UK Games Expo 2018 Preview

UK Games Expo 2018, Birmingham NEC, Banner

Once a year, the nerds that form the UK Board Gaming Community start to get a little anxious. The reason for this anxiety is not because it’s time for their bath, but due to the annual gathering just outside Birmingham International Airport where they congregate in large numbers to ogle, drool over and mingle around new and upcoming tabletop games for the year ahead.

Yes, it’s time for UK Games Expo 2018 so fire up the hype machine, set it to maximum chat and put on your convention pants to see what’s got us at Polyhedron Collider more excited than a Jack Russell who's been fed coffee powder and just been told it's time for walkies.

Teotihuacan: City of Gods

NSKN Games, Designer: Daniele Tascini

Teotihuacan City of Gods, UK Games Expo

Try saying all that after a few beers.

Given one of my favourite games is Tzolk'in, you can imagine how excited I am to see a spiritual successor to the cog-based worker placement game. My reaction to seeing Teotihuacan when Steve mentioned it was something akin to a fire hose on a porn set. It's no secret that I'm the Euro fan of the group and the heavier the better. So when an Mesoamerican-themed dice placement game comes along with lots of bits, a physical pyramid-building element and more boards than you'd find in a particularly demanding woodwork class, I'm on it like a Jane Eyre bonnet complete with bustle and parasol.

As with Tzolk'in, there aren't many scoring moments (three as opposed to two in Tzolk'in) so your strategy will centre around maximising your position at the right time. The similarities continue with players making a choice on their turn; either do action and upgrade your worker or get bonus without upgrade; the parallel being placing or removing workers in the Czech Games Edition counterpart. 

I hope NSKN have enough room at their stand because I may take up residency for the weekend.

Century: Eastern Wonders

Plan B Games, Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi

UK Games Expo 2018, Century Eastern Wonders

The chaps here at Polyhedron Collider are no strangers to the odd curry. Our increasing waistlines over the last few years are testament to that, but a game about spices in India was too good an opportunity to miss. Ok, there wasn't a Massala to be found, but turns out we rather enjoyed Century: Spice Road from Plan B. Likened to something similar to Splendor, Spice Road is a deck-building game where you bag trade actions and combo them together to build up a collection of spices to sell at market in exchange for victory points. Simple, pretty and light. And with a bit of pimp, just how we like it here at the gold-adorned offices of Collider Towers.

Eastern Wonders is the next game in the Century series and in this you take to the high seas to search for rarer, more exotic and expensive spices. Control the board, make money and win the game.

The rub here (get it?) is that you can use your copy of Spice Road in Eastern Wonders to create Sand to Sea and this is the bit I'm really keen to get my hands on. Combining two games is rarely done (Plaid Hat did it with Dead of Winter to a point) so this is somewhat of an experiment and I really hope it works.

Adrenaline: Team Play DLC

Czech Games Edition, Designer: Filip Neduk

UK Games Expo 2018, Adrenaline DLC

Now, us here at Polyhedron Collider like us a bit of runny, shooty fun. We rather liked Adrenaline both when we saw it at Expo in 2016 but also in 2017 when I bagged it and shared my thoughts. A certain P. Grogan later introduced us at Airecon to the expansion that CGE were working on back in 2017 and I won't lie; we all thought it was a bit stodgy. It took fast paced run-and-gun and reduced it down to something that felt akin to an extended committee meeting on the benefits of the Milton Keynes one-way system. It seems that discussing things with other people is just a hindrance, something I've known for a long time. There's a lot to be said for Dictatorships.

We keep in regular contact with Paul and he assured me at Airecon this year that this expansion is much improved and faster, so naturally we're keen to see the progress. Paul and CGE have rarely misled us, so interest is still high for yet more ways to slaughter one's fellow man, or alien in this case. This expansion adds Team Deathmatch, an extra player to bring it up to 6 and added more weapons, new modes and more abilities.

Reload your weapons and get this in your sights.

Uboot: The Board Game

Phalanx Games, Designer: Bartosz Pluta, Artur Salwarowski

UK Games Expo 2018, UBoot

Some designers like theme and no mechanics (see: Avalon Hill's Betrayal at House on the Hill), some prefer brain-aching complexity (see: A-Games' Ave Roma) and others—like Phalanx—prefer levels of historical accuracy and detail that would put A.J.P. Taylor to shame. I know this because of two reasons: one, I backed and have (finally) played Hannibal and Hamilcar and two, I have also played an initial version of UBoot at last year's Expo. Suffice to say, I was impressed, but then I also enjoy building process maps so I may be biased. 

UBoot is an app driven real-time board game where you control a German U-Boat in the North Atlantic. The app controls things like where the boat is, who's nearby and what state the sub is in. You as the Captain assign crew to jobs that need doing like manning the engines, loading torpedo tubes and making lunch. Don't work the crew too hard or they get stressed and form a Union.

It's been a full year since I got to play as Captain of a fart-filled metal tube so I'm keen to see how much more work has gone on since I last barely avoided killing my own crew. Given I've also backed this bad boy in an uncharacteristic all-in pledge on Kickstarter, UBoot is of particular interest.

I loved the realism in UBoot, right down to the pencil and protractor used to plot courses. But then, as we've already established, I am a bit weird.

Viticulture: Visit from the Rhine Valley

Stonemaier Games, Designer: Tido Lorenz, Jamey Stegmaier

UK Games Expo 2018, Viticulture, Rhine Valley

Ok, I know this is only an expansion, but let's be honest, something from the esteemed Mr. S. was never not going to be on this list, mostly because I'm writing it. Viticulture is another of my favourite games and with my terminal case of Acquisition Disorder, Board Game Extras can consider me a customer before they've even set up shop.

The Moor's Visitors expansion had already broken ground here by throwing more cards at the game, but the difference here is that this expansion of 80 cards is used in place of the existing card set. I can only imagine this is to introduce the legendary German efficiency into the wine making process so at the end of the game we'll be selling Liebfraumilch and Black Tower.

This expansion is available from 1st June.

Chocolate Factory

Alley Cat Games, Designer: Brett J. Gilbert, Matthew Dunstan

UK Games Expo 2018, Chocolate Factory

It seems that, like most people, I have a type. I'm not talking about my taste in beer, food or even women, but about game styles and even publisher. My documented love of Stonemaier is proof of this, but it also seems that we can add Phalanx, Final Frontier, Awaken Realms, Fantasy Flight Games and now Alley Cat to this growing list of "publishers that aren't too shabby".

I'm already backing Dice Hospital (which, incidentally will also be on show here) so it seemed remiss of me to not take a peek at the latest offering, Chocolate Factory, a chocolate factory management game. Way to go guys, take a subject like chocolate and make it boring. I jest of course. Euro games are a pet genre of mine and since Chocolate Factory features a fully functional conveyor belt, Alley Cat might as well take my money right now.

You take the role of a chocolatier in a factory and need to meet demand by producing more brown stuff than the toilets at Glastonbury festival. Move choccy around the board on the conveyor and get those tasty points.

Just don't eat the realistic-looking wooden chocolate bits.

Gladiatores: Blood For Roses

Bad Cat Games, Designer: Jason Maclean Jones

UK Games Expo 2018, Gladiatores

Back in 2000 when people mistakenly thought Limp Bizkit were any good, Russel Crowe showed us that being an army General was a bit of a lark before it all went south and he began a singing career with all the success of launching a boat made of aspirin.

Another of the "games we saw last year", Gladiatores: Blood For Roses was in prototype phase and I got collared by Bad Cat to take a look. Admittedly it was to actually inform me that we'd played Elemenz wrong (because Steve can't read rulebooks). I humbly apologised for our administrative oversight, but it did give Bad Cat a chance to tell me about Gladiatores and just how much fun it can be betting on the opponent in a fight more rigged than a tall ship in Plymouth dock.

Roman history is some interest to me so I was keen to hear about the premise: you run a team of Gladiators and compete them in the regular games to gain favour from the crowd by winning the fights and gain cash from the hooky side-betting and occasionally throwing the fight to line your pockets. A bit like Brick Top from Snatch, but with marginally less swearing.

This has all the elements of my kind of game (and Jon's I might add): history, betting and being dirty and underhanded at the detriment of your opponents.

Are you not entertained!?

Knightmare Live

Paul Flannery (Treguard), Richard Soames (Lord Fear)

UK Games Expo 2018, Knightmare Live

I couldn't in good conscience omit frankly one of the best stage shows I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Twice. Which is twice more than the other two Collider chaps have been, the slackers. If you're old enough to remember floppy disks and POGs, then you'll probably be familiar with Knightmare on the TV in the 80's and 90's where a motley bunch of teenagers mostly failed to guide a helmet-wearing chum through a ropey CGI maze, encountering various flavours of traps, characters, spells and items to be used at specific points through the quest. Sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, but with much lower production values.

I wrote an article a while ago following my first foray into Knightmare Live and I bloody loved it. So much so that my better half and I cajoled a wider group of nerdling friends into going to see it and of course it went down well. Let's just say that Dragon never disappoints. 

Fortunately for us gamers, Paul has brought this wonderful show to UKGE again and it's running on all three days, so I heartily recommend you grab a ticket. I promise it will be the biggest laugh you get all weekend, beyond seeing my infamous hat of course.

I'll see you on Level 3...assuming you get that far...

So that's the very short list of games and events that has got us hot under the collar, there's loads of stuff going on over the three days. The UK Games Expo is held in Birmingham NEC from 1st to 3rd June and all three members of Polyhedron Collider will be there. 

We hope to see you too, so come and say hi, we don't bite. 
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