Our Top 5 Games of UK Games Expo 2019

UK Games Expo Top 5 - Fired Up

Last weekend, like 25,000 other people we attended the UK Games Expo at the Birmingham, NEC. For us, it was three days of wall-to-wall gaming, including demos of recent releases, upcoming releases and getting the chance to play some new and older games with friends, including some of the Zatu Games blogging crew.

This year, more than ever, the UK Games Expo attracted an international crowd, with major publishers from North America and Asia in attendance, as well as the large number of smaller UK and European indie developers. With so much happening, it’s possible to spend your whole weekend in seminars, tournaments, RPGs, shopping or playing games, but for us it was all about the exciting new games and here’s the top 5 we played during the show.

1. Moon Base

Moon Base is the latest game from Japanese publisher, Itten Games, who brought us Tokyo Highway. Much like Tokyo Highway and their other games, Moon Base is a beautifully crafted game with wooden components that give it a stunning table presence. Moon Base is an abstract game for two players in which one of you plays as silver and one of you plays as gold, trying to manipulate the position of stacked rings on the common board.

In each of six rounds you’ll select two large rings and two small rings to place out on the board. You might choose your colour, your opponent’s colour or the neutral colour, depending on your intentions. If at the end of the round you have any empty large rings then you fill those with a large 2-point token.

It’s a wonderful puzzle that’s really thinky and really mean, but it’s one that we’re really enjoying.

2. Letter Jam

Letter Jam is a new co-operative word game coming from Czech Games Editions. Each player will be given a number of letter cards that represent a word and they need to deduce what that world is throughout the game. The letter cards will be shuffled and placed face-down on the table. Each player reveals their first letter card so that all other players can see it, then everyone tries to make a word using the available letters and any common available letters.

Collectively, the table picks the best word offering and the word is spelled out using poker chips numbered one, two, three and so on. By trying to fill in the blanks, you’ll deduce what letter is showing in front of you and once your confident you’ll move to the next letter.

I wouldn’t call Letter Jam a party game, because it requires too much concentration, but it’s a really unique and fun co-operative word game that we hope to play with family and friends when it’s released.

UK Games Expo Top 5 - Letter Jam (Credit: Czech Games Edition)

3. Etherfields

This is the next game coming to Kickstarter from Awaken Realms. Awaken Realms are known for big Kickstarters, full of minis like the hugely successful Tainted Grail. Etherfields also looks like it will have great minis but it’s also one of the best exploration games we’ve played. For us, The 7th Continent was far too boring and repetitive, but Etherfields has fast progression, interesting hand management and some great tactical co-operative play to ensure you out-wit the bad guys.

It’s the perfect balance for me of a mechanical game with some lighter story driven elements, making a perfect blend that reminds me of the power of Gloomhaven with more in-scenario exploration. The game will operate as a campaign where each scenario affects the next and can also affect your character progression. Etherfields has firmly marked its territory as our next big campaign game.

4. Fired Up

Fired Up is imminently coming to Kickstarter from Drawlab Entertainment. What initially appeared to be an arena combat game that really wouldn’t be mine and Amy’s style, slowly revealed itself (through a fantastic demo) as a clever twist on a betting game combined with mech combat where all players have the power to control all mechs.

The premise is that you are the video game overlords controlling the different mechs to alter their strength, defence and who they are targeting. Players are motivated to do this by two mechanisms – one is the objectives you have each round that are often dependent on the stats and targets of each mech, the other is the different betting types where you bet on which mech will be eliminated first, who will get a knock-out second etc.

Fired Up was probably our biggest surprise of the UK Games Expo.

UK Games Expo Top 5 - MegaCity Oceania (Credit: HUB Games)

5. MegaCity: Oceania

MegaCity: Oceania is coming from Hub Games later this year. It's a re-implementation of Tokyo Jutaku, from Jordan Draper and it combines dexterity with a Euro game feel. You are each building constructions that will form part of a new city on the central board. On your turn you can select a base for your city, a card that gives you building rules or pieces at random from the bag, which will be what you build with. When you have a building that meets your objectives, you carefully slide it onto the board and start to build a new one.

Overall, the game is a lot of fun, and simply beautiful. It's like playing a tiny dexterity game multiple times whilst trying to meet different objectives and it’s great to see what you've all made at the end of the game.

Final Thoughts on UK Games Expo

We played 43 games at the UK Games Expo. So, picking just five was a tough choice. Honorable mentions also go to Namiji, Team 3, Pandemic: Rapid Response and Century: A New World, which were all fantastic games.

We had an incredible hit rate for playing good games this year at UKGE and came away with new friends and lots of great memories, as well as a need for a lot of sleep!