UK Games Expo 2017 – Day Two Morning Round Up
Day two of the UK Board Games fell upon us after too little sleep and too many (if such a thing exists) board gaming. In fact, we got so much done today that we’ve had to split this article in two to make it more manageable. We’ll chat you through what we found out over the day and the evening separately.
Jouni Jussila, founder and CEO of Playmore Games kindly took the time to chat about their new App. Designed for all mobile platforms, ‘Dized’ guides players through their first time playing a new board game.
“We took a survey of the kinds of things people say when they bring out a new board game: is it easy to play; what are the rules like; is it hard to learn? It’s amazing how many people say these exact things. And learning lots of rules at once from a big rule book can put people off playing.”
We all take a moment to commiserate how daunting we’ve found playing seemingly complex games with dozens of bits to set up.
“Exactly and the people who do know how to play always say: it’s easy, I’ll teach you. But they don’t always teach it in a way that makes sense to everyone. We wanted to remove that barrier to people just picking up a new game and trying it.”
He fires ups a prototype of the Dized on a nearby tablet and starts the tutorial for ‘Race from the North Pole’. The app starts asking about how many players are playing and guides the players through the set up.
“The app always explains the first turn in full.” Jouni comments as we work our way through turn one, “After that, we don’t want to slow down players with steps in the tutorial that they already know and have seen.”
Sure enough, on the second turn, the step by step guide changes to checklist of actions that have to be completed for the turn.
“We want to teach people the rules for what they are doing that the moment in the game. We don’t want to throw unnecessary rules at them. We want to guide them through what they do for their turns and teach them the rules gradually. That way, they can learn as they play and start straight away!”
I spy a prototype for ‘Bang!’ on the app and ask the obvious question. Jouni offers an apologetic smile,
“I’m afraid we can’t talk about other tutorials for games we have in mind for the app. I can say we’ve partnered with 8 publishers who are really excited about this kind of ‘interactive instruction booklet.’ We are working with ‘Hans im Gluck’ who made Carcassone and the team that brought out Bang, but until our Indigogo launches in August, that’s it I’m afraid.”
We talk a little more about where Jouni sees the app going after its initial release.
“We’re currently working on the tools which will let us quickly develop tutorials for different games, at the moment everything is being created manually. But if we can build a toolset which lets us do that, I hope we can create three or four new tutorials a month. We’d also like to release that tool to third-party creators to let them easily create tutorials for their own games and host them on our app.”
I ask a little about PlayMoreGames themselves,
“We’re based in Helsinki,” and Jouni notes the success and pedigree of applications and developers coming out of Finland including Supercell and Remedy, “We’re only fifteen people, with four developing the app, but we’re constantly bringing new people on.”
We wander over to the Devir booth and delay Gracie Glowiak’s, head of Exports, lunch to ask her about their new games. After accepting our (sheepish) apologies, she chats us through ‘Fanhunter’, a miniatures game which sits alongside a Card game, as well as a soon to be released Roleplaying game.
In Fanhunter, players participate in a ‘revolution of the nerds’, as a tinpot dictator has outlawed every aspect of geek culture. The Resistance, made up of nerds with abilities inspired by pop culture icons, must do battle with the titular ‘Fanhunters’, a group created by the dictator to wipe out all things fun.
We also talk about ‘Dragons & Chickens’, a fast reaction game which involves players throwing cards into the centre, before identifying and calling out the most common symbol amongst the pile before the opponents. The twist involves the eponymous dragon whom the players must be the fastest to physically shield their treasure from when he appears to preserve their points.
She demos ‘Fast Food Fright’, a cooperative game where players must exchange cards in their hand to produce sets of fast food as ordered by a deck of monsters. All of which must be accomplished before a small hourglass runs out.
After she guides us to a narrow victory, I ask a little bit out Devir.
“We’re actually celebrating our 30th birthday this year! You might not have heard much of us in the UK, but we’ve actually been translating popular games like Carcassone into Portugese and Italian for years. We recently moved from working on other people’s games to making our own. In fact, we only started distributing in the UK over this last year.”
A friend of mine introduces me to a small team of developers at the Playtest area. I pilfer some of Leila, Breck and Kerr, of Ellerium Games’, precious ninety minutes of testing and feedback to talk about ‘Super Mutant Spiders’
“We made this at the Moray Game Jam this year in forty-eight hours,” says Leila, “And we won second place!”
— Leila (@Leila3R) June 3, 2017
And it’s easy to see why, in addition to the board and counters being hand crafted (the adorable spiders are made out of fabric, pipe-cleaners and googly eyes!), the game can be picked up and played immediately, with a surprising amount of tactical depth.
Players take on the role of hungry spiders who must navigate the strings of a web to wrap up and then eat flies that have been caught. The web is suspended over a nuclear reactor – naturally – and as the spiders eat the irradiated flies, they gain mutations which grant them movement powers, the ability to bump their opponents away and so on. Shuffled into the Mutations deck are the ‘Super Mutations’, drawing three of those nets you the game. But not all Super Mutations are positive and players have to manage their drawbacks, leverage their abilities and keep chomping spiders in spite of their competitors.
I comment that some of the best games I’ve seen at UK Games Expo balance simplicity and depth and Leila agrees,
“We’ve had kids come over and pick the game up immediately. But when adults start playing, you see them start to pull all sorts of devious tricks on each other.”
The team have also received positive feedback from the testers,
“It’s all been about refining the wording on the cards, some people have been producing interpreting them in ways we hadn’t thought of” says Breck, “Or producing really crazy combinations of cards that we hadn’t intended,” adds Leila.
The fact that critique is focused on something that is easily fixable and remote is a testament to the strength of the core mechanic.
“We’re planning on taking this to some publishers and looking at distribution,” confirms Breck, “And we’ll be back at the Moray Game Jam next year to win!”
Finally, we spoke with Gary Sibthorpe about his company, Sibro Games, and their first title ‘Follow’ which they are launching here at the UK Games Expo.
“The idea of the game is that you go around and collect Followers and take them home to where they belong. Followers come in all different forms, from Cleopatra to the Labyrinth. As players move around and explore the board they reveal new locations and new followers within them. Kids love it as they can, for example, find the Labyrinth in the Bathroom. To win the game the player must collect a full set of followers by returning them to their home. But other players can also steal one of your followers in transit and try to get them home before you do. There are no set number of moves you can make on your turn, it all depends on a dice roll on whether you get to make more than one move.” Follow certainly looked interesting and will cater both family gaming and the more in-depth crowd who are more likely to try to build strategies in the game.
That seems like a good place to leave it for now. But part two will be along shortly with the mischief we achieved in the evening and some more details on exhibitor’s, events and games at the UK Games Expo.