Monday, October 24, 2011

Board Game Heaven

On Saturday we went to Essen and Board Game Heaven, aka SPIEL, the world's largest annual board game conference. Yes, we are geeky that way (although you already knew that). It turns out, though, that there you don't have to be at all geeky to want to go to a board game conference in Germany. It is pretty mainstream. There were tons of totally normal-looking people there, including lots of families with kids. There were also some weirdos, complete with elaborate costumes and rainbow-colored hair. Anyway, there were A LOT of people of all kinds there. It was a madhouse.



That's only one room of 6 (8? I don't even know) stuffed with people and games. After wandering one hall for about 10 minutes trying to see the games and figure out what you were supposed to actually do here, we got brave and just went up to a counter and demanded a game to play. Then it took us another 15 minutes to carve out enough space on the floor to set up the rather large game board. There were lots of tables, but we were able to snag one on only 2 occasions in the course of the day.

**Alert: The next 2 paragraphs are for our fellow board game geeks.**
We played a total of 5 games (Qwirkle, Asara, 7 Wonders, The Forbidden Island, and Hexen Hochhaus (Witch Skyscraper)) and bought the first 2. Qwirkle is the Game of the Year 2011--it's simple, elegant, and hard. It's kind of like dominoes, Set, and Rummikub combined. Asara is about building towers. It has very nice art and an interesting mechanic. 7 Wonders was also really fun, but very complicated. We didn't get it because it was pretty expensive, and since the English rules aren't out yet I wasn't confident that we'd be able to figure out how to play it correctly. (Reading board game rules in German is really hard.) Forbidden Island is a cooperative game. We thought it was only okay. Hexen Hochhaus is a children's game that Tyler wanted to play, I think because of the name. When we went up to ask for it and asked how long it took to play, the woman gave us a strange look and said, "It's very short--it's a game for 4-year-olds."

Tyler had a geeky-yet-exciting appointment with Hanno, one of the designers of Agricola, our favorite game. Hanno wanted to talk to him about the 6-player rules for Agricola that Tyler has developed. Tyler explained the changes to him in about 2 minutes. Hanno thought for a second, then said, "I think you'd still be a little short on food." Tyler had used about 6 spreadsheets to get the distribution of resources right for his adaptation. This guy did that math in his head, on the spot. Tyler is emailing him the changes, so we'll see if anything comes of it. In the meantime, Hanno gave us 2 free sets of Agricola player pieces in new colors--score!

We are already formulating our plans for next year. We'll avoid the crowds by going earlier in the 4-day event, and we'll stay a night in Essen so we can go on Thursday AND Friday and play way more of the available games. Who's joining us?


  1. First, here's one for the stats: mobile reading and posting!

    I got my friend Rivals of Catan for her birthday since I regularly play Settlers with her and her boyfriend, and she was interested in a two player option for when I'm not around. It was a lot of fun, I'm impressed by how smart it is! Also, I have found that Settlers with three people plays a lot better than four.

    Next I'm going to relearn Agricola and teach them that. I love board games! I'm glad you glad you had fun.

  2. Here's hoping for official sanction of Tyler's Agricola rules!

  3. Wow, thar is so cool! We love Qwirkle ar our house. Talia is freakishly good at it. We'll think of you next time we play.

  4. Oops. I meant that not thar. Typing while holding a baby is harder than you might think.

  5. Ditto to liking Qwirkle! I got my family hooked on it before we came to Germany, and it's one of the few games that made it through the final cut and got packed in our suitcase.

  6. That story of meeting Hanno and a possible contribution to the future of the game is freakin' awesome!! Tyler, you're my favorite cousininlaw!


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