It’s been a rather tumultuous couple of weeks, but I’ve finally got around to having enough headspace to collate some thoughts on my experiences this year at the UK Games Expo at the NEC in early June. With attendance coming in at not far off 22,000 this year, the size of this event has grown significantly year by year, and is the largest of its kind in the UK.
This year marked a couple of firsts for me, it was my first time as a volunteer, and the first time I’ve not stayed at the Hilton (due to how much the price has increased since we first stayed there!).
The Volunteering Experience
I volunteered for Alley Cat games, having had a great time playtesting Dice Hospital some months ago. Caezar and the team were welcoming and friendly, Nicola was like a whirlwind of efficiency, providing much needed tea and snacks, and Kuly was full of smiles and appreciation even by the end of the Sunday. We were busy from opening until close every day, and I loved it!
It felt like I’d arrived in my dream job, and I discovered that I love sharing and demoing/teaching games almost as much as I enjoy playing them!
I spent most of my volunteering time with Coral Islands, a rather pretty dice stacking game. This is due to come to kickstarter soon. It’s a lovely concept, based on regrowing the coral reef, with artwork by Sabrina Miramon (Dice Hospital, Photosynthesis, Quadropolis).
I spent some time on the Sunday with Ruthless, a pirate themed deck builder-with-a-difference by Roland McDonald. This proved to be an engaging take on the theme, incorporating a poker-like set collection aspect to the deck building element.
So what else did I do …..
One of the advantages of having the exhibitor pass is the ability to get into the hall early, so when I wasn’t needed first thing on the Sunday morning I took the opportunity to look around a quiet and almost deserted hall….
I soon found Mark and Barry with their Wreck and Ruin game, according to Barry, we were “brutal”…. though looking at the number of 1’s I rolled, it doesn’t look too brutal to me!
Wreck and Ruin…. …. and some terrible dice rolls!
Microbrew from One free elephant is a “Game in a tin” where players compete to make beers to match customers requirements.
It wasn’t all shopping and volunteering though, I went to the live podcast featuring Paul Grogan (Gaming Rules), Edward Uhler (Heavy Cardboard), Matt Evans (Creaking Shelves) and Tom Heath (Slickerdrips), and rather than tell you about it I’ll just link it here .
Paul Grogan ran a very successful charity raffle on Saturday evening, and raised something in the region of £2500! There were some excellent prizes, but this year my raffle-fu wasn’t with me for the evening.
While I had been busy in the hall and at the raffle, friends had acquired a table in one of the large open gaming rooms in the Hilton. It was rather busy in there, with numerous gamers wandering in search of a free table. Rising Sun, as a new purchase, and also something which would play well with 5 players was on the agenda Saturday evening. I’m not sure whether it was my tired brain, the auction mechanic, turn orders or a combination of things, but I did struggle with it that evening. I’ll likely try it again though, before writing it off as not one for me.
One stall definitely worth visiting, for me, was to see Jenefer Ham , who crafts colourful meeple jewellery and ornaments, and other items from coloured glass. I was fortunate enough to win a dichroic glass meeple pendant from Jen’s Sunday afternoon raffle, I was super happy with this. Jen was so smiley and friendly (and I may have come away with a moople necklace too!)
I was coralled into a Sunday afternoon photo-op (still smiling!) with friends and
Darren John Robertson, the energy filled comedy mind behind the Dark Room events. I think I made him grin by mentioning something about a flamboyant potato!
Not pictured here, but of honorable mention was bumping into Kat (Iplayred) on numerous occasions, without whom I would not have in my possession a game titled “Festival of a Thousand Cats”. This is still waiting to be played, but how could I resist with a title like that! Somewhere lurking around on the interwebs is a picture of the two of us from the Sunday afternoon. We might actually get to meet up an play something at a con one day!
That’s the summary of my UKGE. Would I volunteer again? For Alley Cat – in an instant, I loved them! And the demoing too.
Until next year, UKGE …. in the meantime, I will be at Handycon in August, and hopefully back to Harrogate for the next Airecon! See you all soon!
So this is me, entering into the world of blog writing …. again. A few months ago it seemed like a great idea to blog about things which I enjoy. This I started, but soon I lost momentum and hadn’t posted for some time. My intention wasn’t to start completely over, but in trying transferring the domain name I managed to ‘lose’ the original site.
So here we are, a fresh and clean attempt. Hello folk of the internet!
Hosted at the Birmingham NEC, the UKGames Expo is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the UK.
Way back in January a good friend of mine, Victoria (http://www.randomnerdery.com/) asked if it would be something I’d be interested in. We share an interest in boardgaming, and so it was that on New Years day 2016 we were booking 3 day event tickets and rooms at the hotel (Hilton Metropole).
Soon enough, early June arrived and it was time for the big event! I arrived at the hotel around 11am, checked in, and took the short walk along the leafy path to head to hall 1 of the NEC. When I arrived there was no queue, so I went straight to the ticket desk to pick up my pre-ordered 3-day expo ticket before meeting up with Vicky and Jeppers.
First impressions were just of a busy random chaotic sprawl of games shops, stacked high with hours of cardboard based fun.
There was a playtest area, a games library, new games to play. So much to take in. The allure of new shinies to play with meant that it wasn’t long before I was looking at options for purchase. A visit to http://www.boardgameguru.co.uk/ proved fruitful. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable and helpful (exactly what you need when there are so many people to purchase your wares!)
It wasn’t long before we were drawn into a demonstration game of Tatsu from Gen42Games.
In this two player game, each person controls three sets of dragon pieces. Dragons move around the board according to a dice roll (think Backgammon, where pieces can move according to individual die values or a combined total), with the aim of knocking the opponents pieces off the board.
Green (vine) dragons ‘lock’ an opponents piece such that it cannot move unlesss the players highest die roll is disregarded.
Blue (water) dragons send an opponents piece back to their reserve.
Red (fire) dragons knock an opponents piece completely off the board. The aim is to knock off all of one type of dragon, or all of the opponents dragons off the board.
Not far away from Tatsu, we found Not Alone, from Geek Attitude Games.
Not Alone is an asymmetrical game , in a futuristic setting (25th century), on a planet inhabited by a strange and deadly alien creature. One player takes on the role of The Hunter and the others the Hunted. There are a number of locations on the planet which the hunted can occupy. Each location has a different effect. The hunted have a hand of cards designating locations, which are played face down. The hunter draws their own cards, and decides which location to target. Hunted reveal their locations and any effects are played out. A central marking zone tracks the progress of the hunter and hunted, and play became tense throughout the game as both sides race for the central spot on the track. I think this will certainly be worth a look when it comes out soon.
Esdevium games had a large presence, with several tables for game playing. Beyond Baker Street looked interesting, but what really caught my eye from them was the Reign of Chthulu Pandemic, though this area was very crowded with interested onlookers.
We braved the queue for the bring and buy, and shuffled around the rows and stacks of games contained within, in the hope of finding an elusive bargain. Shopping with friends is fun, but there are those moments when you need the reflexes of a sniper when you both catch sight of an interesting game. This happened a couple of times, and I came away with a couple more games for the collection!
After a couple of hours hard shopping, we departed the main hall to drop off our purchases at the hotel and relax with some refreshments, which we found at the food stalls outside the hotel. In the warm afternoon sun, the beer bus was too much to resist!
Re-energised, and re-charged, Friday round 2 saw some more exploring, watching of games, and attending the live podcast from Shut Up and Sit Down. This included reviews of games we’d seen, (and bought in the case of Vicky) followed by a quick q&a session in their own unique style.
Dinner came from the food fair, we ate al fresco, and broke out Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games. This game is small enough to play on a pizza box, which Vicky has pictorial evidence of. This game sees a group of poverty stricken divers chancing their lives on bringing back treasures from the deep over a course of three rounds. The divers have one shared tank of air to accomplish this. Heading down to gather treasure doesn’t use any of this air, but it rapidly decreases on the way back to the submarine. Our shameless greed meant that we didn’t bring a single piece of treasure back successfully, with our divers perishing on the mission.
We moved inside for evening gaming, finding a table in the restaurant where we started with Beyond Baker Street.
This game is a little like Hanabi in that players cannot see their own hand of cards, but instead rely on information relaid to them from others. Players must work together to collect evidence and solve the mystery before Sherlock Holmes does.
Next up was Quadropolis (Days of Wonder). This was one of the big hits of the weekend for us, we played Vicky’s copy on Friday, and Jeppers and I both acquired it on the Saturday such was its charm.
This is a very pretty city building game, with meeple and barrels which look almost edible!
Players use numbered architect tokens (1-4) to select buildings which are then placed on their own player mat in a row or column corresponding to that number.
Selection of buildings becomes restricted, as a token called the urbanist takes the place of the last building taken. The urbanist blocks the row and column for buildings for the next player.
Points are scored for different buildings in different ways, with some, such as parks, scoring more from being next to residential buildings, factories score more for ports and shops, and shops get bonus points from the number of occupants. We played the classic version of the game, but there is an expert version which looks like it should bring another level of complexity into the game.
After all this excitement, and reeling from the extortionate price of a cup of tea, it was time for some rest, ready to continue play on Saturday!
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