Category Archive Boardgames

ByKatie

10 Games for Happy Holidays!

Why not keep the goodwill going, the holidays happy and the family feeling festive with some screen free time and tabletop gaming! Here's a selection of games just perfect for whiling away some cold and wintery afternoons.

1. Forbidden Desert

Image of Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Desert is a co-operative game for up to 5 players. Players must work together to find the parts of the flying machine they need to escape the shifting sands. Each player has a role which brings a unique skill to the team.

  • No. of Players: 2-5
  • Age Suitability: Age 8 & up
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 45 – 60 minutes
  • Price: ~£20-25. Available in local game shops or online.

2. Codenames Pictures

Codenames Pictures

Players split into teams. One player from each team takes on the role of Spymaster. The game is then on, for each spymaster to give clues to their team-mates to identify secret agents, but beware! Incorrect guesses can lead to aiding an enemy agent on an opposing team, or encountering the assassin!

 

  • No. of Players: 4-8+
  • Age Suitability: Age 10+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 15 – 20 minutes
  • Price: ~£20  Available in local game shops or online

3. NMBR9

Family fun with NMBR9

NMBR9 is a clever game of shapes, tessellation and planning. Players must take number tiles as determined by a set of cards, and arrange them to score points. Tiles directly on the table score no points, and more points are scored the higher numbers are placed. This is quick to learn, and great for pattern spotting!

  • No. of Players: 1-4
  • Age Suitability: Age 8+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 15 – 20 minutes
  • Price: ~£25  Available in local game shops or online

4. Yogi

Yogi being played

Yogi is a quick, fun game. I’ve never played this without ending up in fits of giggles. Players take a card each turn which will instruct the player e.g. “left hand always above right”, or “one hand on knee” in a kind of card-based table top twister! 

  • No. of Players: 3+
  • Age Suitability: 
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 15 – 20 minutes
  • Price: ~£2  Available in local game shops or online http://yogi-thegame.com/en/home/

5. The Chameleon

The Chameleon

Bluffing and deduction fun! Can you, as the chameleon, work out the secret word without revealing your identity? Or, can you work out who the chameleon is without giving away the secret word?

  • No. of Players: 3 – 8
  • Age Suitability: 14+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Price: ~£25  Available in local game shops, some major retailers or online

6. Sushi Go! / Sushi Go Party

Can you collect the best combination of sushi as it passes you on the belt? Score points for maxing out the maki or selecting sets of sashim. Really make your nigiri zing by adding a dash of wasabi! Cards are passed around the table, select one from each set as they pass. Choose to improve your sets, or block other people from higher scores … the choice is yours! Puddings are a bonus at the end!

  • No. of Players: 2-5 (note: this can be up to 8 with Sushi Go Party!) 
  • Age Suitability: 8+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 15 – 20 minutes
  • Price: ~£15  Available in local game shops or online

7. Rhino Hero

Tower building in Rhino Hero

Fun, dexterity based building game. Build walls, build a roof, balance the rhino … see who can use all their roof cards first without toppling the tower! Force other players to take extra roof tiles, or change the direction of play to keep people on their toes! 

  • No. of Players: 2-5 
  • Age Suitability: 4+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 5-10 minutes
  • Price: ~£15  Available in local game shops or online

8. Colour Brain

Colour Brain

Super fun quiz, where all the answers are colours. Each player has their own set of coloured cards. 

Can you be the only person to answer correctly for a point?  

Answers can be a single colour or a combination, just to keep you thinking!

  • No. of Players: 3-8
  • Age Suitability: 8+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: ~30 minutes
  • Price: ~£25  Available in local game shops, some major retailers or online

9. Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon

Crazy, noisy, fast-paced fun! High Five, Pound It, Switcheroo, or “Happy Salmon” your way to victory by finding another player who need the same action as you.

  • No. of Players: 3-6
  • Age Suitability: 6+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: <5 minutes
  • Price: ~£10-15  Available in local game shops or online

10. Bananagrams

Bananagrams

Great for fans of word games. Bananagrams allows you to create your own “scrabble” style grid of words. The objective is to be the first to complete words when the “bunch” of letters has been depleted. As each player is making their own grid, words can be at each players individual level.

  • No. of Players: 1-8
  • Age Suitability: 7+
  • Complexity: Easy to learn
  • Playing time: 15 – 20 minutes
  • Price: ~£12  Available in local game shops or online
ByKatie Bain

UKGE 2018 – My first volunteering event!

It’s been a rather tumultuous couple of weeks, but I’ve finally got around to having enough headspace to collate some thoughts on my experiences this year at the UK Games Expo at the NEC in early June. With attendance coming in at not far off 22,000 this year, the size of this event has grown significantly year by year, and is the largest of its kind in the UK.

This year marked a couple of firsts for me, it was my first time as a volunteer, and the first time I’ve not stayed at the Hilton (due to how much the price has increased since we first stayed there!).

The Volunteering Experience

I volunteered for Alley Cat games, having had a great time playtesting Dice Hospital some months ago. Caezar and the team were welcoming and friendly, Nicola was like a whirlwind of efficiency, providing much needed tea and snacks, and Kuly was full of smiles and appreciation even by the end of the Sunday. We were busy from opening until close every day, and I loved it!

To my delight, I got to be a custodian of a balloon ….

It felt like I’d arrived in my dream job, and I discovered that I love sharing and demoing/teaching games almost as much as I enjoy playing them!

I spent most of my volunteering time with Coral Islands, a rather pretty dice stacking game. This is due to come to kickstarter soon. It’s a lovely concept, based on regrowing the coral reef, with artwork by Sabrina Miramon (Dice Hospital, Photosynthesis, Quadropolis).

Dice stacking in Coral Islands

I spent some time on the Sunday with Ruthless, a pirate themed deck builder-with-a-difference by Roland McDonald. This proved to be an engaging take on the theme, incorporating a poker-like set collection aspect to the deck building element.

Roland with his game, Ruthless

So what else did I do …..

One of the advantages of having the exhibitor pass is the ability to get into the hall early, so when I wasn’t needed first thing on the Sunday morning I took the opportunity to look around a quiet and almost deserted hall….

Before the crowds…

I soon found Mark and Barry with their Wreck and Ruin game, according to Barry, we were “brutal”…. though looking at the  number of 1’s I rolled, it doesn’t look too brutal to me!

Mark and Barry – Wreck and Ruin

 

Wreck and Ruin….                                                                                        …. and some terrible dice rolls!

Microbrew   from One free elephant is a “Game in a tin” where players compete to make beers to match customers requirements.

Microbrew – brewing tile

 

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t all shopping and volunteering though, I went to the live podcast featuring Paul Grogan (Gaming Rules), Edward Uhler (Heavy Cardboard), Matt Evans (Creaking Shelves) and Tom Heath (Slickerdrips), and rather than tell you about it I’ll just link it here .

Paul Grogan ran a very successful charity raffle on Saturday evening, and raised something in the region of £2500! There were some excellent prizes, but this year my raffle-fu wasn’t with me for the evening.

 

Victoria (Random Nerdery), at the Charity Raffle!

While I had been busy in the hall and at the raffle, friends had acquired a table in one of the large open gaming rooms in the Hilton. It was rather busy in there, with numerous gamers wandering in search of a free table. Rising Sun, as a new purchase, and also something which would play well with 5 players was on the agenda Saturday evening. I’m not sure whether it was my tired brain, the auction mechanic, turn orders or a combination of things, but I did struggle with it that evening. I’ll likely try it again though, before writing it off as not one for me.

Busy open gaming room at the Hilton

Late night Rising Sun

One stall definitely worth visiting, for me, was to see Jenefer Ham , who crafts colourful meeple jewellery and ornaments, and other items from coloured glass. I was fortunate enough to win a dichroic glass meeple pendant from Jen’s Sunday afternoon raffle, I was super happy with this. Jen was so smiley and friendly (and I may have come away with a moople necklace too!)

With Jenefer Ham and Kuly

I was coralled into a Sunday afternoon photo-op (still smiling!) with friends and Darren John Robertson, the energy filled comedy mind behind the Dark Room events. I think I made him grin by mentioning something about a flamboyant potato!

Not pictured here, but of honorable mention was bumping into Kat (Iplayred) on numerous occasions, without whom I would not have in my possession a game titled “Festival of a Thousand Cats”. This is still waiting to be played, but how could I resist with a title like that! Somewhere lurking around on the interwebs is a picture of the two of us from the Sunday afternoon. We might actually get to meet up an play something at a con one day!

That’s the summary of my UKGE. Would I volunteer again? For Alley Cat – in an instant, I loved them! And the demoing too.

Until next year, UKGE …. in the meantime, I will be at Handycon in August, and hopefully back to Harrogate for the next Airecon! See you all soon!

ByKatie Bain

Anticipated games I’ll be exploring at UKGE 2018

Image result for ukge

UKGE 2018 is almost upon us.

By tomorrow evening, I’ll be primed and ready as part of the demo team for Alleycat games.  This is my first year as a volunteer, and I’m really looking forward to the experience.

As usual, the amount of new games coming out is vast, and I’m sure there are some worthy titles I have missed out here. In addition to the plethora of games on offer, I’m looking forward to seeing the latest ideas from the vivid imagination of Stuff by Bez, and hopefully having enough imagination of my own to contribute a cat to her cat wall!

Alleycat games have some great offerings this year.  There’s plenty of dice action going on with Dice Hospital and Coral Islands. It’s been a busy year for Alleycat games, who also have on offer Pocket Sub (pocket sized cold war strategy in 15 minutes), Pocket Pharma (create and market the most profitable drug!) and Ruthless (a pirate based deck-building game).

Coral Islands

Image result for coral islands game

I’ll be seeing a lot of this over the weekend! It involves many pretty coloured translucent dice to create coral reefs, and also featuring some beautiful clownfish and star fish to inhabit the reef.

Chocolate Factory (this I want to buy based on name alone, I just hope it doesn’t look too edible!)

5 minute chase (Board & Dice)

The charismatic Board & Dice team brought us the compact Pocket Mars and Superhot last year, and they were great fun in the hotel in the evening. I’ve been following their contributions this year with interest.

Image result for 5 minute chase

(I have already pre-ordered this, so this will definitely be coming back from the expo with me).  5 minute chase is a short, game based on a prison escape and capture of the prisoners. One team attempts to catch the other team by frenetic placing of tiles and tokens. This looks like a lot of fun as both teams are carrying out their actions at the same time. Expect panicked shouting!

Bad Medicine (Formal Ferret Games)

Bad Medicine box art

This is a light-hearted wordplay game in which players represent drug companies, creating names and advertisments to sell their product to combat the latest malady while downplaying any negative side effects, I’m looking forward to the excuses about those negative side effects!

Microbrew (One Free Elephant)

Image result for microbrew one free elephant

Microbrew is a tiny two-player game. Players need to send their workers to the various stages in the brewing process to serve their beer to thirsty customers. Tiny game + beer …. sounds like a good start to me!

Escape Tales: The Awakening (Board & Dice)

Image result for escape tales the awakening

This is a card based escape game, focused on engaging with the story and the solving the puzzles within. Another contribution from Board & Dice, I’m excited to see what they’ve made of this genre.

Blue Lagoon (Blue Orange Games)

I’ve not found an awful lot out about this, but it is on my list to investigate!

As the chief of your tribe, you need to manage your people to explore and settle around this pacific archipelago.

Chronicles of Crime (Lucky Duck Games)

Image result for chronicles of crime

A cooperative game, featuring criminal investigation and an app. Your team needs to solve cases by moving around town to investigate witnesses and suspects, and examining clues. There is a VR element which I’m not wholly convinced about yet, but I’m intrigued enough to want to find out more.

Villagers (Sinister Fish Games)

Image result for villagers sinister fish

Can your village recover from the ravages of the black death? In Villagers, players draft cards to build up their income , and produce resources to support their village. I’ve seen this mentioned quite frequently over the past couple of weeks, so I’m interested to see if it lives up to all the exposure!

 

The sheer number of games and demos taking place over the weekend is phenomenal, and there are often hidden gems. For my amazing Boardgame Explorers, I’ll see you on the 8th, full of the latest gaming news for you!

 

ByKatie Bain

Gloomhaven Review (no spoilers)

For anyone looking for a dungeon crawling adventure, look no further than the world of  Gloomhaven by Isaac Childres. Published by Cephalofair, this is a game of epic proportions, set in a world which is affected by choices your party makes. A narrative is effected through missions and cards to help or thwart various denizens of Gloomhaven and its neighbouring areas. The choices made by the party are realised in permanent changes, affecting the prosperity of the town, opening up access to new dungeons and allies, with others becoming inaccessible. Through the completion of dungeon missions and interacting with road and city cards, the party reputation will change, affecting the potential outcomes of future events.

Area Map

CHARACTERS

Initially, players can choose from six starting characters. The other eleven become available on completion of objectives or when a character completes their personal objective and retires. Each character is packaged in a sealed box with just a symbol to identify it.

There is a brief introduction to the starting characters in the manual, enabling players to take a character to suit their playstyle. Our party started with a scoundrel, mindthief, tinkerer and spellweaver.

Character information sheets

Each character gets a personal objective, which is kept secret from other players. These are fairly long term goals, and will take a number of adventures to achieve. Once a character has completed their objective, a new character may be unlocked. (If there are other effects, we have not yet encountered these yet). The original character may then retire, and their details are entered into the town records book

Each character comes with a  character reference sheet to keep track of experience, money, possessions, and perks gained. Perks are personal bonuses allowing players to improve combat modifier decks, or in some cases negate certain negative effects. Perks are gained through completing battle goals during adventures, (which give one or two ticks – three ticks earns a perk) and levelling (one perk).

Single and double tick battle goal examples

As characters level up, more cards are unlocked, though hand size remains the same for the number of cards each character can use. This enables characters to become more specialised by selecting one card from the new level (or from one of the levels below the new level) each time a new level is achieved.

DUNGEONS/SCENARIOS

The game comes with a book of over 90 dungeon scenarios. Some of these are

quite simply kill all enemies in the dungeon, whereas some have more specific aims, for instance, may require the party to place an item in a certain position, or carry out an escort mission. The scenarios will gradually become unlocked as a result of party actions.  Personal quests, or those to help various persons in Gloomhaven can sometimes carry over a number of scenarios before reaching the final quest goal.

Tackling the Dungeon

Loot is available from killing enemies and is sometimes found randomly placed in the dungeon. Loot can be acquired by ending movement on a space with a loot marker, or using the “loot” action on a card. (The scoundrel has excellent looting ability through use of cards). Loot tokens convert to money at the end of a mission (the higher the level of dungeon means each token is worth more loot. Characters can use their money to help increase the prosperity of Gloomhaven, buy themselves items, or increase the abilities of their cards.

COMBAT 

Cards

I really like the combat in this, partially due to the lack of dice. Each character has a unique deck of cards. The amount of cards any given character can take on an adventure is identified on the top of the character sheet. (For example, the Scoundrel can take 9 cards).

Example of Scoundrel Combat/Ability Cards

Card text is split into two. In each round, two cards will be played. The top ability of one card and the bottom ability the other is used. If the player does not wish to use the special abilities on the card, the top can always be used as a default attack 2 and the bottom as a default move 2. All movement and actions is controlled by cards for the duration of the mission.

The number in the middle of the card indicates initiative. Players can choose either a lower number, and go earlier in the round, or a higher number and go later in the round. Selection of cards is done without the other players knowing how early each will go. Some indication of whether early or late (e.g. “I’m going very early” or “I’ll be going late”) is permitted, but “I’m on number 27” is not. (Note that there is an option for players to play with open information, by increasing the difficulty).  Once cards have been spent (discarded), players can take a long rest (initiative 99) to heal and recover most of their discarded cards. Short rests can also enable discarded cards to be recovered, but this involves discarding a random card, so may not always be ideal.

Some of the more powerful abilities the characters have require that the card is lost. Lost cards are not recovered except by special card ability which enables a character to recover a lost card.

Depending on the character type, the skills and abilities on the card will differ. Some may have ranged multi-target options, others more close combat, and the use of some cards will gain xp. The scoundrel, for instance, has a fairly high movement range, a mix of range and close combat skills, poisoning, and the ability to stealth (go invisible) which is ideal in a rogue-type character. (The scoundrel was my first character, and I grew rather fond of her. With the right combination of cards, she had been known to cause 27 damage to a single target. )

Enemies

With something like 45 different enemy types in the game, you can be sure that,as your party travels and completes various missions,you will encounter many different foes. As the heroes, each enemy type has its own base abilities (these will be e.g. movement, basic damage, number of wounds, and attack range), and some special abilities (e.g. insert example)  The base abilities scale up as the party levels up.  Enemies can be normal, or elite, where the elite versions have a higher potential for damage, and can sustain more hits than their normal counterparts.

Enemy monster stats

The Combat round

Each player chooses their cards, then all reveal. Any enemies in the room will then reveal their special card (which is in addition to their basic abilities).

Monster special cards (initiative in top left corner)

Starting with the lowest, initiative, players and enemies will take their actions as directed by their cards. When attacking players, the enemies will first attack the closest player. If distance between two players is equal, they will attack the player with the lowest initiative. Enemies and heroes have a combat modifier deck , which adds a random element to the combat.

Example of combat:  is going on initiative number xx  with Attack x? The top card of the combat modifier deck is turned over. This may range from -2 to +2 to the original value, or indicate double damage or a miss. Each player has their own combat modifier deck, which gets customised by the use of perks to optimise the cards in the deck (this may add e.g. poision, other negative effects, additional damage cards into the deck).

Assorted effect tokens

As the characters progress, level up and become more powerful, so do the enemies, gaining more hit points and higher damage. Traps cause more damage at higher levels, and loot tokens are worth more gold.

This game has been much hyped – has the hype been worth it? For our gaming group, this is a resounding Yes! We’ve played quite a few scenarios now, had a couple of characters complete their personal quests and unlock new characters. On the way we have fought many enemies, recovered artifacts, learned new information, and found a message carved in a secret runic script. We’ve managed a couple of global achievements and increased the prosperity of Gloomhaven a little, but there’s still a lot to do!

 

ByKatie Bain

Cavern Tavern – Game Review

For decades we have followed the fortunes of intrepid adventurers in roleplay games and boardgames such as Talisman and Descent as they have undertaken perilous journeys, encountered a multitude of creatures and explored dungeons, sewers, castles and forgotten temples where many would fear to tread. Dungeon Lords enabled us to create dungeons complete with traps and monsters to test against adventuring parties, and Dungeon Petz let us breed, show and sell petz. All this is thirsty work, and what better way to relax, gloat over your loot and spend your hard earned gold than to enjoy a round of the troll drink “Black Knight” at Mr Nasty’s tavern.

The aim of this game is to complete orders and score points. An order is comprised of a number of ingredients, which are obtained from the cellar or by working for Mr Nasty. All players roll their dice at the beginning of the round. There are four dice per player except for the last player in the round, who rolls an extra (white) die. Each player also receives a card which gives extra points at the end for certain types of drinks completed.

Character cards (top), Bonus cards, Special Items, Nasty cards (L to R)

A round starts by taking an open order from one of the tables, if you don’t already have one in front of you. Here it is useful to look at ingredients you already have, as the longer it takes to acquire ingredients and complete orders, the fewer points are granted. Each character has a special ability, such as taking another ingredient if another player uses the same cellar space, or ignoring one round of lateness for Elven orders (although we discovered in errata after playing, that there are actually two types of elves and the ability is only used for one of those types!)

Cellar Spaces

Cellar spaces use numbers 1 – 6, and via these numbers, provide access to two types of ingredient per number. Above 6, odd numbers are used for working in the kitchen, and even numbers for doing chores. The spaces from 7 – 18 grant points, ingredients and another bonus, such as steal from another player, take the first player token etc. They also allow players to move down the kitchen and chores tracks, which give extra points after the first 3 spaces, and the ability to change a die roll up or down further down the tracks.

Player board – nasty reputation and chores to the left, current recipe in the middle. Ingredients to the right.

The wizards workshop allows dice to be placed to gain items, magic potions (a “wild card” ingredient) or get rid of an order and place it with a new one.

Players can also visit Mr Nasty, and gossip about their fellow workers. This brings the gossiping player’s reputation with Mr Nasty up, while moving another player’s marker down the nasty track. This gives negative points at the end of the game, and at spaces 3, 6, 9 the player receives a nasty card, which limits the available actions to that player until any objective on the card has been fulfilled.

At the end of the tenth round (marked on the round marker which also tracks lateness of orders), points are calculated, and any bonuses added on.

 

Round Tracker

This was a fun and engaging game, like a lot of Euro style / worker placement games, it is not combative, but competitive, and the nasty reputation track is a nice touch to spice the competition up a bit. Most of the item cards worked well. There were a couple of cards which we house ruled at the time, and will seek more clarification on, as the text as we read it seemed to make it rather overpowered.

I wasn’t so keen on the dice design, they have a squiggly pattern on, and very angular numbers, which a couple of us found more difficult to read than regular d6. As far as the other components are concerned, the cards, tokens and markers are of good quality and look like they should wear well.

 

 

 

 

 

Aspects of this game remind me a little of Lords of the Waterdeep, which is a comment I’ve seen elsewhere. This is not a bad thing for me, as I enjoy Lords of the Waterdeep, but may be worth bearing in mind if you’re considering purchasing this game.

Cavern Tavern is created by Final Frontier Games. My copy is from the kickstarter campaign, but other stockists are available!

 

ByKatie Bain

My UKGamesExpo 2017 experience.

After a busy month and a communication breakdown with regard to domain names and hosting, I’m finally putting together my thoughts on UKGE 2017. This was the 11th year for this event, which took place from the 2nd – 4th June at the Birmingham NEC. With over 30,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, UKGE is currently the third largest tabletop and hobby gaming convention in the world!

With so many games there to look at, and for demo, it was impossible to see everything – even being there for the full 3 days.

 

One fun little item was Great Scott, from Sinister Fish Games. This is a delightful card game inspired by the Victorian love of inventions. Players draft cards to concoct a crazy invention, with points being awarded for alliteration, and matching coloured sets of cards. Easy to pick up, and fun to play!

 

dav

Amusingly Alliterative Arrangement

CGE

The CGE stall offered two games from Vlaada Chvatil, the enigmatically titled “That’s a Question”(working title) and, to continue on a popular theme, Codenames Duet.  Based on Vlaada’s name alone, I’d be almost convinced to buy with not a qualm!

That’s a Question! involves choosing a question where there are two possible answers. The other players must secretly guess which answer will be picked. Points are scored for those who voted correctly, and the questioner gains points for each incorrect guess.

Codenames Duet takes the successful Codenames formula, and twists it slightly. Now the key cards identifying the agents are double sided, and there are 3 assassins on each side. Teams must identify their nine agents before too many innocent bystanders or an assassin are revealed. A campaign mode is also included, allowing players to progress through more difficult games.

Esdevium games had Secrets among their many offerings. Secrets is a bluffing game from Repos Production. Players are assigned a secret identity of either the KGB, CIA or the Hippie. Each player takes two cards on their turn, and chooses one to pass over (face down) to another player, who can then accept or reject the card. Whoever ends up with the card scores it, and when someone has 5 cards in front of them the game ends. The team (KGB or CIA) with the highest score wins, though the hippie can score a solo win if they have the lowest single score. Great fun, quick and easy to play. Suitable for taking to the pub and playing with friends!

Secrets should hit the shelves sometime in August (post GenCon) – this is one I will be keeping an eye on for when it’s released.

Unlock!

dav

Unlock

Unlock! Is a puzzle game, where a series of puzzles must be solved within a time limit to successfully complete the adventure. It comes with an app which acts as timer, hints if needed, and is where answers are entered.

 

 

Playtesting

I didn’t spend a lot of time around the playtesting area, though I did play a game called Gribblies from Blight Studios. Gribblies is a coooperative fantasy game, which has elements reminiscent of both Talisman and Arkham Horror. The players take on the role of Gribblies, and aim to keep heroes away from their precious lands. The Gribblies must gain 4 renown each before the nemesis unleashes their powers at the hero gate.  Each nemesis has a different number of rounds to reach the hero gate. Gribblies gain renown from exploring and turning over tiles, from quest or from trading three defeated heroes in at the temple. An event happens at the beginning of each turn, which may affect Gribbly actions for the duration of that event. Heroes continue to venture into the lands, and must be defeated  – if too many heroes are on the board, the Gribblies have failed.

I enjoyed playing this, and Alex and Anna, the designers ,were fantastic (and I’m not just saying that because they gave us unicorn Haribo!). We played on the hardest level, and talking with Alex and Anna, there were tweaks to gameplay which might make things feel smoother and more balanced. Overall, one I shall be watching out for!

Events -Entertainment 

In addition to the plethora of stalls, demos and open gaming in the main hall, the Expo provides a full schedule of live entertainment and seminars.

Pandemic Live: This was exactly what it said on the tin. A game of Pandemic conducted in front of an audience. The players were John Robertson (the Dark Room), Paul Grogan (Gaming Rules), Zee Garcia (Dice Tower), with members of the audience taking the final slot against the diseases of “Posh”, “Darren”, “Covfefe” and “Strong and Stable”. Fans of John Robertson will understand at least one of these! Evidently wanting a challenge, the audience vote was for hard mode. Despite the valiant attempts of the team and the eradication of Posh, the game ended with a final outbreak.

MMORPG live: With a quest for The Other Glove, how could this be anything but fun? The seven-gloved octopus, in need of The Other Glove, enlisted the help of  Peebly, the House-elf (half house, half elf), and associates. An adventure through the forest lead to the rescue of the Glove from an old people’s home.

Knightmare Live: Enter, Stranger! This was a real trip down memory lane. From the Helmet of Justice to the death screen. This was an entertaining hour of adventure, complete with rotating blade hazards, a dragon and a unicornetto!

The Dark Room:

mde

The Dark Room

 John Robertson makes for an energetic and charismatic host of this experience. For anyone who grew up in the decades where computer games were in their infancy, getting frustrated by text based games which seemed to loop around and never go anywhere, this is for you.  The overall experience is fun, with a selection of (very) random prizes, a lot of shouting, audience participation (ya die, ya die, ya  die, ya die … Darren!) and swearing. Keep an eye out for performances  – for   live dates see here!

I did enjoy all the events, but found doing 3 in one day meant that time for playing was limited.

Shopping

I didn’t go with a shopping list – and with so many games to choose from it was almost daunting to start with. It didn’t take long to notice stocks getting low in some of the stores. With the presence of some of the larger online retailers such as Gameslore and BoardGameGuru, there is no shortage of options.

Deserving of a mention here, are the guys from Board&Dice, with their offerings of Pocket Mars and Superhot. They found us playing Pocket Mars over in the Ibis hotel (host venue for the elusive “Ice Fisher Championships 2017” hosted by Paul Grogan), and came to say hello!

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Lovely people from Board&Dice

In addition to the games, all sorts of accessories are available. I spent some time admiring the gaming tables of Geeknson.  I did drool slightly over this coffee table with fold away screen. Now if only I had a pay rise…

Bring & Buy

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Bring and Buy

At busy times the queue to enter can be an hour long, and inside is extremely busy and chaotic, but there are bargains to be had in the bring and buy. The word in here is caution though, as some games are marked up the same as, or in some cases more than, shiny new games available from the stores. There is a real range of games there, though some appear rather unloved, so an element of caution is needed when purchasing from here.

Open Gaming

In addition to the lengths of tables in the main hall allocated for open gaming, the Hilton opens its cavernous rooms for gaming. We did find that after about 5 o’clock, tables and game space were extremely limited. The vast rooms were full of gamers trying out their new purchases. Every available space and table in every hallway (except in the main bar which was a game free zone) was occupied, with those not fortunate enough to get a space hovering around like vultures, hoping for someone to vacate some space!

By Sunday lunchtime, we were pretty tired after three days of shopping and playing.

Collective UKGE 2017 Haul

Combined Final Haul … My Pyramid of games on the left!

11 months til the next one, looking forward to UKGExpo 2018!

If you like what you’ve read, please come and find me on facebook, instagram and twitter!

ByKatie Bain

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space – Game Review

It’s dark, and as one of the few remaining human crew members, you try to make your way to one of the escape pods of the damaged spaceship SELVA. You creep around, sector, by sector, trying to keep your location a secret from the malevolent flesh-eating aliens lurking aboard. Klunk! … you’ve disturbed some debris among the damage. You freeze … have you been detected? A screech of frustration from a nearby sector … you have escaped … for now, but the alien knows you’re not far away …

In its most basic form, this game is a little like Battleships, but in space, with moving ships.

The premise of the game is of a damaged research ship in deep space, where a mysterious alien virus has crept aboard and infected the crew, transforming them into creatures of nightmare. The onboard systems have failed, leaving the ship in darkness. The remaining crew members must make their way to an escape pod and leave the derelict ship before becoming a tasty supper for the unseen aliens lurking aboard.

At the start of the game, each player takes a flip book of maps and a dry-wipe marker. The group selects a map to play. This represents the ship the humans are trying to escape from.

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Player board – map and location tracker. Key to card symbols are at the top. Escape pods are numbered 1-4 on the map.

The maps range from fairly small, apparently simple affairs, to vast meandering routes taking up the whole page. Each location on a map is a hexagon, with a unique identifying row/column reference (e.g. M05). Hexagons are either shaded or white.

Each player is given a secret identity card. This will let the player know whether they are playing as human or alien. In addition to the human/alien identification, each character with have a special ability as denoted on the back of the flip book.

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Escape pods (left): Red = failed/broken (uh-oh …), Green = yay! You’ve escaped! Faction cards (right) : Blue = Human, Red = Alien

Now comes the fun part… attempting escape! Humans can move one hexagon at a time, and aliens can move up to two hexes at a time. With the exception of special abilities, a move must be taken each time the player takes a turn.  If a player lands on a white hex this is a silent sector. This player can announce silent sector and nothing more needs to be said. If a player lands on a shaded hex, they must take a card from a communal pool of cards. This will have one of three symbols on it such that the player must either announce the sector they are in, announce a noise in any sector, or silence in all sectors. Herein lies the ability to make false trails, for the humans to lure the aliens away from their true path, or for the aliens, to disguise their true target. This builds tension, as the cards are discarded face down, and only the active player knows the truth.

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Exploration cards : The symbol in the bottom left is to declare where noise is heard, or silence in all sectors. The top left symbol on the white card is a special ability.

These cards also have symbols which are useful to the human players for a one-off bonus, but not playable for the aliens unless they have a specific ability to do so.

Using the information (or perhaps misinformation) revealed from the sector cards, the aliens hunt their human prey, and can, when close enough, attempt a kill. To carry out an attack, an alien moves into the sector where the active (alien) player believes a human player to be, and announces an attack. If any player is in that sector, they are now dead.

For any chance not to be devoured, humans must reach the escape pods, and draw a card when they get there. If they’re lucky, they make a clean break and are away! If not – the escape pod may be broken and all they have succeeded in doing is alerting the alien(s) to their presence. (this really is tense while playing!)

Prior to playing this, I wasn’t quite sure how much fun it would be, but I found it engaging, entertaining, and with the kind of tenseness that can only build up in a game where information is scarce, and there are hunters on the loose! We’ve played it with a group of four, and managed to get the full quota of 8 eight playing in a beer garden. The kind of tenseness is different with eight – it took a lot longer for all the aliens to be revealed than with four players.

Game by Santa Ragione, Illustrated by Giulia Ghigini.

Published by Osprey Games

Available as print and play

or online from:

Osprey Games £29.99

Boardgameguru £24.99

(may be available from other stockists)

 

 

ByKatie Bain

Metro

As winner of Spiel des Jahre in 2000, Metro was far from a newly released game when I picked it up at UKGE at the beginning of June. It’s designed by Dirk Henn (Ticket to Ride, Alhambra) so I thought it would be worth a look.

I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great game of connecting lines to make routes around the Paris Metro system. The object of the game is to score the most points by building the longest tracks.

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The edge of the board is lined with metro stations, which are assigned colours on a

Players place tiles to form rail lines, with the object being to make the lines as long as possible to score points. Tiles must be placed with the arrow on the tile matching that on the board. When a line is connected with stations at each end, the line is scored for which ever colour has the originating station.

Strategy comes in by trying to connect lines which start further away together to make longer lines, and blocking opposing players lines, forcing them to be shorter by careful tile placement.

Lines which reach the central four stations score double points. Lines may cross over and form loops. If a line crosses a particular tiles more than once, each time it crosses scores again.

The game ends when all tiles have been placed.

The rules are simple, and this is quick and easy to pick up.

Designer: Dirk Henn

Published by: Queen Games

Retails for ~£25 from various online retailers.

ByKatie Bain

UKGames Expo 2016 – Sunday

Sunday of the Expo was a bright and early start, in order to try and hit the breakfast before the rush. Rooms were emptied and cars were packed for an early checkout so that we didn’t have to return to the hotel just for that purpose.

11We were early into the main hall, and found our way straight to the tables of Reign of Chthulu Pandemic. We’d hopefully lurked by this game on the Friday and Saturday, but tables had always been too busy. With two spare seats at the table, Vicky and I didn’t need to be asked twice to take part in this game.

For fans of Pandemic, this game is familiar enough that it’s easy to pick up, but with enough variation to make it exciting.

Characters start with four sanity tokens (well, it wouldn’t be right to have a lovecraftian game without the possibility of going insane would it??), and an individual character ability similar to in the Pandemic game.

Disease cubes are replaced by cultists, but instead of an outbreak happening, a shoggoth appears! Three shoggoths and the game is over. Symbols on cards mean that shoggoths move towards gates, once they get through the gates, an ancient one is awakened. Ancient ones affect various abilities and actions of the investigators. As with vanilla Pandemic, there are many ways to lose, but only one way to win!

Several copies of this game were raffled off over the course of the weekend, and though I wasn’t fortunate enough to win , one, Jeppers did, so he’s going to have to make a trip over to Sheffield and play it sometime soon! Hope you’re reading this Jeppers!

Temp Worker Assassins and DesignerTemp Worker AssassinsA visit to the play-test area proved promising. We took part in a game of Temp Worker Assassins, with the designer of the game, David Newton. I really enjoyed this game.

Players take on the role of disgruntled, under-appreciated temp workers, with a real grudge against those with full time permanent contracts. Management are suspicious, given the amount of mysterious deaths of late, so nobody can enter the building with any deadly weapons.

Part worker-placement, part deck-building, this game is engaging and a lot of fun. It’s played over the course of 5 rounds (a Monday to Friday week), with each day having a bonus for the first assassination of the day. Workers visit different locations to find items, such as ‘sadistic safety scissors’ used to complete the assassination.   Each target for assassination has an amount of damage needed to kill it, and the amount of points gained from the kill. After an assassination, the worker used must report to security.  The art work on the cards is fun, and humorous, with characters such as the Public Relations Troll as targets awaiting their untimely death! I’m looking forward to seeing this game on Kickstarter on 28th June!

After a busy weekend of gaming, walking around the hall, to and from the hotel, it was all too soon time to go. Counting down to UKGExpo 2017 already ….

I’m also on Facebook, and Twitter!

 

 

 

 

ByKatie Bain

UKGamesExpo 2016 – Saturday

Saturday dawned, and it was time for day two of the expo. Vicky and I had arranged to go for breakfast at 8.30 am, under the misapprehension that some of the late night gamers would not be up early. It turns out that we vastly underestimated the sheer volume of residents already waiting for breakfast. As we shuffled slowly forward among the crowd, one of the hotel staff called out that she had a table for 4. A voice from behind announced volunteered Vicky and me to join them as a four for breakfast, which we readily accepted. And so it was that we breakfasted with a couple of guys from Esdevium games. Fuelled for the day by a full english breakfast, and a cup of tea (but not quite enough tea …), we set off once more for the NEC.

We called in at the Czech Games Editions stand, where Codenames:Pictures was available to play. This game is based on the same principles as the popular Codenames. Instead of using words, as in Codenames, players have a set of pictures to give clues for.

At the codenames pictures table

At the codenames pictures table

As a team game, we needed an extra player to even things out. A fourth player was soon recruited from the observers to make two teams – Vicky and Jeppers on one team, and me and the fourth player on the other.

This game proved to be both fun and challenging. I enjoyed the guessing part more than the giving clues part – I struggled a bit trying to think of ways to link pictures together which the other team member would ‘get’, but we managed to scrape a victory. I duly took my selfie which I tweeted to enter the competition to win a copy.

This is certainly one I’d like to add to my collection.

We took the time to have a go at Ice Cool, which is a game of flicking weeble-like penguins through the “school” doorways and over walls to gather fish, before being caught by the hall monitor.

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Five tribes in play

Another hit from Saturday was Five Tribes, from Bruno Cathala, and Days of Wonder. This is a variation on meeple placement. The game starts with meeple on all tiles, and players manipulate them around the board, to land on tiles such as Anothdesert, villages, temples and oases

The game is brightly coloured, with each colour of meeple having different special abilities. Play order is determined each round by auction.

Five tribes - Camel

Five tribes – Camel

When a player removes the last meeple from a tile, they get the bonus for that tile, and can place one of their camels on that tile to indicate ownership.

Goods can be collected in sets for points, money converts directly to points, and Djinn can grant bonuses in different ways by sacrificing elders.

The aim is to gain as many points as possible.

This one is on my wishlist,  …. it certainly seems to be quite replayable, with different djinns, arrangements of tiles, meeples and goods for each setup.

We lunched once again at the food fair, and again quenched our thirst courtesy of the beer bus throughout the day. Having attempted to attend the evening live podcast and found a queue snaking around the corridor, we opted for an early dinner in the vain hope that we could find somewhere to sit and play some of our purchases.

We wandered from room to room, seeing others similarly hunting for elusive gaming space. After a while, the hotel staff opened up some extra rooms for gaming, and our hunt came to fruition in the aptly named Norfolk room. I say aptly named, as though Vicky and Jeppers have no ties with Norfolk, I do, and it was occupied by quite a few members of a Norwich Boardgaming group.zt

We were invited to sit by a father and son, who were open to playing some of our purchases.

Jeppers opened his copy of Contagion, as Vicky had never played it before. Contagion takes the theme of each player developing a disease to infect as many places as possible. A number of cities are set out to infect, and an event deck is created. A players turn consists of drawing a number of cards according to their incubation rate which match the colours of the cities, and place a number of their disease cubes according to their infection rate. These are tracked on a player card. Incubation, infection rate and resistance can all be increased by discarding a certain number of cards. At points determined by the event deck, new cities may appear, or scoring can occur for whichever player has the highest number of cubes on each city. Cities are destroyed when the number of cubes matches their population. Destroying a city gives 3 players on that city points, and a bonus for the player who placed the final disease cube.

The game ends when either the event deck is exhausted, or the number of cities in play is reduced to 2.

By this time we had been joined by some others – James and Lewis being two from the Norwich group. We were joined by Colin, who very kindly and patiently took us on a play through Mysterium.

I really enjoyed mysterium, a game of murder mystery, with some beautiful card art.

Another one for my ever-expanding wishlist!

Next up was Secret Hitler, a game to brew distrust. There are a number of liberals, fascists, and (thankfully) only one Hitler. For the eight players we had, the fascists knew who each other were, and they knew the identity of the Hitler player. ‘Hitler’ didn’t know who his supporters are. Each round a person takes the role of president, and nominates a chancellor who the other players vote for. the chancellor and president act together to enact policies. Each party has a certain number policies to enact in order to win.

At 10pm we experienced the 17fun of The Dark Room.

This was an hour of fun, based on text based games of yesteryear. A hapless audience member is selected as the escapee, who much choose from options on the screen. Responses to these choices are shouted back by the presenter, John Robertson, with great energy and much enthusiastic audience participation. Inventive and charismatic, the quickfire responses from John ensure there is never a moment of silence. This was well worth a visit.

You can find out more at John’s Website.

After this experience, I returned to the Norfolk room to see if there were any fun games I could get in on. The guys we had met earlier on in the evening were mid-game when I arrived, but this soon finished and I was introduced to a beautiful game named Kodama, a kickstarter game, courtsey of  James .

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In Kodama, players are caretakers of the tree spirits (these are the Kodama the game takes its name from). The game is played over four seasons, with each season having a seasonal ‘decree’.

Trees are grown by playing branch cards.Placement of these cards is key to the game, as at the end of each season a Kodama comes to visit, and points are scored depending on their individual requirements.

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This was a lovely game to round off the end of a fantastic day. It was time for sleep and refresh for the final day!

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