UK Games Expo: A Haul of Memories.
As the 'games haul' posts insinuate their way on to your various social media feeds, making you wonder if you missed out on the next big thing, and the moaners moan about the size or the temperature or something; I'm bringing you something a bit different.
It's hard not to get drawn into these threads. Negativity begets negativity and our brains are still hardwired to focus on the negative. But we must resist. Our happiness depends upon it - adjust the focus or use a different lens entirely. There is a place for negative feedback and it is vital for any event to receive it in order to grow and improve. I still carry that teacher mantra though - public praise, private 'suggestions of areas to improve'! Sure by Sunday morning, I thought I'd been there a week and Eldritch Rach thought it was evening. And yes it was hot. And it was brillliant.
Even the most negative of incidents was promptly dealt with and the offender expelled from Expo. I'm not going to go into this here- it has been covered elsewhere and carries too many triggers to open up here. Suffice to say that as an individual the UK Expo response to this makes me feel safer there.
Board games without people are just lifeless boxes filled with meaningless chits and worthless tokens. It is the people that breathe life into them, that make them funny or tense or moving. It is the fabulous people of Expo and the time spent uniting with fellow nerds that I want to focus on.
The Expo started for me with the Press Show. I chatted to lots of people, finally met Angela and Dan who I've chatted to online for years and booked in to play a demo of Arkosa - the new one from the creators of Gobblin Goblins. The thing that I enjoyed most about the press show was the enthusiasm of the games creators - I love chatting to people who have passion and belief. It's infectious. In particular I remember meeting the folks from Pet Evil which is soon to be on Kickstarter; marvelling at the research that went into Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell the board game of English magic published by Osprey Games; playing a pattern making game with my eyes shut while two complete strangers gave me directions and talking penguin puns with Team Custard Kraken the makers of Penguin Brawl.
After that I caught up with Emma from Emmerse Studios and Amelia - Quirk Expert! We drank wine and played 'Bilder' a game in which you use the different shaped blocks to build or re-enact the thing on your card while idiots shout things at you which are very obviously wrong. They then draw a card and build something obscure while you make astute and intelligent guesses about the content of their card. That's how I remember it anyway.
I spent some time at Expo demoing games for both Bez and Wren Games. One of the heart warming things about teaching games was how easy it was to get strangers playing together. They sat, enjoyed a game, compared experiences, swapped stories and recommendations and then disappeared back into the crowd. These were quick games so often we didn't hang out for long but I loved sharing some time with people and watching them learn. One of the things I miss about teaching is that interaction when you open something new up to a person and place it in their hands; to witness that sense of wonder, fun and freedom to explore is a miraculous thing.
Most of the booths there are demoing games. I could quite happily spend the days playing different games without spending anything above the ticket price. As much as I love teaching, I love learning. Letting someone who is passionate teach you is a joy. I visited Yay games and played Ominoes and then Snaggit. Snaggit is a new one - a fun twist on observational/ grab it games that requires some imagination. I managed to Snag a copy (!) and I know it will be a sure fire hit at events. I also hung out on the Wotan bus for a while, setting the world to rights with Lawrence and watching and learning some games. There were loads of people playing Brexit but I couldn't bring myself to join in with that. One of the most entertaining games to watch and indeed play is Ramasjang - a chaotic card game where players add to the basic rule set by making each other do accents, noises, physical actions, whatever they think of. I also learnt the much calmer Castle Build. Over on Redwell Games I was taught Six Gun Showdown which was loads of sharp shooting fun too. If I wasn't working, I would have made more use of the Board Games Library and the open gaming spaces. Plus there are loads of events and seminars to take advantage of.
A crack collective of indie game developers, artists, reviewers and generally lovely and supportive types got together at the Gaming Rules podcast to explain our existence. Today, using a sobriquet still frowned on by Janice they survive as board gamers of fortune. If you have a games related problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find us....maybe you can tweet #TeamTrevor. It was great fun to catch up with the Team Trevor folks in real life, especially as it was the Crafting Jones' birthday so we could have cocktails! Any excuse!
Pictures by Emma May of Emmerse Studios
I also attended the Gaming Rules/ Paul Grogan top tips for teaching games seminar. It was fascinating to hear ideas about different approaches to teaching as well as, through audience participation, people's experiences of different teaching methods. The drip feed approach that Paul advocates resonated with me and I definitely already use elements of it. It's sparked my curiosity and desire to find out more. Of course other non-gaming-rules events were also available! I missed Jollyboat and The Dark Room which are both awesome. And the only tannoy message I deciphered all weekend was the announcement of the Happy Salmon tournament which I can only imagine was hilarious.
The absolute best bits of UK Games Expo have revolved around hanging out with people: whether it was finally meeting the lovely Katie Aidley in real life; playing Arkosa and thoroughly enjoying the well crafted flavour text and a good game; putting faces to names and avatars or drinking cocktails in the Sky Bar on Sally's birthday - it was an absolute blast and I can't wait to do it all again.
I did add games to the Cards or Die collection - some kindly donated, some purchased. Come along and try them out at one of our events. But that's not my abiding memory of UKGE - it won't reduce to a pile of cardboard, that is really just a vehicle. My memories and the reason I'll be back next year is to connect with lots of slightly crazy, passionate, nerdy, kind, gorgeous individuals through gaming. If you want to get involved in that vibe, join us at a Cards or Die event soon - check out our Come and See Us page for more details or subscribe so you don't miss a thing.