Sunday, 12 June 2016

Through the Desert Special - UK Games Expo

I did question whether or not to do this, considering most of you were there! But I figured even for those that were you might be interested in my take on what was hands-down the best UKGE I've been to yet :)

Disclaimer: I didn't take anywhere near enough pictures, so these have all been shamelessly pilfered from BGG.

So first, a quick rundown of how this year was set up: All the exhibitors, demos, seminars etc. were in the NEC, with tournaments and some open gaming space in the Hilton (about 5 minutes walk away). By night just about all the rooms in the Hilton were pure open gaming space, and to my surprise it got pretty darn busy! Bear in mind that in previous years the WHOLE EVENT was in the Hilton. Attendance numbers were up about 40% this year with around 12,500 unique visitors. It just wouldn't have worked on the old arrangement - this new one came just in time.

I loved this new setup. It now feels like a big-time event in the board gaming world, and the UK gamers did their bit by showing up in droves! But it never felt too busy or crowded, it had a great vibe and I was always able to find somewhere to play.

I was able to get rid of 13 games in the Bring & Buy which made lots of room for new stuff! My game plan was to lean more towards light-medium strategy games that I'd still enjoy playing as I'm playing with a few groups lately, some of which are more casual, and wanted more eye-catching, easy to teach games that I could get to the table often. I have about a dozen heavy games that I love but I figure holding fire on these a bit will let me enjoy the ones I already have.

Here's the new (or new to me) games I tried and my thoughts:

Nine Worlds: This game looked awesome from the board and components but turned out to be an abstract area control game, and rather long for an abstract game (~2 hours depending on player count). There were a lot of options and I suspect a lot of depth, but believe it or not I'd actually like some sort of theme or story for the game to be based on if I'm going to be playing it for that long. Not for me.

No Thanks: This has been on my radar for a while but finally took the plunge thanks to The Missing Geek, and I'm glad I did. Super-quick filler that's great fun to play. Hardly any rules but still has things to think about. A perfect little card game.

Animal upon Animal: I am shit at stacking games although having a few pints first helps a lot! Fun little kids game where you roll a dice that tells you what animal to add to the stack. If you make it fall over you take a couple animals back. First one to get rid of all their animals wins. Not one for my collection although I think Nic picked it up?

Good luck stacking them this high if you're playing with me.

Karuba: Fun tile-laying family puzzle game. Everyone uses the same tiles and uses them to either build a path for their explorers or discards them to move the explorers, with the goal of grabbing gems and reaching their colour-specific temples. It's interesting how everyone uses the same pieces in different ways but I was slightly disappointed to find the game was more 'pleasant' than fun. I expected to buy this going into the Expo but ended up passing on it.

Multiuniversum: Neat, quick strategy card game about closing rifts in space-time. You have multi-use cards that either give you items needed to close portals or give you different actions depending on which space you're on. It looked quite brain-burny at first but it was actually quite simple once you got the hang of the iconography. I liked this one well enough but was very tempted at the UKGE price of £10 - I still ended up giving it a pass.

Black Fleet: Very attractive pirating game where one of your ships is trying to transport goods and the other ship is trying to steal goods from the other players. Reasonably fun but not enough meat on it - another pass from me.

Isle of Skye: Nominated for the 'Kennerspiel des Jahres' (Gamer's Game Award) 2016. Looks a bit Carcasonne-esque but everyone is building their own region, and it has a really interesting system where you have to set a price for your tiles before you can add them. Everyone then has the chance to buy one tile from another player for the price they've set for it. There's a big variety of possible scoring conditions from game-to-game and for the playtime (60 mins or less) there's a lot to think about and enjoy. I picked this one up.

Orleans: This was my Official Annual UKGE Punt - the game I haven't yet played and am not fully sold on but buy anyway. My punts are working out a treat so far; I really enjoyed last year's punt, Istanbul. Orleans is like a cross between deckbuilding and worker placement. You have a bag of different coloured workers and your own set of spaces to use them on. You pull some workers from the bag and decide where to put them simultaneously, and there's a bunch of different routes to scoring points. Just explaining the game or reading the rules doesn't convey how much fun it is to actually play it, it's SO satisfying even if you fall behind. Unfortunately there are some bits missing from my copy but after sorting that out I'll be bringing it along to all sorts of gaming events as it quickly became a hit with me. It's on the heavy side of medium for sure, but I'm still delighted I picked this one up.

As a side note, it looks like I'm getting a bit of a taste for Kennerspiel nominees: Isle of Skye (2016 nominee), Orleans (2015 nominee), Istanbul (2014 winner), Village (2012 winner), 7 Wonders (2011 winner) - they only started dishing them out in 2011 so I just need one from 2013!

Quadropolis: A new Days of Wonder title so it's obviously attractive and well-produced. It's a speedy city building game with some interesting restrictions on how you collect and place the tiles. I had a lot of fun with it and only held fire because Isle of Skye is another tile grabbing & placing game, even though that's where their similarities end! I'll keep an eye out for a good price on it... although Days of Wonder games don't tend to be available for bargain prices...

The Grizzled: A World War themed co-op card game with some awesome cartoony-yet-evocative artwork. I was a bit down on full co-ops for a while before I learned I enjoy them more if they're quick. This one plays in about half an hour and offers a nice interesting challenge in a small package. Recommended. Didn't pick this up myself because my good buddy Dan had already grabbed it.

And that's it for new stuff I tried! My final haul was as follows:

No Thanks
Welcome to the Dungeon
Isle of Skye
A Study in Emerald
Mission Red Planet (bit of a cheat; I actually bought this the week after because I couldn't find it at the Expo)

Already looking into hotels for next year as their demand (and therefore price) is skyrocketing! I've not been to Essen, Gencon etc. but for a place to spend a weekend shopping, exploring and (most importantly) playing all things board games, I can't recommend UKGE enough. Get on it! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment