Last week was the UK Games Expo in Birmingham, UK and while I never intended to be going to this event, I was invited by some friends, so I went. Being my 3rd ever convention, I had some idea of what to expect, but at the same time I was expecting to not have experienced some of that take place at this particular convention.
Immediately upon entering I was reminded that this was my first convention in an English-speaking country having only attended ones in Germany and France before. That was a very pleasant reminder, even though I still think some of the English spoken wasn’t really English anyway.
As soon as I arrived (late, thanks to Lufthansa) I quickly checked in and rushed off to the bring and buy. I was told that this was a must do on the first day even though not all of the games would have been dropped off. If I went later it would require queuing in line for a decent amount of time before even getting into the room and I did not want to sacrifice my game playing time to do so. As soon as I walked into the room, I was overwhelmed. It was pretty well-organized, but we were cramped into a tiny room and I was surrounded by way too many people. I’m a big guy so being squished next to people bothers me way more than it probably should. Regardless, I ignored my uncomfortableness in order to find some games for good prices. I saw a bunch that I would have wanted to buy, but suitcase size was a factor and the pricing was another. Some people were not pricing their games to sell them, they were pricing them with the hopes of recovering all of the money they spent. I was not there for anything but some bargains so I left with two games: Renaissance Man and Zombiaki 2.
Before I started wandering around the convention, my friends and I headed over to learn and play a game of Orctions (@Quirkitive). This game was being launched at the UK Games Expo and was a half auction, half fighting game. The first half was good fun, but the second half left a little to be desired. It may have been because I had some bad troops though, to be honest. In the first half of the game you are gathering your troops for the fight through card/set collection and auctions. Depending on a die roll you perform a different auction style which adds some fun to the normal auction style game. My favorite moment was when Ben (@benisace) bet too much in an auction where the top bidder pays the second highest bid amount (my bid) and it was way more than he had. His face had the look of being crushed and according to the rules, unless he could convince others to buy his troops he was out of the game. We had a good laugh at his expense for sure.
Then I headed off to see the Geeknson booth where they were revealing their new table “Charlie” which I helped name. Their tables are gorgeous and if I could afford them, I would have one in my apartment right now. Maybe one day.
After that it was into the convention itself where I promptly got confused at the layout of the building and consistently walked out of a room only to enter it through a different entrance thinking I was in a completely different room. Initially I had no plan but to walk around and check out as many booths as possible.
After a little while, I met up with some friends to play a couple ofquicker games: Geek Army and The Great Dalmuti. Geek Army is a quick drafting filler game designed to be played at the beginning of the night, in between heavier games or to end the night. We had a fun time playing and it features a character based off me (kind of) so that was a bonus. Then came the Great Dalmuti. My mom told me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, so I played it twice.
The highlight of the first day came when Geraint (@GoHalvesonGames), Luke (@TheBrokenMeeple) and I sat down with Matthew Dunstan to learn and play the Kennerspiel nominated Elysium. I knew pretty much nothing coming into this play and I left wanting to buy a copy. It is a quality game with some awesome and tough decision points with unique mechanisms that carry through the theme well. Some people have said there is not much of a theme, but I disagree. You are recruiting heroes, items, powers and gods and then create a legend from what you recruit. Each god’s cards are thematically linked to the abilities of the cards. Without going into a full review I will say if you get a chance to play it, I highly recommend it. Big thank you to Matthew Dunstan for taking the time out to teach and play with us, even though he absolutely destroyed us.
To round out the night (or so I thought) we grabbed Ben (@benosteen) and played a game of Polterfass a silly little beer collecting, push your luck game. Thinking it was the end of the night I headed back in to the hotel and passed by Paul Grogan (@GamingRulesVids) demoing a game that was on my must check out list: Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil. A group was playing, but they graciously allowed us to hop in so we played a quick game. Codenames is a soon to be released “party” game where you are on a team and one person is a spymaster. In the middle of the table laid a grid of 25 cards with a random word on each card. In front of the spymaster is a card with a 5×5 grid showing the location of the red spies, the blue spies, the innocent bystanders and the single assassin. The spymaster can say one word and one number to get their team to guess where all of their team’s spies are located. If their team guesses correctly then they can continue to guess, if they uncover a bystander their turn is over and if they uncover the assassin the game ends immediately. The trick is finding a link between the random words that your team will understand without inadvertently giving them a clue that will uncover the assassin. For example, the spymaster might say, “Nut 2” and the team might guess Brazil and crazy, but if the assassin is the word “pea” then that clue could backfire and end the game.
* Come back Friday to see what I did on Saturday and Sunday when I continue my recap of the UK Games Expo.