Okay, okay, okay, I am back at work. Phew, that was a quite busy day, and even more typing needs to be done in order to get some decent news out. Thanks to all of you who have already entered my guestbook. It is a great motivation for me to see that there are people out there enjoying my reports!
Today, I started my tour with a visit at Goldsieber, trying to see what news they might have bought to the convention.
Goldsieber only came with one new release to Essen, the game Kupferkessel Co. (= Copperpot Store) which comes in their small sized box. The Kupferkessel Compagnie is a shop for sorcerers demanding indegredients of highest quality for their magic potions which they brew in huge copper pots. These indegredients will give their potions greatest power. In turn the players move along the shelves in the store and collect indegredients for their potion. In his turn, a player may take one indegredient-card from the shelf in front of which his playing piece is standing, and this card then is placed onto his stockpile (his copperpot), covering all cards which he already collected. Furthermore, the card also determines the number of moves which he may make the following turn.
The delicate scoring-system demands of the players to plan their moves in advance. The players always only see the uppermost card in their copperpots and thus they must memorise which indegredients they already collected. Otherwise, there might be some quite unwanted surprises at the end of the game if they composed an unstable potion...
Kulkmann's opinion: Kupferkessel Co. once again is an example that good games need not be big. The game is a very good strategy game, demanding a good memory and the ability to plan in advance alike. The game really is really worthwhile and quite attractive due to its short playing duration (20 to 30 minutes).
Talking to a Goldsieber-representative I was also able to find out why Goldsieber was not able to bring a big game to Essen: They had a title in production, but found that they came to unbridgable differences with the author on its rules. Thus, in the end they decided to abort the project. However, I was also able to get a preview of the new big game which Goldsieber is planning to release next spring.
The title of the game will be Goldland, and it tries to capture a bit of the story of the Conquistadors which were searching in South America for the famous town of El Dorado. In the new game, each player will receive some equipment at the shared basic camp, and from there they will set off in search of the Golden City. On their way through the wilderness, the players will have possibilities to swap their equipment for other items, and a good mixture of items will be used for solving the many dangers which wait on the road ahead. On the other hand, to much equipment will slow a player's progress, and thus he has to balance carefully on how much he wants to take with him. The gameboard is revealed piece by piece during the game, and only in the end the players will be able to reach El Dorado, which is always hidden at the opposite corner of the board. The game is playable for 2 to 5 players.
Another booth where I simply had to stop was that of Corne van Moorsel and Cwali-Games, who - after last year's hit Morisi - this year had brought his new game Titicaca to the Convention. The game is centered on colonizing a land by placing buildings at valuable places, but instead of peaceful settling the players here have to bid with weapons in order to see who is allowed to erect a house at a certain place.
Kulkmann's opinion: I must confess that I was a bit disappointed by the new game. It did not offer any striking new rules or twists, and also its design made it look quite a bit like The Settlers of Catan. True, the game is different and offers player interaction in quite another way, but in the end I cannot call the game better than average. If you want a better game, go for last year's Morisi.
Another game which I was quite eager to see was the new Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship cardgame by Ravensburger. Due to my strong interest in the topic, I was eager to see in how far this game - which was designed by none less than Rainer Knizia - could upkeed the atmosphere of the Lord of the Rings.
After a good study of the rules it turned out that the basic playing principles for the new game are quite simple: At the beginning of the game each player is equipped with a total of 22 playing cards, showing 4 times a Hobbit and otherwise his companions and last also a Nazgul. Each player has to mix his deck of cards and draws his hand of cards always from his own deck. The cards have values between 0 and 5, and they are used in the game to score victory points.
During the game, the players have to "visit" different places in Middle Earth and, starting with the first place, they are allowed to place one or more of their had cards next to the specific place. For this, they have to follow certain rules allowing them to place several low ranking cards at once or just one card with a higher ranking. Once all cards had been placed next to a place (10 cards do fit around one place), the place is evaluated and victory points are distributed to the players, with the player with the most valuable cards gaining most victory points. Afterwards, the next place is put onto the table, bordering the already placed cards on one corner. Thus, always one or two of the cards which had been placed for the last place now will also count for the next place.
This pretty much outlines the basic playing mechanism of the game, but further spice is added due to some special rules. On the one hand, at the some the places the players must observe some special rules. Thus, at the ford before Rivendell, always up to two cards can be played, whereas for example at Moria the player with the cards with the lowest value next to the place loses 3 victory points. Furthermore, the players can gain Ring-counters at some of the places, and these allow the players to change cardplay in some other ways if they are used. Finally, the players also can play their Nazgul cards against cards of other players, forcing a particularly disturbing card to be removed.
Kulkmann's opinion: This game is quite difficult to judge fairly. On the one hand, you have a decent playing mechanism which - perhaps surprisingly - even carries a slight feeling and a bit of atmosphere from the books. By travelling from place to place and facing dangers, the players a bit get the feeling that they are really travelling through Middle Earth, and thus normally nothing would prevent me from giving quite a bit of praise. However, from my point of view the use of cards with pictures from the movie gives the game a very poor optical impression. It is simply not nice to look at those cards, and the decision to use photos instead of graphics moves the game much more into the quarter of pure merchandise products. In the end, the game will find most praise by the people who liked the film and want some sort of memorabilia. These fans will get a decent, better than average merchandise product, whereas the real gaming freaks and collectors more often will refrain from buying the game because of its poor graphical design.
I have also talked to Mrs. Harmsen from Ravensburger, asking whether they are planning to continue the Tolkien line of products next year, but I was only told that Ravensburger is interested in doing so but the licensing-question is still open.
Finally, at the late afternoon the best event of the day took place, our small ceremony in which we awarded the Gamer's Choice Awards at the alea booth. The title for this year's best multiplayer game went to Die Fürsten von Florenz (=Princes of Florence) by Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich. Wolfgang Kramer was missing due to illness so that Stefan Brück from alea took his award for him, but Richard Ulrich was present. He felt quite honoured by the award, a feeling which increased after he had been informed by the members of the jury on how the awards are given and that worldwide gamers were sitting in the jury.
Well, enough for today, see you tomorrow!
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Copyright © 2003 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany