Bouncing out of bed early on day one of Uk Games Expo I conducted my morning rituals, wrote up my day 0 thoughts and then headed off into the con with my compatriot Gaz of The Smart Party. Jamie had arrived late the night before so we met up to to exchange shirts, stickers and badges for the convention, grabbed some brekkie then headed into the hallowed halls of games!
First stop off was to see Robbie Munn from Peculiarity who was selling his completed Summoner’s Isle game from last year and showing off Sumo Gnomes. This was a light abstract game that I had had a chance to play at last year’s Dragonmeet and I wanted to get Jamie’s thoughts on it as well. It’s still a fun, brutal and quick game and Robbie was nice enough to set us up with a preview copy for the game that will be coming to Kickstarter later in the year.
We wandered a bit more of hall 1 just laying eyes on games we might have missed of our lists and came across Ross from More Games Please chatting to the Big Potato folks. This was a perfect opportunity to try out their new game 20 second showdown. This is a very light, silly game of doing tasks as quick as you can so that your team does not run out of time. The variety of tasks was huge: throw something out of a window, make your arms be a particular time on an old fashioned clock, shout out 3 words beginning with Q etc. We had a great laugh with this and can absolutely see it being as big a hit as Big Potato’s other games. They also have a family friendly version of Scrawl out, which might go on my buy list.
More ambling later found as at the Greater than Games stall and a game Jamie had his eye on called Homebrewers. This was a compact, I hesitate to call it small, dice game of trying to brew the best beers over the course of a competition, putting different flavour together to try and score the most points for your beer and get a prize at the end. We played a couple of rounds to get a flavour for it and I thought it was pretty good. There were just enough decisions to make it interesting with what seemed a good amount of replayability.
Then it was time for our first appointment with Toon Hammer for their weird looking game Arkosa. I knew very little about this going in and had been attracted by the art style alone, which I know will divide opinion but I personally loved. This was a game about building bases and surviving on a strange alien planet designed by Angela Dickens, writing by Adam Haynes and the art is from Mattie Harrison.
Starting with a core set of colonists you send people out into the wastelands to get resources, meet new people they can bring back to the base and generally get themselves into trouble. Back at the base you can use colonists to get resources to build up your base in all sorts of ways, making decisions on how, or if, you are going to feed them, what rooms to put in, how many beds to make (which is basically hand size) and so on.
I really enjoyed the combination of hand management, building my little base and making difficult choices about what to do with each colonist I had. It really did feel like I was surviving on this planet with very limited resources and time to do the things that needed to get done whilst Arkosa made it very clear that we were not at all welcome. There is some amount of random events that can mess with your plans, but I felt they provided a lot of flavour to the game, giving you a glimpse at how truly odd this planet is. This was our second recommendation of the show (you might see our stickers about the place) and I hope you’ll give it a chance when it comes to Kickstarter later this year.
A trip to the Hilton for refuelling was required where I stuffed an excellent Meat Shack burger into my face and grabbed a beer. The Hilton seem to have made an odd decision to reduce the number of bars this year, an odd decision considering they had kind of got it down last year. More on that in my post con niggles post when I get to it.
Venturing back in I went to pick up a couple of games for friends: Outer Rim and Dust in the Wings. The former was picked up successfully buy the later I had no luck as the folk from Board, Deck and Dice were having some stock issues. We got a wee demo of Dust which I thought was ok but I could see how people might flock to it with the aesthetics and an interesting little puzzle to noodle out every turn.
Jamie had to head off for a little so I spent a bit of time wandering on my own getting a demo of Six Gun Showdown from Redwell Games. This is a real time-ish, fast playing old west style shootout with a bit more to it than meets the eye. Choosing 6 of the cards available to your particular character you take it in turns to turn over cards as you flinch for your gun, distract your opponent, draw a bead on them etc. Someone will eventually take a shot and a some quick number crunching tells you who is still standing. I enjoyed my time with this one and Thomas was nice enough to give me a preview copy of the full game so I’ll be diving into that more soon!
Before heading to our only other appointment of the day I made my way to Elzra who make a game called Catacombs I have had my eye on for ages. Turned out this was finally back in distribution in the UK and I treated myself to a copy. Catacombs is a dexterity dungeon crawler with absolutely fantastic art that comes fully recommended by We’re not Wizards. More on that once I’ve got it to the table a few times.
It finally came down to this, a battle of the titans as The Giant Brain crew took on half of the Polyhedron Collider crew in a battle for the ages over……trees? Bosk from Floodgate Games was high on both my and Jamie’s list as we both have a place in our hearts for the excellent Photosynthesis.
Bosk has two strings to it’s bough. In the first half of the game, Spring, you are placing trees on the corners of the squares on a grid, trying to achieve the most points along the rows and columns, gaining points for being first and second. Simple enough. The twist comes in the Autumn phase when leaves fall from your trees.
In Autumn you have a series of one use cards to play giving you between 2 and 8 leaves to spread over the forest floor. The wind blows them in a certain direction and you are aiming to cover the different sections of the board, the green area on the board above is one, the river has two etc. You can cover over other player’s leaves for a cost, deploy the squirrel canon (a special piece that can’t be covered) and aim for dominance of each section. Like the scoring for the Spring phase there are rewards for both first and second place and the player with the most at the end wins! We had a very close game with Jon from Polyhedron Collider and I tying for 1st place! Had good fun with this one, but it didn’t grab me as much as it did Jamie, who now owns a copy.
Our very last game of the day was a chance to play the sequel to Tokaido, a lovely game about having a lovely time in Japan. The sequel is called Namiji, from Funforge Games, and is about having the best fishing trip in Japan in a sailing boat. The core mechanics here are very similar to Tokaido with a couple of new ones that provide a little more mechanical bite to the game: you have to visit sacred whirlpools to not get minus points at the end of the game, a fishing mini game akin to tetris and a push your luck game about prawns and crabs (I’m not kidding).
I was not as enamoured with this as I had been with Tokaido. Although it is mechanically a bit more interesting, I think it loses some of the Zen like quality of Tokaido in the process making it feel a little more frustrating which is not what I want when having a lovely time in Japan. There may be changes before the final game comes out so if you fancy giving this a shot yourself you should head by the Funforge booth.
An evening spent with friends chatting away, eating tasty food and playing some Cockroach poker rounded out the day very nicely and I look forward to what today brings with demo of Letter Jam, Sanctum and Megacity Oceania on the cards!