Back From Essen

After many years, I have finally popped my Essen cherry.  This is a big deal for me: I first heard about the event in the early 90's, and have promised myself ever since that one day I would go, but factors including finances, time, anxiety, and cowardice have always combined in various ways to hold be back.  This year, Cubicle 7, the publisher who have signed two of my games, asked if I would like to go along and help, and my very understanding wife gave me a nudge in the right direction, so I said yes, and off we went.

I spent most of my time on the Cubicle 7 stand with their team, Dom, Jon, and Becky, who are all jolly fine people to work with.  My task was to explain the basics of the non-roleplaying games on the stand to anyone who was interested.  This was mostly focused on the new releases, Cthulhu Tales, and the preview edition of my game, Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey, but there were also three Doctor Who games that I was covering as well.  Between them, it meant that I was talking an awful lot, but it was good practice to develop concise game explanations -- not actually a full rule runthrough on any of them, but intended to be enough to give a decent feel for what the game involves.

I did manage to look around the rest of the show during my breaks, and while I didn't get to play, and whoa! This is a huge show, making UK Games Expo look like a minor local event.  There were entire game shops with walls, windows and doors, within the halls, vast areas of demonstration tables, and some of the publishers had stages with cameras and large screens overhead, where presenters were hosting game shows to showcase their latest releases. All this time it was easy to just get swept along in the flow of a huge crowd on the move.

A small part of one of the halls on one of the quieter days!

One of the highlights of the event for me was selling out of Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey on day 3.  OK, so this was a very small print run, so the expectation (or at least the hope) was that we would sell out, but it was still amazingly gratifying and I owe a big thankyou to everyone who shelled out for a copy.  Given comments from people after the stock had gone, we would probably have been able to sell at least a few more if we had them.

And I owe an even bigger thankyou to the woman who came by the stall to tell me that she bought a copy the day before and had played it, loved it, and told all her friends about it.  Unfortunately we had sold out by this point so we couldn't sell more to her friends, but it was one of the most amazing experiences of the show.  I know that the game is sure to get criticism sooner or later, but the fact that at least some people are so enthusiastic makes it all worthwhile.

My favourite pic from the weekend and the source of much personal pride.
There were so many other highlights though, most of which actually involve interactions with people.  One of the big ones was meeting fellow designers published by Cubicle 7, Jeff Tidball, Francesco Nepitello, and Marco Maggi.  These are three of the nicest guys around as well as being great game designers into the bargain.  I was totally blown away when I spotted Francesco enthusiastically explaining about my game to someone he knew.

Then there was the guy who complimented me on my style of explaining games, which was really nice of him. And the high fives, handshakes, and fist bumps from so many other people I knew around the place -- and from all those I didn't know beforehand! There were also those funny moments, like when we were trying to arrange a team game of Cthulhu Tales with the designers only to realise that we had just sold our demo set so we couldn't.

SPIEL is different to other conventions I have been to in that it closes early every evening and kicks everyone out, but this means that there is a thriving fringe fair, with gaming areas set aside in many of the hotels, and parties and other events organised all over the town.  One evening I just crashed out in my hotel room to rest, but the other nights I was out and about, including a great Playtest UK meetup where we got to play a bunch of prototypes, including ones from some of our international friends. I didn't take a game along myself, and was very happy to just play and give feedback.

So, that was it.  I flew back home on Monday, absolutely knackered but happy to have been.  I'm sure I will go again, maybe next year, and maybe I will join the procession of game designers doing the rounds of pitching games to publishers.  That's a decision to make later.


  1. Was great to see you! Sorry I didn't get a chance to pop by. Thanks for coming and delivering the gift of high 5s. :-)

    Congrats on selling out!

    1. Hi Bez, and thanks! It's always a pleasure to see you -- and it looked like I had more opportunities to get away from the stall than you did. I hope it was a good fair for you.