- Press Preview
Rush, rush, rush and I made it with a minute and a half to spare…and then we all waited…and waited and when finally the NEC gave permission for the UKGE organisers to let the rabble of press type folks in, we were let in.
This year saw the first BSoMT Press pass….EVER! I had no idea what to expect or, indeed, what the feck I should be doing so I got all official-like and printed out a floor plan, made a list of who’s naughty or nice, checked it twice and decided I would try and see twenty one people/stands to discuss various solo related topics. Just on an aside, you never seem to see Topic chocolate bars in the shops any more…
I have to say I do feel very privileged and honoured to have been granted Press pass this year and, although I do try hard to share the veritable myriad board games that offer us, the soloist, a great gaming experience, I always feel I am somewhat on the ‘outside’ of the gaming world…and I digress, sidetrack and waffle on at great length without sharing vast amounts of factual wotnot!
…when I walked in to the Thursday Press Preview it was only at that point that the enormity of my task became apparent. There were a hundred and seventy something tables crammed into two metres squared and a billion press all jostling for position. I finally spoke to six on my list..that was partly down to calling in on Bez first who made light work of talking me in to trying one of the many manifestations of Wibbel++. In this instance it was a multi-player solitaire variant which, surprisingly proved to be both unusual and a really interesting way of creating a competitive solo game for multiple players…
and bang went forty minutes of my two hour slot. I am not complaining, as I would not have managed all twenty one any way and Bez is a most entertaining and effervescent designer so I was time well spent.
It’s Show Time!
There has been an absolute abundance of really fantastic games, older and brand new this year that are specifically aimed at solo players or, by design, have purpose-built solitaire modes incorporated into the package. So much so that even with an extra day beyond my original plan, I was playing catch-up all weekend and only got a couple of hours “free” expo time…this trend is obviously indicative of firstly the growing acceptance/popularity of solitaire play as something more than sad little fellows in darkened rooms alone without friends, but also that the industry is finally recognising that “afterthought” tag on solo modes are just not sufficient to pacify the growing solitaire gaming masses. Safety in numbers so long as that number is one.
- Wren Games- Assembly
Ah, now I started out playtesting Assembly for Janice sometime before it came to Kickstarter. I enjoyed the game so much I started a new section on BSoMT just to cover playtesting and prototype games. It was good because I got to try out some of the advanced Glitch cards and Bay cards way ahead of time…then I saw many of my friends receive glorious prototype copies to play (and hd to hide my tatty print and play playtest copy under a cushion…the only redeeming factor was that Ann Jones of Cards or Die blew the game out of the solar system by playing it on a giant rose embedded tablecloth…very sci-fi.
I finally managed to meet Janice and see the real game during the press event (sadly for me but not so for Assembly, the stand was heaving every time I passed so never got chance to chat again because Rahdos and all manner of other folks were clogging up the table space.
No matter…during the weekend Assembly reached its funding goal, so way to go Wren Games and your first Kickstarter game….it is now rocketing through stretch-goals at light speed. (Kickstarter link)
So what is Assembly? Fool that I am, yattering on about nonsense, I haven’t even said what the game is about. Simply put it is a small brain straining sci-fi puzzle solver. Set aboard an orbital Spaceship Construction Factory, a meteor or similar non…erm…un-fortuitous event introduces a deadly virus that kills all but ourselves…being soloists or pairs of cooperative players. The station computer has gone potty ejecting all shuttles to prevent the virus leaving the station to wipe out mankind…and womankind… Oxygen is reducing at an alarming rate and our only hope is to finish off an incomplete construction of the last spaceship on the assembly line. Limited time, limited actions, this is an incredibly engaging puzzle solver…Some of my exploits can be read here …of Locked Command Plays and Malfunctioning Modular Bays (Assembly)
A really lovely husband and wife team, Wren games and Assembly are really worth your attentions. Janice also made a contribution to A Guest Knows Best #12gkb…of Multiple Solo and Interrupted Game-flow (Janice Turner)
Twitter: @WrenGames @Dravvin
- Hall or Nothing Productions– Lifeform, 1066, GoK & pizza
So what would a convention, gaming meetup or event be if I didn’t unscupulously force myself upon the delightful MR & Mrs Hall at the hall or Nothing stand? Gloom of Kilforth…solo/co-op/competitive fantasy adventure card game …backed it, loved it, writted about it #1 …of Doom and Gloom (Gloom of Kilforth)
Then 1066 and the battle of Hastings turned up on the scene and partly because Anis’s amazing art from GoK, partly because I’m a smalltime closet history buff and partly because I knew this PvP game with a snappy solitaire variant was going to be equally as good coming from the Hall or Nowt stable…backed tooooooo. It’s at the printers as we idle away our fond memories of UKGE. Harold and William duke it out on the battlefield as they work their way through series of …. I so want to say adventures but that is not the word I mean…scenarios?…quests? Segments of historical storyline until the meet at that fateful battleground…A slick little system of drawing, placing and combat fought ver three ‘wedged’ or, locations, perhaps. Great art and a great game (I did get to try a PnP playtest version in the earlier days) It is worth visiting the Hall or Nothing website to find out more https://hallornothingproductions.com
I did scribble a little something about Gloom of Kilforth, actually it was the first BSoMT review ever in the whole wide world and Tristan’s contribution to A Guest Knows Best was the first of its genre too #1gkb…of Rises and Surmises (Tristan Hall)
Now to a game not designed by Tristan but the illegitimate lovechild of Mr mark Chaplin. Lifeform.
…And Mr Hall, you had one job to do!
Fortunately Mark came to the rescue and brought with him the missing cards, counters…in fact everything bar the play mat that Tristan forgot!
Fundamentally a co-operative game, a ‘you are gonna die’ game of survival aboard a mining vessel set to self destruct whilst a rather disgusting homicidal alien lifeforem systematically picks off everyone lib by limb. It looks a complicated board but gameplay is very simple, draw a card/play a card, as it were. But with time restraints, bluff/hidden movement, collecting resources to facilitate escape and traps galore this is a very tense 1vs many game….but wait, why mention this if the focus is solitaire gaming? Fear not intrepid soloists, there is a deck of action cards to run an AI alien so we do get to play solo…yaaaaay!
Mark contributed to the A Guest Knows Best with a lot more information about the solo game development #9gkb…of The Homicidal Star-Beast Horror and The Ill-fated Shuttlecraft Romora (Mark Chaplin)
I travelled afar and found myself at the Travelling Man in Manchester to play Lifeform in a live demo with Tristan and Mark, so I can say this really is a good game, not just from a bystanders point of view. ..of a Travelling Man and a LIFEFORM Plan
Enough of games…now to the real substance of Hall or Nothing. Generosity. ..and pizza. Last year I spent the first evening free gaming with Tristan and friends…this year Pizza. What a great evening….and thanks Mrs Ninjadorg for keeping my Preview games safe under the table.
- Wotan Games (I always make time for these great chaps…and thoughts are a foot…a feet? for a solo mechanic for War of the 9 Realms in app form)
…indeed. I am always made to feel welcome at the Wotan stand even if War of the 9 Realms is not a solo game…but after many a solo chat (and a lengthy political chat at Airecon earlier in the year) there might be plans afoot to implement an app that could facilitate a form of solitarianism in this Viking-esque fantasy world. Very exciting prospects indeed) I shall endeavour to bring any news of its development but in the meantime (as part of the BGE Collective)
I might be getting opportunity to get my hands on a review copy of 9 Realms (as it will shortly be finding its way into the hands of backers) so you may get to read about it here in the not too distant future.
I was promised tea and biscuits but was severely let down by technology…in that the monstrous Wotan bus display stand decided it no longer wanted its sump, ejecting it and the entire oil content of the engine on the road mid travel to Birmingham. Curse you bus… I was looking forward to bickies!
Such a great team!
- Themeborne Games– Escape the Dark Castle (New review on BSoMT)
Last year at UKGE as a regular punter, not a twit with a badge, I came across Escape the Dark Castle and was intrigued by its narrative (almost choose your own adventure) style of play and the unusual monochrome gothic/medieval line illustrations.
At the time I was a bit of a fence sitter and eventually decided not to back…hangs head in shame. I got to see some more of the game at Airecon as an expansion was already out…now two more expansions are here to add new characters, additional encounters and some new mechanics that can be added to the base game.
This selection of expansions is already live on Kickstarter and I would recommend you take a look. I was fortunate enough to have been given a copy by Thomas to take a look at (link above) and was surprised at how much i really did enjoy the game…
phaaa to those misguided fools who see dice and say…’it’s all luck’. Not at all. We, the solo (or co-operative) lowly nobodies, wrongfully incarcerated make a bid for freedom. An almost labyrinth of corridors and rooms await us, filled with unpleasant encounters to over come. How we allocate tasks, use our items and how well we roll add to the narrative flavour text on each enormous encounter chapter card as our adventure unfolds. It is thick with theme and narrative without the awkwardness of role-play. A surprisingly good solo game that I definitely recommend.
Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1998318065/escape-the-dark-castle-the-legend-grows
- Yay Games– Ominoes Hieroglyphs
I first bumped into Andrew at Airecon earlier this year and played a two and three player game of Ominoes…
and oddly enough that evening played a four player game with members of the 1 player guild…surreal four solo gamers playing a four player board game.
This expo, on the back of Ominoes success, rides a rather ‘older big brother’ stand alone expansion to the theme Ominoes Hieroglyph. Essentially ery similar mechanics only this time moving away from dice throwing and placement, to tile laying. I have to say that even though this will never have a solo variant, it does look most engaging and is certainly worth checking out.
- One Free Elephant- Micro Brew
I was immediately greeted by a small mint tin as I visited the One Free Elephant table at the press evening…
and to my surprise it was the Micro Brew game from such fame as Nigel’s brilliant video ‘how many micro brew tins can fit into a “certain” lovecraftian board game box published by a certain Fantasy something something Games’
As always the team are most welcoming and very accomodating…but this little tin burnt a hole in my pocket right to the moment I got back to my accommodation and then its contents did spew forth in great quantities.
I have already started playtesting…but to be fair the game is pretty polished at this point that it is more like a play through…and an article will be here in all of its meandering glory in the very near future (not solo but a great two player brewing worker placement/resource management type of game *spoiler it is pretty cool …of Tiny Tin Maltings and Loyalty Demandings (Micro Brew)
All Friday was playing catch up and as One Free Elephant were one of the six I did get to see at the press evening, and as the stand was heaving it wasn’t until an unexpected extra Saturday (by that I mean I wasn’t expecting to stay at the expo on Saturday, not that for some freak reason there were two Saturdays in this particular week) that I got to chat to Nigel.
Carcosa (successful Kickstarter from yesteryear) had a specially formulated solo variant and Nigel kindly contributed a piece to A Guest Knows Best about the trials and tribulations of Kickstarter solo demand #11gkb…of Solitaire Elephants and Solo-mode Elegance (Nigel Kennington)
- Ragnar Brothers– The Roman
It is alway a pleasure to visit the Ragnar Brothers stand as there is always a relaxed air of calm and tranquility.
…as always, Phil is always on hand to chat about new ‘stuf’ and in this case it is the rather exciting looking The Romans (in prototype form at the expo)
I did get chance to chat with Gary whilst Phil demoed The Romans and although Phil previously e-mailed men to ask if I’d like to review Darien Apocalypse, Gary bunged a copy of Niña & Pinta in my direction too.
What gents. I have seen a little online about both but not looked into their soloability so this should be an exciting couple of titles to get my teeth into. Reviews for both will be coming along probably at the start of July.
The Romans, however, is an interesting period of Roman demise…the poor souls are trying to cling on to that once great empire they built but fiendish locals make that area control, resource management so key to maintaining a death-grip on outlying provinces that much more tricky…as well as trouble from opposition within the Roman empire too. When the files have more ‘finished’ artwork, I am hoping to get to play a PnP of the game and will be able to report more on how this really interesting title actually plays. I suspect it will be one to look out for.
…and so ends part one of four!