Essen Spiel '15: Day One

2015, Oct 18    

Last weekend Spiel ‘15, an absolutely huge board game fair, took place in its long standing home of Essen in Germany. After years of wanting to go to Spiel but never quite being organised enough, I finally made it. It was a good year for it, as something like 14 of my friends managed to go this year: it was a great crowd and I had an awesome time. Here are the games I played on day one.


After a long journey to Essen I rolled up into the halls to find a group of my friends just finishing up a game of Skyliners and we headed to the first empty table we found. It turned out to be Abraca… What?, a game of trying to cast spells when you don’t know what spells are available. You deduce what must be in your hand by looking at what your opponents are holding and what’s already been played. It’s cute, and it’s a great filler game.


Aquasphere looked cool, and Octodice is set in the same world, so I was keen to try it out. It’s sort of push-your-luck dice rolling and sort of optimisation and it plays quite quickly. I enjoyed it. I might buy it, actually, but I’m just not sure when I’d get it to the table.

##Potion Explosion

Potion Explosion looks gorgeous and feels nice and is great fun to play: it uses marbles to make a sort of physical bejewelled experience. It requires a lot of thought but it plays out quite quickly. I was torn about this when we played it, because I wasn’t sure if it was all gimmick and no trousers, but the more I think about it the more I wish I’d bought a copy.


Worker placement is a tricky business. It’s hard to know, on the first play, if a deep worker placement game is nicely complicated or overly complicated, but unfortunately I suspect Bomarzo falls into the latter category. I had a good time with it, but I couldn’t help but feel that there are better examples of the genre out there. After playing this I was itching for a good euro.

##T.I.M.E. Stories

Winner of the “I can really see what you tried to do” award, T.I.M.E. Stories had an amazing looking booth with a great premise (you signed up as teams and were sent “back in time” into a private area away from the noise of the fair) and the game itself looks great. You’re a team sent back in time to fix a “time anomaly” of some sort in each scenario, which you do by playing through time until you run out of time units and then going back to the start of the scenario to have another go with all your new-found knowledge. It’s a great introduction to roleplay for someone who’s never played pencil and paper before, but if you’ve played a few campaigns of anything like DnD, I feel like you’ll find this a bit too lightweight. It also comes with one, non-replayable scenario in the £40 box, which I think is a bit steep.

##Love Letter

There’s always time for Love Letter when you’re waiting for dinner. It’s a cute game and I’m always happy to play it.

Day one left me feeling a little odd: I’d played a lot of games and enjoyed them, but I hadn’t found anything I actually wanted to own. I wanted to find something to bring home, something I wanted to play 30 games of in a row, and I hadn’t found that at all. I decided to head out looking for just that on day two.