The Essen Game Fair is a four day show each October for games publishers to show their new and classic games and for visitors to test the games out. Whatever game wins “Spiel des Jahres” – German Game of the Year – is actively sought out. The 2011 winner was Qwirkle. Invented by Susan Ross and manufactured by Mindware out of Mineapollis, Minnesota. We at Green Board Games are fortunate to be the UK distributor of this game and its popularity in the UK has risen significantly since it won this major accolade.
Team Green Board Games has visited Essen many times. We are, after all, in the games business. This year we decided to take out a stand and demonstrate our games to the German public. We chose a stand near our German distributor, Moses, and the following is a brief summary of our show experience.
Firstly, why are the Germans so stereotypically efficient? After an eight hour drive, we arrived at the Messe and it was an absolute joy to set up our stand. No clipboard-wielding officials to check our health and safety forms were with us or someone to check that we could safely plug in an extension cord for our lights.
A slight digression. Have you ever used the freight side of Eurotunnel? Fantastically efficient, you leave your transit dwarfed by big boys sixteen wheelers and have to take a bus to a spartan cabin to make the crossing. Beware! Remember where you boarded the bus because if you forget and do not arrive at your vehicle promptly and are not ready to leave the transporter straight away the big boys in their big toys get very annoyed!.
Back to the show. It was fabulous. Essen is a one-off. Nowhere else in the world do so many lovers of board games get together and play games for four days. Most toy fairs are dominated by products where style triumphs over substance. A pretty box will get you a long way. Not so in Essen. People want to play your game with you. And will tell you if the game play is not quite right, in their second or third language!
Here’s a big secret that not many UK game companies know. So draw closer to the screen. Essen is really two exhibitions in one. So many of Europe’s publishers congregate together that deals are done. It’s a first chance for companies like us to discuss our new ranges for 2012 with our distributors. This side of Essen is not readily evident until you spend three or four days at the show and meet heads/CEOs of various game publishers, either at the fair or at the sponsored dinners at places such as La Cantina.
The other side of Essen is the public face. So many thousands of people sitting around tables for hours on end playing games. Not just spotty teenagers who have progressed from Dungeons and Dragons, its families, lots of them, a surprisingly large number of women as well. It’s why people join the game industry and spend their careers in the industry. So next October, if you love the games industry, visit. You will not be disappointed!