Essen the second, next bit...
As stated before, I have never been to a convention the size of this Essen monster, so I admit to a large portion of trouser filling anxiety and nerves… on top of this, and to compact the sphincter squeaking clench muscle, I was assisting my friends at 2d6EE games… me, demoing games to Joe Public, no less. Well, I did shirk my responsibilities from time to time and ventured into the massing throng… and did they throng… hall 1 and 2 were an absolute nightmare, so I steered clear of the more crowded places until close to closing time…once the crowds had thinned somewhat.
So what did a solo game reviewer get up to, once let off the leash? Not a right lot, as it happens. I did much wandering and much nosing at games here and there, but to be honest, there were not as many titles that either caught my eye or grabbed me by the nadgers. It was, as always, really nice to catch up with numerous design/publishers that I have worked with or have had opportunity to review games for. They will all get a small mention later. Food, once more, featured in my visit, beyond the breakfast routines I so enjoyed. A boardgame convention where food features as much as the games? Madness, I tell you, sheer madness!
- Dragon Dawn Productions
- Vesuvius Media
- Chats and chinwags
- Punch Drunk
- Post Scriptum/Demoela
- Bad Cat Games
- Inside Up Games
1) Dragon Dawn Productions
It is always an absolute joy to pop over to the Dragon dawn stand, primarily because Timo and Tiinaliisa are so warm, welcoming and friendly, even if their games were rubbish, it would still be a pleasure to visit… as it happens their games are far, far from rubbish. Lee, the more recent English element of the team also carries that same ethos and is always great to exchange with on social media. My visit this time resulted in an invite to a meal out, after the show. As it transpires, this little ceremony has grown from a couple of individuals meeting at a pizza house, into a huge gathering of designers, publishers and the like from more nations than I can recall who drink the place dry. (suffice it to say the number of different nationalities this year out wade the total number of participant present at the very first meal) I felt it only fair to invite my kind hosts Aigar and Inga from 2d6EE games, to the meal… and as they are almost geographical neighbours, I took a huge assumption that they would fit right in.
My pizza, having nothing at all to do with solo gaming, lasted mere seconds and as Inga ate less than what appeared to me, to be only several mouthfuls of her pasta dish (I hope this was normal and nor because I had railroaded her to a shindig), I was offered the remainder to fill a small corner. I cordially accepted and scoffed the lot, fat pig that I am. As for the rest of the evening, huge volumes of the red stuff were already being consumed as if it were going out of fashion… and the room’s ambient volume began to increase proportionally with the disappearance of wine. I don’t drink and I know at least one of my Estonian hosts also doesn’t drink, so we bid our goodbyes mid evening before the falling down started, and beat a hasty retreat to the micro-accommodation and masterful German L shaped bed.
Food and drink aside, I was actually lucky enough to have Tiinaliisa demonstrate Darwinning to me at UKGE2018, and was asked if I would like to review the game once it had been printed. Pretty much fresh off the boat, a saltwater stained copy was thrust into my grubby mits and found its way into my luggage back to Blighty. I have played Darewinning several times and am way overdue the review. It is coming Timo, honestly!!!!
Another huge thanks to Timo and Tiinaliisa for inviting me along. I have never sought out fame for my review site, but it is rather nice to be acknowledged and made to feel part of the boardgaming community from time to time.
Perdition’s Mouth: #13cs…of Cultist Blowpipes and Critterly Dislikes (Perdition’s Mouth)
Darwinning: (link coming soon)
2) Vesuvius Media
During my aimless meandering through the sights on offer at Essen, I chanced upon a stand sporting a number of titles, including one I splashed out on at UKGE a coupe of years back. I have to admit I was a little disappointing with the solo variant that, in my opinion, was not a particularly satisfying game… so, spying what appeared to be a ‘big box’ sequel, I perused the stand and read some of the blurb…. would this fare a little better being a boardgame, rather than a card game, with a dedicated solo mode???
I was almost immediately set upon… (in the nicest way possible, not maliciously) by a chap who’s name, and please forgive me, I forget. He talked me through this sequel and took time out to discuss the solo mechanics for this Dwar7s Winter and the less successful rules for Dwar7s with me. It definitely looked more promising than its predecessor. After introducing myself (probably something I ought to have considered at the start, really)
Without warning a sealed copy of Dwar7s Winter and Zoar (a non soloable game) were thrust into my hands for reviewing purposes, which I thought an incredibly nice gesture.
Dwrv7s Winter has seen quite a bit of play on both sides of my table, as it is a really pleasant game. not brain melting, but enough puzzle solving and resource management to keep the soloist on their toes.
Since the review, I have received through the post Covil: Dark Overlords and a couple of expansions. Once again, such a generous gesture, one that I can’t thank Vesuvius enough for. This, a very different style of game, but with a very similar feel to DW, is currently being subject to plenty of table time.
Zoar: (link coming soon)
Covil;Dark Overlords: (link coming soon)
3) Chats and Chinwags
- Tin Hat Games: I managed to play a really cool prototype fantasy dungeon-like game… it featured plenty of high fantasy elements but this little chap feature Pugs. Pug Quest was a nice questy type game that actually played really well… I scribbled a few noted on the game and followed the Kickstarter game with interest. It funded very successfully and will, in due KS process, hit the real world. After email and social media exchanges it was really nice to finally meet the team behind the game, A lovely and massively enthusiastic bunch of folks… It will be interesting to see how the game is received once backers get there grubby hands on copies.
- Dice Sport: It was nice to bump into Rob from Dice Sport, who, I must add, looked rather worse for ware after a ludicrously late evening from the night before (drinking and antic until 4am? sheeeeeeeer madness, I tell you.
I was lucky enough to be sent a preview copy of Exodus (a Z War One game) to play and review… Nor normally a huge fan of zombie games, I really warmed to Exodus. The link between game and comic narative was a nice touch, but it was the game itself… the way characters are solving puzzles within a zombie environment, rather than the usual simple hack and slash zombiefest.
- Grimlord Games: I like passing the Grimlord Games stand because Adam and Mike are always so friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic about their games. I have had a blast many times playing a preview copy of Village Attacks (from UKGE 2018)… now Everrain is fast approaching, I am eagerly anticipating seeing the final results. A very different gameplay to village attacks, but thought and consideration has been given to the soloist player…I am gutted I cant find my photos from the show!
- Nuts! Publishing:
I bumped into Florent Coupeau on the Nuts! stand, which I must add was ridiculously busy and managed to get chance to catch up with things…. so much so we left the chaos of the stand and went for a bit of lunch. He most graciously bought me a strange German sausage and chips, blathered in mayo combo… which was palatable, but not what one would call fine dining. It is alway great to get opportunity to chat to people away from the standard game setting, to talk beyond gaming.
Sagon 75 was on display and, whenever this reaches the real world, promises to be a really exciting, strategic entry into block wargaming. I actually spoke with Florent back in June 2018 at UKGE about this game. of Stress and Press (UKGE 2018) somewhere amongst my report of the con, readers should be able to locate the game.
- Tompet Games: In my travels around the show I came across Tompet games… They had clubbed together with several countrymen to share the cost of a stand. A great solution for the smaller indie publishers, but limits display space. Any way, it was nice to finally meet the chaps who created Donning the Purple which has a particularly good (for me) solo ruleset. During the game’s Kickstarter campaign I had the PnP files…printed out and played. I really enjoyed the game so I penned a few words. Tompet games very kindly offered me a copy of the finished publication if I covered postage, which was a really nice gesture as I hadn’t expected anything for the review. If you are into Romanesque games with a solo twist, fairly simple gameplay but huge decision making, this ought to be one you check out
- Hall or Nothing Productions: I could never pass up an opportunity to catch up with Tristan, who in this case, was feverishly demonstrating 1066 Tears to Many Mothers to punter after punter. There was no Hall or Nothing stand this year, he was sharing table space with other game publishers, We managed to have a quick chat but as 1066 was so popular, I left him to his demonstration, I backed both his Gloom of Kilforth (probably one of my all time favourites) and !066, which has now been played in a solo fashion, rather a lot on both sides of my table. Both titles are really worth checking out.
keep an eye out for Shadows of Kilforth coming to KS in March 2019
4) Punch Drunk:
I don’t drink so this heading is a little misleading. I think back to one evening after a long day, sat on the floor of the sumptuously equipped lodgings, eyeing my pile of games. There is a certain unavoidable calling I get from a new, unopened game box. There is a call from within the box, emitted bu sheets of unpunched tokens and the awaiting, sealed aroma of new playing card. The temptation on this occasion was beyond my ability to resist… and boxes were unscrupulously separated from their shrink-wrap.
The joy of seeing sooooooo many sheets of unpunched tokens cannot be relayed in words. needless to say, I knew what the last hour of two of my evening would consist of. I have no idea if this is normal behaviour or not, but the unusual side glances I received from my Estonian hosts suggested it may not be the case in Estonia. Punching tokens creates a euphoric feeling that, when combined with fatigue, creates a feeling of drunkenness, and with such I began to pop out those cheeky little tokens. I was surprised that 50% of my company also wanted in on a piece of the punching action, the other taking solace in rulebook reading and surveying components. I think that after eating, most evenings were very quiet, with us all retiring early to reboot for the next day… the token punch-fest sticks in my mind as the only boardgame related activity to occupy my after show time. I hear tales of vast gaming sessions until the early hours undertaken by some and excessive drink fests carried out by others, but as I have simple needs, this, in its complete sadness, was the highlight of my stay (other than sumptuous pastries for breakfasts, that is)
5) Post Scriptum/Demoela
On passing the Post Scriptum stand, a wee little title caught my eye laid out upon the table. I managed to collar someone who gave me an overview of the inner workings… and offered me a discount, if I wanted to buy it… I was not sure about splashing out cash for an unknown entity so declined for the time being. I also didn’t let on that I had no money whatsoever.
It was not until later during the show that my gracious host offered to buy the game, to pay for my services at the 2d6EE stand. I had already had free lodgings and access to the show, so was a little reticent when accepting payment on top. I know it wasn’t charity, but I am perhaps a little too proud and stubborn to accept such a generous offer… However, I had not anticipated the forceful, steely gaze of Mrs A. There are certain forces of nature it is wise not to tangle with, so I accepted and scuttled off to acquire a copy of Radetzky: Milano 1848.
As it turns out, this is a really nice solo-able game. The gameplay will not melt the grey matter, causing it to evacuate the skull via nasal cavities, but it does have a lot of difficult decisions to make. It is a grand puzzle solving, damage limitation sort of affair with a pleasant ‘rock, paper, scissors’ mechanic to hold interaction together.
I have had only limited contact and feedback from the designers, which is a little disappointing, not only as a reviewer, but also as a general paying customer, too… I should have liked to have seen a greater effort to liaise with customers… how else can I feel a valued customer and what incentive now lies before me to show any brand loyalty?
This aside, I will not let my personal view of the company cloud the game… as this is really what is important… the game was pleasing to play and soloists ought to take a look
6) Bad Cat Games
Interesting times are always to be had at a convention. talking to designers and publishers on line, in the pretend, digital universe is all fine and dandy, but to actually meet a team in the real world is so enlightening, and something I found to be true chatting with the chaps from Bad Cat Games.
I followed their game Elemenze on Kickstarter, with its interesting gameplay and luscious shiny dice, but as a multiplayer game, I retained only a passing interest. Now a new title is on their horizon and, after a lengthy chat, could well see a solo variant materialise. Gladiators: Blood for Roses does pretty much what it says on the label… fisticuffs at dawn in the Colosseum… It all looks visually exciting but now I wait with baited breath to see what evolves for us, the eager soloist
7) Inside Up Games
I managed to find my way to the Inside Up stand at one stage of the show, and actually managed to chat to someone about a couple of titles that offered us lowly soloists the chance to experience the full multiplayer game.
A small card game of giant Gladiatorial conflict, Gorus Maximus and a larger chap that caught my eye, Summit. I managed to chat to someone about both and received the low down on how both played with one player and discussions turned to reviewing. I was invited back toward the end of the show where numbers of stock could be calculated and a demo copy might be available. As it turns out, on my return I bumped into the delightful Ella and after a chat of this and that, I explained why I was there… at which point she grabbed her copy of the game and thrust it upon me. I was supremely chuffed at this gesture, especially as later I realised I had the fancy pants version. It never fails to surprise me the kindness and generosity some well known gaming types show to us no-bodies.
I have played a few games of Gorus, with plans to get a review up on BSoMT soon…although I left my rule book in Gran Canaria just before Christmas, so I am now using the French rules…I read French novels, but rules…this is a whole new translation experience for me. (I should check on line, really, for some English rules…lazy git that I am!)
Sadly I didn’t get a chance to see anyone regarding an ex-demo copy of Summit, which really interested me as a solo venture… maybe some time in the future I might procure a copy and get an opportunity to review it?
So, the show antics continued through out the week, mostly me demoing Death on the rails and the occasional Lembitu (a particularly nice solo game if used with the Heavy Cavalry expansion)… I have heard whispers that there might be a new and improved reprint of Lembitu… if this does happen, I cab see a particularly exciting title for solo players to investigate further. I do hope this does come to fruition,