The 2019 UK Games Expo was the best one so far. Easily. It was extremely well organised, had a wide variety of events and larger than ever games halls. There were 97 new games launched and you can check the list. Many of them are from new companies, but there were a few larger companies releasing games at this show. Perhaps the best known was Star Wars Outer Rim, from Fantasy Flight but many other games were close to release Kickstarters, recently released Kickstarters or Kickstarters that will be coming in the next few months.
I’ve played Outer Rim a few times now and it is a pick up and deliver style game in the Star Wars universe. Similar to Xia and Firefly in many respects and works pretty well.
The show is expanding and so are the size of the exhibitors. This was the first show for Ravensberger, Quined Games and a few other well known board game companies though there were no new releases from them. When I spoke to them I think that this might well change. Portal Games had their largest ever booth and released their roll and write in the Imperial Settlers universe called Imperial Settlers Roll & Write, adding to the Imperial Settlers branding.
They also demoed the next game in the series called Imperial Settlers Empires of the North.
It’s a very fast tableau building game with a rondel like action selection mechanism. I really enjoyed it and I understand that it will be launched at Gencon.
Another game that caught my attention was Attention all Shipping which are the opening words for the UK weather forecast. I listened to the game outline from designer Tony Boydell.
The game is about fishing around Britain with the movement sectors shaped and named after the weather sectors, such as Fair Isle, Cromarty and Fastnet. It is rich in weather forecast themes and looks to be a very interesting game, expected for Essen Spiel 2020. I’m very excited about this one.
Tony also had a brand new release called Foothills that he co-designed with Ben Bateson, which is a two player only game based on Tony’s Snowdonia game. It plays in about 45 minutes as you develop tracks on six railway lines in Wales. There’s plenty of tension in the game and the game comes from Lookout so you know that presentation is excellent. I have really enjoyed my one outing of this so far.
Martin Wallace had arrived from Australia and was presenting his new game called Milito from PSC games. This is a 2 player card game set in the ancients period where two players fight over a 5 terrains using cards as terrain and also the units. Each matchup uses a 31 card set of army cards each of which has a wide mix of units and leaders. Regular Martin Wallace fans will recognise the artwork of Peter Dennis.
Another forthcoming game is The Race to Moscow from Phalanx which will feature a similar game option to The Race to Berlin. It will have an AI rather than a set of cards governing the blocks to your progress and is another game that I’m interested to play.
Arriving in the next three months is Cloudspire from Chip Theory Games. The neoprene mats and high quality chips are trademark elements of the publisher and the game is a solo/multiplayer cooperative or competitive game about racing to defeat the towers of your opponent. I’ve Kickstarted this so slightly biased towards the game but it was exciting to see the near final product.
There are all sorts of games that you can play in the main games halls. Here is Rollet, which uses ball bearings to roll down your slides and score goals by getting the wooden ball into your opponent’s goal area. Great fun and easy if you have good reactions (I don’t).
There were many games that had just delivered to their Kickstarter backers. Here is a pocket sized game called Microbrew.
And Joan of Arc. Lots of dice, big hexes and plenty of 3D terrain.
And another one called Sorcerer which come from White Wizard games. I was impressed and bought a copy. It’s a 2-4 player game in the vein of Magic or Keyforge but games take more like 90 minutes to conclude. Volunteer Alex gave me a great description.
My own tastes are towards heavier development games, and in recent years Quined have produced a series of games of this nature. The game coming down the track is called Terramara (this is a prototype) which has a set of clever ideas. Four tracks around the board depict your progress isn’t a variety of areas, with a central board that has several sections that flip over at different times in the game. I’m really excited for this one, which will probably be a 2020 release.
Finally, I managed to pick up a copy of The Artemis Project which looks to be a mid weight + dice drafting strategy game that I’m looking forward to getting to the table in the near future.
Many of the large UK online and real retailers were present so the choice was amazing, This included some of the companies that deliver Kickstarters so some from recent months could be purchased if you had missed the Kickstarter boat. Prices ranged from online pricing with some bargains to full retail for new releases.
Food and drink
Keeping yourself well hydrated and fed is important as you wander around the halls and I was pleasantly surprised by the range and options. I always found a seat and the prices were not extortionate. There was a fast food set of caravans at the Hilton hotel who seemed to be doing good business judging by the size of the queues.
Since the first show many years ago, the area of the Expo has increased 35 times. It attracted nearly 22,000 visitors last year and I’m sure that will be beaten this year as more space was added. Even so the bring and buy area was tightly packed and overcrowded at times as demand went ballistic. In 2020 there will be another hall added as the show continues to expand. I don’t know how long it will be before a fourth day is added (currently it’s Friday to Sunday) but I wouldn’t be surprised if this takes place soon.
There is plenty of space to play games. The Hilton hotel has several large games rooms for open gaming while there are tournaments of all sorts taking place over the three days. I found space for some gaming and was delighted to see such a large amount of space devoted to open gaming.
There are events and discussions taking place in the evenings too, so plenty to do when you are finished in the show areas. In this respect UKGE is more GenCon than Essen Spiel. One thing lacking is the number of big game new releases. While the number of new releases may seem pretty decent in practice I think the real number of big releases for sale is far smaller. For example Cloudspire was for demo only though it was still great to see the near final product.
The next show is a three day show between 29th and 31st May 2020 and looks to be even better. Im probably going for all the days next year as this event is improving each year and I suspect we’ll see more big releases as the event increases in importance.