The "SPIEL 98" Report - News from smaller publishers

So you have actually found your way to this page, being on the hunt for infos on new releases by smaller publishers. Actually quite a lot of small companies attend Essen each year, and thus I was forced to do a pre-selection. Otherwise it would have been impossible for me to give you anything more than the names of the games. Nonetheless, I hope that you will enjoy what you will find in the "Small Games Menue", and that you will agree to my choice of games. But enough of this talking, letīs start with one of my favourites....

Doris & Frank


Actually, Doris & Frank didnīt make it to Essen with any new game, but instead they came up with an expansion-set for their highly wanted game "Ursuppe". Actually Frank told that at first they didnīt want to jump onto the "expansions-train", but they were vividly forced to do an expansion by many fans of "Ursuppe". In the opinion of many fans, the only flaw of the game was the fact that only up to 4 players may play it, and Doris & Frank thus took this criticism to heart. After some thoughts, the "Ursuppe Expansion Kit" was the result and now up to 6 players may participate in educating amobas in the great primordial soup. To assist the players, a new set of amobas is also included to give the game even more variety.

Thomas Fackler - Spiele - sui generis


Quite an object of art is the new game from Thomas Facklerīs one-man-workshop. "Die Mauer" (=the wall) is a tactical game for 2 to 8 players. The players have to place differently shaped pieces of walls and towers to form a castle-wall, following a special assortment of building rules. Each player has to own his own set of ten wall pieces, and the pieces and the box are handmade by Thomas Fackler. The walls are made of steel, made over hours in a small oven.

Contact adress: Thomas Fackler, Am Anger 15, 86482 Aystetten, Germany (I donīt know whether he will sell outside Germany.)

Historien Spiele Galerie


Actually Jean du Poel again brought a new game with him to Essen - itīs called "Bäuerchen" and itīs about the construction of old german farmhouses. Personally I donīt think that itīs an attractive game, since itīs just concerned with placing flat wooden cards which will actually form a house, somehow similar to his game "Wettstreit der Baumeister". For this reason I decided better to take a photo of a game from Jean which is actually 2 years old. Itīs the game "Aeronautica", and itīs about a flying race from London to Paris and back. Players are flying old airbirds, and they have to curve around the Eiffel-tower before turning back to London. Actually, the game is one of Jeanīs masterpieces. Already the design is great, with the handcrafted wooden planes and the Eiffel-tower. But also the rules are great. So players have to make use of the wind, which is steadily blowing on the Channel, in order to reach layers of air which will support their drift and thus allow to save some fuel.

Schleef/Jacobsen Spiele


Another quite fascinating gaming idea was introduced by the small new publisher Schleef/Jacobsen Spiele. The owners of the company have taken their experiences from former holidays and have built a game concerned with their favourite hobby - scuba-diving.

In "Diver" all the players are professional photographs for under-water images, and they all have come to a small tropical isle. Here they decided to join a peaceful contest to find out who of them is the best Diver and fulfils his orders to take six images fastest. The divers start with some money, just barely enough to charter a boat and get an air-bottle. But already in the first round the contest will start, since there a much fewer boats then there are divers. For these reason other divers will have the possibility to join up on a chartered boat, but they may not influence to which of the six diving areas the boat will drive. If the boat has arrived at itīs destination, the players will drop into the water and try to get the photographs they wanted. Players have to take images of one special fish in each aream and sometimes it will prove quite hard to get to the place where the fish is. Players may have to take deep divings, thus losing much more air from their bottle. Sometimes it will even happen that a bottle is empty before returning to the boat, and then the player will have to pay a fee for the rescue.


If running out of funds, players have several possibilities to gain back more money. When under water, they may take additional snapshots of other fishes which will allow them to do a Dia-show after having returned from the trip, or players may also join up with another player to assist him. In addition, if a player is on the isle and no baot is left, he may go off to nearby reefs where he can find fishes for a Dia-show.

The game is designed simply great. It has a fascinating theme and the gameboard and components are perfectly fitting to the hobby of Scubadiving. Actually the authors took images of fishes which they did take at former holidays, and they took these and perfect graphical art for game and gamebox to create quite a gaming gem. There were some discussing points in the game, but overall these points may easily cleared up and thus they are quite neglectable, but otherwise itīs a great (but long - about 2 to 2.5 hours) game. The game is roundes up by some random event cards which allow a small random element into the game, thus keeping a perfect balance between fun and strategy. A great game, mad by a couple who never did publish a game before. Itīs sold at a price of 95,- german marks.

Contact adress: Schleef/Jacobsen Spiele, Veerstücken 9, 22297 Hamburg, Tel./Fax: 040-5118045 (Foreign customers are welcome ! Please tell them that you found them by the review at Kulkmannīs G@mebox !)



Holzinsel is selling a wooden copy of the old Mattel game "Kathedrale". Itīs a two player game in which the players each have a set of town-building which they will have to place in turn at a quadratical gameboard. The buildings are differently shaped, and the players have to try to fence off as many space of the gameboard as possible, thus blocking off the other player and keeping free building spaces for their own buildings.



Think-games came up with a 150 games limited edition of their new wooden boardgame "Charlemagne". Itīs a family game for 2 to 4 players in which the players slip into the roles of Medieval nobles. The players can gather honours by ruling their castle and aiding the king to solve other problems in the realm. The winner of the game will be the player who served the King best.

In "Charlemagne" the players will have to face disasters, peasant unrests, wars and taxes. They will battle the other nobles and help the King to build the Castle.

"Charlemagne" is a game from the Netherlands, and it will be published in Germany about 1999. There are also plans for an English and a Dutch version. The actual version is one of 150 from the first edition made directly by the author. The beautiful handmade wooden game is for sale for 120 german marks.

Contact adress: Gerard Mulder, THINK_GAMES, Mauritsstraat 1, 2316 EC Leiden, Netherlands, FAX: 071-5274900, e-mail: Think_Games@compuserve.com

Bambus Spieleverlag


Another quite interesting game was newly published by Bambus Spieleverlag. "Nanuuk!" is a game about the native people of the Arctic, the Inuit, going to hunt for animals on the ice. The Inuit played by the players have built their Iglus for hunting on a single piece of ice, and here they go to hunt several sorts of animals, aided by Harpoons, Huskies, Sleds and Kajaks. But on their hunt they must be carful, since the ice tends to crack after any move and thus the players will be more and more forced to take detours when going to hunt an animal. Another danger comes from the Icebears, which he must constantly keep at bay. The game is finally won by the player who succeds to bring back the most valuable animals.


The game is actually a quite cute strategy game, and I quite like to looks of it and the work the author made with the rules. I also appreciate the additional flyer which is included into the game, telling the players facts about the life of the Inuit and the dangers modern society poses to them.

Contact adress: Bambus Spieleverlag, Postfach 360141, 10971 Berlin, Germany, Tel./FAX: 030-6121884, email: bambus@snafu.de

R&D Games

I have saved quite a gem for the last - "Keydom", the new game from Richard Breese and successor of the game "Keywood". The game was made in an edition of 300 pieces, and 200 of these were actually sold at Essen. In fact, the game was sold out on Thursday at about 4 PM, six hours after the first opening of the convention !


The story of the game is easily to be told: Many years ago great Keywood gifted his land to the inhabitants, and he declared the most worthy of them would be the new ruler - the Keymaster. To prove worthy to occupy the throne, the successor would have to acquite regalia from the goldsmith, a safe from the blacksmith to store these regalia, a key to lock the safe from the locksmith and, of course, he would have to know the keylore.

Now the different families of the land, the Fishermen, Forresters, Quarrymen, Farmers and Brewers try to get a member of their family onto the throne, allowing them to get greater influence.

To reach this task, each player may make use of the different inhabitants of the town: The Soldiers which will arrest members of other families, the Traders which will sell goods, the midwife who will help at a speedy expansion of the family and the Wizard who will sell his spells.

Actually the game is much too complex to give more than this short overview, but itīs a great looking game and the rules are very promising. A more detailed review will follow after the convention.

Contact adress: rbreese@msn.com

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Copyright © 2003 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany