my first convention...

Last weekend I attended the UK Games Expo at the NEC in Birmingham. It's the largest board gaming convention in the UK with a host of tournaments, retailers and game makers.

My primary reason for going was initially to just pick up some great games and spend too much money.

mission accomplished

mission accomplished

The event itself takes place over 3 days, I only attended the weekend so missed out on the Friday, which I hear is much quieter, so I'll definitely be going on the Friday next year to make sure I get chance to try out more stuff.

I spent the Saturday looking around everything, getting my bearings so I could work out what I wanted to spend more time with on the Sunday. I knew there were a few small independent game designers I wanted to check out as a first port of call.

British Briefs - who have a Kickstarter running at the moment

Inside The Box - who are re-launching Statecraft soon on Kickstarter

Lab Wars - Kickstarter just launched

Tickerbot Games - who had a successful Kickstarter earlier in the year

Clearly there is a theme here. They're all a bit ahead of me, which is why I wanted to get the chance to talk to the people I'd been following on Twitter for awhile and probe them for any tips and advice. I got chance to play and chat to all of these guys which was great. I also got chance to check out some other stuff I'd not seen before, not to mention giant versions of games - which was super cool.

After the main exhibition hall closed, we headed over to the Hilton to sit in on Shut Up & Sit Down recording a podcast. It was loads of fun, that ended with a massive game of audience cat and mouse. 

After some much needed air, food and cool down we grabbed a space in one of the gaming rooms and played our first game of Heroes Wanted. It was a great end to a great day. 

Sunday I wanted to pick up a few more games I'd heard good things about and hopefully get chance to play some more things. I got to do both of those things, it was a much more chilled day with less people and plenty of time to soak it all in. 

All in all a super enjoyable experience, everyone was really approachable and nice. I'm always amazed at the number of people working games and then I'm always impressed with how willing they are to share their knowledge and give constructive feedback. 


play testing

My second reason for attending the Expo was to attempt to get some people to try out the game I've been working on Nothing to Declare. In my head I imagined I'd just grab people and convince them to play my game.

In reality have a great presence at the Expo and have a section reserved for play testing prototype games. I hadn't heard of them before but found through the links on the Expo site that they run regular meetups across the country. 

All I had to do was sign up, book a slot and rock up on the day. I tried to plug my slot as much as possible through my own avenues, tweeting out and creating a facebook event. I knew I had some friends going to the Expo that I could rely on, but getting people that had never heard of me or my game was the real goal. 

I'd booked a slot for Saturday afternoon - thinking that would be the busiest time. I wasn't wrong.

first game of the day

first game of the day

We managed to play a couple of four player games and a seven player game in the 90 minutes I had. Everyone got to fill out feedback forms and I secured a slot Sunday morning for another round of play testing that afternoon. 

I'm proud to say that Nothing to Declare was really well received, everyone liked the theme and the game play. I know that I still have some balancing to do but mechanically the game is there and artwork is coming along nicely. 

feedback forms

feedback forms

Results from the feedback were collated and over the eight categories these are the averages;

Clarity of rules - 8.9
Game-flow - 9
Balance - 7.8
Length - 9.4
Integration - 9.1
Theme - 9.5
Fun - 9.1
Clarity of gameplay - 9.4

It feels great to know that people I don't know think my game doesn't suck! A massive thank you to everyone that spent their time playing my game.

See you next year!