Updated: Oct 10, 2022
UKGE 2022 just came and went and it was epic. As the UK's largest board game convention, it was great to see UKGE back to its full scale best after the lock down pause and small scale 2021 show. There were over 20,000 unique attendees with close to 40,000 visits to the three halls and Hilton hotel over the weekend. Pretty impressive considering the way the world is right now.
As I said in my show article "Are we still geeks" we are rolling with the mainstream now! 100,000 go to Comic Con in the UK each year, Crufts gets 160,000, and 50,000 go to the British Motor show each year. We are getting there!
Article from UKGE show guide.
The show was a huge success from what I could see. But it doesn't go unnoticed to me that not everyone had a great time. Some games looking for kickstarter support at the show have cancelled and some attendees looking for other gamers to play with have commented on how hard it was to find people. Nothing in life is ever perfect for everyone, but speaking from my own experience, I had an absolute blast and found it to be incredibly well run. But I hope all the below games find huge success soon, they deserve it. And I hope my tips below may help you if you plan to go in the future. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 independent published games on UKGE 22 and my suggestions for future visits on how to make the most of your time at a busy convention.
Top 5 Independent Games at UKGE 2022.
I love this game, and Tom, the man behind the Amulet, is an absolute gentleman. I saw this game last ear at UKGE and at Airecon this year but didn't have the chance to play it. I met Tom this Thursday at the press event and was blown away by his passion, enthusiasm, and dedication to this game. He was packing up at 10pm Thursday night as I was sitting down to play games so he could drive back from Birmingham to London to then drive back with his volunteer crew ready to set up for the show the next day. I saw Tom on Friday for a demo and the guy was running on fumes after 20 minutes sleep. But this is the reality for an independently run and funded game. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. But thankfully, after my demo of Amulet of Thrayax, a great game too. I instantly backed it. But it has sadly had to cancel due to a lack of momentum, but will be back soon. I would heartily recommend it.
Amulet of Thrayax a mix of take-that, area control, very clever card play, and smart timing. The amulet moves around the circular board made up of six districts, affecting all tokens it shines down upon. Playing as one of six eccentric cults, you need to work your way around the board collecting points from harvesting the souls of nobles and peasants in the dystopian city of Bleakpire.
Peasants are worth one point each, but are also used for movement each round, and a bidding mechanic for being first player between rounds. The Nobles are worth ten points, but are a lot harder to acquire. On your turn, you can move and must play or burn one Murder card and one Counter card. Moving costs one Peasant for one space, two for two, three for three etc. You can play the cards at any point or burn to play one of you inconvenience tokens. Inconvenience tokens activate at the end of your turn and are another other way to harvest peasants but they wont necessarily all go to you. It depends what players are in the area that the inconvenience token has been placed.
Each card has various stages on it, with even more higher powered options if the Amulet is facing your way when you play it. Each district is divided into a protected and unprotected side. Peasant's and Nobel's can move from either side, or be moved into neighbouring distracts. It's a clever, ever changing board, that looks gorgeous, but every part does something functional. It is very easy to learn this game thanks to the layout and thought behind the art.
I am gutted this cancelled, and cannot wait for it to launch again. I loved everything about this game. The art, the gameplay, rules, mechanics, and team behind it.
ISLA (pronounced Iz-Lar before we start at Jurassic Park style argument) is from Ocean City Games, the team behind 2020 hit Salvage Hidden Treasures. They are also working on Towers of Ra which looks fun, but next up it's Isla, an explorative roll-and-write using polyhedral dice.
Each turn, players roll five dice, and chose to either move to explore the Island, rest to recover their lowest die, or research to select a card showing either the flora or fauna in the island, or maybe even a fossil they discovered. These get you points. The further you travel into the island, the trickier things get.
It looks gorgeous, and plays very smoothly. I cannot wait for this kickstarter to launch.
I love hidden movement games and I love the theming of a 1970s American cop film. Add the two together with some really clever mechanics, and I am sold.
Similar to other hidden movement games, there are plenty of ways to move around the city. In this game using the freeway, trolley bus, or famous San Francisco Cable Car systems. But, unlike other hidden movement games, this isn't just about finding the other player. One player plays as the assassin and needs to take out three victims. The other player, playing as the cop needs to track the assassin down, and stop any more killings. But each time you find the assassin, they wont just come quietly, they will fight back!
The game looks stunning and has some very smooth and slick rules. I am very keen to get this one soon!
4. Psychobabble - Cheatwell Games - More info here.
This game draw me in with the gorgeous art, but the simple rule twist made me stay! This is a social deduction game set in the Arkham Asylum where it seems a mass hysteria has plagued the town. But not everyone is mad, and the players have no idea what role they are playing!
As a therapist in the asylum, you find a pattern and realise that your patients are not mad at all, in fact, they are all cursed! Well, some are! Their visions all seem the same and you need to solve the riddle of their shared nightmares. Although, real patients who are suffering from insanity bring their random dreams to you as well, which will affect your ability to make a rational deduction. And the other players wont help. No one has any idea if they are insane or not!
Designer Kedric Winks was an absolute gentleman, and it made me realise how much the people behind a game mean to me when it comes to the games I enjoy.
I love a sprawling universe and there are not many bigger worlds to explore than this. 30 years ago, designer Chris Loizou created an Table top RPG set in the world of Thargos. The universe he created was deep, full of adventure, and has since spawned multiple spin of games, all set in the same world. I was drawn in by this gorgeous map, but the story behind the various games all set in the same world really captivated me.
The art is wonderful. So thematic, deeply engrossing and vibrant. The games all looked highly linked to every part of this world, and intrinsically inter-connected. There was so much to explore, and so much to come.
Top 5 suggestions to have a good time at a convention - based on things I witnessed there and many complaints I have heard since.
The vibe in every convention I go to is generally 99.9% positive. But you get the odd spat here and there. Inevitable really. With so many people, and the physical and mental challenges a crowded, loud room brings this is to be expected. But there are things we can all do to avoid this. Each convention has its own style. Airecon is more for gaming. Essen is all about the exhibitors and international relationships. UKGE seems to sit between these. I sense some always want a convention to be all about one thing over the other. Which leads me to tip number 1.
Know what you are walking into. If you are a solo gamer looking for other players, UKGE is not perfectly set up for this. But there are ways you can still have a great time and meet other gamers. Play some demos and start chatting to the other gamers around you. Try some of the talks and events, and see who else may be sat alone there and go say hello. Although, I appreciate, this sounds incredibly daunting to some, so I also suggest reaching out to other like minded people who are going prior to the con on Instagram. Instagram is a very supportive and inclusive community. But sometimes you may need to make the first step as people may not know you are going or going alone and looking for friends. Reach out and say hello to people who you know are going. This is a great way to start a conversation that could end with them asking you for a game when you are there or introducing you to a group that will be present at the show. I for one would be happy for anyone to reach out and say hello to me on insta, and I know many others who would be the same. Jenny from Board Game Family Uk for one. She is amazing at bring new people in and making them feel welcome.
Understand the reason for the show. Exhibitors are there to try and cover the huge costs they have put into the last four or five years or their lives, trying to make a game. I appreciate getting to the fair is not cheap and easy for the visitors either, but I saw some unjust behaviour when people were not able to haggle an already discounted price to be even lower from a small independent seller, or got upset when they were asked to cut a demo short for others to sit down and try their game. Just be mindful that they are humans too and probably operating on a tiny budget with minimal profits if any. They desperately need to get as many people to try their game as possible. It's a demo, not full play. But if you want to try the full game, talk to the team there, most I am sure would find time to meet after the convention in open gaming and set up a full game and they would love your enthusiasm.
The larger stalls with the bigger publishers and distributers will have less pressure on them but the staff will be mainly volunteers that don't work for the company and are not being paid to be there. They are just having their costs covered so they can experience the show too. If someone cannot teach you the game perfectly have some patience. They are not a professional, probably only just saw the game that day, and may be suffering from the same anxieties many others at the fair have too.
Bring your own food and drink. Food and drink is often expensive at a convention due to high rents. Queues can often be long too. So, instead, perhaps bring some food of your own and use this as an opportunity to get some fresh air. Relax outside for a bit, take some time for yourself, refresh, and come back stronger. Still with money in your wallet for games and no time wasted in lines. If you have travelled far, then you can always look at going to a local supermarket, or if that is not possible, reach out to locals who could help. I'd happily bring some sarnies along if only I lived closer myself.
Slow down and be open to new things. There is so much going on, you will find it hard to stick to a pre-arrange schedule all the time. Rushing from one end of the hall to another to try and get somewhere will cause you stress, and potentially others too. Moving through the isles can be tricky as it gets busy, some have children or buggies and many are carrying lots of bags! Be mindful of this and don't expect to be able to glide through long distances quickly. Take your time. See what you can spot on the way. Something cool may catch your eye!
Hopefully see you at the next one!