UK Games Expo 2022 Wrap-Up

This year’s UK Games Expo was fantastic, if you managed to get along over the three days you’ll know that already, but if you couldn’t make it, I hope that these first thoughts and impressions of the games we played in some way help salve that wound.  We walked the halls, we caught up with old friends, chatted to publishers, distributors and designers and of course, we played lots of games, and those that we didn’t get a chance to play one or more of us picked up a copy to play later.

We’ll discuss in more detail our top picks from the event in the Collider Cast Episode 114, but in the meantime, he’s a quick rundown of what we played and our first thoughts:

Crescent Moon

From Osprey Games

Putting aside how pretty this game is for a moment, this was a belting demo, we only played one-and-a-half turns (or years in game terms) of this game, and we all very quickly got to grips with how the game works.  In short, this is an area control game with asymmetric factions, with each player taking only one action - of which you’ll play 4 actions in total each year - to slowly grow your forces, your presence and/or influence.

Cutting to the chase, however, the great thing about this game is the symbiotic relationships between the factions, it’s not just a case of ploughing ahead with points, no, you have to keep your friends close and your enemies closer (as much as I hate a cliche, here it is apt).  A player’s strength (and more importantly; their weakness) is reliant on the other players at the table, if the Warlord makes a blunder, as I did, it’s in the interest of the Sultan and Murshid to help bring that player back into the game, or risk letting the Caliph run amok as they will then be unopposed.  The Sultan can keep that player sweet with enticing deals from the Sultan’s Market, where the Sultan sets whatever price they want for important Power Cards.

This game requires more players to see how it works, but from our demo we all walked away very, very impressed.

Crescent Moon was released just before the UKGE so is available right now


From Gigamic & Hachette Boardgames

A few things about this soon to be Instagram Board Game darling before we start:
1. Akropolis won the Public and People’s Award for best family game
2. Sid and I both walked away with a copy of the game

In this game you are building a greek city using tiles, each hex of the tile is coloured for its building type and each score differently providing you meet its criteria, blue tiles score the largest contiguous group, yellow if they are not adjacent to another yellow, purple if they are surrounded etc.  This score is multiplied by the number of the corresponding coloured stars in your city.  Additionally, in Akropolis players can and are almost encouraged to build upwards, yes this does mean you’ll cover up tiles beneath, but those on the top layer score on their layer, this is also the only method in the game to gain the only resource; stone.  By building over quarries you gain stone which allows you more purchase options in the market for new tiles.

The teaching took all of 2 minutes, the games lasted about 40 with 4 players and it was delightfully puzzling, leading to some great interaction around the table, plenty of banter and was just plain fun.  The game has variant scoring modes if you want more of a challenge, and could easily be scaled back to play with younger children, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great game as it is, quite simply put - it is belting.

Akropolis was released at the UKGE so is available right now!

Dinner in Paris

From Funny Fox & Hachette Boardgames

I’ll be honest with you, I want to play this game based purely on how pretty it looks, the cute little plastic buildings, the brightly coloured tiles that’s what drew me in, as shallow as that is.  I stayed and picked up this game because of how utterly cutthroat it is.  ‘Dick Moves’ aplenty in Dinner in Paris.

To build an eatery you first need the ingredients to make the food, once you place it you’ll then want to extend your terraces out into the plaza.  The price of the terraces increases the more you build and the fancier the eatery, the more expensive they are to start with.

There is a large stack of objective cards, and in each game, you’ll draw a new one which will dictate the tone of the game.  Each player will also have one personal object to complete and failing to do so will incur a point forfeit at the end of the game.  On top of this, throughout the game, you’ll gain special abilities that will have either an immediate effect or for you to use when and as you wish.

Sid and I had a lot of fun playing this game, arguably, I had more fun, not a heavy game, it was very easy to pick the rules up after a quick teach but here the player interaction is incredibly rich.

Dinner in Paris came out in 2020 - PHC is once again on the cutting edge.

Starship Captains

From Czech Games Edition

As a bit of a Trekkie, I was keen to play this and was fortunate enough to get a demo with the designer, Peter B. Hoffgaard.

Essentially, this is a pick-up and deliver game; zoom around the quadrant fulfilling missions by sending away the required crew, destroying space pirates and visiting space bases.  Along the way, you’ll get opportunities to upgrade your bucket of bolts and promote crew to enable them to do additional actions.

The most interesting aspect of this game is the crew management, which works a little like a deck builder.  The used crew are circled back and new crew members are drafted into active service.  Crew members can only perform certain actions, Command (Red) are necessary to fly your ship, Yellow (Security) are needed to attack pirates and clear routes to new missions, and Science (you guessed it; blue) are used to enhance the ship.

I wasn’t blown away by this game, I wanted some more player interaction, if not attacking each other then some sort of collaboration.  I wanted the pirates or alien races we came into contact with to have a greater threat or more autonomy instead of just sitting in one place waiting to be destroyed.  The tracks on the sideboard which indicate your connections and influence seemed bolted on with no impact on the game or the role a captain plays - can you really be at the top of the Pirate track and still be part of the Federation without any consequence, at the moment in the game's development, yes, yes you can.

Starship Captains will debut at Essen Spiel and will be released before Christmas 2022

Tokaido Duo

From Funforge Games

This gorgeous two-player game sees players sending their Pilgrims, Merchants and Artists around the Eastern Sea Road to enrich their lives.  In this two-player version based on the very popular Tokaido from Antoine Bauza, each player controls one of each type of pawn, each of whom scores differently with the end game being triggered as soon as any one of them completes their experience.  

The Pilgrim wants to visit temples and gardens and the gardens act as a multiplier for temples visited, the Merchant simply wants loads of dosh and the artist first needs to paint all the various landscapes before selling them all.

This game is incredibly zippy, three dice are rolled, and again, each dice represents each pawn.  The rolling player chooses one, their opponent takes one of the remaining two leaving the final dice for the roller.  Move the number of spaces and hopefully perform your desired action to score and then pass all the dice over the table and go again.

You are always trying to maximise your efficiency and minimise your opponents, far, far easier said than done.  There are a few special powers which mix things up of course and these can add a little variety to repeated plays of the game.

In short, this game is quaint, simple and very quick.  From my one playthrough I know this game isn’t really for me, I prefer more strategy, more depth and more agency from a two-player game.

Tokaido Duo will be out sometime this year, let's face it, at Essen if not sooner.

Rise & Fall

From Ludically

This game was a bit of a surprise for me.  When I saw it on the list of games on show it piqued my interest, sure, when I realised it was from the designer of Archipelago; Christophe Boelinger I was far more interested.  To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would enjoy this game.

First, players build the world map, and you do this pretty much however you like, seas first, fields on top of those, jungles/forests on top of that, then mountains and finally snowy peaks, all progressively getting higher and higher.

Then your starting units.  In total, there are eight different types, but you start with 4 and the corresponding four action cards.  A turn consists of choosing one of the cards in your hand, all players make this choice at the same time and reveal their chosen card.  In turn order, you activate all units of that type - but each unit can do any one of the four actions on the card these actions vary depending on the unit type.  That’s your turn.  

Played cards stay on the table until you have no cards left in your hand.  If you create or convert a new unit type, the matching card immediately comes into your hand. Play continues like this with the world map rapidly getting more and more full of cities, temples etc. When any player has all units of one type on the board they claim a Victory badge, when four of these are gone the game ends and then points win prizes.

I loved how simple this game was to access, how quickly all the rules were taught to us, and how intuitive the iconography was.  I loved the components but most of all I loved how quickly this game germinated, and the game, the strategy and the route to victory all became apparent…and I only scratched the surface, these asymmetric factions and the possibility to play this game from one to eight players either competitively or cooperatively.

Rise & Fall  is planned to come to Kickstarter in September 2022

The Old King’s Crown

From Eerie Idol Games

The art in this game is breathtaking.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks.  This is a sort-of-deck-builder, but with a little twist, you never really want your deck to expire, sure, you get to shuffle your discard deck back into your hand but each time you do that your hand size decreases.  What you have to do here is carefully manage your hand and your bidding on actions - one of which allows you to add cards from your discard back into your hand.  There are only six possible actions on the board split over three rows, you play a card to bid on a row, and on winning you select which of the two actions you’ll take.  All of them are good, some are great at specific times of the game.

There are opportunities to gain some very powerful cards into your hand, plus each card has a special ability which does some extra fun things.

I loved the art, I enjoyed this twist on a deck builder and the bidding bluffing system in here too and I hope to be able to play a full game soon.

The Old King’s Crown is planned to come to Kickstarter in October 2022


From Kosmos

On the final day of the Expo, I took the kids and just looked at and played kids and family games.  High on our list to play was Dodo which features this wonderful tower and a very slow rolling ball/Dodo Egg.

The aim is to build the ramps down the mountain to allow the egg to drop into the boat, this is done by rolling the die and then flipping the tokens to find the matching symbol, longer ramps lower down the mountain require more tokens.  So this is a real-time dexterity memory game.  Try and remember where the tokens are, quickly roll and flip before fitting the ramp.

It’s exciting, it’s fun and it’s a game the whole family can play - I would advise playing this on a coffee table so everyone can quickly run around it to get to the mountain.

Dodo was released at the UKGE so is available right now!

SMART Games - Various

From SMART Games

The kids played a bunch of games on this stand - and editing these pictures now my daughter has demanded that I buy “the frog game”.  Many of these games are one player puzzles - Dinosaur - Mystic Islands is about building the islands so that the herbivores are safe, or that the carnivores can eat them, or variants of this - all provided in a little playbook.

Dragon Inferno is a multiplayer game about trying to fit the pieces in to build your castle without incurring the wrath of the dragons.

Froggitt is all about crossing the pond with your family of frogs without getting eaten by the hungry fish.

I love these games, and more importantly, the kids do, they provide a great means to teach and enhance problem-solving and lateral thinking skills as well as providing an opportunity to share my hobby with them. 

All of these games and many more are available now

In the days since I have been asked what my favourite part of the expo was, and after a moment's consideration I would have to say it was simply going to 5 guys for burgers after the show preview with Steve, Andy and Sid - it may sound simple and corny, but we don’t actually get to hang out in person that much, and with the excitement of the looming expo just hanging out with some mates and having a laugh is really what the Expo is about.

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