Welcome to post UKGE 2018 at the Birmingham NEC, now bigger and better than ever before. 2017 saw attendance of over 30,000 using one trade hall and an area outside for open gaming and tournament play. This year two halls with trades stands, a 2,000 seater open gaming section and tournament play across the second hall will have helped smash that figure. I will go out on a limb and say attendance will be better than hoped and nearing the 40,000 across the 3 days.
So just what was on display? In short everything. If you can think of a genre of board or tabletop gaming it will have been on display. Now think of an accessory, upgrade or bit of bling for board-gaming and it will have been on display. There were also 100’s of other things that you cannot think of. In short UKGE has now become one of the top 3 must go to conventions in the world.
After spending 4 days chatting with retailers, designers, creators and publishers. What games did I like the look of, enjoy playing, found unusual or just deserved a wider audience? Read on to find out more.
Hero Master:– Here we have what is shaping up to be a great little game and one I am personally a little excited having been following its development for a while now. If you have ever played D’n’D or any other type of role playing or dungeon crawling game. You will be well aware of playing alongside these characters. We are talking the guys who could get a critical fail when needing a 2 to succeed. The bane of any adventuring party here is their chance to redeem themselves. A dragon is attacking and all the ‘real’ heroes have gone off to fight leaving only the most inept and clumsy heroes behind (lets face it you do not want someone tripping over and stabbing you in the lag at the wrong time do you?). There is nothing for it but the worst of the worst must band together to save the day, Work together competitively while trying to prove you are the real thing and can join a proper adventuring party gaining fame and fortune. Expect fun, laughs and comedy shenanigans along the way
LightSeekers:– Think Skylanders crossed with Pokemon but with more style. That is what Playfusion brought to the table with this TCG. Your Hero uses magical energy to cast spells, creatures, items and locations all with the aim of defeating your opponent. Playable by 2+ players the clever use of attack player to left and defend from player to the right stops any ganging up. Beautiful artwork and clever mechanisms mean that any CCG or TCG player will instantly feel at home while the rules make it an easy to learn game from the start. Throw in the free to play app with augmented reality from scanning the cards and this is an instant win with children from 9+ and adults alike. Find this now at your FLGS or Online.
Age of Sigmar:– TCG from the same people who brought you LightSeekers. Utilising the same style of card mechanics with rotation giving varying results. Only this time instead of one Hero you have four Champions. Every time you get them to use a spell or unit they are aligned with it charges a special power. Once these are fully charged they unleash all sorts of devastation onto your opponent. With a graphical style aimed at the older child 13+ There is a lot to like about this game. Due for full release at GenCon this year (2018) could be one to watch as this is also due for an app support with augmented reality inclusion.
Metro City Melt Down:– This upcoming Kickstarter puts the players into a co-operative situation in charge of Fire, Police, Medical or Guard. You will be trying to stop Metro City from falling into chaos using very limited resources (dice). With varying levels of difficulty and numerous monsters on the rampage, public opinion falling and disease spreading. Easy to lose hard to win (approx 40% win ration on hard). One I am hoping to have for review in the near future. Currently undergoing an artwork overhaul with a Kickstarter launch aiming for November this year.
Assembly:– A virus has broken out on a space-station you are a lone survivor trying to escape. The computer is venting the station to kill the virus. Unfortunately this will also kill you. You must try to build a spaceship to to escape with only a limited amount of oxygen and an even more limited number of options. Solo or Co-op with restricted communication plays in around 10-20 minutes. Live on Kickstarter due to end on the 21st June and over-funded already. A £3 pledge gives you access to the full colour base game print n play.
Catan. Rise of the Incas:– Yes Catan produces another offspring this time with a twist. Over 3 eras you build a civilisation and then let it fall into decline to build another and another. Using many of the familiar ways of playing we are used to from the other iterations of Catan. This interesting regeneration of the core idea looks very promising and I will look forward to trying it in the near future. All new art and play pieces update this title nicely. Look out for the Alpaca. Due for release mid to late September.
Summoners Isle:- You are summoners in training. You visit Summoners Isle to learn your craft in order to protect the mainland. Use strategy to prove yourself in combat, absorb spirit energy show you have true command over your creatures. This new game from Robbie Munn is an interesting 2-4 player game that he produced in a limited number print run for the UKGE. I could not resist snagging a copy for a great price. Look out for a fuller review coming soon.
Vikings in Space:– a 2 to 5 player worker placement euro strategy title which places you in charge of a TV station. You are trying to get the highest viewing figures by televising Viking battle fights. You recruit Vikings for the arena and set them off to fight. running at about 2hours playtime. Well worth looking out for soon.
Final Fantasy TCG:– For anyone who loves the Final Fantasy console and PC games this is for you. Comprising characters from every iteration of the series lovingly recreated onto these Cards and using compatibility bonus’ (the more FF VII characters you have on the table the stronger Cloud becomes) Square Enix have managed to recreate the look and feel of the games in card form. Now where is my Chocobo?
Off the Rails:– Goblins in a mine with mine-carts chasing the most jewels and trying to escape. Laying tracks as you go the clever distance move mechanic means what starts as a very simple filler quickly turns into a bit more of a strategic up yours game. The use of action points lets you make decisions over track laying, minecart movement or speed adjustment. Funded in 2017 and having a bit more widespread availability. This is a cute 1-4 player game played in around 60 minutes. Watch out for the cave collapsing as you dig it out though.
Line:– for those not up on the boarding lingo Line is the term for stringing a sequence of tricks together on a skateboard. Yes Skateboarding is now crossing over into boardgaming. Following the success of games on console and PC like Tony Hawks, this card laying tableau building game has you trying to complete the perfect run. Stringing together the best combination of tricks, flips, grinds and grabs. Can you out rad your opponents? Playing up to 4 players in about 15-30 minutes with tactical drafting. Get ready to hear more about this game in the near future as they go to Kickstarter with the expansion.
Witless Wizards:– Drawlabs are following up their recent hit Mystic Scrolls with Witless Wizards. Where the former was dealing with apprentice wizards this time they are looking at the other end of the age spectrum. Your old wizards are forgetting their spells. You will be using push your luck each player has 3 decks to equip their wizards and defeat the others currently live on Kickstarter at $19 for an entry level pledge. Well worth a look at that price.
Micro-brew:– Here we have the latest from One Free Elephant. Micro-brew is a mint tin sized game BUT it is not a small game to play here is a full on worker placement game with an approximate 1hr playtime. You will be brewing various beers using a sliding puzzle mechanic to obtain loyal customers and earn the money you need. I was lucky enough to be given a review copy of this game so look out for a full review very soon indeed.
Old Hellfire Club:– Destitute aristocracy and members of a secret society. Drawing cards which are all based on real historic figures. You make your living recounting elaborate and exciting stories from your past. Unfortunately your opponents will be using their cards to prove you a liar and win the coins for themselves. 100+ cards illustrated using authentic Victorian art and unsavoury facts about real people. This is already a beautiful looking game which despite its apparent similarity to Horrible Histories is not aimed at kids. Can you weave a magical spell on the patrons to win the money?
FReNeTiC:– No I don’t have a sticky caps lock. Here is a word game based around the periodic table. Each round players will draw a certain number of tiles from a bag these will give the letter combos as shown in the periodic table. You will then have a set amount of time to make as many words as possible. The catch is the letter combinations must be used as they are. So as the titular tiles would show F, Re, Ne, Ti and C each tile is worth a different amount of points most points wins. Interesting spin on the word game sector coming soon to a shop near you.
Dominations:– 2-4 players start as primitive tribes around their campfires. Using triangular domino style tiles you will gain various civilisation points like religion, science or military Use this knowledge to build cities and wonders. Expand your civilisation gaining power and upgrading cities and mastering skills. Over a series of ages you will develop what you hope will be the most memorable nation. What drew me to this game was the fact that for a civilisation game there is no combat as such (you can copy others abilities). I am looking forward to playing this one again especially if I can obtain a review copy.
Tales of the Northland’s: Saga of Noggin the Nog:– that is a mouthful so will just say Noggin the Nog from now on. Recently a successful run on Kickstarter, this was a game I was super excited about before the UKGE. After sitting through a rules explanation I was even more excited. For those not in the know Noggin the Nog was a 1960’s-1970’s stop motion animation with beautiful art and subjects that were well ahead of their time. Using influence players will try to help the titular Noggin gain his rightful position as the king of the Northlands. However Nogbad the Bad (yes the baddie) is trying to get their first. Using a combination of action point allowance, worker placement and a time used mechanic to determine turn order this is a game that is going to shine (yes I backed it on Kickstarter).
So that is the games that caught my eye. There were so many it is impossible to cover them all. Now to tell you a little more about the UKGE itself.
The ticket price for a full 3 day pass is incredible value for money given the opportunity to see chat and play some many games. Location wise the Birmingham NEC is convenient to reach from most of the country. Trains run to the Birmingham International Airport station and it is just a few minutes covered walk to the NEC itself. Road travel is easy with the Motorway being just a few minutes down the road. Parking for 1000’s of cars and Hotels nearby (expensive). Accommodation can also be found a short 5-10 minute train journey into the city itself. With a multitude of Air BnB and cheaper hotels and guest house near to the venue as well.
Food in the halls themselves was nice but expensive. Just outside were food trucks, Subway, Nandos, Gourmet Burger and Pizza. Prices were not much higher than normal high street. So good food was easy to get.
The staff of the NEC and also the Volunteers of the UKGE were in my experience very helpful at all times. They were smiling and willing to answer any question (even my “Where is the Piazza suite?”. “Right behind you sir!”). Volunteers all sharing my love of gaming and geekdom as well. Leading to lots of “have you seen…” or “Ohh that looks good….” moments. I must say a huge well done to every single one of them. The planning and organisation going into an event of this scale is mind boggling.
Now that UKGE has reached the size it has we are also starting to see some of the bigger European publishers coming over. I hope to start to see a lot more interaction from the American game market in the next year or so with even some notable game launches. This year we had the Plan B game Century Eastern Wonders (follow up to Spice Road). This was a must buy and most stockists had sold out b efore the end of Friday with a few copies appearing on the Saturday morning (very briefly).
So are there any negatives? Well to be honest a couple the floor-plan layout can be confusing with smaller aisles appearing at odd points. While this meant you wandered a bit more it could make it harder to find or return to a particular stand (there was a map in the free magazine). The other one is nothing to do with the UKGE itself it is to do with the hotels. They know people want to stay close by and they charge accordingly. 3 or 4 nights for 2019 will easily set you back £500-£1000, which in my opinion is far too much. Next year I will be looking at staying further afield. A must visit though for anyone interested in the resurgence of the boardgame industry.
SEE YOU IN 2019