Board game fans connect with brands at Essen Spiel 2022

Brands Untapped’s Billy Langsworthy looks at how the world of licensed board games was out in full force at last week’s Essen Spiel, the world’s biggest board games fair.

Last week saw the board game publishers, designers and players head to Germany for Essen Spiel, the world’s biggest board game fair.

The Brands Untapped team were at Essen to see how much of a presence licensed games had at the show.

Funko Games – one of the leading lights in the world of licensed board games – had a stand at Essen Spiel, showcasing a raft of titles including Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar, a Ted Lasso party game and the firm’s FunkoVerse line.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

The Funko Games stand was busy; a nice reminder of the job the team has done in raising the bar – and perceptions – of licensed games, especially among the tabletop gaming crowd at the show.

Elsewhere, The Op – another major player in the licensed gaming space – showcased a Marvel edition of Dice Throne, as well as Disney Sorcerer’s Arena based on the popular app game.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Over at Ravensburger, licensed titles included Disney Villains: The Card Game, Harry Potter: Battle Against the Dark Forces and two new Minecraft games in Minecraft: Portal Dash and Minecraft: Heroes of the Village.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Sticking with video games, Synapses Games and Triton were giving fans a look at Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice. Inspired by the Assassin’s Creed franchise, this co-op miniatures game sees players navigate an expansive story-driven campaign spanning over 20 missions.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Rebellion Unplugged also gave fans the chance to engage with a brand that’s moved from video games to the tabletop in Sniper Elite: The Board Game.

Sniper Elite is a hidden movement game where one player takes the role of the sniper, while the other players control squads of German soldiers. The sniper has to get past the German guards, while the guards need to strike a balance between defending their objectives and hunting the sniper.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Having already graced the Ravensburger stand, Harry Potter also had a presence elsewhere at the fair.

Horrible Guild has expanded its Similio card game range with new Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts editions. This Wizarding World edition of the deduction game sees Harry Potter fans trying to guess a secret character from the Harry Potter universe among the twelve displayed on the table. They are assisted by a Clue Giver, who plays cards from their hand stating whether they are similar to or different from the secret character.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Asmodee’s Repos Productions studio is also introducing a Harry Potter riff on one of their popular titles with Harry Potter Stupor – a wand-duelling version of Ca$h ‘n Gun$.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Sticking with Asmodee, and another big licensed game attracting the crowds at the show was Star Wars: The Clone Wars from Z-Man Games.

This co-op game uses the same mechanics seen in Z-Man’s popular Pandemic game series, but with players moving from planet to planet fighting battle droids, completing missions and facing off against legendary Star Wars villains.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

The tabletop giant also highlighted an interesting brand extension for the firm’s popular Dixit brand. Dixit is a game known for its striking, often surreal, artwork – and some of the game’s most eye-catching cards can now be enjoyed in puzzle form.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Back to games, and one of the most interested licensed titles we came across was the Steven Rhodes range from Crytozoic’s Dynamite Games label.

Steven Rhodes is a graphic artist and illustrator best known for his offbeat reimagining of children’s activity books from the 70s and 80s. His designs – including Let’s Summon Demons and Pyrokinesis For Beginners – have proved popular in apparel.

Cryptozoic has taken some of Rhodes’ most popular designs and built card games around them, with titles including Don’t Talk to Strangers, Cryptozoology for Beginners and Let’s Call the Exorcist.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Another eye-catching licensed game at the show was Godzilla Vs Kong, from Spanish publisher Gen-X Games. The game sees each player roll dice to perform different attacks, with the centrepiece being duelling cardboard figures of the two titans.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

Finally, it’s always good to see unexpected brands entering the tabletop space. We’ve already seen exciting ‘left field’ launches with Rear Window from Funko Games and Ravensburger’s The Great British Baking Show Game… So it was interesting to see the History channel get its own board game.

While not yet released, the History Trivia Game comes from Dyce Games, the party games specialist responsible for hit titles like Bad People, Hot Seat and Brain Freeze – so the brand looks set to be in safe hands as it enters the category.

Billy Langsworthy, Essen Spiel

While that’s just scratching the surface of what was on offer at this year’s Essen Spiel, it provided a welcome reminder of the creativity powering today’s licensed board game sector.

Whether a branded edition of a popular title or through completely innovative new designs, all kinds of IP are finding authentic ways to engage with fans through tabletop gaming. As this year’s Essen Spiel proved, it’s an exciting time for this corner of the sector.

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