Guide: Survival Tips for Spiel (Essen)

Survival Guide to Essen 2015 – From Brussels to Essen

spiel_75ppSome of you asked me about the gaming conventions that Boardgame Monkeys is attending. Well, there are a few in France, Belgium (obviously), Netherlands but .. the most important one is certainly the German “Spiel 2015” usually called Spiel in Essen (Messe). Have a look at their nicely done video trailer. Below some insight on How to prepare for the event, what to do on the spot and Tips & Tricks for this year 2015.

How to Prepare the Event

essen_2013_prepareSo you heard it’s “big” and “great” and “you will never see that many games in one day” … but let us help you understanding what you need to know before putting your feets on the exhibition ground ! Expect more than 150 000 visitors walking around you during the event.

Get Familiar with the list of exhibitors

Understanding who you’re going to meet is essential. As there are so many boardgames designers, producters, marketing people walking around in the exhibition halls – know which one you really want to meet (make a short-list) and where their stands will be located. Review the exhibitors participation list.

Make your “I want to buy” wishlist

Starting August, you will see several websites & bloggers posting information around the games they’re looking for to grap at Essen. Since there are so many choices (up to 800 new games some people said) every year, it’s really essential to make a wishlist. How to make your wishlist ? Well, use pen & paper or your Smartphone (For last year’s edition somebody developed an app on Android). What matters is to keep something small & easily readable in your pocket. You can use the Essen Geek Mini website to keep track of the announcements of new games (already more than 860 for 2014 !).

Next question you’ll ask is probably; where to find inspiration on the new games published ?

On one hand, you will have some reference websites such as Boardgamegeek publishing a list every year, as well as some references like Gus & Co (Swiss), Bordspelmania (Dutch), Vin d’jeu  or JedisJeux (French)  which will have some nice tailor-made selections only to name a few websites.

If you’re flying over or coming from far away then you might want to have a longer stay than only the 4 days of the event. There is a possibility to join the Essen Warm Up Day for a few euros. (Note: this is not coordinated directly with the Spiel organization), but supported by the German Games Archive. They will play at a place called Unperfekthaus.

How to Get to Essen / Messe ?

essen_2013_get-toEssen By Car

You need to reach the highway in direction of  Autobahnkreuz Oberhausen, Autobahn 3 in direction of Düsseldorf and Köln, then you have 2 options:

  1. At the highway Autobahnkreuz Kaiserberg follow the A40 in direction of Essen. Take the exit called Essen-Holsterhausen, where you will directly see some signs indicating “Messe/Gruga”. This route will go through the city (maybe a good way also to find out where your hotel is located?)
  2. At the highway Autobahnkreuz Breitscheid follow the A52 in direction of Essen. Take the exit called Essen-Rüttenscheid, where you will then see signs indicating the direction of  “Messe/Gruga”. It’s a (small) curved detour around the city.

Essen by Train

From wherever is your starting point, you should get in direction of Oberhausen towards Essen Hbf. Once arrived, you can use the U-Bahn (line 11) going to Messe/Grugapark. The exact station where you step off would be Messe West-Süd/Gruga. The actual exhibition is located at the Norbertstrasse. Further information may be obtained via the Website of the Deutsche Bahn (German Train):

Essen by Plane

So let’s say you come from really far away then you need to see which airport is best for you (flights prices, connections, …). A few hints once you reach the major airports to get to Essen below.  Once arrived, if you are looking for taxi’s to take you to the fair it will take you about 30 minutes and 45 € the fair (about 55 € to get to downtown Essen).

Connection to Cologne/Bonn Airport:

From the Airport Cologne/Bonn please take express bus SB 170 to Cologne main station from where there are several connections to Essen by Deutsche Bahn (see below “Esse end local area”). Further Information on the Webpage of Cologne/Bonn Airport:

Connection from Dortmund Airport:

Plase take bus 440 from Dortmund Airport to Dortmund Alperbeck and from there the Stadtbahnlinie U47 to Dortmund Main Station (“Hauptbahnhof”). From Dortmund Main Station please take the S-Bahn or Regionalexpress to Essen Main Station (ticket price level C). Further Information on the Webpage of Dortmund Airport:

Connection from Düsseldorf Airport :

There is a direct connection by S-Bahn S1. Please take the SkyTrain in the direction of “Düseldorf Flughafen Bahnhof” (Düsseldorf Airport train station). From there, please take the S 1 to Essen Main Station (ticket price level C).  Further Information on the Webpage of Düsseldorf Airport:

Connection to Essen/Mülheim Airport:

From Essen/Mülheim Airport please take the bus CE45 to Main Station Essen (ticket price level B). Further Information on the Webpage of Essen/Mülheim Airport: (Unfortunately only in German).

Connection to Münster/Osnabrück Airport:

From Münster/Osnabrück Airport please take the bus lines D 50, S 50 or R 51 to Münster main station. There, please take the Regionalbahn RB42 or the IC to Essen. Further Information on the Webpage of Münster/Osnabrück Airport:

Where to Stay in Essen ?

essen_2013_staySo you’re done with your marathon run of the day and eventually after playing all evening and maybe at night, you wish to have a few hours of sleep to be fresh for the next day. Most popular hotels will all be booked (a couple of) months in advance, but you can always give it a try on . Usually the hotels are expecting a “boardgamer population” coming to their place for 4/5 days so don’t be surprised when you see special boardgaming areas in the hotel lobby or hotel restaurant.

There are many hotels available in all prices and styles. Webers is a new one that just opened, we decided this year to stay in Motel One Essen but the classic Ibis near the U-Bahn can also be a good choice.

You might get help from the local tourist office if you’re late with your booking. They keep track of the remaining spots available in major hotels. Alternative is to look for Bed & Breakfast or some Apart-hotels that are more expensive but can usually be shared with a group of friends.

What to do (else than gaming) in Essen ?

To take some frech air and empty your head of all those boardgames, you can visit the Grugga Park that is at walking distance from the fair. They have a collection of flowers, animals and is also suited for kids. A bit further you have the Baldeneysee that can be a good escape for a few hours too.  Around the fair, you will find various bars & restaurants to sustain yourself, it’s worth walking around in the Rüttenscheider Strasse.

What to take with you during those 4 days ?

essen_2013_thingsAlthough there are ATM’s (cash-machines) available at the fair, a strong advise is to take some cash-money with you. It will also allow you to fix your budget limit more easily and not to impulsively throw your money out at all boardgames looking like a good deal but maybe isn’t.

You’ll need to carry some games, papers/flyers you receive and other stuff (drinks/food), so best is to take some large bags (Ikea type) that are solid to transport your precious boardgames and a backpack for smaller stuff. About the food, well it’s a huge fair so obviously you will find some greasy snacks all around the place. They are not known to be the best food – most likely you want to eat either outside or to bring some food along with you (there’s no bag check at the entrance and you can enter with drinks/food – at least it was the case last time).

It can be cold at night, hard to predict the weather while we are writing this article, so always handy to have a sweather or light jacket with you.

You can also pre-order your tickets (in this case don’t forget to bring them along !) that will avoid you making (potential) lines at the cashier to buy tickets on the day itself.

What to do at the fair ?

essen_2013_activitiesI guess that’s the real question you were waiting for and there is no “on single correct answer” to be honest with you. It all depends what you like to do; are you into discovering new releases, are you willing to meet game designers or testing some prototypes? You should check for yourself what you really want to do and make a pick-list of activities.

What you should not expect is huge areas with tables to play boardgames all day long. This is an exhibition to showcase new games, to sell them onto the market and make promotion. It’s not a boardgaming festival where you play (even if of course there will be a few tables for you to do some try-outs). Don’t expect to get perfect english explanations at the various stands (usually German students are hired to sit you down and walk you through the rules with an approximative english).

Buying (older) games is also possible, usually cheaper than in your favorite store, but watch out most of them will be in German. That said, if you made your wishlist like suggested above in this article and you have boardgames that do not hold text; then it’s probably a good idea also to look after the german translation of the game (Example with Tongiaki that has only tiles & boat meeples but no text on the pieces).

They have increased the number of Exhibition Halls this year; have a look below at the map for hall 1, 2 and 3 with this year 2 entrances available to filter the visitors. Then you can also access from there the hall 4 and 5.


2015 Special: CATAN Big Game: The big event for all CATAN enthusiasts
Just in time for CATAN’s 20th anniversary there will be a CATAN Big Game event at the world’s largest board game fair, SPIEL ’15, in Essen, where over 1,000 people are invited to play CATAN together at the same time. On October 10, 2015, you are invited to help breaking the current world record. Klaus Teuber, the inventor of CATAN, will also be among the participants.

Besides the great fun experience a big package containing a variety of exclusive game components await the participants, which they may take home after the event.
Here you can order the tickets.


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