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Svarog's Den - Board Games

An Overview of SPIEL Essen 23

by W. Eric Martin

The game fair in Essen, Germany is over, and with its end, I must also end my insistence on writing its name as “SPIEL ‘XX” because the new owners of the fair have renamed it “SPIEL Essen”, with this year’s event being “SPIEL Essen 23”. Adapting to this change might take me a while, but I’ll do it. I have to call it something, so I might as well use the correct name, right?

Convention organizer Merz Verlag reports that the show attracted 193,000 visitors from 85 countries, while occupying a total area of 62,500 m² and featuring 935 exhibitors from 56 nations.

Those exhibitors were spread out over six halls, but for the most part exhibitors of the same type were grouped together, with family game publishers (e.g., AMIGO, Blue Orange, KOSMOS, Schmidt Spiele, Asmodee brands) concentrated in Hall 6 and spread through much of Hall 5, strategy game publishers in Hall 3, RPG and miniature publishers in Hall 1, and Halls 2 and 4 kind of being a mixed bag of those who couldn’t fit elsewhere — although Hall 4 did contain most of the game manufacturers as well as the demo area for prototypes, which seems appropriate.

From the Merz Verlag press release:

The significantly increased interest in SPIEL Essen had a particular impact on the frequency among exhibitors: “Our stand was really well attended on all four days. The game tables were almost always completely occupied,” says Andreas Finkernagel, managing director of the Friedberg-based publisher Pegasus Spiele, and adds: “We had significantly more sales at the fair than in previous years. Although the individual receipt was somewhat lower, we had many more customers at our cash register.”

Ravensburger laid down a real blockbuster with its new trading card game Disney Lorcana for which an exclusive special card was released at SPIEL Essen. The queue for the game broke through the hall wall and had to be directed through a gate into the adjacent Hall 7. Never before has the fair experienced such a rush.

Yes, just as at Gen Con 2023, the Lorcana line was mind-boggling, occupying a block of space in Hall 7 that was probably as large as the entire Ravensburger booth.

People queueing for cards

The only thing larger at SPIEL Essen 23 was a player’s “control module” in Stefan Feld‘s Civolution, which was demoed four times a day by publisher Deep Print Games to folks who promised to commit 3-4 hours of their time for the experience.

One player’s individual area, along with some cards and a bit of the central game board

Lots of companies had discount areas to blow out older games. This was nothing new for SPIEL Essen 23, but I’ve written about many of these titles in my time in this space, so it felt weird to see them all “on the curb”, as it were, unwanted and needing to be kicked out to make room for the new faces.

Stick your hand in the trunk of remainders…if you dare

The magazine Fairplay once again asked fair visitors to submit ratings of games they had played, and here were the highest-rated games at the end of the show, split into two groups determined by which hall they occupied.

The results are a bit difficult to parse from how the games are displayed. Cover the right half of the image to see the top-rated games in Halls 3 and 4 — then cover the left half to see the top-rated games from everywhere else.

Here are the ratings for the top games and the honorable mentions, with the latter titles being those games with good ratings but not enough votes to meet Fairplay’s threshold for a rating:

Over the next few weeks, I’ll post overviews and pics of the games I played and saw at SPIEL Essen 23 — both released titles and those coming in 2024 — but for now I’ll leave you with this final shot of the Messe Essen from the taxi before we raced to the Düsseldorf airport at up to 180km per hour. Germany, y’all! Maybe you can make it there for SPIEL Essen 24, which will be held October 3-6, 2024.

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