In Games: UK Games Expo 2019 (Saturday)

A player's board from The Artemis Project. There are five yellow, six-sided dice showing two 1s and three 2s. There are clear yellow cubs and blue ocatgons on the board. There is a little card with some small wooden people on it.

Day two of Jobby and Sarah’s intrepid visit to the UK Games Expo 2019…

The Artemis Project

Saturday dawned bright as Sarah and I headed back to the UKGE for more fun and games (literally!). We met up with Kelly and Rob and got stuck straight into the crowds. This time we were heading for games on our lists and top of the list was The Artemis Project.

The publishers of The Artemis Project obviously didn’t heed the warning at the end of 2010: Odyssey Two as this game sees the players trying to build a colony on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Players vie for resources by placing dice in areas on the board. The higher the dice the more resources a player can gather but players who placed lower dice will go first, possibly snatching all the resources. This creates a nice tension of risk/reward and enables some clever blocking. Players can also use their dice to go on expeditions to gain rewards or to build buildings which their workers can work in, again the values of the dice are important.

Main board and some player boards of The Artemis Project. There are dice of different colours, lots of cards, and tokens such as yellow cubes and blue extruded octagons. The main board has a picture of a frozen planet.
Terraforming Europa in The Artemis Project, a rather neat dice placement game.

The game has two distinct halves. For the first few rounds, the building cards enable players to gather more resources. The second half of the game has different buildings that are all about scoring points. Because we played a shortened version of the game to give us a feel, we didn’t get to see how the scoring really works. Still, it is a beautiful looking game and I’ve really been in the mood for space themed games recently so we picked up a copy!

A player's board from The Artemis Project. There are five yellow, six-sided dice showing two 1s and three 2s. There are clear yellow cubs and blue ocatgons on the board. There is a little card with some small wooden people on it.
My player board in The Artemis Project – I did some spectacularly low dice rolling!

Shogu

It seemed that everything we wanted to look at on Saturday was in Hall 2. Sarah and Rob both wanted to demo Koi so we headed to the small stand that had it. The publisher told us that someone was playing his copy already but enticed Rob and I into trying out Shogu, a game that is due out in July.

Four wooden boards shown with a 4x4 grid of squares carved into each. There is a dark wooden board and a light wooden board close to the viewer, then a rope and then two more boards (one dark, one light). Black and white stones lie on some of the squares of the boards.
So simple but Shogu’s rules are truly beautiful!

This game has deceptively simple rules that resulted in gameplay that melted my brain! There are four boards with a rope running between two pairs of them. Each pair has a light board and a dark board. Each board has four white stones and four black stones lined up at each end. The goal is to push all of your opponent’s stones off one of the boards.

On a player’s turn they perform a move on a board on their side of the rope. They move one of their stones one or two spaces but this must be a passive move; they cannot push any of the opponent’s pieces. They must then perform the same move on any of their stones which is on a board of the other colour to which their first move was. This second move can push an opponent’s stone, but only one space.

For example, I push my black stone forward one space on the dark board on my side of the rope. I must then push one of my black stones forward one space on one of the light boards. So simple, but I’m sure smoke was coming out of our ears by the end of the game!

Jobby and Rob both look very thoughtful while looking at four small wooden boards with black and white stones on them.
Such simple rules but Jobby and Rob had their brains turned to yoghurt by Shogu!

Koi

Rob and I were dousing the fires in our brains started by Shogu when we were told that Koi was now free. We sat down and listened to the rules explanation and tried this gorgeous looking game with Sarah and Kelly.

Koi not only looks lovely but its rules make sense within the theme of the game. Players control Koi who are swimming in their pond trying to eat dragonflies which settle on lilly pads. Sometimes frogs appear which eat the dragonflies. The Koi can still eat the frogs but they don’t taste as nice so they score less points. Occasionally cherry blossoms fall onto the pond and the ripples from those push everything else away. Everything except the big stones which Koi have to leap over.

Close up of the board of Koi. There are purple, wooden dragonflie tokens laying on cardboard lillypad tokens. Some woodn fish can be seen in the background.
This dragonfly feels nervous with all the Koi swimming around!

It’s all very peaceful and lovely. Movement and specials are all handled by playing cards from your hand. Each round an event card happens which will make that round play a little differently. I think all four of us enjoyed this and I think Sarah would have snapped up a copy except the publisher was only showing the game and didn’t have any copies for sale.

Villagers

A break for lunch was followed by the rest of the party losing me briefly (never split up the party!) and then we all reconvened for a demo of Villagers. This seemed to be the hot game in Hall 2 this year. The demo-ers were actually running a booking system so we’d been warned: if you’re late you will lose your slot!

Now, I’m not too sure what happened here. The lass doing the demo was going pretty fast but I normally keep up OK. For this game, though, I was trying to record the play on my phone while the rules explanation was being done. When I had finished fiddling it was my turn! ‘Uh, what am I doing?’

This may not be the best explanation of the game but it seems that the idea is to draft sets of cards. The cards depict villagers of different professions. Some professions can’t be added to your village unless someone on the table has the prerequisite profession in their village. If it’s you then great, otherwise you need to pay your opponent for their expertise.

Cards are laid out on a white board with the word Villagers across the middle. Cards are orientated toward each player and are stack in columns of same colour cards.
It seemed like everybody at UKGE19 wanted to play Villagers. We managed to get a demo and it does look lovely!

At least I think that was what was happening. We played a very short version of the game as they were eager to get more and more people to play. However, it left a good impression and both of us couples stumped up for a copy. We didn’t buy the expansion or the fancy wooden coins – we didn’t like the game that much!

Cat Café

Next on the list to try was Cat Café. The girls were very excited to try a game about setting up a café full of felines. Lots of cats and lots of cat toys! They were hoping for lots of cuteness so we headed down to Hall 1. What we got was a pretty bog-standard roll and write.

On the players’ pads are lots of cat scratchers with numbered levels and a selection of toys, each with a number. Dice are rolled and each player drafts one which leaves one die in the middle. The players then use either their die or the middle die to determine where they will draw something and the other die dictates what will be drawn. Some things score more for being in a group, some like to be next to other things. Yawn! It was like Welcome to Dino World from the day before.

Sheet of paper with pictures of cat scratchers and cats on it. The scratchers have numbers (1-6) on the various levels. The player has drawns cat toys on the levels in black, wipe-clean marker.
Placing cat toys on cat scratchers in our demo of Cat Café.

I don’t know if it was the heat but none of us enjoyed this game. I was distracted by a Liliana Vess cosplayer who was walking around. Sarah’s brain literally seemed to switch off (pretty sure that was the heat!) It left me with a feeling that if someone makes me play another roll and write I will scream!

Tribes: Dawn of Humanity

Lastly, we headed over to KOSMOS area of Hall 1. I wanted to try Silk or Tribes: Dawn of Humanity and Rob wanted to try Inuit. We got there and all looked busy but a group soon finished on Tribes so we dived on there for a demo.

Tribes: Dawn of Humanity is an interesting little game where each player controls a tribe of stone age people. The central board contains a chart of technological advances which the players are trying to progress up. Discovery a technology requires having your meeples on the right symbols of your personal map. However, your personal map is very small at the start so you need to explore. Oh, and you haven’t got many meeples at the start so you need to start having babies!

Whew! That’s a lot to think about! The neat thing with this game is the way a player takes an action. In a way reminiscent of If Wishes were Fishes, the actions available to players are in a line of tiles. When an action is taken it is removed from the line and put to the back. Taking the first action is free. Taking the second action requires leaving a shell on the first action. To take the third leave a shell on the first and second and so on. If there are shells on the action you did then take those. This sometimes limits a player’s choice dramatically and keeps the game rolling nicely as there’s less analysis paralysis.

A central board shows three rows of tiles. There are some wooden tokens on the tiles in the players' colours. A row of circular tiles run across the top of the board showing player actions.
Learning the basics of civilisation in Tribes: Dawn of Humanity.

All in all, it looks lovely and gives the players a nice feeling of building up their tribes. Part way through our demo the game’s designer, Rustan Håkansson, appeared with a Subway and sat down to watch us play and make comments about what was happening! Totally weird! He seemed a nice guy and didn’t force himself on us too much, instead preferring to sit back and watch us.

With that out of the way, it was time once again to say goodbye to Kelly and Rob. We headed back to where we were staying so we could get a barbeque on the go to refuel and recouperate ready for Sunday.

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