Mouthy monsters and railway rampages fill our list of unusual finds from the UK's biggest board game convention.
Forget looking for the best game of the show. We know what really sells you on sticking cardboard boxes on your shelves: unexpected nonsense. Which game can you play just by reading the title? What box will reward you for shouting “Ding Ding!” aggressively at your friends? Why isn’t Gordan Ramsay where he should be? Prepare yourself for the inscrutable (and certainly undebatable) Going Analog UK Games Expo 2022 Non-Award Awards.
Most Specific Game Name Award
Winner: A Game About Cute Comical Creatures And Trying To Identify Them After Someone Makes Noises
If you didn’t see Stuff By Bez’s stall at the UK Games Expo, you almost certainly heard it. Roars, rumbles, and the occasional squelch consistently emanated from one corner of the main hall, making it almost impossible to avoid being drawn over. Spread across the scarlet red stall were a wealth of precisely titled, self-published games that you could pretty much learn just by looking at them.
Our favorite, A Game About Cute Comical Creatures And Trying To Identify Them After Someone Makes Noises and its sequel/expansion Wee Whimsical Creatures, start with players ogling a spread of equally hilarious, cute, and disgusting monsters.
With all eyes at the table closed, one player must then make the distinct sound they think a randomly selected monster from the group would make. Good luck with that, when said creature has seven mouths but no tongue. When you’ve finally managed to stop laughing, it’s time for everyone else to guess and for points to be awarded. But honestly? The title explained it better than we did.
Best Novel Dexterity Game Award
Winner: Railroad Madness
Dexterity-game designers seem to have an obsession with flicking things. We’re as keen for Crokinole as the next board gamer, but our hands are good for other things, you know? Sitting down with an early version of Railroad Madness, placing train tracks in the American West was therefore sweet relief for the fingers. Or as close to relief as racing against the clock to deliver passengers while minimizing accidental fatalities can get, anyway.
Placing down a new chunk of track each turn, you’ve got a scant 15 seconds to choo choo your train around the unhelpfully bendy track to find an empty space and plonk down a station. Each station spawns passenger tokens, with points earned for how many of them you can pick up and shuttle within the limited time.
The problem? The Wild West is a lawless place; passengers here prefer to ride on top of trains rather than in them. Should any fall off during transit, you’d better hope you can stack them again before the clock runs down, or they’ll be lost to the desert forever. Don’t worry too much though -- they all signed waivers before boarding.
In possibly our favorite addition ever, you’re also rewarded for shouting “Ding! Ding!” anytime someone else passes your stations on their turn. More games could do with a “Ding! Ding!” rule, if you ask us.
Best Reimplementation To Remove Problematic Content Award
Winner: Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
Libertalia is a pretty solid simultaneous-actions game from 2012 about pirates squabbling over treasure. It’s also a game with problems. Problems like the only people of color included being the “Voodoo Witch” and “Freed Slave”. And unless you count the supernatural Granny Wata, there are as many animals in the 30-character deck as there are women.
But look there! Cresting the horizon is Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, a new 2022 reimplementation that ditches the dodgy decisions in favor of a gorgeous fantasy world. Lamaro Smith’s bright and (sea) breezy new art fills your ships with even more animals, this time of the anthropomorphic kind searching for the loveliest loot.
In fact, in picking up the license to Libertalia, new publisher Stonemaier Games has cracked open a treasure chest of production improvements, adding satisfying booty tokens, doubloon trackers, and new board layout. There are tweaks to the gameplay, too. Fresh characters and fine-tuning of action orders all help this older design rediscover its sea legs in the modern waters of board gaming.
Worst Missed Opportunity Award
Winner(?): Unmatched: Hell’s Kitchen
Listen, when we read that Unmatched was getting a Hell’s Kitchen edition, we were fully geared up for Gordan Ramsay to be hurling cutting insults across the board while Nigella Lawson attempts to bludgeon him with a rolling pin. What we got instead was a Marvel-themed edition of the popular deck-and-board fighting game. Joining the already expansive roster this time are Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye. Cool, sure, but it could have been so much more. Mondo Games? You can make it up to us by basing the next edition on The Great British Baking Show.
Best (But Least Useful) Packaging Award
Winner: Stuff By Bez
Yes, Stuff By Bez is back, but this time they have balloons! After picking out a couple of the deck-of-cards-sized games their stall offered, we were expecting to shove them in a pocket and move on. How wrong we were. Contrary to all good sense, the Stuff By Bez crew had brought a portable vacuum pump to the show.
Instead of a tiny card game, we soon found ourselves lugging a giant balloon stuffed with stickers, the games, and smaller balloons around the show. We still haven’t decided if this was genius marketing, irritating, or a scam to make people visit the Shop and Drop bag-holding service.
Biggest Dragon Award
Winner: The Ultimate Games Master Roleplaying Companion App (we think)
If you’ve been to the UK Games Expo, you’ll know that dragons are kind of its thing. The expo’s charismatic scaled mascot shows up in a different promotional art pose each year and also pops up on all sorts of t-shirts, pins, and expo paraphernalia. Stalls at the show also love to get in on the fire-breathing fun times, setting up their own dragon dioramas. But which scaly beast delivered the greatest sense of scale?
This sizable and sleepy-eyed snout wasn’t just an eye-catching attraction; it also served as storage space for the stand’s various bags and belongings. We’re fairly sure it belonged to the Ultimate Games Master Roleplaying Companion App, but we didn’t have time to ask questions while prizing our way out of its jaws.
A close runner up was Anne Stokes’s impressively frilled fellow poking over an arrow-riddled wall -- presumably the response to one too many of its aggressive marketing pitches.
Returning Favorite Award
Winner:Catty the Catan sheep
When the year 3022 rolls around, you can be sure of one thing: Settlers of Catan will still, somehow, have one of the biggest stalls at the UK Games Expo. And accompanying that stall, as ever, will be the Catty the Catan sheep. Please don’t ask designer Klaus Teuber if that name is official -- we’re not ready to have our hearts broken. At this point, we’re pretty sure this red-and-yellow celebrity sheep will outlive us all, and we’re not even mad about that fact. We’ll see you next year, Catty, so long as no one trades you for some brick or wood.
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Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface, or drop an email to email@example.com.