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Many years back UKGE was a small "family" run games convention held over a long weekend in a Masonic Hall in Birmingham. It was a real Mom & Pop & Kids weekend where UK folk were could play all manner of games including Wargaming, Role-Playing, Board Games (other than Monopoly, Careers, Game of Life etc) in friendly, cosy, surroundings, almost an extension of playing with their friends at home, except they now discovered they had more friends than they realised.  That was over 10 years ago and since then it has grown considerably, so much so that it now stands at being either the 3rd or 4th largest games convention in the Western World, with only Essen Spiel and GenCon Indianapolis ahead of it with Origins plying for the same 3rd or 4th position.  Richard Denning and his group of friends and volunteers have grown their friendly Hotel Con into a major event for Birmingham's famous NEC and have chosen the exact best weekend as they are sharing it with one of the largest Film, TV and Memorabilia Shows so that the cross-over between the two styles makes it the perfect weekend for people who want to play some games, buy some games and meet some of the biggest names in both events. Game luminaries such as Ian Livingstone (they don't get much more famous than one of the original Games Workshop partners), Martin Wallace, Jason Bulmahn and, Erik Mona were Reading, Playing and Chatting throughout the weekend at UKGE whilst across the boardwalk Danny Glover, Jeremy Bulloch, Christopher Lambert and Mads Mikkelsen were amongst a host of TV and Movie stars, Footballers and other Sporting names, signing autographs and meeting and greeting. 

Anyone who reads/visits GGO regularly or knows me personally, will also know that if there is a downside to anything I usually find it, and generally without looking for it. Below I have mentioned 3 complaints. These are not just things I encountered, they are things people mentioned to me, and things I overheard at various times during the event. The most popular one being the WiFi. Under no circumstances could the organisers of UKGE do anything about 2 of these complaints, and the third (the lift) they were most probably not aware of, and even so apart from making a better sign pointing to it this is an NEC problem not a UKGE one.

1. The cost of the food & drink  (NEC rules - captive audience syndrome)
2. The WiFi  (no idea what was happening here but it was mildly amusing as well as being a nuiscance)
3. The lift for the disabled from Hall 1 to Hall 2  (badly signed, very small and often used by cleaners/NEC staff and able-bodied attendees)

Back at UKGE the action began on Wednesday and Thursday as the exhibitors started arriving and the Halls and Hotel Rooms took on their form for the next few days - it's amazing how much work goes into setting up and breaking down for one of these huge shows and even more amazing how many of the attendees haven't a clue about any of it; they turn up and it's there, they go home and it's still there and unsurprisingly when they return in a years time it is there again, though maybe shuffled around a little, not that they would notice. From Friday it is virtually non-stop, with games continuing in the hotel, hotel rooms, and many other places long after the halls have closed for the evening. There are hundreds of exhibitors, thousands and thousands of visitors, hundreds of volunteers, and close on a million (or more) games being sold, played, demo'd and discussed in cooperative and competitive modes plus of course the tournaments, seminars and all the paraphenalia that accompanies a well organised show.  

There are games conventions/events taking place all over the UK every weekend. If possible you should try to attend at least one that is local to you each year, or even join a local games club. If you can only make one event in the year make sure it's UKGE.
If you cannot afford to stay at the Hilton Hotel NEC or you are too late to book it - BOOK EARLY as rooms go very quickly - then take a look at the local B&Bs and Room Only places. UKGE will do their best (via their website) to help you locate reasonably close accommodation.
We found a nice Quality Inn about 20 minutes away from the NEC. 

Entry to UKGE is fantastic considering how large it is: (Below are 2018 prices but knowing how much the organisers care for their attendees I do not expect this to go up by much for 2019.

SINGLE DAY TICKET: Adults £13, Young Adult (11 to 15 years) £8. Family £35.

TWO DAY TICKET: Adults £23, Young Adult (11 to 15 years) £15. Family £60.

THREE DAY TICKET Adults £30, Young Adult (11 to 15 years) £20. Family £80.

FAMILY TICKET admits 2 adults and 2 young adults.

Child Tickets:  Children aged 10 and under are admitted free to UK Games Expo. These tickets will be issued on your arrival at the convention. Simply ask at the ticket desk for the tickets when you arrive.

  Polish games companies are growing every year. 

As I said previously, this is getting to be like Spiel, Essen certainly it is growing towards that size but more by the way that nearly every company selling their own games had playing/demo tables by their stands so you could try before buying. Some exhibitors had stands of around 24 feet in length, packed to the rafters with product when the doors opened on Friday at 9.30am and virtually empty by close of play at 6.00pm - the prices of the games were obviously pleasing to the general gamers.

 Start of Day - End of Day 

Companies from all over Europe (even Scotland) and from Australia, New Zealand, America, and the Far East were having great success and games playing families and friends enjoyed every minute of it. Fran and I played numerous games but there was no way we could have played all we wanted to in just the 2 days we had there - UKGE will soon have to look at being a week long vacation, but if they do I sure hope they hand out free fresh air (or deoderant) for as long as I have been attending games events (early 80's) it has been common knowledge that too many gamers have this habit of forgetting how to use soap and water (that is if they even know what soap is). Thankfully though the NEC is large and UKGE didn't thrift on the cost because they didn't crush everyone too close.

Speaking of not being crushed, I, and many others there, were negotiating the Roads and Avenues (sponsored or named for famous guests) on wheelchairs and thanks to the organisation the aisles between the rows of traders and exhibitors getting around was comfortable. Once more though (okay this is complaint number 2) the NEC didn't help by having a ski-slope for wheelchairs next to the stairs (Hall 2 was upstairs) and a single lift that only took one chair at a time and was located round by Hall 5 (3 out of 4 NEC staff who we asked didn't know where it was and none of the UKGE volunteers had been told about it - they just directed us to the slope). The annoying thing was that next to the slope was a note stuck to the wall saying it (the slope) was not good for wheelchairs, use the lift, duh! 

Now for a few Photos (only a few because if I wasn't chatting I was playing games) plus my phone uses a lot of battery when taking photos.

  

Card games, 3D Games, GeeknSons amazing gaming tables, UKGE has it all and much more but despite having so many attendees and traders/exhibitors it is still all about friends and families playing games together and having a good time.

There was a Citadel stand showing you how to paint, and letting you paint, miniatures, children's games, a treasure hunt, a family zone, the biggest Bring n Buy anywhere - I was told that the waiting time to get in was around 25-30 minutes (and longer) from the time it opened on the Friday  - that's one heck of a Bring n Buy stand (and I should know).

LARP and Cos-Play stands had all manner of wonderful costumes and jewellery pieces, plus, and I am not sure if they just popped in from across the way, but there were Pirates and Daleks, Chewbacca, StormTroopers, Aliens of all manner as well as cute and cuddly Manga folk - there was even a live action Viking Display, with metal weapons, in the camp on the green by the car park. Reminded me of GamesCon that I ran (one day only for 8 years) in Basildon where Midguard Vikings ran amok each year - regularly spilling real blood from head, hand and arm wounds. I wonder how the Warwickshire based Ardenweard of now would have stood up against the Midguard of then ? It was noted that one year when Midguard were invited to the Battle of Hastings reenactment, they had to stop the battle and start again because they had helped Harold to win - where would we have been now if that had been the actual result?

  

HALL of FAME: UKGE

Martin Wallace was inducted into the UKGE HoF this year following such greats as Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson, David Parlett (Hare & Tortoise), Don Turnbull (first UK CEO of TSR Ltd) and Francis Tresham (1800's Rail Games originator)

A lucky board game geek   

  

Keep an eye on the GamesGazetteOnline Front Page for the date of 2019's UKGE. It's bound to be bigger and better (if that's possible)

   

Baccum from Korea made a name for themselves with GENERALSHIP a couple of years back, and will soon have ATHENS (above) in production

   Kickstarting soon (I loved the game, didn't like the endgame, but there is still time to change it - fingers crossed).

  

TOWERS of the SUN for 2-6 players (above)

   
People weren't really wearing Blue Cross Face Masks, it's just that I am not sure about the new Data rules so am only showing faces of volunteers and exhibitors.

  

So many games, so many names, so many people I should mention but my head is spinning with trying to remember who I saw, who I missed (Rob Silk for one missed) Steve Turner (one I saw). Great to see YAY! Games going strong and wow have Modiphius grown in numbers and strength over the past few years. Super to see that Wiggy (all the way from the outer reached of Northern Great Britain) and Robin (and all their helpers) won an award for TRIPLE ACE (TAG) Games. Awards from UKGE now truly mean something big in the games industry. Old favourite games were also in abundance such as RUMMIKUB with it's National Championship having the winner earning a place in the grand finals to be held later in the year in Israel. Every time I think I have typed enough, more good things come to mind. This is truly an event for gamer's, families, newcomers to the hobby, artists, writers, designers, publishers, it cuts across the entire spectrum from Black to White (I know!) and all the colours inbetween be they cultural, racial, national or genders (genderal doesn't sound right). Fuzzy dice, metal dice, football sized (and shaped) dice, football sized (and shaped) players, if you can think of it, it was probably here somewhere.

  

The one thing that was not present at UKGE was any idiotic fighting or brawling (except perhaps at the role-playing tables and then only by the characters). There was alcohol but no drunken dummies, prams but no dummies being spat out, drama by the plentiful, action by the barrel-load, fun in space, at the seaside, in the garden, indoors, outdoors, even in the parlour.

  



4th Quarter Football:  7-a-Side American Football.

I almost scored a TD on my first attempt but when needing a roll of 4 or greater on 2D6, I came up with a 1, 2 combo, which following a roll of snake-eyes was just about my luck. Still fun though.

Finally:
I would like to add a great big thank you and well done to: Laura Hutchinson and Matthew Comben who were responsible for the over 100 page full colour glossy informative programme for the show.
This must have taken months of putting together and I am not sure everyone appreciates just how much hard work goes into it. Absolutely brilliant, apart from the spelling mistake on page 115 

Mention should also go to the volunteers who ensured everyone had a good time and to the organisers who spent most of 2017 preparing for 2018's show ready. Booking the hall, tables, chairs, exhibitors,
Hotel, other rooms, games, tournaments, free gaming space, Guests, in fact putting the whole thing together.

To all my new and old friends HAPPY GAMING until we meet and cross dice again.

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015