Monday, 2 June 2014

UK Games Expo 2014

Well, that was exhausting! The weekend of 30th May to 1st June was the annual UK Games Expo in Birmingham which was once again held in the Hilton Birmingham Metropole hotel. The attendance over the weekend was incredible with almost 6,000 attendees and, at least as far as I could tell, the event was fantastically smoothly run. Given how much was going on that was no small feat. I had initially planned to play a follow up game to Otten Village on the Saturday but unfortunately couldn't arrange for it to happen.

Over the weekend there were one-shot role-play games, open board gaming rooms with a board games library, tournaments, signings, seminars, playtesting areas for new games, a bring-and-buy and three trade rooms. There was such a huge amount happening that it really felt impossible to do everything that I wanted to do in just those few days.

One of the open gaming rooms

My highlight of the Expo was playing in the RPGs I signed up for - Tomes of Navarone, a WWII Call of Cthulhu adventure, and A Fistful of Credits which was a Star Wars Savage Worlds game. Both went swimmingly well and we won them convincingly and largely without incident. In the Cthulhu game we naively missed the sinister undertones of the scenario completely which helped us out because, as many Cthulhu players know, some things are better left unseen and unknown. It's always great fun to play with some great role-play gamers, the guy who played the psychotic Assassin Droid in the Credits was amazing.

It was a good weekend for shopping too, I picked up some D&D 3.5 splat books (Monster Manual 3 and 4), Tulipmania 1637, a great condition copy of the WFB3 rulebook for a tenner, the latest Hive expansion and a bunch of other odds and ends. I dare not think how much money was spent in the trade halls over the course of the weekend but do know that the bring-and-buy turned over £30,000 and raised £3,100 for charity in the process!

The bring-and-buy stretching off into the haze in the distance.

There were many people costumed up and there were also these two remote control Daleks patrolling the hallways of the hotel. Some of the outfits and props looked fantastic and it's clear that a lot of time was put into the detail of them. Doctor Who and Star Wars were probably the two best represented franchises at the Expo for this but I also spotted Star Trek, Alien, Judge Dredd, Firefly and other props/costumes around the venue.

"Exterminate! Exterminate!" - Dalek

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone gave a talk on Saturday about the early history of Games workshop and gave lots of interesting titbits of information. One of these was that the name Games Workshop came up in a somewhat drunken brainstorming session. Other candidates were Games Garage, Games Fusion, Aristotle Games, Mind Games, The Quasigamic Expedition (if I remember correctly) and many more besides!

Also, apparently, the original Games Workshop header had the distinctive 'old English' looking G and W because when first designing it (for a magazine, or business proposal I think) they had run out of those two letters for that font in their transfer letter sets so had to use an alternative. It looked suitably distinctive and they stuck with it.

Seminar with Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson
The room was feeling tropical due to the amount of people in it!

Friday and Saturday nights were spent board gaming with some fellow attendees, many of who were volunteering or otherwise helping out at the Expo, and drinking well into the small hours. Among the games played were Agricola, Tammany Hall, Ticket to Ride, Concept, 7 Wonders, Rockband Manager, Fluxx and Cheaty Mages. Concept is probably the game I was happiest to discover, it's a bit like charades except that it is fun and doesn't involve any physical exertion. The late finish was too much for some people though...

Not everyone can cope with board games at 2am

Sunday was a tournament day for me and, after 4 hours of sleep, I took part in a 20-man Infinity tournament. I signed up with my Aleph Steel Phalanx army and am very happy to say that I came second overall, losing out on the top prize on tiebreakers. Congratulations to Robin (i0003) on the win and I'll get you next time! My opponents James, John and Stuart were great to game against and it was good to see some new faces at the event.

Game 1 was against James (Redyellowpink) playing Corregidor Nomads whose dice unfortunately failed him quite seriously at the start of the game (he took 6 attempts to make a 50/50 dice roll). Once he'd failed to cause any damage to my forces in the first turn I was free to run around and mop up the objectives. He made a spirited attempt at a comeback with a Wildcat fireteam and the Intruder sniper in his deployment zone caused me no end of problems, but it wasn't enough to claw back the points. The game ended 10-1 to me.

Game 1 - showing how to make cheap scenery with some ingenuity

Game 1 - Gecko TAG Vs. Achilles
A one-sided fight, the TAG didn't stand a chance!

Game 2 against John and his Morat Aggression Force was fabulously complex. I had a rotten start, my sniper losing a duel against my opponent's one due to a critical hit, and my Lieutenant (and most expensive model) eating multiple panzerfausts in a single order. After that the centre of the board was flooded with landmines by John's cheap, disposable troops and I was pretty much confined to my deployment zone for the majority of the game. Fortunately I was able to advance far enough under smoke cover on the last turn to snatch some objectives and pull out a hard fought draw. The game ended 7-7.

Game 2 - This game was very intense and exceedingly complicated - a great match!

Game 3 against Stuart's Shasvastii (Fathi Amirmoez - my regular opponent) was a bit of a blowout for him, I'm sorry to say. He's my regular opponent back home and I had a pretty good idea of what was likely to be in his army. Achilles (my Lieutenant and a very dangerous character) just stomped up the board and dismantled Stuart's army without breaking much of a sweat. The final game of the tournament ended 10-0 to me for a total of 27 out of a possible 30 points.

Game 3 - A beautiful table

Finally, I'd like to present a bit of eye candy. The following four armies were nominated for the Best Painted award on the day. The three runners-up are presented in no particular order.
Aleph Steel Phalanx - Best Army winner belonging to JonnyM

Yu Jing ISS - Best Army nomination belonging to Archie Homer (Arcade)

Morat Aggression Force - Best Army nomination belonging to Kevin Dowsett (KB Zod)

Aleph Steel Phalanx - Best Army nomination (that's me!)

Well, now I'm home and have the post-expo blues, although I am grateful of having had a full night's sleep (I've never felt so old). I'm definitely looking forward to next year now and hope to see some of you there, if you did go this year then I'd love to hear your stories and see some more pictures of this event.


  1. Sorry I missed you on Saturday evening, it was madness running the Oakbound Games stall! Can't believe I missed the yellow dalek too! We did get a stormtrooper playing Tripods though so didn't entirely miss out on the costume fun! Brilliant event.

    1. Yeah, definitely a shame - the phone signal in the building was awful as well, which didn't help! I hope the rest of the Expo went well for you, did you get a lot of interest in your games? You should bring a copy of Tripods over to the Duke or the Drawbridge sometime.