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left until Die Spiel 2016 in Essen

Why Essen?

Maybe you ask yourself why we are planning to leave Vienna — the beautiful capital of Austria —  to go for a four day trip to Essen in Germany to visit Die Spiel 2016?

Well, there are basically more than 800 reasons to go there. More than 800 games will be presented by the publishers during one of the biggest board game conventions on this planet. “Die Spiel 2016” in Essen, Germany is a 4-day event, where over 150.000 board game lovers attend and play newly published board games.

So our plan is to fly on Thursday morning very, very early from Vienna to Düsseldorf. Then take a cab directly to Messe in Essen, where “Die Spiel” takes place.

Over the last couple of years we steadily increased the number of games we were able to test play during those 4 days.

So no wonder, we are eager to break the last years record again 😉

When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning.

Reiner Knizia

Our goal at Die Spiel 2016 in Essen

Wanting to win is definitely a great goal, especially while trying to kick your opponents butt very badly.

But in Essen at “Die Spiel” there is no time for winning. Each and every year we are trying to test play as many games as possible. Which basically means that we have no time to finish each and every game. So, no end of game, no winner of the game.

But that’s ok. We still have a lot of fun. And as mentioned our main goal is not winning, but trying out as many new games as possible. Especially figuring out, which of those precious games, will be travelling with us back to Vienna. The second part is probably the much harder part, because of the stupid limitation of luggage weight on airplanes ;-).

How do we prepare?

There are some things that have to be done before we even board the plane, like deciding which games we want to test play. We also have to remind each other that we don’t have the time, to finish each and every game. So let’s take a closer look at the rules and preparations for Die Spiel. 

The What-to-Play List

First of all we are putting together a “What we have to play in Essen” list. Most of the time this list contains of new games from our favourite publishers and game designers. But also games that managed to grab our interest in one way or another.

According to our list we are trying to fit as many games as possible into one day. Unfortunately “Die Spiel” is only open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.. But that’s the only way how we get at least some sleep ;-).

Never Finish a Game

Trying to coordinate four people in 5 amazingly big halls, while trying to find free spots for the games we want to play is really exhausting, especially if done for 4 days in a row.

“Never play the game until the end.” That’s basically our motto for the 4 days in Essen. Otherwise we would never be able to test play more than 40 games. So what we basically do is sit at a table, find a good rule explainer, play around 3 rounds until we understand the main goal, the mechanics and the game flow. Then everyone gives his ratings for the game and we move on to the next one.

The Survival Pack

I have to admit that the food selection at Die Spiel gets bigger each and every year. But if you are one of those people, like us, who wants to at least pretend to be eating healthy, you will have no luck at the convention. The selection ranges from Hot Dogs, Burgers and Curry Wurst to Donuts and Candy stuff. And in addition it’s of course not the cheapest food.

So what we basically do each morning is go to our favourite super market and grab our lunch pack. This lunch pack includes

  • 1-2 sandwiches,
  • some veggies like carrots, cocktail tomatoes or radish,
  • some fruits,
  • something to drink
  • and of course sugar in every conceivable form 😉

The Fifth Wheel aka The Mini-Trolley

And because there are four of us, we also take a small trolley with us, where we can fit in all our lunch packs, additional clothes (it can get really fresh because of the Air Con) and the goodie bags for the trainees.

Additional to the trolley we also have our backpacks with us. But these are used for all the electronic stuff.

The Electronic Equipment

Next to the provisions survival pack there is also the electronic survival pack, which includes the following equipment.

Mobile Wifi Router

Because we all have Austrian providers, we are kind of offline during the four days at Die Spiel. Although we are preparing ourselves really good before even going to Essen, there is always the need for Wifi. The only reasonable solution is a mobile Wifi Router. So at least in a range of 10 m around Gerwin, we are online and are able to check out new games, fill in our ratings and communicate with each other.

Battery Pack

No matter how fully charged your iPhone is at the beginning of the day, you can be pretty sure that shortly after lunch you will get the nasty little message “Low Battery — 20% battery remaining”. After taking pictures of all the games, taking selfies and writing down the ratings for each game you can’t even blame your mobile phone for not lasting longer than a couple of hours.

But that’s exactly the reason why we are travelling with at least three additional power packs. They vary in size and power, but are really useful and easy to use.

Camera aka My New Toy

This year we will have a new companion at Die Spiel: a Sony α6000.

The Sony α6000 is a do-it-all mirrorless camera for approximately 600 € and absolutely worth the price.

And because battery issues are not only a problem with iPhones we also bring extra battery packs and enough Mini SD Cards to fill a 80 day Asia trip.

So hopefully we will have better and nicer pictures to share with you this year.

Goodie Bags for Trainees

One crucial part for a successful day at the convention is a quick and efficient rules explanation.

It must be really exhausting to have to explain 4 days in a row the exact same rules to thousands of people. And each and every year there are trainees that are doing an amazing job. Even on the last day, some of those trainees manage to smile and give us a really great, quick and short explanation. And because these awesome trainees are rare, we decided last year to bring the best of them at least a small thank-you-goodie to show them, that we are really thankful for their enthusiasm.

So this years thank-you-goodie is a small pack of Mannerschnitten.

The 5 Categories

Over the years we have enhanced our voting system from using notes on my iPhone to a Google Sheet on my iPad. So you see that each year we are evolving a little bit.

This year we will stick to our excel sheet — it is pretty convenient and easy to use for further workflows.

So let’s just really quick go through the 5 categories we are voting on for each game that we play at “Die Spiel”.

Category 1 — How much did you like the game?

It’s a very simple but also probably the hardest question concerning a board game. The first impression is really important, but as soon as you start thinking a little bit more about the components, the strategy and the different pros and cons of the game, the answer becomes more and more unsure.

Category 2 — Complexity

Complexity is something that is really important for us. Sometimes you just want to squeeze in one more game before you head back home and finally go to bed. But these games shouldn’t be the most complex games on earth. They should be easy to understand and quick to play.

On the other hand, there are games where you need every bit of your senses to at least be able to compete with the other players for the first place.

Category 3 — Interaction

This category basically defines how much the game play forces you or enables you to interact with other players.

Category 4 — Waiting time

This category describes how much time you need to wait, until you can actively do something. For example, if it’s not a cooperative game, how much time you have to wait — doing basically nothing — until your next turn.

Category 5 — Is it a good 2 player game?

This category is hard for us to vote on, because most of the games we are test playing in a team of four. But we are always asking the trainee if he has any experience with the two player version and take his feedback into account. 

2 New Categories for Die Spiel 2016

In addition to our 5 categories from last years experience, we are adding two new categories for this years board game convention. Those two newly added categories should give us a better overview of which games are the ones, we want to buy.

Category 6 — Design

This category will remind us of how we liked the design of the board and the quality and look of the components.

The scale:

  • 0 … very good quality and the design is beautiful
  • 1 … components/design look/s nice
  • 2 … they should have put more effort into the design process

Category 7 — Luck

With this scoring we can determine if the game is based more on luck or on strategy.

The scale:

  • 0 … there is no real luck component in the game
  • 1 … it has a good balance between luck und strategy
  • 2 … it’s basically fortune cookie reading

Stay Up-To-Date

Curious what will happen this year in Essen? Check out our YouTube Channel for news and for our daily reviews of the top 3 games of each day at “Die Spiel 2016” in Essen.

Check out our YouTube Channel