What is UK Games Expo?
Well, it’s an expo, not a convention. Fancy! It’s great big tabletop gaming convention; boardgames, wargames, cardgames, roleplaying games. Plus nerdy entertainment shows, a Viking village… in their own words:
- Now in its 12th Year.
- 32,000 visitors over three days (16300 unique visitors).
- 300+ Exhibitors
- Hundreds of seats in tournaments
- Male/ female mix around 65/35
- High numbers of families and children.
- Strong core of hobby games enthusiasts
- Good opportunity to demo products.
Basically if you like physical games it’s the place to be – but don’t expect Monopoly. Don’t even MENTION Monopoly. Though one of our representatives bought Star Wars Monopoly at the bring and buy. Damnit.
Who runs UK Games Expo?
This isn’t a big corporate deal; it started as a small thing and has grown massively since its inaugural year in 2007. Richard Denning is the director and organiser and is a game designer himself.
Where is UK Games Expo?
The National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK and the Hilton Metropole.
8 miles east of Birmgingham city centre it’s easy to get to… as long as there hasn’t been an accident on the motorway, which does happen.
They usually have a deal on with the NEC and best to check the website. There are 16,500 parking spaces so you should find one – but you’ll possibly have to get a shuttle bus to and from your car.
The NEC is also right next to Birmingham International Station, so trains and planes make it easy.
How much does UK Games Expo cost?
Three Day Adult Ticket – £30
Weekend Adult Ticket – £23
One Day Adult Ticket – £13
UK Games Expo: The Survival Guide
Is there an App for that?
Yes there is! And it’s REALLY BAD. Sorry UKGE but the app is bloody awful. Events are uncategorized, the search just doesn’t work – make your own schedule.
It does include some extra features – a passport which rewarded visiting 9 stands and scanning QR code with the chance to win £300 to spend. Unfortunately it’s not well signposted and we only received notification on the draw on the Friday.
It’s worth having, but ne warned – it crashed on Saturday, the information is full of html tags and null entries.
If they can fix it, it’ll be a really useful addition. As it is – a mess.
Is there a show guide?
Yes! And it’s big and free. Grab a copy – it may have a tonne of adverts, but there’s lots of useful info that the app fails to provide.
You REALLY need the show guide, for the layout of the hall makes no sense. Based on a grid system of letters and numbers, it would be wonderful if the stands went in numerical order, but they don’t.
Letters and numbers can crop up randomly in different rows, and when a numbering system goes 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 12, 12, 13, 16, 17… it makes it REALLY hard to find where you want to be.
Get the map, ask for help, don’t stay lost. This is something I really hope they tidy up in the future as anyone struggling with the crowds may get frustrated – hell, I got frustrated!
The Trade Halls (NEC) are open 9:30-18:00
Open/RPG Gaming Rooms (Hilton) are open 10:00-24:00
Open Gaming (NEC) 08:00-24:00
Apart from Sunday when it all ends about 5pm.
Food and Drink
You can freely bring food and drink into the venues so stock up and save a fortune!
Ah convention centre food. The NEC’s own venues are expensive and bad (and to add insult to injury they serve Pepsi) but in the complex there are a few Subways and a Wetherspoons pub.
Over at the Hilton the food is even more expensive, but outside you’ll find a selection of food trucks offering toasties, Mexican, burgers, and more. Expect festival prices so £4-£9 depending on how lavish your selection is.
If you want to escape and sit down then nearby Gentings Resort World complex has plenty of places to eat and a couple of bars. Chain places like Nando’s , TGI Fridays, and GBK. It’s only a 5 minute walk from the NEC, 10 minutes from the Hilton.
You can get beer everywhere.
BRING MONEY. The Natwest in the NEC has now closed meaning the installation of more cashpoints – that charge you. And still there is a massive queue.
Many stands take cards but you cannot guarantee they’ve charged their card reader, and at the most recent UKGE Visa went down for a whole day.
I repeat. BRING PLENTY OF MONEY.
2018 saw a bigger floorspace, which eased the crowds massively. Friday is naturally the quietest day, Saturday the busiest, with Sunday falling somewhere in-between.
Compared to previous years, despite much larger numbers attending, there were only overwhelming moments and queues around midday Saturday – your whelming may take more or less.
Keep in mind that you might not get to play a game right away – there are only so many settings, and so many staff to go around. If there’s something you want to play, be prepared to wait.
The Hilton offers the biggest spaces, plus there’s a large outside area. You can always take a stroll away from the noise of the main show and if aeroplanes are your thing, you can watch them take off and land from Birmingham International Airport.
The various cafes and restaurants around the NEC, and the bar at the Hilton, all offer some respite from the Trade Halls.
There are ample toilets within the halls themselves, outside the halls they get busy (sorry ladies, there were queues outside hall 1) and can get a bit grim. These are not well-maintained facilities and the floors are slippy.
In the mens’, the Gorillo brand airblade knockoffs smell bad, like an old rag that hasn’t been washed. Nasty. Take hand san.
Over at the Hilton, the toilets are regularly cleaned. Like REALLY regularly. They shut them every hour, which can be frustrating as they seem to shut them all at the same time (always just before a show!)
NEC cloakrooms are £1 per item and are open until 6pm, so make sure you have collected anything by then or it is locked up for the night. There is a fee Shop and Drop service in the show, but this was full by 11Am on Friday in 2018.
The Hilton has a concierge bag drop, but this is dependent upon how busy they are and you may need to show proof that you are staying there.
The NEC has paid phone-charging units. The Hilton has a few sockets but they don’t like you using them.
I say this about life in general and it goes for any and every vent.
There is a cosplay masquerade but the main stage is small and the cosplayers few in number. Some seem to be hired by UKGE to generate a bit of buzz at the entrance, and there is a cosplay stand with some props and people to chat with.
Where to Get Help
There are loads of volunteers around in yellow polo shirts, a large help desk in both Trade Halls, a desk and whole info room in the Hilton.
Queues to collect tickets get crazy long at peak times. If you can collect the evening before do so.
Tickets for entertainment events are separate and available online to collect from the NEC ticket booths, or in person from the events desk at the Hilton.
There are ‘refresher stations’ with deodorant and wipes available at the entrance.
Remember to drink plenty of water! The halls can get REALLY hot.
Check out the Viking village outside.
Collectormania usually takes place at the NEC at the same time, expect cosplayers ago go on Sat/Sun.
Check out our other coverage of UK Games Expo (listed below) to see what the Coaching for Geeks team thought of some games, shows, and the expo itself!
Robin Bates – The veteran of games conventions helps you survive them