June 1st 2018, the first day of the UK Games Expo. I’ve been waiting for this since the end of the last one, only something has changed, I’m now a blogger! So, it’s finally arrived, excitement is high, everything is prepared, it’s foggy outside, and I’m running late!
The 6 P’s, best laid plans, and all that – yet I still couldn’t get out of the door on time. I had hoped to be at the NEC just before 09:30; after all, it’s only 37 miles away, 50 minutes depending on traffic. But I was still walking the dog at quarter-to-nine, in thick fog!
I eventually rocked up just after 10! I sorted my parking out, met up with a friend, and collected my ticket.
Now, this is something I don’t get. You go to the trouble of booking your ticket on-line thinking it’s going to make life easier – it doesn’t! The system they have used the last two years means you might as well pay on the door. What is the point of booking your ticket on-line, only to have to wait in the same queue as those paying on the door? Surely there should be two queues, there used to be under the old system in 2016, and it sped things up for those who had pre-booked. Anyway, minor gripe; let’s move on…
The next thing I did was excitedly grab a programme, scan the contents, and turn to page 96. There it was, ‘Going Solo’, the article I had written for the programme – HANG ON A MINUTE! Who’s Selwyn Ward? Yes, they had got the attribution wrong. My moment of feeling as proud as punch came crashing down in a wave of disappointment – SAD FACE!
Hey, mistakes happen; so, chin up, and carry on.
First thing on my agenda was to contact Scott Moore, a game designer (This War Without an Enemy and Hungaria). Scott had kindly contacted me, asking if I would like to demo a game his publisher was bring with him to the Expo. The game was Mini Rogue, and the publisher was Florent Coupeau of Nuts! Publishing.
Many of you may know Mini Rogue as a print and play game from designers Paolo Di Stefano and Gabriel Gendron. It won numerous awards as part of the 2016 9-Card Nanogame Design Contest, including best new designers.
It was a compact, easily portable, solitaire dungeon delver. It had simple rules and yet packed enough content into it’s 9-card play to keep you entertained for hours. It was also quite challenging – Marnaudo’s video review covers everything perfectly.
I say was – and I’m happy to report, still is! The game is no longer to be a print and play, it’s in the hands of the publishers, and from the impression I got, they are very safe hands!
So, what’s changed? Well, I don’t want to say too much, I hope to cover the game in a full post at a later date; I can tell you it no longer has 9 cards! But don’t worry, not many more have been added, so the game will keep its small footprint, and play anywhere characteristic. The artwork is very similar to the original, with a few simple tweaks here and there, and the game play is also along same vein – the way you lay the cards out being the most obvious change. The cards are laid out in a grid, which sees you starting at the top left making your way down to the bottom right, by way of turning adjacent cards and then deciding which path to choose.
The game pleasantly surprised me. I was impressed by how much game play has been packed into so few cards; its also really quite addictive. This is mainly down to the difficulty level scaling nicely as you play, and it is hard to beat. These factors are essential for a good solitaire game, making you keep playing time and again, always trying to better yourself.
The game can now be played by 2-players. It’s a nice thing to have, but the strength of the game definitely lies in its solitaire play and its portability.
There are still a few tweaks to be made but its not far off completion, so look out for it on Kickstarer at some point in the not too distant future.
The game play is swift and uniquely balanced between the two sides. For most of the game it would appear that the player in control of the North has a major advantage. But, as things develop towards the end-game, you realise its a game of attrition, and the South can win by wisely using their ‘canon fodder’ units, and developing a strong hold on Saigon itself.
I also like the way it uses event cards, similar to Twilight Struggle, where you can have cards in your hand that will help your opponent. This brings in another depth of strategy; you have to decide on just the right moment to use such a card, Do you play it early where the advantage given may be small, or do you risk holding on to it, hoping for that moment where it will prove to be worthless for the opposition?
There’s a lot more to the game but once again, I won’t go into all here. Needless to say, this is a game I’m quite excited for – It’s a war-game, it plays in about an hour, and there will be a solo mode – need I ask for more!
Finally, Florent gave me a quick overview of FITNA – The Global War in The Middle East. FITNA is a 2-6 player strategic war game that uses cards as its driving mechanism.
It has a genuine feel of realism about it – making decisions that will impact on international tension and having to think carefully before attacking an area, as this could prove a greater benefit to one of your rivals, especially if things are left in a weakened state.
This is definitely one for the seasoned, and ideally a group of, war-gamers (I wonder what the collective term is for a group of war-gamers?). It is currently on pre-order from the NUTS! Website.
I must say that I could happily have chatted with Florent all day; his passion for the games he demonstrated was infectious. I also admired his, and his company’s, ethos regarding kickstarter campaigns – that the game should be as complete as possible, and everything in place, prior to starting the campaign. If only others were this conscientious, maybe delivery forecasts would be a lot more accurate!
Time was now ticking, it must have been around 13:00, and I hadn’t purchased a single thing – usually at this point I’ve got a few bags filled up and stashed away in the car!
So, it was a case of wandering around the stands, trying to get a good look at things of interest, and trying to pick up some bargains on the way.
In no particular order, here are a few things that stood out for me:
- Time of Legends: Joan of Arc From Mythic games. One I’ve backed on Kickstarter, and it was great to see it in the flesh. The Dragon they had in the display stand looked magnificent, and I believe it to be the largest miniature used in a board game. Solomon Kane also looked quite interesting, and may require more looking in to.
- The array of gaming tables had me drooling, but the price had me running away! The GeeknSon ones are a thing of beauty, and I would really love one of the coffee table sized ones for our sitting room, but the £1600+ starting price is beyond the likes of me. I’ll just make my own!
- The 3D printer was also impressive; things have really come along way in this area of technology. The level of detail on the printed figures was very good indeed.
- All of the games being demo’d. There were loads, and I mean loads, it really highlights how popular the hobby has become. If only 10% of these games go on to be top selling , then the future is in good hands. Everywhere I looked there were interesting concepts, themes, artwork, and even background music for your games!
Of course, there were a lot more things that are worth mentioning, but it would be a case of ‘where do I stop’!
So moving on to my purchases for the day – here’s the list:
- Scythe – An engine-building game by Jamey Stegmaier. Featuring awesome artwork and award winning game-play, this is one I can’t wait to get to the table. I’m hoping I can persuade the family to play, but if not, it plays great solo!
- Suburbia – Released in 2012 and designed by Ted Alspach, this one has been on my radar some time. I’ve already played a few games with my daughter, and she loves it. Its all about developing your town, keeping a close eye on what everyone else is doing, and trying to win the race for most populated town.
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – My daughter is a MASSIVE Harry Potter fan, so this one is for her. We’ve played the first 2 games and so far, its not bad. I have my reservations, but we shall see how it plays out. Yasmin of course, loves it!
- Viticulture Essentials Edition – This is an attempt to draw my wife into a more complex game than she’d usually play. Its a worker placement, and its all about wine! Its also the second Jamey Stegmaier and Stonemaier Games game, on the list.
- Tsuro – A delightful tile laying game. The game plays quickly, within 15 minutes, and can produce some quality moments when a tile is played the wrong way round!
- Legacy of Dragonholt – Remember those choose your own adventure books? Well, this has a similar mechanic, only it can be played with up to 6 players – Its an RPG without the GM. This one is for Yasmin and me to play, and we’re both looking forward to the experience.
- Great Western Trail – Herd those cows like you’ve never herded ’em before! One for the family to play – I hope they like cows! A strategy game of moving cows from Texas to Kansas and then on by train, earning money and victory points in the process.
- Dominion – The Daddy of deck building games, and still regarded by many as one of the best. Everybody should have at least played this one – I didn’t want to be left out, so I bought it!
- Forbidden Island – A co-operative game for the family to play. Fun and simple to play, yet still holds enough depth to keep you coming back. And For under £15, a bargain!
I went having every expectation of investing in Star Wars Legion. But when I got there, I simply realised – ‘when am I going to get this to the table this year?’ It simply wasn’t going to happen, not with all the miniatures to assemble and paint. So, that’s one for next year… Maybe!
I’m really happy with my purchases; nearly everything was bought for less than what I could get it for on the Internet, so yes, I’m very happy!
Look out for reviews appearing as, and when, I’ve done enough play-testing to write them.
So, having run out of time, and really not wanting to leave any later, I wasn’t looking forward to my trip up the M6, I set off home. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad – several broken down cars, torrential rain storms, and a few accidents later – nearly 2 hours later (just to do 37 miles!) I arrived home.
First thing I did was ping the EXPO programme editor, Laura Hutchinson, an e-mail regarding my article. I must say the response was pretty immediate, thank you Laura. She sent out an apology via Facebook and Twitter, pointing everyone in the direction of my blog site. The only disappointment now is, I haven’t got a programme with my name in it!
Unfortunately for me, this is where I started to realise I needed another day. I have always visited the EXPO just to look around and buy games, but now I have a responsibility to my blog site, to my followers, and to any casual readers of my posts. I just hadn’t accomplished as much as I’d hoped – I should have taken a lot more pictures for starters!
Oh, well, I’ll chalk it all up to experience. So, roll on next year, and I will be spending a couple of days there. One to do all my buying, and another to really get involved it the goings on. All I need to do is convince the wife!
Finally, a few thank-you’s – Firstly to my friend, Pete Sole, who I’m sure I pushed to the limit of his patience as he hung around waiting for me to arrive, and then whilst I met with Florent. Thanks to Scott Moore for arranging the Demo’s, and to Florent Coupeau for sharing those delightful games with me. And of course to Sue, my wife, for allowing me out to play, and my daughter, for being so enthusiastic on my arrival home to play games! Thank you all.