It might seem hard to believe, but I have been looking forward to the UK Games Expo (UKGE) for a year. I booked my accommodation the day I returned home from 2022’s event.
It’s not just trekking the halls and gazing in awe at the wares on offer, but it is also an opportunity to meet other fantastic people in the community. Thanks to an excellent board game library and open gaming tables. Last year, I ended up playing on a table beside Shut Up and Sit Down which was pretty cool. Although I was disappointed they didn’t ask for my autograph!
It’s great for me to reminisce, but let’s be blunt, you all want to know what exciting board games will be discovered this year… well you’re in luck, as this is my selection from the press evening. Starting with some indie and first time publishers and moving into the bigger publishers and distributors.
Split Stone Games
Mycelia should be top of your list for trying out. I’ve been lucky enough to play this a few times and really vouch for it. I never thought I would say it, but playing through the lifecycle of a mushroom is so much fun! Beautiful artwork by the designer combine with the solid gameplay of network building and area control. So head over to the Split Stone Games stand at 1-170 to check it out or read my preview to find our more!
Eerie Idol Games
The Old King’s Crown was one of the most exciting games of the 2022 Expo for me, and many of the people I sent their way. Over the last year the team behind it have been working hard at improving the gameplay and replayability with more interesting decisions to make. A little bit of input from Leder Games has made this even more exciting. If you want to see how things have developed head over to the Eerie Idol Games stand, 2-1075.
Stuff by Bez
Visiting Bez’s stand is always worthwhile! Their games may take you out of your comfort zone, but Bez’s creations are guaranteed to delight and entertain. My personal favourite this year is A Game About Auctioning Cubes after winning a an auction to become the auctioneer. If you can’t find stand 1-T11 look for a blast of red in hall one!
Dexterity games aren’t for everyone I know, but this box of wooden wonderment has a lovely traditional feel about it. There are also oodles of ways to play included in the box. This is another one I have had the pleasure of actually playing, but probably an even better endorsement is how much my, and other kids, have enjoyed playing it. You can find Kugo at stand 2-1152 and my preview here!
To use the family friendly words: this game is poo! So why am I mentioning it? Because Can’t Go is literally a game about answering nature’s call – well it certainly isn’t an overused theme! John from Trywin Games is also a super lovely person so be sure to say stop by stand 1-476 and tell him Nick from Board Game Review sent you!
For those enjoying their games a little heavier, Paverson Games at stand 1-630 have two fantastic looking offerings. The already highly regarded Distilled is available to demo and buy. This resource management game sees players compete to be the best distillery. They also have a sneak peak of their new game Luthier: The Art of the Instrument available. Go take a look at stand 1-630!
This smaller indie publishing house has just wrapped up its Kickstarter of Pioneer Rails. I previewed this poker-style flip and write recently and really enjoyed it. Their previous Kickstarters, Isle of Trains and Solar Sphere, will also be on display at stand 1-T90.
Hachette Games UK
If one publisher/distributor, is absolutely smashing it with their releases, it is Hachette Board Games UK. Almost every game they launch is exciting! The big one I am looking forward to the most is After Us. Set in a post-apocalyptic world this ape-themed deck-builder boasts amazing artwork by Vincent Dutrait. Akropolis was the game I made a bee-line for last year, After Us is the game I will be running to buy this year! Also, if you haven’t tried Akropolis yet, this will be your chance!
Other new releases include Stomp the Plank. I recently reviewed this “kids” game and it is brilliant, so if you get a chance to demo a game of it, I urge you to do so on stand 2-538. They are also showing off Tribes of the Wind and the delightful In the Footsteps of Darwin. They also have a couple of designers floating about on their stand so it will be well worth stopping by!
Tiwanaku won the UKGE award for Best Abstract Game and I can see why. I’ve seen this floating about on Board Game Arena, but haven’t played a game yet. It looks super appealing and I can see lots of people falling in love with this one, you can see it yourself at stand 1-986.
Seeing the table presence of Flamecraft is always a treat but not that new and exciting now. My Shelfie also looks great. I even got to have the dexterous pleasure of slotting a tile down the bookcase, which I can confirm is so much more satisfying than on BGA! More interesting for me was that they have got the rights to bring Cosmoctopus to retail. As a backer of the Kickstarter version, this was a nice teaser of what is to come! Stand 1-638 is where you will find these offerings!
Czech Games Edition
Kutná Hora: The City of Silver is the latest offering from the publishers of Lost Ruins of Arnak. While the title may not be that catchy or memorable, this 2-4 player city-building Eurogame looks really crunchy and interesting. I hope to get a better dive into this over on stand 2-420 ahead of its scheduled Essen release.
Polyomino lovers will not want to miss out on stand 1-992 as Tipperary is being launched at UKGE with Asmodee. I had a chance to play a prototype of this recently and it was an instant hit with all five gamers at the table. Although in the family weight class, there is plenty to entertain more seasoned gamers too.
This distributor had a big reveal up their sleeve, as they are announcing Forbidden Jungle at UKGE. Following on from Forbidden Island, Forbidden Dessert and Forbidden Sky players will cooperatively search a mysterious planet while facing shifting tiles, collapsing locations and a horde of venomous creatures!
New Eden has won the UKGE award for Best Strategic Board Game and looks interesting. As does another new release: Moon River. This Kingdomino family game abandons the domino tiles and instead sees players join two half puzzle pieces to craft the dominoes… fun stuff will be seen on stand 2-720
Final thoughts on UKGE 2023
Like always, it looks to be a good mixture of bigger releases from the larger publishing houses, but the indie designs are equally as exciting. Notable absence from Big Potato Games this year, which surprises me as they have some great titles about to be released with their collaboration with Buffalo games in America.
Now I have stayed up late to tell you about all the exciting stuff, tomorrow I can relax, revisit some of the games and go and play games with awesome people, friends, old and new. If you see me be sure to say hi!