Should I go to Essen?

April 28, 2015

essen-1 About 10 years or so ago, I spent a semester abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. It was totally amazing. Heidelberg is a beautiful city and misspending a portion of my youth hanging out with friends and learning absolutely nothing can never be under-estimated. And when I say "learning nothing," I'm really not exaggerating much. I took a theater class, a class on the works of Mark Twain, taught in English, and a statistical mechanics class that I just barely passed because, well, look: don't ever take a physics class taught in a language you don't know. It really doesn't work out very well. Yeah, okay, I knew some German, I could hold a conversation with people who were patient with me, but I didn't really put much effort into it. Most of my friends in Heidelberg were other study abroad Americans who were more than happy to spend their days speaking English to each other. Anyway, it's possible I was going somewhere with this story. Right, so I wasn't all that into board games at the time. I had a passing familiarity with Settlers of Catan. I remember one time my friend and I sat down to play a board game out of his roommate's big chest of games and we settled on playing Stratego. Stratego. Not my finest hour. I didn't even know what Essen Spiel was at the time. Not that I could have even gone. I was there during the Spring semester, not the Fall. But still, I kind of long to go back to Germany. I don't think I've done any traveling outside of the US since that trip, and that makes me sad. I think my passport has expired. We were going to go to Japan for our honeymoon, but then that earthquake happened and the nuclear reactor went bad and my wife just wasn't comfortable going. There was that one trip to the British Virgin Islands a few years ago, but that didn't really feel like I was immersed in another culture since I spent the entire time hanging out on a sailboat with my family. I want to do some real travelling, dammit, and Essen seems like the perfect opportunity. I mean, I'm a board game publisher now and it is arguably a bigger board game convention than GenCon, which I would never dream of skipping (especially since it's only an hour away). So it just seems like I should just go and check it out. The prospect is a little frightening, though. Ten years later, my German is pretty horrendous. I'd be in a foreign place, totally alone and trying to navigate some new and monstrous experience. The first year I went to GenCon, it was a very low-key affair. I just went for one day, signed up for a few planned events and then spent the rest of the day walking around and taking it all in. Once I had built up that familiarity with it, the next year I was able to come in for the full 4 days with a distinct plan of how to maximize the awesomeness. That's just how my brain works. I need to spend some time fact-finding and information-gathering to get familiar with an event before I'm comfortable enough to do more than sit on the sidelines. With Essen, though, it's not just a question of whether I should go, but in what capacity should I go. Should I just attend as a spectator, wandering the halls and taking it all in? Or should I get a booth and actually try to operate as a legitimate publisher? That's the truly terrifying part. I think I'm going to do it, though. I'm not a 100% on the decision, but I really just want to jump into this thing whole-hog and see if I can make it out alive. Like I said, it's terrifying, but sometimes being terrified is exactly what we need to get things going. Plus, I was lucky enough to make contact with Iraklis Grous, the owner of LudiCreations, a publisher so familiar with Essen they made a board game about it. He's been very helpful in talking me through all the necessary processes. Even the mundane, obvious information is just great to know because then my brain can wrap itself around that and start forming a plan. So we're going to get a booth, bring along a friend or two to help out, and start slinging some copies of Forge War around come October. Maybe I'll see you there. Or maybe I'll chicken out.

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