Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames

Friday, October 31, 2008

Vicarious Essen

Essen is behind us now, and the Fairplay scouts & other reports are settling in on the better titles. Remember two years ago when I insisted I'd buy Die Saulen von Venedig? Then the mediocre reports came in, and I got to play it once. It wasn't a bad game, but it didn't shine for me. I didn't buy it. (Though I'll probably play it again some day.)

This year the game that fits that description this year is Sutter's Mill. I haven't ruled it out entirely, but I hope I'll get a chance to try someone else's copy first. Hmm, come to think of it, Oregon may have been the equivalent game in 2007. Both western-themed, which is what interested me originally.

My group has placed an overseas post-Essen order. This used to be an annual tradition, both to grab exciting new titles and to pounce on special sales for older games (usually a game you loved more than everyone else). The way the hobby's been going, those orders have been slowing down. I don't think we even placed one last year. This time, though, it was decent-sized again. The somewhat better exchange rate helps, as well as some other factors (like Martin Wallace's Treefrog games being no more expensive this way). Too bad we won't get the games before the Thanksgiving holidays in late November, but at least they should arrive before Christmas. (When's Hannukah this year?) So we'll get our Essen excitement while it's still 2008.

One new game I have gotten to play a bunch lately is Dominion, thanks to the online implementation at Brettspielwelt. I haven't been a BSW regular for years (play-by-web works better for me than realtime), but once in a while I check it out again, especially when there are new titles. In my podcast I mentioned how the hype for Dominion is kind of a turn-off, but now that I've played it I can happily report I like it. In fact, I really like it. Deckbuilding was a fun part of my Magic:The Gathering days, and it's very cool to see that built right into a euro card game. My only concern is that the BSW interface makes everything so fast & easy, when I eventually play with the real game I'll be bothered by the effort to collect & shuffle cards constantly, track extra actions & buys, and so on. But that's a nit. The game is great fun and I can't wait to get my hands on a real copy.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Essen photos

I mentioned it in the last podcast, and more than ever I recognize how influenced I am by the look of these games. I like reading the Essen first-impression reports, but I like seeing the photos even more. These days, you'd think you could do a search on "Essen spiel" in Flickr and find tons of photos, both from BGGers and average Germans who took photos & uploaded them. I've found a few that way, but not many.

Now the other reports and photo-pages are starting to trickle in, and so far the best I've found is at Milan Spiele. Looking through the Thursday (Donnerstag) photos, I see one game that jumps out at me: Windriver, by Argentum Verlag. It appears to be the designer's first game, and the publisher doesn't have a big track record, either. The rules are online, so I may have to actually read them. Heck, there's a good chance the game isn't so special. But it sure looks great to me. (I guess I'm a sucker for western themes, too. Doesn't that map look like the Little Big Horn area, with feeder streams into a larger river with mountains around?)


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BGTG 87 - Essen Anticipation 2008

As promised, here's my annual episode running through the new Essen games that have caught my eye. There are games I'm pretty sure I want, others I'm pretty sure I don't, and a whole bunch I need to know more about first (hopefully by playing).

Essen opens its doors to everyone tomorrow, and the press-only day has already started. Folks like me will be checking internet sites repeatedly through the weekend to digest scraps of information and opinions about the new titles. Exciting!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Pre-Essen show

Essen is now right around the corner, but I'm going to try to squeeze in an "Essen Anticipation" show, as I've done in previous years. I got a few requests for this episode, and that's the best inspiration for doing it.