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Halls 10 and 11 — the big boys (and others)

Spiel '11 report section 3

Spiel '11: Friday on displayThis brings us into the next halls: 11 and 10 merge into one and have high ceilings with skylights that make them very light and airy-especially in comparison to hall 12. I don't seem to have spent much time in these halls, though. In one corner is 2F Spiele, Friedemann Friese's label. As well as the expected expansion for Funkenschlag/Power Grid, Friedemann had two new games. Freitag/Friday is the one I haven't played. It's a solitaire game where the player is Man Friday, helping Robinson Crusoe survive, no doubt with Friedemann's touches of (black, usually) humour.

The other game is Funkenschlag: Die Ersten Funken (Power Grid: The First Sparks in English, which edition comes from Rio Grande). Despite the name, this is not an expansion for Power Grid. Instead, the name emphasises that Friedemann has taken mechanisms from that game. What he's done is develop them into something rather different, that will still have some familiarity for fans of Power Grid.

The story of the game is that the players are Stone Age tribes doing their hunter-gatherer thing. The aim is to have the largest tribe on the board when at least one tribe reaches the critical number. The board-built up of tiles, the number depending on the number of players-shows different food sources for the tribesmen. However, they also need the right tools to get the food (spears to bag a mammoth, for example). The tools-and technologies, such as fire-are available for purchase at the beginning of each round (like the power stations in Power Grid, but they're not auctioned off, just bought, which speeds things up a bit).

Spiel '11: First Sparks on displayThe food is needed first to feed the existing tribe members and then to expand the tribe further. However, players need to work this out carefully. Expand too fast and you won't be able to feed your people. What's more, the turn sequence is very important in this game and it depends on how many pieces players have on the board. The best approach may well be to loiter at the back and make a surge at just the right time-though that's hard when everybody's trying to do the same.

If you know Power Grid, you will find a lot that is familiar in First Sparks. However, beware: a lot is different and some things are the reverse of what you're used to. There is enough different here that First Sparks stands on its own. It is a bit lighter than its predecessor and provides a different challenge for both those who know Power Grid and those who don't. I give it 8/10 on first acquaintance.

Further down the same row is veteran publisher Hans im Glück. Alongside expansions for their staples – Carcassonne, Dominion and Stone Age – were two new games: Hawaii and Pantheon. I played Pantheon earlier in the year and my comments are in To Win Just Once 116. Hawaii looks interesting, but I haven't played it yet.

Next section: Hall 9 – smaller publishers (part 1)
Previous section: Hall 12 – the beginning