RogerBW's Blog

UK Games Expo 2023 11 July 2023

My first in-pandemic trip to UK Games Expo. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

This year, with Wotan not taking a stand, I was demonstrating for Ares Games.

We were showing off various things, including The Rich and the Good, an English release of 2008's Hab & Gut – on each turn you buy and sell shares, manipulate their prices with shared cards, and optionally donate to charity. At the end of the game, the player with lowest total charitable contribution is eliminated, and the richest remaining player wins. Quite fun but it felt like a remix of things I'd done before.

Giant Quartermaster General was not for sale, but very popular. (There was also a giant version of the WWII edition.)

The main game I showed off, though, was Ensemble, described in a nutshell as "The Mind meets Dixit". In each round, each player has to choose secretly which of the cards above the line is the best match for the card (or cards) below it; if they all agree, they advance to the next round with one more card to choose from, winning if they pass with ten cards, and if not they lose a life, starting equal to the number of players. It's clearly a very light party game, but it's quick to teach and nobody had trouble picking up what they had to do (though some of the rules for special cases were poorly written.) Good fun, and I may even buy it at some point.

A random Dalek, because if there's anything you need in a hot stuffy humid convention centre it's an enclosed costume.

The NEC management have of course turned off the "enhanced ventilation" they put in when the pandemic was still acknowledged; one problem with UKGE's continued growth is that it's now a very small player by the standards of clients of the NEC, while when it was just barely fitting into the Hilton or the Clarendon Suites it was a huge player by their standards and could ask for something a little better than the basic barely-acceptable treatment the venue gives to everyone by default. Thus, there was one working drinking-water dispenser for the entire venue, and a warm humid atmosphere consisting largely of aerosolised gamer sweat.

A variant Risk using a map of the UK.

Reenactors in the sun.

I got together with some 1PG-ers and watched the end of a game of Earth; my immediate impression was that it's an engine-builder broadly in the style of Terraforming Mars, though a rather tighter design.

Game of the show for me: Tinderblox, in which you have to stack the blocks with the rubbish forceps (and sometimes with your off-hand).

Finally got a chance to play Turing Machine and really enjoyed it - a good thing since I now own a copy. I suspect I'm also going to reverse-engineer it to build a third-party open source challenge generator…

Also picked up: Tinderblox Sunset, a version of the base game with more challenging cards.

Played but not photographed: Piepmatz, in which I was beaten by the two new players, sigh, and In Vino Morte, which is what it is, nothing amazing but still enjoyable.

Senators, which I won by an accidental masterstroke of timing.

I'd been demonstrating Ensemble all day on Saturday, so I took Sunday off to play other games over in the Hilton. Mostly this was Books of Time, which is engine-building with some interesting twists (in particular the ring-binder that makes up the "book of history" you're writing). I scored quite poorly, as I generally do at this style of game, but had a great time doing it. (And the snap of the rings opening or shutting has a pleasing finality which reminds me of Sheriff of Nottingham.)

Finally Kitchen Rush, which is both more fun than I expected and a game I'm unlikely ever to buy: it's quite tough, but the first scenario wouldn't be satisfying to play repeatedly once one had beaten it, and with games like this I very often find myself playing the initial scenario repeatedly with different groups rather than playing a lot with one group and making progress.

Then back to the Ares stand for the tear-down, and home.

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