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Even during a pandemic, Essen Spiel remains the biggest board game convention in the world.

While I don’t have exact numbers offhand, it’s safe to say tens of thousands of people descended on the convention grounds in Essen to get their board game fix. I arrived on Tuesday morning (which would have been Wednesday morning, had Eurowings not cancelled that flight!) and took a bit of time to relax before the madness all started on Thursday.

Over the course of the four-day conference, I had 22 appointments with publishers, and on Thursday and Friday I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off…! Lots of great appointments, some that didn’t go as well as expected, and a lot of prototypes given out…

Consider these some of the fun photos from around the con.

Plenty of escape-rooms-in-a-box to be had, but adding the quiz twist definitely sounds interesting… Here’s hoping this gets an English release!

Simon from Dranda Games showing off Solar Sphere, a very cool looking game that recently hit six figures on Kickstarter.

At one of the manufacturers booths, there might have been a little confusion… No, no, no, the D6’s go OUTSIDE the salad forks…

Perhaps the stroller was easier to push / pull than the luggage or trolleys seen elsewhere in the halls… #priorities #wheresthebaby

Another very cool game I tried out called Soviet Kitchen by HYBR – an app-assisted game where players add items to a pot to change the color towards the goal color. Don’t make things too toxic, though!

One fascinating element of the con was seeing people and games I’ve only seen virtually. This one, Flee Fi Fo From, is something I tested in Virtual Playtesting.

Paleo – a Kennerspiel des Jahres (German game of the year) – had one of the coolest booth designs.

iron Forest, the sequel to Ice Cool, a very cool (sorry) flicking game by Brain Games.

Many games at the con feature a mega-sized version of the game. In this case, Under Falling Skies has a huge version. Not pictured but also seen around the con: huge versions of Carcassone and Galaxy Trucker.

Gotta love it when Asterix gets involved with some classic games.

The Japanese publisher Oink Games has a way of fitting maximum gameplay in minimum box sizes. The table has a few of their newer games on display.

Naturally, being a conference in Germany with many locals means a lot of games will be in German only. I didn’t catch enough of this game to know much, but it seems like a Cards Against Humanity-like sort of game.

Ravensburger has a new line of audio escape rooms – buy the small box of cards, download the app, then get to playing and listening carefully.

One of the trends that was highly visible was some concern for the environment. At least a couple of publishers emphasized the recycled nature of the paper or a lack of plastic within the box.

Over at dV Giochi, an adventure book called Wonder Book offers a lot of gameplay, complete with pop-up elements to create some 3D looks.

Between the publisher meetings, catching up with friends, and seeing some demos, I didn’t get to play as many games as I’d have liked. This one, Dreadful Circus, was published by Portal Games and was pretty fun.

My Essen haul, minus a thing or two.

Overall, I’m really glad I went, even with the weeks of planning, researching, and working with the various vaccination and documentation requirements.


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