I got back from the UK Games Expo last night (3 June 2018). A fantastic weekend in all, but I ache all over. I’ll get an important part out of the way first – what games I came away with.
- Century: Eastern Wonders (Emerson Matsuuchi, 2018)
- The Networks: Telly Time (Gil Hova, 2018)
- Package!? (Chris ‘Shep’ Shepperson, 2017)
- Alhambra: The Card Game (Dirk Henn, 1992) – a gift from the wonderful Kat and Rob
- From the bring-and-buy
- Meeple War (Max Valembois, 2016)
- Favor of the Pharaoh (Thomas Lehmann, 2015)
- Harbour (Scott Almes, 2015)
- Patchwork (Uwe Rosenberg, 2014)
Thursday. I had planned at arriving at the NEC in Birmingham at around 18:00. This would have given me plenty of time to collect my pass for the weekend and drop of my games which I was selling at the Bring & Buy. However, signaling delays, etc, turned my two-and-a-half-hour train journey into seven. I missed the deadline to collect tickets and stumbled into hall two around 22:00. I took the time to drop off my items for sale into the bring and buy. As I was coming out, I was ringing, I could feel my t-shirt clinging to my body and was surprised that someone wasn’t following me around with a mop. I wanted a shower and my bed. Coming out of the check-in for the bring and buy I spotted my friend Kat, playing her recently acquired copy of Matsuuchi’s Century: Eastern Wonders. We had a quick catch up before I made my way to the hotel for the night.
Friday. Having got a good night’s sleep, I awoke early on Friday to get to the NEC early to collect my ticket, which I had failed to do the night before. It was a friendly atmosphere from the start. I arrived from the eighth-floor to the hotel reception and bumped into two exhibitors who were heading to the Expo. They’d walked back to the hotel the previous night so I offered to show them the free monorail which runs from the airport to the NEC – the only problem being it de-magnetizes your hotel key card. The outside of the trade halls were already bustling with excitement with exhibitors making their final preparations, the small army of Expo volunteers working tirelessly to get everything ready, and delegates arriving for the weekend ahead. Having taken advantage of the coffee stall, I joined the queue to collect my ticket – there was still plenty of time until the hall opened.
My first point of call on Friday was to Hub Games to demo their upcoming release Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr designed by Michael Fox and Rory O’Connor. A co-operative game in which you act as a team of nurse balancing providing palliative care, responding to medical emergencies, and gaining his trust. Hub Games, Michael and Rory have created a powerful narrative-driven experience which not only offers deep insights into end-of-life care but also aids players exploring the difficult, tireless and sometimes thankless job of nursing.
Following this, I decided to drop into the bring-and-buy sale. It was incredibly busy, with the queue stretching around two sides of its pre-fabricated enclosure. This was another area of the expo entirely run by volunteers with the small commission from sales going directly to charity. The figures for this year’s sales are not yet available but last year a total turnover of nearly £100,000 across the three days meant that £9,400 was donated to charity. However, the bring-and-buy sale was not the only charitable activity taking place across the convention. This also included the shop-and-drop facility as well as the charity auction which raised in excess of £2,700.00.
Saturday. I spent the majority of Saturday traversing the convention halls speaking to a multitude of attendees, exhibitors, special guests, convention volunteers and NEC staff. It was also wonderful to be able to meet up with a number of people who I’d been chatting with online over several years. I dropped by the stand of Sinister Fish in the afternoon to congratulate the crew on their ongoing Kickstarter for Haakon Gaarder’s Villagers. As I expected the stall was incredibly busy – which was amazing – so I didn’t get the opportunity to play again.
Saturday evening brought the chance to play a few more games including Hive Pocket, Century: Spice Road and Century: Eastern Wonder. It was a wonderful opportunity to wind down with after a long day and play some games with Kat of I Play Red and Rob of Pledge Music.
Sunday had come around faster than I’d imagined. I was starting to feel weary. Spending upwards of twelve hours a day walking around on concrete floors doesn’t do anything for your feet! My first point of call on Sunday was to see the fantastic Braincrack Games who were demoing their second edition of Downsize (the first game I ever backed on Kickstarter and a game I still have in my collection). The new edition of the game offers new mechanics and overhauls the gameplay. I look forward to seeing how this develops. From here, I decided to have a potter around and managed to get a demo of Package!? from Chris Shepperson (the designer). I’d missed the opportunity to back it on Kickstarter but managed to get a copy of this abstract strategy game. Time was coming to an end on Sunday, so I returned to pick up my two unsold games from the bring-and-buy sale. It was a shame to find out that someone had taken one of my games without paying for it – but, again, the team of Expo volunteers dealt with the situation very well offering a partial reimbursement for the loss. This was very kind of them and completely unexpected.
I made it quickly to the train station to return to York. My journey was again tarnished by delays – however, when I finally got home it was good to put my feet up, see my partner and dog, and obviously – reserve my hotel for next year’s Expo! See you in 2019.