This year, we attended SPIEL 2012 in Essen, the world’s biggest consumer trade fair for gaming. The fair was held in the Messe Essen from Oct 18th – 21st, which means four days of playing and testing popular and new (even unpublished) games and, of course, the opportunity to buy games. This attracted about 150,000 visitors from all over the world.
On 46,000 square meters of exhibition space, you can find all kinds of games and gaming equipment – from Eurogames to classics (like Chess and Go), consims and wargames, board games, card games, electronic games, role-playing games, tabletop games, up to LARP equipment such as armor, weapons, costumes, and clothing. In addition there is “Comic Action“, a Comic fair, which is part of Spiel. Here you have the opportunity to see, read and buy all kinds of comics and comic related stuff, from European and US mainstream comics up to quite bizarre Japanese Manga products.
Spiel 2012 was a really big event (the exhibition area, which extends over 10 halls, is even larger than Gamescom, the annual European video games fair in Cologne) and attracted visitors and exhibitors from all over the world. You could find the big players (for example Hasbro, German company Ravensburger…) next to small and highly specialized game shops, independent publishers, smaller companies and publishers (GMT Games, Matrix Games / Slitherine, UGG, Twilight Creations, Days of Wonder, Eagle Games…), organizations and clubs (the German consim society GHS, The Guild of Role Playing Gamers), and special booths, giving an overview over games from a certain country, for example Russia, or South Korea. Even companies who specialize in proofreading game concepts and producing your components (counters, maps etc.) were represented. There were also gaming championships and open tournaments going on, as well as workshops and tutorials.
Entire sections were dedicated to gaming equipment, for example dice, tabletop painting and modelling equipment, or card sleeves, and clothing and weapons for knights, orcs, and the medieval LARP household.
Essen is one of the 10 largest cities in Germany and located in the heart of the industrial Ruhr area. The infrastructure is very good, the city can be reached easily by plane (via airport Düsseldorf), train, or car. It takes only a few minutes from the central station to the fair grounds “Messe Essen” and shuttle busses as well as subways connect the Messe to the inner-city.
We went to Essen by car, which took probably longer than getting to the fair grounds by subway, because the sheer size of the fair led to a minor traffic collapse around the Messe. There were several parking lots, but some were reserved for exhibitors or journalists, and most of the public parking lots in the Messe vicinity were already occupied by the time we got there. A parking guide sent us to a remote parking lot and advised us to return with the (free of charge) shuttle bus, but fortunately, we discovered a secret parking garage near the Gruga park, a large city park close to the Messe.