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  • Writer's pictureIan

UK Games Expo - how was it for you?

At the start of the month we went along to UK Games Expo at the NEC – the UK’s biggest Board Games Convention (and according to one of the organisers we spoke to, now the third biggest in the world). It was our first time having planned to go last year but having had a last-minute family clash.

We’ve not been to any of the other huge Expos yet (Essen Spiel in Germany, Gen Con in USA etc) but this seemed pretty huge – two of the NEC’s main halls packed out, and plans are in place to expand that to three halls next year. The Expo runs for three days – we went for a long Friday (0830-2330) which was enough to get round most of the stuff, but definitely left us wanting more!

So, what were the main takeaways? UKGE is great for:

  1. Seeing what new games are coming out, particularly those on the verge of Kickstarter. All the big and indie publishers were there in force with their latest retail games, and even more indie designers had their final versions before going live on KS.

  2. Getting games tested. We were trialling Tiny Armoury at the Playtest UK Zone, where anyone can bring along a prototype for anyone else to play; staffed by volunteers, this is a great way to give your ideas some early exposure to the real world – or a great way to get involved in shaping the very latest games and helping new game designers.

  3. Game contests – a huge area of Hall 2 was given over to national and European competitions in Carcassonne, Star Wars, Legend of the Five Rings, Netrunner and many more. I thought my family was competitive…

  4. Meeting like-minded people! You can have more fun and useful conversations about games in a day at UKGE than you could in months of forum posting and emailing.

UKGE is perhaps less great for:

  1. Families. I feel really harsh writing that because there’s a huge family area with loads of stuff for the kids, and the organisers have obviously made a massive effort to try and encourage and accommodate families, but the days are long and the halls are huge, and I saw a lot of enthusiastic Dads dragging round their obviously bored and exhausted kids. My advice, if you can spare the time and money, would be to take the family but book into the Hilton a short walk away, which has a great pool and where the rest of the family can go and chill if they’ve had enough.

  2. Going alone. The folks at Thirsty Meeple boardgaming café brought along their huge games library for attendees to borrow and play, but there were quite a few people wandering around looking for a game. Something like a pairing/speed-dating arrangement could have been good in getting solo attendees playing more.

  3. Turning up on spec. You really need to have planned your day(s) to get the most out of your time there, whether that’s booking into some of the seminars, making sure you get to demo the games you’re most interested in or entering the many gaming contests. All the info you need is on the UKGE website though, which makes this nice and easy.

Overall though, an amazing and brilliant event. Huge thanks to Rob Harris, Patrick and the UKGE organising team for a great expo – can’t wait for next year when we hope to be there with a trade stand, and hopefully demonstrating our latest games. For now, this was a great way to meet and chat with a load of other gamers, designers and other enthusiasts, while spending a bit too much on new games 😊

So how was it for you?

Check out these links for more info (Walnut Games has no affiliation with any of these):

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