UK Games Expo - Day 2, Saturday 5th June 2010

Well after a good night’s rest (hmmm finally going to sleep at 1pm, woken up at 2pm by a friend currently in the US forgetting the time zone difference or was that getting his own back for my earlier text in the middle of the American night - so at best 4 hours) off to the show across the road with the aim of beating the rush. An idea obviously shared by a number of other keen punters as the queue went round the block. Thankfully the pre booked ticket collected the day before soon had Paul, Stewart and myself ushered through the throng.

Early purchases
After a quick look round (avoiding the Daleks and Imperial Storm Troopers) I bought the first game of the day. As Tim had indicated the night before Patrizier (the English game being Patrician) was being sold for a mere £8 (from JKLM) albeit with the rules in German (the English ones being on BoardGameGeek, I hoped!).

The participation games (in the Kniziathon & Mynd Games area) were yet to start so more browsing led me to a couple of fantasy artists (Ralph Horsley being one) and their stunning work albeit not necessarily something I would want on the wall at home. A second look at the bring-and-buy stand highlighted once again how far games had moved on since I started. At one point I suspected that my wife had arrived via the Tardis to sell off some of my older games, things like Azhantai High Lightning, Machiavelli and a number of others. Maybe when I get home I will I will box these up and archive them to some dark corner rather than waste good shelf space with games that whilst good are not the types of game either I or our group enjoy playing and whose boards and components look rudimentary and amateurish compared with today offerings.

Working with children
Children playing a variety of games at the show
One of the nice things about the show was the opportunity at every corner to play new games and meet new people. In particular the effort put in by Nigel Scarfe of Imagination Games to run an area devoted to children’s games I think is worthy of note. Not surprisingly there was a huge amount of energy and a great buzz through the morning with an awards ceremony in the afternoon. Meeting Nigel was one of the highlights of the weekend for me, hearing about the work he has been undertaking in taking games into schools, libraries, old people’s homes and more and the tremendous reaction he has been getting.

Game 4 – Forbidden Island
The land tiles of Forbidden Island as the island slowly looses its shape
As I travelled around I managed to squeeze in on a demonstration game of Forbidden Island (with three chaps all sporting Compare the Beer dot com t-shirts). Essentially this is a co-operative game where the players are racing around an island, Indiana Jones like, trying to rescue treasure (termed by some plunder!) whilst the island steadily sinks. The players win if they get the treasure and get off the island (crucially by helicopter) otherwise they loose. In true Indiana fashion it was a close call but we managed to secure all the treasure and raced to the helipad only to discover that unlike the films it had already sunk and so had any chance of us escaping the island - oops. An amusing game with very glossy components that one player described as ‘almost bling’ and a game very much in the style of Pandemic, albeit with a much lighter theme. It might work well with younger players but we didn’t think would bear many repeat plays at an adult level.

More Purchases
Carcassonne has always proven really popular with our group and a conversation with a fellow gamer highlighted two expansion sets’ Inns and Cathedrals’ and ‘Traders and Builders’ that would both allow us to play a six player game as well as introducing some nice additional features. So with time on my hands off to find the best buy for these.

This also led me to an impulse buy of ‘Are You The Traitor?’ an incredibly simple game that sounded like it would work really well at Christmas or any time when you have a group around a table and want to add an extra dimension to the occasion. ‘Are You the Traitor?’ is a secret role selection game akin to Werewolf/Mafia. One player is the Evil Wizard, attempting to obtain the Magic Key for nefarious purposes. Another player is the Good Wizard, trying to destroy the Key to keep it out of Evil hands. The other players support good or evil in various roles. Each round, there is a discussion period, after which one of the players acts. After someone acts, the players determine whether the forces of good or evil were served, with the prevailing side gaining treasure. Play continues until one player gets enough treasure to win.

On a similar theme I finally bought Saboteur, which from conversations with the various people I met over the weekend confirmed that it can be a real hoot. Players take on the role of dwarves. As miners, they are in a mine, hunting for gold. Suddenly, a pick axe swings down and shatters the mine lamp. The saboteur has struck. But which of the players are saboteurs? Will you find the gold, or will the fiendish actions of the saboteurs lead them to it first? After three rounds, the player with the most gold is the winner. Suitable for both larger groups as well as children from 8 years up, I am hoping our younger friends will like this one.

Following the reading of comments from people (on BoardGameGeek) with younger children and Don Seagraves article on Games and Kids I also bought Cartagena (but resisted his other suggestions… ….for the moment) a game where you are pirates trying to escape prison and the hang mans noose. Time will tell if these are hits or misses with them.

How many Dice?
My smallest purchase of the day was a pretty little green dice. Yes I know weird, and why? To use with one of our favourite games of the moment Castle Panic as the dice that came with it seemed loaded and the one I replaced it with has obviously been tampered with by the monsters given their ability to always attack us on our weakest side. Now whilst on the subject of dice take a look at these photos. I think the world supply of dice may have been on sale with the price of some sets at £20 - 30. My wife will be pleased that I only spent 63p.  In talking to some people over lunch about this I stumbled into the strange world of Role Play (e.g. RPG / Dungeons and Dragons) (because obviously playing board games isn’t weird at all!) and talked to some lovely people, but to these people this strange phenomenon makes sense, in that the lady had just spent £50 on a couple of dozen pretty pink and purple dice. I guess it is a truism to say the games hobby is very broad and encompasses many aspects.

Game - 5 Pinguin Party
A poor photo of some of the lovely cards from Pinguin Party
The afternoon started with a quick game of Pinguin Party a simple, amusing and quick game (with Brian and Louise) where the aim is to build a pyramid of penguins. The art work for this was stunning (although I am sure my pictures do not do it justice) and is a game that would work with 8 year old and maybe younger but has a tactical dimension that means it is still fun for the adults.

Game 6 – Heckmeck
The last game The Heckmeck a slightly abstract dice throwing game where you are trying to collect as many worms as possible. Again targeted at the younger player, but with a maths dimension, the pieces resemble white dominoes with pink worms on one end. Again quick and simple but perhaps best described as helping youngsters with maths (addition and subtraction).

Art work from the Ckmeck box
Final musings
This whole event was an introduction to the following that some game designers have with games 5 and 6 being from the famous German designer Reiner Knizia. More famous games by this designer include Lord of the Rings (seen in many high street shops at the time that the films of this name where on the scene) and Tigris and Euphrates.

To us in the UK it seems strange that in Germany games will be reviewed like books or albums in the mainstream press and the high production quality and expansive nature of just one of the games magazines Spielbox (with its first print run in English this is available direct or from Boardgame Guru) is far removed from the fanzine or the somewhat limited production publications that are the British fare.

In summary my two days at the show (the UK Games Expo actually continued on into Saturday night for game players back at the hotels and then the show recommenced on Sunday) were a great introduction to a Games Convention and the depth of the games hobby, for somebody who has been playing them for many years but very much on the fringe of the hobby.

However it only re-enforced my belief that there is an enormous opportunity to bring these beautiful and stimulating games to a wider audience. But an audience that currently hears the word ‘game’ and thinks: geek, computers, boring, intimidating, and a multitude of other words but only rarely what they actually are FUN.

Details of Day 1 can be read here

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