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UK Games Expo 2017 Recap

Recently (Friday 2nd of June 2017 to Sunday 4th of June 2017) I attended the UK Games Expo, which was held at the NEC near Birmingham. As expected for a board game fair, most of the popular games could be bought there, from the Pandemic series to Fantasy Flight Games’ franchises to slightly lesser known, but nonetheless fantastic, games like King of Tokyo.

In addition to the activities in Hall 1, the UK Games Expo had a tournament section in another hall, where people could compete in games like Ticket to Ride.

Due to time constraints, I was unable to attend any of the many seminars that were held around the convention centre and at the Hilton Hotel, including the live show of the famous UK game review podcast Shut Up & Sit Down. However, I did spot them while they played and expansion for the game Not Alone.

The game itself has an interesting concept with its asymmetric one versus six set up. It’s about a team of humans crash-landing on an alien planet. The six human players win if they can hold out until a dropship arrives to pick them up. The remaining player controls a monster that wins if it eats the humans.

Other than the Shut Up & Sit Down crew, other board game notables like Tom Vasel (on the picture below), Zee Garcia, and Sam Healey of The Dice Tower were also at the expo.

Apart from an award show, big board games, media personalities, cosplayers, tournaments, and seminars people come to expect at events like these, the UK Games Expo was able to shine with a few less prominent but equally interesting unique gems of which I want to mention four:

1. Charity Auction

Elliot Symonds organized the charity auction on behalf of the Game Expo, where visitors could bid on donations from publishers and individuals. The proceeds of the auction were donated to children’s charity NSPCC.

One of my fondest memories of the show was when I was approached by a couple, who had won the auction for my books and game, and asked for an autograph. Sadly, I only signed the books and not the game, since I was a bit distracted by what was going on at the booth.

2. Playtest Zone

Game authors could bring their prototypes to the playtest zone in order to test them with anyone interested in playing. This kind of test is extremely important as one gets to experience how strangers react to a game and whether all the game mechanics function as planned and as confirmed by in-house testing.

3. SF&F Authors

Particularly relevant to Fantasy-Faction, there were a number of fantasy and science fiction authors present at the UK Games Expo. Apparently fantasy author Ian Livingstone, who is most famous for the Fighting Fantasy books, wandered around the halls, but I did not run into him.

4. Indie Game Designers

Last but not least I want to highlight the amount of indie game designer talent that rented a booth at the expo. The experience level greatly varied, from people just breaking in to the hobby to seasoned veterans, who were already many years in the business. Josh and Mark Painter exhibited their game Colour Guards, which borrows the rook and bishop moving mechanic from chess, while adding dice and terrain. They are currently weighing their options on how to proceed with the game, possibly starting a Kickstarter campaign at some point.

Next to my booth were Joseph and David, who showed their game Nightlancer. It’s a cyberpunk game, which reminded me of Shadowrun, but I was assured that there were no elves or dragons. After demonstrating the game at the expo, they are contemplating of starting a Kickstarter campaign, now that the card art is completed.

Even farther along in the process was game designer David Newton, who had already completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for his game Temp Worker Assassins. The game, which combines deck building and worker placement to create a fun and engaging short game, features artwork by local artist Adam Bolton.

Away from the board games and in the realm of roleplaying games the Dungeon Craft booth supplied people with walls, floors, and paraphernalia to outfit a miniature fantasy dungeon.

Overall it was a very good convention with very friendly people that I can recommend to anyone remotely interested in gaming. Case in point, on the first day I was approached by someone, who found me due to the note I had left in my car. He told me that the passenger side window of my car was open and since that was the day when it started to rain in the evening, I would have had a miserable time, if it had not been for the kindness of a complete stranger.


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