SPIEL’s what you make it: Looking back at Essen Spiel ’19
We’ve just about recovered from our participation in Essen SPIEL ‘19, where we were busy launching Posthuman Saga, Nights of Fire and Petrichor: Honeybee, previewing the Vengeance: Director’s Cut expansion (on Kickstarter right now!) and Excavation Earth (hitting Kickstarter in 2020!), talking to our fans, running from meeting to meeting, and, in between, trying to find time to check out everything that’s new and exciting in the world of board games – all in four jam-packed days!
In today’s blog post, David Chircop, one of our directors, talks about his experience at this year’s Essen SPIEL fair.
When you make the pilgrimage to Essen, there are three vastly different fairs you can attend, depending on the shoes you’re wearing: SPIEL as a fan, SPIEL as a designer, and SPIEL as a publisher. When you happen to stand in all three of these camps, you end up experiencing a mash of wants, desires, priorities, duties and distractions that form what I like to call a “FrankenSpiel” – and a FrankenSpiel hits hard in the face.
Personally, this was my fifth SPIEL, and, although I fully expected FrankenSpiel to knock me out again, this time was different – I experienced what I would call a decidedly publisher’s fair. That makes it quite a milestone Essen. Certainly for me, personally – this means that I’ve completed the holy SPIEL trinity, and can place that achievement under my belt – but, even more so, for Mighty Boards as a company.
We like to think there’s a lot that makes us stand out, even on the busy Essen show floor. We set ourselves a high standard of quality for any game bearing the Mighty Boards logo. We maintain a strong focus on theme, stories, and emotions, striving to make games that invoke images in the player’s mind. We’re a small but dedicated team with diverse and long–standing game industry and academia backgrounds and talents.
A fair like SPIEL is a wonderful opportunity to solidify and communicate that identity. Of course, what’s most important is that we bring this identity across to fans and players – and we had a great time over the four days at Essen showing off and chatting about our games with old fans and new. There’s nothing like that feeling of conveying our love for our games and seeing players respond and share in the excitement. But there’s also just as much of a benefit in establishing this identity with publishing partners, paving the way for deals that will help us grow and bring more great games to the world.
After this year’s SPIEL, I was left with two questions in my mind. The first was more personal: did I miss the fan SPIEL and the designer SPIEL? Strangely enough, it turns out that a publisher SPIEL – at least if you’re incredibly organized about it – turned out to be the least stressful of the bunch. As a fan, though, a small part of me is still disappointed about the very small haul of games I brought home this year.
The second question was about Mighty Boards as a whole: what will SPIEL ‘20, and beyond, look like for us? As our business-to-business relationships get stronger, next year we plan to have a stronger focus on communicating the Mighty Boards brand image to players and fans. We’ve had a lot of internal discussion on the delicate balance of what should be more apparent. Should we be more brand forward, or should we let our games speak for themselves? Is the booth about a game, about Mighty Boards as a company, or about something totally different?
After SPIEL ’19, all of these ideas have finally fallen into place and formed a clear picture. The Mighty Boards identity is a bit more nuanced than an association with a specific genre, or a specific game, or designer, or look. Our identity lies in a strong shared vision of games that project an evocative world players are excited to inhabit.
At SPIEL ‘20, the Mighty Boards booth will focus on displaying this – not necessarily a game or a brand, but our identity and our vision for what board games can be.
We’re already looking forward to welcoming you there!
Author: Daniel Vella
Daniel Vella lectures at the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta, where he teaches courses on narrative in games, player experience and the formal properties of games. He studied literature before following a PhD at the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen. His research blends game studies, philosophy and literary theory, touching on a wide range of topics: from developing a theory of subjectivity in virtual game worlds, to examining aesthetics of the sublime and Romanticism in Dark Souls.