In this post I’m going to quickly discuss my experiences at the UK Games Expo 2014. The expo is the biggest board gaming event in the UK and is held at the Hilton hotel at Birmingham’s NEC Arena. The event took place from Friday 30th May until Sunday 1st June. Over the course of the weekend, thousands of game fans from across the globe flocked to the city of Birmingham to take part in all the fun of the expo.
I went along to the show last year, but made the mistake of turning up at lunchtime on the Sunday. I rushed around and didn’t get to do even a quarter of what was on offer. This year I was counting down the days for the pre-booking system to open so that I could book myself in for the entire expo from Friday through Sunday.
Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho… and off to the show I go
Early Friday morning Nikki, Chris and I arrived at the Hilton, ready for some amazing gaming action. The Friday is dedicated to letting the retailers and exhibitors set up their stands ready for the Saturday and Sunday hordes. But, for those of us who weren’t part of that, there were large halls dedicated to open games and a very cool board game library that we used to play some fun and interesting games until late into the evening. We even booked ourselves in for a game of Alien Laser Tag, a thematic laser game set in Ridley Scott’s classic Alien universe. It was a brilliant half hour which we all thoroughly enjoyed.
We eventually went to bed later in the day, but not before we’d got through a decent mixture of library and player-owned games including:
- Every Round Counts (Prototype)
- Hole of Doom
- Kakerlaken Poker
As the doors open… Saturday madness
On Saturday morning the UK Games Expo 2014 flung open its doors to the awaiting crowd, all of whom were desperate to start trawling the halls of the show. Over the course of the day I met many game publishers and designers, and spoke to some very fun and interesting people, including catching up with Nigel, Paul, Dan and Peter (aka Moley) who were manning the GamesQuest stand.
Being the first day, I wanted to get as much done as I could, so I fought my way through the crowds that had invaded the hotel, facing down Doctors and Daleks, Storm Troopers and Sith, I visited everyone I possibly could!
As time slipped away I wished I could climb into the Tardis parked in the lobby and go back to the start to cram even more into the day! All in all I managed to meet a lot of people, get in three demo games, and note down several stands to try again on Sunday because they were just so extremely busy.
By the end of the day, also known as 4AM Sunday morning, I was thoroughly exhausted but totally happy with what I’d seen and done. When I did eventually make it to bed, I’d played a selection of great games including:
- Pandemic: The Cure (Prototype)
- Stand and Deliver (Prototype)
- Luchador: Mexican Wrestling Dice
- IPA: The Agents
- Nine Worlds
And now… The end is near…
Sunday morning, 7AM, and I was up again, getting ready for more gaming madness. With only three hours of sleep under my belt I had no idea quite how long I’d stay awake, but I was up and on my feet and that’s all that mattered.
Heading down to the exhibition halls, I wasn’t surprised to find them filling rapidly with eager gamers. I wandered around and tried to speak to as many of the people I’d not spoken to already. I visited the Gale Force Nine stand where they had Firefly, Pirates and Bounty Hunters, Spartacus, Dust (with its new rulebook) alongside several tantalising banners showing their next three licensed titles: Sons of Anarchy, Homelands and Family Guy!
Around lunchtime Chris and I took part in a giant version of Star Trek: Attack Wing the awesome Wizkids miniatures game. We played the Federation and spent quite a lot of time trying to deal with the overly large turning circle of our Galaxy class star ships. Eventually however, we were beaten into submission by the dastardly Klingons and forced to retreat to safety.
As the day progressed we played a couple of games of Marvel Dice Masters and Librium before heading over to the GamesQuest stand in readiness to help demolish and repack anything they had left.
After two hours of dismantling, packing, wrapping, lifting and aching; the stand was no more and our UK Games Expo 2014 experience had come to an end.
All good things… Come to an end…
I’ve been sat wondering how to finish this post off. Whether to leave you at the end of Sunday, or give you a bit more information about some of the great stuff that I saw. I decided that I’d go with the latter so here’s a few things I really enjoyed!
IPA: The Agents – Nikki and I had a fantastic time during a demo game of this great game. At first glance I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but after sitting down with Thor (What an awesome name) and playing through a few rounds I began to see how much fun could be had with it. The game itself is nice and solid, I played as though I had an army of robotic spiders that I used to chase and bludgeon Thor until Nikki finally took us both out with a little backstabbing action. It put me in mind of a lighter version of Duel of Ages with the random combinations of cool weapons you can wield and the Attack your opponent approach. The designer, Allan Beyor, was on hand to answer any questions and He, Thor and Brigitte really made our time at their stand one to remember. If you’re interested in reading more about IPA I’ll be doing a review over on my personal blog, GeeksThatGame, at some point soon.
Luchador: Mexican Wrestling Dice – I’d heard a lot about this game… and it was all true! Luchador: Mexican Wrestling Dice is a really fun game! The stand was the most lively, rowdy, stand at the Expo with cheers and yelps being heard from the next hall over. Nikki and I sat down to play a demo of this fun little game using the teams, specially produced, Wrestling rings and we enjoyed every single second. If you want to get your hand on a copy of this, Nigel managed to get his hands on a few copies at the show which, if you’re into fun, you can purchase here.
The Atmosphere – The atmosphere at the show was tremendous, there were so many people all having such a good time, spirits were high, the organisers were brilliant and there was an air of happiness and enjoyment wherever you went.
If I could turn back time… The things that I missed!!!
Having been at the UK Games Expo for all three days, I still didn’t see everything on offer. Despite my best efforts I was regrettably unable to do several things that I very much wanted to do.
First off, I wasn’t able to get to any of the Seminars; I was just far too busy each day. I would have loved to have seen the talk given by Reiner Knizia but alas it was not to be.
Secondly, I saw Plaid Hat Games’ Dead of Winter being demoed. I really wanted to give this a try because I’ve had it on pre-order with them since it was first put on their site. Alas, when I did get chance to go back to the demo area, there was no Dead of Winter to be seen and all of the tables were full.
Finally, my biggest regret is that I didn’t manage to get a game of Frankenstein’s Bodies in over the weekend. This fascinating game, currently on Kickstarter, has you taking on the role of a surgeon who’s trying to craft a pair of bodies from a series of body-part cards. Each surgeon attempts to complete their bodies before their opponents, or before the draw pile runs through twice. However, it’s more than just a race. It’s possible to surgically remove, or steal, parts from the bodies of another player. Watch out though! With every body part you steal there’s a risk of infection!
This game looks really interesting and, take it from me, it was very popular with the gamers at the Expo. In fact, it was damn near impossible to get close to the stand when I was there because of the number of people crowding round it!
Game designer Andrew Harman has been touring the country demoing the game at a variety of events and has had great success, including this awesome quote from none other than Ian Livingstone CBE (co founder of Games Workshop and co-author of Fighting Fantasy)
“I enjoyed playing Frankenstein’s Bodies because it is a fun, light-hearted game based on a gruesome tale. There is a lot of interaction as surgeons compete for body parts whilst trying to maintain their reputations. Body building will never be the same again!”
Hell, if it’s good enough for Ian Livingstone then it’s good enough for me! I honestly think that the theme is great, it’s a very dark, macabre, subject which is brought out through the games artwork. It’s probably not one to play with small children, but from what I saw at the UK Games Expo 2014 I certainly want to play it with my gaming group once it’s released upon the world.
If you’re interested in helping to fund the Frankenstein’s Bodies Kickstarter campaign, then act quickly because it’s entering its final few days and it would be a shame to miss out on what looks to be an interesting and fun game.
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Driven Instructional Designer by day, board game fanatic by night! Tom has a long background in eLearning design and is a strong believer that story and narrative are crucial to creating excellent learning and gaming experiences. A passionate blogger, game reviewer and play tester, he enjoys spending his time playing games of all genres.