UK Games Expo 2019 – Day 2

I’m a little more tired but still in jubilant mood this morning as I get ready for day 3 of UK Games Expo. Before we get to the last day let’s look back at what I got up to on the Saturday.

Jamie and I hit the hall just after opening and he made a beeline for the Games Workshop stand to pick up the Halfling team that had just been announced. I used this little bit of time to go and lay hands on the Tenfold Dungeon from Room 17, a dungeon in a box that folds out into a pretty large map.


Really nice thick Cardboard

We had a few minutes to spend in hall 1 so swept by Triple Ace Games to get an overview of Exploriana from Triple Ace Games. It sounded ok but didn’t grab me as something I wanted to get a full demo of.


Victorian explorers in Exploriana

A quick pass through the rest of hall 1 saw us saying hi to the Decking Awesome Games crew who were showing off their completed Dice Summoners which I had first seen when they came to the playtest zone at Tabletop Scotland last year. I also said hi to Handiwork Games who had The Forest Dragon and it’s follow up Bang & Twang at the show.

Come 10:30 it was our first booking of the day to play Letter Jam and the Sanctum from Czech Games Edition. I was really looking forward to this as we were going to be getting our Letter Jam demo from the game teaching guru that is Paul Grogan (aka Gaming Rules). The demo Paul gave was excellent and used his drip feed method which I learnt more about later at his seminar. Anyway, you want to know about the game.

Letter Jam is a cooperative spelling game effectively. Each player is given a word made up of individual letter cards by one of the other players. This word is placed face down in front of them, the letters are jumbled up, so that each player does not know the word they have been given.


The set up

Using a little plastic stand, each player stands the left most letter up facing away from them so they can see everyone else’ letters but not their own. Each player then says they can spell certain lengths of words using the letters they can see, some letters from a dummy and a wild letter that you can see in the middle of the table in the photo above. What you are trying to do is help each player guess the letter they currently have in front of them so they can move onto the next one and eventually be in a position to know what the word they were given at the start is.


Guessing a word. The poker chips show the order of the cards.

It’s a really interesting game, with a countdown making everything have a bit of tension to it, some considerations to unlocking more time if you need it and a scaleable difficulty as you take on longer initial words. The mix of Hanabi style elements and a flexible spelling game really grabbed me and both Jamie and I really enjoyed this one.



Our second demo was with another member of Paul’s team, sorry forgotten the name, and this one was of my most anticipated game Sanctum. This is totally not the Diablo boardgame, honest guvnor. Effectively it is a push your luck game as you take on monsters, roll dice to defeat them, head back to town to identify and get gear and tool up and then repeat.


Sanctum in action

I liked the push your luck element and was especially enamoured of the experience chart that unlocked as you killed monsters and take their stuff. There were some interesting decisions to make about how far you push your ability to take hits before heading back to the town.


The Experience chart thing

I was initially really enthused by this and came away from it with a good opinion of it. However, I’ve had a little time to let it settle in my brain and I am not entirely sure it really grabbed me. I liked the core idea a lot but I got the impression the game might outstay its welcome. Unlike something like King of Tokyo you don’t really feel like you can mitigate your luck as much in this game, certainly not initially. I think as you got more stuff you would be able to control the flow of luck, but Jamie had a bad time with luck that left him with a sour taste. The game is not complete so maybe more will change before it releases, but with an Autumn release I am not sure how much can be done before it hits the printers.

We had been directed to a mysterious game on the Quality Beast stand which turned out to be from a new imprint called Strudel Games. We were taught by the always lovely Roland, he of Ruthless fame and loads of excellent board game art. The game, tentatively called Chapter 2, was an abstract 2 player duel. Drafting 4 of 10 powers you then shuffled together a deck of numbered cards from each of those powers. Every turn you play cards either from a matching suit or matching number into 5 battlefields.


Chapter 2 in play

Instead of playing cards onto battlefields you can activate cards by playing a card of the same suit as the cards you want to activate or same number. Activating cards allows them to move around, deal damage and do all sorts of special effects. Cards can take damage up to their value and when destroyed your opponent gets points, and they also get points when they choose to draw up to their hand size and they are the only person at a particular battle. First to 20 is the winner!

Jamie and I both really liked this game and although it is not complete it feels very tight already with loads of different things to think about every turn and a real tactical feel from such a compact game. This is definitely one to watch for the future.

I headed to Paul Grogan’s seminar on game demos which I will probably write about seperately at some point. This was a really good talk from someone who has been in thie game for a long time and really knows what he is talking about. From the feel of some of the demos I’ve had over the course of the con a lot of companies could learn from him.

A screw up by me meant we didn’t get to play Megacity on the Saturday, I’ll be doing that today (Sunday). This however did leave us with some time to kill in the afternoon and I picked up Chronicles of Crime from Lucky Duck games and we got a demo of Sushi Roll.


Choo, choo little sushi

This is very much Sushi Go! again, with you being able to guess a little more what you are about to get from the next person. I can’t really say much more to it to be honest, though it does feel like it loses a little bit of the simplicity of Sushi Go! in having to re-roll dice every time they come to you.

Our last game of the day was from the folks at Genius Games who were showing off their latest game Periodic. Genius games make science inflected games that steer away from just being boring edutainment and are actually good games in their own right. Jamie and I really enjoyed Periodic which has a cool central resource mechanic as you run around the periodic table of elements trying to fulfil certain ‘orders’ at the top of the board with correct elements to score points.


Using our energy to manipulate our way around the board

We finished the day off with some Villagers with friend of the show Matt Machell and I ended up in the bar at the Hilton till relatively late chatting roleplaying games with The Smart Party and others. It was an excellent second day and I am really looking forward to seeing more of the con today.


Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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