Nevi: Yes, we know it’s late. Yes, we are sorry about this. Yes, it will probably be late again next year. Yes, these are the games we played at the UK Games Expo 2019. No, you can have the last biscuit. It’s mine and I worked hard on this article. George, tell the readers they can’t have the last biscuit.
George: Just let them have it, it’s the least we can do. Anyway enough preamble, on with the article.
Gladiatores – Blood for Roses
George: Honestly, the demo for this left me rather unimpressed. Gladiatores casts each player as a gladiator fighting to be the last one alive while collecting glory along the way. The game uses cards to resolve combat around a system I’d describe as – play and response. On your turn, you choose another player and play a card at them. They then either play a response or suffer the consequences of your card. If they respond, you can respond to their card and play goes back and forth until one player decides not to respond or can’t because they don’t have the required card. While this is happening the other gladiators (players) sit, watch and wait for their turn. Regaining cards is very rare so as the fight goes on, you’ll have fewer and fewer cards to both attack and respond with. As a result, the game seems a encourage ganging up on the weakest player as they become easy prey when they’ve lost both wounds and cards.
Nevi: I completely agree. The game felt like a two player game but because it is on Kickstarter, it needed more. I think as a two-player only game, it could work. You can take the time to read your opponent and take advantage of them not having certain cards. With two people, the bluffing and countering will be far more important. Whereas, with 4 people it was very much let’s pick on the weakest because they have the fewest cards, so fewest options for counting our attacks. I’d be intrigued to play it two player, or four players where people were on teams perhaps? Maybe once it’s out of Kickstarter and looking at where to go next, a two-player version will see some attention. At the moment though, I really didn’t enjoy our demo.
The Menace Among Us
Nevi: It was George. I said it was George and nobody believed me. Me being right aside, The Menace Among Us was interesting. I don’t know if it was good but I certainly found it interesting.
George: Allow me to paint a picture in your mind – Cram a load of people aboard a spaceship, cut the power and start to drain the oxygen. Tense, but so far, so standard hidden traitor game. The Menace Among Us’s hook was the variety of unique characters you can play as. Every round each player takes an action either adding a card to the mission pile or taking their unique character action. Then mission cards are shuffled and revealed – ideally fixing the ship or revealing the actions of a traitor in the ranks sabotaging ship. Our game ended up being a bit of an anti-climax with the villains being offed fairly quickly and two of the good guys being killed leaving Nevi to try and fix the ship alone before the automated systems risked breaking it.
Nevi: The Menace Among Us is definitely a game I would like to play again. It had a lot of interesting ideas that seemed to misfire in our game and perhaps in a different game we can see exactly what it has to offer.
We Need To Talk…
Nevi: We need to talk about We Need to Talk… It was a fun little party game where players take turns to give statements at an intervention and one player needs to guess their problem. When we played that ranged from, thinking they were invisible to that they talk to their food like it’s alive. It was surprisingly difficult to say something useful that wasn’t obvious, but it was fun and watching someone get so close to their issue and not quite know what it is, was hilarious.
George: Look Nevi, you don’t understand, I could choose to stop any time, it’s just that food tastes better when I scream at it first.
A game of awkwardly skirting the subject, We Need to Talk… is a party game based around holding interventions for friends with ridiculous problems. One player draws a problem and everyone has to give clues to help them guess what it is. Clue-givers score points every time they give a clue the table deems fair, without the subject of the intervention guessing it. The brief demo we played was fun but it needs all players to get into a certain spirit as delivering the sorts of clues that make the game work is a little tricky.
Nevi: Warren Wars is a fast paced take that (not the band) style card game about raising a rabbit army. Players are playing rabbit troops, stealing enemy carrots and causing all kinds of bunny mayhem. While you aren’t going to find the deepest strategy around, the fun character art and fast pace meant that Warren Wars is a neat little card game. It could do with removing the miss a turn cards and perhaps adding a little more depth. However, as a rabbit army themed game you aren’t going to find anything else like it.
Imperial Settlers Roll and Write
George: This was the first roll and write I’d played and I would describe it as pleasant? It was a nice way to spend 20 minutes wondering why I had far too many apples and not nearly enough stone.
Nevi: At least you’ll never go hungry? I don’t know, I’ve yet to fall in love with roll and write games. They always feel a little passive, and a little like I’m not really doing anything interesting. Imperial Settles: Roll and Write doesn’t revolutionise things but it does add a little to the genre.
Each turn, players are pick one off powers well as using dice each turn to decide what they want to do. There are also special buildings that further complicate what you can do each round and add things like bonus points, extra resources or more actions. I can see this being a great quiet pub game on a rainy day, everyone is building their own little village and doodling away with their pencils. While none of this is going to set the world on fire, it was an enjoyable way to spend 20 minutes. All in all, the game was short, sweet, but nothing to write or roll home about.
Nevi: Woof! Meow! Elephant noise!
George: What are you doing? I hope you aren’t hiring animal writers again.
Nevi: Of course not. We won’t speak of the time a possum reviewed Arkham Horror ever again. Instead, I’m playing Quirk!. It’s a bit like Go Fish and Charades merged together. Rather than asking for a card with a dog on it, you have to make that animals noise or action. For example, if I had a mime, then I’d need to do something a mime would do such as pull on a fake rope. While I think it could benefit from removing the miss a turn cards, nobody likes not playing a game, its a great little card game for all ages. On top of that, it comes in three different packs from the standard one, with a mix of cards, to Halloween and Fantasy. And while I completely forgot to go back and pick up a copy, the little I played of it had me sold.
Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell
George: I love the pitch for this game – travel around Europe performing magic, meeting the most infamous names of the regency era and attending lavish parties to become the best magician of the era. Sadly, despite the gorgeous art and production, the game felt incredibly tedious; effectively a rather dry delivery game. The game told me I had just met Lord Byron and I was now attending a grand ball, and mechanically I moved two spaces, discarded a card to draw more cards I hoped might allow me to fulfill a feat of magic. I didn’t, and my turn ended. In this case, the magic is less exciting when you know how the trick is done.
Nevi: Ho-boy, this game. Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell was a disappointment. The fantastic art and premise meant that I was expecting an interesting game to back it up, but there is very little. What you have is a very basic, and somewhat random, resource delivery game. Perhaps if you are completely in love with the license, then you might enjoy this for the novelty but other than that I’d say you can safely avoid this game. That being said, make sure you take a quick look at the board and tarot cards though because they are lovely.
Nevi: It was fine.
George: Is that all you’re going to say? Isn’t that a little harsh? You’re not, salty about this game are you Nevi?
Nevi: Firstly, no. I do not approve that joke, go away and try again. Secondly, Salty Dogs has some lovely unique art on each card and it’s great to look at it. However, the game itself is a pretty straight forward ‘take that’ game (not the band, again) and I just don’t find that sort of thing engaging. If you like those kinds of games, then Salty Dogs is a beautiful example of that genre that you’ll probably get a lot out of.
George: “I guess now it’s time for me to give up” on that joke.
George: I’m reading this joke in the edit and I still don’t get what you’re writing me to be saying.
Nevi: It was a Take That lyric. It was very funny, I promise.
Star Realms: Frontiers
Nevi: Participating in the Star Realms tournament was the first time I had played with the Frontiers expansion. Like all of the other major Star Realms expansions, it can be entirely standalone – you don’t need anything else to play. In fact, this box comes with enough for up to four player which is neat addition. This is a base heavy deck of cards, with a lot of cool new abilities that trigger off bases or come on them. There are other new mechanics such as requiring multiples of a faction for abilities to trigger or being able to scrap cards to gain damage points. And thematically, it all makes sense for a frontier setting. All in all, this is another great addition to the ever growing range of Star Realms cards.
I must say that if you every want to play with all the expansions at once you’re going to struggle. As I have mortal hands, I will never be able to shuffle all of these expansions together. My human hands aside, if you are looking for a place to start with Star Realms this is it or more of a good thing then you can’t go wrong with Frontiers.
On The Underground
George: On The Underground turns a commute into an abstract strategy game. You’ll slowly build competing tube lines across a map (double sided board with London and Berlin) scoring a point every time the one passenger uses your lines to complete their journey.
For such a friendly looking game with its bright watercolour style, On The Underground proved itself surprisingly ‘thinky’. Each turn the passenger will travel to a new location determined from four random cards, depending on which is the easiest to get to (least walking & fewest tube connections). When the passenger reaches a location a new card is drawn to replace it. To succeed, you must figure out where the passenger is going and how you can alter his route by laying new track. Figuring out where the passenger is potentially going is a simple puzzle until you factor in all the variables that you have the power to change. Is it best to build an efficient network of tube lines in the hope of scoring lots of points later? Should you take a more tactical approach, laying new track whenever you can to score a point or two each turn? With additional ways to score such as completing loops, connecting certain locations, and building lines to major train stations, On The Underground’s puzzle is a moreish one that balances planning ahead with being flexible enough to respond to the changing board. With so much to consider, turns can take a while and downtime may be an issue when playing with 3 or 4 players.
And that’s it for our 2019 UKGE coverage. If you want more, then you can check out our UKGE special podcast or Nevi’s article about Raid on Takao (a game were given at the expo). Thank you and see you all next year.