Essen Spiel

Spiel21: It’s Day Zero

EXCERPT. The Day before Spiel. As we Malaysians look forward to entering an endemic phase for COVID-19, some are looking forward to waking up tomorrow to the largest boardgame convention in Essen!

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When COVID-19 hit us back in Feb/Mar 2020, I had all our travel arrangements sorted for that year’s Essen but I also knew there’s a very high chance we may not be able to travel for the trip. That would be the first time in 8 years since 2012 that we’ll miss a trip to our annual pilgrimage Essen Spiel.

Never did I imagine, I’ll be here again one year later (now) writing about missing Essen Spiel for the 2nd consecutive year! Ouch.

But let’s put what we cannot change aside and allow me to put in a shift for our Essen Spiel 2021 reporting duty, even though I can’t be physically there this year.


Today is what I call our Essen Spiel Day Zero i.e. the day before the event itself. To those who are exhibiting in Essen Spiel, today’s a huge day for them, to make sure tomorrow starts with a bang!

To those who are visiting as visitors aka “us”, today’s merely a travel-in day, make sure we are settled down in our hotel, and getting acclimatised to the buzz of Spiel around the town.

To us specifically, our itinerary has more or less remain constant for the past 8 years – even when we’ve baby Rachel joining us in 2015 – we always fly-in a week earlier, take a short holiday somewhere in Europe, where there’s a 10 km race on the weekend before Spiel, and on Wed (Day Zero) we’ll pack off from our holiday destination and take the Deutsche Bahn to Essen.

Click here for a recap of our very first Spiel Day Zero back in 2012.

SPIEL 2021

This year’s Spiel will be different. COVID-19 has practically mandated all group events will embrace a new normal moving forward. So let’s take a quick tour to see how “different” it will be.

1) SPIEL Digital – introduced in last year’s pandemic – will remain for this year, and run concurrently with Spiel21 itself. This is a bonus especially for those who are not able to travel as you can still join SPIEL Digital and get a good tour of the various new boardgames being introduced.

Did you take part in last year’s SPIEL Digital, and what did you think of the event? Let us know in the comments below.

2) Aisle spacing in the exhibition halls is to be made wider, to allow for spacing rules to be applied.

If you’ve been to any Essen Spiel event, you’ll probably share my skepticism of the effectiveness of trying to apply “spacing rules” inside the exhibition halls. It’ll be interesting to see how they manage this.

3) A medical grade mouth/nose mask is required to be worn while inside the halls. Contact tracking will be required when entering Messe Hall (but not from booth to booth or table to table).

4) All visitors need to comply with the 3-Option rule i.e. be tested, vaccinated or have recovered from COVID (including children over the age of 6). This will be facilitated by the EU Digital COVID certificate.

For foreign visitors like us, we have the option to apply/convert our MySejahtera COVID certificate into the EU Digital COVID certificate to make our travels in Europe easier without having to be “tested” everywhere we go. This can be done at listed pharmacists, and here’s one that handles such conversion for Essen Spiel visitors.

And now the small print. While an EU Digital COVID certificate will be issued to all regardless of which vaccine you take, full waiver of travel restrictions would likely require one of the EU authorised vaccines, and for now that list includes only Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (source). Hopefully they’ll add more vaccine brands into that list over time.

Vaccination certificates will be issued to a vaccinated person for any COVID-19 vaccine. The certificate should clearly indicate the name of the vaccine administered.

When it comes to waiving free movement restrictions, Member States only have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines which received EU marketing authorisation. Member States may also decide to waive restrictions for travellers that received another vaccine, for instance those included on the WHO emergency list, but they are not obliged to. If you have been vaccinated with a vaccine not authorised in the EU, we advise you to check which vaccines are accepted by the respective Member State prior to your travel.

In addition, while EU has started to relax its travel restrictions, it’s not a free-for-all-travel yet. Notably Malaysia is not on the list of countries for Non-essential Travel into EU. Alamak! Hopefully we’ll be added into the list next year!

I don’t want to miss a third Essen Spiel!!!

How do all these affect us? Nothing, for now since we technically can’t even travel out of our own country yet (haha!) until at the very earliest, December? But we’ll certainly keep tracking the updates to all these New Normal travel requirements given COVID-19 is not actually “going away” but merely entering an endemic state.

The Buzz!

This year, there’ll be 600+ exhibitors (from 43+ countries) introducing 1,000+ new releases. Admittedly this is a drop from Spiel19, but it’s still a very positive sign given what the whole world has had to endure for the pandemic years. I’m pretty sure if COVID-19 did not derail the momentum of Spiel19, we would be seeing a much larger presence in Spiel21.

But let’s not dwell on the negatives. The fact over 1,000+ new titles will see a proper introduction in a convention with hundreds of thousands of gamers is a HUGE step forward to the recovery from the pandemic for the boardgame industry. Oh yay!

Small steps we may take. Keep moving forward, we must.

“It really is a very special challenge to organize an internationally oriented convention under pandemic conditions when the rules of the game can constantly change in the middle of this challenging game,”

“Nevertheless, we are glad to have taken on this challenge and to be able to make SPIEL, which is so important for the industry, possible again this year. During the pandemic, many people have rediscovered playing games. We believe this trend will continue permanently.”

Dominique Metzler, Managing Director at organizer Friedhelm Merz Verlag

Enjoy Spiel21!

If you are actually in Essen now, have a blast there and tell us about your exciting finds! If you are attending Spiel DIGITAL, enjoy your virtual tour.

For the rest, let’s #kitajagakita so that Malaysia is well and ready on the road to post-COVID normalcy and we can gather in Essen next year!

With that I conclude my short Spiel21 report! We won’t have any Spiel21 photos to share (obviously haha) but allow me to share the traditional wefie we always take on Day Five of all our Spiel trips. Here’s one from our trip back in 2019. #staysafe #keepmovingforward

Spiel21 @ Essen

For more Essen Spiel reports:

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