Spiel 2018 trip

Every year, when the end of October looms, it’s time for Spiel, the largest tabletop gaming exhibition in the world! It’s held in Essen, which is about a 90 minute drive from our home, and we have been attending on a single day for some years now. We prefer going on the first day (when everything (and everyone!) is still relatively fresh), but it wasn’t clear until late whether klik had to work on Thursday evening. But her lesson on Thursday was cancelled because everyone was out, because it’s the fall vacation here — so we could go on Thursday after all.
We set out at 09:00, which would see us arrive at the fair about 30 minutes after opening. When we started going, quite a few years ago, we could always park close to the fairgrounds themselves. Later, it got busier and we had to park in a parking garage a bit of a walk away. We were aiming at that again this year, but everything was full as we arrived. And since every road towards the fair had been jam-packed with cars, it took us a long, long time to get to the off-site parking where we could park and grab a shuttlebus. Next year, we might leave earlier, and we’ll go to the offsite parking straight away — it’s conveniently just off the highway (for future reference: exit 26 of the A52), and the shuttle buses are quite frequent.

So we were off to a bad/late start, but we had an excellent day anyway. We didn’t have enough time to look at everything (ain’t nobody got time for that!) but we managed to hit all the stands I had marked up as being interesting before we joined B&G for afternoon tea, so after that we just wandered the halls. Mainly halls 4, 5 and 6, because they’re not as crowded, and that’s where all the ‘odd’ stuff is: the first three halls are large hard-core boardgaming companies, but the halls with the larger numbers are the smaller publishers, RPG companies, cosplay accessories etcetera. It’s a bit more chaotic, but I find it more interesting.

Spoiler Inside: Photos of (some of) the loot!

It’s always kind of exhausting: lots of walking, lots of simuli, but it’s always a lot of fun. We’re going next year, too.

This year, we visited the Spiel international game exhibition at Essen again. On previous years, we went on Thursdays, which is the first day of the fair and the most quiet — and there might be some limited items here and there… But since klik had to work on Thursday evening, we decided to go on Friday. We got off to a late start (or at least, later than we had intended) and then messed up the navigation too, so it was around 11:00 when we got to the Messe. And by then, all parking spaces near the Messe had been marked as “full” — which meant we would have to park somewhere outside of the city and get a shuttle bus to the Messe. We had that one year, and it was an absolute disaster, so we were kinda bummed we would have to repeat that experience.
But when we drove past the parking garage near the swimming pool (which is next to the Messe) we noticed cars going right towards it — and that line was moving. There were policemen standing on the corner, and they had a sign saying it was closed off with them — but they had not ‘deployed’ it. So if you followed the parking signs, you’d end up at the big parking outside the city — but we decided to try our luck anyway. And lo and behold: there was ample space in the garage, so we got to park reasonably close to the Messe! That was a huge relief, to be honest.

Essen is more geared towards boardgaming — and we’re not huge boardgamers. But there’s some roleplaying games there, and I had marked the map with some stands that I was interested in. For some reason, Essen ends up being all about the dice for us. Because there’s no such thing as too many dice!

The dice of Essen'16

So did we buy only dice? Nope, I also bought some

actual games

We were kinda tired when we got back home, but it was a lot of fun to wander the halls and to see what’s on offer.

Spiel 2015

Some things I learned when visiting Spiel ’15 in Essen on Thursday:
– More lockers (or pointing out where more lockers were available and guaranteeing that they would be accessible until after the day) would have made more people’s day immensely better. My neck is still hurting from carrying all those books in a shoulder bag;
– At the end of the day, people are going to collect their coats from the checkroom. If you don’t have somebody standing by to take a claimant’s ticket while the others are searching, you do not have enough people on checkroom duty;
– Thursday is not so busy as the other days, and everybody is still fresh. Crowds are not as thick, there’s more space for walking around. I’ll be visiting on Thursdays next year too;
– Game tables are A Thing. We’ve spotted three stands with game tables, but there seems to be very little in the way of differentiation between the manufacturers. Also, there is no upper limit to the amount of money you can spend on a game table;
– Complementary PDFs when buying a book are A Thing, and the world is a more glorious place for it. Buy directly from the publisher (both Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Modiphius Entertainment were present) and be prepared to write your e-mail address down on a clipboard. Bring your best handwriting or let them spell it back at you;
– I spent more than I thought I would. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we blew through 300+ euros pretty easily;
– I like Hall 7 the best in this edition. I’m not much of a boardgamer, so I liked the the quirky collection of stands in Hall 7 the best;
– Not every RPG retailer treats their books with respect. I saw a copy of Midnight (Second Edition) that I had a latent interest in, but I wasn’t going to pay full price for a book that’s 10 years old, almost falling out of the cover due to the flyleaf coming loose and with damaged cover corners. This was, unfortunately, not a rarity with that retailer. I’ve made a note not to order from them;
– The restaurant in Hall 3 is busy during lunch time, but, like with the rest of the show on Thursday, it’s doable. We were able to secure a spot to sit and enjoy lunch without too much trouble;
– If you’re staying towards the end of the day, it’s best to have research dinner options close to the Messe beforehand — it’s probably better than greasy truckstop food, even though the serving ladies were friendly and charming.


Friday, after dropping the kitties off at their vacation adress (with the associated drama), we went to Antwerp. Of course, we’ve been there before, but we had a special reason to spend the weekend there. And it’s a fun city to walk around in, so why not? We booked a room in the B&B that we stayed in previously, and set off.

I wanted to check out a dedicated game shop in Merksem, which is suburb of Antwerpen. When we arrived, we didn’t have money for the parking meter — but klik had forgotten to bring her coat (and it was cold!), so we bought one at the C&A and solved two problems in one go. Then we found out that the shop wasn’t open until later that afternoon… We had lunch (best make use of that parking money anyway) and then went to the B&B. The room was not yet cleaned, but we could leave our luggage and take the key.
We walked towards the city centre (after getting the car from the large, free lot and parking it in front of the B&B’s garage door — so that the owner could keep his parking spot without owning a car), had coffee/tea (and cake) at a coffee place that had been opened the week before (called “Abol”). Then we took a metro/tram to Merksem.
The game shop was a bit weird: we had to rung the doorbell to get in. It seemed to be the ground floor of a private residence (and it reeked of tomcat sprayings…) The front room was packed with stuff, with an impressive collection! Lots of obscure and old stuff, so I don’t think their inventory moves a lot… I did manage to find a physical copy of ‘Tales from Wilderland’ for The One Ring which I bought. I have a PDF copy, but since I have the rest of the game line (also) in physical book form, I thought it would be cool to complete my collection.

I’m not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow description of the rest of the things we did in the weekend. If you’re curious, you could check my Jauntful guide for Antwerp! (But I will give special mention of the MAS: really cool museum!)

On Monday morning, we checked out from the B&B. Then we drove to the Sportpaleis (“Sports Palace”, an indoor sports and event arena) and managed to park our car right next to it for the measly sum of 5 euros. We took the metro to the train station and spent the day in the zoo. It’s not overly big, but we had a lot of fun, for instance by trying to spot all the camouflaged reptiles.
Then we went back to the Sportpaleis and met up with babarage and friend I. (because her husband couldn’t come because he had to be sworn in as a provincial representative, or something stupid like that). We had a chaotic (and expensive!) dinner at a disorganised restaurant and then walked back to the stadium in order to attend the Sting & Paul Simon concert.
We had arena tickets, and we were promised seats on both sides of a wide aisle, but it turned out that those row numbers were not next to each other! We were standing around talking about this, when we were approached by someone with a different badge from the one person who showed us our seats. He mumbled something about a price category, and asked us to follow him as he walked to the front. We ended up on row 7, right in the middle! Probably the best seats in the house. The concert was really cool. Especially Sting had a great time, and we had too!

Afterwards, while the rest of the concert-goers were piling into the trams to go to the large (and free) parking space at the end of the line, we ambled over to the parking space next to the stadium and got home in exactly 90 minutes! Luckily I had the day off on Tuesday, because we needed to catch our breath a bit…

The past few years, the Rijksmuseum (‘State Museum’) in Amsterdam has been under heavy renovations. With only a skeleton collection, the museum was very generous with giving their pieces to other museums on display. But with the newly renovated museum in full operation again, it was time to call in the favours from those other museums and collections. The result is the exhibition of The Late Rembrandt.

Of course, the Rijksmuseum is best known for its collection of works by Rembrandt (most notably the Nachtwacht), but they are not the only museum that has a collection of Rembrandts. The exhibition focusses on the last years of Rembrandt’s life, when he developed a more… let’s say “impressionist” style. And it features works that have not left their spot for decades, but that they somehow managed to get on loan. The list of participating museums and collections is quite impressive.
So, all in all, a unique exhibition with works that will probably never be seen again together.

It’s just that I’m not much of a fan of Rembrandt — my tastes range more into modern art. But my father wanted to see this exhibition, and I thought it was a good reason to spend some time together after all his medical troubles. He rarely leaves the house without my mother, and it would be good for him to spend some time on things that interest him. klik also came with us.
We spent Sunday night at my parents’, and in the morning set off to Amsterdam. We parked near the museum (my father would pay the extortionist parking fees) and we set off.

I must say that my opinion of the works of Rembrandt has changed quite a bit. He is most known for his use of light in his paintings, and that could be seen in full effect in some of the larger works. The photo on Wikipedia does not do it justice, but The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis has really dynamic lighting. (And apparently it had not been moved from its spot in the Swedish National Museum since 1864 — until this exhibition…)
If you have even a passing interest in Dutch masters in general or Rembrandt in particular, then you should go see this exhibition. I’m glad we went, not only because we got to spend some quality time with dad. The rooms were quite busy though — even though everyone had tickets for entering during a 2-hour timeslot, and by the time we had seen everything, my dad was exhausted. We managed to get some lunch and then went back.

We got up reasonably early (by holiday standards) and left for Den Haag, to visit the municipal museum there. Specifically, we wanted to see the unique exhibition on Rothko. His paintings made a big impression on us when we saw them at the Tate Modern, so we wanted to see and know more.
Because of the holidays, they were even opened on this Monday — usually it’s closed on Mondays.

Luckily, the ice had subsided and the roads were clear of ice and snow, so we made good time. Within the estimated 90 minutes, we were at the front of the museum. And there we saw the long, long line just to get in — from the entrance all the way to the curb!

Look, I do want to see the exhibition. But I do not want to stand in line just to get in, and then crowd-surf to the stuff we want to see. That’s just not going to happen.
So we drove past the museum and decided to go to the beach — Den Haag is a coastal city anyway. We parked the car at Scheveningen, and then stepped onto the boulevard. Even though it wasn’t freezing anymore by then, the wind was quite cold…
We saw the preparations for the traditional New Year’s Dive, but we also saw a giant stack of pallets being built — undoubtedly to be burned on New Year’s Eve. It was really something: it must have been 10 meters high by the time we saw it, and it was almost as wide as that. There was enough space on top for eight people(!) to pick the pallets off the crane(!) and stack them…

And then we went back home. We’ll go see Rothko some other time.

ingiechan wanted to get out of the house at least once this weekend. A week ago, she received the new folder of the museumjaarkaart (‘museum year card’, which allows you free entrance in many museums in the Netherlands) and there was mention of an ukiyo-e exhibition with work from Hokusai, in the Sieboldhuis. And so we set out to Leiden today.

Siebold was a doctor who visited Japan as part of the Dutch trade mission. He was a true scientist who tried to gain as much insight on Japan as possible, so he collected many artifacts and plant- and animal specimen. Some of his collection is now on exhibit in the Sieboldhuis, his former residence. It’s an interesting collection indeed, but the main attraction today was the Hokusai exhibition.

I love graphic work, especially after having done the graphics course — knowing the techniques used certainly adds to the appeal (to me). When we were in Japan last spring, we visited an ukiyo-e museum in Osaka. The Tokyo-Edo museum in Tokyo had many exhibits about ukiyo-e as well, and I got a good look at the technique and the detailing that was prevalent at the time.
And so I loved the exhibition as well. There were some really interesting prints — some using blindprinting to add details, and from some prints there were two versions to show the difference between the original and a later reprint.

On the first floor, there is an art dealer that specialises in Japanese art, Hotei. We browsed a bit, but most of the stuff was too expensive to make it worth it for us. Until a lady pointed at a box of prints and said: “Well, these are all 250 euros.”
It just so happened that I had looked at my bank statement for the spaarloon (‘wage savings’) that I built up at TOJ. That was more than 500 euros, and it’s money that I don’t need for anything right now — it’s extra. And while I don’t need to spend it, I have been looking at uikyo-e listings on art auction sites before. I own a few books about these prints. I like them a lot…
And so we browsed through the ‘cheap’ bin and found one that we both really, really, really liked. So we bought it.

It’s by Chikanobu, who was active as print-maker in the Meiji era (so, after Japan had become a modern nation). We bought this print, depicting a scene from a kabuki play, which in turn depicts a historical event. It’s part of a series of ukiyo-e prints.
We don’t have the print at home yet — it has to be framed first, and we’ll be collecting it when we go back for the second part of the Hokusai exhibition. ingiechan snapped a pic of our print, though — you can see that it is nicely preserved: still full of color after 125 years.

I’m very pleased that I will be owning a good quality ukiyo-e print. I can’t stop looking at it.

F. had told us that his sister-in-law had to move from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen to the Noord-Oost Polder — and the new house was smaller than the old one. Among the things that were in the way were three boxes of Star Trek videos — around 90 tapes total. F. asked us whether we were interested. They were supposed to fetch EUR 100.
We weren’t interested ourselves (we don’t even have a working VCR set up anymore), but M., ingiechan‘s sister, is a serious Star Trek adept and consumer of VHS tapes. Her budget is quite small, though, so we couldn’t offer more than EUR 50 for the lot. We had assumed that someone had been dilligently taping the episodes from TV, and even though 90 tapes is a lot, it’s not like VHS is a hot commodity these days. After a bit to-and-fro, it was decided that we could get the bunch for EUR 50, if we came to collect them.

And so, this Saturday, we left around 11:00, so that we had a good chance to arrive there around 13:00 — and we had the ‘pleasure’ of experiencing the Belgian highways as well… So we arrived, and found F.’s nephew there. We got a cup of tea, chatted a bit, and then we went up the attic of the barn to see the tapes.
It turns out that these weren’t home-tapes, but ‘official’ tapes. All of Deep Space Nine on VHS, all of Voyager, etcetera. Must have cost a small fortune to assemble the tape library, and now we were taking it off their hands for a few euros… Oh well, at least they didn’t have to lug the boxes across half the country.

When we left, we looked up the largest city in the vicinity, and that was Ghent. So we went there, arriving around 14:30. We had pancakes as lunch, and then wandered around the city. Very charming town, but after ingiechan had bought quite a few kilos of books in the bookstore that specialised in architecture and design, it was time to go back home again…
All in all, not a bad haul for a day out.


The full population of the #geekfest IRC channel had decided to go to the Efteling, a fairy-tale themepark. Until not that long ago, it was closed during the winter, but nowadays, the whole park is ‘winter-themed’ and open in the winter. (Though some attractions, such as the rollercoaster, are closed because of the [possible] weather.)

We walked through the fairy-tale forest, ate sausage sandwiches (but declined the free ice hat because those are ugly), drank hot chocolate (but not from the half-liter mugs, which could go into the bags clean), were unable to enter the Diorama hall, waited half an hour for a ride, walked through the second half of the fairy-tale forest, ate fried rice, saw the park from high above, got disoriented in a tumbling house and had quite a nice dream.
We did and saw all the things we wanted to do, and had a wonderful time. kees_s surprised us with his knowledge of Efteling-trivia, and he took us to the museum which we would otherwise have passed by. Lots of neat stuff — but we had to drag him away from the old, self-built endless-tape players. 🙂

We spent eight hours in the park, about half of it after dark. Seeing everything lit up really adds to the atmosphere, but by 9PM we were really tired… We said our goodbyes, and went home. We went to bed really early, because we had to do a cache today — and that promised more walking!