Last month I got to travel to Essen, Germany for Essen Spiel (board game convention)! It was a lot of fun, and I’m really glad I got the opportunity to go. It was my first trip to Europe, and the longest plane ride I have ever been on.
It was so interesting to see the differences between a United States convention and a European convention. In the US, there is a vendor section and an event section, where people can try out games or just bring their own games and free game. In Germany, there was only a vendor section. Some of the booths had tables set up for people to try their games, but the emphasis was definitely on buying games. On Thursday, the first day of the convention, we had a table set up to demo Undertow for those interested. But the booth was so full of people knowing exactly what they were there to buy, that we just ended up taking orders at the table, until the crowd died down.
I definitely noticed a difference in the people at the convention as well. It was really rare in Essen to see people dressed up in costumes, whereas in the US, it would be strange to not see people in costume. And I hate to bring up stereotypes, especially when I feel that they are changing for board gamers, but in the US, it is a common occurrence to see butt cracks. I think we were two or three days into the convention before I saw one at Essen. And I honestly don’t remember seeing that many.
The convention for me seemed more low-key, after that initial swarm on Thursday morning. Part of that could be due to the fact that we were in the middle of running a Kickstarter, so I was in the hotel lounge working a lot more than in the booth. The other part could also be that we had less stock in Europe and sold out quickly. When you have nothing to sell, there is more time spent just explaining games and chatting with people, which maybe makes it seem less stressful to me. I also feel that since we had a much smaller group in Essen than at the other conventions, there wasn’t as much time trying to coordinate everyone to get meals and figure out what we were all going to do, so we had more time to explore and spent less time waiting on everyone.
I had two booth moments that were my favorites. The first was when one of our volunteers, who doesn’t have a lot of experience playing our games was explaining Triplock, and she had a HUGE group of people swarming around her to learn. Josh, one of the game designers and owners, sat at the table with Undertow and nobody at the table with him. It was pretty funny! My second favorite moment was when two fans came up to Adam, another game designer and owner, and totally geeked out about meeting him. It was super cute, and I was glad I got to be there to see how excited they were to talk with him!
As far as non-convention time goes, I had a lot of fun wandering around the city! I ate way more pasta than I had expected for Germany, and the dessert bar that I went to was way more alcoholic than what I had expected! I also noticed that there were not as many coffee shops around as there are in the US. I think part of that is because every cafe seemed to have their own espresso machine.
Overall, I had a really fun time, and I am excited about the potential of going back next year! (BTW, the sign in the featured image is telling you to not feed the ducks…apparently they forget how to swim and float feet up if you do that…)