This year marks the 10th anniversary of the UK Games Expo – Britain’s biggest annual celebration of all things board gamey.
Expo has been growing even faster than the hobby, which is itself in rude health. The first Expo had 800 attendees; in 2016 they’re hoping for 10,000 over the weekend.
The gaming parts of the event, taking place from June 3-5, are staying in the Birmingham NEC Hilton Hotel while the trade vendors are expanding into Hall 1 of the NEC itself. This is a significant development, giving the event another level of credibility and helping attract more retailers and manufacturers. Many publishers I’ve spoken to are now seeing UK Games Expo as a genuine event on the world board gaming con calendar for the first time.
Although it’s not just about trying out and buying board games. Both role playing games and war games will be well represented, along with cosplayers covering everything from Star Wars to superheroes. And you can guarantee some great talks and high profile guests, alongside the odd darlek and storm trooper.
But for me, of course, it’s all about the games. Publishers in attendance this year will include Mayfair, Fantasy Flight, Queen Games, Czech Games Edition, Artipia, Mage Company, Osprey, Modiphius, Coiledspring, Surprised Stare and Grublin; while the biggest UK retailers will all be attendance.
But the real beauty of UK Games Expo is how inclusive it is. Both the organisers and attendees are dedicated to expanding the hobby. There are always people around to teach and explain both the games and the hobbies themselves. If you can spare a day and can get to Birmingham, you should come along and get a taste of what you’re missing. The family zone, for example, was massive last year and is only going to get bigger as the event expands.
Prices are pretty good too. A family ticket is only £30 for the day or £45 for the weekend, with adult/child tickets starting as cheaply as £15/£7 for a one-off trip (just remember you’ll have to also pay a bit extra for parking).
I’ll be there for the weekend and, with the exception of the odd shift in the play-testing area and hopefully a couple of publisher meetings, I’ll be there to game. There’s always a copy of Empire Engine in my pocket if you want to learn, so feel free to come and beat me at my own game! Although you may have to buy me a consolation pint afterwards…