Tell me about UK Games Expo

I was talking about the summer's convention schedule with Jim Raggi, and he directed my attention to the UK Games Expo. He can't go himself, but I might, so I'm curious about it if anybody can tell me more. I can take or leave a June convention like this this year, but if the conditions seem particularly favourable I could see myself going. UK is not that far, after all.

I'm interested in the convention as an exhibition opportunity. My publications are rather convention-friendly, and I usually manage to pay my way in these, so going to conventions is a good way of improving the stock flow and introducing the games to new people. In addition to my own publications I also have the wide and shallow Arkenstone retail library; it's always nice to show that off and lighten the inventory so I get to buy more things for it later.

I'm particularly interested in these issues:
  • What's the crowd like at the exhibition? Buy-happy or play-focused, teenager-based or adults, gamers or families? The materials indicate that the exhibition typically draws a crowd of about 2500 people; I've seen that size of convention range from quiet to busy from an indie booth's point of view - which would this be?
  • Anybody else going there? I'm especially interested in exhibitioners who share our interests and who might even share a booth with us. I'd probably come to the convention with one extra helper monkey myself, so it wouldn't hurt to get a couple of other people into the same booth to share the work.
  • Travel and accomodations logistics, any experiences handling those would be welcome. If somebody wants to come pick me up at the train station so as to avoid me getting lost in Birmingham, that'd be a bonus, for example. Also, if there's something particular about hotel choice or couch-surfing opportunities I should know, then you should tell me.
  • The materials I got from Jim seem to indicate that you get 6x6 feet of booth space for a bit over 100 €, which isn't too awful, especially as you also get furniture. Any hidden costs that I should take into account there?
I'm sure that there are some British indie publishers here who've been to this thing several times and can tell me everything I need to know.


  • I've been. I think Pelgrane are going this year and, although plans haven't been finalised, I might be going with them.

    It's generally families and teenagers. When I went, they didn't seem particularly interested in roleplaying games: they preferred board games.Our indie-ish stall did some business, but not a huge amount.

    You might be able to fly straight into Birmingham. If you end up getting the train from London, book tickets in advance.

    Really, Eero, I'd recommend IndieCon (small), Conception (big) or Dragonmeet (hugely sales-focussed) instead.
  • I've been told that Dragonmeet is the thing to do in UK, yeah. I'm just thinking about UK Games Expo because it would sort of fit in my schedule better. I expect that I'll be tired after the Spiel this year once more, for example, and thus not feeling like going to Dragonmeet. Summer is nice time to travel.
  • It's a lovely, friendly con; I've been every year since it began, both as an interviewer for and on my own. It tends to be quite busy on Saturday, much slower on Sunday.

    The crowds are mixed, lots of families and teens as Graham said, but a good number of typically ageing RPGers. The trouble is, from a retail point of view, most of the people who go for the RPGs seem to go to play more than to buy and very often if you've signed up for a number of slots there's not much time to dash around the sales halls. That said, the halls are usually lively but I suspect that general RPG sellers like Spirit Games and Leisure Games might get more out of it than small RPG publishers. Triple Ace Games generally have a big, impressive stand and even they don't look as if they're doing a huge amount of direct selling.

    Accomodation: lots of options, but they fill up quickly. The location means that you will usually pay less for a room the further it is from the con. I'll be staying at the Portland Hotel which is costing me £26 per night for a single room, but it falls squarely into the "clean but spartan" category of hotel...

    Can't really advise whether it would be worth it financially for you, but it is a nice con and the mix of game types and attendees is refreshing.
  • Thanks, Jon. It just so happens that I got into talking with Matt Machell last week, and we ended up reserving a booth for the expo; Matt operates in Birmingham, which makes me pretty confident about pulling this off without needless hassle. A traditional Forge-style indie booth, with a side of indie retail action courtesy of the Arkenstone retail department. I'll post further details this week, once we figure out more.
  • I'd say Dragonmeet is the better con for retail. I was on the Pelgrane booth last year and whilst it wasn't quite tumbleweed, particularly on the Sunday, we did hardly see anyone. It didn't help that apart from Cubicle 7 and Leisure Games, all the others were up in a backroom and most of the traffic didn't go there. I'd say it was a better con for family friendly gaming with loads of boardgames and small children. I did play some good games (all with people I knew) and a not so good one (with people I didn't). I'm sorry I didn't go to Continuum instead last year. It had had an off year the time before (it's only every two years) but last year was great by all accounts.
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