Saturday, 15 June 2019

UK Games Expo 2019

On Saturday 1st June I took a trip top the UK Games Expo, the annual tabletop show at the NEC in Birmingham, UK.

The show this year was huge. I mean, really huge - sadly I could only make the single day but the event lasted from Friday 31st May to Sunday 2nd June, three days of games, demos, shows, talks, and pretty much anything else you can think of that would get you tabletop blood pumping.

This is this year's official figures, direct from the UK Games Expo website:

Unique visitors totalled 25,704 (i.e. all individuals at the show. Up approx. 18.5%), and repeat visitors 45,097 (i.e. all people whether 1 day or 3 days. Up approx 15%). 3 days of gaming or 74 Hours of UK Games Expo from start to finish, 97 brand new game releases, 27 games crowd funding,
3.5 km of table cloths, 5 Tonnes (est.) of gaming boards, 800 T-shirts to launder and repack post event, 975m of large format printing, 311 street names stuck down, 900 stand number stickers, 25k lanyards and pouches, 32k square metres of floor space, 2 1/2 Halls of the NEC plus 1 Hilton Hotel, 430+ Exhibitors, and 121 companies from outside of the UK.

Blimey. That's a big show, and the hard work and dedication from the organisers and volunteers really, really paid off.

So, here are a few of my highlights of the show. I went with my son Bruce as there's plenty there for a 12-year old to do and he loves the day out.

I think I've only missed the UK Games Expo twice, once when it first began and one of the NEC dates - watching it grow from those small halls into the huge event it is now has been amazing, the guys in charge and everyone involved do a marvellous job. I once signed up to run a game many years ago - none of the gamers who had signed up actually turned up an I had to sit in a hall filled with excited gamers at a huge table on my own. That was an experience. The organisers were really good about it and we all had a laugh, but I never ran a convention game ever again, and it almost put me off conventions, but I'm so glad it didn't.

A cool part of the day is the journey there on the train - to spot fellow gamers on their way! I saw a Warhammer AoS t-shirt and a guy with a bag with what I think was a board game sticking out of it, but he wass too far away to tell.

When I got there at just after 10:30am it was rammed - I only had to queue for ten minutes, I picked up the free programme and in we went!

Modiphius has a cracking stand, plenty of games going on.

The Fria Ligan stand is busy. Some amazing books on show. There's a game of ALIEN on the go set in Hadley's Hope. I think they managed to nail a beast but one of the players is toast. Had a lovely chat with the guys about the game and especially the art. They're passionate about it and there's confidence about the release.

Now, Alien is my most anticipated RPG this year - this is my favourite franchise, favourite movie and favourite hobby, and the fact that ine of my favourite RPG publishers is working on it has me giddy with excitement as it's almost the perfect hobby storm for me.

The Chaosium stand has plenty on show, the Runequest game is positively gorgeous.

Quick tip - if you're going to have a standing conversation, try not to do it in the middle of an aisle! The show is really busy and crowdsare constantly on the move, and the main cause of delay was small groups of people standing on the floor blocking traffic. It made it especially difficult with people with mobility issues.

Mindjammer Press have a great crew manning the stand - Capharnaum and Chronicles of Future Earth look like excellent games.

Mantic Games has high quality stuff and some great licences  - their Hellboy board game is a hefty beast!

Then I had a good look at the Modiphius stand - I'm not a miniatures guy generally but their new models were really impressive.

Fallout Wasteland figures - great detail and really well painted.

Star Trek figures are as gorgeous as always.

But it's the Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms figures that have me excited. These were excellent figures, the poses were cool and the detail was really good. I love the design of Elder Scrolls and these figuess caught the mood really well.

I then caught up with Jonathan Green on his stand - always a pleasure to chat with the man and more than excited about Fighting Fantasy Fest 3 in August. Also tried whispering Fighting Fantasy ideas, but I'm rubbish at subterfuge.

There's some great stuff on the Cubicle 7 stand - the Warhammer and The One Ring books are stunning.

I'm gutted I couldn't stay longer or do any extra days.

The massive turnout and the sheer number of things to do kept us busy all day, and if circumstances had been different I would have spent the entire three days there. The venue is easy to get to via any means of transport; we went by train and getting off at Birmingham International station meant we only had a 10 minute walk to the show. Drivers have easy access via the UKs main road network so it's pretty much a straight drive there, and international travellers can travel into Birmingham airport which is right next door - a quick five minute monorail ride from the airport gets you to the train station, and again it's just ten minutes from there. Easy.

The demos in the main halls were amazing and down at the Hilton Hotel, another ten minute walk away, the games were taking place with masses of gamers gathering and gaming into the small hours.

Hall 1

14000 sqm of trade space. Some of the key attractions included the Haba Family Zone, Playtest, Children's Roleplaying and the Games Quest Shop and Drop.

Hall 2

11,000 sqm. Half of this Hall is filled with even more exhibitors as well as a huge open gaming space and one part of our board game library. 

Many of the tournaments and championships take place in here.

Hall 3a

Using circa 2000 sqm. Home to our Bring and Buy as well as more tournaments and championships taking place in here.

Toute Suite (Just outside Hall 1)

Home of most of our Profantasy Seminar Track activities.

PIazza Suites (between Hall 1 and Hall 2)

Used for most of the Cartamundi Publisher Designer Track activities.

NEC Lakefront

The Viking living history village will be here.

Hilton Hotel

3500 sqm of space at the Hilton Hotel will remain the focus of the Roleplaying Game sessions, live entertainment and more open gaming space; with the entire Palace and Kings one huge open gaming space, allowing 2000+ gaming enthusiasts to sit and game. Also the UK Games Expo Food Festival will be here.

The organisers should be proud of their show this year. 

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