Okay so it's all over, Andy, David, Julia, Nick and I returned last night with 40kg more luggage than we left with!
The trip got off to a mildly stressful start, first of all Nick was 20 minutes later than his anticipated hour late arrival, he then decided that he would have to check his tyres at the garage, thus as we approached a 2 mile tale back on the M8, we were beginning to worry a little.
Things improved and we made it to Edinburgh Airport, checked in without incident and cleared security, well 4 of us did, Nick was asked to explain why he was attempting to transport a knife onto the plane, the tube having forgotten to take his Swiss Army Knife off his keychain. We laughed, he panicked and ran back to his car to deposit the offending article.
In the Airport bar, we met one of the Lamont brothers, who - to show his thanks to Andy and I for playtesting Snow Tails, handed Nick a press pass to Essen! ......My decision to pre-organise a Transfer from Dortmund was a stroke of genius, We cleared customs in Germany and were greated by a friendly German brandisging a large "Primordial Group" sign - at this point I was wishing I had opted for the more humorous and much more appropriate signage of "Nick's a Cock!"
Day One At Essen
The basic game reviews can be found on the guild page, thus I wont bother too much with reviews here - although I may contribute some meatier reviews to the website page!
The first day was spent watching Nick run around trying to establish the best prices for the games he wanted to buy, the rest of us, played the odd game, looked on in amazement as hundreds of German's turned up dressed like Odin then stuffed our faces with schnitzel and bratwurst.
The highlight of Day One for me was not game related but actually real life resource management. Having watched the guys at the warfrog/jklm stand make an utter arse of setting up the play area, Andy and I found ourselves taking charge of the situation by actually reorganizing the entire "shop". I spent about an hour lugging games to and from storage areas, Julia coordinated the table clearing and Andy was actually found to be moving furniture onto Vans.
As this was at the height of the busiest day, on some occasions we had to take secuitous routes to our destinations, I myself detouring through Valley Games to get to a storage facility that was a mere 10 feet from my starting position. On these various journeys we could not work out why occasional cheers or howls were to be heard, as we used routes belonging to other companies ... Andy pointed out that we were clearly pawns in a giant game of Age of Steam - and these stall holders were merely celebrating the income they were gaining, or mourning there losses as we Shipped Goods for Martin Wallace!
Whilst we were so involved, David and Nick were playing Le Havre - I'll leave it to them to explain why they thought it was a cow!
Much of that night was spent playing Knizias new sushi/dice game which proved to be an utter joy!Later we managed to table both Chicago Express and "Stool Driver" - both proved immensely popular!
Friday was spent camped at Rio Grande, Manu Pichu underwhelmed us in ways we would not have thought possible. Whilst we fought off numerous advances from eager gamers desperate to grab our table. By this stage we had earned the reputation for being the straight talking game reviewers and numerous groups of potential buyers strode over to ask for our succint reviews of their intended shopping lists.
We scuppered many a sale and created a few more.
"A Castle for all Seasons" proved to be the day's surprise package, alas when Jon Sykes managed to grab a game the following day - all the fun was sucked out by having to play with two of the most meticulous and tedious geeks imaginable!
Another night of gaming at the hotel, this time Nick and Andy joined myself, Julia and Colin in Driving each others Stools. This provided the most frustrating Essen experience for me as despite three rules explanations, Andy struggled to grasp even the simplest aspects.
Andy - "How do we spend money?"
Ian - "You don't!"
Andy - "So How do we get shares?"
Ian - "Resources!"
Andy - "How do we get Resources?"
Ian - "Each round you get 8 to spend or save for future rounds"
Andy - "So how do we make money?"
Ian - "By building track and collecting route cubes at game end!"
Andy - "So how do we pay for that?"
Ian - "With the resources from the companies in which you invested"
Andy - "So whats the money for?"
Ian - "Money = VP's"
Andy - "So how do we make money?"
Ian - "Dear God!"
Andy - "So what are my shares for?"
Ian - "For Control in the companies?"
Andy - "Can I Buy more?"
Ian - "No!"
Andy - "So what's the money for?"
Ian - "Money is VP"
Andy - "Right I get it ... but why is this square red?"
Ian - "Because at the end of the game, whomever controls the rail company that links there, can claim the red resource from the red square"
Andy - "Okay but why is that one white?"
Ian - "White City = White Resource"
Andy - "Why do I want different coloured resources?"
Ian - "Sets of different resources pay our more than sets of the same resources"
Andy - "How do I claim them?"
Ian - "By controlling a company whose route links to them!"
Andy - "How do I control a company?"
Ian - "By having the most shares in it?"
Andy - "Do I buy those shares?"
Ian - "No!"
Andy - "So what is the money for?"
Ian - "Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh"
This is an expurgated version of a conversation which ran for the entire game and resurrected its head in the final round as Andy realised he did not have a controlling interest in any companies.
Andy - "I thought I would get a share in each companies profits relative to my shareholding"
Ian - "There is no company profit!"
Andy -"So what use are my shares?"
Ian - "They are only useful if you have a majority and then you can use the share control to collect resource cubes"
Andy - "What resource cubes?"
Ian - "The ones we will be putting on the map on the coloured squres when we get to the end!"
Andy - "Oh ..... okay ... why are some squares Red?"
Ian - "Jesus Fecking God - Are you kidding me?"
Andy - "Well I thought if I had 2 shares, I would get 2/5ths of the reward!"
Ian - "How the hell, can you get 2/5th's of a red cube?"
Edited to add, whilst Andy's inability to grasp any of the rules was hilarious, I must offer my sincere apologies for failing to correctly grasp the final distribution ... it seems he should have had 2/5ths of the red company value, I blame the beer, the sleep deprivation and the time difference
The game ended, Andy came last, Nick pipped Colin by £10 - £560 - £550, I pipped Nick £570-£560, Julia humped us all with £680 ..... but then Julia wasn't sitting next to Andy!
I popped off to bed and left the mob playing KakerLakenSupe ... all I can say is .... Onion, Leek, Slurp, Mmmmh, Slurp, leek, Chili, BANANA!!!" ... all will become clear in the months to follow!
Saturday was a lighter affair, Andy, David, Julia and I played Master Builder at valley, Nick popped in to see how we were doing at precisely the same point as a German lady earwigged on what she thought was a rules explanation.
She stood at my right shoulder listening intently, as I grasping the Master Builder Guide began explaining to Nick, the rules to Hai Alarm, that Julia, David and I had played earlier!
I didn't witness the response, but am assured that her bemused look turned to one of utter disbelief as she began studying the game components and rule sheets to try and establish, how I intended tabling a shark and what on earth any of this had to do with Dolphins at Sea!
The day ended much like the previous night with another bout of Hynes/Smith tension, this one down to actual game play.
The game was Confucius, a game based around manipulating the influence of certain game characters and each other. In round 1 - I handed Andy a gift and thus gained his indebtedness, in round 2 Andy chose to sponsor a nephew through University - hoping to gain his influence in parliament, before doing so he announced ... "If I do this, Ian will screw me over and sponsor his own nephew and I'll have to pay for Ian's because I am indebted to him" ....
You know what's coming ... he did, I did, he wasn't pleased and some minutes passed ... I extended the hand of friendship ....
Andy - "F*ck Off ... I'm not shaking your hand!"
We left, we ate Mexican with Jon Sykes and his pal Nick (hereafter referred to as Nick 2), we drank Beer, we played games. Nick 2 - really got into the spirit of Master Builder, not only was he to be found taunting his own "Lazy Ass Workforce" but was regularly seen toppling Jon's Gerry built houses.
In addition to the many new games we played over the weekend, we taught Jon and Nick 2, Torres, Thief of Bagdad and Big City, all of which had been retro purchases and much appreciated by all!
Essen ended, much as it began, shopping, gaming and schnitzel!
We headed to the airport where yet again Nick set off the alarms as he attempted to take his 500ml of Agri-Cola onto the plane. He was caught, he was questioned, we laughed, he departed, drank the cola (which "tasted awful") and returned with an empty bottle ... clearly there is no protocol for dealing with a Glaswegian brandishing an empty bottle and not realising just how dangerous the combination can be, he was allowed on board.
We came home, we slept!
I didn't even mention David's snoring!