Hot Games

Thursday, 9 June 2011

UK Games Expo – mixed feelings

I love the concept of the UK Games Expo, but seem to enjoy it less and less each year. I can’t put my finger on exactly why this is the case, but as a boardgamer, I’m increasingly seeing this as an optional visit rather than a destination event. So what are the positives and negatives of the event?


• A range of games retailers (but I wish there were more)
• A good smattering of small publishers – this to me is probably the most positive thing about the Expo
• A lot of demo tables (even more so for miniatures)
• A good mixture of serious gamers and families/casual gamers
• Er, that’s about it.


• The venue is now stretched – the Expo needs to move. Some of the outer areas suffer markedly in footfall terms.
• No significant new boardgames released – without a Treefrog or Ragnars release there was no “must go” reason to attend
• No price competition between the retailers – the prices were all very samey across the board. A bit of competition on hot games like Seven Wonders, Dixit and Dominion would be a start!
• The format is a bit tired – a bit of innovation is required.
• The entry fee - £8 is too high, and must put off casual gamers/families.


• Refreshments – limited and over-priced, but at least Ladypool Road is nearby (we went to Imran’s after the show)

So what changes would I make? In no particular order:

• Change venue (though keep it in Birmingham if possible)
• Tie it into cons to get the regular/serious gamers in (of all persuasions). Talk to the Manorcon and Midcon guys and arrange an “Expo-con” at the same venue.
• Persuade more retailers to come along – maybe tie their costs into a %sales basis to reduce their exposure; encourage discounting and price competition
• Twist the arms of all local publishers to release new games – make this a de facto pre-Essen roll-out for UK publishers. Invite German designers such as Reiner Knizia and Michael Schacht.
• Encourage small publishers – maybe by discounting
• Promote tie-ins with complimentary hobbies – such as comics (a la Essen).

So, despite all the above, did I enjoy the Expo this year? The answer was yes. Find of the day was undoubtedly Totemo from Surprised Stare Games. Yes I know it was there last year, but I only tried it this year. An excellent abstract strategy game that will go down really well with the family.

I also bought Braggart – not my favourite type of card-game,
but I know it will be well received by both gamers and family. Therefore a good buy – the 2 young ladies who demo’ed it also won me over with their enthusiasm for the game. I also purchased KingBrick – a 2-player flicking game. As a Subbuteo addict in my youth, this simple straight-forward game was a no-brainer and, at £10, also a bargain. I’m sure it won’t see much table-time, but I still couldn’t resist it. A couple of other small purchases completed the day.

I hope the Expo continues to grow and thrive, but I feel that it needs a shot in the arm to move forward.


  1. Other positives include getting the attention of the general public and ladies in tight catsuits.

    I agree with the negatives; trying to appeal to a wider range of gaming enthusiasts is no excuse for a dearth of games of one genre, and a larger venue would pay for itself.

    I was really disappointed in the lack of Treefrog and Ragnar output, but it cannot be helped I supppose.

    Did I mention Catwoman?

  2. I think young ladies dressed in tight-fitting comic book costumes definitely appeals to 80%+ of the attendees, so was a shrewd move by the organisers. I didn't want to appear sexist by including that as a positive - I thought that was a given! I take it you'll be publishing the pictures on Facebook Tony?

    I have read the brochure in the last few days and am coming to the conclusion that the Expo is increasingly being targeted at the RPG and miniatures markets.

  3. Sadly, no pictures.

    As for the target market, if you read Mr Denning's response to my Expo 2010 post, you'll probably find an explanation of sorts.