Our man in Essen

Our fellow guildie Bram (The4thJawa) visited this year's Essen Spiel. Little did he know that he was actually acting on our behalf. When I contacted him to say we are commissioning an Essen report, he was up to the task.

The Lunch Automa

We've all been there: no other people to join us for lunch. And while lunch has a passable solo option, it's severely lacking compared to its non-solo counterpart. The Automa Factory, on the other hand, has proven time and time again that they can provide solo experiences to rival the multiplayer ones. Last Thursday at Spiel I was invited to test the Lunch Automa.

Set-up Like any regular lunch, it starts with a little setup or preparation. Who will join? Where will you go? This iteration of the Lunch Automa started with what could best be described as a real life Where's Waldo? as you try to locate Morten.

Photo courtesy of Morten Monrad Pedersen

Luckily for me, the image provided was a near 1-on-1 match for the live version. Although I imagine this might be less the case at the increased difficulty settings. For those interested in the full set-up, you can find it here: Spot me in Essen Next up is starting a conversation. Having something in common or a previous topic to refer back to will help. In my case, I recently reached out to Morten in relation to my monthly Patchwork challenges on BGG. As we got to talk, he asked if I was interested to join the Automa meetup he was going to. Of course I gladly accepted, and just like that we're off to meet the rest and get something to eat.

Complexity As everyone was introduced to me 1-by-1, the Lunch Automa never felt overwhelming. Of course some were easier to connect to than others, though none of them were truly hard to interact with. But let's just say sporting the correct guild colors helps. (Shout out to 1PG!)

Experience The lunch took place in a part of the Messe, which I should have known was there, but just never consciously registered. For some reason I've seen the stairs, but never realized they offered lunch capabilities upstairs. Personally I love it when the solo-mode makes me explore parts of the game that I missed in multiplayer, especially if it turns out to be a valid multiplayer option. So I was glad to be introduced to this part of the lunch facilities.

At the table, the topics were light, like one might expect from a regular lunch, though mostly games-related. Ranging from badly written rulebooks to how being credited in the rulebook increases the difficulty of clearing out shelf space for new games. Some interspersed banter kept the tone light and the atmosphere relaxed. Even though I wasn't exactly well-versed on all topics (my house still has enough room for more games for example), I had little trouble joining in on the conversation. This made me feel very included in a group that I just got introduced to. And even outing myself as an alpha player did very little to change that. Which affirmed that the Lunch Automa was hitting just the right vibe.