This report originally appeared in ICv2 Guide #49--Games.  We reprint it here, with space for more images.  Editor and writer Ward Batty, who has over 30 years experience in retail management and publishing, sent us this report from the recently completed game fair in Essen, Germany.


The 25th 'Internationale Spieltage Essen - Spiel' (Essen International Gamedays) is the premier event for boardgame fans, especially in Europe. Despite a strike that idled the trains, over 100,000 attended the four-day event. Over 400 new games were released for the event and here are the highlights.


Tribune: Primus Inter Pares

by Karl-Heinz Schmiel

Published by Heidelberger Spieleverlag (coming from Fantasy Flight in November)

This was voted the top game at the Fair Play booth at the show, and the early reviews have been equally positive. According to the publisher, 'In Tribune, you try to become the most powerful family in Rome. Play as one of the great patrician families which held great power and influence. Gain control over the seven factions of the city which hold control over many aspects of Roman culture.' Uses the current popular mechanic of players placing pawns on the board to select actions. This is the hot mechanic this year and a number of games feature a slight variant on this mechanic.



by Mac Gerdts

Published by Eggert-Spiele & Rio Grande Games

This is the third game by Mac Gerdts to feature the rondel. This is a round track with eight spaces. Each space has an action. Players may move up to three spaces but must pay (victory points in this case) to move further. This is a great mechanic and I'm glad he continues to see how many different games it can be applied to. This is my favorite, as it is an economic and placement game and lasts only about an hour. Not a cheap game, but a very good game with very nice production.


In the Year of the Dragon

by Stefan Feld

Published by Alea & Rio Grande Games

After some missteps, Alea seems to be back on track with Notre Dame and now this latest release.  In In the Year of the Dragon, players must traverse the trials and tribulations of a year and protect their subjects against famine, disease and Mongol attacks. You know when these misfortunes will occur and try to be prepared, but there's much to do and only limited actions available. An elegant game.


Felix: The Cat in the Sack

by Friedemann Friese

Published by 2F-Spiele & Rio Grande Games

From the publisher, 'With their mice, the players attempt to grab the famous cat in the sack. In the sack, there are both good and bad cats. Each player can also put a dog or rabbit into the sack instead of a cat, allowing players to bluff one another. At game end, all positive cats and mice count plus points, but negative cats count minus points.' I heard good things and it was well-placed on the Fairplay list, but I haven't had the chance to try it.



by Andrea Chiarvesio & Luca Iennaco

Published by Mario Truant Verlag

A joint Elfinwerks/Stratelibri edition was announced at GenCon, so this nicely produced game should be available in the States soon.  In Kingsburg, the player places pieces to select options, but in this case each player has three dice and the actions are numbered 1 to 18.  Players roll dice and can place one or more on the corresponding number.  An otherwise familiar game, but this clever use of selecting the actions elevates it.



by Gunter Burkhardt

Published by Abacus & Rio Grande Games

Players are representatives of the British East India Company. Searching for the best teas, players cross the region of Darjeeling, picking such cargoes as they can until they have something ready to ship. The quantity, freshness of the supply, and popularity of the tea influence the value. The theme is appealing and players like that it is a short game. Some are worried about the size box and price for what is a relatively light game.




by Cyril Demaegd

Published by Ystari Games & Rio Grande Games

Ystari Games has become a 'must-see' publisher. Caylus was very popular and spawned the mechanic that has launched a thousand boardgames. Players in Amyitis compete to complete the Hanging Gardens. The innovation here is the way actions are selected. They are on cards and are dealt in groups of three. The first action is free and when selected that card is flipped to reveal a coin. The next action from that group costs one coin and the last costs two. Players may continue to choose actions as long as they can afford to.



by Franz-Benno Delonge & Thomas Ewert

Published by Valley Games, Inc.

I didn't get to try this at the show, but the economic theme looks appealing, the bits look great and the early reviews have been generally positive.


The most disturbing trend, and it should come as no surprise with a Euro costing $1.40, is that the MSRP continue to climb. It seems that $35 is the bargain price these days, $45 is the average price and $60 games are not uncommon. For libraries, they are at least getting a sturdy product with quality components that should hold up, but there could well be some resistance to the higher prices in the shops. Just remind the customers that the game still costs the same as 10 gallons of milk and less than a tankful of gas, or not.