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Last week we went to the Internationale Spieltage a.k.a. The Spiel in Essen, Germany. The Spiel is the biggest board game convention in the world. It lasts for four days and sprawls six massive halls. This year there were over 1000 new board game releases being demonstrated. It was a full-on experience. There were times when the crowds were so thick it was hard to even see a board game and then times where it was blissfully easy to move around and play. Overall, we got to play lots of games (and purchase quite a few too). Highlights were:

  • Meeting Suzanne Sheldon and Eric Summerer from The Dice Tower (again) and Eric saying that he has a copy of my book, The Board Game Family, on his coffee table at home and his son has been laughing reading paragraphs out of the introduction.
  • My youngest son, Bertie, being selected by two Dice Tower contributors just before the live podcast recording at the Dice Tower show as the subject of an improvisation. Bertie went up on stage, and in front of a mic rang a bell if the improvisation was an accurate representation of an evening in our house and honked the horn if it wasn’t. It was very funny and he was a really good sport.
  • Being taught Porto by the designer, Orlando Sá. Porto is a compellingly simple yet interestingly strategic new game. In this game, you build different floors of coloured houses by the waterfront. You gain points by starting new houses, finishing (and roofing) houses, completing bonus cards and working towards end-game secret objectives. We’ll be playing this one a lot.
  • Playing Hadara, a fantastic city building game that rewards diversification and specialisation of set collection. There’s very little downtime as much of the game is simultaneous play. We all took different strategies and it was really hard to see who was ahead. The scores were so close, but I just squeezed a win. Sadly, they’d sold out, but this one is going on my Christmas list.
  • Playing loads of great “roll & write” games. These are games when you roll some dice or flip some cards and then use the results on your own player board by choosing resources, making connections or advancing developments. Our favourites were Smoothies, Corinth, and Trails of Tucana.
  • Picking up a copy of Turmoil, the latest expansion to Terraforming Mars (one of our favourite games) and meeting the designer, Jacob Fryxelius. Since returning from Essen, we played a game of Terraforming with Turmoil and all of the previous expansions. It took up a lot of space and a lot of time (4 hours), but it was absolutely excellent. Big thumbs up for Turmoil (if you like already complicated games made even more complicated).
  • Some of the other great games we played included Project L, Copenhagen, On the Underground and Mountaineers.

In other news…

  • I’ve recorded a podcast with Elaine Halligan, author of My Child’s Different, from The Parent Practice. It was such a great interview with conversation flowing naturally and a huge amount of content covered. The podcast will come out in the next month. When it’s live, we’ll let you know in this update.
  • I contributed to an article put out by the Press Association about the benefits of board gaming for children and their parents. The article has appeared in several publications, including the Irish News, the Belfast Telegraph and the Cambridge News. You can read it here.
  • I was interviewed by Motherhood Moments website. Read the interview here.
  • The Dark Imp game, Gnome Grown, now has it’s own webpage and ‘How to Play’ video. You can find out more here. The game will be released this week with the first BuzzleBox.
  • Mob Rule, my area control game about mob turf wars in a city, has had it’s first outing to the London Playtest UK group for playtesting. The first time a game is introduced to others is always nerve-wracking. When you’ve only been playtesting on your own, it’s hard to know whether it is a game that will work and that others will enjoy and be engaged in. There’s always a risk it may crash and burn! Fortunately the game went down really well. Some changes are needed to the tie-breaks and end-game scoring. But these are straight forward. Very successful.