Earlier this month, I headed to UK Games Expo to get a taste of the best in up-and-coming card and board games. With a 30% increase in size, there was plenty to see and play, from established companies trailing new products to indie developers taking a chance with their first game. Here are ten of the best games from the event that are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter – hurry though, some of them end soon!
If you’re looking for a quick, easy card game that’s small enough to carry around but packed with plenty of substance, Assembly is probably for you. It works like a sort-of puzzle, where a virus has killed off your spaceship crewmates (except one other if you’re playing as a duo!). You have to use your time and skills wisely before the ship runs out of oxygen, and to make matters worse, the ship’s computer is here to mess with your progress. It’s cooperative, unpredictable gameplay makes it a great pick for fans of Pandemic. Whie it has some challenging aspects, Assembly is simple enough to understand after just a few turns.
Greek mythology makes up the backbone of Immortality. Created by Nicki David Lloyd, you have to make it through a maze set up by a mischievous Zeus. This is a dice and card game that allows you to battle beasts — including Minotaurs and Hydras — and equip yourself with armour and weapons. If you manage to make it through the maze, you still have to batte Zeus in the ultimate fight for immortality. It’s a dose of both strategy and luck that will have those unfamiliar with the Greek gods enjoying its gameplay.
Escape the Dark Castle: The Legend Grows
Escape the Dark Castle was one of 2017’s breakout releases, surpassing their initial target of £11,000 by a mammoth £76,814. The fantasy co-operative was produced by Nottingham’s indie design studio Themeborne and is inspired by a mix of 80s classics like Knightmare and the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series. These much-anticipated expansions feature new bosses, new characters, and a wealth of new characters that build on Themeborne’s already-established, intense story telling. It seems we shan’t leave the castle just yet.
Quest: The roleplaying adventure game for everyone
The culture surrounding RPGs can be a little overwhelming for those that just want to dip their toes in to see if the roleplaying water is for them. Brooklyn-based company The Adventure Guild wanted to ensure that anyone who wanted to give it a try felt welcome and ready, so they created Quest. The classic stuff is all in there — you get to be the hero in your own story, fight monsters, and visit magical places — but they steer away from the traditional wargaming approach. Instead, character’s skills and spells are mostly focused on driving the narrative forward, making room for more interesting encounters rather than killing monsters at every turn. It’s this story-focused approach that makes Quest great for players fed up of the murderous mindset of other RPGs.
With a twisting layout that consists of winding streets, temples and farms, the city of Phos is the perfect backdrop to Everdark’s co-operative, maze strategy game. Produced by Edventure Games, Everdark focuses on escaping the maze before it’s too late. The set-up consists of a timer and four different spinning rings, making gameplay tense but ultimately, more exciting. Players are given different events to complete, where you either have to defend your environment from the darkness, expel it or save the citizens in that particular zone. The cooperative aspect of the game is great if you and your fellow players are quick thinkers and enjoy teamwork. Those who enjoyed Jasco Games’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer release will find similar gameplay here but instead of defending Sunnydale from the Big Bad, you’re defending Phos from the Everdark.
Vast: The Mysterious Manor
Leder Games have produced the perfect mix of heroics and horror with this beautiful asymmetric adventure game. The follow-up to Vast: The Crystal Caverns, this much-anticipated sequel takes place in a mysterious manor where you can play as a pious Paladin, murderous Skeletons, an awesome Spider, or even the Manor itself. Specifically designed for both multiplayer and solo modes, there’s lots of new scenarios to get stuck in to integrate content from Vast: The Crystal Caverns. There’s enough additional material that makes it a great stand-alone game too and it’s asymmetric design means there’s more options when it comes to your turn.
Mythic Battles: Pantheon
Zeus is up to his usual antics in the miniatures board game Mythic Battles: Pantheon, but this time, he’s pissed off his other half: Hera. Fed up of his infidelities, she decides to strike out and releases the Titans on Mount Olympus to reap her revenge. You take on the role of a weakened Greek God, intent on regaining your immortality by collecting more energy stones than your competitors. Described as a ‘1.5’ version of the Mythic Battles universe, creators Monolith have added a new pictogram, making it easier to establish which miniatures belong to which troop while also getting rid of certain aspects that players previously found to difficult to construct. It’s still completely compatible with the original version of Mythic Battles: Pantheon, this 1.5 version just makes for a much cleaner, concise play that streamlines its drafting and card management aspects.
Blame Space is a card game that will have you flipping tables and falling out with your friends as they bring paranoia and sneaky gameplay to the forefront. Here’s the gist: Someone on your spaceship has caused your mission to fail, but who betrayed the crew? You’ll need to be good at sussing out the fibbers, but also need a knack for burying your own dark secrets. One thing’s for sure – you can’t trust anyone until you’re safely secured in that life pod. Timing is everything, which makes Blame Space a tense and engaging game. You can approach it differently each time too: you may want to betray your crew or maybe, you want to focus on exposing your other players. It makes Blame Space both unpredictable and replayable.
If you’re a gamer who likes cooperative and solo gameplay, Doomsday Bots does both really well. Set in a Steampunk Post-Apocalyptic world, you’re a mad genius scavenging for parts to create a bot to take part in the race to the top of the Boss’s Clock Tower. It’s designed so you can either play together to defeat the boss or you can go it alone to take all glory for yourself. These various options — along with the ability to come up with your own Tower designs and game modes — give Doomsday Bots a replayable aspect that other cooperatives often lack. The comic book-inspired illustrations also make for a beautiful design.
It can be difficult to make party games with substance but London studio Matheson Marcault have created something that’s as silly as it is straightforward. Art Deck is a quick game that asks you to draw what’s on your cards – but there’s a twist – you have to show off your artistic skills without looking at the paper, and draw quicker than the player before you. It makes for hilarious results that bring back the joy that can come with drawing, even if your skills haven’t improved since you were in school. If you want to introduce skeptical friends to gaming or need something quick and easy for a gettogether, this is a good choice.