My experience of the UKGE 2019 was incredible. No buttering this intro up. It was a clear-cut, fantastic weekend. All four of us loved every second and there wasn’t a single dull moment. You’ll have to excuse the huge lack of photos as we genuinely didn’t find the time to remember to take any! Anyway, my favourite thing to do is talk boardgames on here, so I’m going to just start rambling about all the different games we tried out.
Sub Terra 2 by ITB
If you love Sub Terra, you’ll love Sub Terra 2. Not just because it’s more of what you love – although it is – but because it’s actually awesome. It has a very similar play style to the original with the exception that you’re not breaking out, you’re breaking in. Your goal is to steal a treasure, a relic of unknown origin but undeniable value, and then make your escape. Of course, Sub Terra’s record for play style is very much that if you die you’ve got a slim chance of being picked up by anyone who has made good progress towards the exit. And if you forget your way it’s fine as you can just keep burning tiles to find the exit. Sub Terra 2 however has a heavy emphasis on knowing your route and team work. You need to know how to escape and you actually need to cooperate nicely to succeed. No man left behind (until they’re not needed anymore anyway). When you are disposable, being downed doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do, you can now crawl! No longer is your turn skipped. You can now communicate with your cooperators and organise a rendezvous for them to help you back to your feet.
The only issue I ever had with the original was the ability set for the characters. A lot of them were very specific to situations and were necessary when the character wasn’t about! The new abilities of some characters seem more practical than situational, but they also need to be used sparingly as they only have so many uses. You’ll need lots of communication and you’ll need to work together to succeed. We worked together until we were about to win, at which point we abandoned the downed and ran our separate ways, resulting in 4 out of 5 of us dying with the other escaping. Visually it’s a lot easier to identify one player from another and the actual tiles made you feel like you were in an ancient temple of sorts. The final thing to mention is the change of tone when you’ve managed to get your hands on the artefact… The tone changed and you knew it. The race is on but you still need to work together. Other notable changes include a danger die to indicate what goes wrong after everyone’s turn and the fact the game is timed by a volcano eruption. Same play, big changes and an epic story to tell.
Arkosa by Toon Hammer
We loved Arkosa. Absolutely loved it. We found it to be such a calm, paced but still competitive experience. There was a lot of scope to plan one’s own moves and manage one’s own base, whilst also considering how it would impact your competitors.
The premise is that you crashed on Arkosa, a pretty rubbish planet, and now you need to manage a bunker full of interesting and unique individuals to ensure that your reputation is the highest so the rescue chooses your bunker. Of course, on a planet full of different aliens and such you’re going to encounter many different people who grant different bonuses and risks, some are amazing but may be unreliable and some are consistent but not big contributors. Of course, managing your base is only one aspect of the game. You’ll also have resources to gather and manage; the lovely folk of your bunker will likely kick off if you choose not to feed and water them, and if you kick them out then everyone else may have some things to say! Luckily, you can appease them by improving your bunker so it produces more food, water and other helpful commodities. The resources are all tiered and trading is possible to create new things, and this is all done without any complications.
As an action you may even choose to venture outside your humble abode and affect the surface of the planet which will attract unwanted attention that may affect you or your opposition. Or maybe one of your inhabitants will be able to reduce the mood towards the competitions? One of the biggest elements of Arkosa is its artwork. It is amazing! All the aliens are genuinely awesome looking, adding an element of both playfulness and a hint as to what their role is within your bunker. The game itself is fantastically thought out and that reflects in the board itself as it has the appropriate prompts on it without being too wordy. In all honesty, I can’t wait for the Kickstarter and final product as the prototype looked beautiful, even with the missing artwork on some cards!
Magnate by Naylor GamesThis is one I was very excited for. After playing Container and other such games, I was hyped for this. It’s a game that at first glance sounds very dry and bland, it’s Euro style property purchasing game with a heavy focus on acknowledging the current economic climate. However, the depth of tactics, long plays and bonuses from how different building types influence others positively and negatively make it a real thinking game. All four of us are very different gamers, and we all loved it!!Unlike any other games we’ve played with euro elements, we found that picking your moments is more important than power moves; the economy shouldn’t be played with (not looking at anyone whilst saying this…).
For a prototype, it was excellently made and thought out, it’s clear a lot of planning and attention to detail had gone into this. The sequential play with things happening in an order helped massively; everyone took their 1st, 2nd and 3rd turns, then the economy is impacted. You could see what other people were doing between your turns so you had that time to plan or reassess, so there was little down time – though this may have been aided as we also had a designated administrator to divvy our cash and whatnot. There was a lot of scope for independent planning opportunities during others’ turns, however I dropped the ball once by not acknowledging the board during another’s turn and it quickly ruined my next moves. Also, there were some unpredictable elements the economy triggered by player decisions, meaning that we couldn’t guarantee when the economy would crash!
Sensor Ghosts by Wren GamesThis is another one I was very excited to try out. It’s already live on Kickstarter and is well worth the look! It’s a fast, cooperative game for 1-3 players who are all aiming to return home after their ship’s AI system has gone haywire. It is directly linked to their previous game so it has a nice story which adds some depth. There is a brilliant emphasis on actions causing consequences, and it allows players to utilise it to improve their odds of survival. You can cycle the space around you through movement and there are consequences for moving; in space momentum is continual and therefore there are consequences for changing direction abruptly! We found that being prepared is way more important than finishing quickly, we were immediately punished on our first ‘ah be fine’ moment, ending out space adventure quite abruptly in a blaze of defeat. Were we paying more attention, we’d have noticed we could manipulate the board to our advantage. Memory and method are key, as knowing where things are is going to enable you to avoid certain death and prepare for tolerable nasties. The game is unforgiving, requires tactics and is a lot of fun! After a brief chat with the game’s developers (who I’ve got to say are lovely people!), we noticed that the game has good scope for variants with the addition of an escape pod being influenced by player choices.
Settlers of Catan: Rise of the Incas by Catan StudiosThis isn’t just Catan with a new skin. The game is played in generations where tribes evolve and develop; later generations can benefit from the past, but they also become opportunities for competitors. Visually, it looks incredibly busy mid game, but this can be used to players’ advantages. For us, it took longer to get used to from playing Catan, but flowed nicely when we got going. The goods cards were tremendously helpful for those who utilised them, but from the outset seemed pointless – don’t underestimate fish, feathers and cacao! When we did get going full swing, it felt shorter than regular Catan but could have possibly been integrated as an expansion as opposed to a variant, however that is coming from someone who has only ever truly enjoyed regular Catan!We found the components nicely detailed and they looked great, but at an immediate glance the two different settlement types looked quite similar.
The Table is Lava
How do you have an insane amount of fun throwing cards at meeple? By playing The Table is Lava, that’s how! This game is a ridiculous amount of fun. Straight off the bat, you’ll notice that this game will make a mess, you’re throwing cards about! So it’s supposed to. It’s half the fun! The game is highly accessible and can be picked up by anyone with little guidance beforehand. On top of the dexterity element, the game does have an element of bluffing to it as you can throw your cards upside down and tell everyone what you had hoping for their belief. Only issue I foresaw was that the game needs space to be played, enough to throw cards with some force around. You’ll also want to be able to walk around the table to get the best angles and positioning. This was arguably the most fun I had whilst being shown a demo of the game due to the immediate engagement of the game, but that’s no downplay on any other games! It’s just the speed of the access to the game that makes it instant fun!
The expo itself was an experience to behold and have, and I’m not experienced in reviewing events… So let’s do it in the style of a boardgame review!
Brilliantly put up. Excellent signage. Fantastic space available. I was astounded as to how many Keyforge areas there were, but even more stunned by the age variation in the players and how easy it was to access the areas to play games with people.
Non-stop interaction with the components. Space for players to have a break when necessary. Organised tournaments within and scope for players to invite random people when needed for numbers.
The people I met at UKGE were incredible. Everybody was eager to talk and the vendors and developers were not at all pushy. The passion they clearly had for their art and the hobby reflected in their positive attitudes and welcoming vibes.
Oh man would I come again. Seeing the incredible stuff on offer this time and knowing it may have been their previously shows the longevity of some of these games. On top of that, the new games available and the hype surrounding them demonstrates how eager players are for new things as well. The board game industry is clearly not standing still, but is not forgetting its roots and golden moments.