minutes eating and 10 minutes paying the bill - rest of it was waiting, waiting and waiting for the food; food was decent, service was abysmal), we came back to the hotel room to play a game of Caylus.

You know, I was a bit shocked by the rules. I talked about it with Rick Thornquist after the IGA ceremony, and he told me he had the exact same reaction after reading the rules, but actually playing the game made it all click. Well, I have to say I agree - it's a brilliant game, one of the very best games in last few years. Congratulations to William Attia for creating such a great game! The rules may seem complicated, but behind them comes a sparkling masterpiece of game design that really just clicks.

The idea is pretty simple: players try to gain prestige by building a castle for the king. Building a castle takes lots of resources, so players develop the village of Caylus to support the castle project. Turn is basically divided into two major parts: first you place the workers on different buildings, then you activate the workers on the buildings.

Buildings are divided into two categories: there are production buildings and other stuff. Production buildings produce goods, other buildings spend them - either to create new buildings or to transform goods into money or victory points. New buildings provide new opportunities. You can also waste the goods on the castle project, where the most active builders get loads of favours from the court - those are pretty good too. Being a landlord is fun - residential buildings produce money every turn, and they can be developed into very valuable monuments.

There are many roads to victory and many opportunities for clever tactical maneuvering. Managing money and goods is a real challenge. In our game, I made a large part of my points from two monument buildings (well, a monument and a library), Raija scored by building the castle and gaining several royal favours, while Ismo concentrated on building stuff and buying gold from bank. In the end Raija won - she had been behind throughout the game, but in the end her royal favours started to do their magic, as their effect gets stronger each time you get them.

The game took two hours, but the time just flew by. I didn't notice it at all. One thing is for sure: I haven't seen the full potential of the game yet. There's another nasty level, which we barely hinted at. There's this provost, who travels down the road, setting the limit on which buildings can be used. Bribing the provost can make some workers completely useless, if they end up further down the road as the provost. We played it nice now.

The rules aren't at all difficult. Now I've played the game, explaining it should be pretty easy. I'll have to think about it a bit, though - there's probably a good way to explain the game so it all makes sense. I have to congratulate Ystari for using good, clear symbols on the buildings - once you figure out the symbols, you can see at one glance what everything does.

So, right now, without playing Indonesia, I'd say Caylus is the biggest highlight of the fair. Everything Rick Thornquist has said about it is true, and everybody should probably get the game, it's that good. For now it's at least a 9 on the Geek scale, and I think it has potential to be a 10. I think the only downside I see now is the length - first of all, 60-150 minutes is hardly a comforting scale. If experience brings the game closer to 60 minutes, great, but if it creeps closer to 150 minutes, that's a bit too much. There's little downtime, though, as the workers are placed one at a time, that can be fairly swift, and the resolution of workers goes pretty fast once players know the buildings and how the system works.

So, that's it for Friday. Tomorrow I'm heading towards the Essen city center, I'll check that out and try to find something to bring back home for Johanna - I don't think I'll find anything for her at the fair. After I'm happy with that, I'll meet up with Tero and his wife at the fair - I'm mostly going there to meet Tero, but I'll certainly try to get some more games in. I'd like to try Il Principe, for example, even though Rick Thornquist didn't seem to think much of it.

The morning started off quite well. We were having breakfast, when I suddenly noticed a familiar-looking gentleman in a salmon-coloured shirt: herr Knizia! I wasn't quite brave enough to go talk to him, but maybe I'll ask for his signature tomorrow, as I now have a game to ask it to. It would be neat to have spoken with Reiner Knizia.

As we were finishing, I noticed another familiar face, the travelling reporter Rick Thornquist. I wasn't afraid of him, and we chatted for a moment. It was fun to meet him, but beware: in nature he doesn't look quite as smooth as in his Gamewire blog picture. Nah, just kidding!

We took a stroll around the Messe hall side of Essen - it's nice, but nothing spectacular, there are plenty of more interesting locations in Germany. I'll have to check the downtown at some point, I guess, as that should be much better. Around 9.15 or so we hit the fair. By that time the lines to the ticket booths were gone and we got our tickets. I bought a four-day ticket, using my Finnish student card successfully to get the reduced price.

At the ticket line I noticed Jon Power from BoardGameGeek - he was easy to recognise, thanks to his neat shirt featuring his BGG avatar. Hi, Jon!

We wandered around the hall full of people waiting to get in. Eventually we ended in the cafeteria, where the crowd was much thinner. That was a good move, I think. Around 9.50 the doors opened and we rushed in. Winning Moves booth near the cafeteria stairs was pretty much empty, so I got us sitting down to play Blokus to get us started.

We studied the rules ourselves, from the German rulebook. Fortunately I knew the idea of the game and was able to figure out the rest. It was fun, even though Ismo ruled the game both times we tried. To our defense I must add that Raija and I improved our scores by about 10 points. Fun game, but not quite fun enough for me to buy it. Before I could've bought it if I got it for cheap, but now I simply have too many games to keep owning these "kind of fun" games.

After that we started wandering around the hall. It was quite amazing, all the action. It wasn't quite as packed as I expected, but things might be different tomorrow or Saturday. The tobacco smoke wasn't at all that bad. There were many things to see, and I don't think I can really describe the experience... But it's mad, and something I really really recommend to all board game fanatics.

Amigo booth was high on my list of things to see. It was huge and full of trendy stuff I didn't care much about, but fortunately that wasn't all. We found an empty table for Fettnapf, which was on my check these out -list and started to work out the rules. This time we got a rules guy to help us out, unfortunately he wasn't too good with English. I had an idea of the game from my research, so we were able to play without problems.

Fettnapf is fun! It's a simple game, but works out quite well. Players play number cards from zero to nine. When you play a card, you add it's value to the earlier cards and announce the sum. That way the sum keeps rising when players play cards. When the sum goes over 30, players start to subtract the numbers. Sum goes down until it's below ten and then it starts to go up again. Got the idea?

That's not very interesting, is it? However, each player starts with two cards with numbers from ten to thirty. When someone plays a card and announces a total that matches a card you hold, you can bust them! The offending player gets a penalty card. Four penalty cards loses the game. The number cards are kept, so you can try to remember which numbers are evil.

To make the progressively harder, each time the direction of counting changes, someone gets a new number card. That way formerly safe numbers might not be cool. That bit Raija in our second game: eighteen had been a safe number for a while, then Ismo got the card and busted me once and Raija three times. I think she would've learned from the first hit, yeah?

Anyway, Fettnapf is a great little game. I came in expecting to find a new Geschenkt and Amigo didn't fail me - they've produced another great filler game (is Fettnapf as great as Geschenkt is a good question, but hey, it doesn't have to last longer than a year, hopefully).

Next up was Zoch stand. I was attracted by Frische Luft für die Gruft, an expansion for Dawn Under, but as I saw a free table for Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck, we tried that. A friendly rules guy called Philip came to play with us; he earnes the best rules guy award for Thursday, as his teaching was excellent. We had a blast playing the game, even though Philip won the game - he had amazing luck with the dice.

Perhaps a small description is due. Players roll eight dice, which have a worm symbol for six. On each roll, you can keep some of the dice: you can take all the dice with the same side up. However, you can't choose a side you've already chosen, so if you get, say, one worm and you keep that, you can't take the four worms you'll end up rolling on your next turn as you've already taken worms.

The goal is to roll big numbers (worms count as fives). There are tiles on the table, ranging from 21 to 34 or so, depicting one to four worms (more worms on big numbers); the goal is to collect most worms in the end. After you're finished rolling, you can take a tile, if you have at least one worm and your total is higher or equal to the tile. If you roll exact number, you can steal someone's latest acquisition. If you fail to roll anything (no worms or too low a total), you lose a tile.

It's a fun game and has a certain element of risk-taking and push your luck -type of action. You must pay attention to what others are doing, too, because if you don't steal from the leader, you'll end up losing. It's a fun game and well-produced: the worm tiles are same plastic as Ta Yü or Mahjong tiles.

I got another expansion from the Zoch booth, by the way: I gave two euros for Romanian orphans and got a Diamond Joe expansion for Niagara. It's basically one canoe and a slip of paper, so it's not a big deal, but hey, it's still cool.

After leaving the bratwurst worms, I ran into Derk Solko. He was easy to recognise from his microphone. He did a quick interview with me, so you might hear my voice in the BoardGameSpeak Essen episode. At the Alea booth I found Rick Thornquist and Greg Schloesser in the middle of a game of Um Ru(h)m und Ehre, which they seemed to enjoy. I never got a chance to try it, even though I passed the Alea booth several times.

Next game I tried was Pünct, the latest installment in the Gipf series. I played against Raija, learning the rules from a relative of Kris Burm, the designer (or that's how I understood). Pünct is a connection game, which is a genre I quite dislike. Pünct was, however, the best connection game I've tried. Players place their three-hexagon pieces on the board, trying to connect two opposite sides.

The trick is that you can move a piece on board. Each piece has a pünct, point on which it moves. You can also rotate the pieces around their center point. Pieces can be piled on top of each other and so on, which makes all sorts of blocking and evading moves possible. The idea is fairly simple, but gives lots of room for thought, as is typically the case with Gipf games. However, Pünct can't escape its connection game roots, thus I don't like it much.

Another game I tried was another Kris Burm game, this time from Gigamic: Batik. I played the kids version... Players take turns dropping pieces (in this case marine animals) between to plexiglass pieces. The player whose piece sticks out from the top loses. I lost fairly quickly. The adult version might make a good fast coffee-table game, but it's a bit ho-hum.

At this time we had wandered through most of the halls and we split up. I went looking for a game to play and made my way to the friendliest booth I knew - the Sunriver Games, of course! Chris Brooks was among the nicest people I met, and not only because he gave me a review copy of their game Havoc. During my later visit, I met KC Humphrey, the designer, who signed the game for me.

It's a shame they had bit of a problem with the game: there was a collating error at Carta Mundi, and some of the decks were flawed (there are two same cards, when there should be two similar cards). KC checked my copy of the game, which was fine, but of course the other copy I had which we didn't check was flawed. I'll have to get the card changed tomorrow.

Anyway, I sat down for a game of Havoc with some guys I didn't know. It's a really good game, too! It's about the 100 years war, which is a pasted-on theme as any, but hey, at least the flavour is good. Basically it's card drafting: you draw cards, trying to form a strong hand. At some point someone cries "Havoc" starting a battle. Cards are played, and the strongest hand wins. There's a bit of bluffing involved, as the cards are played few at the time for several rounds.

Winners score points, depending on the battle: either there's more balanced distribution or some sort of winner takes all thing. That's how it goes, there are nine battles to fight. We only played five for a shorter game. I took strong initiative, winning first three battles. At that point I calculated that I would win in any case, even if I was last in the last two battles. Neat.

Anyway, after this test game I'd say it's a pretty good game. There's some interesting card drafting and the battle system allows for all sorts of tactics. I'll have to try the full game, but so far it's all good. Great work, Sunriver Games! The game looks great, the cards are bit flimsy so card protectors are probably due, but the art certainly looks good.

My final game today was Aqua Romana at the Queen Games stand. It was one of these blown-up extra large versions (and still Railroad Tycoon was larger than that; that is a one huge game, let me tell you, the board is gigantic!), which was fun. The rules guy was willing to speak English, but had this very strong German accent, like a movie parody accent. Well, I understood the game, so no harm done.

Aqua Romana is a pipeline game: you start with a reservoir with four exits and start to form pipes from it. You score the length of your pipes. That's it. Well, almost - it's more clever than that. To extend a pipe, your guy at the end of the pipe must "see" a builder. Builders go around the board and are seen, if they are on the same row or column as your guy at the pipe. Each builder has a certain tile (straight, curve, crossing, two curves) which he provides. When you use a builder, he steps forward.

The second catch is the scoring: each place on the scoring track holds one piece. If I get five points and you get too, your guy has to take the place four and you lose a point. That's clever. Aqua Romana was pretty neat, actually, a nice twist on the good old pipeline game genre. I thought I lost horribly, because my game got stuck in the middle, but it turned out to be closer than I thought. I was able to populate the scoring track first, which was good: one of the guys lost five points, because steps one to five were all full when his guy should've scored five.

That's all the games I played. It's pretty hard to get a game when you're alone, and I'm not sure if it's easier with more people, as all the interesting places were packed full. Well, fortunately there's lots of things to marvel at, lots of interesting stands.

Of course, during the day I shopped lots of games. I think I got most of my shopping list done, leaving me stressless on the days to come. First purchases were Frisch Luft and Heckmeck at the Zoch stand, then I got Fettnapf from a random game seller. I saw Friedemann Friese, can't miss him. Next up was Age of Steam expansion four, a bit expensive but interesting nonetheless.

Near the Warfrog booth I found Splotter, where I ran! I wasn't surprised to find Indonesia priced at 60 euros, but the box size certainly surprised me! It's heavy, but small, very typical box. I chatted about with (I think) Tamara, whose description got me interested. Later on I got autographs from Joris and Jeroen on the game to make it complete.

I bought Caylus and got it signed by William Attia, who remembered me (we've met at FinDipCon). I was originally buying the game for the Boardgame Society, but sorry guys, I think I'm keeping it for myself. I'll get you something else. Later I bought another Caylus for Tommy. The game looks complicated, but promising.

Nearby was the Fragor Games stand, where I picked up a copy of Shear Panic, not for me but for a friend. One of the Fragor guys, I think it was Gordon, was pleased to meet me, having read my blog. How nice! Shear Panic is certainly cute, the sheep are very lovely, but I'm still not too annoyed by the fact I don't have the game myself.

Next up was Sunriver Games, where I picked up two copies of Havoc, one for me, one on order. Next to them was Repos Productions, who sold Ca$h'n Gun$ with the silver shotgun - a must-have! So, I got that too. Behind the corner was the Swedish guys, Gigantoskop, and Badaboom - definitely not for me, this was another delivery.

Then it was time to hit the flea market. The result was a disappointment: no Industrial Waste for Ismo and Raija and no Gauner Trio for Stefu. Sorry! Something I did find was Ta Yü, which is back in print as it was available everywhere. Nice.

On a later shopping round I got myself a long-wanted copy of Flix Mix and my reserved copy of Jenseits von Theben. Actually, Jenseits was for Tommy, who had a panic attack and ordered a copy from Prinz Spiele himself. So, I have an extra copy of Jenseits von Theben, second edition, and I'm not terribly interested to keep it. Any takers?

I also got my copy of Antike and travelled to the other Eggert-Spiele stand to get it signed by author Mac Gerdts. A small problem: the game doesn't have English rules, even though Peter Eggert said it would. Well, I'll just have to go and pester him tomorrow about it.

That's it for shopping. That's pretty much everything I wanted. For tomorrow all that is left is something for the Boardgame Society to give as a prize in Helcon - I'm thinking about an English Elasund with Klaus Teuber's autograph - he's doing a signing session every day. I saw English copies of Elasund at some booth, I wonder where it was... Well, I'll find out.

Stuff I skipped: I looked at Kaivai, but decided to pass. Greg Schloesser bought it, but hadn't tried it, so he couldn't help me about it. It was in German, which means it would be bloody complicated to play. I'm also quite unsure about the authors. Maybe if Greg or someone assures me it's really good, then I'll buy it. Unless that happens, I'm passing it. I also didn't buy Third World Debt - I'm still thinking about that, and will likely pass it, too.

For the evening, I wanted to meet the BGG folks today, but when I went to Istra at quarter past six, there was nobody there. I waited until half past, then went away. Too bad. Fortunately I have other company. We went to have some pizza and played games in our room. Maybe tomorrow I'll see some people at the IGA ceremony and will be able to hook up with them for some evening games, I would like to play some games with these folks.

Heckmeck wasn't as smooth the second time we played. The game has an annoying habit of going on and on in some cases, the game can drag on a bit. Our game was a long fight, which got a bit boring. If this happens often, my opinion of Heckmeck will go down. I definitely can't write a review yet, before I see how it works usually. If it's short and action-packed, I'll like it a lot. However, a full game of Havoc proved that it's a really good game, I enjoyed it even though I got my butt kicked. It's great, buy it!

So, I haven't played that many games, but I've bought a plenty. Tomorrow will hopefully see more action, as I'm hooking up with some people from Finland. Maybe we'll get to play more, especially as I at least have no need to shop much. I'll have a meeting with some people from Tactic at noon, then I'll try to get Teuber's signature on a copy of Elasund at two and the IGA's are at five... That should leave plenty of time for games. We'll see.

Whew, lots of text. I think I'll stop here and leave the rest of it later. I'll make a summary of the whole experience when I'm done, this is just games and action.

PS. I read the rules to Caylus and Indonesia after I wrote the entry. Indonesia is very promising, and very interactive unlike other big Splotter games. Caylus, in the other hand, seems a bit too complicated rules-wise for my tastes... But if it's really good, I can live with that.

Good news! The hotel has a computer I can use, it has a DSL connection and it accepts my USB memory card reader. So, I bring you: live reports from Essen, Germany! (I apologize if I mix my Y's and Z's, as the German keyboards are funny that way.)

My travelling companions Ismo and Raija came to pick me up earlier today, saving me from the effort of a bus journey. We left to Helsinki airport and boarded the plane to Düsseldorf. Flight was fast, slightly bumpy and quite pleasant. It's always a pleasure to fly Finnair.

Finland has been unusually warm this year, but Germany is hot! It was 21 degrees when we came, practically summer. Bizarre weather, perhaps it signals the end of the times? Well, anyway, you know the Germans are known for being efficient? They sure are! Usually when I get out of a plane, I head towards a toilet before the luggage arrives. This time was no exception, but when I came out, the luggage was already arriving. Faster than ever! Those crazy but effective Germans!

We took the Skyrail to the Düsseldorf airport railway station, that was quite cool method of transit. At the railway station, we successfully operated a German-speaking ticket machine and got tickets to the train to Essen, which we successfully boarded few minutes later. Good timing! The tickets cost eight euros each, which feels a bit expensive... Well, about 35-40 minutes later we were at the Essen railway station.

From there we took a taxi to our hotel. I tell you, it's perfect! The location is excellent, near the main entrance and off the high-traffic roads. Too bad it's already booked for next year. Not that I'm coming next year, but anyway... I haven't seen Reiner Knizia or Rick Thornquist yet; I don't think I'd recognise Ward Batty, but still I'm quite sure I haven't seen him either.

We went for a small walk, trying to find some food. We did; we found a store two minutes before it closed. Close call! I checked out Istra, Hotel Jung and Hotel Arosa, so I'll know where I'm going tomorrow. I'm really excited about tomorrow! We'll hit the fair right on, we'll probably go for tickets around 9.30 or so. Way cool!

That's all for today! No new games, no celebrities, but lots of good excitement about tomorrow.

Essen 2005

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Unless something force majeure -level happens, I'm going to Essen next year. I already booked a hotel room, too. My current choice is Hotel An der Gruga, which is slightly on the expensive side, but has a brilliant location. Find P3 on Mik's Essen Hall guide and yeah, that's where the hotel is! 500 meters or less to the hall entrances. I reckon if I have to pay 140 euros a night for a double room, it better be in a good location.

Turns out, by the way, that surprising many hotels are already booked up for Essen 2005. I guess the people who use the smaller hotels near the fair center book them every year. Well, Gruga should be nice enough, so I'm not complaining.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Essen 2005 category.

Board game club is the previous category.

Event reports is the next category.

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