So, “Spiel”, you ask, how is it, the biggest games fair in the world? It’s big: more than 150,000 visitors, 828 exhibitors from 39 countries (numbers from 2013), 4 days of gaming madness. You’ll also notice that I’m not using “convention” to describe Spiel, since it differs from events like GenCon or Dragonmeet, in that playing games itself is not the primary focus. Sure, a lot of gaming does happen, but the main activity is presenting, selling and buying games.
I’ve been working the ProFantasy booth at Spiel since 2000, first helping out, and then from 2002, running it. Its four days from Thursday to Sunday alway go by in a whizz and whir of activity. ProFantasy usually has a booth in the “Role-playing and Import Games” hall, which in recent years also holds a lot of LARP supplies and miniature games. Boardgaming is a much more mainstream activity in Germany than in other countries, and accordingly many visitors to Spiel are families and “casual” gamers.
Role-playing is much smaller segment of that hobby, and our hall attracts only part of the great Spiel crowd. You notice that in the differences between the weekdays and the weekend. On Thursday on Friday, the hall is much quieter and we have time for detailed chats with individual customers, but on the weekend the aisles are sometimes thronged with people just glancing at the booths and pushing through. The other halls are often dominated by the large publisher’s enormous exhibits where they present the newest releases. But there are also a lot of retailer booths and smaller publishers tucked away between the large booths and in the corners.
If you want to visit Spiel and have a good chance to play some nice boardgames, come early. The seating for demo games is limited and it can be hard to find an open spot for the more popular games. Coming on Thursday or Friday also helps, as the halls are less busy. On the other hand if you come to buy games the Sunday is the best for you can sometimes find a good deal as the merchants are eager to get rid of their stock. But beware, the most sought after releases tend to sell out quickly on the earlier days.
[Photography by Gordon Gurray]
Oh, and one thing is very different from conventions in the US like GenCon. We have beer booths in the hall!