Essen 2019 Debrief

Essen Entrance

Essen is over for another year and I’ve finally caught up on sleep. It was a great experience, but very tiring! As an introvert, being hemmed in by people on all sides for four days straight can be a little overwhelming.

It was a record year for numbers and it really felt like it. It seemed busier than ever in the aisles and getting a seat at the popular games seemed harder than ever!

Nevertheless, we were able to play almost all the hot releases and certainly all the ones I was most interested in. Let me give you the lowdown on Essen 2019…

There were 209,000 people there over the course of the fair (up from 190,000 last year) and 1500 new games were released. That’s an astonishing number of games!

They were also using more halls than previously, but halls 1, 2 and 3 (the first halls as you come in) were inevitably much busier than the others. So the back halls felt relatively calm, but of course most of the games we wanted to play were in the busy ones!


Getting a seat at the games you’re most interested in is difficult and you need to be prepared for that when you go. If you’re happy just sitting down at any old game and playing, then you’ll be fine: there are plenty of games with spare seats.

However, the popular ones are likely to be full all the time. We were lucky enough to have press passes, which allowed us to get into the halls early and start playing before the doors opened each morning. But that only guaranteed us one game each day. How did we get on the rest?

Mental Blocks

Some stands will let you book a slot on their games, so it’s always worth asking. We booked spaces on 3-4 popular games over the weekend. Failing that, we would always ask one of the demo-ers which group were closest to finishing. Most of them were very helpful at pointing out how you can tell how far through a particular group is.

If the identified group was less than 15 minutes from finishing, we would then just hang around by their table until they were done. There were a few times when Mark and I would hang around by two different games and then message each other when one finished and the other one would go over and we’d play that game.

Cooper Island

This year we were staying South of the convention centre (the centre of Essen and most of the accommodation is to the North). This was much better. The underground trains become very crowded in the morning coming out of Essen’s central station. Travelling North on the tram though, was much quieter.

We ate out every evening at one of Essen’s restaurants within walking distance of the convention centre (there are quite a few). They were generally good (we checked reviews before going), if a bit pricey. By far the best (and cheapest!) meal though was at Luck In A Cup (as long as you like Thai food). So check them out if you’re there next year!

Nemesis Promo

During the day there is food available at the convention centre, which is fine, but not cheap! We were staying at an Airbnb, so we went to a local supermarket when we arrived and bought food for breakfast and for making sandwiches, which made eating generally much cheaper. I highly recommend that if you’re on a budget. There are places at the centre where you can sit and eat sandwiches if you look for them.

Since we contribute a regular segment to The Dice Tower‘s variety show Boardgame Breakfast, we were asked if we’d be available to help man the The Dice Tower’s stand for a couple of shifts this year. We were very happy to help and I’m very glad that we did. It was great to chat to people coming to the stand. They had a great selection of exclusive promos available as well. I picked up a couple myself – they make great gifts for friends.

Next week I’ll be going over my favourite games from the convention. I still have a couple that we brought back that I haven’t played yet, so I need to get those played before doing a Top 5!

Were you there this year? What were your thoughts?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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