This year I swore I would go to a games convention. My original plan was to head over to Essen and experience the wonders of Spiel 2013. Unfortunately that won’t be possible due to the costs involved. So with that decided, I headed on over to Birmingham for the UK Games Expo 2013. Taking place from 24th -26th May, the Games Expo offers the UKs biggest board gaming event. I could only get up to Birmingham on the Sunday which meant I missed the Friday gaming and the expo kick-off on Saturday. Here’s a rundown of my experience at the event.
11.30: Nikki, Chris and I arrived at the NEC Hilton. Excited to get a taste of the convention scene, we pulled into the free car park and jumped out ready to go! We wandered over the road looking for how to get to the Hilton. There were no signs pointing us in the right direction and we bumped into a guy who was also looking for the hotel. Those guys really needed better signage for late comers. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we found our way and began our first expo experience.
12.00: We signed in and paid the entry fee, with lanyards round our necks we were set loose into the hotel. First stop, a strange room with people selling their second hand games. We didn’t find anything interesting there so we moved on.
12.30: We wandered into the Palace room. An Aladdin’s cave of stands and stalls covered in wonderful games and geek related paraphernalia. There was a presence from some of my favourite online stores including:
- Heron Games
- Leisure Games
- Spirit Games
- Boardgames Extras
I’m a self-confessed sufferer of the infamous acquisition disorder, so it didn’t take me long to hand over handfuls of cash in exchange for a delightful selection of fun.
13.30: Shopping bags in hand; we checked out some of the publishers that were in attendance. I was particularly interested in seeing what each of the following had on show:
- Queen Games
- Mayfair Games
- Asmodee Editions
- Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)
- Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
I think that perhaps we were a little late in the day to really get a sense of what these publishers had to offer, in fact we felt somewhat underwhelmed by what we found. Listening to podcasts like the Dice Tower we’d heard mention of publishers at cons having stock to sell as well as any available from the traders. This did not appear to be the case at the UK Games Expo, or rather at the time we were looking it wasn’t. I don’t know if they’d been selling their games earlier but certainly FFG didn’t appear to be selling anything themselves, nor did they seem to have anything particularly new to show. What they did have though was a large Deathstar table for playing X-Wing Miniatures on. It was nice but it would have been good to get a glimpse at some upcoming games or expansions that we could look forward to in the months to come. The Elder Signs expansion for example would have been great to see. What we did notice, as we looked around, was quite a good selection of Queen Games’ titles being played. Chris joined in a game of Fresco, which he really enjoyed, and I saw people happily playing Escape. This is a massive favourite of mine, and one that I’d recommend to anyone.
14.30: A little disappointed by the publisher offerings we returned to the traders and milled around looking for some more games to buy. Between the three of us we managed to pick up a few fun titles:
- Quarriors Quest for the Qladiator
- Quarriors Quartifacts
- Resistance Avalon
- Exile Sun
- Small World
- Incan Gold
- Nexus Ops
Chris was desperately trying to find a copy of Fresco but unfortunately everywhere he looked only had expansions left. If there’s one thing we learnt from our first games con, it’s that if you see something you think is a bargain, then you buy it. That guy next to you also thinks it’s a bargain and will buy it the second you put it down. It all boils down to the old saying “You snooze you lose!”
15.00: We wandered around some of the other side rooms, found the playtest room and the lecture room. If we’d had more than an hour left we would have spent some time in those rooms but we didn’t think we could get enough time there before the end of the expo.
15.30: We decided to leave the expo and head home for the day. We’d enjoyed what we’d managed to do and wanted to get home and pop those chits for all of the games we’d just bought. On leaving we were asked to return our lanyards for recycling, Chris and Nikki returned theirs and the nice guy at the door let me hang on to mine because I liked it and I use them at work a lot.
As a whole I would say the event was OK, I can’t say much more than that because it would be unfair to judge it based on the small amount of time I spent there. I can also say that I would return next year and I would try and be there for all three days to get a more rounded experience. One thing I would really like to see improved is publishers putting more effort into this event as they seem to do for the US alternatives.
Anyway, I don’t want to finish on a negative so I thought I’d conclude on a high note by listing a few of the things that I really enjoyed. Here they are in all their glory:
- Playing my first game of Crokinole at the Boardgames Extras stand.
- The Tardis and Daleks.
- The extra-large game of Pandemic with stylish lab coats.
- A large version of Ticket to Ride.
- Shopping at the trade stands for all my lovely new games.