Essen Spiel

Spiel15 – Of Hall 1 & 2 in Day One

Day One in the Halls of One & Two @ Essen Spiel 2015
by jack208

A roundup of Day One highlights from Hall 1 & Hall 2 of Essen.


It was back in 2012 when made our first Essen pilgrimage. It has always been a gamer’s hat we wore to the Spiel convention but this year, we’ll be attending with a new hat, as a Spiel Presse.

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Yup with our own press pass. ūüôā

Beside giving us better access to the convention, a Press pass allowed us entry to the opening press conference held on Wed prior to the actual convention days. Highlighted games were on display and some designers on-site to mingle with. If you have not read our press conference report, you can follow Kaz’s write-up here (Essen Spiel 2013 Preview) and here (Essen Spiel 2015 Preview Part 2).

Usually held on the 3rd week of October, this year the convention was held on the 2nd week (8-11 Oct). Apparently the Spiel convention is always held during the school holidays in Germany but this year those school holidays came one week earlier. It’s their 33rd year and also their largest in terms of floor space (63,000 sq meter) over 5 halls (1-2-3-4-7) and a Galleria (open exhibition space dividing some of the halls).

For Day One, we decided to cover Hall 1 & Hall 2. Let’s dive in for highlights of Halls 1 & 2.

TREEFROG, Ships and Invaders

As we entered Hall 1¬†via Hall3, the first booth we stumbled upon was TREEFROG and in case you are not familiar with their games, that’s designer Martin Wallace’s setup. Oh, that’s certainly one booth I’ll need to drop by early as we are looking to pick up a copy of his SHIPS collector Edition, the sequel to his¬†successful AUTOMOBILE.

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TREEFROG’s booth looking busy early morning on the first day of the convention. You can’t see it in this frame but there was a long queue to buy SHIPS and the 2nd edition of A STUDY IN EMERALD

Click here to read my first impression of Wallace’s SHIPS.

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Besides coming here for SHIPS, my other reason was to find out if MOONGHA INVADERS – also by Wallace – is already released to the general market and perhaps available for sale here in Essen.

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True enough, the retail copy of MOONGHA INVADERS is readily¬†available for anyone to buy here. Now that’s probably disappointing for those who backed this project on Kickstarter, who have waited years for their pledged games to be shipped to them. Last I heard, Treefrog informed pledgers they would only be shipping to pledgers AFTER Essen. Martin, Martin….

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On the other hand, the miniatures are done quite nicely. All we need to do now is to wait for Treefrog to ship the games to us. What’s another 3-4 weeks of wait. After all, we’d waited more than 2 years.


Next to¬†Treefrog’s booth, we have Tony Boydell showing the latest expansion to his SNOWDONIA series, the Daffodil Line. If you are a fan of Snowdonia, do check it out.

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We also saw Tony’s latest game GUILDS OF LONDON. Or perhaps the latest of the¬†prototype as they don’t seem to have the game available for sale.

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Turned out there was an unexpected delay on the game production and they didn’t make it for this Essen. Ouch.


One of the titles I’m looking forward to check out is the re-imagining of Portal’s STRONGHOLD, first released in 2009 and probably still the best siege defense game around. STRONGHOLD ver 2.0 is now a proper 2-player game (vs 2-4 players in version 1.0). While the 1st edition of the game can play 4 (two players cooperate in a team of either Attackers or Defenders), at its core, it’s basically a 2-player game.

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More importantly Portal has also streamlined the rules and make learning this game so much more easier. Ver 1.0 has separate¬†rulebook for Attacker and Defender. Yup, that’s how “heavy” the manuals were.

Ver 2.0 now plays to 7 rounds (vs 10 in ver 1.0) and instead of playing for points, it’s now basically a do-or-lose mission for the Attacker. Breach the castle defence in 7 rounds or less and Attacker wins. Else.

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PORTAL has also upgraded some of game components. I think you still use cubes for the goblins and orcs but I saw large meeples to represent trolls? And certainly some nice meeples for archers etc  The only downside Рthe new edition is not compatible with ver 1.0 expansion such as The Undead.

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They are talking about an Upgrade Kit but not enough info yet to determine if it’ll be backward compatible with ver 1.0 expansions. Personally I hope they’ll provide an upgrade kit to allow ver 2.0 to play with ver 1.0 expansions.

If you wish to find out in detail about the differences for this 2nd edition, catch Ignacy’s video presentation on Stronghold v2 which he did during the convention.

And while we were at the Portal booth,¬†Kaz decided to have Kristian Curla,¬†designer for TIDES OF TIME to sign his copy. We did play Tides of Time later that evening, it’s a great – and very short – 2-player drafting game.

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Kaz with Kristian Curla of Tides of Time @ Portal booth

If you would like to get yourself a copy of STRONGHOLD ver 2.0 or TIDES OF TIME, grab them when we open our Spiel15 preorders in our BGC Marketplace forum.

T.I.M.E. Stories

One of the games we’ve been asked to check out by Jason from All Aboard Community Gaming Centre was T.I.M.E. STORIES from Space Cowboys. They did set up an impressive booth that’s thematic with the game… of traveling back -or forward in time to complete missions.

T.I.M.E. Stories - The room where temporal dimension is altered?

T.I.M.E. Stories – The room where temporal dimension is altered?

T.I.M.E. Stories looks to be another game in the Tragedy Looper genre of using the temporal dimension to fix issues with the past (or future). It’s said to feature some innovative game mechanics including one they named as “decksploring” (stands for “deck exploring”).

They are certainly confident about the game as they already have an expansion THE MARCY CASE already out now with the 2nd expansion (PROPHECY OF THE DRAGONS)  to be released in mid November.

Get T.I.M.E. Stories and its expansion The Marcy Case from our webstore now

Grab a copy for yourself – or better still, grab both the base game and the Marcy Case expansion at a special bundle price – from our Spiel15 preorders (click here)..


There seems to be a trend¬†for automobile related games. Last year we’d KANBAN. Prior to Essen this year, Spielworxx has released KRAFTWAGEN.¬†This Spiel we have AUTOMANIA from Aporta Games and after hearing good reviews from Rahdo, this is another game high on our checklist.

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AUTOMANIA was on Kickstarter and successfully funded in June this year. That’s how Rahdo got an early prototype as his review copy. Since the Kickstarter ended, it seems the designer has improved on the game play following feedback from early reviews and play-through so what you get now in Essen (and beyond) would be an improved cut of the game.

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Player boards representing car manufacturers with different abilities for the Advanced variant. The Standard variant has everyone playing with the same set of abilities.

One of the improvements is to have custom player (car manufacturer) abilities. Each of the four car manufacturer board comes with their own name and specialty. For eg Sumato is known for producing “cheap and classy” cars while Miao (Kristian told me this represents Chinese car manufacturers) “copy only the best”.

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Kristian happy to sign my copy of AUTOMANIA, The game’s artwork can be an … erm acquired taste.

Kristian also informed me they were having a free Essen promo called the Wolkenwagen (aka Volkswagen). It’s a free PNP so you do not really need to get the game in Essen to get this promo.

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What does this promo do? It’s an extra player board denoting the Volkswagen car manufacturer. It’s special ability is to be able to claim their cars has an environment friendly trait. Hah… with the recent scandal involving Volkswagen, this is a nice¬†tongue-in-cheek jab. ūüėõ

When playing, use this instead of any other B-side factory in the game. Once per round when producing a car, the Wolkenwagen player can claim that their car has an environment friendly trait. This also applies for completing special orders.

For those looking to get a copy of this game, do track our BGC Marketplace forum as we’ll open a preorder as soon as we can confirm availability with the publisher.


LOOKOUT’s on a roll with regards to 2-player games recently. Well, they probably started their 2p game series back in 2012 when they rolled out the Le Havre Inland Port and Agricola All Creatures Big & Small. While these two titles were moderately successful (I said “moderately” as the titles tend to attract those that were already familiar with Le Havre or Agricola), they didn’t create a traction for gamers looking for 2-player games as much as Kosmos did with their series of 2-player games back in 1998s with titles like Lost Cities, Kahuna, Balloon Cup, Hera & Zeus, etc

Lookout's latest 2-player game HENGIST from Uwe Rosenberg

Lookout’s latest 2-player game HENGIST from Uwe Rosenberg

However Lookout’s recent 2p games deserve another look; beginning with last year’s PATCHWORK. This year they have released TRAMBAHN just before Essen¬†and showcased another 2p¬†HENGIST in Essen.¬† We like PATCHWORK a lot and while we didn’t have the time yet¬†to play their recent TRAMBAHN, we knew it came from good pedigree (Helmut Ohley from O&O who designed some great 18xx titles). HENGIST is by Uwe Rosenberg (who also did Patchwork and of

Lookout's main title for this Essen - GRAND AUSTRIA HOTEL

Lookout’s main title for this Essen – GRAND AUSTRIA HOTEL

Their main title for this Essen however is a medium weight game GRAND AUSTRIA HOTEL. It uses action dice mechanics similar to La Granja. An interesting game and it shared the #3 spot in the Fairplay Rankings. Certainly another game we’ll be looking to bring to the OTK tables.

Lookout getting into the 18xx genre? Good news I'm sure for fans like us

Lookout getting into the 18xx genre? Good news I’m sure for fans like me

Lastly the one (small) news from Lookout who seem to be making some serious inroads into publishing 18xx games on a mainstream scale? Their 1844/1854 couldn’t make it for Essen this year but nevertheless all of us 18xx gamers are so looking forward to it. Coz if Lookout is happy with the sales result, we hope they would print more 18xx titles. Yay!


I didn’t “stop” at PD-Verlag’s booth today. Merely swung by, took a few pics and move on to the next booth. Reason was becoz I didn’t see Mac Gerdts around, and I’d wanted to find out more about his upcoming game STEAM SHIP COMPANY.

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Two main titles for PD-Verlag this year – La Granja and Concordia Salsa. No new rondel game (yet) from Mac Gerdts this time.

For this year, their big release is the reprint of LA GRANJA and it’s certainly a huge win for them. Imagine a game that was released in mid 2014, quickly sold out the first print run and therefore have zero presence in Essen Spiel 2014 (and missing out on the Fairplay Rankings last year), got reprinted this year, showcased in this year’s Essen Spiel and promptly made it to the #1 spot in this year’s Fairplay Rankings. Oh yeah…

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The new map in the Concordia Salsa expansion

They also tend to release expansion maps for their earlier rondel games. Last year they’d the Brittania / Germania maps for Concordia, and this year they are back with another set of expansion maps for Concordia – this time, it’ll be Byzantium and Hispania for CONCORDIA SALSA. They’ll be introducing “salt” as a resource into the game with a complete new set of cards.

BROOM SERVICE, another award winner (KdJ winner)

This year’s KdJ Winner BROOM SERVICE was given the proper attention by ALEA. The OTK gang had played this in one of their meetups (read sessrep here) while we were away in Essen, and they gave thumbs up for the game.

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Are you collecting TOKAIDO?

The highlight of the Funforge booth has to be the Collector Edition of TOKAIDO which was kickstarted successfully earlier this year.

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The Collector Edition of TOKAIDO, large box!

I think the Kickstarter edition is to have pre-painted minis but I saw only unpainted miniatures so I was not able to take any pics of the painted minis for this report. The game box is large though and there are the metal coins and all those enhanced components. Gameplay remains… the same. ūüėõ

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IRONGAMES – A quiet year?

Another favourite booth of CK is Bernd’s Irongames stall but this year seems to be a quiet one for him. He did produce two new titles for this year¬† 1) PELOPONNES BOX, a “big box” collection of all Peloponnes expansion and 2) PELOPONNES CARD GAME.

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Next to the PELOPONNES box is the Expansion Box, a new release this year collecting all previous expansion tiles for Peloponnes including a new one Victoria

The PELOPONNES BOX is a collection of all Peloponnes expansions and include a new one this year, the VICTORIA tile. If you already owned most of the expansions, there is little reason to double-dip here. The VICTORIA expansion is available later as a PNP and maybe thru BGG Store.

Bernd teaching some gamers how to play

Bernd teaching some gamers how to play a group of gamers how to play his new Peloponnes Card Game.

As for the PELOPONNES CARD GAME, my first impression was that it didn’t offer anything new to the boardgame edition. Maybe if he did a dice version instead? ūüėõ

Maybe FOUR is better to unify Germany

We also saw this year’s winner for the IGA 2-player Category – WIR SIND DAS VOLK! – getting an expansion. so 4 can play in this game of unifting Germany. The expansion is not ready yet except for a prototype we saw in their booth.

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If you are a fan of KING OF SIAM but have not heard of Wir Sind das Volk! yet, you might want to check this game out as it’s co-designed by Peer Sylvester of King of Siam fame.


I’ll end this first parter report with a quick look at¬†two titles from a relatively unknown publisher DDD Verlag (they are based in Germany).

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These titles are not new releases; the most recent would be URUK II which is a 2014 title. SEIDENSTRABE turns out to be a 2009 release.

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URUK II – The Development Continues is part of a series of URUK – Cradle of Civilization games from DDD Verlag

I didn’t know anything about these games; but they look well designed and very Euro-ish. URUK II is a Civilization-theme game and is part of a series called URUK – Cradle of Civilization.

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SEIDENSTRABE (above) is a game about trading in the legendary Silk Road.

Will check these titles out from the Geek first and hope to swing back to DDD Verlag’s booth for a closer look.

That’s it for this report. More to come from Hall 1 & 2 in the 2nd part of our Essen Spiel 2015 Day One report

Follow’s Essen Spiel reports here

To buy these Essen titles on preorders, check out our marketplace preorder threads (look for “Spiel15” tags)

Some of these Essen releases are already in our webstore and available for immediate purchase

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