The Cartographer’s Travels: 4 Days of SPIEL

Early morning startOctober is the month of colorful trees, cold nights, autumn holidays… and SPIEL. The world’s largest consumer fair for boardgames takes place in Essen, Germany (in fact many visitors just call it “Essen” instead of “Spiel”). I’ve been manning the ProFantasy booth there since 2002, and it’s always a great opportunity to see old friends and many new games – though I rarely get to play any of the games.

Setup at SPIEL is usually quick, but there tend to be “surprises”. This year the convention center introduced a a new parking ticket system. It had a great advantage for setup, as we were able to get much closer to the booth with the car, but it would prove chaotic on the visitor days. Exhibitor parking got swamped and you had to be there very early to get into the garage under the center.

Gordon and family“We” is usually me and Gordon, a stalwart friend and old-time CC3 user who always helps me with setting up and running the booth. His lovely wife and daughter use it as a base to tour the show – for the whole four days! It is so amazing to see what energy a six-year old can muster when she is surrounded by the wonders of the show. This year she didn’t even take a nap below the tables.

SPIEL is different from GenCon in that is more about shopping and less about actually playing. Basically it’s one gigantic exhibitor’s hall without the events, seminars and gaming halls surrounding it. It’s also not so much about role- but about board-gaming, which is huge in Germany. Still we have a nice little corner of the even stocked with German and other (mostly British) rpg publishers.

Big PublishersBut the amount of visitors that shuffle through the halls on the weekend is staggering. In the bigger halls it can be really tough to get from one place to the next. Compared to that it was positively peaceful on our booth on Saturday – a bit surprising because it also tends to be busier for us. I am not sure why that this year – all days were pretty much as expected except for the Saturday. I wish I had a way to view measure the visitor paths through the halls – perhaps the “currents” got diverted from our place this year.

Map workBut enough old and new customers showed up for us to have good business and great fun! I demoed CC3+ a lot, and especially the city and dungeon features caused many astonished and delighted comments. One very interesting development started last year: Chris, a lecturer from Brunel University (London), picked up CC3+ at SPIEL and introduced it to his Games Design class. It looks like that was very successful, meaning the university will pick up more software licenses – and I might get to give an introduction to CC3+ to the students myself. I’m excited and a bit scared, but very much looking forward to that.

Concerning my own gaming, I was positively frugal in my own shopping, but I did have a big piece to carry home: I picked up Perdition’s Mouth by Dragon Dawn Productions as payment for a little map I created for Timo Multamäki and his crew. I haven’t played it yet, but it does seem intriguingly different from your usual crop of dungeon crawlers.

And then the four days were over again. The halls close at 6pm on Sunday and our booth was all packed up 10 minutes past that – the advantage of easy-to-carry software over heavy books and huge boardgames. Luckily there are no flight that I can miss or be delayed on the way back from SPIEL, only a 1.5 hour Autobahn drive.
Der Schlenderer
[Photo by Karl-Georg Müller (schlenderer.de)]

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