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.

Our amazing prize haul!

The majority of our prize pool! 30 Board games. Basically Wooden have provided 9 gaming accessories and a £25 gift voucher. We also have vouchers donated by other awesome, local businesses and food and drink to win.
Our sponsors have been incredibly generous and have donated well over £1000 in prizes and just under £1000 in services. We have raised £500 in total this year from our 3 mini charity days and our 24 hour game-a-thon. We are on target to smash our £1000 target for Herefordshire Mind. Remember 100% of the proceeds goes to charity and there have been no costs for this event thanks to everyone’s generosity.
I need your help to do this justice. Please, please share the event, print out or share the poster in your community and work place. This is a great cause and we have a great hobby to share. The games day is going to be great fun and all are welcome.
If you can’t attend we will be accepting online bids for the auction prizes, so even if you can’t attend watch the group and the event for more information.
New games: (23)
Bugs in the Kitchen, Breaking Bad, Captain Sonar, Codenames, Codenames Pictures, Codenames Duet, Cosmic Kaboom, Coup Reformation x 2, Freyas Folly, Ivor the Engine, Landlord, Myths at War, One night Ultimate Werewolf, Oh Captain, Rapid Delivery, Rob n Run, Sons of Anarchy, Special Delivery, Titus Tentakel, Trick of the Rails, Undercover and Why First.
Pre-loved games: (7)
Awesome Kingdom, Pocket Battles (Celts and Romans), Ponte Diavlo, Talisman, Tinker Tailor and Yamati
Game accessories:
£25 Basically Wooden Gift Voucher, 9 Basically Wooden accessories, gaming Tshirt.
Food and Drink:
Meal at the Imperial, £10 voucher for Kup Kake Kitchen Café, 2 x Wye Valley Brewery gift sets, various sweets. Heggies voucher, meal voucher for Adam and Madam.
Services and misc:
2 x model painting services, a games night, a custom lizard, 4 x new years eve tickets at the Left Bank.
The photo doesn’t show the vouchers and a few stragglers and any one else who wishes to sponsor us. Any late sponsors before the 9th will get a nice surprise. These prizes will be split between the auction and the raffle and will be grouped into similar packages so a single win could get you 3-4 games. 
Our wonderful sponsors, show them some love too.
Accasion Marquees
Basically Wooden
The Board Game Hut Limited
Board Game Monster
Cuddly Cthulhu Creatives
TheCore Skatehereford Cic
Heggies of Hereford
Imperial Hereford
The Kup-cake Kitchen Café
Left Bank Village
Madam & Adam
Meeples’ Corner
Mythic Games
Pegasus Hobbies & Games
Wye Valley Brewery
Zatu Games

Introducing our star prize and sponsor!

**Trumpet noises** Introducing our golden Sponsor and star prizes Basically Wooden.

In addition to helping in our secret special project, Andrew and Sue from Basically Wooden, which is a Hereford based company making high quality board game accessories, from organisers to full boxes to card and token holders to make your life easier. They really care about their product and are wonderful people.

They have offered not 1 but 3 dice towers, a pair of card trays and token holders which clip together (magnets) and one of the latest products a combined card and token holder, scooped for easy access and some where to play your hand of cards for easy viewing and access. Perfect for those with mobility issues or dyspraxics like me who end up with hand fatigue. (The photo shows a built one which is mine, two flat packed ones are actually included)

These accessories really help keeping games flowing, the card holders can serve as a great first player marker as you pass the deck of event cards and you place it on the table with a satisfying clunk.

That’s not all. They have also provided a £25 gift voucher which covers most of their game inserts and accessories.

There are great items, but can be a luxury so this is a perfect chance to make your gaming betterer.

Please please share the event and my posts we need all the publicity we can get, our prize pool is worth well over £1000 and we’ve had nearly £1000 of free services.

Interview with a gamer no3: Jon

Please introduce yourself

Hello, I’m Jon (known on various forums as jp1885).Gaming-wise I’m a tabletop wargamer at heart, (at least during the rare momentsof free time) and enjoy painting and converting miniatures as well asscratchbuilding terrain from bits of rubbish. I’m also a blogger ( my current blog) and run the Hereford Wargamers website (

I used to be co-organiser of the Herefordshire Very BritishCivil War big games, attracting players from all over the country, and was alsoa regular contributor and sub-editor of the satirical website Newsbiscuit, until Istarted taking it all too seriously.

How many games do you own?

Wargames-wise I own a few rulesets, but currently onlyactively play one of them (Frostgrave). I have hundreds of miniatures andmodels, mainly for Frostgrave and my previous obsession, Very British CivilWar.

Board games-wise, nothing that would probably be taken seriouslyat the meets! Being father to two small girls, most of the games in our house involveprincesses or mermaids.

How many of yourgames have you not played?

Wargames – I’ve played them all at least once. Board games,we’ve played them all frequently.

What is your oldest game?

Ooohhh let me think… probably Tummy Ache (I did tell you Ihave small children)

Last game you played?

Labyrinth – my eldest loves that game and is annoyingly goodat it.

Best gaming experience?

Gaming with my kids is top of the list. Also the VBCW biggames before organising them became a pain and introducing Frostgrave to theHereford Wargames Club.

Favourite colour to play?

Being the only man in the house I’m invariably blue.

Favourite person /people to play with?

My family.

Your favourite game to play?

Labyrinth – it ticks all the boxes for me and my family (whofor some reason think that a grown man playing with toy soldiers is weird)

Wargames – currently Frostgrave, where I get to be a wizard.

Which game would you save if there was a fire?

Labyrinth again (Wargames – don’t even mention fire; thethought of my collection going up in smoke is not a nice one!)

What game advice do you have for a new gamer?

Don’t take it seriously and laugh when you lose (I don’tguarantee that I follow this advice myself though!)

What type / themes /styles of games do you like to play?

Wargames – small scale skirmish games that have an elementof role-playing (I’ve recently backed a Kickstarter for a dice game calledEscape the Dark Castle, which combines this with more traditional games).Although moving huge armies across a massive table has its attractions.

Board games – something I can pick up easily and is fun toplay, natch.

How competitive are you and how often do you win?

I’m too competitive for my own good and win veryinfrequently. Hmm… I need a new hobby…

What would your ideal game session be, with whom, where and what game? Be creative

Obviously at home with my family, but preferably somethingthat doesn’t involve pink sparkly things. Either that or anything with friendlycompany and the occasional beer. Not very imaginative, but hey.

Wargames – I have simple tastes, so a nice big village hallfull of gaming tables groaning with everyone’s toys that we can all admire andbe jealous of. And with catering (Oh, and a set of dice that roll high all day!)

Have you any game and mental health / community related stories to share?

Though not game related I’ve had dark times like most people.I’m forever grateful that I managed to get myself out of them but wish I’d havetalked to people more than I did.

The wargames community is a very friendly one by and largeand many gamers share their mental health issues on the various forums andblogs. The response is usually fantastic, and it’s not been unknown for wargamersto raise money for other wargamers in dire straits who they don’t even know.

I guess the lesson here is to open up to those whoseopinions you respect and/or trust; even if it’s a bunch of middle-aged men who play with toy soldiers on the internet (generalisation alert!).

Finally what question would you want to ask of the next gamer to take this quiz?

Is it boardgamer or board gamer? One word or two?

Oh, a proper question? Ok.

This from a wargamer to board gamers (not that there shouldbe a distinction between the two): what interests you about wargaming and whatputs you off wargaming?

24 hour day done and we raised £250.

Quick write up of our 24 hour game a thon here

We played mostly lighter games, Codenames, Cross talk, Deception Murder in Hong Kong, Bring your own book, Anomia, Cards against humanity, werewords Secret hitler, concept and of course Telestrations

The meat of the day went to Monopoly, Azul and Monopoly Gamers. The night went to Rising sun and Dusk City outlaws which is an RPG one shot game.

The live thread was here.

and the monopoly thread is here

We’ve raised around £250, huge thanks to our sponsors.

We are considering what to do next year

Interview with a gamer no2: Ben

Interview no 2.

Please introduce yourself

Hi. I’m Ben, and I’m the co-founder and organiser of the Ross-on-Wye board gamers. We are a small (typically one or two tables) and very informal group. We tend to prefer mid-weight Euro games on the whole, but have been known to stretch our wings into other genres, and we’re never above a silly
party game. The bottom line for us is that games are a fun way to socialise and we’d never make anyone play something they didn’t enjoy.

How many games do you own?

My boardgamegeek profile suggests I own about 640, but many of those are
expansions, print-and-plays and other such throwaway stuff. I would reckon
about 500 is the right number. It’s a number that I have stabilised over
the last couple of years, trimming out games that are ‘the same but less
good’ as others in my collection, and buying fewer games on impulse. I am
baffled by the current Kickstarter trends, where people will pay money for
a game that hasn’t actually been built yet and is existing on a marketing
promise. How do people think marketing actually works?

How many of your games have you not played?

Currently, about 50-60, mostly due to lack of time. Me – and the group –
have quite a short attention span and will generally turn down anything
that is upwards of 90 minutes in favour of two shorter games. So 2-hour
games are thin on the ground anyway in my collection, and unplayed ones
will often get traded without any table time, apart from a few pet
favourites. My current policy is to try and at least SUGGEST something from
the unplayed pile every week.

What is your oldest game?

Um…would ‘chess’ be a really boring answer to this question? Scrabble?

My oldest ‘designer’ game that gets regularly played is probably Eurorails:
a classic of the ‘crayon-rail’ genre, where you literally draw all over the
board in order to create your delivery network.

Last game you played?

That would be Colonialism: a little-known and vicious card-driven area
control game. It got roundly slated on release due to its bleak and
uncompromising theme, which essentially consists of killing Third World
natives in order to steal all their resources. Underneath, though, we found
lots of interesting decisions and an interesting arc to the game as we
gradually cleaned up all the resources.

Best gaming experience?

Loads and loads: quiet nights on pub balconies with my wife; intense 5-6
player sessions at Ross-on-Wye; long weekends mixing tabletop and garden
games. Perhaps my favourite of all was introducing Cyrano to six vaguely
sceptical gamers at Midcon a few years ago. Cyrano is about as far from the
gamer stereotype as you can get: it’s a game where you write your own
poetry! I watched six faces go from polite bemusement to uproarious
laughter in about 40 minutes.

Favourite colour to play?

I don’t normally commit myself. The Ross-on-Wye group has one player who
always plays red, one player who always plays green, and one player who
always plays ‘a drab colour’. I’m happy enough with whatever is left over.
I don’t mind playing purple if it’s available, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Favourite person / people to play with?

The core of the Ross-on-Wye group: Becky, John, Tony, Bill and Dave. We’ve
learned a huge number of games together and enjoyed at least 90% of it.

Your favourite game to play?

The undoubted champion of our group is Agricola, and it’s an outright
favourite for at least two of us. There are dozens and dozens of
worker-placement games on the market these days, but I would happily do
away with all but about half-a-dozen, all six of which are part of my Top
50 games.

Which game would you save if there was a fire?

Depends where the fire was. My games shelves surround our wood-burner,
which draws many an anxious glance from over-protective fellow gamers.

What game advice do you have for a new gamer?

Do not believe the hyperbolic reviews and ‘advice’, especially those that
think all the good games have been published within the last five years.
The best way to work out what you like is to play it. Don’t get suckered in
by Kickstarter campaigns and other tacky marketing. You can pick up some
excellent games in second-hand sales and trades (probably only about 40% of
my collection was bought new). Don’t worry about learning new games: these
days nearly every games table has at least one learner. Don’t be shy about
asking to sit down with complete strangers at conventions.

What type / themes / styles of games do you like to play?

So, as discussed, I am an advocate of the ‘Euro’ – those games that tend to
run short on theme and low on luck. What you gain as a result are
intelligent mechanics, and thoughtful decision-making and games that reward
successful strategy. If that sounds terribly deep and heavy, it doesn’t
have to be: good designers can cram a lot of good decisions into a
half-hour card game these days.

I also enjoy a good card game (I was brought up on Bridge) and have an
unreasonably large number of dexterity games. I’m definitely not a fan of
lazy stereotyped themes: zombies, dungeon-crawling and sub-standard sci-fi.

How competitive are you and how often do you win?

Quite a lot, and about average. There are plenty of games which I’m happy
to play just for the enjoyment of it (Terraforming Mars being a recent good
example of ‘more fun than strategy’), but if you’re not playing to win then
you’re not getting the most out of any game. Both me and my wife come from
unreasonably competitive families, so 2-player sessions can often result in
mild fisticuffs and swearing!

What would your ideal game session be, with whom, where and what game?

I’ve tried answering this before, but ultimately it’s futile. I don’t
hero-worship anyone – gamers, designers, or celebrities. I have favourite
games, but even sessions of those have fallen somewhat flat. You never know
when the next session might turn out to be a brainburning masterpiece or
hysterically funny, so you just have to keep your options open.

Finally what question would you want to ask of the next gamer to take this quiz?

How important to you is the theme in a game? 

From the Core and back again. We’ve come so far, the first three Charity game day venues.

Our fourth Annual Charity Day is  nearly upon us. I’ve been looking back at our past events. All were successes and held lessons to learn little things to improve on and I like to try something new with each event.

Year one 2015

The first event was at The Core, which was an amazing venue, (we’ve back there this year) We had loads of space including a dedicated space for Molkky, although shiny floors make it far more challenging as they rolled miles!

The event ran smoothly and raised just under £500.

Lessons learned, the raffle went on slightly too long (too many separate prizes) and giant round tables aren’t great for board games.

Year two 2016

We found a venue which was free to hire, the function room of The Black Lion.  We packed this venue out with the event and raised just over £500. We formed Herefordshire Board Gamers shortly after this and this was our home for nearly a year.

We added an auction to make sure we got maximum money for the top prizes, this went really well. Our attendance was similar to year one we had yet to build a community and didn’t have the backing of The Core community.
Lessons learned, you need help to run and advertise events.

Year three 2017

The Imperial function room, which is the home of our Thursday night events.  The room is T shaped which allows us to move noiser or side events away to manage noise. The light could be slightly better but a great space, unfortunately not wheel chair accessible. Having the backing of the community in advertising the event and teaching the games helped loads.
Lessons learned. Secret / blind auction didn’t quite work and I think we could have raised more money with a traditional auction.  We added Artemis Starship bridge simulator as a side event. We also decided too many mandatory events or activities breaks up the flow of the event too much.

Final lessons learned I need to take better photos. I am normally so busy teaching and greeting, coupled with not wanting to intrude..

It is going to be great to be back at The Core, it also looks very different to the first photos, they have been on a great journey too and look vastly different. This is a great venue huge and more accessible 1 step rather than a flight of stairs.

We can’t wait to fill this space with gamers and games!

Kitchen and Tuck shop

Relaxing space

Charity Prizes: Services! New for 2018

Charity day Auction prizes. Each year I like to mix it up, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t! This year we will adding services to either the raffle or auction prizes.
So far we have
Joanna Willett and Andrew Fraser will paint some models for you to ‘pimp’ up a board game. (We will add a limit, painting the 100s of zombies in zombicide is a bit much 🙂 )
I will host a game night for you, I will provide the games and teaching, you provide the location, snacks and players. We can arrange appropriate games. A great way to try some new games from  my collection and not worry about having to teach.
Rebecca Utting has offered to clone our lovely mascot, in the colours of your choice (ish). Lizard James is posing on our full sized flag, he is longer than a standard board game box about the length of Scythe.
Does any of this sound good to you? do you have any services to offer?