I’ll begin this post with a quick recap of the first couple times we went to the Expo. Back in the olden days all the hustle and bustle of the trading section was crammed into the 2 or 3 event halls of the Hilton and a small room round the side for “bring & buy”, which due to its popularity and position, inadvertently resembled a Mongolian fish market. It was like hundreds of geeks and board games merged into a singular entity of violent bargain hunting.
One of the stand out features of the Expo in those early days was the queues. I remember the queues for the coffee shop serpentined out the door and into the parking, and oh God! I remember the ATM debacle. It literally melted out of the wall after an hour of trading on the Saturday morning, so there was a constant back & forth exodus of people between the hotel and the train station a kilometre away.
The food situation was also quite memorable. Somewhere in those early years of the “board gaming golden age”, the organizers had somehow forgotten that people do infact eat food. The poor clerk at the Hiltons kiosk barricaded himself inside after the place was ransacked and shelves left emptier than anti-matter. I’m pretty sure I saw him lying in the foetal position, crying behind the desk.
At some point, someone had the bright idea of ordering Dominoes to the hotel lobb, which was also precisly the time that all hell broke loose. They became so busy from nerds dying of hunger, that no sooner had one delivery guy dropped off, another one would be arriving with a fresh pile of double pepperoni meat feasts. I think at one point they just started chucking them through the door, into the amalgamous entity of ravenous gamers, so they didn’t have to waste time with taking their money (or risk being devoured).
2015s tourney situation was probably on par with 2014s culinary Sodom. I didn’t participate in any tournament then as I was only down for the day, but I remember wanting to check on my Netrunner buddies and see how they were doing. When I found the tournament “tent” the first thing that hit you as you entered was a dense waft of nerd humidity. I can still taste it on my teeth. Luckily that’s all I remember from last year though. Well, that and the terrible expression on people’s faces as they emerged from said tent, whenever they could for a breath of fresh air, looking like confused new-born bats. I think the noxious fumes inside the tent started to rewire their brains into believing it was some kind of cocoon of geek excretion & competition. In short, pre-2016 UK Games Expo was fun, but thick with nerd issues that needed a bit of professional gleen.
Cue 2016! This years event was WAY more polished and incredibly well-organized. Expo visitors had a massive section of the NEC all to themselves for trade and demos, as well as a good section of the Hilton for tournaments. Fortunately those that competed in tournaments this year, had space and were able to use our actual lungs ti breath while we played.
I was vying for the European Marshall badge in the Doomtown tournament. I use the phrase “vying for” extremely loosely. I didn’t stand a nose hair of a chance of even seeing it. I would have to get a character witness to describe it to a police sketch artist is how close I was to getting anything. There were 49 of us, and I think I came about 41rst by scoring points from 2 games. One of which I didn’t even play anyone. Nonetheless, it was brilliant. I love Doomtown and any chance I get to play with other people that enjoy this game is great. So do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s top-notch and you wont be disappointed.
Like I said earlier, trading was designated to the event center this year, and what a difference it made. There was less walking around, endlessly scanning table after table of retailers (although they were still there) and more browsing current & future wares from designers and publishers alike. For me the game of the Expo was “Wizards Academy” by 3D Total games. Gregory Carslaw, the designer, was giving hands on demonstrations of the game, and he is clearly very passionate about his project.
I also managed to catch a glimpse of the new long-awaited, and now Dice Tower endorsed Stonemeier Game”Scythe“. If you’ve seen any of the pictures or videos that are floating about online, you’ll probably be wondering if it really looks that good in real life? Well the answer is unequivocally yes. Sweet fancy Moses yes. It’s probably the most awe inspiring looking game ever.
Queen Games always have good representation at the expo and this year was no exception. They were showing off the new Richard Garfield game, “Treasure Hunter” and a reskin of Dschunke called “London Markets“. Both look interesting and if you like drafting or auction mechanics, they might be worth a look.
I will say that AEG let me down though. As the publisher of a few of my favourite games, I can’t believe how little representation they had. Now that might not be their fault and more to do with business shenanigans, but i would have thought since the Expo hosted the EUROPEAN DOOMTOWN MARSHALL event there should be some banners and love for Doomtown, Love Letter and others. Not to mention their new darling “Mystic Vale” was kept on the lowdown as well for some reason. Really strange.
Other highlights included taking part in a live game of Pandemic with Tom Vasel, which is something I would really like to see more of in the future. Podcasts and live RPGs are the rage these days so I really think that live board games can be a good next step for that sort of thing.
In short, the board game industry has really grown into an “industry”. It’s far beyond its cult beginnings, and is now attracting 25000 people with an increase of 40% attendance. It’s always been a great weekend for us, but what really makes it worth while is the atmosphere. I’m already looking forward to next year.