Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Essen 2014 Review and annoucement

Hello again blogland!
Welcome to my Essen review, but first, an exciting announcement - I've been recruited into the ranks of Breakthrough Assault! This only extends to my Flames of War and related posts, I'll still be using this blog to cover my other hobby based madness, such as Bolt Action, Infinity, World of Twilight and boardgames.

Any who, last Wednesday I flew out to Germany to visit Essen on another business trip. Essen is a major show for Games manufacturers,  where they release the new lines before Xmas. The show is more family orientated than Gen-Con, as the gaming industry in mainland Europe is much more developed than the rest of the world, where families often play games together, and the 'game of the year' (this year its Camel Up) is often bought as a gift to Grankids.

The show had much less 'geekary' compared to Gencon - still enough stands to get something interesting, but its defiantly all about the boardgames. The big publishers really pull out the stops with their demo and trade stands, with plenty of tables with people running games for you to try - although even with an army of demo-ers, the tables are still busy all day.

Language wasn't really an issue, as most of the people I met had a great level of English - although as I am doing Nuremberg as well each year, I think its in my interest to gain a basic command of German.

One of the interesting things is the sheer number of releases of games - this Essen had 950 new titles released (although some of those are different language versions of the same game).

A large number of the stands are geared towards the younger and family end of the market, and there is also a large number of independent publishers who are looking for their big break. The quality and pricing of the games can vary quite wildly!

It was weird to see the miniature stands relegated to the side, this is defiantly a board game show. The crowd is much more family based, with far fewer cos-players than Gencon. The crowds on the Saturday were far worse - it was a struggle to get from one meeting to the next at times, and that was within the same hall!

Another big difference was the fact that everything stops at 7 - no late night gaming halls, no playing areas, its very efficient and civilised.

Thanks for reading!


Our little slice of corporate sanctuary...

Although I didn't get to use the offices :-)

Getting ready for the doors to open!

One of picks for this year - Samurai Spirit

So many games!

Omega Centuri - 4ex game with no dice...

Hawk Wargames finished their Drop=zone ship.... its huge!

Magic the Gathering - Boardgame!

Another great looking game - Colt Express

Mad King Ludwig's castle

Rob the train - Choo Choo!

Looking forward to the English version of this next year

Love the Pea-dot card backs

Rubbish picture, this JU-52 flew overhead at about 500'. Such a large wing means its very slow!

So many people playing games!

The Crowds on Saturday

Super special Krosmaster

Example of a publisher stand - huge!

Crazy crane-head-game!

New Wings of war planes! Floatplanes!!

The hotel-right next to the Messe. Just the wrong end to get in!
Lovely stratus over the coast on the way home

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Great GenCon Review - 2014

Hello all,
Thanks for being so patient with me and my lack of posts, its been a very busy time again at Fez industries. To make it up to you, here is my long over due GenCon review!

As some of you will know, I've work for a games distribution company in the UK as a buyer, and Gencon is a chance to meet all our US suppliers as well as keep an eye out for the new hotness.

Its also the realisation of a life long dream!

We planned to fly out the Tuesday, giving us Wednesday to scope the Venue while people were setting up, and then on with meetings and covering the vendor hall for the other four days, flying back Sunday afternoon.

We had arranged to be upgraded on the way out to 'Premium economy' which I though would be a great way to experience long haul flying for the first time - we arrived to find that although our outbound Virgin flight to NY was ok, the connecting Delta flight to Indy had been cancelled - so we were then rebooked to fly Delta to Minneapolis, meaning we were dropped back to economy. Not to bother, we have booked premium economy on the way home.

Our sky chariot on the way out!
The flight was, well, great. I personally can't get over the 'normality' of being served a meal at 35,000 ft at just under the speed of sound - I suppose its all those hours of being stuck at around a 1,000ft struggling to eat a chocolate bar.

First, a couple of points on my first impressions of America - Over the course of the week, many people upon finding it was my first Gencon and my first time 'Stateside' would ask me this. I could sum it up in three words - Big, Choice and Service. The entire Country is big. Seeing roads with no bend for 20 miles really threw my brain out of kilter. I worked out that my entire first year University room would have fit in the en suite toilet of the hotel room

Indianapolis - Flat nothing with huge buildings in the middle!
Choice - Is everywhere. How would you like your burger cooked? What one of our 25 beers would you like? Choose from seven different refillable coffees - Its so easy to get analysis paralysis at first! (handy hint is to ask what the waiter would have!)

Can you get any more American than Baseball? No games this time of year though...

This is a starter. Three of us couldn't eat it.

Yup. Starter. Not to share. For one.
And Service - It is amazing. As soon as you are seated in a restaurant, you have jugs of ice water put on the table as a matter of course. These are not allowed to become more than 1/3 empty, before they are automatically refilled. The same goes for any soft drink you order. It's almost like its a law or something. With the low standing wages the serving staff are on, tips are how they earn their money, and boy do they earn it.

The gaming halls. So big you can't fit it in one Panarama

The second half. SO BIG
 After getting a day to acclimatise, we managed to get into the halls early with our retail passes. The gaming space was huge. Superlatives fail me. You had to see that much room to get a grasp of the size of them.

This is the cue BEFORE the main doors open! Doomtown was popular!
The doors opened to the 'early bird' gamers at 9, with general admission at 10. The rush of humanity when the doors opened was incredible - I lost track of the time one morning, and ended up trying to cross the flow to make a meeting - it was like a crazy game of human frogger as people raced to get in the cues for the show specials, or for the limited stock for the latest releases that was put out each day.

So many shininess!

Could this replace the need for 40k? Its only just released in stores!
 Fantasy Flight Games really pulls out all the stops - they have such a catalogue of products, that when they attend a show they really attend - huge demo areas, a well run shop, and they even had a free game for people to play in the cue - it involved swapping cards with other cue members. Once you had the correct collection, you could then get the second pack/level. If you completed this as well, you won one of the ultimate prizes - either a tour around the FFG HQ at Minneapolis, or a one use 'Cut to the front of the FFG line' card, redeemable at any FFG show!

I managed to meet the WWPD guys, which was cool, along with Scott Kurts who writes the rather good www.pvponline.com webcomic. I was also fortunate enough to meet all the D6 Generation guys, Raef, Russ and Craig. I also saw, but didn't have time to meet, Tom Vassil, Will Wheaton and Darth Vader (who's let himself go a bit) rounding off my Geek royalty list (Although having met the guys from Breakthrough Assault, I was somewhat underwhelmed-See Beyond the Foxholes ep 19).

The whole experience is totally overwhelming, although other than waiting for the doors to open, the crowds are no where near as bad as I've experienced in the UK, and the whole centre is air conditioned - before the trader hall opened up, the lack of gamer generated heat actually made it quite chilly! I guess the Americans are just used to having that much more space.

The range of the gaming hobby on display is incredible, first time publishers under the same roof as (geek) household names. Walking back from unwinding at a bar, the convention corridors were still rammed with people playing games, even at 2am - people really embrace the spirit of gaming.

Oh, and that premium flight back? Our Delta connecting flight was cancelled, meaning a four hour wait at the airport in Indi, and then economy Delta back to old blighty!

If you can make it, its everything it promises to be - even though I didn't make any events or talks, and spend the days walking the trade hall, it was amazing, although even with it being a business trip I still waxed through a lot of spending money - just so much awesome stuff on sale!

I'm off to Essen next week, so will do a similar write up.

Picture dump below, thanks for reading!


Darth Vader getting a Soda. 

Mars Attacks, another great game that's only just released

Boots anyone?
Its massive - look at the woman standing next to it!

Gen-con - a mecca for Magic single cards!