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Well UKGE certainly is back with a bang! Yes it was held last year, and because of Covid I couldn't attend, but from what I heard it was reasonably well attended, considering the Covid situation (10,671 uniques) but people were still wary of Covid and kept away. This year, 2022 (in case you'd forgotten), the attendance was almost (not confirmed) as high as the 2019s uniques 25,704 and total entrants 45,097, which is a brilliant comeback from those 2021 figures. If you are a games player in the UK it is (virtually) your duty to attend UKGE at least once (yeah right! attend once and you're hooked for life).

Normally Thursdays are fairly quiet, Friday builds up to a good number and then Saturday explodes into a mass of bodies carrying vast numbers of bags filled with the best board games that can be bought face to face - there's a certain satisfaction from playing with the games publishers and buying games directly from them; it's much nicer and more personal than using the internet, plus there are often 'event specials' on prices that are lower than online prices and there is no postage involved.

I went on the Sunday because my son drives us  to Birmingham and that was the day he was free. It was relatively quiet for the first few hours and it was noticeable that very few people, staff included, were wearing face masks. Then just around mid-day the numbers swelled and the face masks came into play - almost 60%-70% of people were caring for their and other people's health, that too was inspiring. Gamer's care!

  Themeborne's Escape from the Dark Castle and Escape from the Dark Sector have grown into an amazing series of fast-moving, thought-invoking, often evil, Dice versus Card games. Both Castle and Sector now have several expansion sets and a huge box each into which each set fits. The games fit into the box like Themeborne fits into UKGE = perfectly!

The main talk on the Sunday was about how ridiculously busy it had been on the Friday, not the Saturday as expected. In fact many exhibitors that I spoke with were quite upset that Saturday was so quiet in comparison to previous pre-Covid years. My thoughts are that as this was a bank Holiday, families arranged to go out, visit friends and family etc over the weekend, which left the Friday for them to go to UKGE. 

 One company which was happy that Saturday (and Sunday) weren't as busy is Vesuvius Games from Canada. They had brought with them a calculated number of games to sell based on performances elsewhere, and come Saturday afternoon they were sold out. They had a large, impressive stand that they filled with tables and loaded them up with playable versions of their really fun game, Catapult Kingdoms and invited players to 'go mad'. 

There is an hilarious play by the Mischief Company in London at the moment, that also has a touring company on the road. I saw the Show That Goes Wrong a few years ago, with the original cast, and again earlier this year I saw the touring company. For your information there is also a short TV series called The Goes Wrong Show, details of which you should be able to find online.

 Considering UKGE is The Show That Goes Right it was excellent to see one of the stars of The Show That Goes Wrong, Henry Lewis, the Ack-Tor! What a nice, considerate, genuine person he is, nothing like his characters (or perhaps he was ack-ting on Sunday and his stage and screen personna are truly him cool? But I don't think so). 

I am going to do my best now to give you some idea of the show itself, interlaced with photos of some of the stands I visited and people I met. 

If you are driving then it is better, in my experience, to pre-book parking at the NEC as this does get your car a little closer to the entrance - it can be a longish walk otherwise, especially when it is raining and/or if you have to do car runs. As long as you don't expect to buy a heck of a lot of games (okay so that's most of us out of this equation) unless you are arriving in a group and can spread the load, then flying into Birmingham International Airport and taking the free train from there direct to the NEC. Most EU countries, and further afield land at BIA. 

  Here I am with the enigmatic top marketing person for dvGames the publishers of the amazing Deckscape and Decktective puzzle solving games as well as the massive BANG! range that can be found in stores all over the world. Barbara is one of those people that every company, games or otherwise, should have. Great personality, always pleased to meet people even after long hours of being on her feet, Barbara is the ideal fronts-person.

 

The exit from the free train at the NEC takes you into a large atrium with the entrances to Halls 2 and 3 to the right and left. Hall 3 is mostly competition and demonstration gaming. It is the smaller of the three halls but well lit and nicely aired; it is also within a few steps of several food and drink establishments.

Hall 2 used to be where the majority of independent companies set up. This was the Hall where you would find the future of gaming or the unfortunates that had put their money into a good looking product that for one or another reason didn't grab the public's attention; now Hall 2 has all manner of companies. Hall 2 is usually less hassling or overloaded than Hall 1. Players who come for one day only often miss out on Hall 2 altogether as it can take most of the day to fully encapsulate the immensity of the lower hall. I don't know what else the UKGE organisers can do to angle players up those stairs. There is a programme, free to all, that has a map of all areas and a full list of exhibitors, there are banners and signage directing towards Hall 2, there are also, as mentioned, the main refreshment areas up the stairs and opposite Halls 2 and 3; yet still the footflow doesn't reach that of Hall 1.

 The Pirates of Penryn return with a new fun stacking and balancing game - DICE SPLICE.

In both Halls there are large stands filled with product to purchase (usually at better than internet prices) and usually chairs and tables for demo games, even the smaller stands have room for prospective buyers to play and learn; UKGE is for the leading companies and the independents to have a fun weekend and meet the players of their games. 

  A most interesting stand owner who I spoke with was the multi-talented Martin Harper of GMD games. He designs games, publishes games and the majority, if not all, of the artwork is created and drawn by him. Martin created the CORE rpg which has a comic and card game spin off. The card game is Onslaught and based in the CORE universe. The card game requires players to have a set of polyhedral dice - these do not come in the Onslaught box. 

   Tucked along a back wall in Hall 1, and running alongside and almost under the stairs to Hall 2, could be found Holy Grail Games. With no games to sell the staff actively went about ensuring all visitors had a great time playing some of the upcoming visually brilliant Holy Grail games, with no sales chatter on the side.

Somewhere on this page should be a photo of Andrew of YAY! Games, but he was flittering around so fast I couldn't focus. I did get to spend some quality chatting time with my wife and Jenny Harman (of YAY!) so I was too busy talking to take photos.

  Games Gazette Online visitors and visitors to my Boardgamegeek.com entries, will know that one of our favourite silly games at the moment is any variation of SUSSED. In an amazing location in Hall 1 - with three-way foot traffic passing their stall - Mark and son Luke were entrenched behind a wall of games.

UKGE has companies from all over the world demoing, displaying and selling their games. Unfortunately some of the people that would have been on their stands got caught up in the recent flight cancellations, though thankfully this didn't prevent the majority of them from having their games available to the gaming public. I saw thousands of people carrying huge bags filled with games, many of which were advertised (by game name or publisher name) on the bags themselves. The wonderful thing is that as far as I can remember (and I didn't do an actual study) all of the bags coulld be recycled. I was also told that many games components from the box throughout use only wood and/or card, the only plastic being that which seals the games.

 QUEEN Games were one of the many companies caught up in the air flights problems, but luckily enough they had local staff to ensure their excellent board games were played in abundance.

  As always, Burley Games concentrated heavily on the public playing games and having fun. Selling games was secondary to folks enjoying themselves. The superb new Korean edition of KASIMADO took prime position and rightly so.

  When I first met the gentle folks of Loke BattleMats they had a small stand and very little in the way of product. Now they are a shining example of tabletop floorplan books (and more) and have been so successful that other companies are now found to be doing similar styled product. LOKE are so good though they must be the market leaders, and for good reasons.

 Another product that has quietly sneaked up on the tabletop gaming players is the plethora of card and MDF scenery building companies there now are. UPZONE have a truly amazing array of buildings for all manner of gaming eras. Each is set on its own page that unfolds and the construction pops-up, safe and very usable. The terrain floors that the buildings stand on/are attached to, can be overlaid to create a constant cityscape.

   Everyone visiting Prometheus Games Labs was immediately drawn to the 6 inch tall Sumo-Meeples. A free demo copy of the MicroDojo game was being handed out to players who were sincerely interested but these copies only have small card board characters and enough pieces for players to understand the premise and play. The two Micro Dojo boxed expansions are available in a specialised sleeve and have better quality pieces as well as wooden Sumo-Meeples. Unfortunately there isn't, at the moment, an edition which has the very large meeples - maybe the interest in the game will force the designer, Ben Downton, to come up with a big box version.

   It was great to meet Annie of River Horse games. Like myself she has to get around in a chair, but she refused my offer of a Fast & Furious Four-Wheeled - Two Armed Drive around the NEC. I was so glad that she did, because pushing those tyres in and out of a congregation of gamers was tiring enough going at 'normal' speed. Annie has a wonderful passion for the River Horse games and the gaming public. Her attitude is the very essence of everything that is good in gaming. I'm just sorry I took a photo of my finger instead of her angry

Absolutely brilliant to see TAG (Triple Ace Games) having their wonderfully creative IRONCLADS game out in force at last. This has been seen at the past couple of UKGEs in it's infant life and then as it grew and blossomed. Now it is not just available as digital downloads for 3D printers, it has full sculpted miniatures, equal numbers for each side in the two Starter Ship Packs I saw.

 

On the stand, which was extremely busy, I think I noticed British vs German, and another pack which I believe was a Legendary ship pack. My apologies but my photo isn't as clear for the background as expected.

A small few of the things I discovered at UKGE:
a. Many gamers had never heard of Slugfest Game's RED DRAGON INN and yet this remarkable game is now up to its 8th edition.
b. The Pirates of Penryn aren't really Pirates.
c. Tom Holness of Silver Birch Games was upbeat and very pleasant despite spending the entire weekend with an empty stand whilst boxes of  DECKCHAIRS on the TITANIC floated around a Customs warehouse somewhere.
d. Matt Ludlow of Bubblegum Stuff Games thought that staying at home with his wife expecting their baby was better than attending a games show 'with the boys'. BSG still had had good sales and lots of fun with DEATH by COCONUTS.
e. Henry Lewis's 'Mystery Agency Puzzle' game was available to purchase from Rob Trup and the Mystery Agency.
f. The Dice Mechanic used with GMD's ONSLAUGHT is the same mechanic used in the board games and the associated role-playing games - the Pegasus Engine!
g. If you pay the monthly fee, from £3.00 upwards, to join GMD as a full member you can help shape the CORE game world and create your own character which Martin will illustrate for you and introduce it into the game world system
h. UKGE is extremely friendly despite there being so many people going so fast in so many directions at the same time.
i. The back of Katy Smith's head shows of her perfect braids
j. Allan Paull of Surprised Stare Games never had a chance to be surprised as he was always busy.
k. Table-Tastic, a card and dice game that assists players with their 'times' tables

My sincere apologies to people I said I would meet up with on the Sunday and didn't make it. By 11.30am around 70% of my list was completed, so thinking we had plenty of time we stopped to enjoy a game or two. Before we knew it the time had flipped around to 3.30pm which left us on a speed course to see as many people as we could before the 4.00pm bell signalled the end of the show.

I did get to the majority of stands where I was expected, but the show was so busy that the people I was hoping to meet up with were often away in meetings - 'Book appointments next time, dummy!' I hear you cry out.

So apologies to:
Rae (Asmodee UK), Ian (Floodgate Games), Pepijn (Broken Mill Games), Ruth (Anomalia Games), Andrew (Pugly Pirates), Andrej (Value Add Games), Pearl (Cake of Doom), Alan Paull (Surprised Stare Games), Pedro (Cards Lab - I just couldn't get back in time), Robin Elliott (TAG), Marcus (Blue Donut), Benjamin (Cerberus Studios), Fabricio (Dicecoalition), Alison (Table Tastic), and Richard Denning (UKGE Organiser and Master of Medusa Games - had a lovely long conversation with Richard's wife, Mrs Denning (okay, I have forgotten the lady's name).

That's All Folks !

  

 

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