Glass Bead Boardgames

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UK Games Expo 2017 - Full report, lots of pictures and a favourite from the convention.

Allen OConnor
United Kingdom
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Glass Bead Board Games
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Annabelle and I spent the last weekend at the amazing UK Games Expo in Birmingham, which is the largest board games convention in the UK. This is my fourth year visiting the event, and the eleventh year that the convention has been held. The following report covers the best of the games that we came across over the course of the convention. The organisers of the event were kind enough to give Annabelle and I press tickets to the event, so we were able to access the press event at the start of the first day. Thank you for that Richard and Tony, We had such a great time. Some of the titles discussed in today’s post are not listed here on BGG, I have made their titles bold to illustrate them. Unfortunately we couldn’t include every game that we came across over the weekend, just the ones that stood out the most for us.

The first game that we encountered was a small card game called Nimbee, which was recently Kickstarted and has some amazing little bee pieces. The game is Euro-ish with a little interaction between players. One of the things that I liked about the game is that players work their way through a series of cards in a set order, but at the start of the game a random card is added to the end of the row. Sometimes it's worth a lot of points, other times it takes points away. Consequently players are either racing towards it or fighting to keep away from the end. Players manipulate turn order to achieve either outcome. There’s some interesting mechanisms in the game, and nice presentation too.

One of the publishers that piqued my interest this year was Board&Dice, with a few of their small games. I mentioned Pocket Mars from a previous post as being one of the main games that I wanted this year. The game is a clever little card game in which players are building colonies on mars. The game has multi use cards, which is a big selling point for me. Another of their games, SUPERHOT: The Card Game, describes itself as a micro deck building game with an excellent solo mode. The game looks like a video game that I love called Mirror’s Edge, and has some very interesting mechanisms. Board&Dice had quite a few interesting titles, so they’re definitely a publisher that I will be looking into over the next few months.

Brain Games return to the expo after last years success with ICECOOL. This time they have three new children’s games, all the beautiful artwork and presentation that we seen in Ice Cool. Woo-Hoo! is a very simple roll and move game for younger children which includes a huge cardboard elephant for the pieces to slide down; Reef Route is a pretty mean dice game with some gorgeous artwork for slightly older children; and King Frog, which is a fairly innovative little card game with some interesting mechanisms. King Frog Looks like a game that could be played with more advanced gamers, while the other two titles are more tailored to be played with children. I also picked up two micro expansions for Ice Cool; one that adds 0.5 point cards giving the immediate power to have an extra flick, and one that adds some alternative artwork for the four penguin cards.

Everyone has probably played this game at one point or another, sometimes known as ‘Spoons.’ Corks takes the same mechanism but swaps out the spoons for wooden corks. In addition, the corks are coloured, so the first player to grab must get the cork matching the colour in their hand. This is a really nice set, and it comes with enough pieces to accommodate 14 players.

Softwar really caught my eye, with it’s neon eighties look. This is essentially a two player abstract game with a hacking theme, using a variety of dice for player pieces. Considering the game has so many dice, there is actually very little luck involved; with the dice only being rolled in rare circumstances. The designer Ben Green hopes to get the game out on Kickstarter later this year. After taking a look at how this game plays, I’m almost certainly going to back this one.

Next up was the gorgeous looking Nine Worlds from Richard Denning. It took me a little while to figure out where I recognised Richard’s name from; then I realised that he is one of the two organisers for the UK Games Expo. This is an area control game, in which players gain certain abilities for controlling one of the nine worlds. The mechanisms are clean and simple, and the game looks outstanding. Certainly a good one for fans of medium weight eurogames.

Vikings on Board is a worker placement game from Blue Orange Games with some amazing three dimensional boat pieces. The game has a little bit of set collection and a programming mechanism that sees the better spaces on the board give a disadvantage to player order in the next round. It looked like a solid game, one that I wouldn’t mind trying at some point.

This years release from Surprised Stare Games Ltd is The Cousins' War from David J. Mortimer. It also contains promotional cards for Snowdonia and Guilds of London too, both of which are among my favourite games. The Cousins War is a card and dice game, with an emphasis on area control. The games looks superb, containing the unmistakable artwork of Klemens Franz. That’s a lot of content for a little £12 game. The was also a prototype at the Surprised Stare stand for A Nice Cup of Tea, which builds on the central mechanisms from Snowdonia to form a new game; hopefully one that we will learn more about soon. Nice to see you at the expo Tony!

Czech Games Edition were at the expo this year with two new party games from Vlaada Chvátil. The first is a spin off from the 2016 Spiel des Jahres winner Codenames; this time players are working together to cooperatively beat the game, which has a whole new set of word cards in Codenames: Duet, designed with the help of Scot Eaton. The second game is That's a Question!, a party game that apparently plays best with close friends, as the game expects you to know things about each other. Both games did look quite interesting, I like the fact that Chvatil is making more party games now.

When I originally played Splendor a few years ago, I couldn't really see how the game could be expanded; but later this year Splendor: Cities of Splendor will be released, containing four separate modules to modify the base game with. Apparently you don’t use them all in one game, but rather select one to play each game with. We also took a look at a game that was very similar to splendor called Century: Spice Road, with some amazing artwork on the cards and similar set collection mechanisms.

Next up, Catch the Moon is one of those games that drew me in as soon as I walked past it. Players roll the dice, then they must stack one of the wonky wooden ladders a certain way, trying not to make the stack fall. I know that this is a game that would be well recieved from my friends and family. Annabelle and I had a little play of this one, and we both loved it straight away.

Sub Terra is a cooperative survival game in which players act as a group of amateur cavers, trying to explore and to escape the terrifying cave. The game has a push-your-luck element, and some excellent little caver meeple; and it can be played solo too, which is always a good selling point. This was successfully Kickstarted, so will soon be available for release.

We wandered by the KOSMOS stand and came across this interesting little tile laying game called Kerala: The Way of the Elephant. We were both drawn in by the little wooden elephants, which must be moved on to each tile as they are laid in the game. The rules were simple, and the game accommodates up to five players. I added this little gem to my wishlist here on the geek, this is definitely an Allen game.

We sat down and had a little look at a prototype game by the name of Gangs of britania, which looks a lot like a typical eurogame, with locations on the board for various cities in the UK. However the central mechanism to the game is based on ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’ from game theory, requiring players to negotiate and at times stab each other in the back. The game did look quite interesting, but is still a prototype so it might be a while before we see a full release of this game.

For those that don’t know what ‘the Prisoner’s Dilemma’ is:

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to swing by the Cubiko Games stand and buy one of Gavin Birnbaum’s creations. This year he had a prototype of a game with little wrecking balls called Wrecking Cube, in which players try to dismantle a tower of cubes by swinging their ‘Wrecking Cube’ against it; I absolutely need this game in my life. Gavin was promoting a slightly updated version of Carreau ready for a major release later in the year, and also his auction game Q.E.. I ended up buying a copy of one of his early games, Cubiko, which I’ve been after for a little while now. Everyone should have at least one Cubiko game in their collection, I have three now and they are all excellent games.

Next up, Annabelle and I found this family game called Scrooge: The Board Game, which uses characters from across the various Dickens novels. Although this one might be a little too mass market for my taste in games, I liked the presentation of the game, and I think that it might be a fun one for children and families to play. The game is scheduled to be crowdfunded later this year.

This is one of the games that I had my eye on before the expo, because I think that the theme is hilarious. In Ghostel, players each play as a ghost in a haunted house which has recently been reopened as a hotel. The aim of the game is sneak around and scare the living guests out of the hotel by exploiting their phobias and fears. The game is pretty light hearted, and contains some pretty cool ghost miniatures.

HUNGER: The Show is a quick party game built around a simultaneous action mechanism, that sees players trying to survive on a desert island. Basically, it is the TV show ‘Survivor’ turned into a light hearted party game. Accommodating up to six players, each person has their own deck of actions and chooses one each turn. The game is about predicting the moves of the other players to choose the action that gives them the most resources to survive. I can see this one being very fun with larger groups of players.

Next we swung by the Spanish Publishers Association stand, who had a ton of interesting looking games. Mondrian: The Dice Game has been on my radar for quite a while, combining a simple dexterity game with set collection and a superb production. This was actually the first game that I ended up playing after the convention was over, and it lived up to my expectations. Another game that we ended up looking at was Sugi, which is a programming game with artwork that reminded me of the Tree Spirits from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

We found a bunch of interesting small card games from Strawberry Studio, which is a daughter company to NSKN Games. The first was a cooperative game called Strawberry Ninja, in which players cooperatively control a cat, who is looking through the pumpkin patches and apple trees for the notorious Strawberry Ninja. The game has elements of programming to it and plays really well, I can see this being a decent solo game. Next up, a simple set collection game named What's Up, which is kind of like an evolution of the classic game Memory. Strawberry Studio was one that stood out for Annabelle and I, definately a publisher that we would like to explore in the future.

If anyone hasn’t met Behrooz Shahriari yet, then you really should. He’s always very fun to be around, and he designs some interesting games under the Stuff By Bez label. The last time that I picked up one of his games, it was the hilarious In a Bind, pictured above on the night of the first day of the convention with my friends. In a Bind has now been reimplemented under the name of Yogi. Bez had a word game this year called Wibbell++ which contains five games using the same set of cards, it looks like a great little party game.

Temp Worker Assassins is the first published title from David Newton, featuring some beautiful artwork from Adam Bolton. The game combines deck building and card play with worker placement and meeples; not a combination that I have seen before but definitely one that has peaked my interest.

This year sees the new edition of Sheep & Thief by Pegasus Spiele. The original used little balls of fluff for sheep and a folded paper map, making the game quite fragile; however the new edition comes with wooden pieces and a more traditional game board. The final production looks excellent, I actually tried to buy a copy of the original at Essen a few years ago but it was sold out before I got there. I’m kind of glad now, the new edition looks much better.

As well as the various publishers and vendors at the UK Games Expo, there is also a place for visitors to buy and sell games from each other. We managed to find quite a few gems this year. I got an Eric Solomon game called Alaska, and a classic Reiner Knizia called Palazzo. Annabelle got two HABA games, Diego Drachenzahn and Schnapp die Schätze. We found three abstract games, Haru Ichiban, Quixo and Kahuna. And finally a little card game called The Jam.

Our favourite game from the 2017 UKGE

So we had a good think about it and our favourite game of the convention was Mondrian: The Dice Game. It has the right balance of simplicity, fun and excellent presentation; and it was the first game that we wanted to play once we left. I really enjoyed this year’s expo, and I’ll be back again next year; I’d urge you all to attend if you can. Thanks for reading!

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