We went to Spiel! It was pretty damn awesome. The anticipation and research were very enjoyable, but that fun was easily matched by the great time we had at the convention.
What made it so fun? Here’s a list!
Exploring all the games on offer, making selections and finally shopping lists, organizing the trip, pre-ordering games and making a map… I had a lot of fun with all of these! We ran through preview geeklists, watched all of Rahdo’s preview videos (instantly promoting him to household name among my board game friends), and shared a shitload of google drive documents between our friends making sure our selections wouldn’t overlap too much.
Kristina made a customized map of Spiel that included pictograms of all the games on our wishlists at the right location. I can’t tell you how useful that map was. Our entire day was guided by it!
Other than the eight people we were coordinating with, we also ran into a lot of random friends and acquaintances. Half of nerdy Belgium must have been there! It was really nice to run into everyone and have a quick chat with them before rushing off again to buy more games and see more of the convention. We also ran into Rahdo himself and fangirled all over him. We blamed him for all the games we bought. He promised to do worse next year to save us from becoming homeless. What a nice guy!
The one person I utterly failed to meet was W. Eric Martin, who had made a game called Body Party. It’s like a Twister standing up and I really wanted to get it. But Eric had no booth so the buying instructions were “Come find me. I’m probably the one awkwardly playing Twister standing up”. I was up for that challenge! But sadly he remained unfound (and I’m just reading on the Geek that they ended up getting a booth after all. Gah!)
We had a pretty good system to get into game demo’s. Whenever we saw an empty table we would sit down and play a game. Watertight system! It meant we didn’t get to play any of the big star games, but we got to play a lot of fun and cute fringe games.
- Sushi draft: A tiny drafting game that is cute and fun: bought!
- Dragon Run: A beautiful game that plays horribly.
- Lap Dance: Basically the monster care phase from Dungeon Petz, which sounds great! But instead of a fast and furious puzzle it’s kind of slow and overly complicated.
- Galaxy Trucker app! Cool, but one of those games that really needs to be played in cardboard. I mean, the app rolls meteors for us and resolves them automatically, but doing things like that is part of the joy of the game!
- Escape: Zombie City: Escape with a few new features, but not enough to improve an already good game.
We mostly taught ourselves the games. Occasionally we were joined by a demo’er who might be anywhere on the helpful/unhelpful or excited/bored spectrum. No harm in that, I can imagine demo’ing the same game all day isn’t everyone’s idea of fun.
That’s what made the Czech Board Games booth really stand out. They hands down had the best and most energetic designers and demo’ers of the day. We hopped in there at 18:30, at the end of what must have been a very exhausting day for them. And they just knocked it out of the park.
Jan Vaněček demoed his game McJohny’s to us, and we had a blast with it. The game casts you as a group of fast food workers and he cast himself as the manager for the first round. That setup is just begging for witty roleplay banter while you game and he totally ran with it. Later we were joined by his female counterpart who ran us through the final rounds, and showed us pretty much every game in the booth! I had scratched Mc Johnny’s off of my list before because the artwork is really not my thing (I’m a vegetarian), but the game was so much fun that I had to have it, crabs and all.
Of course, we can’t forget about the games. We ended up buying a fair bit more than we anticipated. Buying games at Spiel is pretty interesting. Some random things I noticed.
- I normally think of theme as pretty transparently tacked on. If you’re playing a Euro, who cares if your workers are ninja or 17th century architects, right? As long as the game is good. But in Spiel, theme is one of the main things you can go on to pick your games. Suddenly it’s extremely important, especially if you don’t sit down to play demos. I would have missed out on McJohny’s because I hated the theme, and somewhere in the pile below is undoubtedly a pretty horrible game we didn’t recognise because the theme attracted us.
- Designers and producers are really happy if you preorder games from them and often personally hand them over. They’re also really happy if you triumphantly yell out their game name after finally having found their stall (“Doodle City!”) It doesn’t nearly feel as flatly commercial as I thought it would, I guess this is one of the few times the designers meet their players?
- The first few times someone said “I’m the designer of this game” as I was buying it, I didn’t really know what to say. “Congratulations?”, “Good job?”,”Let’s have a lengthy discussion about your game?”. I realized only at the end of the day that this meant I could get my games signed. Doh!
- There is a bit of a weird cognitive dissonance about the game designer. We saw a few ‘Meet the Designer’ tables where a lonely dude would sit by himself looking bored. I wouldn’t recognise any of my favorite designers face to face. It’s a bit weird.
- Games at Spiel are cheap, cheaper than in (online) stores. I hadn’t expected that. I thought you went to Spiel to get the newest of the new, not just to get great prices on games. And they’re even cheaper if you’re willing to buy them in German. We found some lovely bargains!
The games we bought:
- Doodle City – A game where you draw roads on a pre-printed map trying to connect squares in the most advantageous way – (15€)
- Dice Brewing – A dice rolling game about brewing beer. Nuff said! – (22€)
Bargains on games we tried before
- King of Tokyo: Power up! – the best expansion to the classic – (14€)
- Trans Europa – Tiny traintrack game – (3€!)
- Agricola: All creatures big and small – 2-player fast Agricola – (15€)
- Space Cadets – A fun cooperative mini-tasks game – (30€)
- Spyfall – a really innovative new party game! – (15€)
Buys after demo’s
- McJohny’s – A smaller fun cooperative mini-tasks game – (22€)
- Sushi Draft – A cute and quick drafting game we demo’ed and liked – (15€)
Total superficial impulse buys
- Samurai spirit – What looks like a quick and beautiful version of Ghost Stories – (14€)
- Colorform – a very cheap abstract that interested me – (6,50€)
- Castles of Mad King Ludwig – a big building game! – (45€)
Final tally: 216,5€ for 12 games at an average of 18€ per game! Not too bad for two people, and that excludes the bottles Jan bought at the beer stand. Still, it feels excessive, and incredibly spoiled to just spend that much on games. I’m used to going to conventions, but never with such a consumer bent. I’m not fully comfortable with that kind of blatant consumerism.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed myself. A lot more than I would buying these games in the course of the year in my kind of friendly local gaming shop. It’s a really special event with a special feeling attached to it. The love of games is palpable and everywhere. I will go back here, if I can!