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Svarog's Den - Board Games

A Look at Candice’s SPIEL Essen ’23 Experiences: Part 1

by Candice Harris

I had a wonderful time at SPIEL Essen ’23 – so many great people, and so many great games. A few days after returning from Essen, Paula Deming joined me on the BoardGameGeek Podcast to discuss our Essen experiences and some of the games we played while we were there. In addition, I took lots of photos and have plenty of highlights to share over the coming weeks.

• The day before the doors opened to the public, I was wandering around picking up games for the BGG library with Stephen and Matt when Coup designer Rikki Tahta enthusiastically stopped us to play his latest game, Accuse! from La Mame Games. Accuse! is a quick-playing, murder deduction card game for 2-4 players, with awesome and fun bluffing opportunities. I bought myself a copy of Accuse! immediately after playing it since I enjoyed it so much. Then I had a great time teaching it to others since it’s compact, fun, and plays quickly.

Stephen, Rikki, and Matt

• I missed Bernd Eisenstein‘s Discordia at SPIEL ’22, but I was really excited to pick it up along with the new Discordia: Magna expansion, which debuted at SPIEL Essen ’23 from Irongames.

Discordia is a unique, city-building game for 1-4 players, with dice drafting action selection. In the game, you are racing your opponents to get rid of your workers by efficiently building up your city in Ancient Rome. The Magna expansion adds asymmetrical city/player boards, which I’m pumped to try.

I enjoyed demoing Discordia, even though I came in already knowing the rules, and planning to buy it.

• At the Osprey Games booth, I had the pleasure of joining a demo of Sankoré: The Pride of Mansa Musa led by designers Fabio Lopiano and Mandela Fernandez-Grandon.

In Sankoré, 1-4 players manage the prestigious University of Sankoré in 14th-century Timbuktu. Your goal is to spread knowledge throughout West Africa by advancing knowledge in four main disciplines: theology, law, mathematics, and astronomy. Throughout the game, you enroll students, teach classes, and graduate students, plus you’ll add classes to your curriculum, and fill the great library with books. The books in the library impact scoring at the end of the game, which I love because the actions players take during the game directly impact scoring. Also, the board is big, beautiful, and well-organized thanks to Ian O’Toole‘s masterful, artistic touch. I can’t wait to play a full game of Sankoré when it’s out in Q1 2024. Fans of medium-heavy eurogames should check this one out.

My player board

• I got stopped by a couple of surprisingly friendly stormtroopers who were guarding the Star Wars: Unlimited demo tables at the Fantasy Flight Games booth.

• I’m so glad I got a chance to squeeze around a small table (in the back of a booth) with new friends to play Faraway, from designers Johannes Goupy and Corentin Lebrat, and French publisher Catch Up Games. Faraway is an awesome, simultaneous card selection tableau-builder for 2-6 players, where you play 8 cards over the course of the game, and then score them in the reverse order that they were played. It is a brain-burner because you need to carefully plan the placement of the cards in your tableau since many of them rely on resources of other cards to trigger their effects (think Furnace), which is how you score victory points. Sadly, it was sold out before I could grab a copy, so I’m on a mission to find this gem. I’m looking forward to playing it again…one day.

The one that got away…

CGT: Card Game Traders is a closed economy card game, from Damjan Miladinović and Dažbog Games, where 2-4 players are collectors of valuable cards from famous trading card games. It sounded quite neat at the demo table, so I bought a copy and broke it out at dinner one evening, but we had to end the game early when our food arrived. I’m looking forward to playing it again soon.

Alley Cat Games had lots of goodies available for demo, including Amun-Re: 20th Anniversary Edition, a new version of a Reiner Knizia classic featuring fresh, new art by Vincent Dutrait.

I also spotted Fabio Lopiano teaching and showing off the new version of Calimala, which is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter in Q4 2023.

Art and components might not be final

Dani Garcia‘s Arborea was a hot new release at SPIEL Essen ’23 for Alley Cat Games. The vibrant colors and table presence are great, plus the gameplay sounds very interesting and unique, so I’m looking forward to playing it.

It was so nice to meet Dani Garcia

• I got a rundown of a few exciting, new, 2-player, asymmetric card-driven games from Salt & Pepper Games. The Hunt is a World War II hidden movement game, designed by Matthias Cramer and Engin Cramer, where one player leads the British Royal Navy, while the other player represents the German Kriegsmarine. Meanwhile, players duke it out on the runway as French and American fashion design teams in The Battle of Versailles, from designers Eloi Pujadas and Ferran Renalias. I’m very pumped to play both of these small-box gems.

• I’m always tickled seeing jumbo versions of different board games, so I loved seeing people playing giant Dorfromantik: The Board Game and Under Falling Skies.

Jumbo Dorfromantik

Jumbo Under Falling Skies


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