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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Essential Essen εκλεγη

OK, plenty of you have been to Essen, but I’m hoping my experience was different enough to make it worth reporting. The trip was made to launch Havoc: the Hundred Years War and to see if we could put Sunriver Games on the boardgame map of the world.

Sunday was my only “tourist” day. Luckily fellow designer Benjamin Corliss was on the same plane, and luckier the rental car place gave us a 4x upgrade to a Mercedes E class with a “German Girl”. Well, “she” was actually a GPS unit that we figured (in the last 15 minutes of 5 hours of driving!) could also speak English with a German accent. She led us (this is a smart map machine thingy to you with too many ideas about this already) to Bingen, up the Rhine River, through a traffic jam in Dusseldorf and finally right to our hotel in Essen.

Wednesday was set-up day, to find out booth in Hall 4, get posters and such pasted up on our walls, set out game play tables, etc. And still had plenty of time to peruse other booths and learn some good lessons about how to do the Press Conference if we go next year. Overall, learning happened a lot. And sometimes we fell into getting it right first time, like having a free mini-expansion for Havoc available. Danged unfair my sweet wife (and our other Sunriver Games partner) couldn’t be there too; that was a tough lesson learned.

We happened to be in the hall where most of the used games sellers rented space. Funny how our booth kept filling with games as the week went on! Wednesday night was a traditional English-speakers’ dinner at the Ista, followed by USA versus The World in the skittles lane in the basement. Small bowling alley, big beers about says it all.

Except for this; cheers to my friend Tim Cockitt from Warfrog. The guy who says, when there’s no room for us to sit with the “gang” - “Here, welcome, we’ll move to another room with you so we can sit and have a nice conversation.” And means it! We heard about Tim's amazing trips to real battlefields, he heard about Oregon, and we all met Mikael Sheikh who runs the very juicy Spiel By Web for all us Splotter Bus players in the world.

Thursday through Sunday are a bit blurry as to what happened what day. I actually did see and play a few new games other than Havoc I think. Freya’s Folly, Shear Panic, Timbuktu, some nice abstracts. Mostly we just hung out at our booth, demonstrating Havoc or talking about it, or showing pictures. Funagain had given us the Alan Moon's Slow Freight as an extra draw, Mimi and Doug Walker brought these cool tile bags as a draw, and Tom Powers (Boards and Bits) gave us a box of Spin Fingers that were very popular give-aways the last couple of days.

1. Our Team, number one. Julie and Chris Brooks, with their boys Matthew and Jacob, working the booth as hard as anyone. Julie with this great spiel (think Carney barker but cuter) whenever someone couldn’t get to a table to play. Chris running his very small international bank for Americans needing euros, store owners from 5 countries, and helping journalists get their copies for magazine reviews coming soon. Mike Deans, our premiere “closer” generally selling more games per table than anyone... Lorna Wong and Benjamin Corliss, running the booth with humor while Ben kept a running commentary to guests as our only regular Deutsche speaker. Doug and Mimi Walker, who tons of people knew from meeting them at the Alan Moon Gathering. Talk about famous faces selling product! And new guy Richard Bethany from Atlanta – jumping straight into a Sunriver T-shirt and great gig as a pitch man. To all of you, heartfelt thanks and a little something planned for your Christmas stockings… =)

2. Meeting “A List” People. Playing Havoc or seeing it played with Mik Svellov (Brett and Board), Mikko Saari (Gameblog), Moritz Eggert (Westpark Gamers), Wolfgang Friebe (Fairplay), Frank Kulkmann (G@mebox). Most of them even liked it. Having Friedemann Friese and Bruno Faidutti buying Havoc from us. Trading Havoc for games from other designers like Don Bone (Sagacity), Günter Cornett (Bambus) and Andrea Meyer (BeWitched). And meeting game company folks; Tilsit chatting about publishing Havoc in French, Queen Games willing to take a look at my Metro 2, since they carry Dirk Henn’s line of games. Abacus looking at another of my prototypes that might fit into their family game line. Fingers crossed and nervous, this hobby is unpredictable!

3. Meeting Friends. This makes my top three. Norbert & Marion Kuska, and Andreas Keirat & Claudia Schlee have been friends online for 6 years or more. Meeting them in person was so cool; like best friends you just haven’t seen in a while. Norbert brought me 180 games I’d bought in auctions and such and stored at his house. Andreas had another 10 or so for me, but also brought us 4 stools that really made our booth livable. If these guys and their families are typical of German game players, I can see why gaming here is such a well-regarded pastime. And with friends like these, so glad I also made friends with Nick Medinger and Ben Baldanza from Funagain, who took pity on me and helped me ship a couple hundred games home!

Next time, maybe I could even report on a few game details in my Essen report. But you’ll read all that somewhere else, or see pictures on BoardGameGeek. I’d say we were in the top 20 or so for games that people talked about or had on their lists. Not everybody loved Havoc, but enough did to tell us Sunriver will be seen again out in this playfield. To my friends who made it possible, salud.


  • At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Mikko Saari said…

    Thanks for including me in the "A list"! It was sure nice to meet the Sunriver folks and try Havoc. I'll be coming up with a review, once I get to play the game with more than three people. It's looking good, so far, and I'm quite pleased at having my copy signed by the designer!

  • At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Laurent said…

    Let me know if you need help with the French contracts :)

  • At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Mikael Sheikh said…

    Not "A list", but I'm thrilled to be on the (implied) "B list"! KC, it was really nice meeting you (particularly after seeing your name mentioned time and time again on Chris' blog). Once I get caught up with SpielByWeb, we'll have to talk further about some of your play-by-web ideas...


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