Another day, another quickly hashed together write up of said day.
The first thing to notice on the Saturday was how much busier it was, as we had another friend join us who hadn't collected his tickets yet and resultantly faced a very intimidating number of people at the box office. However, the queue moved swiftly and before we knew it we were all in. The weird thing was, even though we knew there were probably hundreds if not thousands more feet trundling the cutely named aisles of the show, there was still more than enough space for everybody. The whole thing might have been a TARDIS, you know, if one was huge on the outside as well. No? Ok, moving on.
First on the agenda was to relieve our wallets of that cash we'd been saving up for, so each of us went scouring the many board game shops for a bargain. Having seen the ridiculous size of the Bring & Buy queue, we decided to hit the more obvious places like Games Lore, Board Game Guru, Northumbria Games and the many others that until now only seemed to exist in my mind as faceless internet places, delivering the games via a mechanical arm in a gigantic warehouse like Amazon. Turns out there are people behind these operations, real human beings who very care about the games. Who would have thought?
At Spiel in Essen, I'd heard about two very similar games based around a previously untouched topic, which coincidentally I used to make a living in before I became a board game guru. These two games were called Primetime and The Networks, and each tackled the (not) glamorous, (not) exciting world of TV broadcasting. Having managed to test the former in Germany, I came away feeling a little underwhelmed, and never got round to trying the latter. Luckily for me though, Formal Ferret Games, created by a lovely guy called Gil Hova, were at this expo demoing and selling The Networks, and after chatting to him (I hope we'll get to interview him in a future article) I decided to buy myself a copy. If it's any good you'll be sure to find out here.
The Dice Tower were holding a session in the seminar room at midday, but they were by far the most popular panel there as the queue snaked halfway up the massive hall, leaving a disappointed friend of mine without a spot. This gave us all a bit of extra gaming time, so I grabbed the opportunity to do so, but not before bumping into good old Dave, who came to the event with his two brothers, which made me realise how lucky he is to have siblings that are just as keen gamers as him. My family get bored after half a game.
I'd spotted 'The Pursuit of Happiness' being shown off the day before, but unlike then, today I was lucky enough to arrive at the only table with a demo of it just as a free spot opened up. I'm glad I did too. It's a worker placement game (if you've listened to the latest Knockout podcast you'll know we're big fans of that at C&G) and the aim of the game is to live the happiest life you can. You'll spend time, represented by hourglass tokens, to do certain actions which gain you resources and money. You'll use these to progress through and complete projects, as well as partake in activities and buy stuff. Finally, you can get a job (which just like real life takes up all your time and resources) and a partner (which just like real life takes up all your time and resources). It's charming and strategic and has a light storytelling element to it, and I can almost guarantee we'll be talking about it on the site soon.
Not too far away, we stumbled upon both unreleased and newly launched games by British designers. The first was 'Highwaymen', a tactical roll and move game with modular boards, in which you play a band of, you guessed it, highwaymen who attack and rob a constantly progressing stagecoach and its escorts before turning on one another and stealing said gold. It's unfair to dwell on the mechanics too much as it's still in its Kickstarter stage and surely not a finished project, but we had a good enough time playing it even it still feels like it has some tweaking to do. Secondly, we played The Hen Commandments, a surprising take on a party game about a great, godly hen who lays six eggs per round, each with vaguely filthy words that form a complete sentence. Then, all with the same deck of pious words to choose from (purity, sacrifice, desire) each player will choose what they think the sentence is about. Only uniquely chosen words get to pitch why they are right to all the players who picked the same word as another player, as these guys become the judges. It's niche, granted due to its chicken related theme, but what other game has the most appropriate use of an egg timer?
Even though we'd been to the previous days recording, we couldn't help but get seconds on the Shut Up & Sit Down podcast, so we hurried over to the Arden suite to find ourselves first in the line. The recording was entertaining, with the guys discussing another handful of games before doing a live review of a game called 'Cat On Yer Head'. Essentially it's a crowd game and would never work with any less than a hundred people, and involved people constantly shouting out cat and mouse to indicate where in the crowd these two animals were. The mouse had to collect four objects before the cat caught them. It was funny and definitely entertaining for what it was, but I don't think it's a must play experience.
The evening was once again full of gaming, this time we finally got to play the latest iteration of Geistes Blitz, ramping up the difficulty to include nine objects and some insanely crazy rules. For example, if there is a ghost and a clock on the card, you ignore all the other rules and must shout out the time shown on the clock on the card. Also, any time you see an object in the mirror, you must grab that item. Is there a mirror and a ghost? Shout the colour of the object reflected in the mirror. It's a crazy, heart racing experience and I must own it immediately.
Afterwards we had a go at Avalon, or as I call it, The Resistance but better. We got two games in, and as usual I lost both. In the second I played a key role in the Assassin, but due to a damn clever Merlin, who seemed to be almost swayed by my arguments that I wasn't a bad guy, I screwed up by ignoring my comrades and picked Percival instead. Soon after I forgot all about my defeats as we got onto the good stuff again, in a second bout of Two Rooms & A Boom.
This time, we managed to rope Matt of SU&SD fame into joining us, and the game commenced shortly afterwards. I started off as the red spy, and once again slipped up (can you see a pattern here with me and social deduction games?) by mentioning to the blue ambassador that I was relieved the doctor and president hadn't met up yet, which was ridiculous not because of the obvious, but because I was so damn tired at this point that the reason I'd said that was due to my mouth being on autopilot and not actually thinking what I was saying. Regardless, we won that game thanks to some smart moves by the red ambassador, so my idiocy wasn't a big deal. The second, third and fourth games just got even better, and I just cannot stress enough how immediately fun this game is if you play with enough people. I got to play the agent in our final game, which is an incredibly fun role as you can just get any player once per round to just show you their card. I got the president in the very first round, but wasn't able to get this information to the ambassador before the red team enforcer (who can force two people to card share) managed to get the bomber and tuesday knight to immediately win the game for his team. Did I care that I lost? No, because it allowed me to have entertaining anecdotes to tell in the future.
My eyes were so droopy at this time that we just had to leave, at a little before midnight. Getting back to base, we immediately hit the sack leaving this write up for the next day. Sorry about the delay, I hope you can understand why though. What was in store for us on Sunday? Only the megagame 'Watch The Skies' which Dave already wrote about here, so I won't give you a crazy amount of detail but I will hopefully have an entertaining recap. See you tomorrow!