Tag Archives: Convention

UK Games Expo T-Minus 4 Days…

ExpoExhibitors

With only four days (including today) until the UK Games Expo 2014, I thought I’d post some of the things that I’m looking forward to. Today I’m going to look at the exhibitors!

Last year I spent most of my short amount of time at the expo wandering around the exhibition hall. This year will, no doubt, see me wandering around and perusing many, if not all, of the stands throughout the expo. In preparation for this I took a minute to go through the exhibitor listing on the expo site and noted many stands I can’t wait to visit. Here’s the ten stands I’m most interested in visiting (in alphabetical order.)

Back Spindle Games
Demoing their awesome looking game Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice (2nd Edition) which goes live on Kickstarter tomorrow!

Czech Games Edition
Producers of some of my favourite games including Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert!

Days of Wonder
Creators of Ticket to Ride and Memoir 44, need I say more?

Fantasy Flight Games
It’s FFG, the kings of thematic games.

Game Salute
Very interested to see what representation these guys have, they’re an awesome company who provide support and publishing services for many, many, many Kickstarter games!

GamesQuest
Looking forward to catching up with Nigel and Paul to discuss some future posts for their blog.

Mayfair Games
Last year Mayfair had a lot of floor space, unfortunately I didn’t have chance to check them out. This time I am going to rectify that!

NSKN Games
Creators of one of my favourite thematic games, Exodus Proxima Centauri, I got hold of the revised edition last year and have recently heard that there’s an expansion on the way!

Steve Jackson Games
Two words…. Steve Jackson…

Z-man Games
I really like Z-man, they produce to awesome games, Pandemic, Robinson Crusoe and Tales of the Arabian Nights. I can’t wait to see what they have to show off, and I especially want to see if I can get a look at the new Pandemic: The Cure game.

GamesQuest, Insomnia and the UK Games Expo

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything on here, but this time I have good reason for not being around! Basically I’m under orders from my doctor to rest up. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!

I have a shed load of things I want to discuss on here, but I’m going to spread things out over several posts, just so I can rest between writing them. This post is going to be a high level overview of a few of the things I’ve been up to over the past couple of months. So, here goes!

Gamesquest
GamesQuest – For a couple of months now I’ve been spending some of my free time writing for the GamesQuest blog. I’ve had the chance to write reviews for some fun games and, as you may have guessed, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

GamesQuest sell the latest and greatest games and collectibles, so if you ever need something then check them out! Here’s list of the blog posts that I’ve done for them; if you’re interested in reading up on any of these games then follow the links direct to the post:
Rampage
Space Cadets – Dice Duel
Assassins Creed Arena
Marvel Dice Masters Preview
Marvel Dice Master Review

Insomnia

Insomnia51 – In April, I went to my first ever Insomnia Games Festival. It was a great experience with lots of PC gaming going on all around. I’d never been to an event like this and I found it quite interesting. I watched some of the indie developer talks and there was a lot of useful information from the video game industry that you could quite easily extrapolate to apply to virtually any other industry, especially that of board games.

Having stopped playing video games a couple of years ago I was primarily interested in the particularly busy area of the exhibition hall that was occupied by non-other than the GamesQuest team and their vast selection of board games. This was the first time I’d had the chance to meet Nigel (Mr GamesQuest) and Nikki and I were really glad we took the time to visit.

We were in Coventry from the Friday to the Sunday and during the day we spent a lot of time at the GamesQuest area. We got the chance to try out some fun games such as Zombicide, Game of the Thrones the board game, Assassins Creed and Small Worlds. We also spent some time away from the event playing Fairy Tales and Marvel Legendary with the new Paint the Town Red expansion.

During the evenings we grabbed some food before heading back to the Ricoh arena to catch up with Nigel and Paul for two very fun-filled gaming sessions in their hotel bar. We had the pleasure of meeting some great people and played some awesome games such as Kackerlacken Poker, Nosferatu and CV. I just want to give a special thanks, and shout out, to the following people for welcoming us into their group and providing hours of entertainment:
Nigel and Paul Matthews
Daniel Thompson
Peter Coleman aka Moley
Paul, Connor and Harry Wheeler.

If there’s one, vitally important, thing that I’ve taken away from Insomnia, it’s the knowledge that I am possibly the worst bluffer in the entire world… My appalling number of losses at Kackerlacken Poker will haunt me forevermore! I still bought my own copy, and a copy Nosferatu too, the next day though!

UK Games Expo

UK Games Expo 2014 – Last year I was fairly new to the world of board games, I’d played enough to have heard about the UK Games Expo, but I hadn’t got any real experience with being part of a gaming group, or simply sitting down at a table and joining a game. It was all very new and scary to me. I dropped in on the 2013 expo around lunchtime on the Sunday, right near the end of the event, and I didn’t have a clue how to make the most of the time I had. We bustled around, bought some games and didn’t get a chance to look at everything. We should have made time and got there really early!

This year I’ve learnt my lesson, I’ve joined various gaming groups, become more involved in my blogging and am more keyed in to the board game industry as a whole. So I’ve bought tickets for the entire event, including a hotel stay at the Hilton where it’s being hosted, just to make sure I don’t miss out on a single thing!

As of writing, there’s only ten days left to the UKGE 2014 and if you’ve not got a ticket then why not? Go buy one right now! Literally, stop reading my random ramblings, go to the UKGE website and book one for collection on the day! The pre-booking is only open until May 23rd so there’s only four more days before you’ll have to hope you can get one on the door!

What I’ve come to realise is that, last year, my opinion about the event was tainted by my own lack of preparation and turning up late on the Sunday. This year I won’t be making the same mistake!

Make sure you get the most out of the expo as well and, if you can, attend both Saturday and Sunday, if not Friday too! There’s tonnes of things to do this year, including the famous bring-and-buy sale, numerous tournaments, an alien laser tag event, Numerous RPG sessions, the exhibition hall (rammed full of game retailers) and absolutely tonnes of demo games going on across the weekend. That’s not to mention special guests such as Ian Livinsgtone, Steve Jackson, Matt Leacock and Chris Barrie!

Coming Soon

Coming Soon! – One of the cool things that came out of visiting Insomnia back in April; I got to spend a good amount of time chatting to Patrick Campbell, one of the UKGE organisers. He had a tonne of interesting stories to tell about the crazy things that’ve happened at the event over the years. Personally, I found them all very exciting and I simply don’t want to miss out on any of it this year! I’ve since been in touch with Patrick and he’s agreed to answer a few questions for the blog to give everyone an insight into what the event’s all about and why he loves organising the UKs biggest board gaming event. Stay tuned for that appearing on the feed soon!

Also, in the next week or so I’m going to be running a competition to win something VERY cool. Keep checking back for more details as I get them!

Technology, Stories and Learning

As you may know I’m an instructional designer by trade, one of those people who creates the eLearning and training you all have to sit through at work. Also, if you’re here reading my blog then I assume that you know that I am also deeply in love with games that tell a great story!

In a professional capacity, I recently attended the UKs largest learning and skills convention, Learning Technologies 2014. Throughout the day I went to several of the seminars that caught my eye. Two on gamification and one on an eLearning course about story telling skills. I have to be honest, I wasn’t massively impressed by any of these seminars, but they all gave me time to think a little about story-telling in games, and later about story-telling in learning.

Gamification is rapidly becoming common-place throughout the business world and it’s begun to show its face in the eLearning sector too. However, gamification isn’t the holy-grail, nor is it the answer to everything that ails your learning content. You need to use gamification with caution and exercise restraint when you do. You must always balance what a business needs against what’s actually good for the learner!

I’ve heard it said that stories are one of the many elements that you can find in the gamification toolkit. I disagree with that concept on a fundamental level and would strongly urge people to think of gamification as nothing but a tool in your storytelling toolkit. After all, some of our favourite games are based entirely around a story. The game elements and mechanics work together to deliver and present that story to all who will listen! However, that said, this blog post isn’t about gamification or the merits of its use, that’s a topic for another day. This post is all about stories.

For the last three years I’ve been following the blog of Cathy Moore, an excellent instructional designer, who has a lot to say about the use of scenarios in a learning context. Why do I mention this?

Well… What’s a scenario if it’s not a story?

And what makes a story successful?

The answer to that second question’s simple! It’s all about the emotional engagement or investment!! If your story doesn’t evoke feeling and engage the reader then how can you hope for it to be remembered?

Story

During my time at the Learning Technologies conference I began wondering how I could use stories to promote learning. Not just a short scenario that illustrates a single point, but a full blown narrative, a story that evolves with the learners understanding. I thought carefully about how I learn to play a game. How I absorb abstract concepts and adapt my own behaviour to fit within the constraints of the game itself. I thought back to the different rule books that I’ve read over the years, hundreds of them if we’re counting. Some of these books were good, with excellent examples. Others were terrible, filled with confusion and errors. But ultimately, at the heart of every game, there is a rule book that teaches players to drive the mechanics that ultimately deliver the story.

I don’t really want to stray into the realms of discussing serious games or, more accurately, learning games. So, with that in mind, I’ve thrown together some thoughts on how someone who creates learning could go about constructing a story for an intervention. Here’s a handful of tips that I came up with for starting to think about your own learning stories:

  1. Work with subject matter experts (SMEs) directly – Don’t just ask them the same old tried and tested questions! That just leads to stagnation! Ask them about their feelings on certain subjects.
    Is there a particularly difficult task?
    How does it make them feel?
    How should it make the learner feel?
    See if you can include some of their personal experiences in the story that you’re building. This will help you build rapport with them and they may even provide you with some story-telling gold.
  2. Keep the story relevant to the learner – Why does the learner care about what you’re teaching them? Appeal to the learner’s intrinsic motivations if at all possible. Simply saying that they will be motivated to learn because it’s part of their job doesn’t count… Whether your employer believes it or not, work necessity is usually an extrinsic motivation, the learner is being forced to care, and therefore is unlikely to actually care on an emotional level.
    Take for example a company who wants to reduce the number of accidents at work because they may soon face financial repercussions. Do the workers ultimately care about the repercussions that management have to deal with? Probably not, in fact, they most likely care more about themselves and their co-workers.
    So, with that in mind, start creating a story that’s based around an accident. Highlight the personal physical risks and explain what they could do to their colleagues if they don’t act responsibly. Once you’ve got them emotionally invested in the idea, reveal the big picture consequences. Perhaps the company is fined for its accident record. After paying the fine they can no longer afford to operate the business and take the decision to shut up shop. The result? Unemployment!
    What you put into the story is up to you, but don’t be afraid to tap in to the way people think, what they like, or what they fear. But a word to the wise, be sensitive!
  3. Start small and build up to a grand finale – I once heard that a person will only remember the best bit of a course, the worst bit, and the very last bit. So let’s make sure that the last thing we show them makes it worth waiting for. Of course don’t just try and cram everything in at the end, no-one likes a brain dump.
  4. Do not be afraid of comedy – There’s a fine balance between funny and cringe-worthy. But, even so, if you can make your learners laugh you’ll be giving them a small dose of endorphins. Yes you heard it here first, try and make your learners happy!
    Forget the teachers of the past who believed that you weren’t in school to have fun.
    News flash!!! There’s nothing in the world that says you can’t have fun whilst learning!
  5. Involve and engage the learner – Don’t be afraid to personalise your story, to bring the learner deeper into the world that you’re creating for them. If you can get your courses to pull the learners names from your learning management system then even better! Address important questions to the learner directly. For example, in a first aid scenario have someone asking the learner for help.
    “Tom! Help me lift this weight off of his leg!”
    Of course, in this scenario you probably wouldn’t want to lift that weight in case the victim had a crush injury. If you lift it and circulation resumes then you may release toxins back into his body and outright kill him. But in a learning solution it’s OK, “no people were hurt in the making of this story” and it’s one hell of a memorable lesson for those that didn’t know about crush injuries.
    “Who lifted this off of him? Was it you Tom? My God! You’ve killed him!”
    Remember though! Don’t trick your learners into doing things wrong, let them make their own mistakes, let them fail, but never trick them.

Anyway, that’s five little tips for coming up with your own stories to enhance your learning content. I’m not an author of fiction and I won’t pretend that I can provide you with all the guidance you’ll need. But I do hope that I’ve been able to provide something here that will be of use to you in your future stories! Don’t forget though, if you’re developing a game and want to work on a story for it, then you can just as easily apply the five tips to that too. In fact, for any game developer reading this, I highly recommend reading up on some instructional design principles before you start out writing your all-important rule book!

UK Games Expo 2013

Ticket to Ride Pandemic

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
  • Gameslore
  • 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
  • Village
  • Incan Gold
  • Saboteur
  • 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.

Summary
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.