Top 5 upcoming board games from UK Games Expo 2019

Last week Matt shared our top 5 new released from the UK Games Expo 2019. But the Expo also had a plethora of tasty upcoming games to preview. From prototypes to current Kickstarters – these are our top 5 upcoming board games that we’re now looking forward to!

#1 Lauren’s top pick – Adventures in Neverland (from Black Box Adventures)

As you may have guessed, Adventures in Neverland is based on the well-known, beloved Peter Pan (the book by J.M. Barrie, not the Disney film). I stumbled across this game when looking through the UKGE Exhibitor list, and at the time Google gave me nothing but a teasing page with a picture of the Adventures in Neverland box and a short blurb. I was hoping we’d get to see it in person – and my hopes were answered!

We love narrative games at the moment, and as soon as I caught sight of it I knew Adventures of Neverland was something special. Interestingly, it’s also a competitive game, which  sets it apart from a lot of the story-based games we’ve encountered so far.

The artwork is GORGEOUS. The island board looks really impressive – and as your character follows their own narrative, the Neverland board will respond based on the actions you take. The character player boards are designed as ‘books’, with indented trackers for your characters traits – something that prevents the counters moving is always a plus.

It was lovely to talk to the designer, Vicky Swers, and I hope she had fun showing off the game and all the hard work that has gone into this its development. This wasn’t the final version, but if this prototype is anything to go by the final product will not disappoint in terms of quality.

I’m kicking myself for not taking better photos – I was just so distracted cooing over the game! Fortunately some other lovely board game geeks kept a level head and have shared photos on the BoardGameGeek page. The final game will hopefully be available to back later this year.

#2 Matt’s top pick – Escape the Dark Sector (from Themeborne)

Matt’s favourite upcoming game was Escape the Dark Sector, the second game in Themeborne’s Escape the Dark series. It’s a cooperative, story-driven, dice game, where players are space crew detained in a vast space station. Their mission: escape, find the ship and blast-off to safety. But it won’t be easy – to escape the Dark Sector you’ll need to overcome a many dangers, traps and terrors.

Each player takes on a character with its own custom dice. Chapter cards are turned over one by one, revealing a new encounter that players have to deal with. It might ask you to make a decision (resulting in a positive, or more likely negative outcome!), or force you to fight off a terrifying threat. Players fight by rolling their character dice until they get the necessary results and defeat the enemy.

We weren’t able to get a demo in of Escape the Dark sector; every time we passed the Themeborne stand there was no chance of an empty table. But we did get a chance to have a nosy at the press preview, as well as chat to Thomas Pike from Themeborne about how much we loved the Dark Castle (this game’s predecessor), and how excited we are for Dark Sector! We’ve played a lot of Escape the Dark Castle, and it works really well as a two-player ‘couple’ game – we hope Dark Sector will be the same.

In addition to the custom dice, players will also get to choose a cybernetic implant that’ll give their character a unique ability. This is new – variable player powers weren’t seen in Dark Castle. Another new element is the addition of range weapons. In the Dark Castle, the story more just ‘happens’ to you. We think that these additions in the Dark Sector will give rise to more player control and decisions – a good evolution to the series.

Escape the Dark sector is on Kickstarter until 1st July – go and back now!

#3 Arkosa (from Toon Hammer)

Our first demo on Saturday morning was with the enthusiastic Angela Dickens, for Toon Hammer’s upcoming game Arkosa. It’s a competitive game of survival, where you and other players are competing colonies on the desolate world that is Arkosa. A rescue ship is on the way – but they’ll only save the colony with the best reputation!

Arkosa a delicate balancing act between exploring the wasteland for new colonists or resources, developing your bunker, keeping your colonists fed and watered, keeping moral high and surviving attacks from hostile wastelanders. And that’s a lot to balance! Exploring was the most fun for me, because each exploration triggered an event, dictated by a card with humourous flavour text…although the events were often bad for all involved!

The first thing you’ll probably notice about this game is the unique – dare I say odd! – art style. We thought the fantastical character designs and almost uncomfortable high-contrast colour palette worked well with the games purpose and made it feel more fun. I could see Arkosa being a popular game for older kids as well as adults with these designs.

We were playing with a prototype version of the game, as Arkosa is still being developed. If you want to follow the games progress you can sign up on Toon Hammer’s website to be notified when the project goes live.

#4 Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge (from ITB Board Games)

I’ll be honest – we weren’t planning on demoing the Sub Terra II prototype at the UKGE. This is partly because we knew it would be really popular, so getting a demo would be difficult. But it was also because Matt & I don’t own the first Sub Terra, so there wasn’t that ‘collectors’ urge, when you want to get all the games in a series.

However, as Sunday was drawing to an end and we were having a final wander around the halls, we noticed Sub Terra II was free and we were invited to join a demo with a couple of other gamers.

The first Sub Terra is a tile-laying survival game where players are exploring a treacherous cave network to try and find the exit. It’s one of the hardest cooperative games we’ve ever played – I don’t think we’ve ever won! In Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge, players are instead exploring into a volcanic temple, trying to find the precious artefact and escape before the volcano explodes and lava consumes everything.

Sub Terra II uses many of the same elements as its predecessor, like tile exploration and variable player powers. But there’s enough of a twist to make it feel different. For one, we liked that you had to explore into the volcano, find the 3 keys to unlock the artefact, and then turn around to hot-foot it back out again. Sub Terra is a tense, horror-like, survive and escape scenario, whereas Sub Terra II feels more like an Indiana Jones adventure, risking death by boiling lava to grab a precious artefact. It’s still tense, but feels like a different kind of tense. Overall, we thought it builds on well from the original game, and is a good follow-on for the Sub Terra series.

One of the best parts of our demo was that the designer, Tim Pinder, supervised the end of our demo (and watched as we were engulfed by lava – gleefully, I imagine). He was so nice and genuine, and really wanted to hear what we thought of the game. I hope he got some good feedback over the weekend.

Sub Terra II was still in prototype form, but will hopefully be out later this year. We’re looking forward to having a go of the final product!

#5 Endangered (from Grand Gamers Guild)

We had the opportunity to see Endangered at the press preview, something we’re thankful for because I’m not sure how much they were showing it off over the weekend (Grand Gamers Guild has a few excellent looking games to show off at the moment!). We didn’t see it out for demo when we were walking past the stand at over the weekend, anyway.

Endangered is a cooperative game, where you and your fellow players are trying to convince the world’s leaders to save a species from extinction. The game board is double sided with both land and sea, which lets you choose whether you want to play trying to save the tigers or the sea otters.

There are so many things I like about this game. There’s the theme itself, trying to save a species from extinction, which is a theme I think many can invest in. I also appreciate the obvious effort that was made to make the gameplay scientifically realistic, from the way the species act, to the character roles and actions you can take. And I like that there are two different species to play with, with the opportunity to add more through future expansions.

And let’s not forget the adorable tiger and otter meeples that will be in the final game!

Endangered has already finished its campaign on Kickstarter, but it’s still open for late pledges/pre-orders.

If any of these games are new to you, I hope we’ve shown why they’re worth checking out (and possibly backing!). Were there any upcoming games you saw at the Expo that you think we’ve missed?

If you want to read about more awesome games from the Expo, head over to our top 5 new releases at UKGE 2019 post for more gems!

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