The following article was written by Martina Frohme & Alexander Urbanek, from the Dice & Mystics Board Game Guild, to recap their experiences at Spiel Essen.
Our Dice & Mystics Board Game Guild host game nights every Wednesday at the Parish Centre St. Engelbert in Bochum (right next to Essen).
At the Spiel Essen 2015 we had heard complaints that there were few opportunities to play and meet other gamers, so – being just 15 minutes away from the Spiel (by car) – we wanted to help out. We sought to provide gaming space free of charge for Spiel attendees, and a chance to unbox and punch tokens in a safe environment and lighten the luggage for the journey home.
Our motivation? We do everything we can to promote board gaming as the best of all hobbies because it is intelligent, communicative, social, peaceful (no-one dies, they just go back in the box), cooperative (even “one against all” requires a group working together), there is no age limit and all ages fit at one table. Those who can afford cool games can share with those who cannot (and thus need not spend any money at all), and all have lots of fun together. We also fight the common misconception that board games are “just for children”, and at the same time get children into board gaming by hosting an annual event during our parish festival and raffle off quality games donated by our guild members.
From plan into action: What followed still appears to us like a miracle of biblical dimensions. We asked the parish if we could have a room – and they said they wanted to be open and welcoming and hospitable, especially to Spiel attendees from abroad, and gave us the entire building completely free of any charge whatsoever. The janitor even rebooked her family holiday in order to be able to give us the keys and be there for us if we needed her!
Thus we were able to create our Dice & Mystics Fringe. We had up to 140 spaces at our dispoal. We advertised on Board Game Geek and were invited to advertise on the site of “NRW Spielt” and other forums. Two game designers offered to demo their prototype, a guild member from Finland promised to demo two games from his Spiel booth.
We asked our online retailer for advice on coffee we could buy for our guests– and he simply sponsored us an unlimited flow of free Italian speciality coffee for everyone! Our caterer volunteered to offer us reduced prices. When looking for presents for some friends and helpers people we had not formerly known came up with brilliant ideas, and on hearing what we needed them for, miraculously produced sold out gift packages they had had reserved for themselves and now offered up willingly; in one case somebody organized two boxes of original “Maßkrüge” (the famous Bavarian 1 litre beer glasses) directly from the Oktoberfest in Munich for us to give away, just like that. Everybody simply wanted to say “Welcome to Germany!” We believe in the kindness of strangers.
What was it like? Was the Fringe a success? Judging by what we were told on the event and by mails we received after, it was. The basic data:
- The Dice & Mystics Fringe took place Saturday October 15th. We were open 8 hours from 16 p.m. to midnight.
- 38 from 42 people on our guest list came, about 1/3 of our maximum capacity, which is not at all bad for a first time off. Some more had missed our deadline (October 8th), but as there is just 2 of us doing the logistics, this could not be helped. We needed to state the number of attendees by Oct. 11th because the heavy tables needed to be transported and assembled accordingly.
- People started arriving at 16 p.m. sharp (1st wave). There was another wave at 19.30 p.m. Everyone had been able to easily find us, following the instructions we had given them, and told us the times (just 15 mins. by car, 1 hour by public transport) were accurate.
- We were able to welcome guests from Great Britain, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and, of course, Germany.
- The huge and very well-lit tables and the nice room were much admired. People were eager to choose their favourite table and settle down comfortably.
- Nearly all attendees came with big backpacks and trolleys and were only too happy to unbox, punch tokens and discard the spare weight into the bins provided.
- There were groups and also solo travellers, and everyone immediately started to communicate. At 16.15 p.m. the first game with 3 nations at one table was launched. From that moment on, there were game rounds until midnight and everybody was enjoying themselves immensely.
- Everybody was, indeed, very grateful for the free hot coffee (over 70 cups!).
- What everyone saw as a great plus was that our caterer, a Turkish/Italian/German delivery service, came directly to the tables to take orders (at 18.00 and again at 21.00 p.m.), and that the food took only 30 minutes to arrive.
(Yes, we do have permission to publish their picture.)
- After 3 whole days at his booth and with Sunday yet to come, Jalmari Ruokojärvi, CEO of Dragon Dawn Productions, demoed their flagship Perdition’s Mouth – Abyssal Rift until mid-night till he was ready to drop. It is a heavy story based dungeon crawler full of thinky strategy , with impressive artwork and great minis that scream to be painted, so it was an eye catcher on the table. He had also brought Black Hat, but the dungeon crawler soaked up all the attention. (We are very happy and proud to have Jalmari as our guild member.)
- The brothers Francois and Simon Pirson from Belguim demoed their prototype of Canyon Cup, a kind of stock car race through difficult terrain where you score points not for being first but for giving the most spectacular show to the audience by overtaking, shooting at other cars or even yourself for effect, exploding oil barrels or colliding with them and setting your own car at fire. They were glad to try it with an international audience for the very first time. People had fun playing and happy to give their feedback to the designers.
- We were being told that our Fringe event was a better quality than other events around the Spiel and nearly everybody begged us to make this a regular event; (quote) “What you’re doing is great. It really fills a gap. If there is another Fringe next year, we will be there.”
- Our guests were impressed by the hospitality and generosity of the Parish St. Engelbert, and the Parish were impressed that a large group of people left the building even cleaner and more orderly than before. Nearly 40 people unwrapping, punching cardboard, eating – yet tidying up was a piece of cake. Another miracle? Apparently, board gamers are a very special brand of people.
- Hosting our event was exhausting, but also immensely rewarding, and when we fell into our beds early in the morning, we were happy, happy, happy!!! And yes, of course we want to do it again! We already entered the planning phase for 2017…
P.S.: The Dice & Mystics Eat & Greet
On Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, always half an hour after the Spiel, we have our Eat & Greet at a nearby diner. We usually book the tables about 2 months in advance, as the place is so immensely popular they only accept bookings by personal contact (no online bookings possible).
It is ideal to grab a bite of really nice food (at very fair prices) and wind down after the Spiel over lovely burgers, spare ribs, steaks, salads, pizzas, onion rings etc. and exchange experiences, meet people, get into contact, make plans together… There usually are going to be guild members, other gamers, and often enough designers, publishers etc. to form a happy international English speaking crowd, and many a new friendship or cooperation of board game guilds have started here.
Anybody is welcome to the Dice & Mystics Fringe and Eat & Greet, just contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.