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Four Days In The Center Of The Board Game Universe

November 7, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

As sales have slowed in Germany, much of the energy is spreading to neighboring countries. The hottest new player in the Eurogame scene is the Czech Republic. These are Eurogames with a strong influence from American-style games in terms of themes.

A good example of this was Galaxy Trucker by Vladimír Chvátil and published by Czech Games Edition (pictured below). This is an interesting game where players assemble their space truck (tiles on a grid) and then a series of action cards are revealed so players can see how their truck fares in space. I'd be surprised if some American publisher doesn't pick this up.

The most novel concept for a game I saw at the show was Seigo. Billed by the publisher as "world's first linguistic strategy game, players build armies of 36 basic phonetic Hiragana characters. The players build armies of Hiragana (Japanese phonetic characters) by conquering Japanese prefectures and producing the Hiragana that appears in the names of the prefectures.

The winner is the player to first acquire all the Hiragana at some point during the game (they need not be held at the same time).

There is technological progress in the game, represented by the acquisition of Kanji (Chinese ideograms used in Japanese). Each Kanji gives you one of the game's 20 technologies and is acquired by forming the Kanji's pronunciation on the game board.

Wars often occur as players compete for control of prefectures and trade routes. But wise players stay out of trouble by intimidating or co-opting their rivals, while building up strength for the inevitable war for the last Hiragana. Of all well-known games, Seigo mostly resembles Advanced Civilization in character.

There is always a strong interest in American board games, primarily adventure board games from Fantasy Flight such as Descent and Twilight Imperium, as well as Magic: The Gathering. Games Workshop, the British miniatures stalwart best known for the Warhammer franchise, has an impressive booth and always seems to do brisk business. German versions of a number of Steve Jackson Games such as Munchkin were available, as well as German Fluxx and Killer Bunnies.

One of the best aspects of Essen is seeing board games so fully integrated into the German mainstream. Nothing is cuter than a German blond carrying two big bags of board games. Is that not the "total package?" The publishers of kids' games have small tables and chairs so the primary customers, the children, can comfortably sit and try the new games. I have heard it speculated that one reason board games are so popular in Germany is there wasn't a lot else to do. Stores closed early and on Sundays.

The culture was to spend evenings and weekends doing things like playing board games with friends and family. I think the forces that pull at family time in America are starting to be felt more in Europe. It will be interesting to see how the game industry responds to this challenge.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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