How to prepare for 4 days of board games at Die Spiel 2017

As you may already know after browsing through our blog is that we are board game geeks. And that we are spending every year at least 4 days in a small town in Germany called Essen at “Die Spiel”, THE board game convention.

The big question is, how do we prepare for such a huge convention to get the most out of those four amazing days?

In order to be able to prepare you first of all have to be aware of your goal.

000 days 00 hours 00 minutes 00 seconds

left until Die Spiel 2017 in Essen

What is our goal?

Our goal is every year the same: get to know as many games as possible, and on the way beat last years record 😉

Last year, 2016, we managed to play-test 47 games. Yes, you read correctly, freaking 47 games in 4 days. Now I know why I am super exhausted after Die Spiel in Essen. I mean just imagine how many new rules you have to learn and to actually follow, to be able to play 47 games in just 4 days!

So the goal for this year is:

  • play-test as many board games as possible
  • have a lot of fun
  • don’t eat too much junk food
  • Kill the Unicorns 😉
  • beat last year’s record of 47 board games

What are we looking for?

Although the whole experience at Die Spiel in Essen is always a lot of fun and it is great to have the opportunity to get to play-test so many new games, there are a couple of things that we aim for.

  • Meet Valentin Famose at the Morning booth
  • Meet our favorite rules explainer, Paul
  • Find great 2 person games for Gerwin and me
  • Find cool 2-6 player games for all the people we love to play games with like my sis and Tom or Marie-Sophie and Daniel 😉
  • Find super portable games, that you can easily take to Koh Lanta without losing too much space and weight in your luggage

Beat our last year's record and play-test more than 47 board games.

Let the games begin.

How do we prepare?

Do you really need to prepare for a board game convention?

Oh hell yes! I mean you could definitely manage to survive the convention without any preparations.

But being not prepared is so not our style 😉 And also being unprepared means that you will be wandering around the convention without having any idea what games you want to try out. You will be switching halls unnecessary because you have no plan where to go next … and that means wasting precious time, where you could be playing already the next game.

The Hotel

Staying there for at least 4 days means we need a place to stay and sleep, at least the couple of hours that are left during playing board games. The last couple of years we’ve been staying at The Webers Hotel, which is a nice hotel with a bus station on the opposite side of the street. From there you need about 30 min by public transport. A bit longer if you stop in the middle to grab some breakfast and some food for the day 😉

This year we decided to rent a car and switch therefore also hotels. After staying for at least for the last 4-5 years at the Webers, this year our part-time home will be the Premiere Classe Düsseldorf-Ratingen. According to Google Maps, it is 12-26 min away from Messe Essen. Unfortunately, the hotel doesn’t have a gym, but I think running around the convention for 4 days is a good substitute for a gym 😉

The Journey

Breaking not only the hotel tradition we decided on arriving this year one day earlier. Not only because Air Berlin is canceling a lot of flights these days, but also to be able to get the rental car and to have less stress on the first day of Die Spiel. The plan is to get on board of a plan on Wednesday at 12:40, arrive in Düsseldorf at 14:20, get the rental car, check in to the hotel and make some shopping for the next 4 days. And by shopping, I mean filling up our trolleys with food, drinks, and snacks so that we survive the days at convention without too much interruption like looking for food 😉

Yes, that may sound extreme, but come on, we have to break the record of 47 games. That is an insane number of board games that want to be play-tested and we have to make use of any minute we can find.

The Tech Equipment

Thanks to Data Roaming in the EU we probably don’t really need a Wifi router, but nevertheless, it will be still part of our luggage just because it always is. In addition to the Wifi Router we are bringing:

  • My Sony Alpha 6000 Camera
  • iPhones, at least 4
  • iPad for voting
  • Selfie Stick
  • 2 Battery Packs

The Voting

In order to know which games we played, and which has been really good so that they even have earned a special place in our luggage, we implemented a voting system for each and every game. Every one of us — Ania, Tom, Gerwin and I — are giving our votes after each played game. Which means that after 4 days of play-testing we have a great and detailed overview of the board games and their overall score.

In order for you to better visualize this voting system I’ll share with you our last years’ list: 

This year we will be using exactly the same system. I think the list is more than enough for us to be able to decide which games are worthy and will be taken back home 😉

Goodie Bags for Trainees

Most people would think that one of the most important things at Die Spiel in Essen are the board games. But that’s not entirely true. At least as important or even more important are the trainees who are responsible for the rules explanation. A great and super engaged person can make a shitty game look like the best thing you’ve played during the 4 days, whilst a super dull person can destroy even the best game for you so that you won’t be willing to play it anytime soon.

We know how exhausting and unnerving it can be to explain the same couple of games over and over again, four days long. It probably feels like The Groundhog Day with Bill Murray during the whole convention. And because our goal is to have fun but also to be super efficient in play-testing, we cherish the trainees that not only explain the rules extremely good but also are at the same time super funny and are totally in the role, we started to bring them some goodies.

Going confirm with our traditions we will keep this one alife and bring also this year goodie bags for the best performing trainees at Die Spiel 2017 in Essen.

The Board Game list aka Bogam

In order to know which games we want to play at Die Spiel in Essen we need to know what will be offered. But if you have ever been interested in numbers, you probably know that during the last couple of years it has been more than 800 board games. Yes, more than 800 board games are being presented every year at Die Spiel. So the big question is: how do you know which games there even will be?

There is a list from Merz Verlag with all the new games titles, but honestly, if you take a look you will probably figure out pretty quick that you have a lot more fun things to do, then to go through this list.

There is also a list from BoardGameGeek which is way better because at least you can check out the ratings from BGG. But still, there is no way how you can mark the games that you would like to check out or even play in Essen.

And the best thing would be to have a list with all the new games that will be presented, the boardgamegeek rating, some pictures from the game a description and of course the location of the booth, where the game will be presented.

You know what? There is a solution for that! And it is called Bogam!

Bogam is an app built by Gerwin Brunner, a naturally born BoardGameGeek. This app combines a visual list of all new board games, that will be presented at Die Spiel in Essen as well as the most important details for each game. In addition, you have the possibility to “vote” for board games, so that you know, which ones you want to check out at the convention. It’s an easy Tinder-like way, where you determine with one thumbs-up that you like the game and one thumbs-down, that you wouldn’t mind skipping the game at the convention.

If you ask yourself why you should be in need of this app, then you probably have never been at Die Spiel in Essen before. It’s pure chaos combined with useless paper-printed lists and crappy venue plans. If you want to be prepared and use your precious time with the biggest efficiency, you want to know which games are on your “Must Play” list. And that’s exactly where Bogam solves your problem.

If you are curious just give it a try: Bogam

You can use Bogam on your Desktop where your screen will be split up into 3 columns. In the left column, you will have all the games you haven’t voted for yet. In the middle, you will have the current game you can vote on with all the needed information like Players, Play Time, Age, Availability, Author & Designer as well as categories for the game. In addition, you will be presented with a short description of the game and of course the BoardGameGeek Rating. 

Bogam is implemented responsive, which means that although you will have only one column on your mobile phone, you can vote on your games without any trouble. 

If you’ll try out Bogam we are more than happy to hear from you how you liked it.

The weekend after Die Spiel 2017

You might think that playing 4 days in a row over 40 board games would be enough for a group of 4 BoardGameGeeks.

Well, it’s not 😉 And that’s the reason why we take the weekend after Die Spiel in Essen off and book a small cottage in Almdorf Seinerzeit. Packing our newly bought board games and our precious Akitas we spend four easy going and stress-free gaming days, during which we can really relax and enjoy the games.

Let’s hope that Die Spiel 2017 will be as amazing as the last couple of years and that we will come home with a bunch of great games.

Top 5 Games at Die Spiel 2016 in Essen

Although we have bought 4 board games and 4 extension in Essen at Die Spiel 2016, we also want to talk about the top 5 games of Die Spiel 2016. And yes, they differ from the games we have bought — but that’s a different topic 😉

  • best mechanic:
  • luck based game:

Best card game

Aeons End – card – driven game

Best new mechanic

As for this category I would nominee Ave Roma as the one game that had the newest mechanic, within the games we played at Die Spiel and shortly afterwards.

Best two-player board game

Best cooperative board game

Captain Sonar

  • Vanuatu 1.25  – role selection
  • Terraforming Mars 2 -card driven +  engine building games – you get rid of crads and get new abilities
  • Captain Sonar: coop: team vs. team 2
  • Adrenaline: 1.75 – best first-person shooter as a board game
  • London Dread: coop: cooperative 2 combination of clock/hour based movements
  • Kanagawa 1.25 -set collection – best in-between game
  • Scythe 2 – game with the most and coolest components
  • Great Western Trail 1.5 – new mechanic: the board is changing because of the buildings you are building during the game (only the once with buildings are being counted)
  • Aeons End 2 – coop + card driven: mech: how to decide on who is the next player – random turn order, you can decide on yourself how you put your discard pile together
  • Guilds of London 2 –
  • Via Nebula 1.5 – —
  • Ave Roma 1.5 – all workers can being used by all players …
  • Colonist 1.75 —-

Best Strategic Board Game

And the winner is … Scythe designed by Jamey Stegmaier and published by Stonemaier Games.

Scythe is in my opinion the best strategic board game of Die Spiel 2016 in Essen because of its combination of strategy and worker/mech placement. Depending on the mechs you build first you are limited to the actions you make take during your next turn. And this makes this game at the top of the highly strategic board games. Every player starts with different resources, which makes each of the players special.

In addition to the great mechanic the board itself as well as the components are amazingly beautiful and thought through. Each player has his own unique set of components, which differ not only in colour but also in design.

The one thing that I like about Scythe is that it’s one of those games, where you would really like to have more actions to take, because you definitely can’t decide on which you would benefit from the most.

Most aggressive board game

vanuatuAlthough it definitely doesn’t like the most aggressive board game, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of Vanuatu to break up friendship, couples or even family!

The game itself looks more like a children’s game because of all the colourful components and the beautifully crafted board. BUT be aware of playing this game with sensitive people who don’t grab the phrase “winning is not everything”.

The thing is that the game itself is not from the base bad blood. But if you really want to win or at least have a chance of doing something, you sometimes, or more or less all the time have to play against other players. And by that I mean destroy their plans totally, so that they are not able to do anything useful during the current round. But believe me, that same will happen when it’s your turn and you have everything planned out perfectly. One wrong turn, one bad move, one overthought plan and everything goes totally not the way you have planned it.