Spiel 2008 is this weekend and a few friends and I are going on Sunday. What is Spiel? It’s one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world and the biggest in terms of board games. It’s a really great place to see and try out new stuff, see old friends, and buy stuff I probably don’t really need but want. The only down side are the crowds tend to make it a challenge to move around and the food costs a small fortune.
I’m back from my day at Spiel with a sack full of booty, an empty wallet, and sore feet. The day started at 10am and pretty empty halls but within about 90 minutes it was pretty packed and hard to maneuver. I got to play a few demos of games, watched a couple others, saw some weird stuff, and did a lot of bargain hunting.
Here are the highlights of what I saw:
Pulp City – This is a skirmish-size miniatures game where you play super heroes vs. villains. It has some pretty simple mechanics, good looking pewter minis, and very small army sizes which means it doesn’t cost a fortune to play. The demo was fun and they had me hooked the minute I got to pick up a car and throw it on top of the super villain. Any game that lets you do that gets two thumbs up in my book. The game is also easy enough that I can teach it to my 6-year-old and actually have a meaningful game with him. I ended up picking up both starter boxes (heroes & villains), plus all the singles they had for 65 Euros which is a pretty good deal IMO.
Mutant Chronicles – the collectible, non-randomized miniatures game. It uses 54mm pre-painted plastic minis. The minis look cool and the game intrigues me (it’s from Fantasy Flight which is usually a safe bet for great games). The price was also very reasonable (20 Euros for the starter, 12.50 for the booster packs). The problem was that the game looks fairly complicated and right now I’m not interested in mini games I can’t teach to my son since getting my adult friends into another game is difficult.
Monsterpocalypse – the new CMG from Privateer Press. I’m a big fan of Warmachine & Hordes (though the price increases have severely cut down on my purchases) but Monsterpocalypse doesn’t thrill me. The minis look pretty good (some are awesome, some are kind of crappy looking IMO), the buildings look awesome, the map is cool. The rules seem interesting and deep enough to be enjoyable long term. The problem is that it’s a collectable and the boxes are randomized. Sorry, no sale. I’m not spending my money amassing a bag of shit I don’t want in order to play the faction I like. It’s not cheap at all which makes the idea of buying multiple starter boxes trying to get a particular faction’s monster ridiculous.
Paintball – A card game a lot like Jungle Speed but you get to hurl a little ball at your opponents. It was fun and fast-paced but kind of pricey (20 euros) for a party game.
Flames of War – Not a new game at all, but some friends are now playing and so I checked it out to see if I wanted to buy into it. However, after talking with some dealers, I realized that the game has some major inherent flaws:
- It costs a fortune to buy a division worth of stuff. For example, a SS Panzer division army costs 200+ euros.
- You can’t play against all of your friends: Axis members can’t fight other Axis members (unless you’re playing some sort of fantasy game), Allies can’t fight allies, and certain divisions & forces never saw action in particular theatres as well. In other words, playing the game is even more expensive than dropping a couple hundred euros on a Panzer division.
Other things I noticed or realized:
- Very little new miniature stuff and a lot of companies that were present in past years were missing (or hiding): I failed to find Freebooter, Rezolution, Infinity, or Urban War booths anywhere. Privateer, except for the Monsterpocalypse stuff, also had a very small presence.
- Lots of D20 stuff was on fire sale. I got some amazing deals on books (buy 1, get 3 free!): While I hate D20, I really like the Eberron setting and so took the opportunity to pick up most of the remaining setting books because they were so cheap. I also bought the Expedition to Ravenloft adventure simply because it was essentially free. I should have just have biten the bullet and bought the rest of the books I was interested in but I held off since buying stuff on impulse simply to own it is something I’m prone to.
- D&D minis were also on clearance: You could get a gigantic blue dragon for 10 euros. The Driz’zt limited edition box was selling for as cheap as 10 euros as well (if you bought a couple boosters of other minis which were also on sale).
- Lots of LARP stuff and lots of people in costume. Some women look good in tight leather or chainmail bikinis; others really should rethink their wardrobe choice or at least hit the gym if they’re going to go out in public dressed that way.
- LARP is expensive…. 65 euros for a short sword is expensive. I’d really like a tri-corner hat but I can’t justify spending that kind of money for something that would hang on my wall.
- If you want to demo games, you need to show up early and rush to the tables: Otherwise you end up waiting in line for people to play 3-hour long games: I kid you not, Fantasy Flight let people play full length demo games which might be fine for Jungle Speed but a game of Arkham Horror can last 6 hours.
- 3 Euros for a Coke is a ridiculous price. This year I was smart and brought my own bottled water.
- If you’re going to buy board games, you really need to bring a pull cart with you because they are heavy.