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UK Games Expo 2019 - Convention Report
Like many British board gamers I spent most of last weekend at at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham for this year’s UK Games Expo. This is the sixth time that I’ve attended the convention and every time it seems to get a little bigger, taking up more space across the NEC site. This year the event took place across Hall’s one, two, three(a) and most of the nearby Hilton Hotel. The weekend is a great chance to meet members of the board game community, to see what is going to be released over the coming months and to buy copious amounts of new (and old) board games.
I had an amazing weekend catching up with old friends and making some new ones along the way. I’ve felt inspired by some of the designers that I’ve met and I have discovered some interesting and novel games. Some games I was anticipating while others were completely new to me. Below is an account of some of the games that I had the fortune to see at the event but it is by no means everything on display there. The only way to really experience the event in full is to turn up, so why not visit the NEC for next year’s Expo. I’ve split the games up into which publisher was displaying them, often these aren’t the original publishers but rather the publishers that handle the UK distribution. If you want to know more about the event then please click on the following link:
Coiledspring and Blue Orange Games had one of the most exciting prototypes this year for Annabelle and I called Kingdomino Duel, a roll and write spin-off of Bruno Cathala's 2016 Spiel des Jahres winner Kingdomino. I had seen an early photo of the game before the expo but now I got a chance to see how the game actually works. It’s a two player game with two different sheets to write on, one for each player and one for the overall game. These are found on either side of each sheet in the game. Four dice are rolled each turn, the first player picks one, the next picks two and the first player gets the one that is left. Then the two dice faces create a domino somewhere on your map signified by colouring in the pattern dictated by the dice. It looks like great fun, I’m super excited to give this one a try. Gamewright also had a dice based follow up of Sushi Go! called Sushi Roll which really did look as good as I imagined. Card drafting has been replaced with cardboard conveyor belts which pass the dice from player to player. We loved the first game in the series and the follow up looks to be well produced and different enough from the original to justify owning both games. Hopefully we’ll add both of these games to our collection in the near future.
I had a good chat with Michael Fox (II), one of the designers involved with the creation of Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr. I was inspired by his philosophy to board game design and his desire to try to create something new. He gave me a run-down of how Holding On came to be and I loved his passion for the game, we have a copy now too so I’m excited to explore the story and experience, be sure to keep an eye on this blog if you want to know what I thought. Another larger game from Hub being previewed at the Expo is MegaCity: Oceania, a chilled out gorgeous looking game which finds its roots in the much less chilled TOKYO JUTAKU and should be released at around September this year. We also saw an innovative little card game called Blank where the rules can change with every played card, and a prototype for a game called Flip Over Frog which looks like a lightweight abstract-family game for two to four players. I really enjoyed Hub games this year, they certainly made a positive impression on us across the weekend.
Rogue Artist Creations Ltd.
Every year at the expo we find a charming little game from a local game designer and we end up taking it home with us. Top Hats And Treachery was described by its designer as Downton Abbey meets Gloom, and sees players trying to climb the social ladder in Victorian England. We sat down to a round during the expo and essentially the game has a some set collection, a bit of ‘take that’ and plenty of Blighty themed humour. We enjoyed the game very much, and as well as taking a copy away us we also bagged the ‘Contagion’ expansion which adds diseases to the game and a promo card for Queen Vic and her husband Albert. This was a great little find.
The City of Games
We had no idea that this existed but we stumbled across this charming little game on the Thursday night during the press preview and were instantly drawn to it. Vadoran Gardens looks to be a tile placement game using square cards each with a three-by-three grid of different terrain, along with some great little wooden pieces. The artwork looks different and interesting, and the look of the cards reminds me of one of my favourite drafting games called Honshū. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this novel little game.
Every year at the UK Games expo Brain Games always have a big presence with plenty of games to play at their stand, including the 2017 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner ICECOOL. This year their big release was TEAM3 PINK / TEAM3 GREEN, a ridiculous party game based on the analogy of the three wise monkeys. One player sees a card containing an arrangement of block which they must convey to another player without speaking. That player then describes the design to a third player who can’t see, and must build the design based on the description. The game looks like great fun, Brain Games have a great ever-growing catalogue of family games. The next one on display was Snowman Dice that sees players frantically building a three part snowman with their dice, then they start flicking their dice at the other player’s creations in an effort to destroy their snowmen. A prototype of Iron Forest was on display using the same ‘box in a box’ system as ICECOOL which looked interesting. We also saw two new family games called Pigasus with some hilarious animal crossover artwork and Farm Rescue which has the most amazing Farmer and Wolf miniatures. It’s great to see this publisher going from strength to strength every year at the Expo, I’m always excited to see what they have instore for the convention.
I’m a big fan of Rubik’s products and the proud owner of a collection of different sized Rubik’s cubes and various spin offs. This is the first year that I’ve seen Rubik’s showcasing their products at the UK Games Expo and it was great to see. I noticed a leaderboard of times that attendees had completed a 3x3 cube, certainly much faster than my record of 75 seconds.
I’m a big fan of abstract games and my wife has grown up as a Chess fan. Paco Ŝako (Esperanto for peace chess) is a form of chess created to be an expression of peace, friendship and collaboration. The pieces don’t take each other but rather then become couples which can be controlled by either player, the aim of the game being to make a couple with the opposing player’s king piece. The game is really well produced and the pieces look outstanding, they also had some giant pieces at their stand. I’m excited to give this game a try in the near future.
Big Potato games have a habit of making the most unusual eye catching packaging for their games, and their year’s releases are no exception. They had a big presence again at this year’s show and did a great job at pulling people in to try their games. 20 Second Showdown is a big group party game that sees players completing tasks in a frantic manner and comes with a patented bizarre looking timer. There’s also a movie themed party game called Blockbuster based on the old video rental shop that gave me so many great memories when I was younger. Big Potato have managed to get into a lot of big retailers over the last few years and seem to be becoming one of the biggest names in party games, it’s always exciting to see their new games.
I’ve been a big fan of Gen42’s abstract games over the last few years, with such titles as Hive, Tatsu and Army of Frogs. This year however there was a prototype for a solo puzzle game called Feed Me which features 40 levels of increasing difficulty. The game got a lot of buzz with plenty of people stopping by the booth to try one of the two prototype copies on display. I own pretty much everything that this publisher has released so I will undoubtedly be adding Feed Me to my collection once it gets a full release.
Alley Cat Games
We initially visited the Alley Cat Games booth to get a closer look at Cat Café, however by the time that we arrived the game had sold out and there was a big crowd waiting to play a giant version that the publisher had on display for the expo. The game is very much on my radar but I might have to wait a to get a copy. Instead we had a good look at Chocolate Factory which is available for preorder and is due to reach buyers by around September. Chocolate Factory is a big sprawling eurogame about making chocolate with some interesting mechanisms involving a conveyor belt moving pieces around the factory. I can see this one doing well once it gets its full release, who doesn’t love chocolate?
Another UK game that caught my eye leading up to the Expo was Six Gun Showdown, a quick two player game of shootouts in the Wild West. The game incorporates dice, cards and a ‘QuickDraw’ mechanism that serves to generate tension and guides the players to read their opponent’s actions. When we visited Redwell’s booth in Hall 2 we managed to catch a game in mid flow and it looked like fun. We watched as the two players stood poised like cowboys at noon, finger guns at their hip ready to draw their pistols. The set also comes with six different characters each with their own custom dice, we brought a pre-production copy home with us so we’ll get an opportunity to play the game very soon. The game goes live on Kickstarter on 6/6/19 (at 6pm), quite fitting given the name of the game.
Annabelle and I have enjoyed playing Sagrada a lot over the last year or two, as have many others given its popularity here on the Geek. This year Floodgate Games return with a new expansion for the game called Sagrada: The Great Facades – Passion, which adds new rare glass dice to the game which can act as any colour, more ways to score points relying on symmetry, and some new private objectives based on the use of the rare glass dice. The expansion looks superb, I can’t wait to add it to my base game. We also seen another new title called Bosk with some gorgeous 3D cardboard trees and some wooden coloured leaves. The game looks like it has a medium weight euro feel to it and is due for a full retail release on July 12th.
Smirk & Laughter Games
Another great looking abstract game that caught my eye this year was SHŌBU, a game consisting of four separate four-by-four boards each containing four stones of each player’s colour. The boards are divided by a rope with players having the ability to manipulate stones on one of two boards on their side of the rope. Players move a stone either one or two spaces on one board then match that move with another of their stones on the opposite color board, pushing an opponent’s stone off the board's edge if possible. The winner is the first player to knock all of the opponents stones from any one of the four boards first. I was excited to see this game and I was really impressed with the quality of the final production. I’m excited to give this one a proper try in the near future.
Sinister Fish Games
Annabelle had had her eye out for Villagers for a little while after missing out on a recent Kickstarter campaign, and we stumbled across a busy booth in Hall 2 selling the game. This card-drafting engine-building game designed and illustrated by Haakon Gaarder has been getting a lot of buzz lately and I believe that it is the only game at the expo that I had to stand in a queue to buy. We ended up throwing in the Villagers: Kickstarter Expansion Pack containing all the stretch goals and extras, as well as the Villagers Coin Chest which replaces the cardboard coins with a set of wooden ones. Annabelle has been learning the rules to this game since the expo so hopefully it will hit the table very soon.
I love visiting the Haba stand at big events like this as they always have plenty of games on display, people there to show you how their games work and a few giant editions of their games. This year we saw a giant edition of Rhino Hero: Super Battle which had a group of kids enjoying the game, and we got a proper look at Dragon's Breath which won the esteemed Kinderspiel des Jahres last year. There aren’t many companies out there making games with such universal appeal as Haba Games.
The marvelous Gavin Birnbaum returns again this year with more handmade wooden games. We currently own five of Gavin’s games so we’re always eager to see what he has on display at the UK Games Expo. Last year we tried an early edition of Paras, and this year the game is back and now includes some gorgeous looking laser cut airplanes; essentially this is a dexterity game with elements of area control and a war theme, it’s simple and very enjoyable to play. We also took a look at another dexterity game called Chopsticks which involved people trying to simultaneously fling as piece of sushi into one and other’s football style goals. Gavin’s designs are simple and charming, and his booth looked busy every time that we walked past. I think that everyone should have at least one Cubiko game in their collection, they’re fun on so many levels.
My wife and I are partial to the kind of games that can be played after a few sherries, so Gutterhead sounded like great fun before the Expo. Essentially this is a game that is played in teams (of adults) and involves plenty of drawing and some really bad-taste humour. The picture above is my representation of ‘Teabagging’ which was much easier than the previous card that I drew which identified a ‘Golden Shower.’ The game looks like great fun, certainly something that I’d try with my regular gaming group. The next game we looked at was also a group party game but this time a more family friendly title. Egolympics is basically a box full of different objects such cups, balls, chopsticks and dice along with a set of bizarre challenges. In the picture above I’m trying to stack four dice on top of each other while wearing cups over my hands, which I just about managed to do in the time that I was given. Both games were designed by a husband and wife team called Kate and Zak who were great fun to chat to, I’ll be keeping an eye out for their games in the future.
Surprised Stare Games Ltd
One of the main games that I wanted to look out for at this year’s UK Games Expo was the two player follow up to Snowdonia called Foothills by Tony Boydell and Ben Bateson. I feel like I’ve seen this game at every stage of its development and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the final production, it’s certainly the game that by close friends attending the Expo are looking for this year. I missed getting one of Tony’s first 60 copies that arrived just in time for the Expo, so mine is on it’s way courtesy of Chaos Cards. We also got a chance to look at a prototype for Attention All Shipping which is Tony’s new shipping based eurogame; I’ve enjoyed watching this one develop and become more refined on Tony’s blog and given his track record of making engaging and interesting strategy games I can almost guarantee that this one will be a bit hit.
Days of Wonder
Last year saw the release of Ticket to Ride: New York which took all of the mechanisms from Ticket to Ride and shrunk the game into a 10-15 minute experiance for two-to-four players. It was one of the biggest surprises at last year’s convention and quickly became one of my favourites from the series. This year Days of Wonder introduce Ticket to Ride: London which was released on the first day of the expo, this is a similar shortened experience as New York with a more rounded map and a new mechanisms for connecting districts on the game’s board. The artwork is exceptional and the trains have been replaced with little double decker buses. I really hope that this is the direction that the series heads towards, I love the shorter more focussed feel of Ticket to Ride: New York.
We visited the PSC Games booth to see their three main releases this year. The next instalment of Richard Borg's Commands & Colors series which is this time set in space. Red Alert: Space Fleet Warfare has a big table presence, some fantastic miniatures and looks like the most visually appealing game in the series. Dávid Turczi was showing off a prototype for his new heavy euro roll-and-write game called Rome and Roll which looks like it'll add something new and exciting to the genre. And finally Martin Wallace attended the event to promote his new game Milito which finds its roots in one of his older titles called Field of Glory: The Card Game. This was probably my favourite game at the booth because it looks like it plays much like many of the two player card games that I enjoy already, and the production looks superb.
Board&Dice / Strawberry Studio
We didn’t get a good picture of Inuit: The Snow Folk which is a real shame because it’s one of the best looking card games that I’ve come across in recent times, with some amazing artwork by Paulina Wach. The gameplay looks like an interesting take on card drafting and has a fairly simple set of rules, I can see myself looking for a copy sometime soon. Strawberry Studios also shared a booth with Board&Dice and were promoting two new games. The first is Bon Appetit! by Gilad Yarnitzky which is an innovative auction game that comes in a slightly larger box than we’re used to seeing from Strawberry Studio, along with Mount Rushmore by Dennis Kirps which is a party game that can can accommodate up to ten players. It’s great to see Strawberry Studios branching out to larger games, my wife and I own every game that they have published so far but they’ve always been very small and minimal. These two new games have a much bigger table presence.
Lucky Duck Games
I’d say that the game that Annabelle and I have enjoyed the most with just the two of us over the last year has been Chronicles of Crime, which is probably the best example of app integration into a board game that I’ve played so far. Essentially this is a cooperative game in which players are trying to solve a mystery, the base game is set in London, the Noir expansion is set in post-war Los Angeles but the second expansion is completely different. Chronicles of Crime: Welcome to Redview is set in the sleepy town of Redview in the 1980s and the murders have been replaced with strange goings on and mysteries, it’s also the most complex game in the series and adds an RPG influenced dice mechanism. The game looks to have a Stranger Things / Goonies / Stephen King style theme and I really can’t wait to play it. We also saw an early version of Paranormal Detectives which looks like great fun with great artwork, this is a deduction party game where one person plays the role of a ghost passing on messages while the others must use deduction to solve a mystery. I’m loving the games that Lucky Duck is putting out at the moment, I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.
Golden Ginty Games Ltd.
I actually stumbled across Canine Kleptomaniacs when flicking through Instagram. IG user k9kleptomaniacs has been posting developing pictures of their game sandwiched between cute pictures of dogs, so we swung by and checked out an early version of their game. Canine Kleptomaniacs is essentially a light card game with set-collection elements and some great artwork. From what I can gather players control a dog hiding their owners possessions around the house for points, the game also has some push-your-luck mechanisms with players getting rewarded for keeping cards in their hands and going for larger sets. The game is due to be Kickstarted in July and I might just have to invest.
Accentuate Games Ltd.
Following the success of FReNeTiC last last year Accentuate Games return with a new title called Rats to Riches designed by Eugene Lim. The game has achieved a really unique and novel look by incorporating the base of the box folded out for form an irregular shaped board. What looks like a game about rats is actually about making money. Players act as a pack of filthy, scheming rats racing to collect $100 first, working their way to a better class of sewer by investing in assets, sabotaging other rats and building their sewer empire. We managed to see the game in action and it looks super fun, I can’t wait to play this one once it gets a full release. They were taking orders to be sent out in late June at the convention so it should be hitting shops in the very near future.
This has been one of my favourite publishers of recent years. I missed out on a copy of Echidna Shuffle last year because they had sold out before I managed to get there, so I was quick to visit this year and bag myself a copy. I now own everything this publisher has ever released and I think that this is the only publisher that I can make that claim about. Pictured above are two of my favourite other games from Wattsalpoag; firstly Claim It! which feel like Can't Stop with area control instead of linear progression, and Last Call: The Bartender Game is a great light-hearted party game about making the perfect cocktail. Kris Gould has such a great approach to game design, and he's a genuinely nice guy, always fun to stop and chat with.
My wife and I have been big fans of games such as Exit, Unlock and Time Stories; so when we heard about Pegasus’ new game series called Undo our interests were piqued. The game starts with a character dying, then players must go back in time and change the course of history in order to prevent their death. We played an example campaign called Undo: Drowned Hopes at their booth and the gameplay feels so fresh, I can’t wait to play the rest of the series. There were three games released at the expo called Undo: Cherry Blossom Festival, Undo: Blood in the Gutter and Undo: Curse from the Past; I plan on playing them all very soon and I anticipate that this series won’t be restricted to just three games. We also had a chance to see a new party game called NObjects which appears to be a charades variant that sees players giving clues by drawing patterns with their finger, they can’t make clues in any other way and the secret words that get progressively more difficult to convey as players get closer to winning. I can see all of these games being a big hit with my regular gaming group, it’s great to see Pegasus having a bigger presence at this year’s event.
I was drawn in by a preview picture of Horticulture Master before the Expo which looks like it crosses the drafting mechanism of Splendor with the puzzle tetromino fitting-in aspect of Patchwork. Seeing the actual game at the event I noticed the high production value and the robust size of the game, it was much larger than I thought it would be. This is certainly one to keep an eye out for in the future, hopefully it’ll get a decent distribution in the UK market. Mozi had some interesting looking asian games on show, including a card driven game called Let's Drink which comes in a fluffy bunny head. I already own a few small games from this publisher but seeing their larger games made me want to buy a few more.
Stuff By Bez
We love catching up with the always charismatic Bez at conventions who was back with an even bigger booth than last year. I’ve enjoyed their word based game system called Wibbell++ which had a new version this year with a larger more robust box, a splash of colour on the cards and individual rule sheets with illustrations for each of the core games. Bez also had copies of Kitty Cataclysm at the convention which we first tried at last year’s Airecon, we actually received our Kickstarter edition in the post not too long ago from a recent crowdfunding campaign. In addition there was an early copy of Yogi Guru, the follow up to Yogi published by Gigamic with tougher challenges that include the lower half of the body more often. The Stuff by Bez booth looked like a party the whole time that I attended the Expo, it’s great to see so many people enjoying Bez’s amusing and charming games.
This robust eye-catching game is an early version of White Peak, which sees players fighting it out to make it to the top of the mountain first. Everyone has equipment to help them along the way or to hinder the progress of their opponents; they must also avoid the Yeti, he is ferocious, he is angry, and he will throw everybody off if he can get close enough. The publisher also had some giant 3D printed versions of the game’s characters which looked excellent. The game is due to be kickstarted at around September of this year and I know that we will certainly be keeping our eye out for this game when the campaign goes live.
Although this is probably the most unorthodox game included in this blog post it holds a special place for Annabelle and I. Call-to-Mind was designed as a way to get people experiencing Dementia to engage in an activity, to start conversations, to stimulate memories and to have fun along the way. In the real world I’m a Registered Mental Health Nurse and I’ve previously worked in Dementia care. I believe that it is the cruelest mental illness that I’ve worked with and to have a board game to alleviate the associate suffering and despair is such a great achievement. In addition the game itself is bold and bright, simple and well produced. The cards have a linen finish which is always a nice touch, especially if you work in a care setting where the game is likely going to be used by lots of people. I’ve been talking to a lot of the other Nurses and Occupational Therapists in my line of work who all seem keen in the idea of the game. If this sounds like it would be of interest to you then please click the following link to find out more.
Team Custard Kraken
We spotted Penguin Brawl: Heroes of Pentarctica before the Expo and were keen to take a look at it properly at the event after seeing the hilarious artwork. The game appears to be a light hearted Magic: The Gathering style card game that can accommodate up to eight players. On each turn players draw cards from two different piles, either the Penguin deck or the Action deck, and must try to reduce the other player’s life total to Zero. Occasionally a curse card will turn up and affect all of the players at the table, sometimes requiring them to work together before facing each other once more. We brought a copy of the game home with us along with a light party card game called Find the Pickle which looks really quite funny. I’m looking forward to giving both of these games a try with my regular gaming group.
Solar Storm is a cooperative game with an interesting premise. Players are residing on a ship with a broken energy core caused by a solar flare, they must work together to get the ship functioning again and survive the Solar Storm or they’ll perish in the burning abyss. The game can be played solo and contains the most fascinating artwork. The game will be Kickstarted later in the year at around September so if this sounds like your kind of game then be sure to check it out.
We met the very entertaining designers of BARPIG who told us that their game started out as a set of ridiculous challenges and puns written on a napkin in a bar, and later evolved into a pig themed party game for three-to-seven players that is definitely not a drinking game. They return this year with a follow up called BARPIG: After Hours which can be added as an expansion to the original game or can be played as a separate experience. After Hours introduced rival characters for all of those introduced in the first game and a Kickstarter for the game went live on the first day of the convention. With the right group (and the right tipple) I can see this game being great fun, I’ve brought a copy home with me so keep an eye out on my blog for a play in the near future.
Czech Games Edition
CGE are back again this year with a prototype for a new word based party game that really caught my eye. Letter Jam is a cooperative game designed by Ondra Skoupý that involves hidden information, with players trying to create words with the cards in front of them each containing one letter. Each card has a QR code printed on it so players have the option of having an app set the initial position of the game up for you. We watched a few people play the game and it looked like great fun, although very different from Codenames it had much the same level of humour and deduction. Letter Jam looked like great fun, like the kind of game that could appeal to non-gamers just as much as heavy strategy gamers. I’m interested to see what impact it has once it gets a full release.
I grew up watching mangas and reading animes such as Dragonball Z and Naruto, so when I walked past the stand for Bandai and saw both series in board game form I was more than intrigued. Naruto Boruto Card Game uses an innovative new turn and resource system where the cost of each card shifts a counter in the middle of the board towards the opponent giving them resources, meaning that playing a powerful card might allow your opponent to play two or three mediocre cards in return. The game looks fantastic using the artwork, characters and events from the Naruto anime series. Next up was the Dragon Ball Super Card Game which was nominated for best collectable card game at last year’s Origins convention. I love the Dragon Ball saga but I haven’t had a chance to play this game yet. I’ve brought a couple of booster packs home with me so hopefully I can learn the game and give it a try.
The Happy Puzzle Company
We stumbled across this game at the press event and ended up playing a few rounds with the game’s designer. The Genius Square is a speed puzzle game with a variable set up that plays in just a couple of minutes. The game starts with seven dice being rolled highlighting seven spaces that must be blocked at the start of the round, then players must race to fill the remaining spaces with a matching set of coloured tetrominoes. There was an extra large edition for people to play at the convention and we both enjoyed the game, it reminded me of a less frustrating version of Rubik's Race.
This was another game that caught our eye before the convention had the most hilarious theme and artwork. Sumo Gnomes is exactly what it sounds like, a quick two player game about Gnomes having a Sumo Wrestle on a tree stump arena. They had a giant version on display at the expo that looked amazing, but I’d be happy to play the smaller game. I saw how the game flows and it’s a great design, very simple and clean mechanisms. I’m excited to follow this one until it’s Kickstarter later this year.
Clever Unicorn Games
We had a chance to catch up with Clever Unicorn Games about their upcoming card game called Weird Alchemy which has the most amazing artwork. We got a chance to play a pre-production copy of the game and found it to be very enjoyable, light-hearted and easy to learn. We took a copy home with us too so you should be seeing it very soon on our blog. We also had a look at One of their other titles called Fractured Galaxy, a 4X epic space game for two-to-five players that sees the playing area slowly grow from a deck of square tiles depicting different scenes in space. This wasn’t my usual taste in gaming but I like the fact that the game looked much simpler than other 4X style games that I’ve played in the past.
T.I.M.E Stories has been one of the most talked about, innovative games of the last few years and is my regular gaming group’s favourite game to play. The game has provided us with some of the most exciting game sessions of recent times and each play has left us wanting more. T.I.M.E Stories: Madame is the tenth and final scenario in what will now be considered to be the ‘White Cycle,’ with each expansion requiring players to own the large White base game to play. Space Cowboys had a prototype for the new start of the new ‘Blue Cycle’ also known as TIME Stories Revolution. There will no longer be a need to own a base game with each title having a self contained story to play, this means that they aren’t restricted to the mechanisms in the base game and will be letting go of the original game’s dice. The first two games in this new cycle will be TIME Stories Revolution: The Hadal Project which is the first game to have a fully futuristic Sci-Fi theme, and TIME Stories Revolution: A Midsummer Night which appears to have a more fantasy theme, and possibly a Shakespeare reference? There was also shown a third prototype for a title called TIME Stories: Experience, which is an optional extra used to tie the whole Blue Cycle together into one storyline, including characters that play a part in all of the new stories. Experience isn’t a game in itself but is rather a way to enhance the new series, though you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. The Hadal Project will be released along with Experience in time for this year’s Essen Spiel in October.
Catan is one of the most iconic board games in the industry and 24 years after its initial release it is still going strong with a whole host of different spin-offs, expansions and re-releases. This year’s release is the next in their ‘Histories’ line by the name of Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas designed by the now father-and-son team of Klaus Teuber and Benjamin Teuber. The game has the most fascinating components and a very different set of rules and win conditions; settlements may end up being reclaimed by nature over time and eventually may be built over by another player. Also this new edition of Catan has a longer, narrower board with jungle on one side and the sea on the other. In addition we caught a glimpse of a new compact version of the original Catan game called Catan: Traveler – Compact Edition which shrinks the whole thing down so that it fits into a tiny folding board. It’s great if you’re a fan of the original game and you want a portable edition.
Annabelle and I spotted two oddly shaped games by Ridley’s the other day in John Lewis but couldn’t figure out much about the games, so we were eager to take a closer look at this year’s convention. The first is Avocado Smash!, a card based Snap variant presented in a rather realistic avocado shaped box. Also the follow up game Peach Snaps which, yes you guessed it, comes in a tasty looking peach and is a different variant on the Snap though slightly more frantic. Both games look like great simple family games with excellent production quality. While we were at the stand we also caught another one of their new games called Selfish: Space Edition which sees players trying to survive by any means necessary, even if that means stealing your opponents oxygen. The game has plenty of funny Sci-Fi references and excellent artwork, I’d love to give it a try in the near future.
I read about Wren Games before the convention and a few of their releases looked to be my kind of games, so I was glad to get a closer look at the press preview on the Thursday night. The first was Assembly along with two expansions called Assembly: Glitches and the upcoming Assembly: Re-Sequence & Override; essentially this can be played solo or as a cooperative puzzle style card game. The theme is that a virus has spread on a luxury spacecraft and you with a natural immunity to the disease must find a vaccine before the infection spreads to earth. The gameplay reminds me a of one of the best solo games out there called Onirim which can only be a good thing. We also saw their new game that is currently live on Kickstarter called Sensor Ghosts, which looks to be of a similar style to Assembly but with different mechanisms. Both look like great fun and can be purchased by following the Kickstarter link below, so if this sounds like your kind of game why not take a look at the crowdfunding campaign.
Jumbo had some interesting titles on display this year including a new Reiner Knizia game called Forbidden City, a gorgeous tile laying game for two-to-four players that seems to be fairly light weight which is usually the best kind of Knizia game in my experience. We also saw a new edition of Stratego which is one of the original games that got me into the hobby. It’s still very fun to play even if it was designed in 1946, though I would say that Knizia’s Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation did a good job of replacing the game once people have gotten into the hobby. We also stumbled across How to Rob a Bank which looks like a great family-weight one-versus-all game in which one person controls the bank and the guards while all of the other players play as thieves, scheming together and using programming mechanisms to take as much money in the heist as possible. The game looks eye catching and very fun and appears to use the base of the box to enhance the playing area, I’d be up for trying this one in the near future.
Steve Jackson Games
Like many people here on the Geek my journey into the board gaming hobby included some Steve Jackson Games early on, including Car Wars which will return with its sixth edition later this year. But that wasn’t my the reason for wanting to visit their booth this year. Deadly Doodles is as far as I can gather the first dungeon-crawl roll-and-write crossover, and seeing the game up close I got a good look at the production quality which was excellent. We got a chance to see how the game works and it looks to be at an easily accessible level, while at the same time having enough weight to satisfy hobby gamers. I can see this game being quite a success given the popularity of the genre at the moment, hopefully it will get a decent UK distribution.
Hall or Nothing Productions
I don’t think that I’ve ever come across a game that has taken as much background research and dedication as 1066, Tears To Many Mothers which is a card driven game for one or two players about the Battle of Hastings. The game has a Magic: The Gathering feel to it but is self contained in one box rather than collectable. Tristan Hall talked to us about the fact that every character and action in the game is based on a real person or documented event from history, he described reading through the Doomsday Book making notes and changing his game design along the way. In addition the game has excellent artwork and looks like it plays really well, this is another one that I can’t wait to try. He told us that his next game will be 1565, St Elmo's Pay and seems to have just as much passion and enthusiasm embedded into its design. I didn’t know about this publisher before the convention but they’re certainly on my radar now, I’m looking forward to seeing what they come out with next.
Fantasy Flight Games
My favourite new game last year wasRichard Garfield’s KeyForge: Call of the Archons, which introduced a new model of distribution as well as an outstanding, original two player card game. I’ve bought a load of decks and have introduced the game to my most of my close friends. So naturally when I found out that a follow up set called KeyForge: Age of Ascension containing mostly new cards and some from the first set too I was more than interested, add to that the release date being brought forward to coincide with the UK Games Expo I simply couldn’t weight to get my hands on a copy of the game. Many people missed out on the original starter set for KeyForge due to demand far out-weighing supply, Age of Ascension has a new two-player starter set that comes with all of the tokens that you need along with two decks to play with. I brought some home with me and even managed to find one of the new legacy cards in one deck. This certainly won’t be the last time that I buy cards from the new KeyForge set.
Not a game this time but rather a gaming accessory. Folded Space make great looking game inserts at a refreshingly low price which then need to be assembled after arriving ‘flat-packed’ in the post. We wrote about the 7 Wonders: Folded Space Insert and the Viticulture Essential Edition: Folded Space Insert in this blog post a little while back and not only are they a great way to fit all of your expansions in one box, they’re also useful in keeping tokens tidy when playing big sprawling eurogames. I’m excited to add a few more to my collection, especially one of their upcoming inserts for Altiplano which has so many pieces in the box that it’s pretty much full. I’d highly recommend trying them out if you’re looking into adding inserts to your favourite games.
The 2019 Haul
Altiplano - We’ve had our eye on this game for a little while but it always seems to have a high price point. Reiner Stockhausen’s follow up to the incredibly popular Orléans is again a bag building game with an elaborate meaty set of rules.
Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea – Hookah - This promo card originally featured in the Brettspiel Adventskalender and has managed to predate the release of the Alubari base game, which is due for release later this year.
BARPIG / BARPIG: After Hours (pre-production) - Barpig is a silly party game game with plenty of pig puns. It claims not to be a drinking game but I’m pretty sure that plays best with a drink or two. We also got a pre-production copy of Barpig: Afterhours which can be played as a stand alone game or as an expansion.
The Castles of Burgundy: 9th Expansion – The Team Game - Another expansion found in the Brettspiel Adventskalender, this time a set of alternative player boards for The Castles of Burgundy which are pushed together in pairs to form a team board.
Chronicles of Crime: Welcome to Redview - Welcome to Redview is the second expansion for Chronicles of Crime which sees players taking the role of members of the Redview Mystery Gang, a group of kids living in a seemingly sleepy US town. Players solve enigmas rather than investigate murders, so the game is much more family friendly.
The Cousins' War: Battle of Tewkesbury Promo Card - A promo card with a bunch of symbols on it to add to my copy of The Cousins' War.
Dragon Ball Super Card Game - I came home with a bunch of boosters for this collectable card game. What can I say? I love Dragon Ball Z.
Echidna Shuffle - I missed out on this gorgeous looking game last year so I made sure to grab one this year before it was too late.
Exit: The Game – The Catacombs of Horror - We’ve played every game in the series so far, and this one is a little different containing two chapters, a larger box and a candle?
Farm Rescue - Another great looking family game from Brain Games, one that can also be played as a solo game.
Find the Pickle - A silly party game from Team Custard Kraken along with some promo cards, one that looks suspiciously like Pickle Rick.
Forbidden City - A family weight tile laying game from Reiner Knizia, probably one of the best looking games that we’re bringing home this year.
Fruit Ninja: Combo Party - A party game with a bit of speed and plenty of humour based on the original iPhone game. Looks like great fun.
Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr - One of the most innovative and interesting games that I’ve encountered in recent years. I really can’t wait to try this one.
Kang - A beautiful abstract game from Blue Orange games with a Kangaroo theme found in the bring-and-buy this year.
KeyForge: Age of Ascension - I love KeyForge, more of the same please. Now with a realistic chance of finding a starter set.
Mondo - I wanted this interesting game when it was first released and I was fortunate enough to find a copy at this year’s bring-and-buy for pretty cheap.
NObjects - A new party game about drawing invisible pictures with your fingers. It sounds odd but I love the premise and I can’t wait to play it.
Penguin Brawl: Heroes of Pentarctica - A Magic Style card game for up to eight player with a great theme, artwork and some promo cards thrown in for good measure.
Pigasus - Another fun looking family weight game from Brain games, this time with funny half-and-half animals and a squeaky pig. It looks like great simple fun.
Six Gun Showdown (pre-production) - A fantastic looking cowboy shootout game for two players with some great cards and dice, as well as some asymmetric player powers and six different characters to play with.
Snowdonia: Share and Share Alike / 18XX Train - Not one, not two but five of these beautiful promo cards for the rather fantastic Snowdonia. Thank you as always Tony.
Ticket to Ride: London - The second small box compact version in the series, this time with a better city. New York is followed by London with some new mechanisms and some excellent artwork.
Top Hats And Treachery - We sat down to a game and ended up taking one home with us. Simple light hearted fun. Plus we have a bunch of promo cards to add to our set.
Undo: Cherry Blossom Festival - Our first but probably not our last Undo title from Pegasus’ innovative new series. Can’t wait to try this.
Villagers - Not including the bring-and-buy this is the only game that I had to queue up for. We bought the base game along with the Kickstarter expansion and a chest of wooden coins.
Weird Alchemy (pre-production) - An interesting looking card game with some outstanding artwork for up to six players. I’m looking forward to giving this one a try.
Our Favourites from 2019
Best game of the Show - Ticket to Ride: London
Annabelle’s Favourite - Villagers
Allen’s Favourite - Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr
Best Expansion - Chronicles of Crime: Welcome to Redview
Most Anticipated Game - TIME Stories Revolution: The Hadal Project
We had such an amazing time at this year’s expo. Thank you to everyone who gave us the time to go through their games, to everyone inventing new games and to everyone who made the event possible. I get so much enjoyment from writing my blog and chatting to members of the gaming community, so thank you for reading. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to attend next year’s convention.
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A blog about board Games and life from Allen and Annabelle O'Connor.
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