I’m back in Newcastle again, for a good long while now! I’ve spent the last three days at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham, which has been a brilliant weekend. Geth and I went for the first time last year, but I think this year was even better, largely because we were able to travel down on the Thursday and have the full three days.
Sharpy came down on the Wednesday to play boardgames and drink beer with Geth (I did not partake in either, as I was furiously stockpiling Now! reviews for the weekend and being super careful with my diet in a last-ditch attempt to hit target – it worked, as I may have already mentioned). After I got back from Slimming World on Thursday – stopping briefly for a quick hen do lunch for my fellow SW member Alison – we all piled into Sharpy’s car and headed off down to Birmingham.
What was great about arriving on the Thursday was that after we checked into the Hilton and got unpacked, we were able to head across to the NEC and get our three-day passes without having to queue for more than a minute or so. We then headed across to Resorts World for food. Because of all the people arriving in the complex for two conventions plus various other things going on, we had to wait half an hour for a table at Pizza Express, but we were able to grab a quick pint in TGI Friday while we were waiting – and I bought my first boardgame of the weekend, a copy of vintage ’80s game Nightmare On Elm Street, which is (obviously) a tie-in with the film of the same name. A fairly good condition copy had shown up on eBay for a tenth of the price that it normally goes for, so in the spirit of the Expo I decided to go for it!
After the meal, we headed back to the NEC for a game of Sonar in one of the halls, and then to the Ibis on the other side of the complex to meet up with Heulwen and Laura (Geth’s sister and sister-in-law) and various other friends. Unfortunately, when we decided to head back, it was too late to get back through the NEC as it was closed, so we had to walk right round the outside of the complex. It took forty-five minutes, and at one point there was a torrential rainstorm. Not fun. When we finally got back to the Hilton, Geth and Sharpy went for a drink in the hotel bar, but I was knackered so I went straight to bed.
Friday morning proved that we had made the right decision in showing up on the Thursday evening – the queues for passes were just ridiculous! As we already had ours, we were able to go straight in, which was great. The morning was mainly spent investigating all the stalls in the main hall and then going shopping. I bought a few things – Mamma Mia, HMS Dolores, various geekery-themed scented candles and a cheap but important D20 (its function is to help with future dice-buying decisions) – but my main aim was to make a list of all the stuff I wanted to get on the Sunday. Geth, meanwhile, spent pretty much all his spending money in the space of ninety minutes. I went outside to meet him and Sharpy for lunch and found them sitting on a bench surrounded by bags and bags of games. I’ve got some serious reorganising of the game shelves to do this week.
Friday afternoon was spent chilling out and having a go at some new games in the open gaming room back at the Hilton, before heading through to the suite on the other side of the Hilton lobby to see the MMORPG Live show. We’d seen Knightmare Live last year, and this was done by the same guy, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good – there was too much audience participation for my liking, and by the end I was getting really irritated by the sound of fifty or so people all thinking they were funnier than they actually were.
Back to the open gaming room for the rest of the evening – it was great that so many people we knew were able to come and join us at our bit of trestle table. Due to a longer-than-expected game of Lords Of Waterdeep, Geth and I weren’t able to get quite as much of an early night as we’d planned, but five hours of sleep is better than nothing, and in the morning we dragged ourselves out to Perry Hall parkrun and got some exercise in.
Once back at the NEC, we met up with Sharpy and his girlfriend Steph (who had arrived on Friday evening) and we all had a quick go at a prototype of a game called Chocolate Factory, which was quite fun. We then split up and did a bit more shopping – I picked up Ghostel, some more dice, and a print of some Stormtrooper art for the house, and Geth got some paintbrushes and a board for his planned new hobby of miniatures painting – and then went for lunch, met up with Sharpy and Steph again, and headed back to the Hilton open gaming room to settle in for the afternoon and evening. Geth managed to go see the This Game Is Broken show, and we got lots and lots of gaming in with lots and lots of people before the late-night The Dark Room Until You Die show. We all made it until the interval at about half past midnight, at which point I think everyone drifted back to their various hotels for some sleep.
This morning, I went and did my big shopping haul – Timeline: Music And Cinema, some expensive-but-beautiful wooden inserts for all the Eldritch Horror expansions that we now have, another gorgeous piece of artwork for the house, some more dice (I have a problem) and a portable rubber dice tray that says ‘UK Games Expo 2018’ on it. Geth, meanwhile, went and talked to lots of game designers about games that he will probably buy at some point in the near future.
Then we went back to the hotel, got all of our luggage and piles of games down to Sharpy’s car and packed away in the boot, had some lunch in the sunshine, and drove back to Newcastle. It’s been a great weekend, but it is good to be home. With our massive haul of stuff.
Will we be back next year? Well, put it this way: Geth’s already booking the hotel. We’ll see you there.