UK Games Expo 2019 – Into the Breach

I’m on holiday! Woooooo! I’ve got two weeks off over the course of UK Games Expo and I am really looking forward to relaxing, catching up on some writing and generally NOT working.

Saying that whenever I head to a con as a member of the press I always feel a strong sense of obligation to do right by our readers and listeners and to this end my first couple of days of the holiday will be finishing off the preparations for this most excellent of gaming events.

Come along for the ride

You are here already, reading our content and over the course of the con this site is going to be buzzing. If you have followed us in previous years you know the score, but if this is your first time going to the con, or even if you are just following from afar I thought I should give a little overview of what we will be up to and the sort of information you can expect to find over our various channels.

On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning of the con I’ll be posting a breakdown of the previous day: who we’ve met, what we’ve played and anything else of interest. Providing I’m awake in time that will be going up before the doors open. Here is an example of the kind of article you can expect from that. The Monday after the con I’ll also post a breakdown of the Sunday but that will probably be a little later in the day as I get myself some much needed sleep.

Throughout each day we will be active on Twitter and Instagram with the occasional post to Facebook as well. Twitter is probably the best way to follow us around the con and on Instagram I’ll be posting up quick first impressions of games I’ve played along with some photos. If you see us around the con then do come up and say hi, photos of my ugly mush and Jamie (professional handsome man) below.



Post convention we will be recording a special podcast with a couple of friends of the show giving you the lowdown on what we played, the fun times had and any niggles that annoyed us along the way. I’ll most likely be posting about those said niggles separately as I did last year.

What’s in the Bag

Thought it might be of interest to show you what I carry around to do the job of being a member of the press at a con like this. Here’s my bag:



Here’s what is in it.


Inside the bag

As I am staying a little bit away from the main con I don’t like to carry a huge amount on me during the day. That said I was conscious last year of getting laden down with things I bought or picked up for review as the day went on so this year I am going to take a reuseable bag to carry that around. Might even make use of the drop off facilities.

I’ve got a decent camera, that I don’t really know how to use, for taking some nicer pictures for articles but Twitter will mostly have to be satisfied with phone photos. My little dictaphone did good work last year but I am going to be adding a handheld interview mic to this setup in the hope of getting even better audio this year.

Notebook and pens tend to be the most I do with making notes during the day. I’ve got my chromebook with me for the actual article writing though honestly I didn’t use it as much during the day last year as I thought I would. Might leave it in the room this year just to save a bit more weight.

Battery pack is essential, especially if I am going to be making heavy use of my phone’s camera. Alongside that will be some hand sanitiser, mints and water. More so than most people who will be attending the con, members of the press will be talking to, shaking hands and playing games with loads of people. I like to be as presentable as possible at all times and keeping myself hydrated, well fed and healthy over the course of the con is really important. I hope you will consider it important to you as well. No one wants to play games with someone who is hangry and a bit ripe!

Speaking of which….

Con Survival Tips

I’ve been to loads of cons and attended Expo from in its early days in the centre of Birmingham. I thought I would impart some wisdom to those who might be attending a con like this for the first time.

1) Look after yourself (check out the food trucks!)

This is the most important one. If you don’t sleep, don’t eat properly, don’t wash, get some fresh air from time to time you are going to have a worse time. You’ll feel grotty and awful and less able to enjoy the experience of the convention. Take time for yourself if you need it, don’t feel the need to be rushing around like a headless chicken. You might see less, but you’ll enjoy it more. The people around you will also appreciate it.

There are loads of places to eat near and in the NEC and I personally recommend that you visit the food trucks outside of the Hilton. The quality is absolutely excellent for the price and you’ll find it a lot cheaper than the Hilton itself.

2) Don’t give into Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

There is a lot of stuff happening at expo, loads of games on display, lots of demos and exclusives. It is easy to only concentrate on the big titles, on the same things everyone else, including this site, is getting excited about. Sure you should do your research, listen to opinions and see what is out there but in the end just see what you want to. No one is going to judge you for not having played this game or that game.

Tabletop gaming is massively diverse and one of the things I like to do at a convention like this is spend some time visiting the smaller companies. It costs the smaller companies a lot more to visit a con of this size in comparison to the big players. Take the time to check out a few of them, they will massively appreciate you doing so and you might meet the next star designer!

3) Check the maps

The expo is a big con spread over 3 large halls in the NEC. I’d recommend familiarising yourself with the maps the con provides and the numbering system they have for stalls. It can make finding your way around a little easier and you can also plan to see things in a bit more of an efficient manner if that is your jam. It can also be useful in meeting up with people. There are loads of stickers on the floors with street names you can take pics of to tell people where you are.

4) Take time away from the halls

Get outside, get some fresh air don’t think you need to spend all day cooped up inside. I’m not an introvert by any means but I do find a con this size can be a little overwhelming from time to time. No harm in taking a little moment for yourself from time to time. It’s actually quite nice to sit beside the lake with a beer and burger in hand especially if the weather is as goo as it has been in the last couple of years.

5) Don’t be mean

This should go without saying but it doesn’t so here we are. You are going to play loads of games, meet lots of people and interact with many different companies and individuals. Some of those people you may not get on with, some of the games you may not like. That’s ok, just don’t be nasty about it. Thank people for their time demoing to you. If asked to give feedback on a game, careful how you go and try and walk the line of constructive criticism. Being grumpy and mean helps no one, especially yourself.

Ready, Steady, GO!

I’m doing my last bits and pieces of prep today and tomorrow and then will be on the road early Thursday. Really looking forward to this year’s con, meeting some awesome designers, playing excellent games and generally indulging wholeheartedly in my hobby. If you see Jamie and I about then please do come up and say hi and by all means tell us what you think we should be checking out. You might even get a bit of swag for your troubles!






Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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