Tag Archives: UK Games Expo

Episode 41 – Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Top Ten Games

A special episode taken live from the UK Games Expo 2012 held in Birmingham at the end of May. I was lucky enough to present Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone as they discussed their Top Ten Games of All Time as well as getting a few insights into their long careers. Beginning with getting Dungeons and Dragons into the UK, they then launched Games Workshop and began the Fighting Fantasy adventure game books line which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this coming August. Get ready to hear about some interesting choices and some truly intriguing tales!

This episode’s links:

Direct download – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/9cqjzy/LMD_Episode41.mp3

UK Games Expo site – http://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk/

Fighting Fantasy – http://www.fightingfantasy.com/

Zombies At Your Heels indiegogo page – http://www.indiegogo.com/zayh

Special Effect, the charity supported by Zombies At Your Heels – http://www.specialeffect.org.uk/

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All Together Now – UK Games Expo 2011

So, let’s talk about the UK Games Expo 2011.

In a nutshell, it was a very busy, very enjoyable weekend. Three days of gaming goodness in the UK’s second city with hundreds of like minded people is always something to cherish, but this year was special down to a couple of firsts; I was lucky enough to be able to get there for the entire event – something I’ve not been able to do before down to time or money issues. The main thing though? I was there to work. And who’d have thought that talking about stuff could be so exhausting?

As part of the UK Gaming Media Network, we’d approached the Expo organisers to see if they’d be up for letting us come to the event and provide live coverage of the event to be streamed online. After a bit of convincing that we’d be able to do it they gave us the go ahead – then the hard work really began. Mark Rivera from Board Games in Blighty began collecting together a pantheon of guests for us to talk to, hounding them with emails and booking them in to the schedule as one by one they relented and said Yes.

Just arrived! Those smiles will soon fade through exhaustion!

Friday morning rolled round and a very early train got me to Birmingham. I met up with Chris Bowler from Unboxed – our fixer! – at the station just after 9am and we headed to site. After grabbing our passes from the door team, we were shown to our little area and set up the gear for a few test broadcasts. I’d done a test run the previous weekend but I had no idea if it’d actually work out in the wild – thankfully the show organiser Richard Denning was on hand to help out, showing off a couple of his new designs (Hastings 1066 and The Great Museum) as I fluffed around with cables, cameras and computers. The first recordings had a few sound issues, but the problem was soon sorted after a few wires were jiggled about. If you’d like to check out the live streams, they’re all to be found at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/uk-games-expo

After dealing with Richard’s two games, we were joined by the ace Patrick Ruedisueli who was over at the show to promote his upcoming board game Existenz, based on their already available card game X610Z. It’s a beautiful looking game that got a lot of good notices at the show. With luck, they’re aiming for an October release – check out http://www.x610z.com/ for more information (and expect a review of their Living Card Game soon). We also met up with the guys behind Zombie Close, the first release from Braincandy.uk. While it had a few nice ideas, it also had some issues that needed dealing with – the rulebook especially needed a bit of tightening up, but it’s always good to see first time attendees getting their stuff out there. We also got the chance to meet the wonderful Lewis Pulsipher who was appearing on a couple of our panels – his joyously sardonic ways were to appear more than once over the weekend.

Happy in the knowledge that everything worked, we derigged everything and booked into our various hotels, then managed to get in some gaming over at the Strathallen Hotel. I met up with Chris O’ Regen (one of my colleagues from videogame site spong.com) to get some revenge at Yomi while other gamers took over every available flat surface available. We also broke out a three player game of the excellent Alien Frontiers (review coming soon) before a bunch of us headed for dinner. The evening then drew to a close with what can only be an epic Battlestar Galactica game…

 

It all began well enough. Five players assumed their roles after a quick description of the rules – Mark, Chris, Chris’ mate Sam, Brett from 55 Cards and myself (although I dropped out a little way in, with Steph taking my place). The paranoia levels were high from the start. Suspicions and accusations flew with abandon as characters were thrown in the brig on a regular basis. After a bit of a rules fluff (Mark didn’t get that Cylons can reveal any time and begin using their own locations so ended up in the brig for a good hour) everything quickly went downhill for the poor humans. President (and former Admiral) Brett was sure that Chris and Steph were Cylon traitors – but how wrong he was. Mark, who had by now revealed his toaster tendencies, was causing merry hell while Sam was secretly scuppering everything he could lay his hands on. Resources ran lower than any game of BSG I’ve ever seen – everything was down to 1 with the humans still far from home, and the final Crisis Card decreed their fate. The Cylons were victorious, and Sam hadn’t even officially revealed himself. A very entertaining game indeed, even as an observer. By the end of the game (around 11.30pm) there were a lot of tired folks about and the various games rooms were winding down… time for bed.

One of the *many* game rooms at the Strathallen Hotel. This was around 11pm on Friday.

Saturday morning rolled round with another early start (sensing a theme here?) and saw the team traipsing over to the Expo site with bleary eyes. With everything set up, tested and ready to go by 8.30am, I took some time to wander the rooms and check out what was on offer before the crowds descended. I love checking out the various stalls, coveting the thousands of games on offer – window shopping was pretty much my limit this year though. Any money to be spent on games was coming from the few bits I had put into the always impressive Bring and Buy room. I did actually come out with about £40 after my games sold, but £20 of that went on a book for Steph while £14 was dropped on a copy of The ElfQuest Boardgame (don’t ask, it was a gift for a friend of ours). The trifling coppers I was left with still managed to be exchanged for a copy of Mini FITS though. Nice to walk out with something, no matter how small!

The stands were all pretty impressive, notably Triple Ace’s effort – you’ve never seem so much shiny stuff. A special mention has to be made for Surprised Stare whose giant Paperclip Railways gets the award for “Thing I Would Most Have Liked To Steal”. I think Tony Boydell (the game’s designer) saw the crazed look in my eye and gave me a bunch of promo stations for the regular sized game simply to stop any potential criminal activity. The Stupid City tile was particularly impressive…

The public soon began to swarm in and the work of the day began. A parade of designers visited our little corner of the room to show off their games, all gathering little crowds around our table. Between Mark and myself, we spoke with them all – and dare I say it, I reckon we did pretty well (Chris even jumped in for a couple of demos on the Sunday and was equally good!). However, the big things were yet to come – the panels.

I have to admit I was really worried about them. The first on the list was a “Meet the Media” kind of thing where Chris, Mark and myself were going to talk about gaming in the UK and what we’re doing to try and promote it. We were a couple of minutes late thanks to us having the pleasure of Martin Wallace talking about his upcoming Discworld game Ankh-Morpork (which I’m very excited about – it’s beautiful and very solid yet accessible). I didn’t even think we’d have more than a handful of people show up, but walking into the room… I was totally made up. There was a good 50 people in there to start with and Lewis Pulsipher was sitting up front holding court until our arrival. We took our seats, talked for a while about ourselves (which got easier) and answered a bunch of questions from the crowd which actually got bigger. What’s even better is NOBODY GOT UP AND WALKED OUT. Consider me shocked but also pretty pleased. Thank you to everyone who came to listen to us babble!

After our panel was done, I was left behind as the others returned to run more live demonstations. I wasn’t abandoned though, just assuming the role of host instead of panelist as I took control of the RPG Designers Seminar. Joined by Sarah and Ian from Cubicle 7, the ever present Lewis (there as he’s written a fair bit of stuff for D&D) and the brilliant Eero Tuovinen, there was discussion on what’s good to play, how to get kids excited about RPGs, approaches to writing and much more. Again, the room was packed and a splendid time was had by all. More thanks are due to our esteemed guests – it was a pleasure, especially hearing how Finnish players are coerced into games. Basically it seems to boil down to kidnapping people who are smaller than you from malls and demanding they play… whatever works, I suppose!

The packed out Board Game Designers Panel. Initially terrifying. Ultimately fantastic.

A hastily grabbed sandwich (after realising I’d eaten all of one cereal bar in 8 hours) gave me a bit of an energy boost – well needed, as after watching a couple more demonstrations going out live, I was back upstairs for what was one of my highlights of the weekend – the Boardgame Designers Panel. Again, I was a bit nervous – after all, we had the cream of the crop all on one room. Tony and Alan from Suprised Stare, Gary and Steve of the Ragnar Brothers, John Yianni, Gordon from Fragor Games, David from Backspindle, Alessio Cavatore from River Horse and Martin Wallace – having them all gathered in the same place was amazing, and to be in charge of wrangling them all was an honour. Everyone was in grand form, the standing room only crowd had a pile of great questions that all the designers were happy to answer and there was plenty of banter flying about. A truly great hour – I only wish it could have been longer. Here’s hoping for a repeat next year.

Tony Boydell (Surprised Stare) demos Paperclip Railways. Mark looks on, impressed. Honest.

By now the halls were a little quieter, but there was still work to be done. I presented the final few videos of the day then had another wander around before packing up all our gear and heading back to the hotel for a break (and – of course – to watch Doctor Who). Steph and I got some dinner then returned to the Strathallen, but could we find a table? Nope. Some judicious hanging around meant we eventually got one, but by then everyone we saw was involved in a game, so we set up for a 2-player Alien Frontiers (where I snatched victory by having more Tech cards – I’ll take what I get). Again, it was getting late so we skulked back to the hotel knowing there’d be another early start on Sunday.

Which, of course, there was. There were also a couple of fire alarms in the night, which were not exactly conducive to sleep! Fuelled by crappy coffee and yet more cereal bars, Team UKGMN ran yet more demonstrations and live videos. Mark conducted an impromptu interview with Larry Roznai, the President of Mayfair Games and I had the pleasure of introducing Lewis’ “You can make a game, but can you make a good one?” Lew definitely had some interesting ideas – all of which you can find on his site: http://pulsiphergames.com/ – and one lucky attendee walked away with an unpunched 1986 copy of his classic Britannia (which I happened to have sitting in my collection and was in need of a new home).

More demonstrations followed at our area as the final day drew to a close. After a quick run around the halls to say goodbye to the many fantastic folks I’d met over the weekend (and grab a copy of AEG’s amazing War of Honor), it was time to pack up and leave Birmingham for another year. All in all, it was a tiring but amazing weekend – new friends were made, faces were put to many many names and a good time was had by all. Here’s hoping that the 2012 Expo will be as much fun!

Thanks to all the UKGMN team for your efforts – I honestly believe that we added something a bit special to the weekend. Cheers to everyone who watched our live stream and videos (especially those who helped out on Twitter on Friday morning as we were testing everything) and thanks to all the designers and publishers who came to demonstrate their games at our table. Massive gratitude has to go to the Expo staff who were all so helpful – special applause has to go to Richard Denning, the show organiser for letting us in to do our stuff. Finally, cheers to all the people who came up to me over the weekend with kind words to say about The Little Metal Dog Show – they were all greatly appreciated.

So… see you all at Essen?

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Love Train – Paperclip Railways review

This June, I’m lucky enough to be presenting a couple of panels at the UK Games Expo. One of the talks I’m chairing is with a selection of some of the finest game designers that the country has to offer, one of whom is Tony Boydell from Surprised Stare Games. We got to talking about what they have planned for the future and he revealed a small project he’s working on called Paperclip Railways. This isn’t going to be a huge release – in fact it’ll be limited to 120 copies that will be available at the show itself – but Tony asked me if I fancied having a look. Who am I to say no?  He sent the files over and away I went.

Now, I have never, ever made up a print and play game. I know that a lot of people are big fans of this most DIY of gaming genres, but for me? Never really felt like making the effort. I like opening up a box after tearing off the plastic cover, pulling cards from their cellophane wrapping, poring over the minis… why on earth would I want to go to the effort of making something when I can just pull something off the shelf? It’d take something a bit special to turn this attitude around. Something a bit different, a little innovative and interesting. After reading through the rules, my interest was certainly piqued.

First thing to do was to scavenge the necessary parts so the game could be played. Paperclips were easy enough to come by (thank you Staples), but the coloured cubes were a little trickier. Despite having a huge branch of Hobbycraft local to me, they were unable to provide what I wanted. Cue a bit of innovation on my part as a I grabbed a few packs of coloured Fimo crafting clay. A couple of hours of solid work and thirty minutes of baking that evening saw me with enough cubes of the necessary colours so up to five people can play – and if I dare say it myself, I think they lend to the cutesy feel of the game. Sure, wooden blocks would be perfectly serviceable, but these look like candy! The final version of the game will, of course, come with all the bits necessary to play it straight out of the box.

Walking in on this will confuse the hell out of most people.

The rules may come across as simple, but at its core is a rather challenging game. Three to five players take turns in building and extending a network of towns and sites that are represented on square cards. These cards can be placed anywhere, but when you put one down it must be linked via a track to a place you’ve already got as part of your network. Tracks, made up by the coloured paperclips that give the game its name, can be purchased in sets of three by discarding cards from your hand. Points are scored by adding the amount each town is worth to the number of paperclips in the track that links the two cards. Points can also be lost if your tracks pass over those owned by other players, the string of blue clips that makes up a river, or touch the larger tiles that depict mountains or lakes. Bonuses can also be accrued either immediately or at the game end, depending on the text that is found on the card that you’ve played.

After a fair few plays, it strikes me that the game is a really a mix of two genres. First of all, you’re managing your hand of cards, deciding what you’ll keep in order to grow your network and what can be sacrificed so you can garner more paperclips. Once you have them, you must consider the placement of your cards and clips, shifting the game into spacial awareness territory – do you cluster everything in one area or try to reach out into your opponents’ zones? You’re allowed to build track into towns already set up by the other players (as long as there is space, signified by a cube limit on each card – if that limit is reached, no more building in or out of that town is allowed).  The playing area gets pretty full quickly and even halfway through the game you’ll need to think hard about what the optimal placements could be.

Getting pushed for space!

So, the simple question: was building my own copy of Paperclip Railways worth the effort? All in all, it probably cost me about £15 to get everything together to get the game up and running and I honestly think that’s a bargain. Despite this being (in Tony’s own words) “a bit of fun” that was dreamt up at last year’s Essen fair, the game is incredibly solid. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the lovely String Railway from Japon Brand, but this is definitely a title that stands up for itself. It’s incredibly easy to get the hang of but sufficiently brain-burning to challenge a wide range of players. As mentioned above, the game will be available in limited quantities at Birmingham’s UK Games Expo, but should you not be able to get there copies can be reserved and set aside by dropping an email to the guys at Surprised Stare. The best thing is, you won’t even have to hunt about for the bits to play it – everything will be provided so it’s playable out of the box! Get in touch at feedback@surprisedstaregames.co.uk but please remember – there’s no pricing available yet! Tony has also said that reserving a copy will not bind you into buying a copy of the game, but if you even think you may half-kind-of-maybe want one, I’d fire off an email pretty soon.

Oh, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a copy? You might want to print off this…

BIG TIME, BABY! Little Metal Dog Show's first appearance in a game!

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News and stuff – 11th June 2010

While the eyes of the whole world are focusing on football (mine included, I’m writing this just as South Africa have taken the lead against Mexico) the crushing inevitability of The Little Metal Dog News Report arrives to the sound of a stadium full of vuvuzelas!

Following last weekend’s UK Games Expo, the results of the Expo awards have been released. Voted by show visitors and a panel of selected judges, the gongs this year went to the Ragnar Brothers Workshop Of The World (Best New Board Game), Forbidden Island (Best Family Game), World Cup Card Game 2010 (Best Card Game, but there weren’t many others!) and Mijnlieff (Best Abstract). There’s been plenty of talk about the first two, not least on Little Metal Dog, and of course if you’d like to read more about the Expo, you can check out my thoughts right here. As the dust has now settled, there’s been a bit of discussion on how the show can be improved – people who pre-ordered tickets seemed to be a little annoyed that those paying cash on the day got in quicker, for example, but it looks like the organisers are taking things on board and will be continuing to do so when organising the 2011 event.

Days of Wonder are a company who have really embraced their online presence, making great versions of their board games for online play through their website. It’s obvious that their customers enjoy them as nearly 20 million games have been clocked up on their servers since the launch a few years back. To celebrate reaching this momentous figure, DoW have announced a competition of sorts: the players of the 20,000,000th game – no matter what it may be – will recieve some rather nice prizes:  the winner of the game will be sent a brand new 16GB iPad, pre-loaded with one of their more recent releases, Small World. The other players won’t be left out though, as they’ll all get an 8GB iPod Touch to help them deal with the ignominy of defeat. Not a bad little deal at all, so what have you got to lose?

Finally, a few mentions of interesting upcoming releases. Bruno Faidutti (who you’ll be able to listen to on the next episode of The Little Metal Dog Show) and Gwenaël Bouquin are putting out Smiley Face through Fantasy Flight Games later in the year. Another quick card game, players need to match up cards while causing mischief to others. There’s also an element of betting in there, as you can pull out of rounds while nominating someone you think will win – this will give you points as well as them. Bruno has also been talking about the upcoming Mr. Jack Pocket, due to be released in the summer. A portable revision of the excellent Mr Jack, one player must be cunning enough to escape the detective skills of the other – it’ll be interesting to see how it translates into a card game format. Last of all, Founding Fathers – the new game from the team behind 1960: The Making Of A President – sees the light of day in a few short weeks. Knowing how well respected games are, this is getting me excited – if only because I’m a new convert to studying American history. It’ll be nice to see how much of a change I can make!

And that’s it. As I said on Twitter, the latest episode of the show should be available on Monday – there’ll be interviews with legendary designer Bruno Faidutti as well as the Marketing Manager of Esdevium Games, Charles Ryan. If you’ve got a question or comment for the show, email littlemetaldog@gmail.com – it’d be splendid to hear from you! Cheers for all your support, and thanks for reading!

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What I Did At The Weekend, by Michael, aged 34 1/2

Last weekend saw the return of the annual UK Games Expo, which took place as usual in Birmingham. From quite small roots, the Expo has grown in a few short years into a major event on the British gaming scene for people from many different gaming genres. While it’s still far from the size of something like Origins in the USA or the extravaganza that is Essen, the UK Games Expo is now firmly on the map. I was lucky enough to head up on the Saturday to see what kind of things were on offer this year.

First of all, there were plenty of interesting new games. Martin Wallace’s Age of Industry and the Ragnar Brothers’ Workshop of the World certainly seemed to be attracting an awful lot of attention from a British point of view. The Ragnars were especially impressive spending the day in full Victorian dress, even if the large coats were dispensed with pretty early in the day – not surprising as their stall was in one of the busiest and hottest rooms of the Expo! Both games were getting a lot of good buzz, especially Age of Industry – it certainly seems to be standing on its own as opposed to just being a simplified version of one of his previous releases, Brass. However, popular as both of them were, the game that most people seemed to be walking around with was Forbidden Island – previously reviewed here on Little Metal Dog, of course. The Expo seemed to be the unofficial launch for Matt Leacock’s latest release, and the demo tables were very busy indeed with many games being played throughout the whole day – the £15 pricepoint really helped too. It wasn’t just Forbidden Island that was getting a lot of play, however – Richard Denning’s Great Fire: London 1666 was also on offer, again getting a lot of people excited. Richard is also one of the people behind organising the whole Expo, so he ended up having an incredibly busy time – I’m quite sure he’ll acknowledge it was worth the effort, however.

Seriously, it was like this all day. And there was more than one demo hall!

Tabletop gaming was also in great form, with everything from ancient Rome to futuristic space battles represented. I played an excellent game called Last Living Soul, designed by the guys behind a magazine called The Ancible. Being a total junkie for zombie-related fun, this was a great effort considering it was basically a homebrew game – 30 minutes against the clock in a desperate battle for survival, LLS ended up being one of the best games I played at the show. Some of the work put into the tabletop games was incredible – Esdevium Games, the UK’s leading distributor, notably had a fantastic D&D Dungeon Delve set-up alongside demonstrations of many big games. If I’d had a bit more time, I would have loved to have taken a place at that table as everyone seemed to be having a blast.

Lots of the big online stores had stalls offering a huge variety of goodies for sale (and some free stuff – I managed to get sets of the Black Market, Envoy and Stash cards for Dominion!). Prices were competitive – mainly down to their being no need for postage, it must be said – and business seemed to be brisk for everyone. Certainly by mid-afternoon I heard a few people asking for certain games being told that they were sold out – surely a sign that business was pretty good. A quick mention for the guys at Board Game Extras and their excellent bits for customizing games – my wife was very happy indeed with her set of orange meeples for Carcassonne, and I was coveting their beautiful wooden train carriages for Ticket to Ride

If bargains were what you were looking for, the annual Bring and Buy was definitely the place to head for. One of the most consistently busy areas of the whole show, you could offer anything for sale, stick a price on it and see what happened. 15% of all sales went to charity, so as well as getting rid of unwanted games, you were doing something good! In past years I’ve found it a bit of a free-for-all, but organisation was much better this time around. I even managed to shift a couple of things!

Just a little bit of the chaos that was Bring and Buy.

If I’d had more money, I swear I’d have come home with stacks of stuff. Maybe next year…

As well as buying stuff, there was plenty of other things to do at the Expo – tournaments for board games and tabletops, book signings (Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone – the founders of Games Workshop and authors of the early Fighting Fantasy books – were there, and were gracious enough to chat with me for a few moments – two lovely blokes), workshops… I would love to see this kind of thing expanded next year – discussions and panels are one of the things I really enjoy at conventions, so a few more at UK Games Expo 2011 would be a great thing to see. However, if they plan on making it a bigger event, they’re going to need a larger venue. The current place was bursting at the seams this year – and as the day went on and got hotter, the comfort levels dropped. Not a major issue, admittedly, but something to certainly consider for future events. You can tell that the Games Expo has been set up by people who love to play, but the question is… where do they go from here?

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