PART 1 : UK Games Expo 2016 – Post Expo Report

imageIf there was one message I took away from the UKGE 2016 it was that British tabletop gaming is ready for the international stage. More on that in PART 2…… #UKGB

The UK Games Expo was celebrating its 10th anniversary, and for the first time it occupied a new venue: Hall 1 at Birmingham’s NEC. It was 3 days of gaming, 3 days of meeting people, 3 days of madness. More than 20,000 visitors were clocked-up across the weekend at this, the UK’s biggest tabletop and role-playing games convention.

The exposition started for me on the Thursday afternoon, where I took the opportunity to meet up with Paul (Gaming Rules!), Jon (Acualol), Efka and Elaine (No Pun Included) prior to our seminar on Friday morning. It was also an opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of the games on show and meet some of the publishers, designers and other industry folks as we anticipated the weekend to come.

IMG_3379It was a personal pleasure to meet Tony Boydell and buy a copy of the much anticipated Guilds of London (TMG) before it sold out at the show.

It’s clear Tony has spent all this time finely balancing the 105 action cards and 45 guild tiles to create a game of extensive replayability and tight decision making. IMG_3479Guilds of London is primarily an area-control game, but your influence over the table is governed by careful hand-management, maximising the potential of your cards and combining them in innovative ways. It’s this depth that will keep you coming back for more, and what prompted the rush to empty the shelves of this game.

In the evening we shared some table-time as we played a game we both really enjoyed – the upcoming Codenames: Pictures (CGE). Presented by Paul Grogan, Tony and I particularly enjoyed taking on the role of “spymaster”, offering a single word and single number as a clue to identify as many of the pictures in front of us that belong to our team, and not the opponent’s. IMG_3382

The concept is the same as the original Codenames, which used words instead of pictures. What made Codenames:Pictures more interesting is that each picture could be interpreted in many ways and with each picture containing a number of elements. The difficulty is in trying to offer a clue that does not inadvertently misdirect your agents to an opponent’s picture, whilst also trying to leave pictures in play that make your counterpart spymaster’s job more difficult. It’s a wonderful addition to the series, and is one that will be high on my “to-buy” list.

IMG_3383On the same table (they were long tables!) Efka Bladukas was teaching a group, amongst whom were Sam Healey and Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower, to play upcoming Scythe from Stonemaier Games. It’s a beast, looks beautiful, and is on-type [for Stonemaier] with its blend of Euro and Thematic, its wooden cubes and finely cast miniatures. It also has a solo mode using the Automa system developed by Morten Monrad Pedersen.

Another new acquaintance was Gil Hova, the designer and founder behind Formal Ferret Games. Gil was delighted to share a game of his upcoming design Prolix, over a pint of in the bar of the Hilton hotel. The game challenges you to think of a word that uses as many of the letters in tableau, with each word’s position in the tableau determining its points value, and with some letters offering a points bonus. e.g. if the tableau has B and D you might choose “befuddled”, which will score both letters. The mechanism that gives Prolix its USP is the mechanism that says the first person to think of a word turns over a sand timer, giving the rest of the players on 30 seconds to find a better word; this player will get a bonus 2 points if no-one can better their score.

Fancy a try? Imagine Prolix offers the following tableau (note, the two letters on the far left – R & C – offer 5 points, not 4 as printed): IMG_3380

What word can you think of that uses the most of these letters to score you the most points? I’ve thought of a word, so you have 30 seconds to beat it. Off you go…! (p.s. let’s assume were using the British yes of Z – e.g. “recognise” not “recognize”).

My word was “cranberry”. This scores 20 points as follows: IMG_3381

How did you do? If you didn’t beat 20 points then I get a bonus 2 points. I can tell you, when you see that 30 second timer running down it really hinders your ability to think of a good word, and you end up sticking with the first thing you think of (e.g. “can”!). Look out for this in 2017. A great filler for gamers of all ages and abilities.

Gil’s 2016 release, and one I also bought on the day from the top of my wishlist, was The Networks. Once more this was a game that sold-out at the show, and it’s great fun. You can watch an interview with Gil here, where he introduces his game:

Friday was a busy day….

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 23.32.33Starting with the Press Preview and swiftly followed by the YouTube seminar. I was rather worried us on the panel were going to outnumber the audience, but fortunately a good audience turned up (were they saving their seats for Dice Tower Live?!) and we got a good number of questions. This was more fun than I expected it to be, and if you’d like to see it, you can watch Efka’s video here:

I had a shortlist of games I wanted to jump on during the Press Preview. Except everyone I spoke to was so engaging, and I had my chatterbox head on, that I only got to see a few.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.40.56Amongst those was Mystic Vale, an upcoming release from AEG. Look out for it, it looks like a winner. The “card-building” mechanism, layered on to a more traditional deck-building game, looks sure to catch on….  as long as they are able to include enough variety.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.41.30The base set will introduce the game and its concepts, with further expansions planned to add depth and complexity. I was concerned about the costs of their clear plastic cards and added card sleeves, but it sounds like they have their production method sorted and have managed to make it economically sound. There is a highly addictive push-your-luck element, as you try to build irreversible effects onto your blank cards, as well as developing combinations with other cards.

IMG_2322For the soloist, Dice City offers a variant, and I enjoyed a demonstration of how this plays. IMG_2321With dice-placement becoming a popular mechanic, and with expansions on show, it’s a great time to pick up this title and share with it friends or as a light-hearted solitaire distraction.

Also at the Esdevium stand was Pandemic: Cthulhu. I didn’t see anything new in the mechanics of the game, but it looked fantastic. Let  me share a couple of pictures with you before we wrap up…IMG_2318 IMG_2319

One personal interest in the hobby is to promote British gaming and to understand how British gaming can make a bigger name for itself on the international scene, apparently dominated by American and mainland European publishers and designers.

The truth is, the UK gaming scene is bigger than ever, and there are probably more British designers and publishers out there than you realised.

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In Part 2 of the post-expo report we’ll address this further, and look at some of the new designers and new games coming out of the UK .

UKGE 2016 – Preview

300x250May is out, and June is in, which means it’s UK Games Expo time ! This year I have managed to set aside 4 days to see in the whole event. Look out for a full update after the event here on Box of Delights.

Meanwhile, let’s take a quick preview of the games I’m hoping to learn more about at the Expo…

pic2560621_mdStar Trek: Five-Year Mission
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Designer: David Witcher

A light-weight co-operative dice-placement game for 3-7 players. I get the impression this one will solo well as well, by controlling 3+ roles.

Reviews have not been great, but I’m keen to take a look and be convinced (and convince you) it’s a winner!

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Esdevium are a UK based distributor who will be showcasing games from FFG, AEG and Z-Man amongst others. In particular I’m looking forward to seeing these four offerings:

 

Beyond Baker Street
Publisher: Z-Man
Designers: Robin Lees and Steve Mackenzie

A co-operative game in the vein of Hanabi. You’ll be solving a crime with a hand of cards only other players can see. The UKGE is great platform for the game to get a pre-release showing. Not one that will be soloable, but one worth looking out for as a neat co-op.

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Publisher: Z-Man
Designers: Matt Leacock and Chuck Yager.

Of course! 45 copies going for grabs to lucky winners. I might get a glimpse of a sealed box….

pic2561229Dice City
Publisher: AEG
Designers: Vangelis Bagiartakis

The co-designer of Among the Stars brings us a “dice crafting” game… interested?! I’m not convinced we have a revolutionary new mechanism here, but it’s a good hook.Looking forward to hearing more, with support for 1-player written right there on the box!

 

pic2913811_mdMystic Vale
Publisher: AEG
Designers: John Clair

This one’s a deck-builder. No solo play, but AEG are giving us another “crafting” term. This time it’s “card crafting”. The cards in your deck begin life as transparent sleeves, and new parts can be built onto them as the game plays. So, it’s deck-building with a new dimension, where you craft the cards that become part of your deck. Neat ! Looking forward to seeing this one play.

pic2287580_mdBoard & Dice
Now two offerings from Board & Dice, a small independent publisher just starting out, but with a couple of cracking looking titles for us…

 

pic2995821Multiuniversum
Designer: Manuel Carreia

Card drafting and hand management for 1-5 players. This is a real card game puzzle, a re-implementation of the Carreia’s Carousel format of games. This is a world premier and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

pic2402586The Curse of the Black Dice
Designer: Piotr Uzdowski

Co-operative mission solving for 2-4, and I’m keen to see if it will support solitaire play. Rolling dice and collecting sets, akin to Elder Sign but with a pirate theme? I’ll be reporting back on this one !

pic2374574_tThe Networks
Designer: Gil Hova
Publisher: Formal Ferret Games

This has been on my wishlist for some time. And now it’s here! High on my list this one. Solo card-drafting (it plays 1-5) with a new theme.

King’s Watch
Designer: Oliver Brooks
Publisher: Wotan Games

wotanheaderOne to look out for. Not sure how far along in development this one is (Wotan Games’ primary title will be War of the Nine Realms), but I’m keen to find out more about the schedule (and gameplay!).


Airfix Battles

Designers: Chris Birch, Nick Fallon, Alan Paull
Publisher: Mōdiphiüs Entertainment

pic2041956_tThe game I dreamt about as a kiddie. Yup, now I’m 44 and curious to find out what the kids today get that I did’t (apart from mobile phones and pulled pork).

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Save The President, Save The World
Designers: Cyril Besnard, Alain Fondrille
Publisher: Geek Attitude Games

Possibly still a prototype – let’s wait and see. Plays 1-5, looks like it might be quite humorous as well as loaded with mechanics I like, such as Action Selection and Area Control. Not much being said about it and I’m curious about a game where a massive earthquake opens an inter-dimensional fault in front of the White House.

Geek Attitude will also be showing Taverna and Not Alone.

Pocket Codinca
Designers: Leonard Boyd, David Brashaw
Publisher: Backspindle Games

pic1431764The first game on my “to-buy” list. A neat little abstract, though it tells of Yucatan treasure hunters searching the temple of the lost city of Codinca. I really enjoyed Clacks, and this one also looks set to please.

pic2937209_mdIce Cool
Designer: Brian Gomez
Publisher: Brain Games

Penguins? Flicking, spinning and jumping? Fun fun fun in the snow.. I’m getting it for the kids, honest….

Legends Untold
Publisher: Inspiring Games

imageNow this one does look interesting.  1-8 co-op card driven GM-free adventure role-playing with a campaign system?? Show me how it works ! This will be Inspiring Games debut at the UKGE, so I wish them lots of luck. With the tag line, “The speed of a Card Game, The depth of an RPG”, I’m sold already.

And, of course, you should also check out these games which I have already covered on Box of Delights:

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