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Friday Fun - Board Games and Conventions (Essen Spiel Experiences)

Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 14, 2022

Hey All,

I’m Daniel, a first-time poster in the Friday Fun series, but a long-time reader.

Last week I was one of the lucky 147.000 people who attended Essen Spiel, the largest board game convention in the world. I was working as a volunteer game presenter at a French publisher’s booth. Apart from a few pictures below, I’ll try to limit the “geeking out” part and also muse on a few things I experienced that might resonate with more people. So if you are not into board games, maybe scroll below the pictures.

Are you a gamer? What do you usually play? Maybe we can talk some more on BGG, or even play something together on BoardGameArena. Perhaps we can have an Atlassian-related guild there too! 😄 Let’s trade nicknames in the comments.

essen 1.jpgessen 2.jpgessen 3.jpgessen 4.jpgessen 5.jpgessen 6.jpg

Okay, so on to my other musings. Essen was special to me not just because of the board games, but also because

  1. it was the biggest and craziest convention I attended in my life (so far, hopefully)

  2. it was only my second convention after the easing of the covid-lockdown rules

  3. working provided me with insights I can actually use in my work and the Atlassian Ecosystem.

 

  1. Crazy Fun Conventions

So, apart from this, I usually attended only work-related, B2B events. Even though they can be fun, and the people you meet there are nice, it always feels like exhibiting companies are putting on a serious face there. Not at Essen. If there ever was a feeling of entering the wizarding world of Harry Potter the same way he did in the books, being amazed by the randomness of it all, I think it happens at Spiel. And I’m confident enough to say this without even visiting Comic Con or a studio theme park because there, you're expecting to be amazed. Here, you can walk around the aisles of the games, and still be surprised by being honked down by a group of leprechauns riding a bicycle carriage, asking you to perform something if you want to enter a prize competition. (Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2GBpCQGmBs&t=904s ). So my big takeaway here is, we should all aspire to bring more fun to work events too. (And shout-out to Apptoberfest, which does just this!)

2. Post-Covid Conventions

Germany, where Essen is, had one of the toughest rules for the first two years of the pandemic. Maybe that is why, even now, when previous rules of (2G/2G+ - Vaccinated or recently recovered/Vaccinated with booster shot) no longer apply, there were some precautions in place - just as you can expect from an event drawing that amount of crowd. So now everyone had to wear medical facemasks all the time (with exceptions for eating/drinking), and the ratio of people actually wearing them was extremely high, much higher than the people wearing them even during those much stricter covid rules. Is it because board gamers understand better the need for playing by the rules? But, even despite this, I see more and more posts on social media saying that corona also got into people’s Essen Loot, so maybe wearing just masks isn’t enough? What was your experience if you’ve been at a big event since this spring?

3. Working at someone else’s booth

As I mentioned before, I went to Essen as part of the demo team for a French publisher. Since I work in marketing and have done my share of organizing booths at conventions and expos, I thought this way I can get the best of both worlds: perks of easier movement on-premises and seeing behind the scenes, while skipping the stressful preparation phase myself. 😄 I managed to succeed in the second part of the plan. As for the first, because of the crowd and being busy at the booth, I only realized on the train back to Berlin that out of the 6 exhibition halls, I forgot to explore one. And working at a booth organized by someone else gave me an opportunity to look at my own work through a mirror, especially the little tasks I used to do on autopilot. Have you had an experience when you could really look at your work from an outsider's perspective?

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Alex Koxaras _Relational_
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October 14, 2022

Ohh @Dániel Ballabás - EverIT great topic!!

I used to play for hours Role playing games (boardless D&D) using only pen and paper! That was simply awesome! Before by daughter was born, I used to have free time and play board games with my friends and wife. I used to compose music for video games as well, but that time is gone :(

I'm still waiting for my daughter to grow a bit older, and to have more time in my disposal to play board and video games!

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

@Alex Koxaras _Relational_ D&D is only the second thing (next to LCG-s) I'm afraid to go into in tabletop gaming :D They can take lots of money and time. :)

Composing music for video games sounds incredibly awesome! Anything you are willing to share from it? :)

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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October 14, 2022

I suspect most of my early experiences with (non-computer) gaming were quite common.  At school, we picked up a bit of D&D and got into Warhammer, but the more accessible thing in my 6th & 7th year was Bridge (and the odd attempt to play other card or dice games)

The Bridge persisted through university, but died out for me due to not having other players in my social circle in my new town.  More positively, my social circle then included a number of RPG lovers, so the D&D picked up, as did the Runequest, Traveller, Warhammer, and we tried out a load of others.  (Including Paranoia, which I might have ruined by actually using a bucket of custard in real life)

But real life started to intrude again - the group drifted apart as they found partners, got married, had children etc.

So I moved on to pub quizzes with other friends.  Still doing that.  But there's another but...

One of the more frequented quizzes suffered in the pandemic and has not really rebuilt its audience.  We go every week, but end up not having a quiz because we're the only ones there who want to play.

So, one of us brought https://doomlings.com to the pub to see if it was any good (he had kickstarted it), and we've moved from "our drinking team has a quiz problem" to "our drinking team has a gaming problem".  We now regularly play games like Exploding Kittens, Sheep in Disguise, Bears vs Bavies and so-on.  And one of us keeps threatening to get a D&D game going too.

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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October 19, 2022

And if any of you know of games that are accessible to less game-er-y people, please tell us.

Doomlings, Sheep in disguise and Cards against Humanity only work for this group because they don't need the group to be geeks or nerds.  One of our Katies only plays because they find the illustrations "cute"

That's a bit of a diversion.  Our quiz team would appreciate suggestions of other games to play if the quiz does not work out.

Please, hit me up with more (easily accessible to non-gamers) games!

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Thomas Schlegel
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October 20, 2022

Hi @Nic Brough -Adaptavist- ,

Takenoko is a great game for not-so-experienced players. It is cute, you have to build a garden, a gardener plants bamboo plants and let them grow, a panda is trying to eat the bamboo. It‘s not too complicated, but also interesting for experienced players.

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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October 21, 2022

Thanks @Thomas Schlegel I'll give that a go!

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

Hey @Nic Brough -Adaptavist- 
I absolutely get that struggle of finding games to play with non-gamers. :D
Here are four that have been a great success with us:
Very small card games:
6 nimmt! (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/432/6-nimmt)  - It plays up to 10 people, the rules are pretty simple, and there's plenty of laughter from how picking a card simultaneously can mess up your plans.
Startups (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/223770/startups) It plays up to 7, and the very light business/techie theme is usually welcome for all kinds of folks.
"Regular" Party game: Time's Up Party (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/230262/times-party-edition)  - It's similar to Activity, but without drawing, and with 3 rounds (short explanation, 1-word association, acting out) during which you only take over the clue words somebody could guess. 
And finally, Fake Artist goes to New York   (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/135779/fake-artist-goes-new-york), which you can buy (or make at home with different colored pencils and a sheet of paper). It's a social deduction game with drawing involved, someone orders a painting, into which every player only contributes with 2 single lines drawn. Then the players have to guess which one of them was the fake artist (the player who didn't know what was ordered). 

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

@Nic Brough -Adaptavist- 
Here are four games that work for us when we play with non-gamers:
Two small card games from the "fits in your jacket pockets' type:
6 nimmt! - It plays up to 10 people, the rules are pretty simple, and there's plenty of laughter around the table as everyone's plan gets screwed when the cards are revealed at the same time. 
Startups - It's a bit shorter but maybe a bit thinkier than 6 nimmt! - Usually, its theme of investing in Start-up companies is what draws people in. 
For regular party style games, Time's Up has worked for us best. It's similar to Activity, but without drawing. Instead, you can have short explanations, 1-word associations and acting tasks, and between the rounds, only the words that your team could guess go into the next rounds. 
And my final recommendation is Fake Artist goes to New York, which you can also make at home with paper and colored pencils/markers. It's a non-offensive social deduction game. One player orders a painting from the group, into which everyone can only draw 2 lines. Then when the painting is done, the artists have to find the "traitor", the fake artist, who was drawing without knowing what the actual order was. 

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Matthias Gaiser _K15t_
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October 21, 2022

@Nic Brough -Adaptavist-, you could really go with One Night Ultimate Werewolf. You might know the werewolf game where one person is getting kicked out each round. This version is a great improvement, I think, because no one is kicked out - but it's still tons of fun.

Codenames is another easy to play game where you need to explain with one word as many cards as possible which belong to your team. I like it for its simplicity and how you can connect topics with each other - you should try to think how your team thinks.

These were my two spontaneous thoughts.

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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October 23, 2022

Thanks @Dániel Ballabás - EverIT I'll take a look at all of them, I think the 6 nimmt! is the sort of thing my group would like, we're not so hot on word games, acting, association or drawing (but we'll still look)

@Matthias Gaiser _K15t_ Codenames is already on the list, played it at an Adaptavist gaming night once, but the group keeps choosing Sheep in Disguise, Doomlings or Joking Hazard.

We've found we don't like games where we lose players much, a couple of us lose interest when it's them leaving, so One night ultimate werewolf might work better.

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Matthias Gaiser _K15t_
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October 14, 2022

@Dániel Ballabás - EverIT - you've been to the Spiel this year! I'm jealous. Usually I go there every year unless there's a good reason not to go. I guess our 4-months old daughter counts as a good reason. Happy to meet up next year 😁

I do remember my first or second year in Essen when we've met two Americans at the Bezier Games booth where we played some legendary rounds of One Night Ultimate Werewolf. We had tons of fun - and were surprised how years later their booth staff still recognized us, e.g. they've greeted us with "You two are trouble".

I'm always in for board games, pretty much all kind of. I like a good strategic round of Terra Mystica, new concepts like Micro Macro, fun stressful games like Magic Maze or simple card/dice games like Tippi Toppi, Nochmal, etc. I guess, I could keep going for a while.

My secret plan was always to initiate a board/card/dice game evening during Team in Las Vegas to play some decent games with each other - let's see.. maybe this will be reality some time.

PS: I'm also on bgg but not that active. You can find me as Magamir.

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Thomas Schlegel
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October 19, 2022

Hi @Matthias Gaiser _K15t_ , we should definitely plan a game night in Vegas next year! 

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

@Matthias Gaiser _K15t_ 
That's a pretty good excuse! Congratulations! And definitely see you there next year!
My bgg is this: basadani

@Thomas Schlegel 
Not sure if I'll make it to Vegas yet (if I'm there, I'm up 100%), but you're all welcome to a game night any time you're in Berlin!


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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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January 24, 2023

Well guys, this might be a shot in the dark, but if you'll happen to be in Berlin on the week of February 6-10 for the Atlassian Unleashed or Developer Days, and have time, let me know, maybe we can have a board game session even before Vegas. :D
@Matthias Gaiser _K15t_ @Thomas Schlegel and all!

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Matthias Gaiser _K15t_
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January 25, 2023

I'd be in @Dániel Ballabás - EverIT and would come to Berlin, but "unfortunately" I'm on parental leave and rather take care of my kids this time.

Don't hesitate to suggest sth. again 😁

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Omar Mohamed Fathi
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October 15, 2022

I LIKE THIS :D

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Brant Schroeder
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October 18, 2022

I have never been to Spiel but it looks fantastic.  Board games are a great activity for friends and families.  Some of the best games are indie or less mainstream games.  I am guessing that you are able to find a number of gems at Spiel.

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

Yes, if you're looking for gems, it's absolutely the place to be. Plus for games that would rarely get European/NA distribution otherwise. For example, two very small but cute Japanese games made the perfect gifts for my girlfriend.

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Summer_Hogan
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October 20, 2022

I have never been much of a gamer, but I do love myself a game of Carcassonne! My husband and I used to play it all the time and bought all the extension packs. Does that count?

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

@Summer_Hogan It absolutely does! Carcassonne with all of its expansions I think makes up a larger collection than what I have. :D

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Walter Buggenhout
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October 21, 2022

+1 on Carcassonne, @Summer_Hogan! I've always been a great fan of card games back in my school (well, close to school anyways) days. But I'm not sure if card games count as board games.

One I got acquainted with during my first job, was Roborally.

download (13).jpeg 

I love to play that game with people who have slight difficulties with left and right 😂

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Dániel Ballabás - EverIT
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October 21, 2022

@Walter Buggenhout I think card games count for board games, at least they do for me. Which card games did you play?

I've yet to try Roborally, but it looks great on the picture.

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Matthias Gaiser _K15t_
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October 21, 2022

I haven't played Roborally for ages, but also liked it a lot in the past

I'd also say card/board/dice games all count in 😁

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