Attended by David Paul Hellings
Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror gaming fans were well served as usual as the UK Games Expo celebrated its tenth anniversary in style. Moving from the previous main venue of the nearby Hilton Hotel (still used for late evening gaming events and daytime talks) to Hall 1, an aircraft hanger size space at second city Birmingham’s excellent NEC complex, the Expo saw the return of the big names, plus a host of fascinating start-ups to fulfill fans’ needs.
There were a host of releases and upcoming later in the year products also. UK Distributor Esdevium Games previewed the latest Pandemic – “Reign of Cthulhu” (UK release Sept 2016), as well as the “Game of Thrones Trivia Game” – which includes a very cute Jon Snow card, which allows you a piece of pie even if you don’t get any questions correct in a round because, as we all know, Jon Snow knows nothing! Star Wars: Rebellion is a good looking board game with hundreds of pieces that allows the player to add their own narrative – one player had Luke turn to the Dark Side and destroy the Rebellion (which would make a great film series finale, but it’s unlikely Disney would go for that, sadly!)
Steamforged Games’ “Guild Ball”, a fantasy tabletop game with miniatures in which the ball is the least of your concerns and killing the opposition is a keener way to win, is currently the UK’s most successful Kickstarter, raising £3.7m. Quidditch meets Rollerball? The Core Rule Book helps you build two teams to use tactics and strategy to win. If fantasy heroes played football, this would be the result and it was no surprise that it was very popular in the gaming sessions. (A later review of the game, itself, will follow soon).
Finnish publisher Lamentations of the Flame Princess, in the form of creator James Raggi IV, was present with its growing library of excellent Weird Fantasy titles influenced by the likes of HP Lovecraft and Dario Argento; the latest two being “The Cursed Chateau”, a haunted house adventure, and “England Upturn’d”, a dark and nasty English Civil War set adventure. The horror nature of the work is understandably gaining growing fan numbers to a label that’s almost the anti-Dungeons and Dragons with the high mortality rate of player’s characters, as well as the high quality product. A twelve-minute interview with Raggi from Day One is at: https://soundcloud.com/user-544002568/james-raggi-iv-at-uk-games-expo-2016
Another highlight among the new setups was Drawlab Ent’s superb Legendary Metal Coins (which were only €1 each and are excellently sculpted in metal and cover Sci-Fi, fantasy, pirate, medieval, Chinese, Greek, and others, with Cthulhu coming later in the year). They are all beautifully made, the Sci-Fi and Steampunk being personal favourites. Inspiring Games’ “Legends of Untold” cards look like they’ll prove very popular when they’re released, especially with players and referees who can use them on their own to run a game, or as layout tools for designing dungeons, streets, wilderness areas etc. Alex Churchill’s fun steampunk machine designing strategy game “Steam Works” also looks like it’s gaining followers; as are the Sci-Fi outings of Anvil Industry’s “Afterlife” and Hawk Wargames’ “Dropzone Commander”.
Other mentions have to go to DMB Dungeon Tiles, whose products looks amazing and much less expensive than producers in the US; Cartesian Creations and their artistry of the Forge products; All Rolled Up and their cool selection of gaming accessories; and a special mention for Paul Baldowski of Just Crunch Games and his “The Cthulhu Hack” (based on David Black’s OSR Hack “The Black Hack”) which is perfect if you want to run Lovecraftian RPG adventures on a low budget with maximum return.
The cosplay was energetic; the talks inspiring; the game plays well attended and enjoyable; the exhibitors showing as usual the breadth of imagination in game creation and how popular the fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror aspects of the industry are; and for another year it’s all over. UK Games Expo has come and gone too quickly, three days never seeming enough. Next year: take a bigger bag to carry home all of the things you buy!
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