I have the same problem in Ubuntu Mate 18.04.

I was able to fix the problem following John's suggestion:

At first I looked for package dependencies:

$ apt-cache showpkg gnome-boxes

Then we look for qemu-system-x86 configuration files:

$ cat /var/lib/dpkg/info/qemu-system-x86.conffiles

Then we add `group=kvm` to 

Then we add ourselves to the kvm group

$ sudo usermod -a -G kvm $USER

Since closing and restarting Boxes didn't work I rebooted and then I was
able to spin an Ubuntu 18.04 VM on my laptop with gnome-boxes.

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  GNOME boxes fails to start virtual os

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