On Pre-Essen Prejudgments

I will not be attending Essen Spiel this week. I have no desire to collect a suitcase full of the fruit of snap-judgements. My flat is cluttered enough as it is. That said, there would be a lot of talented, interesting people the trip would mean the chance of meeting, but it’s not to be this year.

Anyway, the Essen fair is such a presence in the world of modern board games, and by implication in the world of commentary upon them, that to leave it unmentioned within these pages may carry implications I do not wish.

The thing is, I have nothing to say about forthcoming releases: I’m entirely unkeen on futurology. I will not attempt to boost my critical credibility through scatter-gun predictions about the possible merits of games I have not even played. Equally, I have very little interest in seeing the attempts others make to do so. Call enough games the big new thing, and you’ll be able to say ‘I told you so’ sooner or later; it will, however, be meaningless when you do so.

Relatedly, I have a broad distaste for the idea of want-lists: covetous check-lists of ‘must-own’ games. Pre-Essen want-lists, as a subset of these, tend to stand as particularly depressing, desirous documents of self-delusion: it is hard to see that wanting so many new games so ardently could be entirely healthy.

This is not to say I’m uninterested in news from the fair once it starts to emerge; the trends in games are fascinating to see develop. But the fact so many attendees apparently arrive filled with avarice means that worthwhile response can be difficult to find, at least in the short term. Essen time is not the time of great board game criticism. Those who make hype-lists seldom have it in them to dissect the games they trumpeted with suitable critical coldness: the admission the hype was unfounded – should it need to be made – is a tough one to make.

Why do so many of the board game world’s otherwise better critics fuel the pre-Essen hype-machine? Presumably it’s about raising their individual stock – Essen predictions get eyeballed. Let me see if my own mention of the hobby’s big buzzword of the season brings me attention or not. I’m curious.

In seriousness, I look forward to carrying on this blog at the distance from current events that it usually finds itself. Though, mostly, my engagement with older games is a practical necessity, I do feel it carries benefits for the quality of criticism I can contribute. I will watch what emerges from Essen, but keep my mouth shut until I have anything useful to say about the games which emerge from it. That could be some time.

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One thought on “On Pre-Essen Prejudgments

  1. I think perhaps this is a little over the top, but I do understand the sentiments. It is one reason I don’t feel I need to go to Essen anymore, even for the social element. The endless lists of wants (never needs!) are depressing, but here’s an explanation. The lists, the frantic buying, the mad reporting of vapour, are all ‘look at me’ devices. On the other hand, there are people who genuinely enjoy this as part of their hobby, enjoy having the limited edition games, enjoy the ‘first kid on the block’ rights. They can afford the games, they can afford the trip. They do seem to get a positive from it. Nice article.

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