Report by Kieran Sutton
I was lucky enough to be invited to the Birmingham NC the 13th UK Games Expo (UKGE 2019) to celebrate all things board game and tabletop. A family-friendly hobby and games convention comprised of hundreds of exhibitors; stores, demos, talks, painting workshops and gaming space. It’s easy to get lost in between the card flying, dice rolling, meeples and hordes of tabletop gamers.
Upon arrival, I was surprised by the organization of the whole event. Pass the Viking village, simply turn up get your ticket and enter. I excepted an hour-long queue in a steadily warming warehouse… I was blown away at the scale, this year comprised of two full halls at the NEC, as well as open gaming rooms throughout the nearby Hilton hotel. The following is merely a snippet of what I found most enthralling during my brief time at this enormous expo.
Entering hall one I was nearly bombarded by a barrage of tabletop miniature stalls from Tritex Games, Crooked dice and Board Game Extras, for all your counters, orc and ogres armies, halls of heroes and of course your brave… badger people?
The insane variety of tabletop pieces on offer was delightful, as were the extravagant array of dazzling gem, stone and metal dice from the Dice Shop Online stall. Just in case you need the rest of your tabletop adventuring party to know you have the money to afford emeralds and the keen sense to have someone turn them into dice.
We then fixed our gaze to the keen Kickstarter exhibitors eager to get people playing. First stop was a dice and wooden disc game called Peruke! A smart concept and competitive short format game with an extremely simple premise; defend your discs, roll the dice and destroy friendships. Roll 3 dice and either defend your corresponding disc or take another players’, tally up when someone ends and they’ve won that round. Rinse and repeat until you are the lord of all the discs in the land and your friends hate you. Super easy to pick up and play, loads of fun and not too time-consuming.
We stopped by a few more, passing some impressive steampunk artwork by Mostly Curious Games as well as a stylish steampunk hat store. What is it about board game conventions that attract the Steam Punk population I couldn’t tell you but by god those hats are fancy. Before too long we were captivated by a stall boasting a tabletop RPG experience without the days of prep, character creation and inevitable derailment of your entire campaign from players ignoring your obvious plot hooks but simply read from the interactive book and play the location or reward cards. Choose a class, here are your stats and Boom! You’re adventuring; make choices depending on the area and the quest at hand; fight, coerce or roll your fate to proceed! (Do NOT swear at the crimson mage) and set off on an enjoyable fantasy RPG experience within minutes.
Public Service Announcement: The subway at the NEC is expensive… but the hotdogs come with a beer for less than £8.
After a couple of drinks, we stumbled onto Bar Pigs, a real treat and fast-paced drinking game in which you! The player! Play an incredibly punny-pig parade of pint fueled pranks and try to not get thrown out. Each turn the highest roller will use their ability which usually involves the other players performing nonsense for the entertainment of the group, selecting items to use on each other and losing or gaining “sober points”. Get your friends pissed to win or forget the points and play with real drinks until you are actually asked to leave the pub (such immersion)! The expansion “after hours” is currently on Kickstarter.
We continued exploring UKGE 2019 and found some fantastic clothing stalls with beautiful cosplay designs and leatherwork; incredible artwork but it was the intense battle scenes from Para Bellum that attracted my attention. Build your army and battle for Eä in Conquest:
On the subject of miniatures; Miniature You are pushing the boundaries of innovation and 3D printing. Is being a dungeon master, controlling the fates of your party and controlling the world not enough for your massive ego? Want your party to fight an entire army of YOU? Want a roman style bust statue 3D printed with your face? Of course you do! These guys are doing the lords work, keep an eye on the App store over the coming months.
A couple more demos and another drinking game later we happened upon Paco Sako. An intriguing twist on chess which blends the complexity with the elegance of a difficult dance routine! You cannot take your enemies pieces but must move as one, blending each move with another, then the next to perform a devastatingly graceful and strategic stroke of cunning to win.
All in all, a fantastic day, and we didn’t even get a chance to play in the plethora of tournament games of Yo-gi-oh, Magic the gathering, X-Wing or any of the hosted Dungeons and Dragons games. A family-friendly and super-fun trip but if you want to get the most of out the UKGE definitely book in for the weekend; sit down and enjoy a sample of the incredible work going into Table Top gaming. Despite all the technological advancements in the gaming industry; there’s plenty of room for boards, cards and dice.
There’s nothing like beating your opponents the old fashioned way…