It is rare that you can combine going to your hometown with attending a board game convention. So when it does happen, you jump at the opportunity. If you’re also expecting to see a lot of people you normally only see maybe once a year at another show, as well as people you have so far only “met” on social media, then you know you’re onto a winner. Being able to get demos of new and upcoming games is the cherry on top. Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023 was promising to fulfil all of these hopes, which set the bar very high. The question is whether it delivered.
The board game event that takes place in Berlin every year is one I had planned to attend a few years ago, just before lockdown. So it was on my wishlist for some time and I was pleased to finally be able to go. The organisers kindly gave me a press pass, which meant I didn’t have to pay for entry and was able to be there for all three days for free.
Mind you, the convention actually starts with a game night on Friday evening. The exhibition itself doesn’t open until Saturday morning. There is then another game night Saturday evening, with another day of exhibition on Sunday. It is clear that a large focus of the convention is on playing games. There is ample room for people to find a free table. I certainly never struggled to find somewhere to sit.
At the same time, the exhibition space is also large. There were over 80 exhibitors present, from smaller outfits to the usual larger names. The whole event stretches over two giant halls and around four smaller ones, plus some outdoor space with food vendors. Yet, Berlin Brettspiel Con is small enough that you can easily see most things in a day, which is great. So with my attending both days of the actual exhibition, it was no problem to see everyone who I wanted to see. I even had time to circle around a couple of times and wait for certain people or stands to quieten down a bit.
It is really the perfect size. You have plenty of time to see exhibitors as well as play games that you just bought and then go back to more exhibitors and get some demos.
Location, Location, Location
The location for Berlin Brettspiel Con is also great. Situated at Gleisdreieck, there are three different overground lines right outside the halls. Alternatively, you can take the bus or S-Bahn to Anhalter Bahnhof and walk from there. There isn’t much at the location itself, but even Potsdamer Platz isn’t too far to walk. So if you don’t fancy the food and drink stands at the convention itself, it’s not too much trouble to find a restaurant a little further away.
Saying that, next year Berlin Brettspiel Con will move to new premises. The Estrel Congress Center Berlin is going to be the new venue. That means hotel accommodation is directly attached to the convention. You can stroll from your hotel room directly to the exhibition, without going outside. That’s perfect for a really late game night. I strongly recommend you book your room early to take advantage of a better price.
Alternatively, there is plenty of accommodation everywhere in Berlin. Public transport is also great, even at weekends. So if you want to find something cheaper a bit further away, you shouldn’t have much of a problem. However, you should still make sure you book early, because Berlin is always busy in July.
Speaking of public transport, consider buying a 4-Fahrten-Karte, which was only 10 Euros for four adult tickets, which normally cost 3.20 Euros each. That’s a decent saving and probably the right quantity, given that you need a single ticket for each journey. There is no such thing as a return ticket in Berlin.
Who is Who
I had a few exhibitors on my list whom I wanted to see, with Spielworxx being at the top. Uli Blennemann and I had been chatting on social media for some time, so it was wonderful to finally meet him in person. He was very welcoming and we had a good long chat about all sorts of things. He’s such a wonderful and helpful person and the games that he publishes are always interesting. Also don’t forget the games that he has localized and is distributing for other publishers, such as Naylor Games or Leder Games. He even had Applejack for sale at the convention, which he was offering as a favour for The Game Builders, and I just had to buy it.
It was also great to speak with Gaia Games. All of their games follow rather strict sustainability standards. They are all plastic-free, as you would expect, but also carbon-neutral and always come in boxes that have very little air in them. Additionally, the company has further requirements that make their products stand out above others. They gave me a review copy of Ecogon, a rather interesting co-operative tile-laying game. I am also planning to write about Gaia Games‘ approach to sustainability, so watch this space.
I also saw Lirius Games, whose recent crowdfunding campaign Age of Comics was being shown at Berlin Brettspiel Con. I really enjoyed it, but the game I really wanted to see was Journey Through Italy, which is still in development. In the game, you go on a Grand Tour through Italy. You play action cards, collect inspiration, make friends with local people and write about your experiences. You can also meet famous artists such as Byron or Goethe. It’s a really clever game, so keep an eye out for it next year.
Those weren’t the only demos I had, of course. I also played Irongames‘ Discordia, a clever little dice action selection game, where your aim is to get rid of your workers. The problem is, every round you get more. Thematically, you’re building a Roman outpost along the Rhine river. As you expand your settlement, you need more workers until eventually you have none left and win the game. It’s a competitive game where there is only one winner, while everyone else loses, which is very interesting. There is a lot going on, with plenty of choices to make on your turn. It’s a great puzzler for people who like this sort of thing. I certainly enjoyed it and am keeping an eye on this game, which will soon be re-released with dual-layer player boards and some other neat tweaks and additions.
Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023 was certainly worth it. It was hard work and very tiring, especially on Saturday, when temperatures were in their mid to late thirties. At the same time though, it was very invigorating and exciting. Seeing so many lovely people whom I’ve previously only “spoken” to on social media was very rewarding. I never felt rushed and even on Saturday, when the convention was completely sold out, you didn’t drown in a sea of people. I think the large area that the convention inhabits allows crowds to spread out.
I am very tempted to go again next year. The new venue sounds interesting. It will be fully airconditioned, which this year’s Berlin Brettspiel Con wasn’t. At the same time, the charm of Gleisdreieck is unique and the convention won’t feel the same. So consider me tentatively pencilled in for now. I’m going to keep my eye on the situation and will watch every announcement from the organisers with interest.
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I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.
- I was given a free press pass by the organizers to attend all three days of Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023.
Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.
Music by AShamaluevMusic.