Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
This past weekend, tens of thousands of tabletop gaming fanatics made a pilgrimage to the German city of Essen for the annual Internationale Spieltage fair—better known to board gaming fans simply as Spiel (or Essen). It’s the most important event in the board gaming calendar, where major publishers unveil their new releases, indie designers clamor to draw attention to their passion projects, and players scramble to try the hottest new games before they hit store shelves.
It’s a heaving, sprawling, noisy celebration of analogue gaming, and with thousands of new products on show, it’s impossible to do more than scratch the surface of what’s on offer. Once you set foot in the cavernous Messe Essen venue, you quickly realize that no matter how meticulously you’ve planned your visit, it all counts for nothing; it’s all about spotting empty spaces at demo tables and leaping at them before anyone else.