A boardgaming holiday through southern Germany culminating in the largest boardgaming convention in the world!
Grab your D20s, D6s, and Deutsch/English dictionaries as Geek Nation Tours is heading to a huge boardgame mecca in October. Game to your heart’s content at the Internationale Spieltage SPIEL in Essen, Germany. Operating annually since 1983, the SPIEL welcomes nearly 200,000 visitors and more than 1000 vendors over four days each year making it of one of the world’s biggest trade fair/conventions for board games, role playing games, card games and much much more.
Essen Spiel may form the anchor of this 14 day tour, but if you think we’ll spend the whole time huddled around a tabletop you’ve got another thing coming! Join us as we cruise down the Rhine, drink beer at Munich’s world famous Hofbräuhaus, and visit Cologne Cathedral, before crashing the gates of the SPIEL. Along the way we’ll be sure to make time for playing spotlighted German-designed and German-themed games throughout our stay in that very same country. We are also hoping to include members of the German board gaming community during the tour and will do our best to organize a meet up or two along the way.
All that and even more! Geek Nation Tours is proud to announce that we will have Rodney Smith from Watch it Played coming with us on the tour…
Rodney had a passion for teaching and playing board games that led him to start a Youtube channel in 2011 dedicated to the idea of sharing the hobby. Since then, Watch It Played has fully taught over 100 games and produced over 900 videos, growing to be the number one source for board game instructional content in the hobby. A project that began as a part time hobby from his basement in Prince Edward Island, has turned into full-time work that now has him working with major publishers in the tabletop industry from all over the world (still from that same basement). Keen to spread the hobby further, you’ll find Rodney active on-line and in the community, wherever he goes, answering questions about games, sharing the hobby, and playing any chance he gets.
Rodney is excited to bring this enthusiasm to Geek Nation Tours! And we are certainly very very happy to have him aboard!!! This tour is going to be stuffed full of gaming and fun! Who knows, Rodney might even pull out his camera and do a Vlog about our experiences… So join Rodney, Watch it Played and Geek Nation Tours for a gamer’s trip of a lifetime!
Tuesday, October 17th – Day 1Today we will arrive from all around the world to Munich, Germany. You will be given detailed instructions on how to meet up with our Geek Nation Tours Tour Leader and the rest of the tour participants at our hotel (note that our representative with be with you for the duration of the tour). From there you will have a free day to explore some of what Munich has to offer. You may just want to head down to a local pub or perhaps you would like to visit some fascinating and historic sites. If you need some suggestions, why not take a stroll through the beautiful gardens of Schloss Nymphenburg, have a coffee at the Marienplatz in the city centre, take in the Deutsches Museum (the largest technology museum in the world) or the BMW Museum, or relax in the English Garden and watch the surfers (yes, there are surfers in the middle of Munich). Whatever your pleasure you’ll find it in Munich – and once everyone has arrived, your Tour Leader will set off to do some exploring and you are more than welcome to come along.
Don’t be too late getting back to the hotel, however, since we will be having our “Welcome Dinner” tonight. This is a great time to get to know each other and discuss in detail what we will be doing over the next few days. If you’ve successfully conquered your jetlag, the socializing is sure to continue after dinner as we play Dominion. Your first evening in “the old world” will be spent jostling for position and seeing who can build the best empire from their noble lineage! Today is of course, the first day that we will be joined by Rodney Smith from Watch it Played – so get out your dice and be prepared to get those bones rolling…
Overnight in Munich (Welcome Dinner included)
Wednesday, October 18th – Day 2
Today you will have some free time to explore by yourself but, mid-afternoon, we will gather at the hotel to have a truly awesome Oktoberfest experience. Even though Oktoberfest actually takes place in September, we’ll make our own festival by visiting the beer gardens of three of Munich’s six breweries, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, and Hofbräu. We will enjoy dinner in the Hofbräuhaus’s festival hall including traditional Bavarian music and dancing.
We will leave the party after dinner to return to our hotel for a night of gaming! We’ll celebrate the original Bavarian festival by playing Rio Grande Games’ Oktoberfest card game. More beer is optional, of course, considering you may want to stay sharp to beat your opponents…or maybe you want the completely immersive experience, it’s up to you!
Overnight in Munich
Thursday, October 19th – Day 3
We will depart early to visit one of the most famous castles in the world, Neuschwanstein! Nestled on the edge of the Alps, it is the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. We will learn more about Bavarian King Ludwig II, the fascinating story of the castle, and the connection to German fairy tales & operas before returning to Munich to experience a tour of the Spaten Brewery. At the end of the tour you will be treated to a giant German pretzel and since pretzels make you thirsty, you also be treated to a sample of Spaten beer! The tour will notch a fourth Munich brewery on our belts so you’ll have to be quick if you want to sample Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr to complete the set!
In the evening, we’ll return to the Alps without leaving the hotel by playing Castles of Mad King Lüdwig. While the real Neuschwanstein was never completed, you’ll race to complete castles based on the ever changing whims of the Bavarian monarch.
Overnight in Munich
Friday, October 20th – Day 4
After breakfast, we’ll pack our bags and board the coach and set out on a boardgamers dream! Our first stop is LUDO FACT located between Augsburg and Suttgart. LUDO FACT produces 70000 games per day and we’ll have the opportunity to see how games are made, packaged and sent off to publishers. It may seem like the type of robotic machines and fabrication you would expect from a German auto manufacturer but these robots are building games! We will get a full tour and discover what happens before you “un-box” your games at home.
After the tour, we’ll enjoy lunch at Landgasthof Linde before making our way to Stuttgart. We’ll check in to the hotel and then it’s off to the world headquarters of KOSMOS publishing, the original producers of Settlers of Catan. Here we’ll have the chance to learn more about publishing, distribution, and the big business of making games in a city much more known for the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes Benz.
We’ll enjoy dinner together at Brauhaus Schönbuch before playing Settlers of Catan, naturally. It’s the game that many credit for launching the modern board gaming renaissance!
Overnight in Stuttgart
Saturday, October 21st – Day 5
Setting out again after breakfast, today we’re heading to Heidelberg. Here we’ll see one of the most well-known German castle ruins in Schloss Heidelberg. After visiting the castle, we’ll make our way into the city and see some of the sights before having lunch at the Hotel Zum Ritter St. Georg. The only building to survive all of Heidelberg’s medieval wars, Zum Ritter has been keeping watch over the market square since 1592!
Afterward, we continue on to the town of Worms, the site of Martin Luther’s debate with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. We’ll arrive in at the hotel later in the afternoon, have a chance to explore the town, and regroup in the hotel restaurant in the evening for dining and games. Tapping into the historical significance of both Heidelberg and Worms, we’ll be playing Coup: Reformation, an expansion of the Coup card game series with themes loosely based on the Reformation and Thirty Years War within the Holy Roman Empire.
Overnight in Worms
Sunday, October 22nd – Day 6
The day starts in the morning with a drive through one of the best winemaking regions of Germany. We’ll pass the city of Mainz, where Johannes Gutenberg was born, and the Eberbach monastery, where “The Name of the Rose” was filmed, on our way to Rüdesheim.
Once we reach the village, we’ll stroll along the Drosselgasse on our way to the gondolas that will take us over the vineyards to visit the Niederwald Denkmal. The monument commemorates Germany’s victory over France and the establishment of a unified country of Germany after the Franco – Prussian War in 1871. We follow that with a visit to the engineering spectacle of Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instruments museum. These self-playing music cabinets are a wonder to see and hear.
After our morning in Rüdesheim, we board a Rhine riverboat to enjoy a leisurely cruise up the Rhine River. We will be served a 3 course lunch onboard as we sail through the Upper Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 40 castles in 40 miles! If castles and legends and vinyards are not your thing, we’ll be packing Collapsible D with us to play during sailing (let’s just hope our boat doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Titanic). After lunch, we will reach Sankt Goarshausen and one of the most scenic spots on the Rhine, Lorelei Rock, and learn about the legend of the Lorelei, the siren of the Rhine.
We’ll re-board our coach and continue along the river until we reach Koblenz. There we will check in to our hotel and relax before meeting up for dinner and games in the hotel restaurant. Watching the trains race along both banks of the Rhine serves as the inspiration for tonight’s spotlight game, Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition!
Overnight in Koblenz
Monday, October 23rd – Day 7
Today starts with a visit to the amazing Eltz Castle. Standing on top of a rock formation that juts out of the surrounding forest, the castle is one of only three on the left bank of the Rhine river that has never been destroyed. In fact, members of the same Eltz family that built the castle over 850 years ago still live there today!
After a castle tour we will stroll the castle grounds and have lunch prior to heading back to Koblenz. From the hotel, we’ll trek up the hill to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. There is a multitude of things to do at the Fortress, from Gunsmith Living History workshops to cannon demonstrations, to just roaming the grounds. After visiting the fortress, you are free to enjoy the rest of the afternoon at your leisure. However, feel free to accompany your Tour Leader in the cable car across the Rhein River to the Deutsches Eck or “German Corner” to explore the monuments to German unity, a section of the Berlin Wall and even see where the Moselle meets the Rhine.
After a bit of free time, we’ll head to Weindorf Koblenz for a wine tasting and dinner before returning for our evening games. Since Koblenz was once home to the Teutonic Knights, our next German themed game is Hansa Teutonica. Will you emerge as the best trader on the tour?
Overnight in Koblenz
Tuesday, October 24th – Day 8
Today we’ll travel further along the Rhine River, stopping to visit the Drachenfels (dragon’s rock) by cogwheel train. Not only are there spectacular views, but this is the place in the German epic Nibelungenlied where the hero Siegfried battled a dragon and, after taking a bath in its blood, became invulnerable. Maybe we should use some of that to steel us for Essen?
Next, a stop in the picturesque village of Königswinter for a bite to eat on your own before we continue on to Cologne, where we will check in to the hotel. We’ll drop our bags and head out on a short walking tour of the city ending at Papa Joe’s Biersalon for a taste of Kölsch beer and eccentric atmosphere. Afterward we’ll make our way to the Brave New World gaming shop where we’ll meet up with members of the gaming community in preparation for competing against German gamers at the SPIEL. When they finally close up shop, we’ll head to Brauhaus Sion for a late dinner, some more Kölsch, and a bit of Karneval atmosphere.
The spotlight game for the evening will be Thurn and Taxis. The noble family of Thurn and Taxis were responsible for establishing the postal network throughout the former Holy Roman Empire…a network that is still used by most major postal services throughout Europe to this day.
Overnight in Cologne
Wednesday, October 25th – Day 9
After a late breakfast, we’ll visit Cologne Cathedral for a detailed tour of this spectacular cathedral before continuing on to the boardgaming mecca in Essen. After we settle in at our hotel, we will take the subway to the Essen Spiel site so everyone knows how to get there the next day. You’ll be on your own for lunch and then free to explore the city or get ready for the upcoming convention.
In the evening we’ll gather up at the hotel restaurant for another night of dinner and gaming together. Some of us may be pining for a return to Bavaria, so we’ll have Glass Road on hand. Based on the lucrative and highly secretive medieval tradition of glass making in Bavaria, we may have to see who will be drinking their beer out of the poor man’s stein and who will have the rich man’s glass!
Overnight in Essen
Thursday, October 26th to Sunday, October 29th Days 10, 11, 12, and 13Time to “Spiel” out! We will have opportunities to meet at various times during the SPIEL but you are free to organize your time in Essen to suit your interests. We’ll even include passes not only for Essen Spiel itself, but also for the local transit system to quickly travel to and from the convention center as well as throughout the city.
For those of you worried about getting your loot and swag back to the hotel, your Tour Leader will be organizing a taxi each day to pick up your purchases and bring them back to the hotel for you so you can spend the whole day experiencing the awesomeness that is Essen SPIEL!
There is a lot to do in and around Essen for those non-geek spouses, however, or those that want a break from the gaming or time away beyond the rarified confines of the convention center. So, if 4 full days at the SPIEL is not your thing, your Tour Leader will be available to help coordinate other excursions in and around Essen whether it’s finding a mall, visiting the local botanical garden, or taking in a football (soccer) game.
We’ll also be meeting up each evening to compare notes over dinner and try out all of our new games together! Thursday night we will enjoy dinner at Pfeffercorn steakhouse, Friday we will dine on Mediterranean at Mezzo Mezzo, Saturday we’ll keep it simple and eat right at our hotel restaurant, and Sunday we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner at Ruttenscheider Hausbrauerei!
Overnight in Essen
Monday, October 30th – Day 14
Unfortunately, all good things must end and today we travel to the Dusseldorf airport by motor coach to depart for home. However, the friends, memories and photos you’ve gathered, even before hitting the convention, are yours to keep forever!
Included in the tour: All accommodations, LUDO FACT tour and all other entrance fees (including your tickets of Essen Spiel), all motor coach and river transfers, Rhine cruise, Welcome and Farewell Dinners, Oktoberfest Dinner. Dinners on all nights except day 3, many lunches, many breakfasts, Brewery Tours and Hofbrauhaus Tours, local gaming nights.
Don’t have a friend to get the double occupancy rate? That is what Geek Nation Tours does. Book as a double occupancy and we will match you up a roommate… This way you get the best of both worlds – someone to BS about the con with – and more cash to spend!
Deposit: $500.00 final due June 25th 2017
Single Occupancy upgrade: $1000.00 USD
Not included in the tour price: Airfare, some local taxi and subway fares
Non- Geek Spouse argument: Look at the history and splendour of the tour…There is even stuff to do while I geek out at Essen!