This article originally appeared in Pyramid #5

Postcard from Europe

By Steve Jackson
Steve Jackson just returned from a two-week trip to Europe.
He brought back some new games, some observations,
and the worst case of the flu he'd ever had...

Essen, Germany, Oct. 25, 1993

I've spent the last few days at the Essen toy and game fair. This is a mass-market show, with areas for family gaming and even kids' games -- but there is also a big adventure gaming hall. I've never been here before, but some U.S. companies, like Mayfair, are old hands. I also saw Sam Lewis from FASA, and many other U.S. companies were represented.

Companies from all over Europe attend, too, and do all kinds of business. Over the last few days I've made agreements to put Illuminati back into print in both German and French -- and to do a Dutch edition, as well. And I signed with Halloween Concept, a new firm, to do a French edition of Toon.

Essen is a hugely busy convention. Saturday and Sunday the traffic was literally shoulder-to-shoulder in some areas. The adventure gaming section wasn't that crowded, but it was busy enough! Welt der Spiele (World of Games), our biggest German distributor, has been a huge help. They let me use their booth as a base of operations. It gave me a good chance to meet the German gamer in his buy-and-ask-questions mode. What he mostly wants, judging from what I heard, is more variety, and rules that are easy to learn. Sounds familiar...

The German gaming scene is growing rapidly, with original material as well as translations. The biggest RPG is an original fantasy background, Der Schwarze Auge, which is usually translated as "the Dark Eye," because "Black Eye" is a bit silly in English. In translation, FASA's line is very popular. So is Space Hulk, in both English and German.

Due to the amalgamation of East and West Germany, the German economy is still somewhat depressed, but it's getting over that. And when the Wall came down, Monopoly became an instant best-seller in East Germany!

I spent a lot of time talking with a group of German students whom I met on the Net. They're interested in producing an electronic interactive fanzine for GURPS, and they had some impressive things to show me. When it's ready, we'll put it on

Dublin, Ireland, Nov. 1, 1993

I was in Dublin for Gaelcon; along with Greg Stafford, I was Guest of Honor. Greg had been here before, and told me I should come. He was right.

Before the con started, I spent most of a day in the Irish National Museum. I saw a Viking D6, made of walrus ivory, that dated to the 11th century. There were several authentic gameboards, too. The rules for one of them, Nine Men's Morris, have come down to us! There were also incredible displays of finely-worked gold jewelry from both Viking and Celtic cultures. I'd sure like to do GURPS Celtic some day... And yes, I went to see the Book of Kells. If we ever do a Celtic book, I know where the art has to come from.

Gaelcon started Friday morning. It had the most beautiful convention site I've ever seen: hundreds of years old, with a courtyard, formal gardens, lofty decorated ceilings, huge paintings of nobles, and stained glass windows in the main gaming rooms...

Game distribution in Ireland is not great. Everything comes over from England, and everything is costly. (One significant exception: Mithril Miniatures are produced in Ireland. I bought several of their excellent Lord of the Rings line.)

Warhammer, Warhammer 40K and AD&D were the most popular games in the open areas. Vampire is well known but doesn't seem to get as much actual play as it does here. The Irish gamers play everything, though. While I was there, I got into games of Scrabble, Family Business and Balderdash. Our own distribution there could stand some improvement. GURPS books are widely read but not widely played, and a repeated question about my big Ogre demonstration was "Is this like Epic scale?" (I didn't kill anyone, honest!)

The convention has a great logo. It's based on a detail from the Book of Kells -- all they did was add the dice.

Gaelcon was quickly dubbed "ConTamination," because the sound of coughing was everywhere. The Gaelcon Flu struck down committee members and gamers alike, but nobody stayed struck down. Not with Guinness to drink and games to play... By the way, real Irish Guinness bears no relation to the nasty stuff we get in the States. If you ever get the chance, try a pint.

And though I was sick as a dog for the last two days, I had a great time and hope to go back someday. These people play games.

Article publication date: February 1, 1994

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