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