Get into board games: Five reasons to go to the UK Games Expo, May 29-31

UK Games ExpoWith just a week to go until the UK Games Expo in Birmingham I thought I’d give it a quick plug. It is the UK’s biggest convention dedicated purely to hobby gaming and it’s getting bigger each year, in line with the hobby itself.

The three-day event at Hilton Birmingham Metropole (at the NEC) runs 2-7pm on Friday, 9.30am-5pm Saturday and 9.30am-4pm Sunday. And it won’t break the bank, with day tickets just over £10 and a day family ticket at £30.

This will be my first year attending the Expo as I’m usually away during school half term. But I’m really looking forward to it, as its an event a lot of my friends put in the calendar before all others at the start of their year’s planning. If you’ve got nothing planned for this particular end of half term, and are within reach of Birmingham NEC, what have you got to lose! So what’s it all about?

1. Get back into gaming in ‘The Family Zone’

One of the largest open gaming areas at the show is the Family Zone. There will be a massive range of family games to try your hand at, as well as areas to get your creative hat on too (they’ll be everything from story telling to designing). Run by Imagination Gaming, its the perfect area for those rediscovering the hobby, as Imagination staff will be on hand to help you choose the right game for your group – whether all adult or with your kids too. Allegedly they’ll have 150 games to choose from too, so you shouldn’t get bored! And if you find games you like, you’ll be able to pick many of them up at the store too.

2. Putting games to the test

Hundreds of new board and card games are released each year – which all have to be rigorously tested. It’s a tough process for designers but it can be a lot of fun too – and you can be part of it. Playtest UK will be at the event all weekend, with budding and published designers looking for members of the public to try out and give feedback on their latest designs. Who knows – you may get a chance to change a rule in the next Ticket to Ride or Magic: The Gathering! Or if you feel you want to get involved, there will be chances to put your own design skills to the test with the board game redesign competition.

3. Get your geek on: dress to impress

young or old, many people like to get costumed up for a bit of a party – and parties don’t come much bigger than this. The UK Games Expo is also a celebration of all things geeky, so if you want to dress up as an elf or a super hero knock yourself out – you’ll be in good company (you can bet there will be plenty of daleks, stormtroopers and the like to mingle and your selfies with too). Cosplay is another growing hobby, with people spending an incredible amount of time getting their costumes as accurate as possible (some of them are amazing) – and it’s a great way to liven up the even with a bit of extra colour.

4. Open gaming – board games, competitions and RPGs

Open gaming is one of the highlights of any board gaming convention, and the UK Games Expo is no exception. At various places and points during the event there will be room for up to and over 1,000 people to sit down and play games – with hundreds available to borrow from the in-house games library (run this year by the fabulous Thirsty Meeples cafe from Oxford). But you can also sign up to join in with a host of role-playing games; or sign up to be in a tournament if you really want to get your game face on.

5. Let’s get serious: A gaming education

There will also be more than 20 seminars running over the weekend, ranging in topic from how to publish your own game right through to a sci-fi quiz. Some big names in gaming will be attendance for Q&As, including Eric Lang (Chaos in the Old World, Dice Masters, Game of Thrones card game) and Monica Valentinelli (Firefly RPG), while you’ll be able to get tips on everything from fiction writing to running successful competitions and events. Personally I’m looking forward to news on the 2016 expansion into the NEC itself!

I’m arriving Thursday evening and will be there pretty much throughout the weekend. You can see a pic of me on the ‘about’ page here: if you read this blog at all, do come up and say hello! It’s going to be a great weekend of gaming, but more importantly socialising. See you in the halls – or in the bar!

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