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How To Get Ready For a Board Game Expo

The UK Games Expo begins in just over 24 hours. This past week we’ve been looking at all kinds of things in the broader world of board games in preparation. Today, and over 10,500 words later, I thought it was time to finally share the most important article of all. This, dear reader, is how to prepare for, and further tips for, attending a board game expo – Start Your Meeples style.

In order to do this – let me introduce you to the very handsome man below. Yes, for this article I drew a mini version of me. I know, I know. I’m like a board gaming Bob Ross. You can save your applause for later.

As you can see, the numbers are not in any specific order, but more just go from my head to my toes. Any similarity between me and Ryan Reynolds is purely coincidental, but thank you for thinking so.

You will need:

  1. Dashing good looks and hair like Ryan Reynolds (What? I didn’t mention Ryan Reynolds. You mentioned Ryan Reynolds!)
  2. Eyes with that smoldering twinkle that can stop a bullet dead in mid-air.
  3. An award-winning smile.
  4. A fashion sense to die for.
  5. One pint of Gin and Tonic (Gordons or Bombay Sapphire, none of this Supermarket own stuff)
  6. A manicure and well-moisturised hands. Yes, even for a man.
  7. Toned abs.
  8. Pockets filled with cash for buying all the games.
  9. A paperwork nightmare.
  10. Oxford not brogues, or brogues not oxfords. Don’t do both. Never both.

What do you mean “no”?
Okay, fine – here’s the serious advice –

How To Get Ready For a Board Game Expo

#1. Personal Hygiene

Rule number one of any expo – it is going to get hot. You are in a building with potentially 10,000 other people, all moving around and creating warm air. It is going to get seriously warm. Where I will cover clothing in a bit, the first thing to cover is personal hygiene.

  1. Locate the bathrooms early. Consider this. There is only a chance you will visit any particular stall at any point during the day; however, during the time you are at the UKGE or GenCon or whatever other expos you are going to, you WILL need to pee at some point. Locate the toilet early, just in case.
  2. Wear antiperspirant. Expos get sweaty. Halls get sweaty. Using an anti-perspiration deodorant will help you manage that throughout the day. I’m not thinking of other people (I mean, you should totally think of other people) but more to the point – they are your armpits. They are attached to you. You have to put up with that smell more than anyone else will have to. Give your nose a chance.
  3. As a suggestion for those people out there who wear hair wax – be warned that it may melt. Higher grade wax or a strong holding gel is a good option. Personally, I’m going to use a mousse for the expo as all too often I have ended up with wax in my eyes. Alternatively, I end up with a really shiny forehead, which makes me look like the cistern of a toilet. Keep in mind hair products and how they stand up (literally and metaphorically) throughout the day.

#2. Health and Mentality

A board game expo is a magical place. You need to go in with a fresh head, and plenty of enthusiasm. Here are a few tips on keeping yourself at your fittest.

  1. Get your rest the day before. A board game expo is a tiring event. You will spend 8 to 12 hours on your feet throughout the day. It is especially tiring if you are doing a three-day event like the UK Games Expo. Give your body a chance and get your rest. Caffeine is great, but it isn’t a substitute for a good night rest beforehand.
  2. If you feel like you need to rest then rest. There are plenty of places at the UKGE (and other expos) to sit down for a few moments. Make sure you get fresh air as and when you need to. Don’t push yourself too far.
  3. We’ll come onto food and hydration in a bit, but keep in mind you need to fuel your body with the basic nutrients you need to keep going. Try not to skip breakfast as you will need that energy. A well-fed gamer is a happy gamer. Not to mention – breakfast burritos. Need I say more?

#3. Happiness, Heroes, and Community

The gaming community is, as we all know, one of the best hobby based communities on the planet. Whilst at an expo it is worth engaging with it – because gamers are awesome. Engage with the community, and also engage with your heroes if you so happen to meet them.

  1. Everyone is at the expo for the same thing. It took me years of expo-ing to figure this out, but when at Destination: Star Trek a couple of years ago it struck me. It was really easy to talk to people, even for an introvert like myself, because we were all there to celebrate the same thing. We were all Trekkies and there was no judgment because of that. The same is the case for board game expos. You are amongst gamers and so you are amongst friends.
  2. Meet your heroes. Last year I was lucky enough to meet the guys from No Pun Included, Elaine and Efka. They are absolutely awesome, genuinely the loveliest people, but when they asked me if I wanted to be in one of their videos I panicked and said no. I then went back to find them later and did it, but I came across like a complete arse. If one of your gaming heroes asks you to be in a Youtube video at the UKGE, and it will take you out of your comfort zone, then my advice is: just do it. Do it for yourself.
  3. Likewise, if you are not 100% sure if someone is who you think they are – look them up on Google before you approach them. I made an arse out of myself by not knowing Ian Livingstone was Ian Livingstone last year. Yep…I make an arse out of myself a lot (I asked Ian Livingstone when Ian Livingstone would be signing books). So, meet your heroes and don’t be afraid. You never know what the confidence may encourage you to do. You may even start a gaming blog.

#4. Anti-Nakedness Devices (Clothing)

For the past few thousand years, it has not been acceptable for human beings to attend public meetings in our birthday suits. To combat this embarrassment, we invented something known as “clothing” and we haven’t really looked back since.

  1. Wear all the gaming references. The expo is your place to express yourself, so wear those gaming t-shirts! Wear that necklace shaped like a D20! Use those dice cufflinks! Okay, maybe not the latter, as wearing a full suit is probably a bit much from a heat perspective; however, if you want to brave it then go ahead.
  2. If you are wearing a jumper or hoodie in the morning, make sure you are wearing something else underneath. Again, it will get hot. You will probably want to take it off at some point.
  3. If at the UKGE, look for the guy in the Start Your Meeples top. That will be me! Come over and say “hi”! Of course, I forgot to put any additional details on my t-shirt and hoodie, so it’s no good for marketing (not that I’m plugging anything anyway since I just do this for fun), but at least you guys will know who I am. It’s a green hoodie. I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out. Proper soft like. Cosy…but I digress.

#5. Hydration

We are over 90% water. At an expo, if you do not hydrate yourself it will feel like you are not 90% water but instead made of 90% sand. Here are a few tips –

  1. Oh dear lord, sweet reader, please take water with you. At the start of the day you’ll be all like “oh yeah, this isn’t so bad, this is a nice room temperature, what is Luke on about?”. Then, at around 1pm, you’ll realise it’s suddenly a billion degrees and the queues for the places to buy water go from Birmingham to Solihull (there’s a midlands joke for you there – us Midlanders are funny folks). Take water and stay hydrated.
  2. On a more serious note – take a refillable water bottle. There is nothing worse than a creeping headache. Last year, I found that out the hard way, as I took part in the UK Splendor Tournament. There wasn’t enough time between some of the rounds to go and get water. By the end, I was exhausted and aching. At least some of that was due to not having had enough water throughout the day. This year I am taking a 750ml blue waterbottle by Contigo.
  3. Reusable bottles are friendlier to the environment. Recycling. It’s good for like the icecaps and oceans and things.

#6. Totally Totes

Be nice to your hands. You need them for gaming.

  1. When buying things at the UK Games Expo, or any exhibition really, you will get handed a lot of plastic carrier bags throughout the day. This is fine if you are only buying small games. At the UKGE (or GenCon) however, there is a high chance you will be buying something big at some point like Blood Rage or Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Too much weight in a plastic bag will cause the handle to stretch and soon it go from carrying a bag around a hall to carrying what feels like an elephant with a cheese wire as a handle. Tote bags remove this – no, fellas, they are not the manliest, but trust me, your hands will thank you.
  2. Be on the lookout for companies who are handing out free tote bags. Some do, and if they do then you will be thankful you grabbed one. Tote bags are worth their weight in gold (low-grade gold…when empty).

#7. Burrito Belly

Food is good. You need it for survival. We all do. Eat, unless you know how to photosynthesise, in which case you are a medical wonder – what are you doing at a gaming expo?

  1. Trust me when I say that the difference between grabbing food at 11.30am compared to 1.30pm are astronomical. The best food place, in my opinion (at the UKGE), is the food bit in the car park by the Hilton Hotel. There was an amazing burrito place there last year. Oh my – it was incredible. Like, seriously, incredible.
  2. If you are at the UKGE, hunt out the burrito place. You won’t regret it. It is heavenly. I believe it is called Habaneros Mexican Cuisine. Just wow. Seriously. Burritos are the perfect food for expos, especially ones where you don’t want to get your hands mucky. Burritos. Burritos burritos burritos. BURRITOS.

#8. The Belt

No huge amount of text for this one. If your trousers don’t fit you perfectly then wear a belt. Just…trust me. I had a very uncomfortable London Comicon a couple of years ago. A belt would have made it better as I wouldn’t have had to hold my trousers up as I walked around, looking like a total prat…and now I am sharing that story on the internet. Humour. They say it is just tragedy plus time.

#9. Research, Paperwork, and Tickets

Okay, this is the serious bit. If you only decide to pay attention to one part of this article then please pay attention to this bit. This is the rundown on Paperwork and Research.

  1. We find it useful to keep our paperwork in a folder or file. That way we know exactly where it is. This includes printing off details of the schedule if there are events you want to attend.
  2. Pick your tickets up early. There is no point in waiting around for 20 minutes to pick up your tickets, if you can arrive 20 minutes early, pick up your tickets, and then enjoy a nice coffee at Starbucks. Pick your tickets up early to avoid a single second lost at the Expo. Time is precious – optimise it like you optimise your Gloomhaven hand…constantly panicking that you have made the wrong choice before throwing it down and screaming at your hands whilst crying “WHY? WHY HAS IT COME TO THIS? I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE!”.
  3. Serious advice time. Nothing jokey to say here, instead just check out the timetables and make sure you know where you need to be and when. Consider scoping the ground out beforehand, and make sure you know where things are. The last thing you need is to head somewhere only to find out you have just missed the thing you wanted to see, or that you are in the wrong place.
  4. If you have a list of games you want to buy before going to the UKGE (or another such expo), then do your research both in the hall and online before you buy. Find out the RRP of games you want to buy if you don’t have an idea already. This will give you a baseline for the day. Then you just need to find the best price, or even just your preferred place, in the hall.
  5. All the tournaments will have some form of timetable written either on a sheet of paper or written on a poster/wall/attendant/whatever. Take a picture of that timetable. At the UKGE, the tournaments were held in a completely different hall last year. This year I believe they are in an adjoining hall, but either way, you don’t want to have to keep going back to check your timings. Taking a photo alleviates this problem.

#10. Footwear

Finally, one final thing to look at – footwear. As mentioned before it will be a long day. Just wear comfy shoes. If you need insoles (like I do – there’s a sexy fact about this blogger) then make sure you have them in the shoes you are needing to wear.

FINALLY –

Have fun. Expos are wonderful places, filled with all kinds of good things. Enjoy them.

So, there we have it. We have a few big days ahead of us now and thus this blog will resume its standard schedule post-expo. I hope you’ve enjoyed the articles this week and the rundown to the UKGE. I probably won’t be posting during the Expo, unless I find myself with time in the evenings; however, I have set up an Instagram which I will be updating. You can follow that by clicking on the big Instagram icon below.

If I don’t see you at the UKGE then I will see you on the other side.

Live long and play games folks.

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3 Comments »

  1. Great advice for almost any convention. The one thing that I’m not sure pertains to boardgame conventions, but certainly does for comic conventions….be respectful to your “Heroes”. They might not always be friendly, could be just their personality or having to deal with a lot of annoying fans. Or maybe just a bad day, flight, etc.

    I think once I started likening the experience of someone walking into my office to interrupt my work, I felt a bit more empathy for comics creators at conventions. To most of them what they do, is a *job*. Drawing/Writing puts food on the table and pays rent. Signing a 1000 copies of some book they did back in 1972 doesn’t. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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