EGX Board Game Library: Part I

In this series of posts we'll be talking through our experiences of running a board game library at the largest video game show in the UK - what went right, what went wrong and what we learned from the experience!

By Rob Clarke

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.

A video game show with board games?

EGX has traditionally been purely a video game expo, allowing players to sample new games before they are released, meet developers and shop for games, hardware and merchandise.

Gamer Network, the company behind EGX, were looking for ways to expand the show without adding extra screens. A large part of the activities at EGX involves playing games, but as space and money is limited, this can often mean the more popular games can have queues, with only 20-60 screens and thousands of people wanting to play each day.

For several years, Gamer Network have been limiting tickets to make sure the queue size stays reasonable, but they’ve also been investing in areas like the retro games library, Play Retro area and Cosplay competitions.

The 2015 Eurogamer Expo from above

These are great areas for the show because not only do they give people something different to do, but they give them a break from queues at the larger games.

For the last few years Gamer Network had been working with Esdevium to bring board games to the show, offering a place for people to go and get demonstrations of a specific set of games, but this year they decided they wanted to expand, with a much larger board gaming area, including our library, stores, the Esdevium demo are and space for independent board game developers to teach and sell their games.

Planning for the library

I had personally worked in the games industry for 7 years before Playopolis, and had attended and helped to run shows at EGX during that time, heading to the show with Titanfall 2 in 2016.

The Gamer Network team called us to ask if we’d be interested as we’d worked together before, and they knew that I was now running a board game store and café. Everything was agreed at a very basic level within a few phone calls, and we started planning the show.

One corner of the cafe's current library.

Our first biggest hurdle was working out how to obtain the games. The problem with trying to run any sort of mobile library as a café is that you need to manage two separate libraries; one for the shop, and one for events.

Sure, you can take games from your café to events, but it leaves the café with far less choice, and generally we only stock one or two copies of major titles. If we took Pandemic or Ticket to Ride to EGX, it wouldn’t really be fair that our café regulars wouldn’t be able to play for four days!

A Second Library

One thing that a lot of people don’t consider is that, en masse, board games can be quite expensive. Even at wholesale prices, the cost of the Playopolis library of around 600-700 games is estimated at between £12,000 and £15,000 and that doesn’t include games we’ve had to buy at retail, import, grab from Kickstarter or elsewhere.

That means that running a second library can be quite an expense – it’s certainly not worth doing for a single show or event. It’s also a big, heavy, beast. Even at a much more manageable 200 games, our mobile library is still lots of work to transport in its entirety. We’ve looked over at the EGX retro gaming library with its 50g carts and little, uniform boxes on more than one occasion.

We started building our library slowly. Our initial chat with EGX was in May, and from June we had started buying the first games. For most of the library, we used Esdevium and bought games wholesale, though we also picked up a few games at UKGE and through publishers.

Nearly every game in our library is available on this store, so our basic method in building the library was to buy stock for the store, take one of that stock, open it, use it to take pictures and create our 3D scans, and then baggie up the pieces and place it in the library.

This way, not only do we have a library of excellent games, we also have thousands of original pictures and content for them (and, we get to play them all as well!).

To Be Continued…

In the next post, I’ll talk about the other planning and purchasing that went into running our first big mobile board games library, and we’ll set off to EGX for the setup!

Click here for EGX Board Game Library: Part II