Thursday, 18.10.2001


Okay, finally we have come to the first convention day, and the convention halls still looked peacefully into the day...


But already on approaching the convention area I had to discover that Essen would be very different this year. Not only do we have extraordinary good and warm weather for October in Germany, but also the crowds standing in front of the entrances seemed to be rather large this year, and they remained even after some hours of the first opening.

Today I decided to have my first stroll over to the booth of alea-Spiele where Stefan Brück usually presents a playable prototype of the new alea game which will be released months later at the Nürnberg Toy fare. The new game has the title Puerto Rico and has been designed by Wolfgang Seyfahrt.


Puerto Rice is a game for 3 to 4 players, and the players take up the task of trying to become the most successful settlers on the Caribbean Island Puerto Rico. During his turn, a player choses one of 7 different actions which all players will have to perform during this turn: building new plantations, recruiting new settlers, loading goods onto ships to get victory points, building houses etc. The chosen action is done by all players during that turn, but the active player who did chose the action always receives a special bonus: cheaper building costs, additional plantations etc. After all four players this have chosen an action, thr turn ends and the next turn begins with a new starting player, thus ensuring that every player sometimes has the option to chose from all possible actions.


Stefan Brück explains the new game

The game is driven by a well balanced set of rules, the the players have many options on how to develop their strategy. Invest into plantations first, or build key-buildings in town which allow the players to gain special abilities. Once a first introduction of the rules has been made to the players, the game progresses smoothly and Stefan Brück told me that learned players usually take about 75 minutes to complete a game. I am not sure whether it really can be played that fast, but I already have to admit that it looks like Puerto Rico is one of the finest games presented at Essen this year.


Later on the afternoon, after several rounds through the convention area, I went through one of the doors into the indoor courtyard where usually the trucks are driving for unloading, and here a spectacle took place which I cannot remember from any previous year. Wearing shirts instead of thick jackets, many visitors of the convention had crowded into the courtyard and were actually enjoying themselves out there in the sun: examining games and playing, or just having a good chat, people were able to take a quite good break from the stressful atmosphere in the convention halls. As I said, I have never experienced anything like this in all 17 years which I attended the convention - the weather never was useful for any outdoor activities.

My second major visit this day I made at the Hasbro-booth, and there I was able to give the youngest child of their successful Monopoly-series a closer examination.


Monopoly - Die Börse takes up the recent boom of sharholding at stockmarkets and leads to players to manage their stocks in a game of Monopoly. Instead of real estates, the players now deal with stocks of well-known companies, and the first player who lands on a company can turn it into a public company and become chief executive. However, the ever changing market-index can make an investment quite dangerous.

During the whole game the players acquire shares, and if a player owns more shares than a current CEO he will become new chief executive of a company. The more companies a player chairs the better, and if he takes over all companies of a certain branch he will come into a monopolist position. Building branches and main administrations also increases rents, and the event cards now show events which will influence the shares' values at the stockmarket.

The centerpiece of the game is the elcetronic broker which features and manages all share values during the game. Apart from current values, it also displays a player's portfolio, it shows his CEO-positions, his branches and main administrations and his rent-income. During the game the broker will constantly receive new data which will allow new calculations of share values. Especially this feature offers realism and tense to the game, but surprises are also still possible since nobody can predict a "black friday"...

Kulkmann's opinion: Due to the great popularity of share investment in recent years, the games takes up a quite modern trend and succeeds well in introducing some of the mechanisms on which a stockmarket operates into the close confines of a boardgame. Especially the electronic broker is a feature which makes the game stand apart from any other games from the Monopoly-series, and I consider the game really worthwhile.

Some other good news concern the new Avalon Hill game Cosmic Encounter: After some initial problems after the Nürnberg Toy Fair, the game has finally left print and is now available in stores all over Germany.

Finally, I should also say that I constantly keep returning to the used-games section.


Here quite a lot of traders have set up their booths and are hoping to do some good business, and quite a few of them are well known from many previous years. Thus, I visited the well-known games trader Raimund Winante today, and I also came by Colin Wheeler, chairman of 2nd Games Galore, who has once again found the way from England to Essen with a bunch of used and wanted english boardgames in his luggage.


Raimund Winante's booth


Colin Wheeler from 2nd Games Galore

Well, that should be sufficient for today! I just want to see my bed!!!

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Copyright © 2003 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany