This year Playopolis ran the board game library and a store at Eurogamer Expo (EGX). With over 75,000 attendees across four days, it’s one of the largest shows of its kind. This blog charts our progress and what we learned from taking our board game café and transporting it 200 miles north for the show. You can read the first post here.
With the library in place, we turned our attention to all the little things that you need to run a show. Luckily, Gamer Network provided the library tables and chairs, which meant we only needed to work out our store, and how we displayed the library games.
There’s also a few boring purchases to make if you’re new to conventions – we picked up some excellent tables on Amazon, some tablecloths – which make a huge difference to the appearance of your area for very little money – and plenty of shelves from Homebase to house the library. We also designed and printed some roller banners (a must have for any convention, and very good value), posters, linen bags and shirts for the show.
The only information about the space we had available was that it would be 5x5 metres, so we also put down tape on the floor in the office and started trying to place the furniture. It’s not a high-tech solution, but it’s a lot quicker than trying to create plans in a software program for a single space, and it gave us a much better idea of what the final space would look like.
One of the big problems with board games as compared to things like video games, shirts and merchandise normally sold at the show is that board games are very heavy.
Not just heavy, but also all different sizes. As any game collector that’s tried desperately to fit both Citadels and Twilight Imperium in a Kallax will know, there’s plenty of different sizes and types of board game boxes, which makes them difficult to package and display en masse. It also makes them physically difficult to carry with our weak nerd arms.
Another thing about the size of board games is that you need a big vehicle to transport them in. With 300 games in our library by the time we left for the show, along with some 800 games for sale – including horrifically heavy games like Twilight Imperium – we also needed a big van, so we rented a Mercedes Sprinter from Enterprise.
In fact, quite by accident we ended up renting a brand-new Sprinter with only 25 miles on the clock, much to Dan’s dismay. None of us had ever driven a van before, and although Dan is used to driving big, 7/8 seater cars, the Sprinter is something else entirely. We also have a very tight entrance to our office and a busy town centre to drive through from the van rental place, so it was a bit of trial by fire.
Even with a van as big as the Sprinter, we barely managed to fit in all the games, the furniture and our personal bags. Packing the games into boxes (loose game boxes in a van on the motorway for 200 miles seemed like a bad idea) and carrying them down to the van, we spent well over a day simply on the logistics of packing. So for us, the four-day convention was really six days of work, including setup.
Driving to the show from Kent involves some time on the M1, M42 and everyone’s favourite UK motorway, the M25, a major road that rings around London and is infamous for traffic. Setting off at around 8am, we had a great run on the roads and managed to get to the show by 11. We were parked outside the NEC and unloading boxes by half 11, and we’d brought all of our games into the show by 1pm. Given the chance for anything to go wrong with traffic, the van, or the loading at the show, we were glad we set off so early, and packed everything the day before. One of the great things about working on EGX as opposed to most American shows is that a lot of the work is done for you.
Many international video game shows like PAX will require you to set-up your own electricity, internet and things like carpet with the venue. Some venues don’t even let you bring your own furniture and make you rent furniture from them – normally at the same price you could buy it outright anywhere else.
At EGX all of that was arrange for us by Gamer Network, so we arrive to a setup space with tables, chairs, a carpet, a network connection and power. The rest of our day is spent unwrapping games chaotically and trying to work out the layout of the store. We didn’t exactly have a 5x5 space due the final layout, so we tried to work something out from scratch.
A good motto for any show is to be prepared, but expect things to change on short notice. Luckily our furniture could easily be shifted into the space we ended up using, which ended up being something more like a 4x8 space in the end. Luckily, things like posters and roller banners can be placed anywhere, and one positive of board games is that once you do need neatly arrange them, they tend to look awesome in just about every configuration.
In the next post, we’ll talk about the actual tough bit – the four days of rush as the show opens and we manage our store and the library, the pain of wearing the incorrect shoes and the journey home.