UK Games Expo 2012 - The Journal

The highs and lows of my weekend at the UK Games Expo

The UK Games Expo Logo
As the train headed north on Friday morning out of Euston I found my seat and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of the other 3 people at the table talking about ‘decks’, ‘cards’, ‘combo’s’ and a number of other distinctly game type terms. Aaaha me thinks they are going to Birmingham for the UK Games Expo, but no they were a group of friends who love Magic The Gathering heading to Aberystwyth for 5 days (and nights by the sounds of it) of Magic games! The journey sped by as we talked and quizzed each other about our respective interests finding common ground at times and significant differences at others, most notably the direct combative nature of their game versus my preference for Eurogames which rarely have head on conflict.
UK Gaming Media Network - Michael Fox interviewing Richard Denning & Tony Hyams
Arriving at the Clarendon Convention Halls I sought out the UK Gaming Media area and unsurprisingly was soon getting a demo of Ace of Spies (Mark and Michael’s kickstarter project ), as time was limited we played Fuchs and Fertig an amusing push your luck memory game easily played in 5 mins.

With Chris and Nigel from Imagination Gaming lugging box after box up from the car park it was time to stop playing games and lend my shoulder (well maybe my right hand) to the wheel and help move tables , chairs setup posters, games etc and suddenly it was 5pm!

The lads in green polo shirts must get a special mention. These are the guys and girls who have volunteered to help fetch and carry. On a very hot day they seemed tireless and cheerful , always willing and ready to help, finding chairs or removing tables. Bumping into Steve Berger (Sevenoaks and Tonbridge Association of Gamers STAG) with sweat dripping from him as he came to take away some tables made me feel a light weight (which anybody who knows me will agree with!). But as we headed home on the Sunday around 5pm the men in green (Steve included) had hours of hot work ahead of them shifting the tables and emptying the halls (spread over three floors). Steve put it like this:

" I've never in my life met a more dedicated and hard working group as I did this weekend, they were all truly incredible, and the 4 excellent guys who run it were just fantastic to be working for. I only worked as hard as everyone else on the team, and enjoyed every second."

Tim & Sam during our game of Race for the Galaxy Friday night
The evening saw me finally getting to sit down and play some real games (well maybe two) with Tim, Chris (from the Unboxed: The Board Game Blog) and Sam (soon to be UK Settlers of Catan champion, but more of that later). Most interesting perhaps was play testing a reworked game of Silver Mountain with its reworked rules substituting mining for sheep and then much later one of the Coiledspring nominees Tea Time; a simple game which by midnight (when Steve’s excellent explanation started), sounded to me more like a game of 1860. In reality it is a simple fun game with some very Alice in Wonderland style artwork.

Then I needed my bed so back to the Quality Inn Hotel to find that the radiator that was full on when I checked in and was being fixed when I left, was still full on. On one of the warmest nights of the year my room felt more like I was in the Maldives than Birmingham, except for the road noise, lack of beach etc !
Retsami - More players at the end of this fun game

The Saturday was intense and great fun as the team in the Imagination Gaming sponsored Family Zone worked their socks off teaching and playing games with anybody who stopped by, whatever their age. This year they had an area double the size of last year and a huge games of Retsami laid out which could be played by two (using the red and white playing pieces) or groups, mostly families of 8. The families had a great time playing this whilst the one group of gamers took a little longer considering all the variables and probabilities!
Retsami - The game is on and the decision making process was worth watching!
Imagination Gaming also ran a Take It Easy! challenge over the weekend in three different age categories, which I topped (very briefly) with a score of 202. However what was really great was seeing the enthusiasm mums and dads and their children had for this game; in particular one family with their 6 year old son – you know who you are!

As the punters started drifting away Martin (one of the gamers from the Social Gamers - Crowborough) dropped by to catch up and was thrilled (understandably) to reveal that in his first visit to the show and first Memoire '44 tournament he had got through to the final.
Cave Man Curling - Lots of advice being given to me!

Cave Man Curling - A close up of the board and wooden piecesA busy day meant I had little time during the day to look around, talk to the designers or get demo games so I rudely bumped Andy Hopwood (with whom I had planned a chilled evening) in favour of gate-crashing Paul Grogan’s session with Chris (Unboxed); Paul had offered Chris an opportunity to play one of CGE’s prototype games. Sadly when we went back into the Strathalan to play there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat so with both my plans now in tatters Chooi  and Phil (part of the Essen road trip team) took pity on me and included me in their group for the evening. We played Roll Through The Ages: The Bronze Age (a record low score 5 points!), Dragon's Gold, Caveman Curling, Fuchs and Fertig, Kalimambo (which we had a lot of laughs with and much humour about elephant poo and rhino’s catching players in the bum and it was soon midnight).

The last and definitely wackiest game was Lemon Fencing see photo’s for an idea of how this worked. I think the bride and wedding party who were still in the bar must have thought we had all been smoking something. This was so much fun that Chooi thought it should be repeated next year and extended to include more players - time will tell. I suspect that my bumped date for the evening (Andy) amongst others would be up for this.
Lemon Fencing - The second round, between Chooi & Matt, see a lot more style brought to the event
Sunday saw lots more people coming to the Family Zone and for me a little more time to wander around the show, although still not enough to talk to the designers John Yanni (of G42 Games) and Andy Hopwood amongst others, the publishers TreeFrog, Lookout Games, Jack Rosni of Mayfair Games let alone get any demo games. On the up side I had breakfast with Brett Gilbert the designer of Divinare (still not seen it in the flesh) and managed 10 minutes with Rob in the Playtest Zone and Steve from CoiledSpring (one of the largest games wholesalers in the UK).
The PlayTest Zone - One of the games
The Playtest Zone had been incredibly busy with 12 designers booked in over the weekend and a further 6 pitching up on the off chance. This is a great place for designers to test their games as visitors to the show drop buy to give a hand playing their games and giving valuable feedback.

When the show closed I left Chris and Nigel like all the other traders (plus the boys in green) to clear up whilst I headed out of the show for fresh air, food and drink with Chris (Unboxed) and Sam. Sam had entered and won the Settlers of Catan tournament his prize an expense paid trip to the US to enter the World Championships. Hopefully as our UK representative he will do better than Engleburt Humperdink did in the Eurovision song contest!

It had been a wonderful weekend with lots of hard work, really nice people and just a few games!

Next year the event will be on the May Bank Holiday weekend 24th to the 26th May 2013 (get the date in the diary) and is moving to the Hilton Metropole, close to the NEC, a venue that offers both exhibition space as well as accommodation allowing all the gamers to come together for the whole weekend under one roof. This is a massive and very positive step reflecting the growing interest in games in the UK and the hard work put in by Richard Denning, Tony Hyams and the rest of the expo team since the initial event in 2007.

My highlights of the weekend can be read here, the new games I thought readers might be interested in here. With lots more photo's from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If you still have the appetite to read more then the 2011 event can be read about here

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