Thursday, 24 October 2013

Essen Spiel 2013 Day 1 Round Up

So today was day one of Spiel. Held in Essen, it is the largest gaming trade fair in Europe. Primarily a games convention, the event days are also shared by Comic Action, a comics fair.

The main focus of Spiel is for games creators to show of their games to traders, and also for a chance to build up an awareness for games. The primary type of games on show are board games, but there are also wargames, card games and some computer games, plus a plethora of sellers of LARP equipment, cosplay, figurines, and more.

Spiel also caters for all ages, and so there are many different types of games on sale. Which means certain days of the convention are perhaps better avoided given that they are the 'family' days. You will also see a lot of people wheeling around boxes and suitcases in which they stash the gear that they have bought. So there are plenty of parents doing their Xmas shopping.

So what was I looking for today. Well a chance to see a few things up close for once. And mainly war games miniatures. Anything roleplay game wise I have either played, or I'm not interested in. of course do a lot of work in translating many rpgs to German, and so they are also the German distributors for Warmachine/Hordes/Iron Kingdoms, Pathfinder, and a few other things. There were also demo games of Shadowrun taking place, and may be others.

First up is Mice and Mystics a game which looks like Warhammer Quest mixed up with Mouse Guard. Overall the miniatures and production values are high, and looks like a great gateway game to rpgs and minature gaming for kids.

Did I say Zombies were in the year? Actually I'm a bit tired of the genre, but Zombiecide looks kinda interesting and has excellent sculpts and great variety. The game is about survival, and there is a balance between killing stuff and defending the main safe house.You get a ton of nice minis and looks like something worth painting up.

Something random in the halls was Quest, which looked a bit boring to be honest, but they had a version running that worked on a tablet table type device, with could read QR codes or something.

Leaders is something that looks incredibly cool. And perhaps the best example of what tablet based technology can do for a table top game. While Golem Arcana left me unimpressed, where the tablet really just managed the rules and not much more, in the hope that it make people want to play it because the game is then more accessible, yet so far does not offer anything else game play wise other than a bit of resource management that every other war game happens to deal with fine, Leaders is a proper game.

Leaders looks like Risk. But with all the elements of Civ, and pretty much any other RTS, and even Vampire the Eternal Struggle. While the game board shows where forces are distributed, the tablet manages diplomacy (and secret treaties), espionage and spying and assassinations (in a manner that it means you know someone has killed, stolen and destroyed your stuff, but you don't know who), and the management of tech trees. It really looks great, has a great, slick looking app, and really takes advantage of mobile tech to enhance the game, not just act as a middle man for the dice. It makes a game like Civ, or and RTS, the type of thing you can play on the table top.

So Hawk Wargames were there, showing off Drop Zone Commander, a game that fills that "Epic" void. They were showing off a few big pieces, such as the monorail, and a defence laser. Massive terrain pieces that make great objectives. I was really pleased to see the models up close and it may well be something I get into at a later date as the design and style of the armies are a really great departure from Gothic Sci Fi. The Art Deco design is a real strength of the game and the terrain.

Cthulhu Wars were present, showing off the great figures they have for their game. Risk with the Great Old Ones. And so in the way it is in the same vein as Chaos in the Old World, but with bigger figures. I didn't really look into what the system was but I assume Risk with bells and whistles.

I spent a good time talking to the guys from Mantic Games. Now while Warpath and Kings of War are essentially Warhammer and 40K alternatives, Dreadball fills a Bloodbowl shaped hole in the market, and from what I have watched on Beasts of War, it has a great dynamic game play. Now while I don't have photos, Deadzone, and Mantic's latest kickstarter, Mars Attacks, both run on similar systems. So while they have a grid based movement system, line of sight matters. So you need to place things in a grid, but be aware of where exactly. Overall it looks like the Sci Fi skirmish game that will sit nicely with Warmachine.Hordes. Deadzone also has a narrative play style, drawing on concepts similar to those seen in XCOM.

So a few last shots. We have above miniatures for Eden. They look great and is another war game I need to look into. Again the cool thing is that we are now getting war games that can be played on different size tables happily. Eden and Deadzone work on 2 feet square play areas. A useful thing when you really just don't have the space at home.

Another set of excellent figures are for the game, God Slayer, by Megalith Games. The system is a you move something, I move something, with action tokens and more. In essence it seems to allow for a dynamic and reactive game play, and so has some similarities to Inquisitor in the respect. Again lots of novel design, with a fantasy-meets-ancients.

Speaking of Inquisitor, Smog has some excellent, steampunk, 54mm miniatures. But - and here is the kicker - larger scale means that your scenery you have for other games more than likely is not compatible. Bummer.

And speaking of more steampunk - we have Wolsung - which while pretty, and for which Micro Art Studios does great terrain (which is awesome for Warmachine), I just feel a bit steampunked out. Warmachine, while drawing on steampunk concepts, is not just 'our world but gone weird'. But I will still have a look at what useful minis they have for games.

To finish off, my friend and member of my gaming group, Ben, got a great deal on some Terraclips scenery (they gave him two sets and the clips came free), so I have a look at Malifaux. Again more steampunk, Victorian world divergence setting. Meh. Pretty but right now not really giving me something different enough from Warmachine. Wyrd Games's Puppet Wars however does look like a lit of laughs and nicely produced. Something to look into on Sunday perhaps.

Something different I saw on Kickstarter is Ashes - Dark Side of the Moon. Certainly something the Cthulhu Tech crowd will love these.

To finish off we have Titan Forge miniatures, who do GW compatible miniatures, and also their own game, Lobotomy.

Conclusions? There are plenty of war gaming miniature companies out there, and many  provide great alternative to GW for minis for your Warhammer and 40K armies, or entirely new games. It's a real golden age, what with digital sculpting and 3D printing. Plus there are plenty of great boardgames also making use of the same technology.

Finally, some fun pictures from the day, featuring my friend Ben.

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