Beginner's Guide to UK Games Expo

08 May 2024
UKGE is the biggest event in the tabletop gaming calendar, taking place in Birmingham at the NEC each year. We've put together a beginner's guide to what you'll find there, plus a few tips for planning your day.

What is UKGE?

UKGE, or UK Games Expo is UK’s biggest gaming convention, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham around June of each year. The event has grown exponentially each year, attracting publishers and designers up and down the UK, and frequently from further afield. It’s very much the event of the summer for gamers!

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UKGE 2024

This dates for the 2024 UK Games Expo are between Friday 31st May 2024, and Sunday 2nd June 2024, and this year marks the 16th year of the event. It will use three full halls of the NEC, which will include a huge number of exhibitors, a Bring & Buy, seminars and events, and more – but more on that in a moment…

What to Do at UKGE

UKGE Exhibitors

The biggest draw for UKGE is the sheer number of exhibitors available. Want to see the newest in tabletop gaming? Want to meet the designer of the game that you loved? Playtest some brand new games? Or just want to pick up a few new games? You’re bound to find something in and amongst the halls of UKGE. There’s more than enough to see over the weekend, so keep your UKGE map to hand – though prepare to discard your plans for something exciting to catch your interest. The map will be available online nearer the time. 

Plus, if you end up buying a few too many games, don’t let the logistics of carrying them stop you – UKGE also has a Shop & Drop (£3 for a half-meter square storage box for the day) and even a Pack & Post, to ensure you don’t have to leave that grail game behind. 

UKGE will also see Tabletop Gaming taking a stand, so you can come along and meet the team! We’ll have some exciting goodie bags, prizes, and offers at our stand, so keep an eye out for us over at Stand 2-1004.

UKGE Bring and Buy

UKGE also runs a Bring & Buy each year, which is a great opportunity to sell on games you’re no longer playing, and pick up a bargain with someone else's game. There are always long queues for this at the beginning of the event, so it’s worth waiting a little while before perusing its shelves, but games are booked on in advance, meaning you can check out the games available before you get there

There are a few changes to the Bring & Buy for 2024, but these affect the sellers moreso than attendees – whereby you can only drop off a maximum of 20 games, prices are now set, and the minimum price is now £5. It is worth noting though that transactions are cash only.

Open Gaming & The Board Game Library

A huge part of any convention is being able to play games with friends – or make new ones with new games, making Open Gaming incredibly important. UKGE has a hall essentially dedicated to being able to sit down with your friends and just enjoy the purchases you’ve made. Don’t want to purchase anything, or want to try before you buy? There’s also a Board Game Library, which hosts over 1,000 games. Head to the library with a form of ID, and pay a £10 deposit, which gets you a library card. Then borrow to your heart's content!

Tournaments and Playtesting

When you get together this many gamers, it’s a great opportunity to put that gaming to good use. UKGE plays host to a number of tournaments for different games, running everything from Terraforming Mars for fun, to the UK Championship of King of Tokyo, and Catan. There are a number of trading card games, from Lorcana to Digimon, miniatures games like Bushido and Star Wars: Shatterpoint, and even megagames, which are huge-scale events that combine wargames with LARP and RPGs. If you want to play competitively, at any level, there’ll be something to play for you. 

Equally, if you’d rather play to help rather than to compete, there are always playtesting opportunities, either with Playtest UK, or at individual stands. You get to try out an exciting new game, and give feedback on your experience of it. This can be a great opportunity to uncover a first time designers hidden gem, and know what you’d want to keep an eye on for future!

Related article: Beginners should go to Disney Lorcana Competitions – and here's why

Talks and Scheduled Games

If you want to schedule in a time to put your feet up, but not miss a second of the action, there are always events on at specific times. UKGE plays host to some amazing seminars, with topics covering the likes of guides to therapeutic gaming, the psychology of The Traitors, how to manufacture your game, using humour in game design, and many more. There are also events like a live reading of Death Trap Dungeon from Sir Ian Livingstone himself, The Dark Room, and Shut Up & Sit Down’s live show, and many more. 

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You could also book yourself onto a an RPG – everything from your classic D&D and Pathfinder, to being able to play What’s Old is New, Against the Dark, Over Arms, Manifold, Awfully Cheerful engine, and tons more.

Food at UKGE

UKGE takes place a the NEC in Birmingham, so there are a few food and drink opportunities at the venue itself, however there food trucks available in the open area at the front of the Hilton Metripole Hotel, a brief walk away. 

This year will see Street Souvlaki Greek BBQ, Jabberwocky, Canoodle Fried Chicken, Fat Snags Hotdogs, Meatshack Burgers, Habaneros Mexican, English Indian Fish and Chips, Victoria Creperie Desserts, and on Saturday only there’ll also be Unami Japanese and Flats Doughnuts (vegan doughnuts.


UKGE Awards

Feeling overwhelmed by choice? You can always aim to take a look at what UKGE have considered to be the best of the new games this year, as part of their awards. They reward different game styles, from Abstract game, to strategic games, to party games and more, as well as expansions, accessories, RPGs, novelties, etc. If you know you like a certain style of game, and aren’t sure where to begin, these could form part of your plan.


How to Plan for UKGE

If you’ve been to UKGE before, you’ll probably have a rough idea of the type of things you’d like to prioritise this time around, based either on what you enjoyed or missed in previous years. If you’ve never been, it can feel a little overwhelming, so here are the questions to ask yourself in order to make your plans…

Are there talks you want to see, or events you want to attend?

Prioritise figuring out these first, as they have specific times attached to them, and some have limited attendance - meaning you’ll need to book onto them before you go to ensure you’ve got a space. Factor in the amount of time the talk or event takes, and then add on a bit longer – you never know what the end might bring, whether it runs over, or you enjoy gaming with new friends!

Do you want to visit specific stands?

UKGE’s exhibitor halls are vast, meaning you can accidentally miss bits. It’s worth taking a look at the map ahead of time, and noting down the stands you particularly want to visit. That way, you don’t head home and suddenly realise you never got to try out that game you were really excited about. Even if it just gives you an idea of what hall they’re in, you might end up realising a few are together, or tying them in with the location of a talk or seminar. 

Be sure to add in stand Stand 2-1004  to your plans – so you can come and say Hi to the Tabletop Gaming team!

Have you built in time for exploring?

Whilst we recommend you plan at least a bit so that you don’t miss out, part of the fun of UKGE is exploring and finding new things. Make sure you have time free to sit down and play games, or just to peruse the UKGE exhibitors. Whilst we've included a lot here, UKGE has even more to offer, including huge gaming giveaways, cosplays and more. Having some free time to discover - or even rest during a busy weekend - is vital. That way, you can uncover the unexpected, and have an even better time than you could have anticipated!

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