With the UK’s largest hobby games expo right around the corner, having so much to see and do can be a bit daunting. So where do you begin when planning your trip? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

What is UK Games Expo?

Now in its 13th year, UK Games Expo runs 31 May – 2 June 2019, at the NEC, Birmingham. With over 350 exhibitors on the list, it has everything from tabletop RPGs, board games and card games, to components, accessories and miniatures. For more hardcore fans, there’s also plenty of cosplayers from your favourite games and movies as well as plenty of gaming tournaments in Hall 3A.

How much does it cost?

There are lots of ticket options for this year’s expo. Single-Day Adult tickets are £13, while Young Adults are just £8. If you’re thinking of going for more than one day though, it’s worth checking out the Weekend Single Adult (£23) and Weekend Family (£60) tickets. Or why not go the whole hog and get a three-day ticket (£30).

To beat the queues, grab your tickets online here.

What’s the parking like?

There’s ample parking at the NEC, however it can get a bit pricey. My best piece of advice is to book ahead, particularly if you’re coming for more than one day as the savings are ridiculous.

If you want to pay on the day, you can’t pay in the car park itself anymore, you have to use the machines outside of the halls or pay online.

What time does it open and close?

UK Games Expo runs for three days with various opening and closing times, so it’s worth while keeping an eye on you watch.

Friday

The NEC Hall 1+2 Trade Halls (300+ exhibitors, hundreds of tables of games to play, the Family Zone, Cosplay Groups, shop and drop.)

General public opening 9.30 to 6pm.

Gaming rooms at the Hilton Hotel open 10.00 until the midnight for Roleplaying sessions.

Open Gaming available at the NEC Hall 2 from 8am until midnight and later at HIlton

Tournament Hall (Hall 2) open from 8am till midnight

Cook Street and Viking Village Open from 10.30 till mid evening.

Saturday 

The NEC Hall 1+2 Trade Halls (300+ exhibitors, hundreds of tables of games to play, the Family Zone, Cosplay Groups, shop and drop.)

General public opening 9.30 to 6pm.

Gaming rooms at the Hilton Hotel open 10.00 until the midnight for Roleplaying sessions.

Open Gaming available at the NEC Hall 2 from 8am until midnight and later at HIlton

Tournament Hall (Hall 2) open from 8am till midnight

Viking Village Open from 10.30 till mid evening.

Sunday

The NEC Hall 1+2 Trade Halls300+ exhibitors, hundreds of tables of games to play, the Family Zone, Cosplay Groups, shop and drop.)

General public opening 9.30 to 4pm.

Gaming rooms at the Hilton Hotel open 10.00 until the 7pm for Roleplaying sessions.

Open Gaming available at the NEC Hall 2 and Hilton Hotel from 8 am until 5pm

Tournament Hall (Hall 2) open from 8am till 7pm

Viking Village Open from 10.30 till late afternoon.

Is UKGE child friendly?

Yes – UK Games Expo is completely family friendly and has been since it first started. As the expo can get quite busy, particularly on the Saturday, there is a Family Zone that has been designed to allow families, particularly those with young children, to spend quality time together, playing a range of family games.

Demonstrators will be on hand to teach you how to play the games and there’s even a Creative Zone to allow the kids to write their own stories or even have a go at designing and making their own games.

Is it worth planning ahead?

Oh yes! There are over 350 exhibitors at this year’s expo – that’s a lot of board games and a lot of walking. The whole experience can be knackering, so take plenty to drink with you and make sure to wear comfy shoes.

As with any expo, there are queues, but actually, these tend to only be for the Bring and Buy and some of the seminars. Saturday is often a lot busier than the Friday and Sunday and the mornings and evenings can be much quieter as well. If there’s a brand new game you’re looking to test out, try and aim for these times if you can.

With so many shiny new games at your fingertips, consider your budget very carefully. Most of the stalls take card, but it’s worth taking some cash into the halls as well. Cash machines can be found throughout the NEC.

You can pick up a free show guide (with map) on the day or you can be really organised and download a PDF here.

There’s an app for that

What would any expo be without a trusty app to help you plan your day? The UKGE app is free to download and provides visitors with a whole host of handy functions, including:

  • Collect your tickets: present the QR code in the app to our ticket desk for them to print out your order.
  • The Maps: both the overview and hall specific maps to find your way around.
  • Exhibitors: The full and searchable list of exhibitors with stand numbers.
  • Event Listings: All these are available and you can add them to your schedule.
  • New @ Expo: The full and searchable list of the new games available to Try, Buy, Back or Play at Expo this year.
  • Bring & Buy details: use the App to check the items you’ve put in and easily see what has sold.
  • Alerts: Set up and get alerts for tournaments, seminars, live shows and more.
  • More: Find out more about the Shop and Drop, Pack and Post and Food.

How do you find the stand that you want?

With so many exhibitors and stands to get through, finding the one that you really want could be a challenge – not at UK Games Expo though. Exhibitors don’t just get given a random number – oh no no no. The organisers have meticulously planned out every stand, giving each one a unique code that tells you what hall and aisle they are in. Not only that, the system also tells you how many metres the stand is away from the front of the hall!

I’ve bought too many things and can’t carry it all. Is there anywhere I can leave it?

If you’re like me, you’re fully intending on buying a few things…OK, a few might be an understatement. But when the inevitable happens you don’t want to be trecking back to the car to leave your purchases before heading back for more. The Shop & Drop service in Hall 1, provided by GameQuest, has come to answer your prayers, allowing you to leave your bags in a safe and secure location, before heading off to buy even more.

What’s the food like?

Speaking from expereince, it’s pretty damn good.

As well as the usual cafes and bars located throughout the NEC, the Hilton Carpark outside of the main lounge will be transformed into a mini Food Festival. Stands such as Big Daddies Dinner, Bournville Waffle Company, The Jaberwocky and The Meat Shack are perfect for keeping energy levels up between games.

With it being the UK’s largest hobby games show, this article could go on for a lot longer, but hopefully, we’ve given you a good head start on planning your visit. Keep your eyes peeled on our site in the week leading up to the expo as we’ll be selecting our top picks and must-sees for this year’s event.

If you still have questions about UK Games Expo, head over to www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk.

About The Author

Editor at large of Polaroids and Polar Bears, PR bod and not-so-secret geek. Chris established Polaroids and Polar Bears in 2013.

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