Last weekend, Sharon and I took ourselves off to Birmingham to check out the UK Games Expo. Situated at the NEC, the UK Games Expo is a three-day long weekend dedicated to all things tabletop gaming. Ranging from board games to dice and card games.
As this was our first time venturing to the expo, we decided to take it easy and book a one-day ticket. As you will see by the end of this post , though, we regretted this decision as soon as we entered.
For our first trip to the UK Games Expo, we decided to visit on Friday; driving up from Brighton on the Thursday. We wanted to make sure we were ready, bright and early for when it started. Birmingham is just under 4 hours away from Brighton, which is no different to if you were driving to Dorset or Bristol. Using the M25 and then the M40, it’s incredibly direct.
We stayed at a local Travelodge, by Birmingham City Airport, which meant the NEC was a 10 minute drive away. This was one of the cheaper options; at £50 a night, but there are hotels closer to the arena. That being said, where we parked meant we had a decent scenic route to the arena via Pendigo Lake.
As first-timers to the The UK Games Expo, we had no idea what to expect, therefore we were very excited. During our journey, we’d discussed what games we might like to look at as well as what game companies we’d like to check out. This is really helpful so you don’t get overwhelmed when you enter.
What we loved seeing – even before we entered – was the variety of ages and how diverse the crowds were. It made us feel so very welcome. Speaking to other attendees, this was the first expo since COVID-19 where restrictions had been lifted. This meant that whilst queuing to enter there was an amazing vibe in the air.
Shop and (or until you) Drop
The UK Games Expo is spread across three main halls, as well as at the Hilton Hotel. The main halls are where you will find over 300 exhibitors; selling everything from games and merchandise to tools and equipment. There’s also areas to play games; including your own! There’s also family areas, a board game library and a ‘bring and buy’. Throughout the halls are also a number of locations to grab some food and drink. There are also options outside the NEC for bigger meals. If you end up overloading yourself, don’t worry – there’s a handy location where you can shop and drop any purchases. Professional brought wagons with them, which we thought was an excellent idea!
At the Hilton is where you will find more entertainment, such as live shows. Plus, a number of seminars also run throughout the weekend. As this was our first time, we booked one day and chose to just shop around. We regretted our decision instantly as soon as we started looking through the brochure, though!
Check out the maps and exhibitor list from this years expo here.
We knew we would enjoy ourselves at the UK Games Expo – it’s our thing and right up our alley – but we didn’t know we would enjoy it this much and have serious FOMO when we left.
We felt incredibly welcome not only as women (the gaming genre is often seen as a “male” thing”) but as newbies to the show. Everyone was happy to answer questions, and there was a great community feel when watching and playing games.
Next year we’re absolutely taking the boy with us as we think he’ll love it.
Our favourite exhibitors were Big Potato Games, Alley Cat Games and Zatu Games as we regularly play their games, however having more “outlet” style exhibitors meant we could grab several bargains!
What we Purchased
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t share a couple of our purchases from the show. These are a mixture of games we had planned to buy as well as new ones. As well as games, we also bought a few accessories, such as a dice tray, some cute merchandise and some expansion packs for our current games.
If you’re interested in checking out some of our other games, you can find these over on our Amazon Storefront!
Please note: The links featured below are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase we make a few pennies.
Tinderblox is a stacking game – similar to Kittin, which is featured below – where the aim of the game is to build a campfire as high as you can.
Players start by placing their “wood” and over the course of the game they take it in turns selecting cards that dictate how they’re going to build their campfire.
The first one to collapse the fire is out until one player is remaining.
Mantis is probably the highlight of our visit; mainly because its main character is a real creature (you learn something new every day!).
Mantis is a great family game where the objective is to collect a certain amount of cards (this changes depending on how many folks are playing) before the other players.
To collect cards, you have to either score from the pick-up pile or steal from the other players (I know, evil!). This decision will vary depending on what the next card is – which is indicated by the three colours featured on the top of the card.
We got to play this with the makers and it was fantastic. If you enjoy the game Dobble (who are the creators of Mantis!) you will LOVE this.
Quoridor is a really simple game to learn, but tricky to master! No two games are the same.
The aim of the game is to get your piece from one side of the board to the other, however the other players – who also have the same objective – are trying to block you from doing so.
We managed to play this game live at the expo (and a giant one at that!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s so clever.
Kittin is a simple stacking game whereby players have to stack colourful wooden kittens based on a card that’s been selected at random.
Players take it in turns to select a card and the first one to complete their stack wins that round.
The variety of difficulty makes this a great game for all ages, and the tin the game is stored in is a gorgeous touch.
Sagrada is probably one of the prettiest games we purchased from the expo (and that’s saying something based on the colours on Mantis!).
The aim of the game is to collect different coloured dice – similar to bingo – on a game card that is picked at random. These range in difficulty, however the harder your game card is the more ‘tokens’ you earn to purchase wild cards to assist with game play. You have ten rounds to complete the game, and the player with the highest score wins.
This is our first dice-based game outside of liar dice, so we were really excited to venture into the world of dice games.
If you’re interested in attending next year’s UK Games Expo, here are a few tips we took away from our visit. If you would like to know more about accessibility, you can check out their dedicated page on accessibility here.
- Plan your visit. Although we had less than 24 hours at the expo, this was ample time to shop. If you want to attend any talks or seminars, however, then you may wish to book another day or prioritise certain stalls and exhibitors.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak to exhibitors. The people at the stalls are experts, therefore don’t be afraid to ask for tips and advice. Everyone was new to this at one time!
- Try something new! It’s very easy to stick to what you know. But, by doing this you limit your experience and opportunity to potentially find your perfect game.
- Bring a bag or three. We purchased a bag at the expo, which assisted when the purchases mounted, however next year we’re seriously contemplating a trolley – especially as the boy will be joining us.
Have you been to the UK Games Expo? Let us know! What are your tips?