Pete and I went to our first UK Games Expo last year.
Board games made it onto our radar during COVID-19. When we went to see friends and got talking about what we’d been up to during the lockdowns, they mentioned they’d been introduced to T.I.M.E. Stories. It sounded like the kind of thing we’d enjoy so a purchase was made the next day.
After a spontaneous treasure hunt around London one weekend in June 2022, Pete and I decided to continue the adventure and ended up booking tickets to the UK Games Expo. Several hours later, we found ourselves at the NEC in Birmingham surrounded by thousands of board games. We’d never been to the event before and weren’t sure what to expect, but it ended up being one of our favourite experiences last year.
The best thing about it was how it opened our eyes further to different gaming experiences. While video games are likely to remain our go-to form of entertainment, we’re now open to playing board games more regularly and have built up a little collection. The other great thing was the welcoming atmosphere. Every single person we spoke to was so helpful and friendly, and there was specific information for new attendees like us.
We returned to Birmingham on Friday, 02 June 2023 for another visit to the UK Games Expo. Although there seems to have been a little controversy since the show, we had another lovely day and came back with even more games this time. We’re planning to do a show-and-tell Twitch stream during the evening of Saturday, 17 June 2023. But in the meantime, read on for an overview if you’re interested in seeing what we picked up this year and what we’ve played so far.
I’ve been slowly collecting entries from the Arkham Horror series since playing The Road to Innsmouth with friends in March. Although I’ve never been drawn to Cthulhu Mythos previously, there’s something about the world created here which has captured my attention. We managed to try this board game over the weekend. It took much longer than the two-to-three hours stated on the box (partly due to Zelda helping us learn the rules) but I’m very happy with this purchase, and I can see us getting some of the expansions at some point.
Descent: Legends of the Dark
Pete had a quandary at the UK Games Expo. He has been interested in Gloomhaven, Frosthaven and Descent: Legends of the Dark since our visit last year but wasn’t sure which one to go for at the show. After a very helpful conversation with someone from the Chaos Cards stand, he opted for the latter. He always seems drawn to titles which feature miniatures and the companion app will help us get to grips with the rules – which is a good thing, because this game looks kind of long and complicated.
echoes: The Microchip
The evening after arriving back from Birmingham, we sat in the garden with a glass of wine and The Microchip edition of echoes. It contains cards which play the sound of memories when they’re scanned with the mobile app, and players must figure out their correct order. It only took an hour to complete and was probably the easiest tabletop game we’ve ever tried. But there is a way to make it more difficult and the concept is simple to explain, so we’re going to pick up another version for a family event later this month.
The Emerald Flame
The concept of The Emerald Flame intrigued me when I came across the box, but it seemed like a risky purchase as the price was rather high. Mulling over the positive reviews while eating lunch was enough to make me return though. Players take on the role of a historical expert working to piece together the recipe for a fabled elixir by investigating maps, alchemical designs and mysterious artifacts. I’m saving it for when we’ve got a full free day without parental duties so we can get immersed in the story without interruption.
The Vanishing Gambler
I received The Balthazar Stone after backing The Mystery Agency’s Kickstarter campaign in August 2020, then picked up The Ghost in the Attic while at the UK Games Expo last year. It therefore felt wrong to not purchase the final version of this escape-room-in-a-box, The Vanishing Gambler, this time around so we have the full collection. A new instalment is currently in the works and, while we’re waiting for its release, a helpful person on the stand revealed there’s a secret fourth game to be played if you have the previous ones. Very curious.
Video Game Valley
I started completing jigsaws-with-a-twist during the lockdowns here in the UK and have created a small collection. The most recent addition to this is Video Game Valley, where you can search for the hidden names of 101 video games while putting together the 1,000 pieces. For example: see a gravestone with the name ‘Space’ on it? That’s surely got to be a reference to Dead Space. I might make a start on this after the show-and-tell part of our Twitch stream next weekend if we don’t spend too long talking.
Organiser for Mansions of Madness
Contents don’t stay organised in boxes for long and so Pete has been wanting to get some of the products created by Folded Space for a while now. After his initial disappointment at one not being available for Zombicide, he was keen to buy the insert for our copy of Mansions of Madness. It would have been put together already if only he’d realised earlier that he’d need to purchase some wood glue. I can see us getting a few more of these if they help our games to stay ordered – I think I’m going to need one for Arkham Horror.
UK Games Expo merch
What’s a show without merchandise? After missing out during last year’s event due to arriving too late in the day, I made a point of picking up the 2023 version of the UK Games Expo pin as soon as we arrived so it could be added to the growing collection on my denim jacket. While queuing at the stand, Pete took a liking to the men’s t-shirt displayed there and decided to make a purchase too. I think I’ll do a pre-order when booking our tickets for the 2024 show as I can see this becoming an annual thing now.
Did you make it to this year’s UK Games Expo? If so, what did you pick up? If you have any recommendations for narrative or cooperative board games that are worth checking out, I’d love to hear them.