My first round of Essen games came in from Adam Spielt just yesterday, and (lucky me) I was able to get all of the games I wanted to play in!
Attika is a simple new game from Hans im Glück set in ancient greece (nominally, as usual). Players are building buildings by paying resources, and the goal is to either build a cross-board chain or get all of your buildings into play. You have a set of 30 buildings; starting with a random set of 4, you draw more from a pool Samurai-style. You can get big discounts by playing buildings in the right order, so the key trade off is between drawing lots of buildings now to play them later cheaply, or getting them on the board now for key positioning. Lots of interesting choices, and everyone liked this one a lot I think. It struck me as one of the better new games in quite some time, and I look forward to playing again.
Anno 1503 is sort of a multi-player Settlers Card Game light. Sort of. It is apparently based on a best-selling computer game of the same name, of which I have never heard. Anyway, you get resources (unlike settlers, the resources are hierarchical, with wood and bricks being easy to produce and cheap while Tobacco and Spice are harder and more expensive), spend them on buildings, exploration to acquire better production and such, and making money, and try to out-do your neighbors. While not as impressive as Attika, this was still a nice game I thought, one which is really extremely simple yet presents the players with a lot of tough choices and planning opportunities. The only real failing is a lack of much player interaction, which I grant you is a problem. But on the other hand, it’s a very friendly game, and that’s worth something too. Not a ringing endorsement, but I enjoyed it and will play again. I doubt it will last a year on my shelf, but I’ll get my money’s worth.
Intrige is a game I’ve had in the back of my mind to acquire for many years, so I was glad to see it come back into print this year. This is a wonderfully nasty little game that really encourages outright brutal behavior. Games like this usually don’t do much for me, but Intrige scores by being short (45 min), simple, fast, and, as a guy who has spent a lot of time looking for work in the past few years, a good theme. You’re trying to get your pieces placed in good jobs on other player’s mats, and the way to do this is through bribery and threats. The great thing is, the employer gets to pocket all the bribes before deciding who to hire & fire. Great twist there. So it really encourages the potential employer to make everyone feel like they have a shot at the job, and then yank the carpet. Not for the fainthearted, but this game succeeds for me as a nice, brutal, screw-your-friends game much more than other entries like Family Business, Nuclear War, or I’m the Boss which try to soften the blow by being totally chaotic (and, especially in the case of I’m the Boss, much too long). Very fun if you can get into the game, and recommended.