This is my report of the new board games launched at the 2006 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).
As you may know, the Spiel games fair is the largest games event in the world. According to the organisers, Friedhelm Merz Verlag, this year’s event had 730 exhibitors from 31 different countries presenting more than 350 new games. It attracted over 150,000 visitors over the four days, including 738 journalists (including yours truly!) from 18 countries. Okay, some of those were there for the “Comic Action” part of the show, but that’s still an awful lot of people.
Of necessity, I couldn’t cover the whole show, so this is very much a personal report. It covers the highlights of what I saw at the show, picking out the games I particularly liked. I will add to these notes as I play more of the games, so keep an eye out for new versions of this report (this is version 1, 24th November 2006).
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.
My favourite green-haired games designer (Friedemann Friese, the man behind 2F Spiele) had several things to show this year. Fiji (also in an English language edition from Rio Grande) is an auction game set on the eponymous island. In keeping with Friedemann’s sense of humour, players are collecting shrunken heads! This looks like fun, but is only second string to Fürchterliche Feinde (Formidable Foes in the English language edition from Rio Grande), Friedemann’s large game this year. I was a bit surprised to find that this is a ‘dungeon’ game. Players are characters defeating monsters and building up their powers to take on stronger monsters. I expect a big element of humour in this and look forward to giving it a go. As well as these, 2F had a new expansion for Funkenschlag (and Rio Grande for Power Grid): boards for Central Europe and Benelux. 2F is also joint publisher – with BeWitched Spiele and Casasola – of MonsterMaler. It’s clearly been a busy year.
Manimals is one of this year’s crop of neat card games from Adlung Spiele. Designed by Bernhard Nägele, it is intended for children (aged 6+), but provides a nifty filler for adults. Each card shows an animal and has lots of information about the animal. In particular, many of its characteristics (such as horned, mammal, winged, four-footed and so on) are listed in the form of icons on the back of the card. An array of the cards is spread out and players have to take the animals they think match a particular characteristic: lays eggs, for example. When everybody’s got all the cards they think are relevant, they turn them over to see how many of them are actually egg-layers (or whatever the characteristic is). Net off correct choices against wrong ones and whoever has the most keeps a couple of cards as their points. The other cards go back down, a few more cards are added and a new characteristic is drawn. It’s quick, fun and clever – and educational, though most players won’t notice this! Good stuff and 8/10 on my highly subjective scale. I’m not sure about the title though…
Seenot im Rettungsboot is a new edition of Ronald Wettering’s classic Rette sich wer Kann (also known as Lifeboats, which is the title of the English language edition from Z-Man Games). This is a terrific game for getting those grudges out of your system! Players have pawns in a number of wooden lifeboats fleeing a shipwreck. But the boats have leaks, so the players in each boat have to decide who to throw overboard to save the boat. Sometimes the boat sinks anyway! The winner is whoever gets the most of their pawns to safety. This is a terrific game and full marks to Argentum for bringing it back into print. 10/10 on my highly seaworthy scale.
Argentum also has a new card game this year: Top oder Flop (Top or Flop). This is a clever card game of film production designed by Martin Schlegel. Players can use cards to increase or decrease the value of the films in production. Or they can use the cards to establish their own influence over the film. Once the dust settles, the player with the most influence in a film, scores the value of the film – hopefully it’s positive! Second place gets half the points and the highest total score wins the game. Nothing too taxing, but good fun and plenty of bluff and counter-bluff. 8/10 on my highly cinematic scale.
Peter Burley is best known as the man who created Take it Easy. Now he has a new game, Take it to the Limit!, which is an ‘advanced’ version of the earlier game. Published by Burley Games, it proved to be something of a hit at the show. In the original game, players placed hexagonal tiles in a hexagonal grid, aiming to get lines of the same number along the three axes through each hexagon. Take it to the Limit! has a double-sided board for each player. One side, the ‘Nexus’ board, has the same hexagonal grid that we’re used to, but bigger. And there are more tiles. Players also have a ‘scrapyard’ where they can park tiles they don’t want to place on the main grid. At the end of the game, the Scrapyard can score a bonus or a penalty and players can also get bonuses for using tiles with particular symbols on.
The ‘Orchid’ board uses half the tiles and no Scrapyard and is a quicker game. It has its own wrinkles, too, as here the grid has three gaps in the middle of the edges. The gaps can just be ignored, or filled in (with the right tile) for extra points. The two games are clever variations on the original and provide a quicker game and a much more challenging game. A must for anyone who likes Take it Easy and wants something more demanding. Personally, I find Take it Easy frustrating, though I appreciate its cleverness. The new game seems to offer some new tactical options and I’ll be interested to see if these make it a more interesting game. 7/10 on my highly subjective scale.
I have to mention Space Dealer even though I haven’t looked at it in detail as it is so innovative. The game itself is a straightforward trading game with a spaceship theme (and some clever pieces of cardboard that manage to look like spaceships). Players have two actions at a time. And two sandtimers. Each time the player starts an action, they turn over a timer. When the timer runs out, the action is complete and they can start another one. The game is played in real time, taking just 30 minutes to reach a conclusion. Tobias Stapelfeldt has designed something rather special here and the game is jointly published by Eggertspiele and JKLM Games. 9/10 on my three-minute scale just for the idea.
The big game from Eggertspiele is the new one from “Mac” Gerdts, designer of Antike. This is Imperial, which has some interesting share-dealing elements around a game of early twentieth century European Empires. Players generate money and points from their shareholdings in the half a dozen empires. However, each empire is controlled by whoever has the most shares in it and they’ll be making the most of it – asset-stripping is a feasible tactic. Like Antike, this uses a roundel to limit what each empire can do in its turn, which gives the players tactical options and limitations – and some decisions to make. It’s a game that needs to be played once or twice to get to grips with it. After playing it once, it gets a provisional 10/10 on my world domination scale.
Page created 24th November 2006. Last modified 25th November 2006.
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