RogerBW's Blog

UK Games Expo 2015 01 June 2015

This weekend I was at UK Games Expo, for the third year at the Hilton Metropole near the NEC – though next year it's mostly going to be in the NEC itself. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything, and click the image for the full-size version.

The site was clearly feeling the strain; there was a large marquee for some of the tournament gaming, and tables in the open-play area were rarely free even during the day. (More of the tournaments were in there too.)

One excellent innovation, given that the hotel food is the same ghastly overpriced rubbish as at nearly every hotel these days: food trucks in the parking area outside. Yeah, not cheap, but cheaper and better than anything the hotel had to offer. The burgers were excellent; the pulled pork disappointing.

The trade halls seemed a little less cheek-by-jowl than in previous years; though they were still very full, there was at least room to move.

Thirsty Meeples were running the boardgames library (rather better-organised than the table full of games in previous years).

As usual, I spent most of my time demonstrating for Steve Jackson Games. We were in half of the Monarch room, which is where all the rest of the open gaming tables were.

Actually, strictly speaking, we were in the Monarch as opposed to the Monrach room.

This time we were next to Giant Star Trek Catan, and I found myself contemplating giant versions of SJGames products. Revolution ought to be doable with a little care. Castellan would be harder work, but also entirely too much fun.

We didn't have any products getting an especial pre-sales push this year, though we did have a couple of prototypes. Most of my demo effort at least went into Revolution, which as always was popular at the table and generated people wanting to go away and buy it. (As well as one or two who definitely didn't want to, but that's fair enough: I'd rather they try the game and learn they don't like it at a demo table than that they buy it on spec, find they've wasted their money, and feel resentful.)

My hotel room was supplied with aromatherapy gunk. Fortunately it hadn't left too much odour on the pillow.

But actually, though I complain a lot about hotels, I have to say that the Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC did an excellent job: yes, it was expensive, but the staff's basic attitude in all my dealings with them was that they were there to make my life easier. It's sad that this should now be exceptional, but it is, and it was most welcome. I may well stay here next year.

Oh, and the cooked English part of the breakfast was basic but very good, and the trays did actually get refilled.

The hotel was on the other side of Pendigo Lake…

…which as usual was infested with Canada geese. (These two hissed at me when they thought I was menacing their gosling.)

Normally one would simply walk round the lake, but someone was putting up a bloody great casino/hotel/etc. complex on the path. (It is to have eleven "restaurants", the only names confirmed so far being generic chains like Frankie and Benny's and Nando's, and people are welcoming it because even that will so very much improve the quality of food in the area!)

This meant that the best route between hotel and venue was a pontoon bridge. Really, how could one possibly complain? Call me easily pleased, but this was one of the real high points for me. I reckon it could easily have taken the weight of a car, but I had a borrowed car with me rather than my own.

The path certainly was part of the site; the lake was being held back by a basic caisson.

I've seen nastier buildings. I don't think much of casinos, which biases me.

The Canada geese would not be put off from entering and leaving Their Lake by mere barriers.

Obligatory art. It's meant to be a high diver, apparently.

This is not a urinal. Honest.

Some games that looked interesting. Galaxy of Trian was described as "vicious backstabbing".

M101 seemed new (no Boardgamegeek page yet!) but looked good, potentially requiring thought in three dimensions.

The hotel foolishly tried to preserve one island of sanity. I gathered that people were unofficially competing to see how much game they could complete before they were thrown out.

Walking back to the pontoon bridge at night.

Waterfowl are no respecters of wet cement.

I got in a rare demo of The Stars Are Right (it's clearly not right as a game for many people, but the ones who like it take to it with enthusiasm).

There was also Munchkin Pathfinder going on.

The Firefly table was back. (No, it wasn't being played outside; that green was a poster.)

The inevitable Star Wars Armada.

Mission Normandy Command. There were quite a few wargames figures and scenery companies here – not as many as at Salute, but more than in previous years.

The obligatory charity Dalek.

Photographed indoors, its blue skirt LEDs came out about twice as bright on the photograph as in real life, which works rather well.

Cross-licencing continues. This was Dead Panic, a zombie adaptation of Castle Panic. Yes, the rules do vary slightly, as with Munchkin Panic.

I think that an explanation for this, as well as all the Love Letter rethemes that are coming out, is brand fandom. Nobody is expected to collect all the Love Letter or * Panic games; rather, if they are zombie fans, there's a Panic for them, and if they're Batman fans there's a Love Letter variant for them. Well, if it reaches people who wouldn't otherwise play boardgames… at least the games themselves are likely to be decent, being proven successes already.

Wings of War, run by the forum crew, and their collection.

Lots of Star Trek Attack Wing. (The only place I've actually seen it being played; the people I know who do this stuff are more likely to play X-Wing.)

This is not all one game of Dropzone Commander; it's the tournament, with quite a lot of games going on in parallel. Looked good from this angle, mind.

A Chez Geek demo game. I tried to avoid winning this one, but when as the Drummer I pulled two Nookie cards in the same turn… and two more the next turn…

Mysterium: a ghost tries to give clues about its murder. This is the English language prototype; the art's all been changed from the original Eastern European release. It's OK, I guess, but what I've seen of the original art is deeply weird and haunting, what Dixit only dreams of being. (It seems the rules have been mucked about with too, and not in a good way.)

A prototype Mars Attacks dexterity game (expected to be released shortly) which I'll be showing off in appropriate venues. If you should choose to combine it with adult beverages, that would be entirely your business.

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:52pm on 01 June 2015

    Did you test how many gamers you can get on the pontoon bridge? Looks safe to cycle on to me, shame you didn't have a bicycle.

    And surely in the UK it's "wet concrete", calling the finished product "cement" is an Americanism.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:25pm on 01 June 2015

    I haven't a clue about concrete/cement. I think one is a mixture that includes the other, but that's about the end of my knowledge.

    If those blocks are about 40cm on a side, the mass of water they'd displace is about 64kg. Assume they mass about 4kg themselves; then a strip nine blocks wide can support 540kg, and each metre of walkway can support 1350kg. You'd have to pack people pretty tightly to sink it.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 09:23am on 02 June 2015

    In the UK cement is the grey dry powder that comes in a bag. You mix it with water, sand and gravel to make wet concrete (I can give mix proportions if you like), which then sets. If there is no gravel then it's mortar or render of various types.

    For reasons I've never understood, in the US the mixed wet stuff is called cement. But I don't know what they call the grey dry powder instead.

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