I’ve just returned from my first trip to UK Games Expo. If you’ve never heard of it before, this year it became the 3rd biggest board game fair in the world (only exceeded by Gencon and Essen – though Origins may claim its 3rd place back next week).

Regardless, it will remain the biggest board game fair in the UK. If you are in the United Kingdom, you should go!

All the big and small publishers from the UK were there, as well as many smaller publishers I’ve never seen in Essen before. That doesn’t mean it’s a UK-only event. Queen Games, Pegasus Spiele, Asmodee (through Esdevium), Devir, Board & Dice, ArtipiaNSKN Games and more all had booths.

On my first day I also met our friends from Smiling Monster Games who presented their games CABO and Mission: Combat and also sold their Swan Panasia sleeves to the masses.

Though UK Games Expo is an excellent event to play and test games, it is even excellent-er to buy games and accessories to games.

Not only are there retailer stalls on every corner giving you the best prices on the hotness, there’s also a bring-and-buy area where you can register your old games. They provide you with a price label, so you can drop it off at the booth – giving you back more money to put into new games at the show.

Plus, if you don’t want run around with bags full of games, you can even store them at the Shop & Drop for 2 pounds.

There were also some really interesting seminars by Ian Livingstone and Cartamundi, and of course the guys from Shut Up & Sit Down recorded live podcasts each evening.

But let’s get to the games, right?

Since I was mainly there to to playtest new designs, I didn’t have the chance to play all the new hotness, but here’s my list of games that interested me at UK Games Expo 2017:

Zombies, Run! The Board Game

  Festival International des Jeux 2017

Although not yet released, the publisher was showing a pre-production copy and I was able to play the tutorial mission.

Zombies, Run! The Board Game is a real-time card game featuring an app which gives audio story and puzzles to solve. As the title suggests, the players are in the zombie apocalypse and have to run so that the zombies don’t kill them.

Along the way, they can rescue other people and solve puzzles. The app notices what you choose and changes the story accordingly. The card play itself is basically color and icon matching, but under a lot of time pressure which makes it nerve-wracking.

I rather enjoyed the tutorial and am curious to see more of this game.

Anything Osprey

I fell in love with Osprey Games at the fair.

Despite only playing The Lost Expedition and Odin’s Ravens – which I absolutely loved! – I can also imagine loving their other games. I already like Shahrazad (which I played as Tarot Storia before), but also Agamemnon and Escape from Coldlitz looked rock solid.

There’s something about their graphic design which lets me gravitates towards them. After this show, I am definitely  curious about everything Osprey puts out.

I’m an Osprey fanboy now!

 Lightseekers

Although a game I would personally never play, Lightseekers nevertheless stood out by virtue of the sheer amount of stuff presented. I’m pretty sure it will be a hit for the publisher (Asmodee, of course).

It’s a collectible figure/app/trading card game taking more than a few cues from Blizzard’s graphic style, especially Hearthstone. I played one of the app minigames in which you used a figure’s gyroscope to fly through a course and collect coins… it was rubbish, but just one of the gajillion uses.

There’ also a (free) WoW style app in which you can use the figures to equip your heroes and use the trading cards to equip even more. On top of that, you could play the TCG by itself if you’re feeling traditional.

Blank: The Card Game

  Göttingen Boardgame Authors' Fair

Another game riding the legacy hype train, this time using UNO.

Blank: The Card Game from The Creativity Hub is basically UNO Legacy. After each game, you can write on a card and change the rules of the game. So simple… but could be fun with the right group of people.

Apart from that, I pretty much playtested the day away at the Playtest UK booth – shoutout to Rob Harris for organizing this! I played many cool, new and interesting games, and hope they get picked up by a publisher at some point.

The atmosphere at the playtest was  amazing, with everybody supporting  each other and the tables always full with people wanting to test the  hotness of tomorrow. Maybe someday, someone will organize something like this for Essen? The author’s booths in Essen are a bit neglected…

So that was my first visit to UK Games Expo. If, like me, you’ve been to Essen many times, and are considering the trip to Birmingham, here is a short comparison of the two events:

Size

There are no two ways about it – Essen is much much bigger than UK Games Expo, with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with size.

It would be impossible to check out Essen in one day, but if you know what you want it would be possible (although difficult) to do so at UK Games Expo. On the other hand, many publishers don’t have a booth at UK Games Expo (yet), which means Essen is still more international.

Gaming

I’ll give the nod to UK Games Expo here.

There is a huge open gaming area with a huge library of games. While you could play all the new hotness at the publisher booths in Essen, they are often crowded.

Buying

  Scouting for games at Göttinger Spieleautorentreffen

While the flea market/bring and buy is a great idea for a wide array of games, fewer publishers means also fewer new games available to buy.

Especially for geeks interested in more obscure games, you have to go to Essen, because many publishers won’t go anywhere else. On the other hand, the retailer-to-publisher ratio is better at UK Games Expo, and there were many bargains to be had for older games at the stalls.

Food

Let’s talk about food.

UK Games Expo, please invite some food stands, because everything at NEC sucks big time. I think I gained a few kilos because of all the chips and burgers.

While the food at Essen is not amazing, it offers a good variety of different styles.

If I had to choose between the two, I would still go to Essen, but nevertheless I enjoyed my visit at UK Games Expo tremendously and hope to visit again soon.

Were you there? Let us know your favorite new games!