SPIEL – a convention that can be thoroughly summarized by saying “and I thought Gen Con was huge!”. 4 days, 160,000+ attendees, and spiral potatoes on sticks. Read on to find out all about our adventures in the land of beer and bratwurst.

Setting Up

It seemed that every year we attended Spiel, there was never enough time to set up our booth. It was always a last minute panic to get everything in order before opening. This year Tomi and Jouni wanted to avoid the rush and arrived a few days earlier than everyone else. They arrived Monday which gave them 3 whole days before the convention – plenty of time! Plenty of time, that is, if your luggage arrives with you. Unfortunately for Tomi and Jouni, it had decided to take the long way round and somehow got lost in transit. It was pretty funny the first 2 times this happened to Jouni, but now I’m thinking it’s some sort of conspiracy against his plaid-patterned bags.

Luckily by the time I arrived on Wednesday morning, most of the luggage had made it to Essen and the booth was more or less set up. We even managed to sneak into the press room with a monitor and our roll ups, somehow negotiating our way past the incredibly tight security at the door.

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10 Hour Days

We spent the next 4 days demoing the second edition of Race to the North Pole with our newly released app, Dized. The app is like your friend at the table who already knows the game and is really good at teaching it to you. It goes through the game as you’re playing it and only explains the rules you need to know at that time. I’m really happy we had enough time to translate and record a German voice-over for the tutorial. We had a lot of German players come and visit the booth, and there is no way we would have been able to accommodate most of them without the app.

Everyone seemed very pleased with Dized and we got a lot of good constructive feedback from players. If you want to check it out yourself, head over to the play store and download it.

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Volunteers

This is the first convention where we brought some extra help with us. We had 3 volunteers helping out at the booth: Bernhard and Michael who both spoke German, and Mike Barnes from Who Dares Rolls. Having German speakers at the booth was such a great help to us, we’re definitely bringing these guys back next year. Bernhard stayed for the first 3 days and sold the most copies of Race to the North Pole and Michael was amazing at making sure players were having a good time when playing with the app. Mike was also a huge help in a way that only a charming British man can be, and we’re hoping he’ll join us at Spiel again next year as well.

While we were manning the booth, Tomi and Jouni were running about, meeting Very Important People and making Big Deals with words like Non Disclosure and Confidential, which apparently means I can’t share any of it with the public yet. Suffice to say, both Tomi and Jouni were grinning like the Cheshire Cat through the whole 4 days of the convention.

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Night Life

Of course, we didn’t spend our entire time at Essen working. Our first night, Jouni had cleverly reserved a table for 8 at a restaurant close to the hall. However, he also kept telling people about this, and our party of 5 soon turned into 13. This particular restaurant had the curious feature of having the precise number of chairs to accommodate only the patrons that booked in advance. Never to be foiled by such restrictions, Jouni grabbed bar stools and flipped them on their side, creatively solving the seating problems. The service was slow, the food good, and the company better. We retreated to the Atlantic for drinks and then to our beds for a solid 6 hours of sleep.

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The next night saw us wandering the streets of Essen in a little known annual event we like to call: “everything here is fully packed or closed!”. Kebabs and questionable wine, followed by baklava and a mad dash to pick up our last volunteer.

Our last annual (and slightly better defined) event was the pizza party. Every year at Spiel we meet Ferdinand and Dagmar de Cassan, and along with about 20 other people from the industry, we manage to drink the house dry and eat too much pizza for our own good. Just as I thought the night was winding down, Jouni’s brother showed up. Seeing as how he missed out on the pizza, we decided to show him a good time – Spiel Style. We threw the German volunteers into the back of his van, and took off towards the Atlantic. Warm beer, Finnish liquor, shots, drinks and things get a bit fuzzy at this point. I do know that I somehow corralled the booth staff home safely, but Jouni and Tomi were working on a nice headache for their future selves. All in all, a successful night.

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We’re back in Helsinki now and recovering from various stages of con flu, ready to start working on several new tutorials and features for Dized. We can’t wait to show you what we have in store!