The floor didn't allow for much sleep, though Steve reports the bed was little better, so we only got a few hours rest between us. Not great, but we were somewhat buoyed by the excitement of the day to come. Our first morning in Gelsenkirchen saw an equivalent of Greggs for breakfast and then a tram-ride to Essen Messe.
It was a 30min journey, in which we were witness to a large number of square, concrete buildings - sometimes painted, but mostly grey. Not a fan of the architecture, though the houses themselves look considerably more spacious than back home as standard. Everything was built up to three storeys plus and that, interspersed with large, open plazas gave a sense of grandeur that was a somewhat oppressive when compared to the towns and cities of the Midlands.
Walking to the Messe itself from the station, we past half a dozen people who were on their way back, despite the place only opening an hour or so beforehand. They carried cardboard boxes full of new games, having easily spent £500 on that trove alone.
Entrance to the fayre was without queue and we began our task of familiarising ourselves with the six halls of games!
First thing that caught our eye was the impressive area from Stockport's Steamforged Games, who were promoting Guild Ball, which in my ignorance had passed me by until that moment. We were greeted by a friendly Glaswegian called Bryce who proceeded to explain the game, the world and the array of available products for our purchase. Guild Ball is definitely not just Blood Bowl but with a football, but if I was pressed for time, that's what I'd say. It's an interesting take on a low-fantasy setting and definitely something I'm sold on, once disposable income becomes a thing again. Have a link to check it out yourself http://steamforged.com/guildball/
We ambled around for a good while then, taking in as many of the huge number of stalls as we were able, though none particularly caught our attention enough to stop us.
In the far-reaches of the hall, we came across a small group of students showcasing the 'alpha' edition of an app they were developing - a location-based meetup tool for gamers, which seems pretty useful.
On our way back toward the more populous areas, we were drawn in by Ethan Leong (Randomskill Games) as his prototype for Lawless Empire. I say prototype, but it looked like a retail-ready copy. Sharing the booth were Leon and Mark of Wingo Games, manufacturers I'd heard of before, so we sat down and had a good discussion about manufacture and distribution. They seemed very positive and lovely people. Certain possibility of using them for our games.
Onward, and a brief pass of the Square-Enix area, where they were showcasing the brand-new Final Fantasy CCG. It was getting a launch here and I was worried I'd be spending a sizable sum on it. Fortunately, in one way, they only had the German-language edition for sale, but at €4.50 per booster pack, I think I'll give it a miss overall. The game itself is pretty basic and most, if not all, of the cards I saw use existing artwork so there's not much to justify the price at all. There was a small, stand-alone card game called Chocobo's Crystal Hunt, which I might pick up later in the week.
Lunch was bratwurst, naturally. €3.80 was fine for show food, but a 0.5l bottle of Coke or water was €3.50 (£1 = €1 at the moment). Bringing our own drinks tomorrow! Might eat at the giant Haribo pick n mix too...
Plenty of reminders that Spiel isn't just for hobby-gamers with the numerous family games and cool, innovative children's games/toys on show. I began to miss the rest of my clan - they're definitely coming next year!
We stopped off in the afternoon to satisfy Steve's index finger for a game of Ice Cool - a 'dexterity' (flicking') game set in a penguin high-school (http://www.publishing.brain-games.com/ice-cool). Provided a good few laughs in it's execution, but the rules for victory were very basic, the excuse being that it was aimed towards kids. I don't think kids necessarily need to be patronised with such basic rules myself, but then I was brought up playing Kingmaker so mayhap my experiences differ.
A few stalls selling second-hand products, but despite the joy at seeing some old classics, we were at a games fayre and the sellers knew exactly the value of what they had (and had increased prices further for the show), so there were no hidden bargains to be had. A ton of Magic: The Gathering cards (one store using a large touch-screen for browsing of their cards, which was cool) and comics from all eras, along with a wealth of standard current merchandise rounded the show out.
We had covered 7.8miles according to my pedometer, caught a surface-glance of nearly the whole show, and were ready to head out, returning tomorrow for an in-depth visit. Back to Gelsenkirchen!