I have attended quite a few different board game events in my time. I've been visiting conventions in Germany and the United Kingdom as a paying visitor, a member of the press as well as part of a demo team. From the more sedate and gaming-focussed AireCon to the crazily busy more business-focussed Essen Spiel and various exhibitions, shows, conventions or whatever you want to call them somewhere in between. So if you're planning to attend a board game event yourself and want to make the most of your experience, here are some tips that come from my own experience and that I hope you will find useful.
It is rare that you can combine going to your hometown with attending a board game convention. So when it does happen, you jump at the opportunity. If you're also expecting to see a lot of people you normally only see maybe once a year at another show, as well as people you have so far only "met" on social media, then you know you're onto a winner. Being able to get demos of new and upcoming games is the cherry on top. Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023 was promising to fulfil all of these hopes, which set the bar very high. The question is whether it delivered.
Tucked away near Gleisdreieck in Berlin's Kreuzberg district is STATION-Berlin, home to the German capital's main board game convention Berlin Brettspiel Con. For three days in July, hordes of tabletop hobby enthusiasts converge to play games, speak to the dozens of exhibitors and generally have a great time. For the first time, I'll be among them and I can't wait. I'll be attending as a member of the press and have made a short list of whom I want to talk to.
I visited the show last year as a member of the press. I spoke to a lot of exhibitors and spent time in the evenings catching up with friends and playing a few games. However, this year was different. For the first time, I came up to demo games on behalf of Asmodee. That meant my travel, food and accommodation were all paid for and I even got a bit of an hourly wage. At the same time, it also meant I only had an hour's lunch break to wander around the halls. It really changed my experience of the UK Games Expo 2023.
The UK Games Expo is the largest hobby games convention in the United Kingdom. It covers all types of hobby games, including board games, card games, RPGs, war games and many, many more. After a break of a couple of years, I was finally ready to make my way up to the NEC, Birmingham again in 2022. However, this time, a friend from my games group joined me. I was really looking forward to finally meeting many of the people I only knew via social media. I also wanted to introduce myself to some of the publishers exhibiting there. My schedule was really full. It was going to be exhausting, but also a huge amount of fun.
The last UK Games Expo I attended was 2019. It was an amazing event and I came back from it buzzing, full of ideas and the energy you get after you've been able to catch up with good friends again. We all know what happened soon after the 2019 event. So when UKGE came back as an in-person event in 2021, I decided to give it a miss. However, now it's 2022 I'm ready to dive into the crowds again and meet lovely board game people at UK Games Expo 2022.
My last board game convention was Airecon 2020 and it was the last event of its kind in the UK - and as it turned out, there wasn't going to be another in-person UK board game convention until 2021. It was a wonderful event, even though everything felt weird. Nobody was sure whether to shake hands or not. The special guests who had flown in from the USA weren't even sure if they would be able to get back home. Luckily, they did make it back safely and it wasn't long until the UK went into full lockdown. So, I was keenly looking forward to Airecon 2022, the first board game convention I was happy to attend after a two-year break.
It feels like a long time ago now, but thinking back to AireCon, which took place last month, still puts a smile on my face. It meant a long car journey for me, travelling over five hours from the South Coast all the way up to Harrogate in deepest Yorkshire. I started early, around 6am, on the Friday, because I was aiming to get there by lunchtime. I wanted to see a few people who were going to be there - one of my wonderful Patreon supporters, a game designer who I got chatting to on Twitter and who was demoing his new game at the event, a more established game designer who I was hoping to arrange an interview with, as well as the board game "celebrities" who had made their way from across the pond. It was going to be busy.
It's that time of the year again. The huge Essen Spiel game fair is upon us, so as is custom, here is my list of games that will be at the exhibition and that I'm looking forward to.
As you will know by now, UK Games Expo 2019 is just around the corner - a week on Friday, to be precise. So the question is who you should go and see on your visit - assuming you'll be there of course. There is no way that I can list all the over 400 exhibitors and their games, or mention all the events, seminars and other things that are going on at this amazing exhibition. However, I can focus on who I'm planning to see, bearing in mind that I'll only be there on the Sunday. So it's going to be a jam-packed day, but I just can't wait.