Let’s get straight into it, so in Hall and Stand order, these are the games I’m going to try and see and play:
Coral Island – Alley Cat Games 1-B6
When this hits tables properly in mid-2019, it will be a 2 for special. Containing all the components needed to play 2 different dice manipulation games, one of which is ready for us to play at this year’s expo:
Coral – Using the different coloured dice, players build three dimension reefs, how you stack your dice and faces showing all combined to make a different dice replacement, dice dexterity game I suppose. On top of all of this, they will be little tiny fish that you’ll be trying to make nests for too.
Ruthless – Alley Cat Games 1-B6
I’ve been following this game for some time, or more specifically the designer and artist, Roland McDonald on Instagram (@rolandtheillustrator). I’m a sucker for Pirates – I just love the rich vibrant landscape of games that the theme can be put to. I’m also a sucker for great artwork and you don’t have to look much further than the cover art to see what got me hooked (“hooked” get it?). This is a deck building game that has players build crews via a draft and poker/rummy system – it strikes me as a game that will be very easy to teach but will also have a bit staying power too.
Wildlands – Osprey Games 1–C4
Normally, I don’t care for miniatures games – mainly because I feel so bad for leaving all of those gorgeous sculpts unpainted – and they’re left unpainted because it’s far safer than letting me at them with brush and paint. That being said what grabbed me most about this game was the fact it is meant to be a perfect intro into skirmish games. The fact that Martin Wallace is the designer also may have held some sway…
Gladiatores: Blood for Roses – Bad Cat Games 1-C20
This is an arena combat game played out using deck draft, trick-taking combat system. Your hand of cards is your stamina, so you’ll always need to make sure you have something left in the tank, but what separates a good gladiator from a good one, is that a great one will always have the right thing in the tank. Attacks, defence, counters and finishers you’ll balance your deck/hand against what you need to do now, and what you can do later. I managed to catch this at Dragonmeet in December last year and I have to say I really rather enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it a lot. I think this game will do very well when it comes to Kickstarter later in the year but I’m not going to miss a chance to treat myself to another game.
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame – Portal Games 1-C22
The tagline: You are not playing a detective; you ARE a detective!
My reaction: Sold! Take my money!
Everything about this screams amazeballs! This game supposedly breaks the fourth wall, in that to further yourself in the game; you have to come out of the game to use an online database. There is a sense of detective sandboxing, in that players will get to choose how to play, how much to invest to get the win, either cooperatively, or as the best damn detective in Antares!
The Everrain – Grimlord Games 1-D7
There isn’t a wealth of information about this game at the time of writing. Co-op, Miniatures, and a world being drowned by the Old Gods who have awoken to find the world not as they deem it to be. If nothing else I’m curious to know and see more.
Ragusa – BrainCrack Games 1-D8
This marks an exciting change of pace form this UK indie company moving previously from small box games like Downsize and Mined Out to first the wargame, Farsight and now a Euro. From designer Fabio Lopiano (Calimala) this is all about building the legendary city of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik) in the 15th Century. Making use of a mesh of worker placement, market manipulation and engine building this is a crunchy little Euro that looks right up my street!
The Gig – BrainCrack Games 1-D8
Since I’m a fan of these guys and because this game also sounds really cool, I’m sticking around this stand to play another game. A dice drafting jazz gig game where players will collectively be trying to put on a hip jazz show by the central board, but will also be crafting smooth solos via a Sudoku-y style roll and write individual board. The show must come together as a cohesive whole or everyone loses (especially the audience) but you want to make sure that you’re the brightest star on the stage too.
All I know is that there will be 4 new games; I know all of their names, and most of the designer’s too. Also, I know that ITB are always worth checking out.
Robot Wars (I’m sure not about the TV show) and Odyssey both from He who is named Reiner Knizia. Castle Cards from another tower of the gaming design world, Brett Gilbert, and finally Alba. And all I know about Alba is the name.
Lifeform – Hall or Nothing Productions 1-E8
Remember Space Crusade? Space Hulk? I loved those game growing up, and I loved the movies this game is so clearly based upon. I have longed for a great survival horror game for nearly as long as I’ve been in this hobby. I mean, who doesn’t like being a little bit scared? Lifeform was hugely successful on Kickstarter earlier this year, and the expo will be a great opportunity to have a little play with the game ahead of my copy hitting the table.
The Sanctuary: Endangered Species – Cube Factory of Ideas 1-E9 (I think)
In this hand management and worker placement game you are tending to endangered animals in your wildlife reserve, the twist is that the actions you can take with your work depend on what is in their line of sight. As an animal lover the theme of this game resonates strongly with me and as an often enjoyer of worker placement games this is something really want to see.
Villagers – Sinister Fish Games 1-G3
I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this game a little while ago, so you can check the full review here. In short, this is a cracking Engine building game that has a very intuitive play system making it highly accessible. This games is chopping down stretch goals left and right on Kickstarter right now, so if you haven’t backed you’ll be able to try it at expo weekend.
Tang Garden – Thundergryph Games 1 – H20
Thundergryph games are another publish with whom I have an affinity, having previously backed and enjoyed Overseers, Dead Man’s Doubloons and Tao Long, this three-dimensional panorama-tableau building abstract game set during the Tang Dynasty doesn’t look to disappoint either. Players will be creating vertical panoramas by placing tiles, miniatures, cards and backdrops. In an attempt to create the most perfectly balanced and beautiful garden.
Microbrew – One Free Elephant 1-J7
Things I love about this game already:
- Beer – I quit drinking beer a few years ago, so any game that will allow me to vicarious enjoy one will be welcome on my shelf.
- 2 Player games – most of my gaming is with my partner, and games that are specifically designed for two players always just feel a little more comfortable than those that have to scale down.
- Microgames – I find these microgames to be utterly fascinating, accomplishing so much with so little always worthy of my attention.
- Did I say beer already?
A worker placement game where you can knock previously placed workers out of their spot – but it gives that player another go. That in itself will lead to some great and dynamic choices and play styles; I must try game for me.
Lord of the Horde – Inspiring Games 1-J20
A 2-4 player card game based on the idea of an invading orc horde. You’ll come up against non-orc settlements and have to smash your way through, but at the same time fend off from the other orc warbands so that you can be crown Lord of the Horde. I saw this game very, very briefly at the expo last year, this time around I’m going to have a proper game and generally ogle at the great artwork. What has me most interested is the investment into the story; this game is part of the Legends Untold saga, but set hundreds of years before it. This sounds like a great game, but for those of you like me, if we look a little deeper we’ll also get a great story when we play it.
5 Minute Chase – Board & Dice 1-K2
I’m a fan of Board & Dice, so it should come as no real surprise to find two of their games on my hit list, the first of which is this little gem. A real-time pursuit game, where players will either be on-the-run prisoners or the pursuing guards, placing tiles to construct your path. No turns, no order and I’m sure a lot of fun.
Escape Tales: The Awakening – Board & Dice 1-K2
Second up from this Polish indie company is an escape room-esque card game that you can replay, and even play solo. Where the focus isn’t so much on the “escape” it is to do with the story told. The narrative for this game, a father conducting a ritual to awaken his comatose daughter is different, exciting and just a little chilling. (It’s also one of the two games that tackle this theme making their debut at the UK Games Expo – a new hot trend perhaps…)
Mourne Quest – Back Spindle 1-K12
I managed a passing look at this last year when it was in a very early demo version. A charming looking co-op that features clurichaun, faerie folk and nightmare monsters. Cute and fantastical it’s a game I want to have a proper look at this year without a doubt.
Wreck & Ruin – Dream Big Games 1-K22
Everyone has by now heard of Wreck & Ruin, but despite being at a number of conventions at the same time as this game I’ve not been able to get a seat at the table. This year Mark is reserving me a chair so I can finally play this game that I’ve heard so many good things about. A post-apocalyptic wasteland where players wage war on one another via converted bikes, buggies, cars and trucks.
Summoner’s Isle – Peculiarity 2-A29
Back in May 2017, I was lucky enough to get a preview copy of this area control battle game, everyone I put it in front of thoroughly enjoyed it and judging by the work designer; Robbie Munn, has been doing this newer version looks even better. As a summoner you can manifest three types of beast, Imps, Trolls and Wyrms, each requires more power than the former, but equally, each, in turn, is stronger. With a very simple combat system which doesn’t always mean the biggest creature will be victorious this game provides plenty of tactical and strategic choice with a small footprint and runtime.
Everdark – Edventure Games 2-D5
Back for a third year, Ed will be showing an all-new version of Everdark. It was the talk of the expo in 2016 when he was new, last year saw his table constantly full and so this is game I really want to see. I love that there is such a narrative behind the game and I think where there is that much heart and soul the game will probably have something very special about it. Everdark is a semi-co-op game that features a rotating maze for players to navigate.
Holding On: Troubled Life of Billy Kerr – Hub Games 2-E2
A co-op worker placement game about a touching and very different theme: recovering the memories of a man lying comatose in a hospital bed. You know next to nothing about him, all you know for sure is that for some reason he isn’t letting go of his mortal coil just yet. If I’m honest the theme alone has me very interested, but couple that with a narrative gameplay and I just have to take a closer look.
Dare to Dream – Turtle Dream Games 2-G1
A one versus many asymmetric game about protecting small children from terrible nightmares. This game has charming art and an interesting costly semi co-op style, where the actions the guardians take to empower the darkness. A hugely successful Kickstarter (587% funded) from this small Irish publisher, a lovely theme and wonderful art puts this game squarely on my radar.
And that’s it!
Of course, there are many, many other games to see and enjoy at the expo, including the Playtest zone which graciously opened its arms to me with my design (which I’ve done next to nothing with since) but I would highly recommend checking out that space too during your weekend.
So, how many cross-overs do we have? Did I miss anything obvious or are there any surprises that I’ve included? Let me know, and hopefully, I’ll see you in a just a few days!