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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Our Expo Experience Day 3: Sunday- BONGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A brief (ish) run down of Adam and Elaine’s three day, magical adventure at The UK Games Expo 2017, held at the NEC in Birmingham and The Hilton Metropole Hotel, Birmingham. This is our third visit now to the Expo and the experience has been different each time.

Sunday 4th June

Last day 🙁 Only 363 days to go until the next one! We had a nice, relaxed stroll around the trade hall in the morning. Sunday is a great day for this,  as much quieter than the Saturday, where it can be very hard to find space on a demo table (unless you are as determined as Kenny!) and you can also get some last minute bargains from stalls wanting to shift their stock. I managed to haggle a whole £2 off ‘Anomia’ which is really good for me as I hate haggling!

We also managed to squeeze in a  quick chat to our friends at Basically Wooden who have donated some awesome prizes for our charity days. Their  stall was twice as large as last year and looked amazing.

Basically Wooden’s stall

Basically Wooden’s stall

‘Dominion’ Lazy Susan, dice towers and card organisers

We managed to get a demo of ‘Dice Hospital’ by Alley Cat Games  (on Kickstarter at the moment) at the request of our friend Griff, of ‘doing a Griff’ infamy.This was still in proto-type form which is another first for us as, never having played a unfinished game.  It’s a dice/worker placement game, where the dice are patients and you compete to cure the most patients and thus score the most points. You each have your own hospital player board  with some standard treatment rooms and you can recruit extra specialist doctors and acquire additional treatment rooms, in order to help you with this.  I don’t think we would necessarily purchase this, but it was an interesting experience. Ad also made the suggestion that they should think about a negative score track as the poor chap we were playing with had a very full morgue, so it would be interesting to see if they incorporate this into the finished game.

Dice Hospital prototype- ambulances full of patients

Dice Hospital prototype- Ad discharging 7 patients for a huge score

We then stumbled upon what must be the most bizarre game of this year’s Expo, ‘Bongers’; a game whereby you throw pine cones at a small trampoline, scoring them based upon were they land . Ad and I were sold and ready to part with cold, hard cash! We thought this would be a great  game for our wedding but then the ‘Bongers’ chap tells us  that  the game isn’t for sale! He was just there trying to spread the folk- lore legend of ‘Bongers’!  Don’t worry though folks, we will be making our own set of ‘Bongers’.



“Where am I?”  “You’re in a room……”. Our Expo experience was nicely rounded off by attending a performance of ‘Knightmare Live’. Those of you of a certain age may have fond memories of this ’80s and ’90s TV classic. This excellent show brought back warm, waves of nostalgia for Ad and I, but also made us question stuff which made so much sense back then, but was totally baffling now, such as why are dungeon lords obsessed with really easy anagrams? I would highly recommend this show and hopefully they will be back next year. N.B it is also worth mentioning that the other yearly offering by the Expo,  ‘The Dark Room’  by John Robertson (a live, text based adventure game where everyone is called Darren) is also excellent. We saw it on our first visit to the Expo in 2015.

We have already booked our hotel for next year and hope to see lots of you there. Bring on Expo 2018, we’re ready for you!!!!!

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Our Expo Experience Day 2: Saturday- A Day of Firsts

A brief (ish) run down of Adam and Elaine’s three day, magical adventure at The UK Games Expo 2017, held at the NEC in Birmingham and The Hilton Metropole Hotel, Birmingham. This is our third visit now to the Expo and the experience has been different each time.

Saturday 3rd June

Woohoo a whole day of playing games, drinking and eating junk food for my birthday!!!!

The Catan sheep in our colours!

It looks like we weren’t the only ones to have this idea as this appeared a few hours later!

An Expo first for us today. The Saturday is always the busiest day by far so we decided to have a leisurely morning and attend a seminar, of which there are many various ones held throughout the three days . We choose ‘Style vs Substance’ (Art in Gaming) which consisted of a panel of guest artists talking about their work and how this related to style vs substance. They included Ralph Horsely who designed the artwork used on the cover of the this year’s magazine and tickets, Jon Kovalic (‘Munchkin’) and the lovely and very talented Gillian Pearce of Hellion’s Art, who we commissioned to do some custom artwork for us, but that is another story, which no doubt will be in a future blog.  Ad and I are suckers for great artwork in games and we found this thoroughly enjoyable. In fact as soon as it was over we braved the hordes and headed back into the trade hall to check out the artists’ stall in more detail. Ralph had some spectacular, original oil paintings for sale and although these were a bit out of our price range we did pick up some beautiful prints which will decorate our dining room nerd cave nicely.

Ralph Horsely- Owl Bear & UK Games Expo 2017 magazine cover art &

We also bumped into yet more Herefordshire Board Gamers at lunchtime;  The Beavanses (Emily, Rob and Abi).   It was really great to see so many Herefordshire Board Gamers yesterday and today, although none of them were called James which was rather unnerving.

The afternoon brought another Expo first for us- pre-arranged gaming with strangers. We had arranged a four player game of ‘Through the Ages’ (a heavy, civilisation building game) with two lovely chaps via the Facebook group,’Board Game Trading and Chat UK’; Christian who we later found out runs Board Game Monster (online gaming retailer) and Uli. What could possibly go wrong?!  After a strong start by us, in first and second place for much of the game, we got mercilessly beaten down by war after war in the third age (about 4 hours in) and on my birthday too 🙁

Another Ghostbuster with bonus Gandalf

More Ghostbusters!

‘Board Game Trading and Chat UK’ have done some great work this year by facilitating  member meet ups, as it can be very daunting to wander round the gaming rooms, trying to sum up the courage to approach others for a game. They also have t-shirts so members can identify each other easily and therefore hopefully feel less nervous about approaching strangers. This is a great idea, although our t-shirts are much better obviously! We still have some for sale and Christmas is just around the corner…

So endeth the second day of firsts.

Click here for Day 3

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Our Expo Experience Day 1: Friday- All the Shinies!

A brief (ish) run down of Adam and Elaine’s three day, magical adventure at The UK Games Expo 2017, held at the NEC in Birmingham and The Hilton Metropole Hotel, Birmingham. This is our third visit now to the Expo and the experience has been different each time.

Friday 2nd June

We arrived on Friday just after opening and bumped into four of our friends from Herefordshire Board Gamers who had travelled down together (Fraser, Jo, Mike and Emma). It was lovely to see them all wearing our club t-shirts, including one ‘ghostbusting’ Herefordshire Board Gamer!

The HB crew!

“Who ya gonna call?” A Herefordshire Board Gamer!

We went our separate ways and had a good explore of the trade hall at the NEC.  Friday is a much better day to shop than Saturday as it’s much quieter.  Ad made us walk the halls methodically so we didn’t miss anything, as I kept getting distracted by all the ‘shinies’!

We bumped into Kenny from Herefordshire Board Gamers and his girlfriend Abi and decided that we must get some of the purple ‘Dobble’ hands that we had seen people sporting. The ‘demo-er’ said we had to beat him in a game of ‘Dobble’ in order to win the hands. We played one game of ‘Dobble Beach’ and he narrowly beat us by one card. We made it clear that we weren’t leaving without the ‘Dobble’ hands and so the poor lad (who looked about 15) just gave us the hands as I think he wanted to get rid of us but hey whatever works?!

Our expo haul

We then met up to have a sit down and compare our loot whilst we waited for Ad to queue in the Bring and Buy.  Both ourselves and Fraser and Jo were weighed down by a copy of ‘Star Wars Rebellion’! Mike had aptly bought a ‘Ghostbusters’ game and Emma was sporting an awesome new purchase ; a t-shirt depicting a  cat vomiting rainbows (‘cos Expo!).  Mike also met a fellow ‘ghostbuster’ and had a long chat about proton packs.

Ghostbuster friend!

We then headed to the Hilton for a night of open gaming. Our HB crew had scored us a large, round table in the ‘Kings’ Suite’ whilst we checked in to our hotel, so we played a few quick games with them before they headed off home.

We opened one of our new purchases to learn, ‘ Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy’ by Portal Games which Ad had picked up in the Bring and Buy; a game set in 18th century France, about marrying off your children advantageously. No sooner had we set up than Jo (Burdon) from Herefordshire Board Gamers and her boyfriend Tom appeared and asked if they could join us! We played a couple of games and were very impressed. I managed to birth a broad- hipped daughter which stood me in good stead. Jo and Tom then bid us farewell and we decided to crack open one of our other new acquisitions, ‘ The Pioneers Program’ by GCT which is a Kickstarter we had collected at the Expo.  We were joined for this by Kenny and Abi.  The theme of the game is post- apocalyptic survival. The artwork is amazing (same artist as the’ Explorers of the North Sea Saga’- Mihajilo Dimitrievski). There are elements of drafting and building up your settlement, as well as attacking other players.   I think we need to have another play of this as it felt a bit disjointed and there was also no tie-breaker winning condition which meant a couple of us had a joint win.

All in all, a great first day at the Expo.

Click here for Day 2


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What type of games convention goer are you?

I like lists, both useful and funny so here is an attempt at a funny list. A random conversation at the expo spawned the idea of defining what type of convention  goer you are.

  • The Accidental Gamer: Discovers the con by accident (2017 accidental gamer story, a lady attending the Take That gig near by chats to a gamer over breakfast, ends up attending the Expo for two days!)
  • The Aerosmith (I don’t want to miss a thing):  Has to do everything, see every stall, at the expense of sleeping, runs on coffee and food you can eat one handed.
  • The Bargain Hunter: Scours the bring and buy sales and price checks all the stores and online shops before purchasing.
  • The Demoer: There to play lots of demos, either to be the first to know or to try before you buy.
  • The Floater: Drifts around  near the surface avoiding big crowds.
  • The Freebier: Collects freebies even hoarding business cards and leaflets
  • The Haggler: Haggles constantly despite massive queues, often also a bargain hunter.
  • The Herder: Trys to coordinate either a family or pack of friends, constantly on the phone trying to arrange meeting points.
  • The Insider: Works at the show so has early trade access however often too busy to actually enjoy the show.
  • The Magpie: Ooh Shinies! Must buy all of the things. If also a planner comes armed with a huge list.
  • The Researcher: Explores and take copious notes for research later, phone in hand on BGG and
  • The Nervous Lurker: Looks longingly at celebrities and demos and other interesting things but too nervous to ask, awkwardly takes a sneaky photo and moves on.
  • The Planner: Spends weeks scouring for information and meticulously planning itinerary and routes. Plans to explore everything or to hit the stalls and venues at the optimum time to get demos or freebies. Has a full list of things to buy and optimal prices.
  • The Player: There to play games, lot of games, first up and last to bed.
  • The Proto-typer: Similar to the demoer but has to play the very newest and  unreleased games. Has to be the first to know.
  • The Scared Cat / Sheep: Goes to a convention with friends, but does leave their side to explore the convention so ends up having a very expensive standard games day.
  • The Scrutineer: Similar to the bargain hunter but applies scrutiny to a single stall or shop checking every item, eventually buying a single small cheap item before moving on.
  • The Specialist: Goes with a single aim / objective to achieve, for example collect all the purple things.

I’m definitely an explorer and nervous lurker. Sometimes a planner and gamer depending on energy levels.

Watch this space for UK Games Expo stories. It was great! There are lots of comments and photos on our Facebook page too.

This is the best comment from Facebook so it’s getting pride of place here. From Griff of “doing a Griff” fame.

I’m a faffer which isn’t on there, also known as a Griff.

Bargain Hunter that wanders around waiting for queues to shrink (they never do until sold out)

Buyer/planner – plans to write a list but runs out of time to research/write one

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