In recent years, there seems to have been a surge in board game events in the UK, where people come together for a day or two to play games with old friends and new. I'm thinking of events like AireCon, Manorcon or Tabletop Scotland, but there are many more. These events are different to expos, like the UK Games Expo, which do have open play or tournaments, but whose main focus is on exhibitors showing off their products. What I want to talk about here are more like festivals, where the focus is on playing, and exhibitors, seminars and other activities are secondary - and I want to look at AireCon in particular.
I have never actually been to any board game events, so I can only tell you what I expect to find at AireCon. I think the first thing that I'm thinking about, is how long I want to attend for. If you live nearby, then you can be more flexible, but if you're coming from further afield, like myself, then you do need to consider if you want to go up for one day only, or several days. If the latter, then you do need to think about accommodation of course, unless you really don't mind driving there and back for several days.
AireCon has got plenty of options for you to stay, and they even offer discounts on some hotels if you book through their appointed agent. In fact, pretty much every event will help you find somewhere to stay, but you do need to book in good time, as rooms will be in high demand, depending on the size of the event.
If you want to save on costs, consider sharing your room with someone. Pretty much all hotel rooms are either doubles or twins, so if you're travelling alone, there will be room for another person. You might want to opt for a twin room, so you have your own bed though.
Also consider check-in and check-out times. Usually you can't check into a hotel room until the afternoon, so you might have to store your luggage somewhere else or lug it around the event with you. Similarly, on the day you leave, check-out is usually quite early, so again think about what to do with your luggage.
Speaking of costs, getting to the event is another thing to think about. If you go by car, then you will need to consider paying for parking. Most hotels offer parking, but as far as I can tell, for AireCon you need to use available chargeable parking nearby, which probably means parking on the street and feeding the meter.
If you travel by train, then consider where the nearest train station is to the venue, and if you stay overnight, to your hotel. Also think about what time of day you want to arrive and leave, so you don't rush around on the day.
That's all the logistics taken care of. Now we come to what's happening at the event itself. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to play games at AireCon. There is the open gaming area, where you can play your games, plus a games library to choose games from. There is also the option to take part in an RPG, and there will be a number of designers at the event who want you to try their games. Similarly, a number of exhibitors will be there and be happy to demo their games to you. So you should have a chance to play something.
To round it all off, there is also a bring-and-buy sale and a large number of events are scheduled over the three days of the con that you can check out. If you need a break, there are food stalls for you to top up on food.
However, and maybe the most interesting part, is that you have the chance to rub shoulders with board game celebrities. AireCon has always done what they can to invite podcasters, bloggers and YouTubers whom you will have heard of, if you've been part of the hobby for a while.
This year there will be Suzanne Sheldon and Mandi Hutchinson from The Dice Tower. If you listen to the Death by Monsters podcast, then you will know Paula Deming, who also makes videos under Things Get Dicey, as well as The Brothers Murph and Matthew Jude, who is also famous for This Game is Broken. Last, but definitely not least, are the wonderful Efka and Elaine from No Pun Included. It'll be rather exciting and probably one of the few opportunities to see these people in real life.
So there is plenty to do and see at this year's AireCon. If you're attending yourself, then feel free to say hello to me, if you see me. I'll be wearing my Tabletop Games Blog t-shirt or hoodie, with the circular brown logo on it, so you shouldn't miss me. It'd be great to speak with you and maybe even play a game or two.