In Games: UK Games Expo 2019 (Friday)

Jobby and Sarah are standing in front of the entrance to Hall 1. Jobby is holding up his pass. Both look excited.

Jobby and Sarah performed their annual pilgrimage to the UK Games Expo recently. Here’s a report on their Friday…

Initial Reconnaissance

Once again we set off early from our home to make it to UKGE as near to doors-opening as possible. Although it seemed like all of the roadworks in Britain were happening on our route, we still managed to make it to the NEC at a little past 10am. Doors had opened but there was still a horde of people queueing to get tickets. After popping upstairs to get tickets where there was less of a queue, we came back downstairs and entered via Hall 1 as tradition dictates.

Jobby and Sarah are standing in front of the entrance to Hall 1. Jobby is holding up his pass. Both look excited.
We’ve got our passes and are ready to go in to Hall 1. The excitement is palpable!

Once in we were immediately amazed by how busy the hall was. This felt like a Saturday from any other year. Even though UKGE had expanded again (it was now using the whole of Hall 2 and a bit of Hall 3a) the venue still felt buzzing. Our impression was this could because it was half term; there certainly seemed to be plenty of children around. No matter, it was going to make our usual Friday reconnaissance mission a bit harder, especially since there was more to see!

So we began threading our way up and down aisles to get a feel for the place. We each had a list of things we wanted to see but it’s always nice to start with a random wander. The usual suspects were there with Games Workshop and CMON taking up an enormous bit of the hall each. It was fun to see that Fog of Love had its stand veritably smothered in heart shaped balloons again. Sarah couldn’t resist getting me to pose in front of the Fog of Love man on the poster. Just the other side of the aisle was a poster for The Mind which you could poke your head through. Sarah obliged. 🙂

Jobby standing in front of a Fog of Love poster that depicts the silhouette of a many (presumably attractive). Jobby is adopting the same pose as the poster.
See that guy on the Fog of Love poster? Definitely modelled on Jobby. Definitely.
Picture of the box cover of The Mind with Sarah's face in place of the usual face.
Sarah has the power of The Mind!

There was also a very exciting looking stand demo-ing Disney’s Villainous. Sarah definitely wanted to try this but they were too busy! We would come back another day.

Booth with castle style 'walls' and dark curtains. A table with Disney's Villainous is just about visible behind the decorations.
The Villainous booth beckons…

Welcome to Dino World

With a bit of looking round complete, we settled onto our first demo which was the roll ‘n’ write Welcome to Dino World. To be honest this was a bit of a let down. I’m not the biggest fan of roll ‘n’ writes anyway but each time I try a new one I hope for something new. Alas, this was pretty standard r’n’w fare: some dice are rolled and players use them to draw features on their pad. If you’ve played Railroad Ink, or anything like that then you’ve played Welcome to Dino World. Really not a lot to see here so after a few turns, Sarah and I made our excuses and walked on.

Cards with in game goals on are scattered across the table. There is a notepad with a grid on the left and dinosaur pictures on the right. Some dice and a pencil are in the photo.
Player mat and objective cards for Welcome to Dino World. The pencil lines didn’t show up very well!

Chocolate Factory

After a spot of lunch (it was that time already!) and meeting up with our pals Rob and Kelly we headed back in for the afternoon. Next up was Chocolate Factory by Alleycat Games. Sarah and I had played a prototype of this last year so it was interesting to see how it has come on just before its release later this year.

A player's board in Chocolate Factory. The four conveyor belt tiles have only basic chocolate blocks on them.
My factory struggled to do anything more than spit out chunks of raw chocolate. Sad times in Chocolate Factory.

Kelly and Rob hadn’t played this demo last year but the game has come on so much that that didn’t matter. The demo guy explained that the player who scored the most would win a lovely basket of chocolate. I like a challenge, especially one that rewards me with chocolate so I set about trying to do the best I could!

As noted last year, this game is about making chocolate. It features a nifty conveyor belt mechanism. Each round the players will run three shifts through their factory. A shift starts with a cocoa bean going on a tile and that tile being pushed onto the start of the conveyor. Players then run the machines in their factory to upgrade the chocolate. The trick to this is working out what state the chocolate will be in at each stage in the factory so the right upgrades can be added. Chocolate is then sold to shops who will want specific kinds of chocolate bars.

I did atrociously and just couldn’t work out my factory. I lost miserably at this game. Rob did really well but apparently not well enough to qualify for the basket of chocs! I’ll be keeping an eye out for the release of this.

Dwellings of Eldervale

A little further meandering and we came across a prototype of Dwellings of Eldervale. I was intrigued as there were plastic monster miniatures as well as wooden meeples on the board. A weird mix! A developer of this game (not the designer!) talked us through it. It seems this game is aiming to be a mixture of worker placement and adventuring. Player will send meeples on adventures where they will aim to collect cards in different regions. Special workers can be sent to do various tasks that will increase the player’s influence in particular regions. This influence will act as a multiplier for the value of the cards collected.

Oh, and there will be fighting with monsters and other players. It seems an ambitious mix and I am curious as to whether this will work out. Still, the prototype did actually look pretty, if a bit crazy.

Hexagonal tiles, rectangular playing board, plastic monsters, wooden meeples and discs.
An early prototype of Dwellings of Eldervale. I was fascinated by the combo of plastic miniatures and wooden meeples but I don’t know what the final version will be like!

Museum

There was a buzz at the bottom of the stairs to Hall 2 so we took a look to see what it was about. It was a game called Museum. There was a couple of demos going on at once with wide eyed players leaving the demo and instantly purchasing the base game with all the expansions. Right! We thought, we need some of this!

Musem was actually pretty good. Players are each trying to get the best exhibits for their musems by drafting cards from a central board and then using some of the cards to pay for the ones they want to keep in their museum. On a player’s turn, everybody drafts and then that player plays as many cards as they want

There are various bonuses for high value cards and placing your cards in certain places or adjacent to other cards of the same type or from the same region. Events happen each round that can close off parts of the world, devalue cards or have other effects. It’s all fairly standard and quite satisfying to play.

The most interesting twist on this kind of game is that the drafted cards can come not only from the central board but also from opponents’ discard piles. This means that there is sometimes some thought needed about how a card will be paid for. We enjoyed this game well enough, but not well enough to buy it or its expansions! I think 7 Wonders still scratches this itch for me.

Main board of Museum. There are pairs of face up cards at different locations. One location has a sign saying "Closed". A player's board in the background has lots of cards arranged on it.
The main board of Museum. This card drafting/set collection game was getting a lot of attention all weekend!

Dust in the Wings

Surprisingly, the end of the day was already upon us. Rob and Kelly nipped off to make a couple of purchases and Sarah and I went to demo just one more game. Sarah liked the look of Dust in the Wings so we gave that a go.

This game features lots of wooden butterflies in three colours. It basically plays like Five Tribes but without all the complicated bits. On their turn a player picks up the butterflies in one space and then drops them one at a time in adjacent spaces making a path across the board. Once that’s done they score any cards they qualify for.

It’s pretty, but we felt there really isn’t enough game here to warrant either the price tag or the playing time. This was a pass for us though I’m sure some people will like it.

Dust in the Wings board shown with red, blue and yellow butterfly tokens scattered across it. The butterflies are in squares on a grid. There are cards with butterflies pictured on them running down one side of the board.
Dust in the Wings looks lovely and plays like a really stripped down version of Five Tribes.

Feeling exhausted already, Sarah and I headed off to our accommodation for the night. We were desperate to catch up on sleep as we’d been to a gig the night before!

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