Der SchlendererThis week is Spiel time, i.e. the world’s biggest boardgame consumer fair takes place in Essen, Germany. ProFantasy has been exhibiting there since at least 2000 and it is always great fun, if also a busy and tiring time.

For this year, the organizer (Merz Verlag) has vastly improved the available documentation and guides. The “Spiel Guide” is an actually useful piece with the hall plans and all exhibitors listed alphabetically by hall. Hopefully that should make it easy to find our booth 6G113, which is smack in the middle of hall 6. If you are looking for board games, it also contains a list of all the new games announced for Spiel.

Yours truly (Ralf) will be there and I’ll be happy to demo you any of the software, give you a glimpse at the upcoming Token Treasure and Cities of Schley, or just chat about maps, map-making and gaming in general. Hope to see you there!
Spiel Halle 6

Travels_AustraliaAfter a full three months of travel, I’m back home in good old Germany and settled back into my own place.

For fun, I’ve created two little maps showing my itinerary with Pär Lindström’s excellent “Modern Journeys” style, published in the Cartographer’s Annual Vol 8 (2014), garnished with my own photos from the trip. This style is just brilliant to show overviews of travel itineraries.

The first part of the journey brought me to Australia, where I mainly traveled around the southeast and Tasmania. In Sydney I had the great pleasure to finally meet Joe Sweeney in person, the guy who creates all these lovely video tutorials for our software. One of the absolute highlights was hiking (or bushwalking as they say there) the Overland Track in Tasmania, one of the most beautiful multi-day hikes in the world. At the end of my stay I took a trip over to the other side of the country, staying a few days in Perth with Lindsay, our editor for all the mapping guides in the Annuals, and her husband. Again it was wonderful to meet people in person you only know via the Internet. Thanks for all the hospitality!

aboriginalCartography-wise I found this map of language families in Australia especially interesting, because it dispelled a lot of preconceptions of a monolithic aboriginal culture for me, which we tend to encounter in fiction and documentaries a lot.

Originally my plans were to travel to New Zealand only, but I am now very glad that I decided to include five weeks in Australia. While I saw only a little section of this vast country, both landscape and people were absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t want to miss a single day of my visit. Having only seen the southeast, Tasmania and Perth I now have more than enough reason to return and explore the rest of the continent.


New ZealandNew Zealand! It’s the dream destination of so many Germans – me included. Of course it is a very beautiful country, but our fascination with it seems to go beyond that. The popularity of the Lord of the Rings movies only added to an existing love for New Zealand – perhaps because it is pretty much the farthest away you can get from our home country on this blue planet. “Wanderlust” is a German word after all, and we have another one that described the longing to travel even better: “Fernweh”.

I did not really plan my itinerary to visit any filming locations of Peter Jackson’s movies, but there are so many of them on the islands that you often only need to take a little step off the path to see one. I’ve written a little piece about traveling through Middle-earth in another place. It’s in German, but if you read that language or want to brave a Google translation check the links.

NauticalI traveled the length of the country, from busy Auckland in the north down to remote Stewart Island south of the South Island. Some of the top highlights were walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, swimming in the crystal blue waters of Able Tasman Bay, looking out across Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak, and reaching my southernmost point ever on Ulva Island.

Map-wise I was especially fascinated with the many navigational charts I encountered and I’m planning to create a Cartographer’s Annual issue around these.

As long as my trip may have been, it was still over much too soon. It was the weirdest feeling coming back: It felt like everything should have changed a lot after being away for such a long time, but in reality nothing much did. Everything was still the familiar old – which is a good thing. Did I take away something beyond a wonderful set of memories from this journey? Yes, I guess it would be: Do It! If you get the opportunity for a time-out away from everything, be it a month, three of them, or a year, grab it by the throat! You’ll never know when the opportunity presents itself again.

Just make sure you have a good map for your journey!

Old-time map This is a bit of a personal announcement by me (Ralf), meant to clear up any confusion that may arise in the coming weeks: I’m taking some time off to travel and realize my life-long dream to see Australia and New Zealand. I’ll be away for three months (from November to end of January) and my duties at ProFantasy will be taken over by Simon, Mark and – welcome to the club – Jeff Salus (Dogtag on the forum). You are in good hands!

The Cartographer’s Annual will be appearing as normal; everything is prepared for the time that I am away and should be running smoothly. In fact, you can preview the November and the December issues now, as well as the 2017 Annual. Jeff will be handling tech support and the community forum is always there with many helpful voices.

I am very much looking for my first time in the southern hemisphere and hope to bring back many inspirations for future maps. See you in February next year!

06_AboveCloudsThis is a bit of a personal look at this year’s travel to Indianapolis and my experience on the ProFantasy booth at GenCon. Read on if you enjoy this sort of thing.

I enjoy traveling very much, but a transatlantic flight is still a tiring thing. It takes me about 2 hours to get to Frankfurt airport from where I live, so it always means an early morning start for me. There are no direct flights to Indianapolis from Europe, so the first leg of the journey usually takes me to New York, Detroit or Chicago. Then there’s immigration, another security check and the domestic flight to Indy. All of this easily eats up 20 hours or more. As I can’t sleep on the plane, you can imagine the general state I’m in when I arrive in Indy on Tuesday evening. I have to to say though, that recent changes in the way the US handles the immigration/security checks has reduced waiting times immensely. Where I used to stand 30 minutes to 2 hours in line, I can now just walk up to an immigration terminal and get through the whole thing in 10 minutes. Great!

09_BoothArrivalWednesday is set aside for booth setup. I meet up with Doug and Tommy, who’ve driven over from Columbus the day before, and we usually start building the booth around 10am – if the booth material has arrived yet, as it had this year. Having done this for a few years, we are a practiced team and get it done pretty quickly. As we are sharing the booth with Pelgrane Press and they have a lot more to do with all the heavy books to shift, we usually manage to help them out a bit. Often there’s a problem to sort out: Electricity hasn’t been laid, tables are missing, we need more chairs, etc. which means a trip to convention services or asking around at other exhibitors. This year was fairly easy on that, but Mayfair Games were very helpful in storing some palettes we didn’t have space for. Doug is the champion in getting help – he just has a way with people.

20_ArmadaWednesday evening there’s usually a little time available where I can get in a game or two. Tommy usually brings along some good games, and this year we managed to try a session of Star Wars: Armada which neither of us has had a chance to play before. My Imperial fleet managed to decimate his rebel scum – taking on Star Destroyers in close combat is not such a promising tactic after all. Yay!

Gaming takes my mind away from the jet lag exhaustion at this point, helping to get into the 6-hours-delayed day and night rhythm. If I’d retire to the hotel room, I’d just fall asleep and later be awake most of the night. Still I start waking up at 4am and then sleep only in small bursts until it’s get time get up. By the time I’m acclimatized, it usually time to fly back home to Germany.

25_DemoRunningThursday is the big day – the actual convention starts. It’s early hours for us, since the first customers can enter the exhibitor’s hall at 9am (VIGs – very important customers – spend extra on their tickets for this privilege). Since there is usually some last minute setup to do, things to check, and the computer to boot up, I’m in the hall at 8am, the earliest time you can enter as exhibitor.

The real rush begins when the hall opens to the general public and it’s always fun to see the crowd hurrying towards the booth with limited product or special offers. Fortunately they’ve now managed to convince everyone that running though the aisles is NOT a good idea – even if it had to be through threats of removing ticket privileges. More customers start arriving at our booth around that time, and I get into my routine of explaining (“What are you selling here?”) and/or demoing CC3+ (“Can you show me how it works?”) or the add-ons (“How do I create a starship deckplan”)?

22_RedCarpetWe had the the just released Perspectives 3 installed, but unfortunately no discs or boxes yet. That always makes it a bit hard to generate interest, but I was able to demo the isometric map-making to quite a few people and they liked what they saw! It’s great to see familiar faces and get wonderful feedback from old-time customers, but the largest part of the booth work is getting new people interested in CC3+ – and that is very rewarding. We’ve added at least 60 new people to the fold of CC3+ users over the course of the show, and I am sure several of those will show up on the forum with their work or come back to the booth next year to chat about their experience.

Thursday afternoon and Friday tend to be quieter which gives us the chance to take turns to wander the halls and look around. There’s never enough time to play an actual demo game at one of the many tables, but at least you get to check out new releases, special offers and old friends at other booths.

34_EnnieThursday night is usually reserved for the ProFantasy dinner where we enjoy a good meal together with some freelance cartographers. Unfortunately Alyssa Faden couldn’t make it to GenCon this year, but Mike Schley was there. I can’t say much about it yet, but I’m happy to hint, that there’ll be some cool stuff coming up from further Schley/Profantasy cooperation.

Friday is gala night where the ENnie awards are given out in a big ceremony. ProFantasy wasn’t involved, but Pelgrane Piess always is and won an amazing number of ENnies this year. Congratulations to our booth compatriots!

43_BatmanSaturday is always the busiest day of the show and we do the bulk of our sales. Fortunately it doesn’t get rowdy, but some customers do seem to go to extremes. Thanks, Batman!

Saturday evening I reserved for gaming with friends and we got a nice playtest session in for an upcoming Tolkien-themed deduction game from Ares Games, where the Nazgûl are hunting for the hobbits on their way from Bag End to Rivendell. I got to play Frodo, but the pesky ringwraiths managed to thwart me and recovered the One Ring on the road east of Bree. So much for Middle-earth!

35_DismantlingThings start to slowly wind down on Sunday, with the exhibitor’s hall closing at 4pm. Dismantling the booth and storing everything for shipping went well this year (it can be a pain) and we waved Tommy and Doug goodbye as they headed home. For us long-distance-flyers the trip home is on Monday, giving us time to gather for the big Pelgrane dinner and some drinks in the hotel bar later. Another GenCon well done!

Somehow the trips back to Germany always prove troublesome for me. This year I ran smack into the big Delta Airlines mess up. I missed the connecting flight from Detroit to Frankfurt and had to spent the night and most of the next day in Detroit. At least on the way back it’s not so stressful, as I wisely never place any important appointments on the two days after my return from Indianapolis.

39_IndyAirport
Again it was a wonderful 4-days of gaming (well, mostly work actually, but still) and I’m looking forward to being back in Indianapolis next year!