It is that time of year where the gaming world of the UK descends on to the NEC at Birmingham for its 11th show.
I have to admit that I have not been since 2012 so I have not seen the year on year growth that the event has enjoyed personally, but I have heard about it, a lot, from attendees who I see and chat to on a regular basis. I am a regular attender of Spiel in Essen and I will be making comparisons between the two events, which may not be fair, but it is a good point of reference, especially to those who have been to Essen.
When is it exactly? It starts this Friday 2nd June 2017 at 11am until 6pm. Saturday is 9.30am – 6pm and Sunday is 10.30am – 4pm. This is the main Hall 1. The general gaming spaces which are at various locations are open as late as midnight.
Where is it? Birmingham NEC. Don’t know where that is? Google it and zoom out of the London area.
This year the Expo is taking over Halls 1 and 3a as well as the NEC Hilton Metropole Hotel (Its previous home). Looking at the floorplans compared to what I experienced back in 2012 the growth has been significant. Really significant. Although the 2016 attendance figure is only 15% of the attendance of the monster that is Spiel in Essen each October, it is the 4th most attended event of its kind in the world. It has to be said that the organisers get a big thumbs up for holding it in Birmingham (Manchester would have been better, but I may be biased on this point). A venue and location that is certainly more accessible to the rest of the country than London is, unless you live in the South East (duh)! I think that this encourages families to come for the day as if you are heading to London for the day in the car, I’m sure the kids would get restless with the 4 hour plus drive to London from the North, then you may well have the return trip in the evening too.
The floorplans I mentioned above are on the UKGE website. http://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk. The website is very well presented and easy to find your way around and there is a huge amount of information on there. All the tournaments are already being advertised and you are being encouraged to sign up. I have heard that the Bring and Buy is something to behold (after some teething troubles in earlier years) although that I will probably not be taking any stuff to sell as I will be attending on the train and don’t want to be carrying the games I take back home with me! I’ll certainly have a look around, but the main focus will be the exhibitors and meeting up with friends, some of whom I have not seen for many years.
The website has links to the webpages of exhibitors and they range from the totally slick and professional to a holding page or a link to a Facebook page. I get the impression that some of the exhibitors are very small and there could be some nice games to be found that won’t be available anywhere else. There is a list on Boardgamegeek of the games due to be released or demoed at the show – and it is mainly the latter unfortunately. If I try a game and like it I will try to pick it up. If it is not available, I find this frustrating. The list can be found by the below link
There are things absent on this list, as the author says in the description, which again gives the impression that some of the publishers are really small. This is not a bad thing, in my eyes it is a unique selling point. I have found some gems that have been self-published at Essen that I have never seen since the one time I did see them. More of these is a good thing. Plus Expo are encouraging small first time exhibitors with a “Starter Stand” rate of £27.50 per sq m (ex VAT). So for £201 budding game designers can showcase their games in a 6 square metre booth.
However, it is not just board games that are being featured at the Expo, Role playing games, Live Action Role Plying, Cosplay, miniatures all being featured. My attention will be mainly guided towards the board games, but I will certainly have a look around the whole show.
Things that have caught my attention early on while perusing the website: Grubln Games will be demoing Perfect Crime. I tried this last year at Essen and was hoping to see the finished version, but it looks like production will be in a couple of months. They will be demoing it at Expo and if you get a chance check it out. I was suitably impressed.
I’ll pop by the ITB booth as I am awaiting my kickstarter for Sub Terra from them. Those who know me in real life will be surprised by this news as I don’t do kickstarters and am quite critical about them, however they did tempt me enough to do it! I’m keen to see what the finished product looks like.
Another thing that caught my attention is a game called Laser Squad by 8 bit games. Please, please let it be the board game version of the classis Amstrad CPC6128 game of the same name. Unfortunately it is only available for demo and not sale and there is not much information either on their website or Facebook page, but I’ll be checking this out.
Right I just have to get up really early on a Saturday morning! The things I do for my hobby!