This is the second year that Halesowen Boardgamers has run many of the board game tournaments at the UK Games Expo. Besides Steve H, Gordon and myself - who participated as unpaid, unfed, overworked and sleep-deprived volunteers - I saw a few other club members at the Expo over the weekend. I would be interested to get your perspective on the event as "normal punters". In the meantime, here is my view.
The Games Expo certainly seemed a lot busier this year and the official numbers confirm this. The number of unique visitors was up from 3,500 to 6,000, while total attendance increased from 5,700 to 10,000. Friday is devoted to open gaming, with the trade halls not yet open, but when I arrived at around 4.30 pm there were already a lot of people around. By the time we finished running the tournaments, it was getting late. So late, that everything close to the NEC was closed. Gordon and I finally sat down to a meal in Solihull town centre at around 11 pm. Meanwhile, Steve had his own adventures in the open gaming hall. More space was available this year, yet it seemed far too little on the Saturday when the big crowds arrived. I didn't manage to patronise the bring-and-buy in 2013, but from what I remember it was relatively calm. Queues were long for breakfast and lunch, but just about manageable for those of us with little spare time. This year, I brought a couple of games to sell but when I finally wandered over to the bring-and-buy I found an hour long queue just to drop off games! Needless-to-say, this was more than enough to deter me. None of the three of us even bothered trying to get lunch due to lack of time and reports coming in about the impossibility of getting food within a reasonable time. We considered ourselves fortunate to find Subway open for our evening meal of a tuna sandwich each. Sunday was considerably less crowded. A friend kindly volunteered to do the bring-and-buy drop off and pick up on my behalf, resulting in two sold games! And, due to an unscheduled trip home on Saturday evening, we had the luxury of lunch: mango-flavoured fizzy drinks, cheese and parma ham sandwiches, and biscuits.
The Board game tournaments themselves went well. Of course, there were enough problems to keep our stress levels in the danger zone and we were so busy that trips to the toilets had to be carefully rationed. But we expected that. Whereas in 2013 we ran 7 tournaments over two days with a total of just over 100 participants, this year we ran 11 tournaments over two-and-a-half days with over 200 gamers taking part. I noticed more international players - Spanish, Dutch, Russian, Chinese, Malaysian - though I can't confirm that anyone actually travelled from abroad just to participate! But we will be sending four of the players out of the UK to take part in the world championships for Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride.