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On June 2nd I visited the UK Games Expo for the second time. This ever-expanding con is the UK’s largest tabletop show and on the evidence of this visit, it’s going from strength to strength. Due to family commitments, I only get to visit on the final day, when things are perhaps winding down a little, yet there is still lots to do. Here are 8 great things from the UKGE 2019.
1. A Strong Voice on Unacceptable Behavior
I’ll get the unsavory event of the weekend out of the way first, so I can then get on to all the really good stuff. I’ve included this as it shows how committed the organizers of the UKGE 2019 are to making the show a safe space for gamers. This statement was made by the organizers. I’m not going to dwell on the events, but from a brief chat from more experienced con-goers than myself, behind the scenes here at GeekDad, it seems that such an unequivocal response is noteworthy and disappointingly rare. Great kudos then to the UKGE 2019 team for dealing strongly with this unhappy event in amongst what was otherwise a hugely enjoyed show.
2. Famil- Friendly Fun
One thing that struck me, this year, was how many families were at UKGE 2019. Even more than last year. Perhaps I noticed this because in front of me, whilst I waited to pick up my ticket, was a stroller with a tiny baby in it. Kudos to those parents; I was far more timid with our first baby. After that, I saw families everywhere, having a great time.
There were numerous babies strapped to geeky t-shirts and lots of parents and children wandering around, soaking up all the tabletop glories the show had to offer. The gaming space at this year’s show was bigger than last year. It felt as though many more games companies were offering the chance to play games. There were lots of opportunities to play family games too. Not just in the excellent family zone (again run by Imagination Gaming), but across the whole show.
Greater opportunities for the whole family to play games means happier, more engaged children. Engaged children = happy parents, which means they visit for longer, increasing the family-friendly atmosphere. Great stuff!
3. Catching Up With Old Friends
I’m stretching the term “friends” here, but it was great to meet people I’d spoken to at previous shows and whose products and games I love. Tristan Hall was as enthusiastic as ever about his games, in particular, 1066: Tears to Many Mothers. This is such an amazing game with attention to detail like nothing else I’ve played (Full playthrough, here, if you want to see what you’re missing out on.) I met up with the irrepressible Bez, whose games are nothing like I usually play, but are beguiling in the extreme. It was also great to chat to the Cubicle7 Team, whose game output has gone off the charts since the last UKGE.
4. Rudy Games
Rudy Games were new to me before the show, but a couple of their games caught in the build-up, and I wanted to take a look when I got there. One of their more interesting games, Lost Galaxy, had sold out by the time I arrived on Sunday, but I did get a quick demo and I also got to look at one of their games for younger children called Scubi Sea Saga.
Rudy Games are a small publisher doing some interesting things with phone/app/boardgame integration. App-based board games have great potential to both teach the game and to mix things up for the players so that the boardgame experience remains fresh. There’s an added bonus, that you don’t have to prise your kids off their phones to play. Their technology becomes integral to the game experience. Crucially, they’re integral, but they never overwhelm the boardgame components.
Rudy Games have used the app/game interface in complex strategy games, like Leaders, but also for family games too. Scubi Sea Saga first teaches the game as it goes along. There’s literally no rulebook in the box. This is great for some children. My middle son loves to play games, but if there are more than two minutes of rule reading he switches off. The Scubi app also helps keep score and adds random events. I’ll write a full review of Scubi Sea Saga in the next few weeks, but I can say that it’s a colorful game for ages 6 upwards, that involves collecting similar colored tokens from an ever-shifting board.
One unlooked-for game that piqued my interest was Interaction. This is a family game, again with an app at its heart. Thanks to the app, the game can tailor its difficulty dynamically, so that all the family can play together, without things being too hard for the little ones or too easy for older children.
5. Super Fantasy Brawl
This was one of my “must-sees” before the Expo. Super Fantasy Brawl is a forthcoming Kickstarter (June 25th – Look for more news soon) from Mythic Games that will then go to retail in early 2020. The reason I was keen to see it is that since it’s hex-based arena combat, it looks similar in tone to Warhammer Underworlds.
I got to play a demo of the Super Fantasy Brawl and found it simultaneously similar yet different enough from Underworlds to be a great game. First up, the scale is different. The models are much bigger. Second, there are no dice. Everything is card driven. Teams are made up of three fighters and each fighter gets a set of cards. These cards form your deck which you cycle around as a game progresses. Cards have different colors (blue, red, and yellow) and, if memory serves, each fighter has 2 cards of each color, making for a deck of 18. Players have a maximum of 5 cards in their hand at any one time.
Plays take turns alternately, each making 3 activations; one for each color blue, red and yellow. On your red activation, you can only play red cards; blue activation, blue cards; and yellow activation, yellow cards. The game is an interesting mix of strategic combat and resource management. It’s all about working with what you have in hand. Note: There are a number of generic activations that you can use when you find yourself holding a hand of cards missing a particular color.
The game has rolling objectives, that both players can see and vie for, similar to those in Blitz Bowl. Victory points are also gained from killing your opponent’s fighters. There is no fighter elimination. If one of your fighters is killed, it goes back into the starting area, from where it can be moved back on to the field.
Mythic sees Super Fantasy Brawl as being a competitive, tournament game and have plans to roll out additional fighter packs in the coming months. As fighters come with their own specific cards, Super Fantasy Brawl won’t fall into the problem that many games of this type have, including Warhammer Underworlds. You should never find yourself buying a warband box just for a particular card.
6. Contrast Paint
Contrast Paint was huge at the UKGE 2019 and if you’ve been anywhere near the Warhammer Community pages recently, you’ll know it’s a huge deal for Games Workshop right now. The paints are touted as revolutionizing the painting process. I can’t wait to get my hands on a full set of Contrast Paints to try them out. They sound perfect for busy members of the GeekFamily.
Quick, thick, one coat application of paint, over newly designed primers, is meant to give great definition in a model’s recesses and add some basic highlights. Contrast paints have been designed with reluctant painters in mind. Overwhelmed at the thought of painting your forces but don’t want to keep playing with an army of gray? Contrast paints have been designed for you. Have kids who want decent results fast? Contrast paints have been designed for you.
Somewhat uninspired, I decided to paint a Primaris Marine blue, like an Ultramarine, mainly because I’d painted a handful like this at home and I want to see how one would look painted by contrast paint. I’m not sure this was the best choice.
The recesses looked pretty great, but I think, though simpler to use, the paints will need an adaptation in painting style to get the most out of them. The paints are quite translucent and once I’d put a heavy coat of blue on, the red trim I tried to paint over the top didn’t come out right at all. One mini, painted in the middle of a crowded expo, is not the best test for Contrast paint, but I wasn’t overly impressed. I’m hoping to try them out again soon, so look out for future posts when I give the paints a proper test and hopefully let my kids loose with them too.
One of my non-game geeky passions is the Periodic Table. So when I caught sight of Periodic from Genius Games, I had to stop and say hello and grab myself a demo. The Periodic Table looks to be crying out to have a game based on it and there are a few, but somehow it’s quite hard to harness its potential.
I have high hopes for Periodic, which looks to utilize groups and trends in the table to create a set collecting(ish) game. If it plays half as great as it looks, it will be a wonderful game. I should hopefully be able to bring you a full review of Periodic later in the summer.
8. I Learned to Get Stuck In
Traveling on your own to these events can be a little daunting and I spent the first couple of hours wandering around in a bit of daze, wondering why I had come. Gradually though, after a couple of chats with some lovely game designers, I felt more comfortable and far less shy. Everybody at the UKGE 2019 is very friendly and passionate about their hobby and it’s great to talk games with like-minded people. I even got to meet a couple of fans of my YouTube channel, which was a lovely, if slightly surreal, experience!
By the end of the UKGE 2019, I was running around trying to see and try as many games as possible. My take home for next year is to hit the ground running. When the cheer went up for the end of Expo, I was a little breathless and also a little cross with myself for not getting stuck in straight away. I may have been anxious about introducing myself, but I needn’t have been; the UKGE really is one big happy gaming geek family.