SPIEL 2019 Impressions

Essen Loot
Loot! Loot! Loot!

As in many previous years SPIEL in Essen was the highlight of our boardgaming year. For the first time since we started going regularly, I attended on Thursday. Our usual schedule has been to go Fridays and Sundays and skip Saturday because it is too packed. This year, I got up at 5:40 and took an early train to arrive at SPIEL around 10:30. The following is a list of games and my comments. Some I played, some I bought, others were explained to me and for quite a few I only watched other people play for a bit. This year I had pre-ordered a few things and planned my other buys quite a bit so there were few spontaneous additions. I was burned on blind-buying a game just recently (I really didn’t enjoy Black Angel like I had hoped I would) and so I was more careful than in some previous years.


  • Climate Oasis – prototype explanation, a climate crisis themed coop game. The prototype looked to be in the early stages and from what I understood this is a game where the players build an outpost together. Like a coop city builder. Didn’t seem too complex but this was not a playable demo.
  • Babylonia – looks like a mix of a whole bunch of Knizias, who had about 10 new games out this year at Essen
  • On Mars – watched it being demo-d by Lacerda himself (more on EGG below)
  • Jixia Academy aka Hanamikoji– bought because of SU&SD forum recommendation. Got an English & Taiwanese explanation that I didn’t understand more than 3 sentences of but it still sounded like fun and it sure looks pretty.
Dune Board
Pax Transhumanity
Pax Transhumanity

  • Pax Transhumanity – played & bought, my only signed game this year. Matt Eklund hosted all the demo rounds himself. He was doing an excellent job obviously because it is his game and he was just really nice.
  • Dune – “played” & bought, couldn’t resist after watching the SU&SD review even though this game is basically a bunch of red flags… this was my riskiest buy
  • Dr Who – Time of the Daleks – someone gave me a quick rundown of the rules. It looks very thematic and is a semi-coop game that did remind me a tiny bit of Elder Sign and since I own that and we never play because we always loose, I couldn’t buy it despite all the Dr Who appeal. Might research it a little more and still buy it because Dr Who.
  • Spirit Island Branch & Claw – only now available in German. Absolute no brainer to buy. SI is my favorite game of this year and I played the addon on TTS. I also managed to find the 2 promo spirits somewhere other than Pegasus later…
Planet Unknown
Planet Unknown
  • Planet Unknown – played & would have bought. It will be on KS in March 2020. This is what happened when Patchwork had an affair with Terraforming Mars. The tetris tiles are stacked by type on a wheel that is sliced into six pieces (max player count) and on each piece there are 2 types of tiles. The player whose turn it is selects one slice and turns it so it faces them. Everyone then has to take one tile from the cake slice facing them and place it on their board… but each tile has different types of “territory” (parks, cities, research facilities, water…) each territory also has an advancement track that produces little bonuses throughout the game. Some rules have yet to be straightened but we enjoyed a very fun and fast game which I would have bought on the spot if it was possible. The main question is how they will implement the wheel for the finished version of the game because this cannot be more than a 40,- game because it is definitely more on the Patchwork side of weight than TM.
  • Inis & Seasons: I tried to pick up my pre-order of these two, but Matagot didn’t bring any copies of Inis base game at all. It is all a big hassle that has yet to be resolved. This was the game I looked forward to more than any other (and that includes Branch & Claw). It was an on-going disappointment every time I passed the Matagot booth. Also Matagot was not transparent about what happened… why take pre-orders for a game for which they have no stock at all?
  • Terra Mystica boats expansion – picked up pre-order, never even read much about the expansion. This is Terra Mystica and I love it.
  • Wingspan Expansion – despite me thinking the game is not complex enough picked up the expansion because it gets to the table a lot, hopefully expansion makes the game more complex
  • Circle the Wagons – bought due to being frustrated about Inis and because I love Sprawlopolis
  • Fox in the Forest – bought blind on recommendations from several reviewers
  • Dice Settlers boats expansion – bought blind even though we didn’t play Dice Settlers all that much


To our chagrin we had to relearn last year’s lesson of leaving too late to get to P10. The later you get there the more traffic there is, the further away from the shuttle stop you park and the longer the line for the shuttles becomes. The delay becomes exponential at some point.

La Stanza
La Stanza
  • Paris New Eden – played, agree with Rhado despite tons of opportunities for theme you hunt colors instead of actually developing the post apocalyptic city.
  • Sanctum – we got a short explanation and if we hadn’t just started Gloomhaven this might have interested me more with all the possibilities to equip your character (Diablo as a boardgame?) but also … what is Vlaada up to these days?
  • Dwellings of Eldervale – I kickstarted this, prototype looks awesome, looking forward a lot to receiving the game (hopefully next year)
  • Terraforming Mars Turmoil – completely skipped Turmoil because package from KS arrived during the week-end
  • Clank! Legacy – I was glad we pre-ordered this one as it was also sold out quickly. We have only played Clank! on TTS but we decided we needed a deck building game in our collection and Clank! is fun and why not get another (giant box!) legacy game even tough Pandemic is still not finished and we only just started Gloomhaven…
  • Paladins of the West Kingdom – pre-ordered, blind-buy because I liked Architects so much and this one promises a bit more complexity with the same clean looks.
  • Maracaibo – looked at it, got a shortish explanation, no table free, tempted to buy blind (ultimately didn’t, waiting for more reviews) but also… so much hype… so I am waiting for the reviews/comments that can explain to me whether to buy this one or Great Western Trail 🙂
  • Obscurio – played & probably buying for xmas, husband was the book and I was the traitor, the others had no chance. An obvious descendant of Mysterium & Dixit. Surprisingly, I enjoyed being the traitor way more than I thought I would.
  • La Stanza – played accidentally, wanted to play Chicago or Terramara at Quined Games booth didn’t say no fast enough to the 2 guys looking for more players. Convoluted rules. Not buying.


Whisky Selection at Aquavitae

Our day off because Saturday is just too much at SPIEL. So we do other things. This year: Whisky. All in all we bought two full bottles and 2 small ones this year. Visiting the Aquavitae Whisky & Spirits fair was a nice change of pace from Essen.

Tried to play Pax in the evening found out the devil is in the rules details gave up for now and just played Fox in the Forest, Jixia Academy and Circle the Wagons.


Lesson learned somewhat. We started breakfast too late and so had a rather quick good bye before leaving for the final day of SPIEL. But arriving at P10 earlier was absolutely helpful.

Alubari – A Nice Cup of Tea. Building the railroad to Darjeeling
Jetpack Joyride
Jetpack Joyride
  • Alubari – played & might have bought if it wasn’t sold out. We just walked by a table that was looking for 2 more to start. It was way more fun than I expected. The game opens up more possibilities with every turn but doesn’t dump everything on you all at once. Best part: in every turn’s resources there maybe some white cubes that cause the game to place a few tokens and take away options from the players. Doesn’t seem too heavy of a worker placement and also I still want a “tea” themed game after missing out on Ceylon last year.
  • Gugong – played, liked the card mechanism, the rest was too dry for us. I expected to enjoy this a little more but the gift giving with the cards is the best part and that is such a small part of the larger strategy where you have to manage your workers carefully to get VP…
  • Jetpack Joyride – this wasn’t even on my list. We wanted to look at Paranormal Detectives when we spotted this “side-scrolling” plattformer. We watched one game and then the table next to it opened up and the girls from our Alubari game just sat down. So we joined them and had a lot of fun in this quick three round puzzle. I rarely enjoy real time games or games where I lose something if I am not fast enough. Everyone gets a “level” made up of four rooms and with tons of zappers, lasers, walls, rockets and coins to pick up. There is a shared supply of transparent tetris tiles you have to place as fast as possible onto your rooms to get from one end of the level to the other. It’s fast, it’s fun and for 25,- we should have bought it, really we should have.
  • Arkham Horror Card Game – finally hunted down a copy at one of the shops,
  • Star Realms Colonies – we played the base game enough to expand now.

Games I wanted to see/buy and missed:

  • Tapestry: only 40 copies at Matagot sold out within 10 minutes or so, no demo, just one copy at Panda Printing in a glass case it does look nice, so I am looking forward to reading more reviews and Feuerland publishing the German version next summer
  • Pax Pamir 2: also only saw a copy in the glass case at Panda Printing, would have had to preorder from ION for pickup, but their website didn’t say.
  • Similo – wanted to pick up the fairy tales, forgot
  • Ragusa – it wasn’t at the one booth I had time to look for it…
  • Rolling Ranch – completely didn’t go to Thundergryph this year
  • Point Salad – by the time I remembered this, it was sold out
  • Ecos. I passed by AEG several times but never found the time to stop at their booth even though I was quite interested in the game. Their booth is just too small to have a chance at playing. So I’ll wait for more reviews and see if I am still interested later
  • Bios: Genesis – after playing Pax Transhumanity I decided I could do with one of the Eklund monsters and see how I fare with that one
  • Ishtar – passed by Iello and saw it. It looks nice but there were no tables free to try it at the time.
  • Welcome To – I never found a place where they had the base game
  • Detective Club – never found out if they even had copies at the booth
  • Fuji Koro – took a couple of looks at other players playing and decided it looked “too busy”.
On Mars
On Mars – demo with Vital Lacerda
  • Escape Plan – I saw all the Lacerda games at the Eagle Gryphon Booth. They are just so pretty and they get good reviews… I was battling all 3 days we were there with myself to buy one of them. There were even a couple of copies of On Mars at Skellig Games’ booth right up until Sunday afternoon. But in the end I decided those are just too expensive. I am most interested in On Mars and I just got TM and there are nearly no reviews of On Mars and blind buying something like that without ever having played another Lacerda would have been even more risky than buying Dune
  • Flotilla – walked by the Wizkids booth several times but no tables were free. It looked quite busy to me but it sold out quickly
  • Dreamscape – I walked by the booth but somehow seeing the game on the table it just didn’t make me stop to try and play.
  • Paranormal Detectives – the two or three tables were always full when I passed them by.
  • Crystal Palace – I walked by Feuerland repeatedly but no space at the tables and by Sunday I had read a few “meh” comments so I am waiting for the dust to settle on that one.
Gloomhaven Terrains
Gloomhaven 3D printed terrains
Gloomhaven Terrains
Gloomhaven Demo Table

So to end this tale of our SPIEL experience, here is my ranking of the games I played at SPIEL

  • Pax Transhumanity
  • Obscurio
  • Planet Unknown
  • Alubari
  • Dune
  • Jetpack Joyride
  • Paris New Eden
  • La Stanza
  • Gugong

Like is normal at Essen we didn’t finish all of the more complex games because there just isn’t enough time. So all this with a grain of salt. Especially for Alubari, Pax and Dune I have not seen the end-game. Dune was mostly a rules demo.

If you want to know more about any of the games we played, please leave a comment.

By Yashima

Writer of code and stories