Essen Preview 2016

Down here in Louisiana, there is a small German settlement called Roberts Cove less than thirty minutes off of the interstate.  German farmers settled here over a hundred years ago, and brought their food, culture and, of course, their last names.  By now, many of them have intermingled so much with the residents here in Acadiana that they speak French and consider themselves Cajuns, too. But, they still keep the German traditions alive each year in October at the annual Octoberfest.

So, the Krewe asks itself — why should we fly twelve hours away to the town of Essen, when we can get traditional German sausages and listen to German music right here in Louisiana?

Any board gamer knows that answer: there’s no Essen Spiel in Roberts Cove!  Is Essen the biggest, most important game convention? Or is it Gen Con?  Since the Krewe has never attended Essen, we do not have an opinion…………yet.

But with Essen Spiel in Germany taking place in less than two months, this is a great time to start looking at the games that we are most anticipating.

I am sure you have heard Tom Vasel proclaim that somewhere between 500-1000 games get introduced to the gaming world at Essen. I have yet to confirm this, but after looking at the huge list put together by Board Game Geek’s W. Eric Martin, I can believe it. (By the way, one of the BGG users  re-ordered in terms of popularity, and that list is already 20 pages long!)  That’s a lot of games.

What is Essen? The Internationale Spieltage SPIEL — or Essen for short, based on the city in Germany where it is held each year — is a trade fair put on by hundreds of board game publishers from around the world. On that basis alone, it is different from Gen Con (which seems more like a fan based con that industry participates in), but regular board gaming fans are also allowed to go to Essen for the show. For the last four years, around 150,000 board game aficionados browse, demo, play games and shop for four days in October.

(For an excellent recap of the differences between Gen Con and Essen and the other big cons, check out Paul Grogan’s excellent interview with Tom Vasel here.)

So, without further ado, Bradly and B.J., two of the Krewe de Gumbo members, share with you five of their most anticipated games, in no particular order.


Ave Roma is a former Kickstarter project from A-Games out of Hungary that is just now hitting the European shores. It bills itself as a “worker drafting” Euro, and is for 2-5 players. From Krewe member, B.J.: The artwork depicted in the KS project is stunning, and the game play is intriguing.   Every player starts the game with the same workers, but after that it is every meeple for himself. It also hints at a different type of trading mechanism, one where over production is rewarded (as opposed to many Euros that favor a tight, controlled economy where the most efficient player usually wins.) It definitely looks to be a little bit too heavy for my usual game group, but I’ll bet the Krewe is ready for the challenge.


Noxford is a territory building card game from Capsicum Games, designed by Henri Kermarrec for 2-4 players. From Krewe member, Bradly: The closest game I can relate to Noxford is dominoes. Players take turns laying cards. Cards can be related to their faction, neutral, or barracks. Faction cards are how you claim neutral cards. At the end of the game, the faction with the most cards surrounding a neutral card claims it as their own. Neutral cards are how you gain points, and Barracks are essentially attack cards that can cancel out opponent’s special abilities. The rules appear to be very simple: each card placed much about another card already placed, and the winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. This game looks really good. 


Kanagawa is a new game published by IELLOdesigned by the dynamic duo that brought you Abyss, Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier. According to the Game Boy Geek, the game combines a cool press your luck mechanism with card drafting. From B.J.: I really love Abyss, and I see some elements that make it look like Kanagawa is a spiritual successor of that great game. I love the thought of more press your luck drafting. But, I am also drawn in by the original theme of playing painters decorating bamboo sheets with beautiful paintings. Definitely not Trading in the Mediterranean! Plus, the previews we have seen show some really incredible art from newcomer (at least to me) artist, Jade Mosch


Age of Thieves is brought to you by Galakta, a publisher from Poland, and designed by Sławomir Stępień. It is an interesting card/miniature game for 2-4 players that plays between 1-2 hours. From Bradly: A group of master thieves have descended upon the capital in an attempt to rob the Emperor blind. But to do so, they not only need to break into his vault, but also escape the city with their ill gotten loot. Complicate this with the fact that they are not working together, and you have the basis for Age of Thieves.


delphi_cover_1200Oracles at Delphi is the impressive new Stefan Feld release from H@ll Games and Pegasus Spiele that is designed for 2-4 players. It carries a posted playing time of 70-100 minutes, and unlike many of Feld’s previous releases, the previewed artwork is gorgeous. From B.J.: The bright colors on the box cover, and the leaked images we have seen of prototypes look nothing like most of Feld’s other releases. It is a meaty game, but I like the posted time, and I like the description of the game play that I have seen so far. The idea of ship travel across the board, following in the footsteps of that great Greek hero, Odysseus, revs up the acquisition disorder for this one. Definitely one to check out. 

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!


Follow me @boardgamegumbo



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