RogerBW's Blog

UK Games Expo 2017 06 June 2017

UK Games Expo continues to expand; the trade hall was still in NEC Hall 1, but all the tournaments which had shared space with it were pushed into one of the other halls at the back. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

The things that were shambolic were, increasingly, the things organised by UK Games Expo themselves rather than by the games publishers. I arrived at 9am on Friday to find that check-in for role-playing GMs was just beginning to be set up (as in "carrying in the computers and network cables"), and the GM check-in was combined with the general queue for purchasing tickets for role-playing events - even though (a) there were games due to start at 10am and (b) at least some of the GMs were relying on being able to check in in order to get into the rest of the show. The rewards for GMs were also significantly less generous than last year - for two four-hour sessions for six players, such as I ran, just a two-day entry ticket rather than a full pass, and no meal vouchers. I may well not bother to GM here again.

And once I did get into the main hall, there was a ninety minute wait to get things into the Bring and Buy - even though they were only accepting items that had been registered on the Expo site already. When your interaction with the guy at the desk should take the form "hello, my name is X" (print print) "here are your labels", there's no excuse for it taking 2-3 minutes; that's a back-end problem, and while all the volunteers I met were great, nobody had told them what to do when things went wrong or how to find the people who actually knew what was going on.

I spent most of my time working for Wotan Games (on, or rather next to, the infamous bus), showing off their new War of the Nine Realms; it's tactical combat with a very strong Norse flavour. There's a free print and play version, which is what I was mostly showing, and as I write it's live on Kickstarter until 18 June. I'd read the rules beforehand but not played it, and went from "mildly interested" to "definitely wanting a copy" over the course of the 40 or so games I played and/or supervised over the weekend. Why? Because it's thoroughly thematic while keeping the rules simple; because emergent complexity arises from straightforward character abilities; and because while I developed a standard opening move as the Æsir, my second move was different every single time as a result of what my opponents had come up with.

Because I'd tried to book a mere six months in advance, all the nearby hotels were full, and I ended up staying at Birmingham Airport. This is connected to the airport station (and the NEC) by a cable-train; this used to be a maglev (the world's first commercial one), but in 1995 it was decided that keeping it running reliably would be too expensive. So the present system was built instead, on the old guideway; each track has two horizontal load-bearing rails with indentations in the inner sides for the guide wheels, and each train is fixed to and hauled by a steel cable. It works well enough and it's pleasingly quiet, but it's no maglev.

The Ibis had the things I find important in an hotel: a decent breakfast with minimal faff that one could get to quickly, a clean and reasonably comfortable bed, and a toilet/bathroom that worked. (Also a window that opened and net access that worked; I can cope without these but they're nice to have.) This is about the only chain I actually look forward to staying in, because they have managed to provide all of these things every time I've used one, unlike many more expensive places even if those places do have more channels on the TV. I assume. I never turn it on.

On Saturday evening there was apparently a Take That concert nearby, and gamers ended up mingling with the fans. The ones who were readily identifiable as such tended to be female, I would guess in their fifties, and wearing glittery pink shirts; given that the group had its major fame in the early 1990s, so about 25 years ago, that suggests that the original fans skewed a little older than those of the usual boy band. Either that or they've had hard lives since.

The food trucks were back!

Open gaming in the Hilton on Saturday night. I was running RPG sessions both evenings, so didn't get into the boardgame side of things, but there were plenty of old favourites as well as the latest hotness. Apparently actually getting a table was as tough as ever, though, and more than half of the hotel's function space was being used for other things.

Heavy rain on Saturday night as I headed back to the Ibis.

There was quite a bit of costuming (or "cosplay" as it's now apparently been renamed): generally not very original, but there's some skill in duplicating something from a film.

Apparently there were ideas that Cthulhu hadn't been added to. Yet.

The hall was pretty busy at times, but never entirely heaving - which I very much appreciated after the days of the Hilton and the Masonic Hall.

Well, the Bring and Buy did manage to sell the bulkier of my spare games, which is good – even if collecting the unsold items consisted of looking around the shelves trying to find them and bring them back to the check-in desk. But I suspect for next year I'll interact with the Expo itself as little as possible, thus giving it fewer chances to waste hours of my time.

  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 09:27am on 06 June 2017

    When you say half the hotel function space was being used for other things, do you mean other Expo things? Or stuff which is nothing to do with gaming?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:36am on 06 June 2017

    Non-gaming-related functions. The side door to the Monarch rooms (where open gaming was a few years ago) had a sign saying basically "gamers keep out, there is nothing for you here"; there was a Lady Freemasons' function on the Saturday night, and various other things at other times.

    The only Hilton room available for general gaming was the Palace room, which was the dealers' space at Eastercon - floorplan. No idea what was going on in Kings.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 06:08pm on 06 June 2017

    And apparently I am Odin. (Thanks to BigJackBrass for the photo.)

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