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This weekend saw the second UK Games Expo. So, how is Britainís answer to Essen shaping up?
Rather well actually. Last year was a great start, well attended by companies and gamers alike. It was going to be interesting to see how they followed it up.
The event was again held in the same building. But this year they appeared to have dug out, or glued on, more space. Quite appropriate really given the Doctor Who theme and prominent positioning of a Tardis in one of the rooms. Itís a real warren of a building with halls and rooms leading off every which way. That gives quite a different, more intimate, feel than the enormous halls of Essen. I donít know if there is further expansion space. If there is, there canít be much.
And all of this space was very much needed as there was certainly more to see this year. Miniature wargamers seemed to be particularly well server. Iíd not realised how popular that particular hobby was in the UK. Boardgamers and role players also had plenty to see, and to buy. The number of publishers looked to be about the same but more of them had new games available to try and buy this year. And there were definitely more retailers this year. There was even a dungeon set up in the basement for the live (or would be live) role players to have a crack at.
The one thing I thought was on the light side last year was the amount of space given over to trying games. One of the big things about Essen is the opportunity to sit down at one of hundreds of tables and try out some games. We probably spend the majority of our time there doing just this. I believe that several people raised this issue, and this year it had certainly been addressed. There was a lot of table space made available both for playing demo games and for playing games youíd bought. We took advantage of this and played a couple of games.
These were Tinners Trail and Scanderoon. The former is the first of the Treefrog games from Martin Wallace and crew. It's a medium weight game about mining for tin, with a little bit of pastie selling thrown in for good measure. Lighter than the usual Warfrog offerings, but then that's rather the point of the new line. Nothing massively new in there, but the intertwining of action point costs and player turn order works very nicely. The auctions for the right to build mines, timing, and contention over limited resources, add some nice decisions. It also turned out to be a very tight game, only decided by the last in a series of tie breakers. If Martin can keep up this quality for the other 14 games proposed for this new line, we can look forward to some good games over the next five years.
I think Scanderoon may have been out in time for Essen. I remember seeing a demo copy of at the Expo last year, but can't recall whether it was at Essen or not. Anyway, it's a card game which looks like it will probably offer scope for clever play. Or at least I hope so. I couldn't quite decide if it was as clever as it seemed, as we found ourself ignoring most of the possible options provided. Perhaps that was just bad play on our behalf. Further plays will reveal all.
All in all I'd say the Expo team did a great job putting this together. Where it goes from here I don't know. Most of the British board games publishers were there, though I've really no idea how comprehensive the coverage was from the other sectors. I think the gauntlet has now been laid down though. The Expo has done it's bit; it's up to the British gaming industry to rise to the challenge now and grow.
Comment by Andy
This year's fair definitely represented a step up from 2007. It was good to see that board games were well represented along with other types of gaming. I say this not to marginalize the other types of games but just to emphasise that as board gamers there was enough there that we stayed for the majority of the day (unlike last years where we only stayed a couple of hours).
It's still not Essen, that's clear but there was a lot to be gained by just exploring the venue. Just be warned that if you take a dwarf along with you that they will be tempted to start digging for gold in all those tunnels, erm, corridors.