Our top 5 board games from the UK Games Expo 2019

As with previous years, we had an amazing time at the UK Games Expo 2019 discovering and playing new board games. But which new releases were our favourite?

After some agonising deliberations, we’ve narrowed it down to our top 5 board games from the UK Games Expo 2019 – a nearly impossible task when there were so many to choose from!

1. Matt’s Top pick – Pandemic: Rapid Response (from ZMAN Games)

On the run-up to the UK Games Expo 2019, we were really excited about Pandemic: Rapid Response. Why? Because it combines two things I love: Pandemic and a real-time play style. I thought the panic-inducing exhilaration of a real-time game would complement the excitement of Pandemic, and I was not disappointed.

Unlike the majority of the games in the Pandemic family, Pandemic: Rapid Response isn’t based around curing diseases that are spreading across the world. Instead, you’re a crisis response team, creating supplies and flying to cities in need of aid (food, medical supplies, and water). The urgency of the theme perfectly matches the intensity of a real-time game.

Players are on board a specially equipped aircraft that can move to locations around the world (shown as cities around the edge of the board). Drawn city cards tell you which cities need help and what supplies they need (and more city cards are revealed as the game progresses).

Once the timer starts, you take it in turns to roll their dice. You can then use the dice rolls to move to different rooms in the plane, generate supplies, remove waste, fly the plane, or drop supplies. You can reroll any unused twice once during your turn.

The challenge is to work as a team and deliver aid to all revealed locations as efficiently as possible, before you run out of time. It’s tricky, we almost lost our demo in the first few minutes, but we soon realised passing turns at key moments allowed us to prioritise certain actions for certain players. Which I would have thought is a key part of aid missions in real-life.

Pandemic: Rapid Response is already available in the US at Target, and is due for UK release on 23rd June.

2. Lauren’s top pick – Bosk (from Floodgate Games)

We have a soft spot for board games with table appeal. One of the most eye-catching board games in our current collection is Sagrada and with Bosk, Floodgate Games have done it again! Another beautiful abstract game that’s components will demand table time so their beauty can be admired.

Bosk spans across all the seasons of the year. In spring, you place trees (that have a value from 1- 4) across the woodland. Placement matters, because when Summer arrives you score points for having the highest total value on the hiker’s paths (the gridlines across the board).

In autumn, you place falling leaves across the forest to cover more of the board than your opponents. Leaf placement is directed by multiple factors: where you placed your trees, the wind direction, and how many leaves you can place. Players have leaf tokens numbered form 2-8, which allows them to place corresponding number of fallen leaves on the game board, either on empty spaces or on top of opponents’ leaves.

There’s also the special squirrel token, which let’s you place your squirrel meeple (squeeple?). This claims the space that its placed on, meaning other players can’t steal it. And the meeple is adorable:

Finally, winter arrives, and the players with the most leaf coverage in each region of the park get points.

In our UKGE 2019 hit list post, we were curious to see how Bosk compares to Photosynthesis, another popular abstract game. Both have a tree theme, but that’s where the similarities end. Photosynthesis focuses on tree placement and growth, with point scoring based on the moving direction of the sun around the board. Bosk’s evolution through the seasons is what makes it interesting; the Spring (tree placement) and Autumn (leaf fall) seasons almost feel like different mini-games. But you need to think carefully about where you put your trees, not only to score points in the summer but to also give you the best chance for leaf coverage later in the game. You have to think of long-term strategy from the outset.

Unfortunately, neither of us thought about our turns hard enough and we lost the demo!

3. Sushi Roll (from Gamewright)

Beautiful dice must have blinded me this year, because if I was going to pick a second favourite game from the UK Games Expo, Sushi Roll would be that game. We loved Sushi Roll. In fact, we think it’s better than Sushi Go – the original card game that Sushi Roll is based on.

Sushi Roll is played over 3 rounds. In each round, players start by rolling 6 random sushi dice and placing them on the conveyor belt in front of them. Each player then picks one dice, and moves their conveyor belt round to the next player, who picks up the 5 remaining dice and rolls them, and picks one dice, and so on so forth until all the dice have been picked. After three rounds the player with the most points wins.

Each sushi dish has a different scoring potential at the end of the round. For example, the player with the most maki rolls at the end of the round will score 6 points, the second highest will score 3 points, and anyone else will not score any points for their maki rolls.

An interesting change in Sushi Roll compared to Sushi Go, is that you’re not strictly drafting blind. You can see the types of dice that are in front of all the other players, you just don’t know what dishes you’ll get when you roll them on your turn. If you’re not happy, you can trade a menu token to re-roll (…if you have one).

There’s also chopstick tokens which let you swap a dice on your conveyor belt with those in front of any other player. This introduces an interesting new level of strategy and player interaction that wasn’t present in the original game.  

We enjoyed this game so much that it would have easily been part of our UKGE games haul if the stores hadn’t sold out pretty much immediately. It’s firmly placed on our ‘must buy list’ and will become part of our collection in the not so distant future.

4. Museum (from Holy Grail Games)

Museum was a game that Lauren was most keen to demo, although when I asked her why she found it hard to pin down the reason.  At the time she didn’t know much about the gameplay, but had a strong gut feeling about this one… and I’m glad we trusted it!

The Museum stand was so busy that by Sunday we’d resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t get a play in. Fortunately, I spotted an empty table on Sunday afternoon, and Lauren took her chance (if you saw a strange woman running down the stairs between Halls 1 & 2, grunt screaming and whirling her arms in self-propelling excitement, that was Lauren!).

Museum’s theme is very appealing, set during the prime time of museum curation, when people would travel the world to ‘acquire’ artefacts for their collections. And the artwork is exquisite! The decks include over 300 beautiful illustrations of real artefacts (illustrated by the talented Vincent Dutrait). The cards also have short factual tidbits, which is a nice addition.

The game itself combines card drafting and set collecting, which is something Lauren enjoys immensely. Combined with the theme, it makes a perfect pairing and elevates the gameplay.  

One of the reasons Lauren was desperate to try Museum at UKGE was because it was a game she didn’t think we would buy, at least anytime soon, so she really wanted to make sure we got a flavour of what it was like. Turns out she loved it so much, we ended up buying a copy!

5. Dust in the Wings (from Board and Dice)

Every year we’re excited to see what new games Board and Dice are bringing to the table, and they never disappoint! Pretty much as soon as the doors opened on Friday morning we went straight over to their stand, and Dust in the Wings was the first game we demoed. After a few rounds, we could see that it was right up our (newly found) abstract alley!

In Dust in the Wings, you are competing photographers trying to take the most beautiful photos of butterflies in a meadow. On your turn, you choose a meadow square, pick up all the butterflies in that square and then disperse them one by one into adjacent squares on the board. The aim is for the last square to fulfil either Gathering or Composition objective cards.

Dust in the Wings’ rules are simple; it’s quick to learn, quick to teach and you can easily get a game going. But we soon realised there was a lot more strategy to the game than meets the eye. This fundamentally was why we went back to the Board and Dice stand as soon as the stock was in to purchase a copy for ourselves.

Every year at the UKGE there are more games we want to play than there is time to play them all.  This year was no different and there were a number of games where didn’t manage to grab a demo table: Villagers (from Sinister Fish), Sorcerers (from White Wizard Games) and The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth (from Fantasy Flight Games) to name a few.

But as you can tell we had a brilliant time at the UK Games Expo 2019 and played more games than we missed. Our wish lists are longer, and our wallets are lighter!

Disclaimer: We have been fortunate enough to obtain press passes for the UK Games Expo 2019Our views, opinions and discussions about the UK Games Expo 2019 are our honest opinions, and not affected by this.

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