7 Wonders Duel: WONDERing whether to play?

Pairs well with: Coffee and aspirin.

Brutus scale: 8/10. This is because it’s a two player game that pitches you against an opponent. As with 7 Wonders, someone may be more placid or war-y than the average.

Sunday morning has been a rather slow start for Briony. She and her punk boyfriend Pat were screamingly hungover after celebrating Gord’s (from team Misery during Essen) birthday the night before. Logically they decided that now was probably the most opportune moment to re-play through the games Briony had bought at Essen*. It had to be done. Enough time had elapsed since returning to forget what board gaming was like at a convention**, and be able to put the new purchases into a living room setting. A living room now filled with blankets, coffee, painkillers, cheese toasties, and the occasional ‘Oh god my head, why is it so fucking bright?’ became the domain of Call of Chthulu’s lesser known Ancient one: The seething mass of fleece blankets whose singular goal was to play some games.

The seething fleece mass: Evade roll (-1). If approached without coffee loose 2 sanity.
The seething fleece mass: Evade roll (-1). If approached without coffee loose 2 sanity.

The first game of the morning was 7 Wonders: Duel***. This was the first game that Briony bought during Essen. In fact she bought it probably about 23 minutes after the gates first opened. In hindsight she was utterly right, and around 66% of team Misery also ended up buying the game before the end of the convention. Bob, it should be said, is not included in this number. Bob thought it was a bit unnecessary and not particularly rewarding. She’s generally considered to be wrong, though. Shush Bob!

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7 Wonders: Duel is simply a two player version of 7 Wonders. It does what it says on the tin. The game is so good is because it actually looked at some feedback from 7 Wonders, such as ‘how the fuck does one score science without an app’, and actually addressed the problems. Consequently there is now a ‘research system’ in place for science, which means that if a player builds two science cards with the same symbol at the top they unlock a piece of research, i.e. picking a token. Tokens have a whole range of perks that span from straight up victory points, to making your wonders significantly cheaper to construct. Obtaining all 6 different symbols of the science cards straight up wins the game there and then, meaning that no other points are counted at the end. This gives science an edge that it previously didn’t have in 7 Wonders, even though it was a useful mechanic for generating a tonne of points at the end of the game.

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‘This is the third research token you’ve got… are you researching how to be an asshole opponent?’

‘My major is how to be a dick, minoring in winning this game. You should turn up to class more often. Burrrrrrn.’

DSC_0496Moreover on the topic of addressing the weaknesses of 7 Wonders there is now no longer a war at the end of each era. Instead, there is a war meter which rises or falls when a player plays a military card. The meter is split into several stages which rack up victory points for the player pushing it up and negative consequences for the opponent. In a similar way to science, military domination now has the ability to straight up win the game if the marker is pushed to the end of your opponent’s side of the meter.

DSC_0493The special Essen edition of this game came with a pewter war meter marker which Briony lost while wandering around the convention centre in a haze of excitement. Fortunately the lovely people at Repos Games gave her another free of charge without even correcting her terrible broken German.

As the game is now two player the trading mechanic has had to change a little bit. Instead of being able to pay adjacent players for their resources, you instead pay the bank (which stocks everything apparently). If your opponent already has the resource you need you must pay the bank even more to be able to use that resource. It’s sort of reminiscent of the current European banking crisis. It turns out that the banker’s ridiculous money bonuses may have roots in hoarding all of the brown resource cards…

The final big change that Duel has compared to vanilla 7 Wonders is that each player has the ability to build up to four wonders each. Four whole wonders! That’s a lot of wonders. In reality most civilisations thought ‘eh, that’s probably enough wonder’ after one or two, but in this game you don’t have to let reality hold back your dreams.

The answer is always 'more wonders'.
The answer is always ‘more wonders’.

The great thing about this is you get to choose which wonders you’d like the opportunity to build at the very beginning of the game. Obviously you select in turn order so that one player doesn’t get all of the wonders they really want, but does offer a lot more flexibility from the original selection of races/civilisations in 7 Wonders. In addition to the pewter war marker, the special edition version of Duel from Essen also came with an extra playable card: the Messe****. The modern building has been painted as if it were 100BC making it a lovely addition to the selection.

As ever all of the artwork is stunning – this is one of the best things about 7 Wonders, and we’re all exceptionally happy that they decided to continue with it. Team Misery played a couple of drawing games while in Essen*****, and it’s safe to say that we absolutely could not be trusted to design anything as lovely as the 7 Wonders and Duel artwork.

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Finally, there are three eras to the game, as in 7 Wonders. Each era has a different card layout where each player takes turns in selecting unlocked (face up) cards. Once a card is taken it may unlock a card underneath it and it is turned face up. This brings some new Brutus mechanics to the game where you could discard something in your turn that you know your opponent wants or needs. Pat inflicted this on Briony several times during their Sunday morning play-through as she came close to winning with science twice. Briony preferred to imagine this as a disappointing part of history where the feared and trade-incompetent Pat the Lesser was forced to burn all of the books in the empire.

DSC_0498If you liked 7 Wonders then give this game a go. It’s extremely close to the original game, sticking to all of the bits that you know and love, while being much faster to play. It irons out the (admittedly minor) kinks from the original game, and brings some subtle but novel expansion to the theme and mechanics. Even Briony and Pat, hungover and annoyed at being dicked over by one another, still really enjoyed the second play-through.

*And sneakily on Amazon while in Essen. Always compare prices.

**Hot, sweaty, and always in a rush to find the next game.

*** Yes, we know Shut Up and Sit Down JUST reviewed this. They’re always one step ahead of us, the sneaky bastards. What can we say, they have a much higher budget. http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/blog/post/review-7-wonders-duel/

****This is the name of the convention centre that Essen Spiel is held in.

*****We highly recommend ‘A Fake Artist Goes to New York’, winner of the Misery Farm’s distinguished ‘Why the hell did anyone pay £20 for what is essentially a pad of paper and some tiny pens…. Oh wait that’s why, this is hilarious’ award 2015. Play it in the pub.

Misery Farm on the Road: Essen Spiel 2015 Day 4 Field Report

Exhaustion looms, but we’re still truckin’. On the final day of Essen Spiel 2015 we offer some final play-throughs and insights, including our considerations for Children’s Game of the Year.

Bob starts the day late, and hungry. The sheer number of games she and Chris have purchased has completely overwhelmed even her giant suitcase and they’ve had to rope in the aid of Friends With Cars to help lug twenty-something board games back to England. Additionally, Saturday night sushi had been completely de-railed when the previously-awesome all-you-can-eat sushi place failed epically in its mission to, you know, serve sushi to hungry gamers*. Deeply disappointing stuff. It took a generous liver-sausage roll and slice of pleasingly stodgy cake to fortify her for the day’s first mission: get Naïade to sign stuff, take a selfie, and draw us a picture.

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Mission success, though with many a concerned look. Naïade  is very French, and as such does not understand enthusiasm.

Day 4, game 1: A Study in Emerald
Sanity or victory points.. sanity or victory points..
Sanity or victory points.. sanity or victory points..

First actual game of the day was the second edition of A Study in Emerald. The game is based on Neil Gaiman’s cult short story of the same name, which is set in an alternate Lovecraftian nineteenth century in which the royal family have been replaced by Great Old Ones. Sherlock Holmes is there, along with a number of figures from history and fiction. In the game, you play (secretly) as either a Loyalist, faithful to the ‘royal family’, or a Restorationist commie intent on bringing down Britannia as we know and love her. The board is divided into locations which allow certain actions with varying ease, as well as a draw pile of cards. It’s effectively worker placement combined with deck-drawing mechanics, to reasonably solid effect.

DSC_0438Bob liked it, Briony didn’t. It may be that Bob really wanted to like it as she’d bought it on day one and it had sold out, but equally it’s possible that Briony hated it due to being hungry combined with a shockingly poor game demonstrator explaining the rules**. Certainly it’s simpler than the ‘glorified beta test’ original, and much cheaper and cleaner to boot!

Team Misery divided, and wanting everyone to know about it.
Team Misery, divided and wanting everyone to know about it.
day 4, Game 2: M.U.L.E.

Next, Bob and Lizzy tackled M.U.L.E., the boardgame based on the 1983 Commodore 64(?) game. It is absolutely charming. It starts off as a farming/resource management game set on an unexplored planet called Irata, where all you have for company is a robot-mule worker and your fellow explorers. Then suddenly there’s a capitalist market-trading mechanic and a magic money-generating Wampus and a mystical mine of purple crystals which change value in each game round. The board is busy but in a very Stonemaier-Games way in that all the initially-confusing symbols are actually there to clarify any potential misunderstandings and remind you of available actions. The winner is the Bob with the most space gold, while the loser is the Lizzy who has forgotten what their plan was to maximise their resources.

After that economic thrill ride any form of grown-up game seemed an impossible task. Our brains were just too full to absorb any further information such as ‘rules’ or ‘strategy’ or ‘tasks’, so we took refuge in Push-a-Monster, the award-nominated children’s game of monster-crowding. It’s very simple: try to fit your monster on an already-crowded monster platform, without knocking any monsters off the platform. If you knock a monster off, it gets hurt and has to go to monster hospital, so everyone else gets a point. Best of all is the lack of numbered scoring. No one needs that shit. Instead the monster-points are different sizes so the player with the longest string of monster-points wins. The illustrations are adorable to boot; one of the monsters makes exactly the face that Bob’s robot boyfriend makes when he wants to not be part of the Misery Farm.

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Stop. Including. Me.

Two refreshing, addictive little games later and we were ready for more. Not before stopping by the HABALINK stand though, where we found a strong best kid’s game contender in Treasure of the Thirteen Islands. In this tactical children’s game, you explore treasure islands by navigating with your finger, then attempting to follow the route blindfold on a grooved board. If your little airship falls into a groove, you get stuck! If you find treasure, you win! It’s adorable and at least one person bought it.

day 4, game 3: Cash and Guns

Somehow we next managed to grab an eight-person table for Cash n Guns, which was promoting its fresh expansion, a special-edition Cthulhu character with a tommy-gun, and foam Uzi machine guns. The expansion was rapidly scorned as unnecessary, as Cash n Guns is perfectly fun without any extraneous bullshit, and plenty of shoosty fun followed.

Meanwhile, Bob secured a game of ‘Acquire Giant Sausage’, which she promptly then lost by dropping half of it on a surprised passer-by. Strong work, Bob.

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Pictured: Large sausage.
Day 4, Game 4: Architect
The road to victory. Deed-filled victory.
The road to victory. Deed-filled victory.

Briony and co., after being fairly disappointed by the experience of A Study in Emerald went and found a solid worker placement game. Architect fully ticks all of the boxes of worker placement, gasping drought, and being an intricately themed board game. Awesome. In this game you represent a travelling band of folk with different and useful jobs forming a caravan. The caravan travels around small villages and towns in a miscellaneous medieval European region, with a castle located in the centre. The band of travellers must fit the requirements of the specific village/town to be able to build or repair buildings generating prestige points.

Prestige points must be generated to go up each level of the victory track, which will eventually allow a player to win the ultimate prestige from the castle and win a contract. Or something. Honestly we needed a little more coffee to follow the broken English rules, but the game was fun regardless.

DSC_0450There are a nice number of mechanics in this game – the most unique of which is the ‘worker star’. Workers which you buy have different careers which are denominated by the numbers around the corner. After using them to build something you twist the worker around, showing a different number. Throughout a worker’s career their numbers go down, sometimes plummeting to zero if they’re going through stuff, maybe their wife left them or something.

The actions you are able to fulfil are dictated by the worker star also. But in the end, this game is about generating enough build points to get the castle’s favour. Fortunately the whole team was in agreement that this game was fun, quick, and exactly what we needed at that time during the day.

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day 4, game 5: Elysium

So this was the final game of Essen. Sad times. A band of team Misery longingly searched the halls looking for an empty table where they were able to play a game on their ‘to play’ list, and much to their delight found a free table for Elysium.

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The game is card based, and is heavily focused upon mythology. For anyone who likes 7 Wonders, boy is this your game. Half of the table was excited about its similarity, while the other half was excited because of its twist and difference from 7 Wonders. It ticks both boxes. In fact it won an award at Essen this year (and yet only two gaming tables! Why, Essen, why?!). Instead of representing a nation (as in 7 Wonders), you are a demi-god striving to generate enough myths about yourself to advance to becoming a full God. You have two areas where you may play cards: the mortal realm, and the immortal realm.

DSC_0451Each game plays with 5 gods, and there are 8 in total in the box so there’s variation, replayability and excitement! Your humble misery farmers/demi-gods played with Zeus (a classic), Aphesites (god of metal and hammers, stuff), Athena (owls, wisdom and the Hogwarts postal system), Ares (WAR hurr!) and Dickseidon (aka Poseidon but for serious, this guy is a dick and all his cards are dicks and the illustrations on his cards are dicks and his dick-in-ear scale is measured in kilotonnes).

The game plays out over 5 turns split into 3 phases. First is the ‘Agora’ (or ‘marketplace’. Yeah this game has got its Greek down, yo). This was helped by Lukacs, our excellent and friendly game demonstrator (helpful as we cannot read German rules). After that you move some cards into their immortal realms where their effects disappear but become sets (either by colour or number) and lastly the usual maintenance.

Screw your mortal resources, we need only pillars.
Screw your mortal resources, we need only pillars.

The cards have different coloured symbols relating to 4 actual, physical, coloured columns that each player has on their board. To take a card from the ‘Agora’ a player must have the relevant coloured column. Each card has effects, as you would expect – some of these affect only the player while others affect the player and the others players (not as good, obvi) You can also destroy whole coloured columns with barely an evil laugh. Dickseidon’s cards on the other hand usually do not affect the player but dick over other players (such as losing gold, victory points, discarding cards etc). This game is highly recommended, especially for anyone who likes 7 wonders, mythology and Dickseidon.

Rounding up the day

Finally we retired to a nearby hotel lounge, where our easily-bored but deeply punk friend Pat had secured a few big tables and crates of beer. Codenames, Potion Explosion, and Microfilms*** were all brought out and played to great enjoyment. Codenames remains an instant classic while Potion Explosion is shameless fun, and not just because Lizzy is hilariously bad at it. Microfilms needs… a more thorough explanation than we received. A cousin of [redacted], it relies heavily on keeping your cards secret, so if you don’t understand it you can’t ask what your cards mean. It has potential as a quick three-person game though, and our version comes with highly-professional art!

This weekend (FOUR DAYS IS NOT A WEEKEND -ed.) has been beyond intense, but extremely fun. Really we need to add ‘get enough sleep’ to our survival tips, but somehow between the beer, boardgames, and bratwurst that seems to be impossible. Besides, who needs that stuff when you’ve played upwards of 20 different games in four days? Especially when you’ve been playing with friends as good as ours.

We’d like to extend our thanks to the friends who came with us and made this trip as mad and brilliant as it was: Pat, Chris, Martin, Emma, Sina, Dave, Sam, Charlie, Gord, Mac, and The Reading Boardgames Social guys.** Final thanks to all the wonderful game creators, illustrators, vendors and demonstrators who work so hard and put up with the manic excitement of nerds like us. We’ll see you next year.

*Red Sun sushi, you guys make some delicious food but dear god expecting us to wait an hour for each of five courses is insane. We’re sorry we had to sic Bob and her mediocre German on you, making a complaint was physically painful to our English sensibilities.

** She also strongly dislikes deck building games due to unfortunate circumstances in her earlier years. It’s amazing how difficult it is to like a game again after you’ve cursed it to Hades for a truly terrible experience.

***On a side note, Microfilm has a character that looks hella like Briony. Is she really a Misery Farmer, or is she really the American spy?

Spy-Bri
Spy-Bri

Misery Farm On The Road: Essen Spiel 2015 Day 3 First Reports

Our third Essen report comes from the well-rested Lizzy, who, on the way out to get some dinner on Night 2, accidentally fell asleep instead and so is actually pretty well-rested. Incredibly rare for a board game convention, where sleep is normally a very limited resource, only available when you’ve run out of beer and are waiting for Messe to open its doors to you again.

As before, Bob is playing social media guru and is live-tweeting our trip to Essen, check it out. She bought a data plan for her mobile and is going mad with it. Mad! Also if you’re hungry for even more Essen, Lizzy and Briony wrote up the first reports for days one and two.

We’ve also started racking up a bit of ammunition for a ‘Disappointing Games of Essen 2015’ post, which is in the works. If you’d like more of anything else, let us know in the comments! (Or twitter, facebook, to our faces…)

Right. It’s Saturday morning, you’re full of Walnussplunder and Butterkuchen… go!

Day 3 Game 1: Scythe

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If there’s one game that Lizzy ‘didn’t even bring a spreadsheet’* Miseryfarmer was hyped about, it’s this. Scythe isn’t available yet, it isn’t even up on Kickstarter until next week! But it comes from a pretty solid background of previously beautiful kickstarted games, of which Euphoria is probably the most memorable.

Badass tiger-lady
Badass tiger-lady

The game is pretty popular already. Bookings to try the game are at a premium, and a lot of people are being turned away, even with testing limited to an hour at a time.

Because it’s in such early stages, the pieces aren’t quite done yet. Lizzy’s hawk lady came without a hawk, the shiny pile of coins were apparently not in their final form and some of the pieces were definitely the wrong shape. The hawk lady’s yellow ‘stars’ happened to, for example, look exactly like yellow lightning bolts from Euphoria. Funny, that.

The game comes with the most beautiful art of mechs and a fallen Eastern Europe, and you can tell. Everything about it so far is beautiful, and you know the rest will be too.

We got a fair idea of gameplay during the hour’s test and, luckily, it seems to be exactly what you want for a game that looks like it does. It comes with building, expanding, fighting, resources, colonising, rising to power. We cannot wait to play it some more.

"You guys may have more points. But are you riding a bison? Didn't think so."
“You guys may have more points. But are you riding a bison? Didn’t think so.”

Day 3 Game 2: Codenames

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The hall was already damn busy by the time we were looking for a second game, but before long Bob enthusiastically dragged us over for a quick game or two of Codenames.

Codenames is another one of those games that you end up only trying because of luck or the insistent recommendations from people you trust. Bob is often trustworthy and persistently insistent, so we cast our doubts aside and sat down.

You only need to take one look at it to figure out why we might’ve been a bit sceptical. The box is awful, and one of the dark figures on the front even has a speech bubble coming out of it which says ‘word game’. Word game? Really? Is that how low I’ve stooped during rush hour at Essen?

DSC_0155_FotorWe’re reassured that Shut Up and Sit Down themselves describe it as an excellent game with a terrible box. And it turned out to be just that! It’s a word association game, but in the best way possible. There are spies, competition and mocking. There’s a slightly dodgy two-player mode for it as well, but we strongly recommend you try it with four or more, for better making fun of the other team when they think that the clue “wedgie” matches “plane” rather than, say, “pants”. You know who you are!

Day 3 Game 3: Between Two Cities

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To our surprise, we soon ended up bagging a seat at our second Stonemaier game of the day for Between Two Cities. The game’s novelty is that you’re building two cities, one on either side of you, but each city is being shared by a person on either side. Your lowest-scoring city is the one which gets you all the points at the end, so victory ends up being a bit of a balancing act.

DSC_0160_FotorIt’s good, and it has a satisfying level of simplicity and quickness as well as a having potential for good level of strategy and tactics. To play it feels a bit Suburbia crossed with Mad King Ludwig crossed with Seven Wonders. Which is fine by us! A perfectly reasonable game, and one of our number left with a copy in their bag.

(They did pay for it, we’re not using our blog to just let out confessions of theft.)

Day 3 Game 4: Titan Race

Another smaller game, in which you each play a hero riding a monster. Three laps of the racetrack wins! You may die a few times, and also blast some enemies into some lava. Simple stuff, some dice rolling and some mild fun.

Also contains a character called “Cthooloo” which is definitely the first time any of us had seen it spelled that way.

Not the winner.
Not the winner.

A little bit telling was that when we were choosing characters, the rules explainer advised us that Cthooloo wins most of the time. Oh! How much is most of the time? Erp, 90%?

Cthooloo won our game as well. Is this a flaw, or is it secretly actually an amazingly accurate representation of the mighty dark lord Cthulhu?

Probably the former.

Day 3 Game 5: Conquest Stratego

This final game was another case of a last-minute choice based on glimpsing a free table in the distance. Conquest Stratego is based off another game, Stratego, which thanks to our excellent research and journalism skills we can tell you almost nothing about.

DSC_0168_FotorWe can, however, tell you about Conquest Stratego. CS is a game of battles, a bit reminiscent of Risk, but without dice rolling. Instead of dice rolling your pieces have a range of numbers from 1-10 and, bar a few exceptions, the highest number wins.

The game has one neat little mechanic which we’ve not yet seen before, which is to have these strange little capsules for each of your pieces, designed so that only you, at one end of the table, can see what your number is. This actually worked better than we’d hoped, which is probably also how we’d describe the game as a whole. Not that bad, but wouldn’t personally buy it.

As always, the real winner is board games. As day four dawns, your  brave journalists are heading out for one last morning pastry for the final day! Wish us luck.

Guten gamin’

*Bob brought so many spreadsheets for Essen board games. Cumulative cost was the scariest column.

Misery Farm On The Road: Essen Spiel 2015 Day 1 First Reports

Essen Spiel, it turns out, pairs really well with: a nice litre or so of German Weiser. Who’d have thought it?

To begin a series of frantic, excited and well-beered posts, The Misery Farmers bring you the first installment of a series of blog reports straight from the board game convention’s mouth. The three farmers have teamed up with what can only be described as a whole platoon of board-gaming friends to enjoy their biggest Essen adventure yet.

With Bob on the tweets and Briony running mad in a beer hall somewhere, these first glimpses of our convention adventure come from Lizzy “first on the scene” MiseryFarmer. Here you’ll find first impressions, photos, brief summaries and playthroughs of the games she’s tried so far. Tuck in!

Day 1 Game 1: Liguria
Otherwise known as: “Lib.. Laria… Lag… the game with the boats!”

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As the doors to the convention hall opened, Lizzy and much of the team ran towards the Queen Games sign, in a noble attempt to grab the first free table they saw and dive straight in to some board games. Liguria provided the perfect start!

DSC_0029The lure of Liguria is the excellent little boats that come with it. We’re also a fan of the flexible layout of the pieces of the table!

The introduction started like this: “So… you’re a merchant, and you’re selling… colours.”

Great start!

It transpired, after a few glances at the rules, that this wasn’t a flippant comment from a rules-explainer after all. We’re actually trading colours to paint a beautiful cathedral, or something. With actual bags of colour. … Fair enough!

Chug chug!
Chug chug!

Don’t let the shaky trading pieces get the better of you though, the game was really fun! There’s an excellent selection of tactics and methods to victory, and the rules aren’t too complicated while still providing a lot of room for thought.

Being our first game at Essen we were pretty freakin’ excited.

“OK REFRESH THE BOARD! NEXT TURN!”
“You haven’t even had your move yet!”

Pictured: all of the damned points, all for Lizzy
Pictured: all of the points, all for Lizzy

We learned pretty quickly that, despite all of the promising-looking colour trading and boats, building a few buildings is a sure route to victory.

“Lizzy saw how to get points. Lizzy did that.”

Day 1 Game 2: Raptor

An excellently themed game, Raptor also wins the points for having the best wall display we’ve seen so far. As shown here, behind this Bob-shaped raptor.

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Raptor is a two-player game, in which one person plays the evil scientists trying to capture some baby raptors and the other plays the baby raptors and their mother, trying to either save the baby raptors or eat all of the humans. Either will do!

It’s a reasonably quick game, with a few interesting card mechanics. It’s difficult to tell how much this will ultimately rely on some luck, it’s very easy to get punished by playing the wrong card at the wrong time, giving your opponent a lot of ‘action points’ to play with and a lot of juicy humans to eat. Lizzy’s game was over pretty quickly (*raptor-burp*), but Bob and her robot-boyfriend insist that if you play it for long enough to actually get the hang of the rules then it turns out to be pretty playable.

It's unclear what Abraham Lincoln is doing on the front.
It’s unclear what Abraham Lincoln is doing on the front.

Day 1 Game 3: For Sale
Otherwise known as: “House selling thing! House game! Selling house!”

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‘For Sale’ was a game we stumbled across while lurking creepily around a table for The Big Book of Madness. The game didn’t look appetising, nobody else seemed to want to play it and it was on one of those tables where you usually relegate your less popular short games to.

Determined to stick close to TBBoM, for reasons to do with Bob and a very complicated excel spreadsheet of games she wanted to try, we gave the game a go anyway. And it was a surprisingly great game!

DSC_0050For one thing, it’s more beautiful when you look at the cards. There are thirty different houses that cover a range in values, from grotty old outhouses (geddit? out… houses?) to some mid-range igloos right up to some fancy castles and space stations!

The game itself is a short, simple, but surprisingly good bidding game! It begins with a bidding war over all of the houses ranging from 1-30 in value. (It’s not clear what this value is measured in, yet.)

After everyone’s tried spaffing all their bids on the best houses, a range of cheques are brought out in a similar way, and people have to spend their houses in a similar bidding war to get the cheques.

All in all, a surprisingly good game!

Day 1 Game 4: The Big Book of Madness

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All that lurking in the shadows did eventually pay off, as the team got a turn at the game they were after: The Big Book of Madness.

The light shining in the hair is definitely on purpose
The light shining in the hair is definitely on purpose

The game’s fairly easy to pick up. At least, moreso than it originally looks. But it also gets more complicated as it goes along, and sooner or later you’ll be writhing around in the requisite amount of horror for a co-op game.

Of course, in classic Lizzy-style, it took her most of the way through the explanation of the rules before she even cottoned-on to the fact that it was co-operative. That’s what you get for not doing your research!

“I like a co-op game that, even in the beginning stages, still feels like you’re just pissing in the wind.” –Chris

DSC_0071A lot of people around the table praised the game for being a co-op game that didn’t have too much of a piggyback / quarter-back type problem, where one player tends to get a little bit carried away and start deciding everyone else’s moves for them. Having cards to yourself tends to lead you down a road of thinking “RIGHT! WHAT CAN I DO AND WHO CAN HELP ME?!” rather than worrying too much about anyone else.

Nobody’s gone so far as to buy it, but it’s a game that’s definitely got us all talking.

Day 1 Game 5: Kumo Hogosha

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The final game of the day was, again, not a first choice but rather a game found from necessity. A certain couple (Bob and robot-boyfriend) had, already, on the first damned day, bought nine and a half board games between them. Nine and a half! You should have seen her face, gentle readers, as she would appear, scream something excitedly about some limited edition artist-signed games, then run off again into the distance.

Unfortunately this did mean quite a lot of strain on the shoulders, so the final game was very much a case of “oh dear lord, if we don’t sit down now then I’m going to scream”.

DSC_0076Luckily for us, it was five-in-a-row in the great game of finding games to play at Essen, and two of the four of us thought this last game was beautiful enough to buy.

It’s a two-player game, or four-players if you pick teams of two, and you all play a group of kumotori trying to push a giant block off the right side of a rotating circle. The game comes complete with rotating circle and giant block, and as if those things weren’t enough, it has an absolutely stunning box and some pretty good mechanics that more than one member of the team described as chess-like.

Our one worry was that it might get a little too defensive at points. There’s not much hidden from your opponents, so it can sometimes be a case of just sitting, spending a long time considering your turn and trying to figure out what possible combinations of moves your opponent could do, and how to avoid leaving yourself in any position which might possibly lose you the game.DSC_0080

But these might be the tired ramblings of the last game of the first day of Essen. Only time will tell how they each play in the long run!

Full reviews will eventually follow of the games we most enjoy.

As always, the real winner is board games.

And beer.

The Misery Farm On the Road: Essen Warm-Up

Seriously, one of the biggest board gaming conventions in Europe if not the world and that's their promo video. DO DO DO DO DO.

All aboard the Essen Hype Train! Destination: Essen Spiel 2015 (obviously). Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that all has been unusually quiet around the ol’ farmstead recently, but that delicate peace is about to be shattered as we plunge face-first into Germany. Throughout Essen we will be posting mini-reviews, play-throughs, first impressions and all kinds of fun nonsense both here and on Twitter, so climb aboard and buckle up cuz this train stops for no one!*

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For those not in the know, Essen Spiel is a four-day board games trade convention held in (not very) sunny Essen, Germany. It’s held in a convention hall roughly the size of an international spaceport, and has just enough room for the approximately 150,000 people who show up every year.** It is mind-bogglingly large. It’s so big it requires two tram stops on the same line. And all that space is filled with nerds.

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Nerds like us!

 

Needless to say, it can all be a bit overwhelming. Endless people and rules-learning and throwing money at wholesale-priced board games can be exhausting, so one kind redditor, ItsMrPig has written a handy and highly-recommended survival guide. It effectively boils down to:

  • Research the games you’d particularly like to play beforehand.
  • Cash is recommended as not all stalls have card machines, plus you don’t want to pay a transaction fee for every board game you impulse-buy. That’s just adding insult to injury.
  • Don’t wear a backpack. At least not a big one. It’s crowded and they get in the way. Ditto those trolley things. Like they’re practical but that place is crowded. Last year one guy appeared to have like a train of carts behind him that he was dragging along. While the sheer number of games he was trolleying around was impressive, it was still incredibly irritating.
  • Tote bags are a much more effective and less annoying way to lug your purchases around.
  • Don’t play to win. Just have as much fun as you can until you feel like you’ve got the hang of a game and then let someone else have a go if it’s a busy stand.

Mr*** jtown007 also adds

  • Hydrate yo’self. Beer doesn’t count, kids.
  • Comfortable shoes. Did we mention how big this place is?
  • Shower every day. Please. Despite being huge the halls are also hot and stuffy. Do your fellow nerds a favour and don’t make them bathe in your stank.

Almost as important as researching what games you’d like to play is figuring out where they are. If there’s a game you think will sell out fast and you want to get there as soon as the doors open on Thursday, it’s probably wise to figure out where you need to leg it to. There are a few unofficial maps kicking around on BoardGameGeek, or you can do it yourself by the somewhat arduous process of finding the reference number for the publisher’s stall, then cross-referencing it to a map of the hall via the official Spiel website.

Needless to say, Bob and her android boyfriend Chris have two different spreadsheets prepared, showing game priority, booth number, cumulative price (Chris’s reached €2000 last night) and any additional notes that might be necessary – such as the times that Naïade**** will be available to sign stuff or where Catan’s 20th Anniversary mega-contest will be.

Of course the most important thing is to have fun. If that means ignoring this article and diving into a sea of dice and Deutsches Bier without a second glance then you do you. There is plenty to be said for running around in sheer, giddy excitement at ALL THE STUFF OMG while subsisting on a diet of fried potato spirals and gummy worms.*****

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Remember Spiel ’14? Guys?

Speaking of fried potato, enjoy the food. The stuff in the convention itself is your usual junk (bar the exemplary fro-yo stand) but nearby are plenty of German bakeries offering fresh poppyseed rolls and hazelnut pastries. In the evenings, the local restaurants and pubs serve up everything from all-you-can-eat sushi to pork knuckles the size of your face served with liver dumplings, so don’t be afraid to explore.

See you on the other side, folks, and if you see us there don’t hesitate to come and say hi! We’ve got business cards now!

If you have stories to tell and experiences to share, don't hesitate to share them in the comments or our sharing page!

 

*Please hype responsibly.

**According to Wikipedia, which has been known to play silly buggers with facts.

*** We assume it’s mister but we apologise profusely if we’re wrong.

****Artist of such wonders as Tokaido, Shinobi Wat-Aah!, and more.

*****Bob’s approach last year.