Friday, 15 June 2018

UK Games Expo 2018 - Gaming Highlights

It goes without saying that seeing friends is always a huge Expo highlight, even though with more and more people getting into the hobby it's getting harder to see everyone enough over the weekend! We're all there to see the games, too, and below is a selection of games that I played or talked about over the weekend. For an overview of the rest of the show, you can see my first Expo post (yes, I've gone on about it enough to fill up two whole posts!)

Review: UK Games Expo 2018

Not only is the UK Games Expo over for another year, but it's been almost two weeks, and it's flown by! With more lovely people, more fun things to see and more games than you could shake an oversized meeple at, this year's Expo was bigger and better than ever (21,700 attendees, up 30% on last year!).

If you've not been along to UKGE before, you can find my original post here for some background information. It's a fun, friendly convention held every year at the NEC in Birmingham, rambling (in a very organised fashion) across multiple convention halls, function rooms and surrounding hotels. There's something there for every analogue gaming enthusiast, whether you're looking for the latest heavy Euro game, the coolest wargame miniatures, the cutest kids game or the dice-rolliest (yes, we're making up our own superlative adjectives now) pen-and-paper RPG.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

UK Games Expo 2018 - Exciting Things!

With just a few days left until this year's UK Games Expo, I've made a little list below of some of the games I'm looking forward to seeing more of. The draft of this post has been kicking around in my Evernote for a while now, as there's so much to see that I keep adding and removing things each time a new press release arrives. Time to make some choices, though, as it's ALMOST TIME FOR UKGE, WOO! There might be a recurring theme of 'this is on the list because it looks shiny', so prepare for in-depth game coverage at its finest, people...

UK Games Expo

Monday, 21 May 2018

Review: Photosynthesis board game

Yew wooden be-leaf how many arboreal puns you could get into one (t)re(e)view, but stick with me, ash I promise I've gotten them all out of my sy-stem in the first line...

Photosynthesis box art | Random Nerdery board game review

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Guest Post: Board Game Soundtracks

The best bit about playing board games (apart from punching out the cardboard and organising everything, obviously) is sharing them with lovely people. I was lucky enough to spend a whole weekend with two of the loveliest recently, when I went to stay half way across the country with my friends Piete and Pam.

We got through quite a few games over the weekend, including Azul, Onitama, Fresco and Skull, but the new thing for me was in how we played them. Piete hand-picks a soundtrack for every game they play, and it really changes the experience - so much so that I said 'hey, you should really write a guest post about this!'.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

UK Games Expo: 1-3 June 2018

Time to get (even more) excited about the UK Games Expo, everyone! Only a month to go until thousands of happy board gamers descend upon the Birmingham NEC and its surrounding hotels to paint the town cardboard.

UK Games Expo advert

1-3 June 2018 will be the 12th annual UKGE and the fourth one that I've attended, and each year the event has gone from strength to strength. It's the largest hobby gaming convention in the UK, and with unique attendance topping 16,300 last year it's now one of the largest in the world (fighting it out with Origins for third place). This year they've added an extra hall in the NEC to accommodate everything, so growth doesn't show any signs of slowing down!

There's a lot to cram in to those halls, as the huge map on the UKGE website can illustrate, and you're in no danger of running out of things to see and do.

UKGE trade hall


As you'll see on the map, with over 300 companies in attendance there are plenty of opportunities available to buy shiny new games (or shiny old games, with a fab Bring and Buy section). But UKGE is so much more than a shopping trip, giving you the chance to talk to publishers and designers about their new or upcoming releases, or to try out demos of their latest prototypes. Getting to meet the people behind the games you love or having the chance to influence the design process of a new game in the Playtest Zone really makes the convention fun.

I'm planning on making a bit more use of the Family Zone this year, with my little one getting a bit less little and a bit more into his first games. It's sponsored by HABA who make some of his current favourites - so this year I'll be shopping for two!

Board game bring and buy at UKGE

Seminars and guests

UKGE attracts plenty of well known faces from around the gaming world, this year including Ian Livingstone, author of the Fighting Fantasy series and founder of Games Workshop and game designer Martin Wallace. Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower will be back for another year and will be recording shows at the Expo, as will plenty of other board gaming media types including folks from Gaming Rules!, Shut Up & Sit Down, No Pun Included and Who Dares Rolls.

Gaming Rules! CGE, Shut Up and Sit Down

As well as live podcast and video recordings there are a whole raft of other talks to attend, covering everything from how to GM an RPG to how to run a board game company.


You'll see a big section of the NEC map dedicated to tournaments for people much better at games than me: the Catan, Agricola and Carcassonne UK Championships, the Fantasy Flight European championships including huge X-wing Miniatures and Android Netrunner European Championships and a Legend of the Five Rings Grand Kotei event are all on the slate for this year's UKGE.


As if you hadn't filled your time three times over by now, there is a programme of ticketed entertainment events run across the weekend including:

  • John Robertson's The Dark Room (I love this show... can I go for a third time? This year with additional kid-friendly showing on the Friday)
  • Paul Flannery's Knightmare Live and MMORPG (both of which I saw last year, great fun and very nostalgic)
  • Live Pandemic (always ridiculously funny)
  • Jollyboat (musical comedy pirate brothers, what's not to love?)

I'm so excited, there's just so much to do! I didn't even get time to talk about everything, like:

  • The food festival
  • Viking and Orc encampments (if you're under 10 you can do Orc training, which sounds like the best thing EVER)
  • RPG and LARP events
  • Cosplayers
You can read about all of these things and more on the lovely UK Games Expo website, of course, or read more about my previous adventures in 2016 and 2017 where you'll find lots more pictures.

UKGE Open Gaming

The best bit of any convention is always getting to see your friends and play some fun games. UKGE provides a wonderful environment to do this whilst giving you the opportunity to try new things and meet like-minded people from across the country (and the world!). There's lots of open gaming space available to try out your purchases or play something from the excellent board game library, but demand for the space is high so make sure you stake your claim early to avoid having to play on the grass!

Deep Sea Adventure on a pizza box

Yep, that's a pizza box. From the awesome food fair!

So if you're new to the board game hobby and thinking about your first trip, do it! Or if you're worrying about coming to UKGE on your own, don't panic! You'll find so many lovely people willing to help you find a game, offer advice and recommendations or just point you in the direction when you're lost. It's a really welcoming environment and I can't wait to go.

Give me a wave if you see me wandering around!

UK Games Expo logo

When: 1 to 3 June 2018
Where: NEC and NEC Hilton Hotel
Cost: Ticketing website

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Review: Eight-Minute Empire board game

I seem to be forming a bit of a Red Raven Games series recently, with reviews of the beautiful Above and Below and its sequel Near and Far. To continue the theme, this week I'm taking a look at an older Ryan Laukat game that has grand ambitions on a tiny scale: Eight-Minute Empire.

Eight-Minute Empire - box art | Random Nerdery