Monday, 3 June 2013

The UK Games Expo

I'm sorry I haven't updated in ages. I hadn't realised it had been that long, I have a whole other post just ready to go that just needs pictures uploading and it will be ready. I'd forgotten I hadn't already posted it.

Part of the problem is that I write most of these at work, during my lunch break, and having taken a few days off I haven't had any lunch breaks. But I promise to get things up to speed and will have new Chaos Dwarf pictures very soon.

Now that I'm back at my desk it feels like a good opportunity to talk about the UK Games Expo in Birmingham, which took place a little over a week ago. The Expo was an event I had been meaning to go to for years but, somehow, always failed to get myself organised. I was always labouring under the misconception that it took place later in the year than it actually did. By the time I got round to looking it up, it would be the following weekend and far too late to sort anything out.

Well not this year, I had tickets, train tickets and a hotel room for me and my little brother booked months in advance. We set off early Saturday morning, got there for about ten and stayed the whole weekend, leaving on the morning of the bank holiday Monday. It was my first true multi-day convention. I have been to conventions that last more than one day, but not stayed for more than one day. More significantly, this was the first convention where I was staying at the venue, in this case the Birmingham NEC Metropole Hotel, which did have an effect on the atmosphere.

Having a proper base at the venue meant we could pick things up and drop them off easily, no need to carry out cumbersome bags of stuff. The fact that we had two days gave a relaxed air to proceedings. Both the bar and the buffet restaurant (when it wasn't serving breakfast) were quickly colonised by gamers trying out newly acquired games. It was nice to be able to withdraw from the rush and find a quiet spot to game.

Most of my convention experience has been at shows that emphasised wargaming, with a handful of RPGs and board games on the side. I have also attended board game and RPG focused shows. The Expo was unusual in striking a pretty good balance between all three. The dealer room was, perhaps, slightly biased towards board games, but Mantic, GCT and Exodus Wars flew the flag for wargaming and there were plenty of stands selling Games Workshop stuff and RPGs. Board games and wargames were pretty evenly represented in tournaments and RPGs were run all weekend in a room of their own.

There were also plenty of demo and pickup games. Most of these were board games, unsurprising as these were the easiest to set up. As well as trying out a few new games, such as Red Dragon Inn and Smash Up, both of which made there way home with us, MLB and I also got to try out giant-sized versions of Ticket to Ride and Castle Panic which added a bit of novelty to already enjoyable games.

The Expo was also one of the most child-friendly conventions I've been to. The giant games attracted attention, but there were also family areas set aside and plenty of child friendly games to try out. I'm quite sorry I left it so late to start coming, MLB would certainly have appreciated it when he was younger. Another nice addition was the inclusion of the cinema room, showing Avengers Assemble, the Judge Dredd fan film Judge Minty and the documentary the People versus George Lucas, which gave us something to do in the evening.

If there was any kind of problem it was that it was very difficult to sample a bit of everything. MLB and I hadn't booked any RPG sessions, partly because of the amount of time they would have taken up, nor did we look at the tournaments. In retrospect, I think that was a mistake, but it would have been hard to squeeze any more in. Next year, I think I will make a point of signing up for at least one RPG session.

Overall, it was an enjoyably different experience and one I intend to repeat next year.

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