I was lucky enough to visit the London Toy Fair 2023 at Kensington Olympia. I got to meet and chat with some of the best board game publishers and distributors in the UK and thought I would share some of the new releases that I heard about.
The Toy Fair is not open to the public and is generally for business-to-business relationships and media, which is how I snuck in. Walking the halls, I see name badges for buyers from major high street and online retailers. As many people can’t get an invite, I thought I would share the games, news and gossip that I heard throughout the day.
At last year’s Toy Fair, I got my first glimpse of my most played games of 2022, Akropolis and Next Station London. So I was eager to see what would stand out this year!
Hachette Board Games UK
It is always a treat to spend time with the team from Hachette Board Games UK. Their enthusiasm is unwavering and infectious. Plus they have games you can actually play! I was introduced to the children’s game ‘Stomp the Plank’. This push-your-luck game stood out from the crowd and for a kid’s game I could see myself playing this with so-called ‘grownups’ a heck of a lot! It is going firmly on the wishlist for when it releases soon.
For the more seasoned board gamer there offerings were the most interesting. Three titles got me drooling, and not just because Flavian, Richie and Rory had tempted me with a humbug! ‘After Us’, ‘Tribes of the Wind’ and ‘In the Footsteps of Darwin’ all look super-exciting and I will be keeping my eyes out for them all later this year!
They also had a couple of party games to tease, I played a demo of a party game called ‘Crack List’ with the designers which was a giggle, especially as I had a complete brain fart and couldn’t remember what a carousel was!
It is always a pleasure to catch up with the lovely team at Kosmos Games. They are such lovely welcoming people, I could hang out on their stall all day. Immediately catching my eye was an expansion to ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ called ‘Friar Tuck in Danger’. It comes with a softback book, additional tiles to lay on the board and even a board extension.
The next Exit Advent Calendar was all too tempting and an Exit game featuring Sherlock was intriguing too. While many would be getting excited for ‘The Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom’, my eyes alighted on the new range of so-called ‘Open and Play Games’. For me, Monster 12 was the pick of the bunch from these easily portable, quick and simple titles. I love the accessibility and can imagine these being carried in my backpack everywhere! They are due out in April.
The ’My City Roll & Build’ and ‘My Island’ game were also vying for my attention, and many will be pleased to hear that a new Andor game and an expansion for Andor Family are coming soon.
Representing some great publishers, Coiledspring Games’ had some exciting news. My ears pricked up when I heard the next Unmatched installment, ‘Houdini vs The Genie’, is coming soon.
I got a really good look at Foodie Forest, this Knizia trick taking card game has had an Iello makeover and looks brilliant. Speaking of gorgeous games, ‘Flashback Zombie Kidz’ has fantastic artwork, it’s a choose-your own adventure style investigatory card game.
‘Subway Squeeze’ and ‘New Eden’ both leapt off the shelf too and grabbed my attention for different reasons. It was also nice to see some other titles that are already released that had passed me by, like newly released ‘Infernal Wagon’.
Alley Cat Games
It was awesome to finally meet the Alley Cat team, they had some exciting news and ideas around supporting FLGS which I thought was interesting. The new anniversary edition of Knizia classic ‘Amun-Re’ looked great and I came away with an unexpected copies of ‘Catstronaughts’, ‘Kittin’ and ‘Tinderblox’, all three look super fun! Tinderblox got straight to the table at dinner that night!
I stopped in my tracks when I found out University Games will be representing Forbidden Games in the UK. Raccoon Tycoon has been on my wishlist for ages and I found out it is in the UK exclusively at Waterstones already! I’ve been missing out! Lizard Wizard and Dungeon Party had arrived. I also got my first peek at the stunning production that is Mosaic: a Story of Civilization which is coming in a densely packed box soon!
On top of a developing an array of case files and murder mystery style games I was taken back to my childhood when I saw a set up of Subbuteo on their stand. I was tempted with the England Lionesses set to see if it held up to my childhood memories! Apparently it won’t, as the legs are now bendy and won’t break as easily as they used to! At least if I buy a set, I won’t have to also invest in superglue!
Not so much in the way of new games on offer but some very exciting glimpses of revised versions. The Awaken Realms ‘Castles of Burgundy’ was obviously the most exciting, but a new version of ‘Disney Eye Found It’ and a refreshed ‘Quest for El Dorado’ were still exciting. They wouldn’t let me take any photos though so you’ll have to use your imagination!
Big Potato Games
Arguably the most exciting news from their stand is that they have teamed up with Buffalo Games in America and are bringing titles such as ‘Planted: A Game of Nature and Nurture’ over to the UK in June. Great news for those not wanting to pay the killer postage fees that I endured to get this current Target-exclusive board game to UK shores! No news on Summer Camp though at this time.
From their own offering, an expansion to ‘Herd Mentality’ was a very welcome sight indeed with an splendid superstar cow. I had a fun round of ‘Block Party’ too which was similar to Pictionary but with coloured cubes.
I couldn’t get that close to this corporate giant, but pulling in Matt Edmondson to demo his latest game was obviously their trump card, everything else on offer felt very familiar, with demos of The Sock Game and the board game adaptation of ‘In For a Penny’. They were certainly geared-up for mainstream high street mega business deals. I felt sorry for any new serious hobby board games that they will be distributing as they were overshadowed by Pokémon and party games.
Final thoughts on the London Toy Fair 2023
First impressions are that 2023 is going to be a fantastic year for kids games. I think there will be plenty to tempt more experienced gamers too. Overall, I felt that there were a lot of companies focused on rejuvenating or building-on already popular offerings and IPs.
I’m certainly pleased I went. It is always nice putting names to faces and chatting board games. Oh and a special shout out to Plant: The Green Kitchen for serving up an incredible salad lunch and a much needed pick-me-up cookie at the end of the day.