Essen Spiel ’22, the biggest gaming convention in the world, is only weeks away and over 150,000 tabletop fans are giddy to get their hands on the 1,000 new games releasing at the convention. If those numbers are maybe a bit intimidating and you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Here are some Essen basics to get you started.
Games to Look For
Topping the list of things to do is, of course, games. More than any other convention, Spiel is about showcasing games and giving fans access to their favorite publishers and designers. While there far too many amazing designs to list, there are some standouts already.
War of the Ring: The Card Game
The War of the Ring board game from Ares Games is not only considered one of the best Lord of the Rings games, it’s considered one of the best war games, period. Like most heavy war games, though, it has a sizeable tabletop footprint and a play time of around 4 hours. With their new card game version releasing at Spiel, Ares is looking to capture the same epic feel but in half the time and space. Like the original, 2 to 4 players will compete for control of The One Ring. Those players acting as the Free Peoples will of course do their best to ferry Frodo and Friends to Mt. Doom while the Shadow players will try to destroy Frodo physically, mentally, or ideally for an ancient, evil necromancer, both.
Eleven: Football Manager Board Game
Portal Games had a very successful campaign on Gamefound with this one and will be releasing retail copies early at Spiel. Players in Eleven take on the responsibility of club manager for a football team with all it’s accompanying responsibilities and behind the scenes drama. Speaking of drama, there has been quite a bit surrounding the crowd-funding campaign for this game, and I think many people will be wanting to make sure the wait has been worth it. This is a heavy Euro game with an emphasis on economics. After all, it’s not just players that cost money, but the accompanying PR teams, trainers, therapists, and staff. A beautiful game indeed.
In this latest game from Czech Games Edition, you have just been promoted from Red Shirt to Captain of your own star ship. Using a combination of action selection and (warp) engine building, you’ll guide your crew through dangerous missions and battles with space pirates. Along the way, upgrade your crew with better abilities and your ship with better tech to become the most reputable captain in the galaxy. Demos of this game already generated quite a bit of hype at Gen Con, but Spiel attendees will get to take home a copy of their very own. Assuming you set your engines to full power and get to the Czech Games Booth quickly as I expect these might sell out early.
King of Monster Island
Anytime Richard Garfield creates something new, people are going to take notice. Especially when it is tied to a game with a colossal fan base like King of Tokyo. Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot known about this game, but what we have been shown is exciting. While the other King of… titles are notoriously cut-throat, King of Monster Island is a co-op game. What could bring the battling kaiju together? Only a bigger kaiju, of course. Actually 3, in fact, each with 6 levels of difficulty, and they happen to be lurking in a volcano which doubles as a dice tower. In addition to the its new collaborative element, the game features new monsters and the new ability to recruit allies. Asking little guys for help? Those bosses must be nasty.
Sidenote: If you’re just a kaiju fan in general, there will also be a new game featuring the true King of the Monsters, Godzilla himself. Gen-X Games, who already produced a game based on Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters, is releasing a new game based on the more recent Godzilla vs Kong. It slipped under my radar until recently, and I don’t want other G-Fans to miss out.
Feed the Kraken
I haven’t seen a lot of chatter about this game, but it has the makings of a sleeper hit. In this social deduction game set aboard the fine ship Instabil, players are all part of the same crew but not necessarily on the same team. That’s because loyal Sailors want to reach the safety of Bluewater Bay, secret Pirates want to steal the ship and head to Crimson Cove, and some crew, driven mad by the constant rolling of the waves and incessant “thunk” of peg-legs, want to sacrifice the entire crew to a deadly kraken. Players rotate between the roles of captain, lieutenant, and navigator, all of whom have a hand in where the ship sails. Think your officers are guiding you the wrong way? Then reach for your pistols and start a mutiny to swap them out! But remember, anyone could be a traitor, and that kraken is always hungry.
Meet ‘n’ Play
With more and more people making the leap from game enthusiast to connoisseur, more attention is being paid to game designers. Popular designers now have huge followings and celebrity status. And what do all fans want? To meet their idols face-to-face! Starting on Saturday Oct. 8 at 2:00, fans can not only meet some of their favorite designers but actually sit down and play a game with them. Ask the questions you’ve always wanted to about design, the tabletop industry, or just which game your favorite designers have in their own collections.
The European Game Collectors Guild Exhibition & Duetsche SpielePreis
Speaking of design royalty, it’s hard to find bigger names than Klaus Teuber, Renier Knizia, Reinhold Wittig, Wolfgang Kramer, and Alex Randolph. All 5 of them are celebrating milestone birthdays this year, and to celebrate there will be exhibitions featuring artifacts from across their careers. The main exhibit will be in Hall 4 with daily guided tours at 3:00, but there will be several other exhibits throughout the convention.
Spiel is also where the awards for best family, adult, and children’s games are handed out each year. The winners have already been announced, so don’t expect the usual award show tension. However, you can still check out some of the year’s best designers walk the stage.
For the Kids
Taking young kids to any convention, but especially one the size of Essen Spiel, can be taxing. They’re squirmy, easily bored, and for whatever reason suddenly need to go to the bathroom every half hour. Fortunately, Spiel is incredibly kid-friendly and will provide an entire Kid Zone in the Galeria. Let the kiddos take a break and burn off steam with a ball pit, juggling studio, an “intergalactic play-along” journey, and 20,000 wooden building blocks.
Of course, this is all just a small taste of what Essen Spiel ’22 has to offer. For those of you attending, best of luck and I’m not jealous AT ALL.
By Zane Messina