Tuesday, June 11, 2013

UK Games Expo 2013

My wife was generous enough to allow me a little adventure of my own recently. I went to the UK Games Expo 2013 in Birmingham. I was able to get a reasonably priced train ticket and a reasonably priced hotel room (though not at the convention hotel). The train involved a couple of switches but it wasn't too bad. The hotel was about a twenty minute walk from the convention hotel, which wasn't too bad either except for the parts without side walks! I only followed that path in daylight.

Leeds Train Station, a typical station in England

Not my hotel room, but notable for the two peep holes!

Registration was a snap since I came in the middle of the day. Even as a walk-in, I only had to pay £14 (roughly $22) for two days of the convention, which is pretty cheap by any standard. The first day, Friday, was a day just for playing games. The convention game library was open and full of many different recent and not so recent games. Attendees could check out games, play them, and trade them for others later.

Awkwardly-angled game library shot

I met a couple at the library who were also browsing and we would up playing a couple of games together, St. Petersburg and Caylus: Magna Carta. The couple also recommended some good two-player games. Then I went off to check in at my hotel, allowing me some exercise and a little break. After having some dinner I headed back to the convention for more game play.

One of the clever things they do at this convention is providing an unobtrusive way for people to join random games. Tables that needed extra players had little British flags on them. I spotted one such table with two gentlemen. I asked if I could join them. I didn't even check what they were playing! Soon another lady came along and joined the table and we started the card-game version of Shadows over Camelot. I wasn't quite into it but it was a quick game and later games were more fun. Then a couple came by who knew the two guys (from their gaming group) and they joined in. A good time was had by all. About 11 p.m. I headed back to my hotel via a taxi rather than the isolated, side-walkless walk.

The next day the convention was in full swing. The exhibit halls were open, with various merchants selling various wares. Some exhibitors were game stores from the UK selling their stock. Some were small game publishers showing off their newest games. Some were big publishers with large booths demonstrating their games. Some were artists or authors.

Earlier in the trade hall, before the crowds were there

Demoing Tzolk'in, the Mayan Calendar game

Chess the Game, hangs on a wall, perfect for game rooms!

Some of the companies had giant versions of their games for people to play. When I walked by the Pandemic game, the fellow said that everyone had to wear a lab coat when they played.

Giant version of Pandemic

Greatest Castle Panic ever!

Looks like Memoir '44, but is Operation Overlord D-day Game

X-wing Game on a giant Death Star board

An area for kids to play had face painting and kid appropriate games, including a giant-sized Ticket to Ride game (with normal-sized cards, not those little cards that the game has).

Face Painting (alas, the Ticket to Ride photo came out blurry)

One of the conference rooms was a "bring and buy" room, where attendees could bring their unwanted games, register them, and have them sold. I found a couple of bargains in there (a Ticket to Ride expansion and the Caylus: Magna Carta game that I had enjoyed the day before). The room was always packed with people trying to find steals and, for the first half of the day, with people registering their games to be sold.

Another featured element of the expo was the costumed groups wandering around. In addition to random people dressing up as Judge Dredd or steam-punk, a couple of Imperial troopers from Star Wars and a bunch of characters from Doctor Who were present. One table had props from Firefly, including what I thought was Jane's favorite gun. I really wanted to pick it up but there was a large "DO NOT TOUCH ITEMS ON TABLE" sign right next to it. Bummer! The worst was yet to come, because I got home and discovered Jane's gun is Vera, and the one I saw has "Jenny" on it. It's the Doctor's daughter's gun from this episode.

I got my shot off before he got his!

Two Doctors and the Master walk into a Tardis...

Poor Daleks, first given iColors then balloons!

More Star Wars (Aren't you a little short to be Darth Vader?)

Jenny not from Firefly

Some things I didn't do but that looked cool included the game design playtest room, where people could bring their prototype games for others to play and give feedback. Also, tournaments in twenty-three different games were held, some determining the UK champion who would move on to further international tournaments. Saturday night had a gaming cinema including Avengers Assemble, Judge Minty (a half-hour fan film based in the Judge Dredd world), and The People vs. George Lucas.

I did do some shopping and some demos of new games, as well as attending one of the many fine seminars. More on those in future blog posts!

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