This is my report of the new board games launched at the 2005 Spiel games fair. There's quite a lot in this article, so you can use the publishers' index or games' index to find the bits you want. Or just read it as a narrative. You can also read or print the PDF version (you will need Adobe Reader to do this – it is free from Adobe).
The Spiel games fair is a big event each year in the world of board games. Even more so as it becomes increasingly international and attracts games publishers from all around the world. This year’s event was attended by some 144,000 visitors across the four days. They saw 400 new products from 723 exhibitors from 30 different countries. As always, there is far too much to see – and certainly far too much to be able to play everything. My report reflects just a fraction of the show, concentrating on the stuff that interests me.
I have been adding to these notes as I have played games since Spiel. I shall continue to do this, so keep an eye out for new versions of this report (this is version 2, 30th December 2005).
As always, I must give my usual disclaimer. I often describe games by referring to other games. This is not meant to imply that one game is a copy of another, it’s simply a quick way of getting across what the game is like.
Designer Friedemann Friese is always noticeable at Spiel. It may have something to do with the green hair! This year’s game from his imprint, 2F Spiele, is Fiese Freunde Fette Feten (Mean Friends, Hot Parties). This was designed by Friedemann with Marcel-André Casasola Merkle – best known for his card games. The game itself can best be described as a realistic, modern Careers laced with Friedemann’s sense of humour and outlook on life. Players each have a board showing their standing in a number of factors: how much they smoke, drink, use drugs, are knowledgeable, are spiritual and so on. There is also space to show friends, love and marriage. And break-ups and divorce.
At the start of the game, each player gets five life goals, no friends and doesn’t smoke, drink etc. Then they go through puberty. This is the first opportunity for players to progress towards their life goals. By taking cards from the table, players build up their rankings. When they match the requirements of a life goal, the goal is achieved and can be played. This is probably more comprehensible with an example. So, let’s say one of my life goals is becoming a games designer (with suspiciously green hair). The icons on the card show, for example, that I need some drink, some knowledge and at least four friends, but must not be in love. So I will look to get experience that will give me that: picking up friends while fighting shy of romance.
And so it goes. Additional cards that provide more experiences for players are auctioned and the first person to achieve all their goals wins. This is less a game, more an experience. The game mechanics work fine, but there’s not a lot to them. The fun is all in taking part and that’s how I prefer to play the game? Never mind winning, how much fun can I have along the way. Thus being able to pick the ‘Green Hair Dye” card on the way to achieving my goal of becoming a games designer is hugely satisfying. And there aren’t many games that will bring people across the room to see what’s happening. Great fun and one of my favourite games at this year’s Spiel.
As always, card game specialist Adlung Spiele had a crop of new games at Spiel. The most interesting of these was Helden & Zaubersprüche (Heroes and Spells), designed by Jochen Schwinghammer. However, this is just an expansion of Schwinghammer’s Zauberschwert & Drachenei (Magic Sword and Dragon Egg) from 2003. The game is a fantasy-themed quest to defeat monsters and claim magical artefacts. The expansion adds new monsters and terrain and gives the heroes more options.
Rotundo (designed by Jodi Soares) also looks like it might be interesting. In this game players compete in auctions and swaps to make the best collection of marbles. However, like all the Adlung selection, it seems to be aimed at children.
The prototype new game from alea was Um Ru(h)m und Ehre (whose punning title translates as For Rum/Renown and Honour), designed by Stefan Feld. Opportunities to try this out were pretty limited and I didn’t get the chance to play it. The game will include nice pirate figures for players to move around the board – nine pieces with multiple configurations. The aim is to collect – as the title suggests – rum and renown (by winning ‘competitions’). This is one of alea’s smaller-boxed games (like Louis XIV and Wyatt Earp), but I’ll wait to play the game before pronouncing on it.
Amigo had the new edition of Oltre Mare, first published last year by Italian outfit Mind the Move. Given the full production treatment by a major German publisher, this version of the game looks absolutely terrific. It certainly makes Emanuele Ornella’s cracking game accessible to more people. Watch out for the English language edition from Rio Grande.
Also from Amigo (and Rio Grande) is Drachenreiter (Dragon-riders), a race game by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and Jean de Poël. The game has some good-looking dragon pieces that players race around one of the tracks that can be made from the board segments.
Amigo’s new games include Wir sind schwanger (“We are pregnant”), a new card game from Uwe Rosenberg. This is about expectant mothers (and fathers) deciding on names for their soon-to-be offspring. An intriguing premise for a game, but it’s basically a word game and isn’t readily accessible to non-German speakers. And Amigo is also publishing a new edition of Reiner Knizia’s Quo Vadis. This is a clever game where winning depends on the ability to negotiate with the other players. Mayfair is producing the English language edition.
Angelo Porazzi Games has a new game, Tatata, designed by the eponymous Angelo Porazzi. As the game is about First World War-style warplanes, the name reflects what happens if your plane ends up in front of one of your opponent’s. The game is actually a race; a race with machine guns. It’s a fairly simple card game and looks like good fun.
Argentum Verlag were showing off their three quirky games, but had nothing new for us.
Essen-based AZA Spiele had a new edition of their motor racing game, MotorChamp. A new edition of their first game, Turfmaster, plus a second expansion of extra tracks for it are due for publication early in 2006.
The new game from Bambus was the amusingly titled Socks in the City. This is a light, two-player game about all those socks that disappear in the wash leaving an estranged partner behind. Designer Günter Cornett’s game aims to help people come to terms with ‘lost sock syndrome’. Two pairs of socks are separated and placed at random on a representation of the Berlin Metro system. It’s then up to the players to re-connect the two socks of their colour. The game is undemanding, but you do need to have some spatial awareness.
BeWitched and Andrea Meyer had Wordwild for us. This is a “word association game”. The mechanics defy easy explanation, but players have to find words that begin and end with certain letters, scoring points for speed and being on-topic. That’s a ‘red’ round. Then you play a ‘yellow’ round, against the clock. Except the clock is one of the players sorting cards into alphabetical order. … No, you’ve got to play this game yourself to make sense of it! This is a clever game, but I think it needs players who like word games.
Page created 26th November 2005. Last modified 30th December 2005.
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