UKGE 2019 Show Preview
By Ben Porter
UKGE is, without a doubt, a landmark event in the tabletop calendar. It’s a convention I especially look forward to as it pulls in companies from across the globe. Whilst many, understandably, aren’t too keen on the business of the show, I find it immensely encouraging to see so many people that are as enthusiastic about tabletop gaming as I am congregate in one place.
It’s also a great opportunity for us to check in on some of the most exciting developers and publishers in the industry. Let’s take a look at those that we’re most keen to check in with at UKGE 2019.
Smirk and Dagger/Smirk and Laughter Games
We all loved Bill Lasek’s ‘Koi’. We loved it so much that we give it 2 Golden Frogs for 2018 (Best Game and Best Art). When we heard that Curt and the Smirk and Dagger crew were going to be at UKGE, we knew we’d have to swing by the stand to put names to faces and see what they are working on.
The team will have 4 new games to show off at the convention; We Need to Talk, Woolly Whammoth, Shobu and The Menace Among Us (we’re particularly intrigued by Wooly Whammoth and The Menace Among Us). We were somewhat blindsided by Koi towards the end of 2018 and that game seems to have flown under the radar a little, so this dark horse of the games industry now has our full attention.
The newest iteration in the Bar Pig series ‘Bar Pig: After Hours’ will be launching at UKGE, which is also when our review of the game will go live. The gents behind the game were kind enough to invite us to their stand for the launch party, and how could we possibly refuse? They have a stand that’s done up like an old worldy tavern. Enough said.
Last year I reviewed Themeborne’s ‘Escape the Dark Castle’ and was impressed with the core concept of adapting the formula of a choose your own adventure book into a tabletop experience that multiple people could participate in. The game was even cast entirely in the brutish, brooding monochrome associated with early fantasy gamebooks.
Themeborne posted a cryptic animation on their social media outlets last month with the date “31/05/19” at the end, which would strongly suggest that we can expect to see something new from the company at UKGE this year.
Do we intend to be there to find out what they’re up to? You’re damn right.
Last year’s preview event from Games Workshop was somewhat underwhelming, with only a few minor reveals and announcements. This was mostly due to the fact that most of the major announcements were made at Warhammer Fest, which takes place a couple of weeks before UKGE falls.
That being said, the past few months have seen a bit of a shift in the way Games Workshop approach their reveals with the introduction of the ‘Warhammer Preview’ title, and most of the major reveals having coincided with a community event. We already know that the company plans to roll out new Battletomes for every Age of Sigmar Grand Alliance this year, and that the Forbidden Powers expansion for the fantasy game is also imminent. A brand-new system in the form of fantasy skirmish game Warcry is on the horizon, and we are still awaiting details on the Elites expansion for Kill Team and the revamped Apocalypse expansion for 40k.
Games Workshop have been churning out the releases of late and have maintained a phenomenally high standard whilst doing so. Suffice to say that between the stuff that we know of but have yet to see more details on and all the stuff we’ve yet to even hear about that’s in the works, Games Workshop should have something interesting to show us this year.
Since Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop parted ways, Cubicle 7 have been working on TTRPG product set in the Warhammer universes. They did a fantastic job producing the latest edition of the beloved Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game (which the Unlucky Frog team are currently working their way through), and some details of the brand-new Age of Sigmar roleplaying game have begun to appear.
The Age of Sigmar RPG looks set to continue the high standard of work the Cubicle 7 team have become known for, with more original artwork that really evokes the grandiosity and mysticism that really sets the Mortal Realms apart from the gloom and superstition of the Old World. Here’s hoping we get a look at some more of the up and coming TTRPG, and perhaps even an idea of what the team have planned from WFRPG going forward.
We really enjoyed Village Attacks when we got to play it last year. So much so that we had to be asked to leave the exhibition hall whilst we were playing it. (It was closing time – it wasn’t as rock and roll as it first sounds.)
I like a nice miniature as much as the next guy. But do you know what else I’m partial to? A bit of cosmic horror. I’ve also been mildly obsessed with pirates since I was a lad. So, when I saw a game called The Everrain for the first time last year at the press preview, I knew that we would be keeping a close eye on Grimlord Games in the future. I would also not be opposed to playing Village Attacks again. Because gothic horror and tower defense is great. Who knew?
Czech Games Edition
As much as strategy is great and all, sometimes being able to kill things and take their stuff in a game is just great.
Czech Games Edition will be publishing Sanctum later this year, and the game pretty much promises to be a Diablo-esque dungeon crawling, loot-hoarding hack-and-slash for the tabletop. And it looks great. CGE have a pretty eclectic mix of games in their catalogue and have managed to adapt video game design principles into tabletop games quite successfully in the past – like Adrenaline.
Paul Grogan declared to us on Twitter earlier this year that he is the man to speak to about Sanctum. You may recognise him from the Gaming Rules! videos or the Fameeple Fortune live show we also participated in at AireCon earlier this year.
There you have it Paul – you have been called out. Show us the Sanctum!
Another company with a reputation for successfully adapting well-loved fictional universes for the tabletop, Modiphius announced earlier this year that they have been working on a TTRPG set in the Fallout universe. Having already produced a miniatures game based on the video game franchise, they’re in a good position to work on a pen and paper RPG. And whilst we weren’t blown away by the miniatures game, Fallout seems perfect for a TTPRG. It’s a universe that’s as mad as it is dark, which to my mind would make it a great fit for most gaming groups. The game will follow a somewhat unorthodox release model, with a version designed to work with the wargame coming this summer, and a more traditional TTRPG coming next year. Hopefully we’ll have an idea of how those will both work from whatever they have to show us this year.
Modiphius will also be publishing Odyssey of the Dragonlords by Arcanum Forge, which is a D&D 5th Edition supplement set in a fantastical (fictional) version of Ancient Greece. Ancient Greek poems formed the OG fantasy epics, so being able to incorporate some of the creatures and culture from those back into our stories is going to be fun. Plus, the artwork we’ve seen thus far is stunning. Fingers crossed we get to see how the book is shaping up.
I’m going to talk about Ice Cool again.
Ice Cool was the game that completely blindsided me at UKGE last year. I was sort of coaxed into playing it whilst waiting for an appointment and was blown away by how simple and satisfying the gameplay was. It will serve as an exemplar of elegance of design for a long time to come. Sometimes I just think about how clever the design of the box is; it’s a concept that made me wish I’d though of it. Ever since then, I’ve been following what Brain Games is up to.
I’ve yet to play their other games, and I’m itching to pick up Ice Cool 2, but one of the games I’m really excited about for this year is Snowman Dice.
It’s a game where you build snowmen… out of dice.
Brain Games have a thing for dexterity games, and Snowman Dice is no exception. The company are planning to release the game in Autumn (probably around Essen Game Fair) but I’m hopeful that the company will be showing it off at this year’s UKGE.
Lucky Duck Games
We missed the bus with most all of the Lucky Duck releases of late - I’m still itching to get a game of Chronicles of Crime. So, this year we’re making a point of checking in with the team to see what they’re working on and what they’re bringing with them.
Lucky Duck’s latest game, Kingdom Rush, just had a massively successful Kickstarter campaign (it breached the $1,000,000 mark). It’s a medieval fantasy game – good. It boasts the beautiful, bold artwork that Lucky Duck has become known for – great. It’s a tower defense game that uses weird Tetris-style mechanics – awesome. The Polyhedron Collider guys spoke very highly of the game during their live podcast at AireCon (which is where we first heard about the game) so I’ve been keen to try it ever since I’d heard them talking it up. Seeing just how pretty it looks just makes me want to play it even more.
No dwarf character, though.
Grand Gamers Guild
Grand Gamers Guild bossman Marc Specter came on the show last year to promote The Artemis Project; a sci-fi dice placement game set on Europa where players race to establish the most successful colony. The game somewhat subverts the relative realism of games like Terrforming Mars with bold visuals and surreal creatures and technologies. It looks brilliant. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be releasing until Origins this year, but hopefully the team will have something for us to ogle at UKGE this year.
On a more personal note, I’m mainly just looking forward to meeting Marc at the convention. We’ve kept up correspondence with him since his appearance on the show and because he’s based in the US we don’t get as many opportunities to see him as we do with other industry folks. As Unlucky Frog’s reach has grown, UKGE has become an important opportunity to link in with our more remote friends and associates.
As much as it’s great to see the games that are coming out over the next year or so, conventions are always a great chance for us to meet up with friends and associates we don’t get to see as much as we would like to. It’ll be great to see Kat and Rob from I Play Red, the Polyhedron Collider lads and we’ll inevitably be checking in with Phil and the Board Game Crate crew. And if you should see us meandering through the halls, don’t be shy – come over and talk to us. It’s only Josh that bites, and only when he hasn’t eaten.