Imagine there's a magical place where you are surrounded by all the wood & cardboard in the world.
Imagine that at any moment, you can reach out and touch freshly-printed linen-finish cards, tiles just plucked from their punchboards, meeples that only weeks ago were part of some tree, dice that only months ago were just another gelatinous petroleum by-product (ok, don't imagine that part), boxes bursting with the creativity of dozens of designers, illustrators, playtesters.
Now, imagine that none of that is yours - in fact, it will never be. Because you are there not to buy them, but to sell them. Welcome to ESSEN!
ESSEN - what can one say? The greatest show in all of boardgamedom, the Oscars, the World Cup (or Superbowl for the new-worlders among us), the Woodstock of our hobby - all of those combined - and a place of pilgrimage for many.
But for many others, this is a place of business - for many, it is the single one event to go to, to shine at. For dozens of board game publishers, it is where you go to get your games played, reviewed, talked about - and hopefully, sold.
From the Thursday-morning rush through those chrome-plated doors, to the Sunday-evening last-minute deals, the fair is not just fun and games. It is an exhausting, exciting, entirely insane experience.
As a publisher (and we are talking from experience here), you have to manage your booth, you have to push your games, you have to get noticed. If you don't, this may be your last ESSEN. If you do, you get to come back - hopefully to stay.
Do you have what it takes? (ok, that was a cliché, that's on us) Can you make it in a place where 600+ different games are released every year?
ESSEN, like the real-life equivalent, is a full-contact game. Even if you anticipate demand correctly, a neighboring exhibitor could do that much better at demonstrating their games, and another one from across the halls could start giving away promo cards in front of your booth.
Can your Kickstarted game compete with all those fancy big-boy publisher massive releases? Will you time your ad-buying and special offers correctly? Will board game geeks fight over each other to grab your games - leading to a post-ESSEN bump in sales? Well, if not, you can always hire an accountant and make sure you look good to distributors and retailers!
A game called ESSEN could not be so named, if it wasn't true to the chaos and excitement of the world's premier board game fair.
To try the game online, join us for our Vassal playthroughs - by signing up at:
All the fun of a PnP without the cutting or glueing!
Here's a 2-min intro of the ESSEN rules:
In the 8 rounds of ESSEN (representing the mornings and afternoons of 4 days), the players:
1. Prepare their booths
2. Receive visitors
3. Sell games
4. Create buzz for the next round
5. Clean up their booths
That's it! With all players playing each phase before moving to the next, there is never any downtime. Here's a bit more detail.
The players prepare their booths by placing seller tiles on their booths, converting demo tables into sales tables.
They also choose whether to focus on sales, buzz, directly competing with each other, or running sales / buying ads / hiring accountants.
Then, visitors rush the halls, and crowd around sales and demo tables, filling the booths with giant IKEA bags, sweat and a childlike sense of wonder. Depending on the demand for games for that round, money is given in exchange for cardboard - hopefully.
Remaining visitors may wander off to neighboring booths, if they have more buzz - which is generated by demo tables and ads.
Finally, the exhibitors try to pick up the remains of their booth, wonder if they should be doing something else with their lives, and, after a currywurst and a Nutella waffle, get ready to try to sell again.
Here's a screencast of a recent Vassal session of ESSEN:
The rulebook can be downloaded here (2.5 MB, right click and Save as...).
Please download this file, as PDFs viewed in-browser may not display properly. This file is the low-resolution version of the rules document. The final rulebook will have crisp textures and high detail.
Keep in mind, that the rulebook may still go through changes and additions. For example, the credits & acknowledgements are not there yet.
There will also be rules in French & German.
NOTE: You need two copies of ESSEN to play with 5-8 players. See the FAQ section for more.
NOTE: Thanks to Rahdo & Harry-Pekka, here is now an official "2p with dummy player" variant, for those that would like an extra challenge during games with 2 players:
Joel Eddy "drives through" ESSEN:
Full disclosure: We backed Joel's KS campaign.
And here's an excerpt from Jonathan Liu's in-depth written review on GeekDad:
I love meta—games about games, books about books—so ESSEN appeals to me. The logistics of balancing sales and income, future visitors and current buzz: it's a bit of a brain-burner, too, but I like this sort of thing. If you like games about games and you've been to gaming conventions, this game may really click for you.
And, here's David, the Cardboard Castaway, who was also the one who screencast the Vassal playthrough:
Finally, the usual suspect Rahdo runs through ESSEN, and had this to say:
If you are a reviewer and do not take money to look at a game, feel free to get in touch with us for future projects. Due to the very limited nature of ESSEN's print run, we will not be offering any review copies once the game has been published.
Instead, we'd like to give copies to you, the backer, via the...
Would you like a free game? Well, you can't have one!
But, you can have one for nearly free. All you need to do is spend some time, instead of money. Join us for a Vassal session of ESSEN (see Try The Game Online above), and make a 5-15min. video about the what you thought of the game.
We will give out 1 copy for every 100 backers we get. This is not a raffle or a lottery, it's first-come, first serve. There is no obligation to back the campaign.
For information on the sprite rewards, scroll all the way down to the end of the campaign page.
ESSEN will come in an Agricola-sized box (12.40 x 8.86 x 2.76 in / 31.5 x 22.5 x 7 cm) with large-font, easy to read rulebooks in 3 languages (English, French, German), and the following components:
Each of the sprites on the Visitor and Extra Visitor tiles will be unique. All tiles are expected to be 35mm (approximately Carcassonne-sized).
Note that ESSEN is a game for 2-4 players. However, it scales easily up to 8, by combining two copies. To pledge for two copies, you must do so through two different KS accounts - every copy will be shipped separately.
If you intend to attend Spiel 2014 in Essen, you may instead, via the backer survey, choose to pick your game up at the fair, along with 5 EUR in cash.
All rewards will be shipped from Germany. Our primary shipping provider is Deutsche Post/DHL.
EU backers do not have to worry about customs or VAT.
As some our our past USA backers know, we've had trouble finding a reliable partner for local fulfillment, and we are still considering our options. If we do find a company that can provide that, we will hire them.
Shipments to worldwide backers will have 35 EUR declared as the value of the package. That's roughly equivalent to 52.54 CAD / 53.18 AUD / 42.78 CHF / 4895.85 JPY, and should be under the threshold that triggers customs duties in most countries.
Game design: Harry-Pekka Kuusela
illustration: Joe Pendon
Graphic design: Maciej Mutwil
Vassal module: Mindy Getch
Sleepless nights: Pixel art
Risks and challenges
All previous campaigns except Town Center 4th edition and Town Center: London / Hong Kong have been fulfilled. The Boardgames That Tell Stories books by Ignacy Trewiczek have mostly been shipped. We are working with a manufacturer we have worked with before, and we are confident in our ability to deliver the game and any stretch goals. That said, unforeseen events may affect how quickly fulfillment is conducted, and the final graphics and components that you see presented here are subject to (however improbable) change. We will be exhibiting at Essen, and it is very likely that some backers, or others may have the game in hand before you do. Delivery times may vary according to your local postal services - once we ship, the shipment is the responsibility of the shipping company. Daydreaming about ESSEN or attempting to visit western Germany in October may cause significant loss of savings, relationship conflict, cultofthenewitis, and very possibly diarrhoea (don't eat the currywurst).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (18 days)