The Great UK Games Expo 2019 Wash-Up Part 1

UK Games Expo 2019

They say, quite accurately, that Christmas comes but once a year. Writing this article in June, that may seem like an odd thing to open with. However, there are a lot of things that Christmas has in common with the UK Games Expo. They both get a lot of people excited; both have enormous expectation, are inevitably exhausting and both leave the adults completely skint after a flurry of purchasing the latest and greatest. I may or may not be speaking from experience on that last point.

This article is written in parallel to the recent podcast where we cover a few of the games we played, loved, hated and otherwise tolerated at the UK Games Expo. Since there's only so long we can talk for before Steve tells us to shut up because he doesn't want to spend his weekend editing the drivel we spout, we've put this article together to cover some of the rest of what the Expo had to offer. Only some as, quite frankly, we could have spent a week there and still not experienced everything the show had to offer. It was immense, vibrant, informative and above all, fun. Even if it did leave Jon in a state akin to the zombies in Resident Evil.

This is the first of three articles where we go through some of the rest of what we each saw. The other two are written by Rory and Jon.

Titan

UK Games Expo 2019 - Titan

It’s common knowledge that I like hefty games and Titan certainly qualifies as that. Visually, Titan is very impressive as it stands approximately 60 cm in diameter and around 15 cm tall. Yes, that’s right, it’s a 3D board with four levels of concentric rings. Straight away I thought “this is going to be expensive” so of course I was interested.

Titan is a heavy Euro (obviously) and puts you in the place of a company employee trying to mine resources on Saturn’s titular largest moon. To do so, you need to build mining operations which mine for the various resources on offer which permit different further activities as per the usual Euro affair. Build pipes between these buildings and you can pipe those lovely resources back to your mothership for points, prizes and other such delights.

However, being a filthy human, you introduce pollution to the environment by building all this machinery and that needs to be removed before you can reap the rewards of planetary (or, indeed, lunar) resource exploitation. The twist is that you can pipe things from opponents’ buildings which allows for lots of thievery, backstabbing and overall domination.

So we have a network, resource planning, multi-faceted Euro on offer with a massive board and hundreds of pieces. Colour me interested.

Titan is scheduled to hit Kickstarter in September 2019, you can keep up to date with news here.

Galactic Era

UK Games Expo 2019 - Galactic Era

Space-based (not Space Base, Jon) 4X games are a bit of a draw for me so you can imagine I was a bit keen on seeing Galactic Era before the show even began. With games like Eclipse and Twilight Imperium on my shelves, it’s only natural I’d want another one for...reasons...

You play as one of the many races inhabiting the galaxy and you’re trying to bag as much territory to drop your population on as possible. More population dropped means more ships to build, so you need to keep expanding.

Galactic Era’s selling point is the presence of a morality system; you can choose to be either “light side” or “dark side” with each race’s special power changing according to which side you choose. You can even change sides during the game to suit your machinations, something I took full advantage of during our playthrough. It’s almost like I wanted to wage war…

Changing sides can be advantageous, although I think it’s a little too influenced by the game turn track, which scores you points depending on which side you’re on. So I found myself changing sides to suit the VP scoring slightly more than my desire to subjugate my opponents. A curious position to be in.

I found the game flow to be much faster than in Eclipse or Twilight Imperium, to the game’s credit, though it probably helps when you’re playing with the designer. It’s simple enough: explore with your ships, liberate or subjugate planets, then choose to perform two of a bunch of optional actions like building ships, researching etc. Rinse and repeat. 

The much lower downtime, smooth flow and morality system are all points in Galactic Era’s favour so I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one.

You can keep up to date with Galactic Era at SeaJay games here.

Sierra West

UK Games Expo 2019 - Sierra West

Taking recommendations can be a dangerous idea. Assuming you trust the taste and opinion of those recommending, things usually work out quite well. However, on occasion you can be left thinking “did they really do the same thing?”.

In this case I speak of Sierra West as recommended to me by Mssrs Somers and Tudor. You play as a band of prospector-cum-frontiersmen who are forging a path through the New World to exploit the resources; gold, food, raw materials and so on. Set up your camp, build cabins to improve your abilities and climb mountains to trap animals, dig up ore and move your wagons down the road. The more you gather and the further you get, the more points you score.

Play is partly driven by cards, which form two paths, one for each of the folk you control and they can wander along this path as far as they like in any order, so you can plan your route to take best advantage of the stuff there. The cards create the path so you get to choose (to a point) what the path looks like, which is the Clever ThingTM. Three cards you slot in, move your guys along and bag as many goodies as you can...until you get mauled by a bear.

So it’s Euroey, pretty, mechanically smooth and it has some decent decision making. Yet I am left wanting. Rory and Steve both assured me that I’d love it, yet both myself and my partner left the demo feeling a little “meh”. We both enjoyed Sierra West, but it’s not (unlike last year’s Teotihuacan) at the top of my “want to buy” list.

Sierra West will be released in Autumn 2019.

Teotihuacan Expansion: Late PreClassic Period

UK Games Expo 2019 - Late PreClassic Period

A nice segway into the expansion right there. I'm smoother than Clooney on a belt sander, me. Board and Dice (formerly NSKN) are releasing the expansion to the very popular (and very good) Teotihuacan: City of Gods. Although the title of the expansion could roll off the tongue a little more smoothly I feel...

I didn't get to play the expansion, but having a quick run through, it touts "more and better" which suits me fine. The meeples have been upgraded a bit from disks and there's another temple because three just isn't enough. 

There's also changes to some of the regular spaces, so there's more variety when you're setting up the game just to bake your noodle beyond the point of "fried". 

I'm rather looking forward to it, but that may be completionist talking...

Cloudspire


UK Games Expo 2019 - Cloudspire

Chip Theory Games have held my attention for about 12 months now (in fact 379 days to be precise) since I saw Too Many Bones at Expo in 2018. I wanted to buy it, but in an uncharacteristic show of restraint, I didn't. This year, however, I relented and to say I'm glad would be a considerable understatement. Whilst at their stand, I noticed that Chip Theory are demoing their new (prototype) offering; Cloudspire

Jon mentioned this in our pre-Expo podcast as a game he was looking out for so I sat down with Rory and gave it the once-over. Clearly Chip Theory are milking the "Chips on Neoprene" look of Too Many Bones as Cloudspire is very similar (although this being a prototype, things are bound to change). 

The mechanics are wildly different however. Cloudspire is, currently, what amounts to another tabletop Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA for short. Since this is a tabletop, I guess it should be MTBA (Multiplayer Tabletop Battle Arena), but what do I know. Alarm bells were already sounding in my mind after experiencing Guards of Atlantis and I have to admit, there's little difference between the two.

In essence, you control a Hero, a Tower and a series of minions. So far, so standard. Minions move towards the enemy with little regard for their own safety or even your involvement. So you're left moving your bumbling Hero around, trying to smack the opposition minions and towers with whatever big stick you're carrying.

And...that's it. I appreciate that's pretty much what MOBAs are all about, but this one felt particularly lacking. Neither myself nor Rory felt enamoured with the game and there was little agency to keep us entertained. The upgrade system seemed confusing to me (although that maybe down to the very rapid demo we had) but having since played Too Many Bones I suspect that Chip Theory are making use of the chip-stacking idea. Cracking to keep a track of HP as they're all the same, but less useful when stacking upgrades as you can't see what upgrades are present without taking said stack apart, which gets fiddly and defeats the benefit of the "at a glance" stack.

I really love Too Many Bones so as a point of interest in Chip Theory Games I shall be keeping a curious eye on Cloudspire, but based on our limited demo I can't see me raising much more than an eyebrow at this point.

Cuzco

UK Games Expo 2019 - Cuzco

I must admit to being utterly unaware of Cuzco or its predecessor, Java (Cuzco is the remake) when I sat down at Super Meeple's stand, but they were proudly displaying all three games in the Mask series: Tikal, Java (Cuzco) and Mexica. 

Cuzco is straightforward enough; take your six action points to spend them as you see fit, either build more terrain, move your citizens about or build a temple. The more (and bigger) temples you build, the more points you get. Placing tiles down allows you to make the settlements bigger and a bigger town means a bigger temple. 

The fun twist is that nobody owns any of the settlements or the temples, so you're always working off the back of someone else's efforts. This leads to an interesting dynamic as you're trying to place tiles to advance yourself, but also to deny opponents taking too much advantage of your progress. 

We quite liked Cuzco, although it didn't set my world alight. It's well made, pretty and the temples feel and look great on the board. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for, although it does suffer from a case of "Game-ja-Vu" as Steve would say. The feeling that you've played this before, you just can't work out where.

Maybe I was an Inca in a former life. 

Cuzco is in shops now.

Dice Hospital Expansion: Community Care

UK Games Expo 2019 - Community Care

It wouldn't be Expo without Alley Cat Games having a mobbed stall and that's exactly what we got. Making a beeline for their plot, my partner and I sat down to go through one of the modular expansions for Dice Hospital; Community Care, this one pertaining to helicopters and ambulances driving around the city picking up patients from the roadside as if this is some kind of bus route...or there's been some kind of horrendous incident leaving citizens scattered around the city like confetti at a wedding.

Instead of the standard way of populating the ambulances, this module gives players a bit more control over the way that they get patients to their hospital. They move their ambulances around and pick up the dice they want (within reason) and try to beat other players to the punch. I feel this is an attempt by Alley Cat to respond to the "not much player interaction" criticism leveled at them. There are also single-use bonuses you can pick up along the way to help you treat patients in the hospital.

It worked as a thing, but since things are done in turn, some players will finish before others so you're left with one or two players moving their ambulances around in a purely academic fashion which, to me, slightly removed the point of it all. It got to the point where they were, quite literally, just choosing which dice they wanted. Again, this is only a prototype so I'm sure many changes will be made over the course of time.

The other module I saw is the maternity ward, which despite not playing, seemed the better of the two modules. Pregnant mothers come into the hospital and they deliver baby; after which point the two are inseparable. They even detriment the other patients in ward if they stick about too long, so it's in your interests to kick them out as quickly as possible. I feel this is the more interesting of the two modules, although the former does come with a helicopter mini. 

To keep up with Community Care, Alley Cat can be found on Twitter.

So there you have it; a run down of some of the other games that stuck out for meat Expo this year. The other two (meaning Jon and Rory; Steve's too good for this kind of menial labour so it is now beneath him) have written similar articles chronicling their caffeine-fueled experiences. 

The games in this article were all demonstrated to us at the UK Games Expo and were in various stages of development. Any final product may look, smell, feel or play completely differently to that experienced.
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