It was that time of year again – Playmore Games packed the bags and headed towards Essen for Spiel ’15. After last years event our anticipation level was high as we were releasing our first game Race to the North Pole there but we had no idea about how awesome the trip would be! Here’s a lengthy report of our whole trip with some nice photos!
Saturday – Sunday 3.-4.10.2015
Our trip started well before the fair opened their doors. Our long preparations was coming to an end and it was time to load everything to our Spiel-bil, courtesy of Poromagia. We were responsible for building the whole booth for Arctic Union – a coalition of Finnish gaming companies. So 6 other companies were counting on us!
After a couple of hours of loading at our office in Helsinki – and playing tetris in the trunk – we managed to get everything to the van. Snowmachine – check. Games – check. Shelves – tv, tools, check. Luggage – check. Tomi and Jouni – check. Oh crap! We’re almost late! So pedal to the metal and towards the harbor and boat. The last member of our expedition had some problems with trains, buses and timetables so he arrived to the boat a few minutes before it parted – luckily. Our trip would have been a lot of tougher without an extra set of hands. So Thanks Anssi!
We spent all Sunday on the boat. Nothing else much to do but to eat, sleep, drink and go to the sauna – so that’s what we did. Preparing for the Spiel and getting more nervous about whether our own game Race to the North Pole would arrive on time. We were promised Wednesday or early Thursday the latest but the latter would be cutting a bit close.
We woke up at around 7 to the captains announcement that it’s time to get the heck out of dodge. After a quick breakfast we were out of the boat. It’s almost 500 km from Travemünde to Essen so we spent several hours on the Autobahn. We didn’t get too much out of it since our Spiel-bil was overloaded and our top speed was around 120 km/h (when going downhill). But around 14.00 we finally arrived in Essen and drove straight to the fairgrounds.
3 pallets of stuff were waiting for us (unfortunately none of them Race to the North Pole!) and we had a carpet on the ground – the rest was up to us. We had a hectic day of unloading, building, arranging, troubleshooting, cursing and panicking. We got a lot of stuff done but we were hoping that things would have been a bit further off. The biggest problem was that we didn’t have electricity so we couldn’t test either our TV-setup or our snowmachine. And we wouldn’t get the electricity Tuesday either, so we were just hoping for the best. We packed our stuff and left the fairgrounds after 21 and headed tired as heck to our hotel.
After a refreshing beer and an awesome kebab in a local joint (hey, a kebab restaurant where they’ve written a menu in a blackboard – can’t go wrong) and a good night of sleep we headed for breakfast.
I could dig deep in to this subject, but let’s just say an opinion of a professional chef (that would be me) – hands down the best breakfast buffet ever. Ever. Ok, back to work!
Things got really hectic during the day, we were in a rush to get everything done so that Wednesday would be just chilling and meeting people. Well, didn’t go exactly as expected but we got a lot of things done. Anssi left but luckily other people from the Arctic Union started to arrive after I picked the first 2 from the airport.
We got all of our shelves in order and also most of the heavy lifting. At the end of the day we were eagerly awaiting for the electricity and the rest of the games to arrive on Wednesday. I set up the press room copy – which was still our last prototype as our factory copies hadn’t arrived yet. For some reason most of the exhibitors had gotten early access and we got a table at the very far end of the press room (doh!). I also found out quickly that we had heavily under prepared for the press event. Won’t happen again! For Jouni and me the day ended in a hamburger joint that was serving 5 € ½ liter cocktails. Not too shabby. Cheers Essen!
We have electricity! Lights – check, coffee machine – check, TV with the slideshow – check. And a big check to the snow machine – it worked and it was spectacular! Phew!
Jouni kept charge of the stand building while most of my day went with running forth and back from the press room. I met some really awesome people, gave interviews, explained the game and gave a lot of invitations for the Arctic Union booth. Timo from Dragon Dawn Productions managed to grab a reporter from Der Spiegel magazine in the press event, made an great pitch and Black Hat ended up in the magazine on the top #12 list of games to be played. That’s really awesome! So congrats to the team!
Finally our games (300 of them) arrived from the factory. Can’t remember the last time I was that nervous, opening up the first copy of our first game … and it looked beautiful! The board rotated awesomely, the plexi glasses fit really well and the print looked very good. The reference sheet were the wrong language and stickers had a color issue – otherwise everything was perfect. We couldn’t wait for Thursday and to get to sell the game! (In truth, we started selling the game on Wednesday for the first interested parties!)
Thursday – Sunday 8.-11.10.2015
I’m going to type all of the actual fair days in one, since it was so hectic that I can’t remember what happened and when .. it was busy!
The important things first: Race to the North Pole sold well. Not just well, we sold out. People wanted to buy it and we were giving out the game and writing autographs as fast as we could. Jouni took most of the business meetings while I was playtesting the game in our table. I didn’t keep count in the first 2 days but I noticed that Saturday and Sunday every single playgroup bought the game (except one I wasn’t sure since I had to step away). The feedback was awesome and we felt really good. 2 years of work and people loved our product!
And the snow machine was really rocking it. People were running from far away to dance in our snowfall. We got some really cool interviews when there was a sudden snowfall during the taping. Hope you saw it!
Almost every day was identical to the other; people came in masses to our booth, loved the game and bought it. On Saturday we were getting really worried that we won’t have a game to sell on Sunday. Luckily the stock held so that most of the people got the game. The last few hours of Sunday we didn’t have anything to sell. At that moment it we were thinking that how many copies we would have sold if Race to the North Pole would have been sold in other booths as well, not just Arctic Union stand on hall 2…
We also ended up on the #25 space on the BGG buzz list. BoardGameGeek had a booth where all the visitors could vote for their favorite games of the Spiel. There were nearly 700 games on the list and Race to the Pole rocked the vote! A few votes more and we’d have ended in the top #15. Thank you for everyone who voted!
Thursday evening we had a really lousy burger experience in all-in-one restaurant. I recommend no one to go to that place ever. I won’t go into details, but it had the suckiest service I’ve ever witnessed. The night ended when me and Jouni crashed the hotel near the fair and had some fun games with a lot of awesome people. We also got to sign a copy of R2NP to Mr. Eric Lang himself, I feel honored! Thank you!
Saturday evening we had a big Arctic Union dinner in a local pizzajoint. The wine was plenty, pizzas were awesome and the service a lot better than last year. These are the events and parties that make the event so special!
Sunday evening – Wednesday 10.-14.10.2015
When the event was wrapped up I can tell you that I was tired. Really really tired. My voice was a rasp, my legs ached, my head hurt, I was hungry and thirsty. My brain didn’t work properly. But damn was I happy! Our first game was a success, the event was AWESOME and our booth was spectacular. We had a great bunch of people from Arctic Union on our booth and together we made happen one of the most awesome booths in Spiel for sure.
But no rest for the wicked. When the doors closed we started tearing down our booth. Around 21:30 we headed down for burgers (which ended up being pizzas) and cheap cocktails. We partied until 04:00 and after a couple of hours of sleep headed back to the fairgrounds.
Monday was a hectic “TEAR IT DOWN” day. Anssi joined us once more and we managed somehow to pack up the Spiel-bil to the ceiling. And I really mean it, there was hardly space for our luggage. The car drove really really low so we had to take care that we didn’t leave the bottom of our car to a speedbump.
The boat trip back was just relaxing in the sauna and tub, drinking a few beers and playing a few games (I brought around 12 from Spiel I think). Mamma Mia and Black hat were awesome, some others we tested not so much. But to each their own!
When we returned to Finland Wednesday we still had one more stop to Poromagia. We unloaded the van in a couple of hours (at the end I was sure I’d have a heart attack) and headed back to work.
And that was our awesome spectacular trip to Spiel ’15 in Essen. We thank all the Arctic Union crew, all the awesome people we met. We’ll be back next year with a new game!