UK Games Expo Tips

One of our regular gamers Kenny has kindly combined a list of tips for attending the expo (and other conventions), the expo is constantly growing so we’ll update this before the event next year if we find out more!

Over to Kenny:
 I had never been to a convention before going to last years expo for the friday with the mrs. If you’re in the same boat and are thinking of attending, you should absolutely do it. I went last year without reading up very much and the first thing that hit me was how busy everything is. It was a bit of a shock to begin with although it must have worked out ok in the end as this year we went back for two days. –

1 – Crowds 

Coping with the crowds was vital for me in order to get the most out of the expo. Getting from a to b can take longer than you think. Popular attractions like the bring and buy will have long queues at peak times. Saturday tends to be busier than Friday and first thing in the morning / last thing in the evening can be quieter. The expo guide has a great index of stands and exhibitors. There are also larger maps available at the expo merch stand by the main entrance. Planning goes a long way. Use the big stands to orientate yourself, there’s also street names and row numbering which makes things even easier if you are that way inclined. The volunteers are really helpful, but don’t expect them to know everything. 

2 – Pacing yourself

Walking around the expo can be knackering. There’s plenty of places near the main hall to take time out. If the weather is on side you can grab something to eat and sit by the lake if you need a break from gaming. Otherwise there is a Wetherspoons, Starbucks etc in the NEC itself and a shopping centre at the Genting complex under 10 min walk away with all the normal chains you would expect.  

3 – Bags

Pack light to stop you getting worn out. If you have a full rucksack and you are walking around the main hall you will be annoying people by hitting them, The aisles were a lot wider this year but space is still at a premium. A large tote bag worn on your shoulder or a messenger style bag is much better as you can hold it in front of you or keep it under your arm.
Either way, be considerate, and be aware of your surroundings. If you are buying a sackload of new games there are a couple of options to make your life easier – right outside hall 1 there is a cloakroom that will accept bags of any size for £1. We left a large suitcase on both days this year. Also Leisure games have a game drop off service where you can leave as many games as will fit in one of their large storage boxes. I think they charge £2 but haven’t used the drop off so can’t confirm (Rumours it got very full).
Pack a few tote bags as well to bring your wares home in. Don’t feel you need to bring lots of games for open gaming there is the lending library and there will be lots of games to play there perhaps bring a few unusual ones or your favourite.

4 – Demos

My favourite thing at the expo is getting to expand my gaming palette by demoing games I wouldn’t normally get to play. Demos are popular though! A theme develops. Its rare you are going to walk up to a booth, find a game set up with a demonstrator ready to sit you down and start teaching.
My first advice for getting a demo in is probably a bit obvious – hang around by a table in play. The demonstrators will be happy to let you know how long a session is likely to take to finish. Sometimes you might get lucky and be able to squeeze onto a table if they haven’t quite started yet. Bear in mind there may be other people who have been waiting for a game to finish but aren’t hovering right beside the table.
Something that worked out well for us in this situation was offering to play as a single player to allow more people to join in. Have a list of games to check out so if one game is in the middle of a 2 hour play though you can head to another stand. If we saw a table finishing, even if it was a game we had no prior knowledge of, we often sat down anyway. This works especially well with shorter games set up near longer games you are waiting for. That way we got to maximise the number of demos we got in. There’s something great about speed learning a game, then muddling through with strangers, and then having everything coalesce. –

5 – Accommodation

Tricky one this. The expo is gaining in popularity year on year and the hotels are not stupid. Supply and demand means the hotels nearest the NEC will hike their prices. This year was particularly bad as there was a film and tv memorabilia fair and two nights of take that concerts to compete with. However prices for 2018 have gone a bit nuts for the hotels that have opened up bookings. It might be worth waiting a bit for more hotels to release rooms for the 2018 dates, but be prepared to stay further way than you’d like if everything gets snapped up. Not going to be very helpful here – i’m afraid i think its totally worth the price being within 10 minutes walk of the expo so you can pop back and forth for naps / food / showers / dropping games off etc. You can easily ignore me though, there are plenty of hotels in central birmingham and trains from the nec are frequent and run pretty late. –

6 – food & drink

There was some great reasonably street food out the front of the hilton hotel last year. Unfortunately it’s enough of a trek that we didn’t bother this year and went for the very expensive but uber convenient starbucks for lunch. It suited us at the time as it meant we could sit outside even when it was raining. wouldn’t recommend tbh, especially as there are little coffee cart stall in the main hall itself. If you want a proper meal at a table the genting complex has chain restaurants etc. –

7 – open gaming

The large open gaming spaces in the main hall and it the hilton are an amazing buzzing tabletop mecca. I could happily wander about just looking at the games people are playing as it seems like i only recognise 1 in 10. It’s very easy to strike up conversation with people and next year i definitely want to make a point of spending more time doing just that, and hopefully playing more games with strangers. There are bars inside or near the open gaming spaces in the hilton. Prices are middling to expensive with pints around £4 for a plastic pint glass. There were also tea and coffee stalls but a mad person must have been in charge of their opening hours as they were closed by late evening. During the afternoon the space in the main hall is surprise surprise pretty busy. As soon as the main hall closes a vast amount of people head over to the hilton. However getting a table should be easy as long as you go first thing in the main hall and any time up until 5.30 ish in the hilton. If you want to find space at peak times you’ll need to be patient, like getting a table in a busy pub. Don’t expect to find a spare table for 6 people unless you have time to wait for people to finish. Alternatively use the space in your hotel lobby. A flag system showing you are looking for new players should be in place but the last two years flags have been hard to find, so we’ll be making our own for next year.

8 – People

Gamers are really friendly. Not sure why this came as a surprise, but it is a welcome one. Its great having people carrying new games around as there’s nothing we like more than talking about our new purchases. I totally recommend getting involved with as much as possible. If you are shy try finding an open gaming table somewhere nice and early and wait for people to join you – they’re highly likely to ask if you want to play something with barely any effort on your part. Or if you are a smaller group or couple ask if people mind if you join them. Some people will be saving space for friends, wanting to play something specific etc, but not everyone. One last thing – There are supposed to be little union jack flags for people to use as a sign that their table needs players. I didn’t see one of these but reckon a home made sign would do the trick even better.

9. On a budget

if you are on a budget consider attending for one day, bring your own food and drinks that is fine, consider which day is best to attending, Friday and Sunday are quitter. Friday opens later but sunday closes early. Saturday is busy.

10. Parking,

Do you research and do not park near the airport, the NEC or train station are often cheaper.
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How to run a great games night and make it inclusive and supportive of well being and neurodiversity

There is no perfect answer to this but the following tips, should create a welcome friendly environment. Everyone likes to know the lie of the land, the basic rules and what to expect but more so if you have anxiety, autistic tendencies or a number of other issues.
So double check and make sure everything is clear even down to signage and drinks options. Set and manage expectations

Step one: Prepare: Advertise and set expectations

1) Advertise, find your players but clearly set expectations of the kind of games being played, what games are provided, are their teachers?
2) Is there a cost to the event
2). Where, when, what food and drink is available what is the cost?
3) Take requests for games and ask if people are bringing games to teach.
4) Send out rules videos or lists of the games being played so people can research
5) Include photos of the venue and gaming space. including accessibility information, stairs, lifts disabled toilets
6) Provide a map to the venue including parking information
7) Provide a second private channel for information and feedback. (Messenger) to answer questions before the event
8) Provide photos of the organizers
9) Provide photos of previous events to help set expectations.

Step two: The night: Ensure a friendly welcome atmosphere

1) Ensure the venue is well signed so you are easy to find. I include A4 laminated signed the whole way
2) Friendly greeter to welcome all guests to assign them to an appropriate game and game teacher.
3) An appropriate game is dependent on the gamer but be aware of:
a. overly competitive games,
b. overall complex games for new games.
c. games which are too extrovert or social and / or involve lying and bluffing.
d. Game which rules change too much, having known and controlled rules can be more comfortable.
4) The game teacher should be patient but also enthusiastic and welcoming
5) Ensure the venue has appropriate lighting,
6) Enough space between the gaming tables.
7) Control the noise including reducing or eliminating background music (Provide space between games helps with this, we also separate the louder social games and the more thoughtful euro games).
8) Be patient and tolerant, gamers with additional needs may be harder to please, may not react to social cues.
9) Ensure staff are identifiable. (Even having a different colour lanyard or badge would do)
10) Name stickers or name tags for all guests removes the pressure of asking or remembering names.
11) Provide a quiet or quieter space for people to unwind or decompress.
12) Include a flag or player match making system to make finding gamers easier if you don’t have an active host arranging this.

Step three: The growth

1) Grow and nurture the culture to be friendly, inclusive and welcoming.
2) Ask for feedback
3) Allow volunteers to step up and be involved. (Ownership of tasks and feeling of belonging)
4) Do not take rejection personally, even with perfect planning you cannot please everyone. Doubly so if people have additional issues.

This is not a once size fits all guide everyone is different and i am a gamer with an interest in inclusivity and making sure everyone has a good time not a medical professional. Hopefully these tips will help, they are mostly obvious.

It is also worth considering, players with vision issues including colour blindness, picking game carefully, marking up components, swapping components out or just helping to read public or open text.

Happy gaming!

This is work in progress so I’d love any feedback or comments.

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Best of facebook

We have a great facebook community here is a quick best of from over the last few months.

Introduce yourself:

Our Game collections:

Online codenames:

Our top nine games:

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Basically Wooden Review: Scythe and Village insert.

This isn’t a full review, just a few thoughts and lots of picture of building some inserts. Basically Wooden make fine accessories for board games and you can buy them pre build or DIY

The build process was quite easy, only one part was fiddly and took a few attempts, it took a whole ball of elastic bands and best part of a bottle of PVA glue.

Once built they make organising, sorting and getting the game to the table much quicker. The Scythe insert is brilliant. The village insert isn’t quite as polished but still makes getting the game on the table a breeze, but this an early Basically Wooden insert and it shows how much the company and product has matured. They are active and listen to the community, we are lucky to have them in the county

A quick gallery of the build process for the Inserts / game tidies. You can buy them complete or DIY. This is for Scythe…

Posted by Ad Best on Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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So do you want to know what games we actually play?

Check this new page to see the list of the games we played on each of our games nights!

Hopefully it is interesting to help you remember the name of the game you liked you played last time or just to see the types of games we regularly play.

We tend to play shorter games so we can mix the groups up, be social and play with everyone and end the night on a big social game of codenames or something.

Games we play!

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Our favourite games!

Some of our top 9 (ish) favourite games, scroll to the bottom to see the groups combined favourites. Each picture represents one members top picks.

Our favourite games
Our favourite games
Our favourite games
Our favourite games
Our favourite games
Our favourite games
Our favourite games
Our favourite games

These are on 3 lists:

Blood Rage, Takenoko, Codenames, Dixit, Above and Below, Kodama,

These are on 2 lists:

Stone Age, Carcassonne, Dogs of War, Games of Thrones Second Edition, Telestrations, Robo Rally, Survive and Mysterium

View our game collection!

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