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The UK Games Expo - Phew! What a Scorcher! (stuff I played and/or bought)
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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No Expo Geeklists up yet?

Good time to start, then.

Perhaps having the most ridiculously unseasonal scorching sun was ideal for hurrying all the pasty-faced geeks indoors, because the Expo definitely appeared more vibrant and better organised this year, and the variety of games on demo - from playtest to publication - was a delight. I didn't play half as many as I wanted, but that was mostly due to the fact that my urges to socialise and drink beer drew me inexorably back over the road to the gaming room at the Strathallan.

So, here it is, my Expo in a nutshell. As always, apologies to everyone whose name I've forgotten and/or spelled wrong. If you played with me, please leave a comment and/or correction so I can identify you next time!
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1. Board Game: Santiago de Cuba [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:565]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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FRIDAY

Played!

After checking in at the optimistically-titled 'Quality Hotel', Becky and I hefted two huge bags of games and settled in a quiet corner of the Strathallan. With the masses yet to enter, we engaged in a light 2P game of Santiago, at which she beat me - again!
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2. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:256]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

Chris (shortly to be retitled 'Big Chris'), promised us a game of German Railways before disappearing off for dinner, so we thought we had time for a quick game of this old favourite.

Little did we know that Chris, Pooki and Little Chris had bigger and faster appetites than we realised, and Thurn & Taxis quickly took a back seat.
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3. Board Game: German Railways [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1314]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

You really need five to do this one properly. Due to a smattering of beginners' German, I was appointed banker and 'official pronouncer' ("that's PROYS-isher OST-barn"), and topped that off with a win as well!

I enjoy German Railways, but I'm still not convinced that it's possible to realistically value things at auction, nor that there's really much game underneath.
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4. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:19]
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Played!

Becky and I were shortly off for dinner, so we had time for a quick filler. Nick joined us for a gung-ho 6-player, won comfortably by Little Chris on the Guild cards.
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5. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:202]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

After a commendably swift dinner, courtesy of ASK Pizza, I proceeded to win rather convincingly at this completely barking game head-to-head against Becky.
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6. Board Game: Ninjato [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:389]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

Big Chris was keen to introduce us to this, and I was won over quickly by the gorgeous art and the shurikens. We were joined by one other (Tom? John? No, Ian apparently), and I demonstrated the famous beginners' luck by racing out to a lead, while Chris found himself eternally at the mercy of the Elite Guards.

I enjoyed my first play, and wouldn't say no in the future. Not quite a contender for my wishlist, though.
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7. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:398]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

Setting up this one drew several glances of fruit-eeple envy. Little do they know that this is one nasty little game.

Sarah happened by the table and was more than happy to occupy the fourth seat, and she very nearly beat out Becky, who is currently on a Finca hot run. The male side of the table was full of drought in comparison.
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8. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:180]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

Chris was seeing out the evening at our table, and confessed that he'd never played this legendary game, so we went on the scout-about for two extra players, and happened upon Andy and Ian. And we're glad we did: their cider-fuelled banter and efforts at German/French accents made for an uprorarious game of Modern Art (although I'm not entirely convinced by their blagging that they'd never played before, when they starting correcting us on rules in the first round...). I suspect Andy might have won this, but I was having too much fun to remember.
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9. Board Game: Catacombs [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:447]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

I could tell Chris was eyeing up Catacombs longingly, so with the clock approaching 11pm, we set up a final game for the evening.

Becky was a learner, so we roped in Liam and Hannah to also get to grips with things and appointed Chris an unofficial leader (I, naturally, was GMing with my pocketful of custom quests).

All seemed to be going swimmingly until a couple of wrong turns and a host of Fire Demons got in the way, and the heroes capitulated in style, with a frantic Paladin chasing the Dragon all the way around the final room.
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10. Board Game: Snowdonia [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:278]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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SATURDAY

Watched!

Our route into the Clarendon Suites takes us straight past the Surprised Stare booth (the dark, damp corner that it is), so there was time to admire Charlie's Snowdonia art before diving into the main halls. With three demo tables already in progressed, Snowdonia looked to be shaping up very nicely, and it was noted that there were very few games scheduled for an Essen 2012 release being played elsewhere.
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11. Board Game: Jask [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played!

Two genial chaps whose names totally elude me urged Becky and I to sit and play this party game with strong elements of Scattergories and the like. Time flew by and we both really enjoyed it, but on reflection I'm not sure it would have enough longevity to be part of my collection.
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12. Board Game: Foundation [Average Rating:6.70 Unranked]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played!

Pottering past the Cubiko stall, we were leaped upon by the tireless Gavin Birnbaum and urged to put Foundations to the test. It was a pleasant enough Cathedral-esque game, but nothing to set the world alight. You've got to admire the craft that gets put in, though.
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13. Board Game: Cubiko [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:5336]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Bought!

We were, however, unable to turn down his piece de resistance. With copies in short supply, Becky was unable to resist landing our own Cubiko set.
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14. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:103]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Bought!

This was always going to happen, to be honest.

Upstairs, Hanno was already having difficulties making his stall look convincing with just three boxes and a handful of animeeples left, about an hour after opening. That promptly became two boxes after my visit!
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15. Board Game: Numerix [Average Rating:6.27 Unranked]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played (and bought)!

Pottering through the mid-level hall, we were leaped upon by (I presume) the designer and urged to play a quick game. I knew it wouldn't be Becky's sort of game (abstract, dice, etc), which would have made the deluxe wooden board - pretty as it was - a bit of a luxury. Instead, I contented myself with the 'beer-proof' version, made of laminated card and plastic counters and costing a whole two pounds.
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16. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:156]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Bought!

Thankfully, the bring-and-buy hadn't collapsed under its own weight this year, and there were still some bargains to be had. We picked up this excellent game, unpunched, for not very much money. Unfortunately, it was the German edition, which will mean some paste-ups needed.
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17. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2581]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Bought!

Some card sleeves for the Macao paste-ups and a mugful of dice to hide in geocaches up and down the country.

If any geocachers find a die, you can bet we've been involved!
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18. Board Game: Anyways [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

With Becky being lured off by other prototypes and the playtest zone, I found my attention diverted by the Ragnar stall and their new word game. Pretty much a cross between Qwirkle and Scrabble, it appealed to me immediately, and I promptly went to town on a demo game, scoring comfortably over 400 points.

As awesome as I found it, I wasn't quite tempted to buy a copy. Yet.
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19. Board Game: Go With The Flow [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Demoed!

I paused briefly to have a glance at this one, which looked decently interesting and almost got talked into a whole game. But there were other, more attractive, options, and I gracefully declined.
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20. Board Game: Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:164]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Discussed!

And I spent an entertaining ten minutes before dinner with the chap from AEG trying to convince me why this was better than Dominion. He did a reasonably good job, bless him.
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21. Board Game: Cubiko [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:5336]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Played!

We retired from the Expo halls for some leisurely lunch, by which time it was getting on for 4pm, and time to return to the Strathallan. Becky and I opened with a casual couple of games of Cubiko, which went promptly 2-0 my way.
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22. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:103]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played!

With the room still yet to fill up, we broke out our new copy of this and set about a learning game. I can't really claim we played it with any skill (although I suspect god-knows-how-many games of Agricola probably set us off on the right lines), so really only time will tell for this one.
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23. Board Game: Opera [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1489]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played!

Man, is it hard to get dungeon-crawling and castle-building geeks to play this?!

A shame, because I absolutely adore it. We had to settle for a 2P - Becky doing not at all badly at her first attempt because it is by no means an easy game to learn. She wasn't helped by some unlucky and unaffordable music draws and Monteverdi spending most of the game unbudged at the top of the charts.
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24. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:195]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played!

With Becky being suckered in by a game of Vikings with two chaps named Bill and one other chap (also with a name, I presume), I introduced myself to Josh, Tom and Gwillam (I think) on the next table and promptly got myself into a game of Automobile.

I was in blissful ignorance behind the learning curve for most of this one, and being far too conservative with the number of cars built ultimately cost me. It was most interesting, though, and I loved Wallace's usual attention to the theme and history. Probably one of those games I'd be happy to play once a year or so.

Oh, and apparently my name is now 'Steve'.
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25. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Played! (eventually)

Becky had, by this time, moved onto a game of Stone Age (which she loves and I loathe), and the Boydell was lurking around, which only mean orange-box time. Unfortunately, being after 5pm, table space was suddenly at an absolute premium, and we spent a bit of time sulking in the foyer before rigging up an impromptu Agricola table on multiple levels where only one player could reach the action spaces. But it was still good enough.

We were joined by an enthusiastic Derek (and cynical Alex!) and Becky came over, triumphant after beating a bunch of men at prehistoric shenanigans. A nearby group of Acres Of Snow players assisted us with caustic comment.

Playing E,G,WM decks, Tony just about squeezed out a win, although his 'kitchen showroom' strategy looked in doubt at one point after I played the Charcoal Burner. Still, at least we'd played his favourite game...
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