Misery Farm on the Road: Essen Spiel 2015 Day 2 First Reports

Essen Spiel still pairs well with German beer. Who knew. We’ll keep you updated tomorrow.

A summary of Briony's first day.
A summary of Briony’s first day.

Following on from yesterday’s report this post will bring you some coverage of the games played on day two. Each of the Misery Farmer’s have been frankly all over the place today, and a wide range of games have been played, enjoyed and pondered. Briony however has had an excellent day full of fried potato spiral’s and mega-complex games that she is just itching to talk about.

The first game Briony played was actually Liguria on recommendation from Lizzy and others the day before. It turns out painstakingly painting your home city’s Cathedral by travelling from port to port, although seems boring, is actually great. She promptly bought the game and would like to assure all readers that it definitely more fun than it sounds.

Stay off my island, guy.
Stay off my island, guy.

Day 2, Game 1: Sheriff of Nottingham

In traditional Essen fashioned they played this game because.. well because it was the only table available in the nearby vicinity. Fortunately for the team the game turned out to be a rather fun game about deception and calling your fellow players out.

This is definitely what a medieval crack den would look like.
This is definitely what a medieval crack den would look like.

Each person plays a character based in medieval England, overseen by the gruesome Sheriff of Nottingham. A player is dealt a hand of cards which may be green legal goods (apples, chicken, bread, boring things), or red illegal cards (which are not as illegal as they seem. Apparently medieval England really disliked pepper and silk). Each turn a player will select a number of good to put in their ‘swag bag’ which they intend to travel with. The player must declare what is in the bag to the Sheriff, with the intent of getting as many cards through his checks as possible.

The sheriff decides based on your declaration whether he believes you or not, and may challenge to look in your bag. If you lied you can bribe him, but he may decide to take or ignore it. The aim of the game is to lie. Lie all the time, and then tell the truth to backfire on the Sheriff. If the sheriff is wrong about your lie, he must pay you in compensation, if you get away with it you rack up the monies.

The moral of the story is that Sina is terrible at identifying lies, and lost on the most spectacular hands (5 whole apples!).

Worst. Sheriff. Ever.
Worst. Sheriff. Ever.

Day 2, game 2: Andromeda

‘It’s sci-fi themed and it has a free table. We are going here.’

DSC_0358Andromeda, predictably, was strongly generically alien themed. This much was obvious from 50 meters away due to the life-sized plastic alien model, but fortunately for the game it played better than the stall get-up indicated. Each player owns a race of aliens and must explore an ancient abandoned spaceship found floating in the galaxy. The ship has several compartments which must be explored.

Who knew massive dice dependency could be a good thing.
Who knew massive dice dependency could be a good thing.

The main mechanic is rolling a handful of dice with different tasks represented. Interestingly, re-rolls weren’t allowed, and the first player ‘made up’ selections of dice to offer the other players in turn. They could choose to accept them, or to pass them on. If the hand of dice was significantly bad and every player passed, the first player who made it automatically has to accept it. This made making particular hands an intriguing mechanic.

Day 2, game 3: Potion Explosion

So far, this game has been the busiest to approach. All of Essen want’s to play this, and their stock has more or less run out at the end of day two. Luckily two members of the Misery Farm cohort and partners have already bought this, and as Briony is currently writing this a game is being played in the background.

DSC_0419Potion explosion is basically a physical version of bejewelled, played with marbles. Each player has a potion with multiple colour requirements, and they have to select marbles of those colours from the centre magical trough. Once you fill the potion with the correct marbles you can use it’s effects i.e. take two specific marbles, steal another players stock etc. If, when you pull a colour out it causes two colours of the same colour to roll together (know as the ‘explosion’ part), you get to take those marbles too. The idea is to select a marble that gets you the most in your hand to create more potions.

Its fun, fast paced, and colour based. A perfect game to play between epic saga games or simply if you like marbles. Either or, really. The person with the most completed potion’s worth the most points wins.

If only all magic was this easy.
If only all magic was this easy.

Day 2, game 4: Burano

So many things.
So many things.

This is single handedly one of the most complex board games ever conceived. Team Briony and co. only played 1/4 of the game due to the waiting list being fully booked, and it still partly made their brains melt. The combination of mechanics and strategies are extensive, and are coupled with new mechanics that they had not encountered before such as the resource pyramid (where only certain resources are available at certain times).

The game is based on the island of Burano, in Venice. There is a city in the centre island that has coloured houses (in reality these are the most satisfying coloured cubes ever seen). You each play a family who must fish, make lace (as was the tradition at the time.. mainly for the ladies.. stupid history..), and build more houses on the island. Once enough houses are built players may build roofs to connect houses, making spaces above them to become available.

That’s right kids, it’s a 3D build em up worker placement game. It’s as rare and magical as unicorn to find a fully functioning, beautifully designed one of these, which most importantly actually works.

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Despite the complexity the game is awesome. It’s definitely for the experienced gamer, and there is more or less no way to have a good first season due to the how much the player needs to know to kick things off. In fact it’s complex enough not to go into much detail about it, but fear not, Briony is probably going to sell all of her worldly goods to acquire this game and then write about it in the future.

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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.