I made a bit of a balls-up with UK Games Expo, misreading the prices of tickets such that I assumed that a two-day pass was £16 rather than £13. Single day passes were £8. (Confusion reigns in that the weekend pass lets you into a free gaming session on Friday, muggins here not realising that two-day passes and weekend passes were not the same thing). This essentially put me off a weekend-long attendance so I only went on Saturday. Still, it was a nice picnic I had at the motorsport in Worcestershire on Sunday until the rain came.
After a couple of years of enthusiasm, I'm starting to feel jaded with Expo in that I'm not sure what it stands for nor what I get from it. It's very broad church but is therefore perhaps suffering from being "jack of all trades/master of none" in that I don't find anything is done as well as it could be. A little bit of wargames, a little bit of RPG traders - unless your tastes are as catholic as the show intends to be then everything will be done well OK, but perhaps not as exhaustive as you might like. Obviously there's a trade off here against what you paid to get in, but when the price has doubled for admission pass since only 2007... it starts to become less "unmissable" and more "meh..."
There's a lot of stuff going on that doesn't seem to add to the show - Doctor Who cosplayers are there every year but their placing within the halls seem to suggest that they are a central attraction when in reality this sort of thing is highly peripheral to the show. Then there's a load of pre-booked RPG sessions going on somewhere, but of sight and therefore out of mind so you have to question what this adds to the show as a whole. It probably creates a false impression that both the show floor space and footfall is smaller than it really is, as they are all tucked away in purdah. I know it gives RPGers something to do but their lack of any visibilty suggest that they could all be playing games at home somewhere.
Having Q-Workshop, Chessex and then a stall selling Q-Workshop and Chessex (sited poorly next to Chessex pukka as well) seems to be a case of accepting any trader who puts the money up rather than thinking about a good blend of trade stands to benefit the show. (In fairness this is a very tricky thing to do. One year at the Stourbridge clubs show a trader brought along hundreds of single Heroclix figures only to discover that somebody had dumped a whole load of cheaper, single Heroclix on the Bring-And-Buy sited opposite his pitch and then he had a wasted day).
The bring-and-buy could be a huge attraction to the show but it's poorly laid out around a tiny "club" bar where you can't see anything and everything is stacked up risking imminent collapse and damage and therefore you can't find out the price of anything with gingerly dismantling a stack of half a dozen games. Change this to be a long layout along a wall so that games don't have to be piled up like the gamers closet from hell and add a "cloakroom" system so that bulky games can be left somewhere safe for collection before leaving and this could become the single best reason to go to Expo - at the moment it's something of a messy afterthought. A good bring-and-buy would grow, at present I wouldn't bother to put anything on it because I wouldn't be certain it would be seen, wouldn't be crushed and suspect people would be put off buying if they were faced with lugging a big box around all day. And then if people realised they are fully laden up at 11 o clock then they go home.
Perhaps the future for Expo is to either expand dramatically in size to allow each facet of the hobby to be large enough to have justice done to it or go more down the line of non-shopping/non-demo game events such as the Jackson/Livingstone seminar and book signing I went to. That was a good hour in the company of Giants and quite humble ones at that.
It's worth asking myself the question "were this not in Brum would I go?". And to be honest if it were outside the West Midlands conurbation I would have gone once but probably not again. I go because it's local. If it were in say, the East Midlands, Cardiff or North Staffs, places not a million miles from home I wouldn't be fussed. If a lot of attendees are basically "captive audience" then that's not a promising sign.
Anyway grumbles aside, what did I do?
I picked up a couple of big hardbacks. Black Powder was a cheap impulse purchase (it's a nice book but realistically I am never going to collect and paint large horse-and-musket era armies) and Rogue Trader (FFG RPG) was a good bargain as a trader was selling off dinged and dog-eared copies for £20. I'll happily put up with a creased cover if it saves me £25 off RRP. A Pound-O-Dice from Chessex and some Steampunk-themed dice from Q-Workshop scratched the "I Am At Show Must Buy Dice As Souvenir" itch that I suffer from. The Steampunk dice are the first ones I've ever seen Q-Workshop produce that are actually legible when rolled on the table.
I went to the seminar with Jackson/Livingstone where they gave a talk and Q&A session on the history of GW. Nothing I didn't know already but both signed my copy of Fighting Fantasy, blogged about here.