Yesterday my friends and I were at the SPIEL in Essen. For those of you folks who do not know it: this happens to be one of the biggest fairs/trade shows for actual GAMES (board games, card games, dice games, etc.) in Europa. And I am among the regular visitors… well, visitor is perhaps the wrong word for it. Let´s say „raider“…
To me, a visit to the SPIEL is less of a nice sight-seeing tour and more of a well-planned mission with one objective: to spend an insane amount of cash in one day in order to acquire a supply of games that will last till the end of the year to come. A close friend of mine and I usually spend up to eight weeks prior to the actual event with gathering information about the titles (well, he does most… no, next to all of the info-gaterhing) that will be released or about games that might be available at a discount (those from last year usually are). And of course we discuss the potentially available titles, divide the soon-to-be spoils of our raid between us and make lists where we assign the games a “buy priority”. Why we do assign a buy-priority? Because you can never be sure that you actually get what you came for: limited supplies can lead to a game being SOLD OUT before you even have a chance to throw your money at the staff of the publisher, and sometimes a shipment simply isn´t making it in time. So, we have the priority lists as a basis for the actual raid plan of ours: where to go first, what to acquire first, when to make a break in order to fall back to our car in order to put the loot into the trunk and to re-group (reads: drink & eat) before diving back into the thickening crowd.
Well, of course we take the time to stop at different stalls and see through the offers, showing each other finds and making some additional purchases here and there… but raiding comes first!
My part of the loot you can see above. Navigating the crowd was strenuous at times, and often I silenty questioned the wits of other visitors (like, when I saw somebody trying to shove a full blown baby stroller through the thick of the 15:00-crowd), other times I wondered why the staff personal is seemingly wandering aimlessly from left to right behind the counter while you and half a dozen of others vie for their attention, and last but not least I ended up with a pre-ordered and pre-paid game that was not there (which the seller could have informed me about prior to my arrival, because the process of pre-ordering made me reveal ALL of my personal information but a five-generation genealogical tree. DON`T JUST GRAB MY DATA! PROVIDE ME A SERVICE, TOO!) But, of course, there are those brilliant moments, too.
For example, when you arrive at the stand of Green Brier Games and can have a small chat with one of the founders, so you can actually (and shamelessly) beg her to consider to sell the artwork from the cover of GRIMSLINGER as a poster (“I will buy it even if I have to pay the complete transport from the USA to Germany!”). Or when the sweet young cozplay ladies from NINJA ARENA actually come over and offer you to make a photo with them (they work as walking advertisements so that you later feel inclined to take their invitation to stop by at their booth). Or when you stop by at the stand of Lamentations of the Flame Princess so that you can actually buy a physical copy of their core rules to kinda “pay back” for their 3rd party publisher support. …and briefly slip into a buying frenzy.
Well… it was my plan to only buy the nice hardcover copy of the core rules… but… hey, I was there, they had roleplaying games with a clear Cthulhu link to them, they had this “buy four, get a fifth one for free” deal, England Upturn´d (which is set in an alternate version of old England and got a promising review from Eric at the swordsandstitchery blog) was available… and the guy behind the counter even gave me some nice freebees, like their latest FreeRPG-Day giveaway “Slügs!” (the “ü” instead of the “u” is for “giant”).
So, I had a good time with my friends (and a lot of aching muscles at the end of a seven-hour-stay at the fair). But I guess this was my last trip to the SPIEL for now. My friend and I realized that all of the games we wanted to buy at the SPIEL were not only offered by online shops prior to the actual fair but at far better prices as well. The prices become more and more important to us as said prices have risen substantially, with a lot of board games now costing 60,- EUR where we used to pay 45,- for about equivalent content last year. And then there are these insane beasts of games that want you to spend 100+ at the them, and more and more of them raise their heads every year. Paying for the fuel to get to Essen and for the tickets in order to work a way through the crowd stops to be appealing if the result is that some of the games you came for are already sold out just because you cannot make it to each and every booth in time. Especially if you could just as well order them online and have them shipped to you, for less money than you pay at the fair. Of course, this means that the experience is gone: no more cozplay girls or chats with the publishers at their booth. But it also means a considerable saving, too, and a lot less stress. If you sometimes happen to get panic attacks in crowds (like myself does), the SPIEL is not only fun and games.
So, this might be my farewell to you, dear SPIEL in Essen. We had a wonderful time, but sometimes good things do not last. And to be honest, I have the feeling the two of us are moving into different directions. We may meet again at some day, but for now take this as my goodbye. I will keep you in good memory.