Report by Jonathan Hicks, Mark Newbold and Jason Brown
The UK Games Expo returned to the Clarendon Suites in Birmingham on the weekend of the 5th to the 7th June 2009. The halls were once again rammed with enthusiastic gamers, tabletop players, war gamers, collectors and sci-fi and fantasy fans of all ages and sizes…
Farsight Games owner and D-6 roleplay editor Jonathan Hicks, Mark Newbold and D-20 roleplay editor Jason Brown went to the event on Saturday and prepared for a right royal dungeon bash…
Jason Brown D20 editor
“YEAH…Well another year and another Game Expo. Last years event was to me a great success and something I thoroughly enjoyed attending and by all accounts everybody else did as well. Heavy rain didn’t seem to deter attendees from flocking on mass to this mecca of gaming heaven.”
Jonathan Hicks Farsight Games owner
“I’d been asked to GM and I’d written a small game called ‘It’s a Con!’ for the free programme so I was already well involved with the Expo. The weekend started for me on the Friday, as I’d agreed to run a demo of my SKETCH system for anyone who wanted to have a go. It was a fun afternoon, with plenty of other games on the go and enthusiastic gamers gesticulating wildly at their tables.
I’ve not been to the UK Games Expo before so this was all new ground for me. My primary hobby, of course, is tabletop roleplaying games but I also have a healthy interest in other creative games so this was going to be great for me one way or the other”
Mark Newbold Lightsabre Webmaster
“I find there’s something very compelling about the whole roleplay arena. Not that I’ve played many systems other than Star Wars D-6, quite the contrary in fact. Unlike Jon and Jase who have GM’d and played countless campaigns in various settings, I’ve confined my playing pretty much to the GFFA, but there’s an intensity and genuine affiliation with the hobby that sets roleplayers apart form other types of fans, and I really get that. UK Expo brings together many of the countries most dedicated players and locks them in The Clarendon Suites for two days a year – kind of a modern day dungeon bash (4th edition rules, of course).”
Jason – “With plenty of gaming booths, dealer tables and convention events happening, plenty was available to cater to all ages and gaming tastes which is probably the reason why this con has become so successful.”
Jonathan – “It was pouring with rain and the first impression, whilst running through the downpour to the entrance, is that it’s going to be a long miserable day. But as soon as you walk in you see the most important room of all and the day suddenly becomes brighter – the bar, directly on the left.
The whole building is a network of rooms, halls and corridors and it was packed with all kinds of paraphernalia. Wargames, boardgames and rolepaying games from all kinds of publishers and design studios, from the big guns to the independants. They all stood side by side and offered free demos, explanations and insights into the games they were there to show.
My major disappointment, for myself but mainly my World of Warcraft wife Lisa who had accompanied us, was the lack of representation of the online and computer-based games. There was a room for electronic gamers but this appeared to be a few tables with old school gaming consoles on them and some shooters. I like my World of Warcraft and I was hoping to talk to someone about EVE Online but, sadly, there were no takers.”
Mark – “These photo’s here are among my favourites of the day. Bruce is an absolute star, and he’s car crazy, as evidenced by the little police car toy he was brought on the day.
Below – well, you can’t ever beat a photo of someone taking a photo of someone taking a photo of them, etc, etc, etc.”
Jonathan – “Costumes galore – the usual glut of Stormtroopers and Clonetroopers made the odd sarcastic comment (except to my two-year old son Bruce; they had respect for his Star Wars T-shirt) and Doctor Who and the Daleks kept the crowds entertained. There was a pirate floating around, too. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”
Mark – “It was a massive hit last year, and 2009 was no exception. Knights of the Empire provided the Imperial and Republic presence by way of Stormtroopers and Clonetroopers while the good Doctor – the 10th and most popular incarnation – brought along his TARDIS and a glut of his Dalek pals to entertain the crowds. These photo’s just give a glimpse of the real fun that was to be had by passing the Doctor and his Sonic Screwdriver.”
Jonathan – “I was tempted by game after game after game – ‘Dark Heresy’, ‘Dragon Warriors’ and the wonderfully presented ‘Starblazer Adventures’. What did I buy? Absolutely nothing – I couldn’t decide! All I got was a set of dice for Jason’s upcoming D&D games and a Warcraft 3 Collector’s boxset for my wife. There was some great stuff on offer at the Bring and Buy table upstairs, with old boardgames and old school RPGs, and I spent a lot of time up there lamenting the books I’d sold a couple of years ago. There were plenty of takers for the games on offer.”
Mark – “UK Expo might only be in its third year but it already feels very much established on the convention scene and going round the many rooms there were a glut of familiar faces form last years show. There might be a credit crunch, but it doesn’t seem to have reached as far as the Hagley Road.”
Jason – “Meeting Keith Baker was the highlight of the day for me. Being a big fan of the Eberron setting since it first came out in 2004 I’ve really appreciated this high fantasy, action campaign setting which has managed to bring a new and exciting world to the gaming table. To get the chance to talk to the creator of this important part of the D@D world was something I couldn’t miss.
Keith was attending the Expo to talk to gamers about Eberron and also run some games during the weekend. I found Keith really friendly and he seemed to have no hang up’s about talking in length about the new edition of Eberron and it’s future.
With preview copies of the new Eberron players handbook available to look at Keith pointed out 4th edition changes to races, powers and all other character options. This is great news for current Eberron players as upgrading to 4th edition they will find loads of new options to create even more dramatic character’s. Quality of this book was of the standard that Wizard’s seems to be putting out these days brilliant, high quality easy to follow presentation with amazing art work to support it. Cartography on a personal note I found to be better than the new Forgotten realms maps with more detail be drawn in, something I always like in my gaming maps.
I asked Keith about changes in the Eberron world for 4th edition and he explained the fact that the Eberron setting time line hadn’t really drastically changed for this new edition like Forgotten Realms. The world will still have that high action, high fantasy feel to it or as Keith revealed Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Ring’s which was the basis for his original pitch to Wizards during the Campaign setting competition. A lot of the current world info has been updated with new stats and more background detail being written in to fill this source book with enough gaming material to make this a valuable purchase for any fan of Ebberon. With further support material scheduled to appear online now seems like a good time to subscribe to D&D insider (which i did when i got home from the con) if your a fan of this setting.”
Mark – “It was very cool to meet Keith Baker and to watch Jason have an in-depth chat about 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, and the Eberron setting in particular. While I have to admit to having very little real knowledge of the setting, or D&D in general, Keith was clearly enjoying the conversation and obviously appreciated Jason’s knowledge of the setting as they talked shop.
My only regret? Thanking him when he gave me his business card and calling him Ralph instead of Keith. Serves me right for looking at Ralph Horsley’s banner on the next stand and saying what I’d seen.”
Jonathan – “I met a lot of very nice and polite people at the show, including the people at the Cubicle 7 stand (how many times were they asked ‘when is the Doctor Who RPG coming out? Soon!) who gave me a long description of Starblazer Adventures and how the FATE system works. I almost bought it there and then – 600 pages of sheer sci-fi space opera goodness.
Then there was the wonderful lady at the gamer’s magazine ‘Flagship’ table who produces a very nice and informative magazine and had some great things to say about my SKETCH game in the programme.
I spoke briefly to Patrick, one of the organisers, and he was very pleased with the way things were going and the turnout for that day. He’d been on the go since 5:00 am, not to mention the day before with the Friday games and the exhibitors setting up. I couldn’t locate the other guys in charge, they always appeared to be on the move, so I took Patrick’s confidence and pleasure at the way things were going as an indication that this was an excellent Expo and things were going to plan.”
Jonathan – “Everyone was very proud of their wares and most of the work on offer was so detailed and beautifully designed they had every right to be so. It’s times like this, when you see some of this work which is obviously borne of a passion for the hobby, that you wish you had a bank account with more zeroes in it.”
Mark – “Everywhere you look there are stands and displays hyping a myriad of roleplay companies, from big hitters like Wizards and Games Workshop to smaller groups like Ironclad Miniatures and Pirate Monkey Miniatures. The levels of detail are quite stunning, and it’s easy to overlook the depth of artistry on show – some of these painted pieces are literally works of art.”
Jonathan – “Every demo and game table, from the halls to the dedicated gaming rooms, were packed with eager bright-eyed players, either taking part in their favourite game or trying something for the first time. The wonderful thing was that it wasn’t a whole bunch of people trying to talk over each other or be heard above the din – it was gamers huddling down and conversing.”
Mark – “While we perused the halls and took winsome, long stares at stock we’d never be able to afford and games we’d never get the chance to play there were demonstrations and games being played left, right and centre. Being in the midst of all these games was beyond interesting as systems were being explained and sales pitches by way of demonstration were being rolled out. For someone who only plays occasionally it was a very cool experience.”
Jonathan – “It was great to see a lot of kids filling the halls thanks to competitions put on by the organisers. The majority of attendees were middle-aged much like myself and it was an indication to me, especially as far as tabletop roleplaying was concerned, that the hobby was for the guys who grew up with it in the eighties and nineties. What we need is fresh blood (and possibly braaaaaaaaaiiiiiiins) and the UK Games Expo was actively promoting the hobby to the younger generation. Hats off to them.”
Jason – “I really enjoyed attending this years Expo and it was a great chance to catch up with friends that you only ever get to really see at these events. I’ve always found gamers at gaming cons to be very social and that’s probably a reflection of the nature of the hobby because people were friendly and always happy to chat about games or even the terrible weather. Overall a highly enjoyable day attending a well organised con.”
Jonathan – “All in all a successful and entertaining day out. I had my gripes, as I always do, but that’s just personal preference and nothing to do with the way the Expo was organised or run. I guess I was just jealous, watching all these other people walk out with bags of goodies and roleplaying games I myself wanted to purchase. I had a box of dice, that’s all I got, but what I really took away was what I experienced – a day out with fellow gamers and a friendly and exciting collection of crazy geeks who love the same things I do. Roll on Expo 2010.”
Mark – “Great fun, just like last years show and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough to tabletop, war, online and fantasy gamers. They’ll make a convert out of me yet.”
For more Jedi News event coverage click here.