“Engage!” Top Starship Captains Compete at Essen Spiel 2023

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It’s quite a sight to experience a sprawling room full of over 100 people playing your game all at once. For Starship Captains designer, Peter Hoffgaard, Saturday evening’s Europe Masters competition was far, far out of this world.

This year’s Essen Spiel marks the championship’s return to form after a hiatus since the last one in 2019 before COVID struck. In each championship, European countries send their top players for a narrow selection of popular board games. Teams of four are assembled well in advance and must pass a qualification phase to be able to enter the competition. Then everyone gathers at Essen to meet and compete, with the winners receiving a stack of prize games and a shiny trophy.

Aside from sounding like a fascinating event, Paja and I wanted to pop down to vibe with Peter before the championship and document some of the fun.

A galaxy far, far away

The main halls were overflowing with people on Saturday, making it difficult to get around quickly. It felt like a busier day than the show opening, since the weekend brought an opportunity for more families to attend.

Though it took a while for us to find the actual location, it was well worth the trek to see the best of the best (of the best) Starship Captains players from all over Europe gathered in one place to compete for the championship. Tucked away in the basement of Messe Essen, below the bustle of Hall 1, we entered the large meeting hall and were met with a room of tables setup with Starship Captains. So, so much Starship Captains. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people playing the exact same game at once before, much less a CGE release. It was super cool.

We caught up with Peter right before the start of the competition. “It’s pretty crazy,” he noted, as we sat down to chat about the event before it was about to start.

Big game, tiny Peter.

“You probably have to prepare for this far in advance if you want to get to the point where you can play the games well enough to compete,” he said. “Normally, most people don’t play the same game that often, but for this you really need to have a schedule. The organizers told me that one of the teams played Starship Captains at least 30 times to prepare.”

And this is no ordinary game of Starship Captains. This is beast move edition. Players had a grand total of 20 minutes of “thinking time” in the game before judges would swoop in and politely start nudging them to move things along.

After chatting for a bit, the event organizers came over to our table to have Peter go up onstage. It was time to officially start the championship, and he was delighted for the rare opportunity to kick it off with the time-honored words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.


Unfortunately, at that point we had to warp speed it back to the mothership and didn’t have time to stick around watch the full games unfold. But it was a really neat opportunity to see one of our designers get to experience something as fun and memorable as having so many master level players compete and enjoy playing their game in a single massive room.

Sweet loot!

Thanks for keeping up with our oddball behind-the-scenes coverage of CGE at Essen Spiel 2023. As I write this, we’re in the home stretch of the final day of the show. Everyone is pretty exhausted, but it’s been a great time. We’ll see you next year, Spielgoers!

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