Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

UK Games Expo 2024: The Non-Award Awards

Prestige? No, we're just here for the peculiar.

Most weekends spent with a power vacuum wouldn’t be worth commenting on. But at this year’s UK Games Expo, we went hands on with far more than just hungry home appliances. So with a cavalcade of games played in just a handful of days, it’s time once again to sift the silly from the standard. Yes, it’s Going Analog’s UK Games Expo 2024 Non-Award Awards: A celebration of the bizarre and unconventional things we discovered and thoughts we had during our days navigating the labyrinthine halls of the UK’s biggest board game show.

Weirdest setting (that actually has some history) award: Call of Cthulhu: Horror on the Orient Express

The box for Call of Cthulhu: Horror on the Orient Express photographed for Going Analog's Non-Award Awards 2024

Call of Cthulhu: Horror on the Orient Express is one of those combination concepts so unexpected that you can’t help but stop, look, and probably have a giggle at the mere idea. And when someone taps you on the shoulder to explain that, actually, these train-ravaging terrors are based on a beloved 1991 tabletop role-playing campaign, you might naturally assume that they’re taking you on a ride to rival that on the game’s box art.

But this is no trick of the Old Ones -- we really are getting a board game adaptation about hunting cultists and fighting vampires on a haunted, lovecraftian train. There’s even a rather adorable Kickstarter-exclusive train mini. Is it too late to buy a ticket?

Most impressive pun/theme combo award: Power Vacuum

Power vacuum board game being played at UKGE 2024

In Power Vacuum, standard trick-taking card play is bolstered by a central ring of power tokens, the positions of which are manipulated by the round’s loser. Everyone holds hidden interests in where power should lie when a round ends, offering incentive to play low rather than win every hand. In a delightful thematic touch, victory goes to the first who can construct their own ridiculous monument, built out of swappable statue components.

It’s a clever core that also allows us ruminate over such complex thought experiments as: what if the death of Stalin was actually a struggle for power between anthropomorphic household appliances? Heady stuff. There’s a good chance you either grinned or groaned at that theme and name partnership. Whether you’ve got a penchant for puns or not, though, we’d still recommend checking out Power Vacuum

Best art for a game we couldn’t get award: Tokkuri Taking

At UK Games Expo 2024, posters of the art for Tokkuri Taking and Sumo

Tokkuri Taking is about a bunch of dinosaurs throwing a sake party at the end of the world. If you’ve managed to read that concept without whipping out your credit card, then you’ve shown impressive restraint. Unfortunately, the box art will almost certainly push you into purchase mode. Just look at those tipsy tyrannosaurs -- now that’s a bender we want to be part of. Unfortunately, there were a scant 50 copies of the game available at the show, and all of them had (understandably) been snaffled before we arrived. We settled for the short and snappy trick-taking of Sumo instead, sadly enjoyed entirely sober. 

Greatest sanitisation of a rude name award: Hungry Monkey

Hungry Monkey being played at the UK Games Expo 2024

We can’t speak for other regions, but if you attended a UK school or college in the 2000s or 2010s, there’s a good chance you spent a significant amount of your free time playing a group card game with a particularly rude name. (Hint: it rhymed very closely with spithead.) Hungry Monkey neatly sanitizes things into a more family-friendly, animal-themed package. The core card-beating system is retained, but the rules have been rejigged slightly to allow for more nuanced and tactical play. It’s almost certainly a better game, but one that’s a little less fun for rebellious teenagers to suggest on their lunch breaks.

Most likely to make you feel bad about your artistic capabilities award: The Strange Forgeries Of Mr. S.C.Rheber

The Strange Forgeries of Mr S.C.Rheber box and art sleeve with doodles by players

The Strange Forgeries of Mr. S.C.Rheber was one of the weirdest games we played all weekend. The box and rulebook to this drawing-based deduction and induction puzzle game are lathered with captivating, surreal art by designer Gerardo Maria Priore. But in practice, you’ll largely spend the game creating and inspecting a handful of hasty (and usually abstract) scribbles from everyone around the table. One player sets a hidden rule, and everyone else  attempts to uncover it by drawing post-it note sketches that are approved or dismissed. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition of quality that really left us wishing that the surrounding paintwork was more than just set dressing.

Best game we arrived way too late to award: Heat: Pedal to the Metal

UKGE 2024 Non award awards winner Heat: Pedal to the Metal, with five cards racing along a straight

Publisher Days of Wonder was demoing Heat: Pedal to the Metal’s weather-based expansion Heavy Rain at UKGE 2024, but it proved so popular that we struggled to find an opening in which to sidle up and slap down cards to move tiny cars around its presumably sodden tracks. So sod it, we thought, and bought the base game to play that very evening. It turns out that Heat is a phenomenal deck-managing race game! Which begs the question of why no one told Going Analog’s UK division sooner. Oh wait, you did, and several times over?!? Well now we just feel sheepish. Speaking of which…

Stronger than a space marine award: Catty the Catan sheep

 Catty the Catan sheep being ridden by Going Analog's UK correspondent Henry

Attendees to last year’s UKGE bore witness to one of the greatest showdowns of our time, as Settlers of Catan’s stalwart sheep mascot faced off against a towering Warhammer Terminator. As the shutters to this year’s show opened, however, only one remained. It was, of course, Catty the Catan sheep. How her grim-dark opposition finally fell is a tale best left to legend. All we know is that if you’re going to come for the queen of board games, you’d best not miss.

Strangest sighting award: These criminal birds

And finally, presented without context, a call for aid against antagonistic avians that we spotted while plodding the halls:

A crime poster reporting several criminal birds spotted at the UK Games Expo 2024

Outraged at our selections? Discovered your own award-worthy entrees at this year’s show? Speak your truth to us on Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, X, and Facebook! For some marginally less bonkers board game chatter, check out the Going Analog Podcast.

Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Frosthaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found scouring the web for the latest and greatest games, then wondering why he never has time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him on Bluesky, or drop an email to henry@moonrock.biz.