Updated: Sep 19, 2019
This week’s Weekend Warrior is coming to you from the hallowed halls of the NEC in Birmingham, the heart of gaming in the UK, it’s the UK Games Expo. As always you can expect some lovely videos of people we spoke to at the show but for right now you’ll just have to settle for some words about the games I played.
Easily my most played game of the weekend was Daring Dustbunnies. Some cynical people might think that this was because I was tired and had all my camera gear and just needed somewhere to sit but actually this prototype title from the singular mind of Andy Hopwood is actually pretty good. While the royal purple and lime green colour scheme on the board may be considered garish, the game has won a little place in my heart.
Simple to explain and simple to play Dustbunnies has a depth to it that belies its cutesy exterior. Each player is betting on a fluffball, hoping to be the one with their ball closest to the hoover when the game ends but not getting sucked up by it. Each player is secretly rooting for one of the six balls (which are used in every game regardless of player count) but they can play cards to move any dustball. By timing your card play and your use of static (which allows you to move dustballs backwards or activate special powers) you can manipulate the field to your advantage. Cunning players will quickly learn how to combo their cards and static to end the game on their own terms when their ball is in the lead.
My first play of Dustbunnies was underwhelming, it just felt like a luck-fest which I lost utterly. However, after playing four more games and finishing 1st or 2nd in each I can really see that Andy has something interesting here and I look forward to seeing how the game develops.
After trying to learn a different game in a very noisy room, we gave up and decided to play Saboteur with seven us! It was super fun, for me at least. We were playing roughly with half new players and half experienced ones, but everyone picked it quickly.
Game one played out in typical fashion with the gold miners winning with only two Saboteurs in the group. In the second game the Saboteurs came out early and they came out swinging. Nate Brett, the Minister of Board Games, decided to show his colours early allowing me to fly under the radar. I even managed to fix his pick axe so he could continue causing havoc without the other players realising. The sheer outrage was amazing and when we won the miners were indignant with rage!
The final game I was a saboteur again and the game should have been a foregone conclusion. I started the game holding two of the three Cave-in cards, meaning that all I needed to do was block the miners paths twice and they would be unable to reach their goal. However, with a series of attacks on my character and a distinct lack of help from my fellow saboteurs we lost leading to a three way tie for first place on six nuggets.
Next we broke out the Pack O’Games. This is a series of games that come in chewing gum style boxes. The one we opted to play was Gym, which is basically a simplified version of Blood Bowl Team Manager. The game is split into two phases, the draft comes first where players drafts kids and influence which games will be played in the next round. Once all 24 kids have been drafted it's time for the play phase. This is largely chaos. There are four events and your aim is to play kids at the events that they are good at, however each time you play a kid you get to move the kids around unless the coach is watching. At the end of the game, the players score points for every kid in each event and amazingly we ended with the game all tied up at 17 points a piece.
Gym is a fun little game but it’s chaotic and really it’s largely a two-player game that can be played with 4 or 6, you just make fewer choices each.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Well the less said about this the better. Sheriff of Nottingham is a great game, however it does go a little longer than I would like. With 5 players you play ten rounds over about two hours. I do really enjoy the negotiation aspect of the game, the bluffing, the counter bluffing, but it could be shorter.
However the real indignation here was that after two hours I LOST! The aforementioned Nate was playing the corrupt Sheriff, on his first turn as Sheriff he simply allowed all bags through with a donation of 5 coins. I naturally snook through 5 contraband and patted myself on the back.
However on Nate’s second turn as Sheriff (and the second to last turn of the game) he declared that the same deal was in effect and I fell for it, hook line and sinker. I was not even offered a chance to bribe him further and after my 20 coin fine I was left needing to search everyone in the hopes of recouping my gold on the final turn.
To my shame I have never played any of YAY Games titles so as we roamed the halls looking for demos we took advantage of an all too rare empty table and had a go. Our first play was a little anemic however, my co-host Mike Barnes was explaining the game wrong. Once Andy Harmon came over and set us straight on the rules I found the game a lot more entertaining and I’m super happy for YAY that they won the Best Abstract Strategy Game at the show! Well Done Andy!
Nimbee was the other game we managed to demo. I can’t fairly review the game as we only played one round but I don’t think it was for me. The components were lovely and I could see what the game was trying to do but all in all it felt a little light and at the £20 price point a little too pricey too.
This was the first game we played on Saturday evening as the open gaming began. Kerala is a title from Kosmos and I wasn’t expecting much from it as we punched out the tiles. However I found the game really quite engaging. It’s a very light abstract strategy game where you are attempting to build areas of colour without having more than one area of each. You can only build adjacent to one of your Elephants which is where the strategy lies, in not allowing yourself to become trapped and unable to place tiles.
I smashed this one, with a clear lead. It’s probably not something I feel I need to own but I would happily play again if presented with the choice, very cool little game.
Tom Norfolk’s Awesome Unpublished Dice Game
I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about this game right now but Tom Norfolk, the designer of Stak Bots and Lure has another game he’s working on and I LOVE it. It’s a fast, fun dice game that uses dice in a really unique way that I just haven’t seen anywhere else. If/when this game finally comes out I will be first in line for a copy… and you should be in line right behind me!
Sea of Clouds
I was a little disappointed with Sea of Clouds. I love the artwork, iello always does an amazing job of that but I just felt that for a game about pirates racing for treasure and fighting each other, the game wasn’t very interactive. Once again, I won but that victory felt a little hollow. I was third in the turn order, meaning that if the first and second player passed on the cards in play I often ended up with 3 cards which were almost always worth taking, while poor Olly who was fourth ended up with barely anything.
Librium is a dexterity game where players attempt to stack credit cards with slots in them on a mini tripod. The player who knocks the whole thing over loses. There isn’t really much else to say about it. This one feels like a pub game, a little mindless and lacking any real tactics that I could discern but fun enough to pass a bit of time while you wait for something more fun to play.
Hunger: The Show
Unfortunately that more fun thing was not Hunger: The Show. This is not a good game, although once again it could be suffering from the rules explanation by Mike Barnes. However there are some bad decisions going on here. Firstly the board is inside the box which has high sides and thus stops you from seeing inside it. Secondly we had so many bad events we all starved to death long before we got off the island. Thirdly the art direction has every female member of the show in tiny shorts and a top that is barely more than a bra. However, my biggest problem was the steal action. You could attempt to gather resources and gain one token, or you could steal and get all the tokens from all players at that location. If you stole at a location with no players you still got to draw coconut tokens which would probably have something on them. If you got stole from you got nothing and in a 5 player game, you were almost guaranteed to be sharing a location with at least 1 player so why not steal?
It's possible we played wrong but so far as I could see this one is a dud.
Until next time keep on gaming and let us know in the comments if you played anything fun at the show!