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UK writer, journalist & influencer for the gaming industry. 

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UK Games Expo 2022 Round Up, Review & Reflection.

Before you get stuck in reading this blog post, grab yourself a cuppa, find a nice comfy cushion and get ready… this is a very long post!

Whether you are a board game enthusiast, a casual player, a collector, a family, a board game designer, blogger or press, it is in no doubt that UK Games Expo, also known as UKGE, is the ‘big one’ of all the shows, expos and conventions of the year.

I have been honoured to be able to go, as press, almost every year of the UKGE since it started 16 years ago and it is the show that I wait for, with both excitement and nervousness, each year. With 45000+ visitors over 3 days, not including the press event on the night before the full show starts, this is certainly the largest tabletop gaming show in the UK and the 3rd largest in the world.

My time at UKGE started on the Thursday evening. Queueing up to collect my press pass and then everyone waiting outside of hall 3 of the NEC Birmingham ready to go into the press event. At this point, I would just like to say a big thank you to Matt from The Offline Gamer for handing out annotated maps that he had graciously created, had printed and was handing out to press for free. You are a star! I used that map so much over the 3 days that it was battered by the time I got home! Thank you for doing something so lovely for everyone.

I visit UKGE each year with my husband, who has 2 jobs…. to push my wheelchair (thank you!) and also to stop me buying my own body weight in games, D&D merch or dice… all of which I collect. This year I had the extra wonderful surprise of my daughter, son-in-law and their 11 week old baby meeting us there on the Saturday. They also love all things tabletop and of course their new baby son is being exposed to the awesomeness of tabletop at an early age!

Thursday night was a great chance to meet some of the games that would be exhibiting up close and quieter before the main event starting on Friday. We had a wonderful time at the press event and it really is a good chance to get to know designers and their games before the manicness of the show.

Friday morning I was up with the lark, bright and early at 6am, rushing down to breakfast in the hotel and in the car ready for the off to make sure we got to the NEC for about 8.30am. We stayed outside of Birmingham (and a little tip here for you all…) but only by 6 miles, and we managed to get a midweek Travelodge deal for only £38 a night which was great. It only took about 15 minutes to drive to the NEC each day and for that price was worth the drive and we also found that this drive back to the hotel each night gave us a little time to wind down after all the excitement of the day.

Friday 9am…. the gates opened. The first thing I was greeted with in Hall 1 was a huge Warhammer stand with plenty of Warhammer models, goodies, merch and of course the obligatory ‘paint your model’ area.

As you can see the Warhammer staff were always up to pose for the camera 😉

Halls 1 & 2 filled up quickly on the Friday and it soon became apparent that the heat in the halls was rising. It was almost as if the air conditioning wasn’t on or was broken. We heard lots of people saying how hot it was and, if I am honest, I was uncomfortably warm but wasn’t going to let it stop me. I just kept drinking to stay hydrated and took breaks when I needed to. I have to say however, on the Saturday it was much, much cooler. Perfect!

As previously mentioned, UK Games Expo is the biggest show of it’s type in the UK, it was going to be busy. Since this was many visitors’ (and exhibitors’) first big show back from the Covid break (there was a UKGE last year but it was smaller) there was a feeling of slight trepidation in the air, I think, on Friday morning. However, UKGE did an excellent job of spacing stands around the show and the aisles were wide enough to get my wheelchair down. At no point were we not able to go down an aisle because it was too narrow, which is a lesson a lot of other shows could learn from UKGE.

UKGE allows you to do multiple things which means there is something for everybody. Whether you want to chat to a games designer, publisher or distributor, have a demo of a new game, buy some games merchandise (and other nerdy/geeky treasures!), go to a seminar or a show or just wander around and see if you can pick up a bargain from the games shops or the bring and buy.

If you needed help, advice, you were lost or just needed to some information, the UKGE staff that were walking around were wonderful. They were all cheerful and able to answer any questions you had. We saw lots of people asking them for info and every time it was given with a smile. A smile costs nothing but it can make someone feel much better about their day, so well done to all the UKGE staff! I even had a sneaky conversation with a very friendly Dalek!

Facilities and amenities were also fabulous at UKGE, but this is probably more down to the NEC Birmingham. Plenty of toilets, baby changing areas, disabled cubicles and more. A multi-faith prayer room is also there for any quiet time you may need.

We ate and drank every day at the show, just to see what it was like. We were rather sensible and had either early or late lunches, making sure we were ready to eat at either around 11.30am or about 2pm. At these times we never had to queue for more than 5 minutes. There were food and drink stalls inside the show itself and others provided by the NEC in the Piazza area. Food is expensive at shows. It always is, no matter what the show or where the show is, food and drink will always be expensive. So taking bottles of water with you and even a picnic will greatly help your finances during UKGE or any other show. None the less, the food was of a good standard and very tasty.

UKGE is all about…. games. And there were so many wonderful new games out there just ready to be play tested, talked about and demoed. I found a few exhibitors to be a little standoffish about my wheelchair, in fact some were just plain rude saying they were too busy for a demo (isn’t that the point of press coming?) and that they couldn’t fit my chair into their stand, yet each time this happened their stand was empty, so I have to admit this upset me a little. Some exhibitors didn’t even acknowledge me at all and just blatantly ignored me, which I found bizarre and this is something I heard from a couple of other members of the press, content creators and bloggers. I was even questioned a couple of times if I ‘actually played games’ and ‘really played D&D’. Yes I do, it’s not only my job, but tabletop gaming is a huge passion of mine and has been for 40+ years. Comments like this and the way a small percentage of the exhibitors acted on the Friday left me feeling a little frustrated, as this in no way is the fault of UKGE but it did leave a bitter taste in my mouth for the rest of that first day. I really want to stress that this is something completely out of UKGE’s control and in no way a reflection of the expo or the UKGE staff, but something I did want to mention in this round up post so that exhibitors can see that just because someone is in a wheelchair, or maybe larger than the average person, or even someone who maybe doesn’t ‘look’ like your average press person or gamer, this doesn’t mean they are not interested in your game or even more so, want to help you out and support you with maybe a review or spreading the word about your game on social media. I have the best job in the world and I would never let my wheelchair stop me and half the time I forget I am in one because that is just who I am, it is part of me.

Now, after that, I want to say something incredibly positive and that is that 99% of the exhibitors were awesome! I had a blast talking to them, getting involved with demos, looking around their stands, hearing all about their games and generally getting stuck in with the whole UKGE vibe, which let me tell you, was absolutely buzzing every single day.

UKGE has a lot of stands. When I say a lot, I mean…. a lot. We were there for 3 days and we still didn’t get to see all the stands! The stalls and stands ranged from board games, RPGS, books, game accessories and nerdy/geeky themed merch.

I was honoured to be gifted some games for review at UKGE and I have stated which ones, for transparency, in my round up below. However, if you follow me on social media you also know that I am very honest about games and if I don’t like one, whether it has been gifted or not, I will indeed say so 😉

Let me take you around my top stands in each of the categories…

Games

There were many outstanding games being shown at UKGE. Here are my stand out games that I had the absolute pleasure in demoing and meeting the designers.

Psychobabble by Cheatwell Games and designed by Kedric Winks.

From the beautiful black and white artwork down to the sheer ‘Am I? Am I not?’ ponderings during the game, which in itself may indeed send you a little insane, this game is a cracker for both small groups of 4 or even larger groups of 16+. The game is a social deduction game, with emphasis on the social. You need to communicate, but you don’t have to lie, in fact, you don’t need to even talk to communicate. You could mime, just say how you are feeling or of course, spill your metaphorical insides out with large amounts of speech. As long as you are vague, you can communicate however you like. But why? This game is all about the sharing of dreams within a group therapy session with 1 player who will be the psychotherapist. All dreams will be the same apart from 1. However the group doesn’t know which dream is different, individual players don’t know and neither does the psychotherapist. Everything comes down to how and what you communicate. The clever thing with this game is… if you are over confident, it shows and potentially gives you away. If you not confident at all, this also shows and can give you away. It really makes you think and then the craziness starts, but the craziness is in your own head. Incredibly well thought out game that could be great as a midnight late game with storms brewing outside and candlelight or, equally good as a Saturday afternoon party type of game. Thank you Cheatwell Games for gifting me a copy of Psychobabble at UKGE, I will be playing this game for a very long time!

Drags 2 Riches created by David Pettifer.

The first thing that caught my eye was just how vibrant and fun this game looked and that was even before I played it. Drags 2 Riches is a push your luck, deck building card game that finally allows you to live your drag truth! With 2-5 players and games lasting from 3-45 minutes, this clever game is a real win for social gatherings. It looks easy but there is definitely a strategy and isn’t as easy as it first looks. As David himself says “easy to learn, hard to master’. David was lovely at the show. We had been emailing each other before the show and it was a delight to meet him in person. He has a real cheeky smile and his cheekiness can be found in the game too. Also, if you watch the trailer for the game on the website, check out the drag queen in the rainbow sequin hot pants… That’s our David! If you love TV shows such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race, you will absolutely adore this game. Thank you David for gifting me a copy of this game at UKGE, it’s dragtastic!

Fates of Witches by Onebold Studio.

Fate of Witches is a coven building (deck building) game and is played over several game rounds. Each round consists of three phases in which players first draw a Character Card, and then cast an effect or place a Character into their Coven. Once all players have had a turn, the Hunters in play move. The player with The Witch’s Coin then resolves an Event Card. The Player with the highest-scoring coven at the end of the game is the winner. Peter Marshall, the owner of Onebold Studio also created all the artwork for this game and I have to say it is gorgeous. The game play is both strategic yet fun with various ways to create different covens.

Akropolis by Hachette Board Games UK

Akropolis will have you building outwards and upwards to create the most prestigious, layered city at the table. The higher the building, the better it can score – so it’s onwards and upwards in a tile-laying game like no other! Imagine Ancient Greek themed hexagon dominos with added strategy, that are not just a flat game but also vertical… that is Akropolis. Whether I was chatting to the Hachette team at the press event on the Thursday night or the next meeting I had with them on the Friday they were always full of beans. It was almost like talking to family you haven’t seen for a while and you get excited to chat again! They were not only always happy to see people and to demo their games but also so proud of their games too, which was amazing to both hear and see. They made me smile at UKGE and still make me smile on social media since. The game seems simple at first glance but it certainly makes you think. Do I put that piece there or save it for another turn? Do I try and block that move from my opponent? Very clever game. I also love the chunkiness of the components. So many games these days can be quite flimsy, but the Akropolis components are really tactile. For someone with poor eyesight like myself, touch becomes a whole other level of play for tabletop games and Akropolis really handles well. Thank you so much Team Hachette for gifting Akropolis to me at UKGE, as you can see from the photo I have already played it and it’s a real gem of a game!

Horror In The Library by Blue Donut Games

Horror in the library is a Victorian themed horror game where you explore a library of rotating tiles, collect items, and battle monsters; you must escape the Mad Professor’s clutches! This game not only looks beautiful but also has a lot going on, from discovering items and jumping from room to room to picking up cards and tiles with beautiful little brass like door knobs on them so you can twirl them around to get to your desired room. The other lovely aspect of this game is that you can configure the rooms in any shape you like! Thank you to Blue Donut Games for gifting me a copy of this game at UKGE! I can’t wait to get stuck in!

Go Ahead Punk! by Next Dimension Games

Go Ahead Punk is a 1-vs-all game. The sniper (Codename: Stinger) must complete 3 hits and escape the city to his hideout on Alcatraz. Using hunches, strategy and brute force the cops stand in the way. When they catch up to Stinger, combat ensues. Both sides will take arms in the firefight, but don’t let him slip through your fingers. Themed with 70’s cop films in mind such as Dirty Harry, this game captures that real 70’s retro vibe with the whole design, from the fonts used on the board to the colours used. A fantastic game with excellent gameplay and two phases of the game from the tracking phase to the escape phase. I was particularly struck by the attention to detail in this game. The tokens are thoughtful, being tall enough to stand out and see on the board, which visually is quite busy as it is a full map of San Francisco, and the player boards which have everything you need on them alongside gorgeous artwork. A game I am really looking forward to playing!

Amulet Of Thrayax by Trolls ‘n’ Rerolls

In Amulet of Thrayax, you play as one of six eccentric cults, causing murder and mayhem as you compete in a competition known as Thraymania. Organised by the cults themselves, Thraymania is held every three years in the fantasy city of Bleakpyre. It’s a desolate and hateful place, where the nobility is greedy and corrupt, and the peasantry is selfish and hostile. The aim of the competition is to harvest more souls than any other cult, with the winner being gifted custodianship of the Amulet of Thrayax – a mysterious, powerful relic that grants evil-doers good fortune, for as long as they wear it. Players take it in turns to move their cult around the city and use a combination of cards from their hand to perform a variety of actions. Some actions may be offensive such as releasing a monster or poisoning a well, whilst others can be defensive, such as setting up safeguards in case other cults attempt to scupper your plans! As cults cause more mayhem, the peasants and nobles will start to lock themselves away. These “protected” townsfolk are much harder to reach, and cults need to decide whether it’s more beneficial to try and lure them out or move to another district in the city. Whilst the Amulet is the prize for the winner, there’s nothing to stop the cults from “borrowing” it mid-game (in fact this is expected!), bestowing them many advantages for as long as they can keep their hands on it. The cult with the most harvested souls (peasant/noble tokens) by the end of the game, wins! Now, as you can see I only managed to take 2 photos of this game, even though it looked so good and that was for a very good reason. Every time we tried to get to the stand for a demo they were rushed off their feet because the stand was so busy, and who can blame people for queuing up to try this game, it looks amazing. I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Tom from Trolls ‘n’ Rerolls, the game designer at the press event and he briefly talked me through the game. This is a game I am really watching out for!

RPG’s

Storymaster’s Tales

Most of you will already know how much I love the Storymaster’s Tales books. It was a pure delight to meet Oliver McNeil, the creator and Storymaster himself. He was both friendly yet theatrical, and so funny! For those who haven’t had the pleasure of picking up a Storymaster’s Tales book yet, they are similar to the old Fighting Fantasy books and the newer Beast Quest books. However, these books come with soundscapes, dialogue and a whole heap of fun. I didn’t even realise they did cards to match the books so of course I had to buy some of the cards for my adventures whilst I was there 😉

Apothecaria & Delve by Blackwell Games

Anna Blackwell, the founder of Blackwell Games, has created many solo RPG books, with a twist. With her books, you do not need dice, just an everyday pack of playing cards will do to take you on a magical adventure or a fantastic map building event. These map books just add a little spin to the standard solo RPG stories which is a refreshing change. Thank you Anna for gifting me both Apothecaria and Delve at UKGE, I am really looking forward to working my way through them!

Party RPG

An epic, fun-filled fantasy adventure that smashes together tabletop role-playing and hilarious party games. Easy to learn, fun to play. Now, as an avid D&D adventurer (I am our groups ‘forever cleric’), this RPG book really appealed to me as it is like a quicker, easier to learn (with pre-made characters) and party styled RPG for all ages. Voted one of the Tabletop Gaming Magazines best games of 2021, you know this RPG is of an extremely high standard but, what it also has, is huge heaps of fun. I can’t wait to try this out with family and friends. If you have always wanted to try Dungeons & Dragons but have always wondered if it’s too hard to learn (it isn’t, but…) then this would be a good entry level RPG to try! Have a go!

Games Accessories & Merch (Oh how we love the merch!)

Atikin Games

On Friday morning I had a very important meeting with the lovely Nikita from Atikin Games. If you follow me on Instagram you will know this already, but for you lovely readers who don’t, I had to pick up some bits and bobs that I had pre-ordered from her Etsy shop and have a quick chat. As you can see I bought some lovely goodies from her, you can click on this link to see what I got!

Pinfinity AR Pins

Pinfinity creates augmented reality collectible pins that bring your favorite fandoms to life with animation, sound, and interactive experiences. Pinfinity is revolutionizing the world of pins and pin collecting through their patent-pending augmented reality platform that enables pins to come alive with animation, sound, and other interactive elements through their free mobile app. I would like to say a huge thank you to Pinfinity for completely spoiling me and gifting me with all the goodies in the photo at UKGE! The pins are are unbelievably cool (yes, I realise I sound like a complete nerd saying that…) and as I am typing this, I am wearing my D20 Pinfinity pin! Thank you!

Valkyrie RPG

Now, we all know I collect dice. I have a lot of dice but I will never have enough dice 😉 But it wasn’t the dice that first drew me to this stand. It was the giant mimic on the counter! The weekend previous to UKGE, our D&D group had just killed a mimic (for those who don’t play Dungeons & Dragons, a mimic is a nasty little blighter that can shapeshift into inanimate objects and then try to kill you… grrrr!) and I loved that they had a huge one on their stand! As I got closer, I saw all the dice and then obviously I was hooked. The 2 gorgeous ladies running the stand were cheery and helpful! Loved them and absolutely love their dice. Will be back for more soon online 😉

DnDice

The DnDice stand was beautiful, very creatively laid out and always busy. Everytime I went passed it was buzzing with people milling about picking out their dice. The staff were really friendly and I bought the 3 sets of dice above in the photo as well as a few other bits and pieces. The dice are weighty and larger than standard plastic dice but not so big that you cannot use them. Very sharp edges, which personally I adore as it makes them feel like real tools of the game. I will definitely be purchasing from DnDice again!

Anne Stokes

This last photo is probably my favourite moment of the entire show. Anne Stokes is an internationally renowned fantasy artist and my eldest daughter’s absolute hero. Amy (my daughter, the young lady on the right hand side with the red hair) is Anne Stoke’s number 1 fan, in fact she is an Anne Stokes superfan. As you know, Amy met me at UKGE on the Saturday so we could spend the day together between meetings I had with game designers. Amy’s baby son had life saving surgery just 4 weeks before UKGE when he was just 7 weeks old. She has had to go through so much just recently and when I realised that the lady behind the counter on the Anne Stokes stall was actually, the real Anne Stokes, I popped over to see her and asked if she wouldn’t mind signing a copy of her book if I bought it there and then for Amy. Anne was awesome, she was more than happy to sign the book, she also signed another book Amy bought too and even asked Amy if she would like to take a photo with her. It made Amy’s day and as we walked away I saw the tears well up in Amy’s eyes. She really had met her hero. Thank you so much Anne. We were…. Stoked! 😉

I had a list of people I wanted to meet and I got to meet every one of them, even if it was just a passing ‘Hi, how are you?’. Quick shout out to amazingly awesome, Bez, from Stuff by Bez, I know we only had a fleeting hello but we will catch up very soon and then you can teach me to play Yogi in person 😉

There are so many wonderful people out there in the gaming community. People may see us as nerds, maybe even misfits, but we are a pretty snazzy bunch really. We come together to share our passion for tabletop (or video/console/pc) games and we encourage each other, one meeple at a time. I wouldn’t want to be in any other community because, within the gaming community, I truly feel at home and have done for years.

As you can see I had an absolute blast at UKGE! There were a few hiccups as mentioned but nothing we couldn’t handle and, as I said, the biggest issue wasn’t UKGE’s fault. Despite these minor problems, I had a marvellous time! I was able to meet new people and see old friends, to play new games and discover new businesses. Yet again UKGE, you pulled it off, and after all the Covid problems over the past 2 years, I couldn’t be more proud of the UKGE team. Well done on another fantastic expo. See you next year in 2023!

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One Response

  1. It was so lovely to meet you and your family Sally and we’re thrilled you loved Drags 2 Riches! You’re always welcome at our game table <3

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Some say geek, some say nerd. Sally admits to being both. But, as that is not only her full time job but also her passion, she is happy to have those titles and answers to them proudly. Being a journalist for over 27 years, she writes about her geeky and nerdy passions – gaming. Sally is now both a journalist and influencer for the gaming and geek culture industries and loves all types of games from tabletop board games and D&D to MMO’s and FPS video games such as World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Runes of Magic, LOTR Online, Final Fantasy, CS:GO,  and oh so many more.

 

Sally has been a gamer since 1990 and has always had a thirst for all things ‘geek’. Writing for and working with such brands as EGX, Insomnia Gaming Festival, MCM ComicCon, Tabletop Gaming Live, PlayFusion, Warhammer Age Of Sigmar Champions, The BBC, The Daily Mail, Reuters, FoxNews, USAtoday, Walt Disney Corporation, PC Gamer, The Ideal Home Show, The Lord Mayor’s Show London, Grand Designs Live, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Asda and many more. With over 25 years in the gaming, comic and geek culture industry, she really knows her stuff!

 

We all know Sally is a gamer but apart from online, PC and console gaming, Sally also enjoys tabletop games, wargaming, RP and board games. She admits to being ‘D&D obsessed’ and adores all types of board games. Sally is happiest when either writing, beta testing games, attending game dev and game industry shows.

In addition to gaming she is, in her own words, a ‘DC Comics Nerd’ and loves to catch up on the DC Universe when she can, and in the last few years has been crossing over to the Marvel Universe too, with much delight from her husband who has always been the more ‘Marvel’ of the two!

 

She collects geek/nerd/gaming/superhero items and feels privileged to be able to review various products, games, comics and more for each brand, as well as writing for various magazines and presenting shows or as part of the press team at various conventions and trade shows.

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