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Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 – A Retrospective

Tabletop Gaming Live 2018
Tabletop Gaming Live 2018

Last month we attended Tabletop Gaming Live 2018, held at Alexandra Palace. Not only was this the inaugural Tabletop Live show, but it was the first national convention where we had our very own Zatu Games stand!

We had plenty going on at the Zatu stand, such as a tombola, competitions and demos, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting members of the board game community. Alongside myself and Dan, some members of our blogging team were also on-hand to help visitors. Here's what they had to say about their weekend at Tabletop Gaming Live 2018.

Nick W

At the end of September I was able to attend the first ever Tabletop Gaming Live (TTGL) at the Alexandra Palace. The event was not without it’s foibles, but I commend the organisers for aiming high and I hope that they will take on board the lessons from this year's event and make2019's already announced event even better.

I’d been invited to work the mornings on the Zatu stand and it was a blast. We had two amazing giveaways, one each day, and a Tombola which meant that there was a constant stream of people coming to the stand. Had I known about the prizes (Scythe and every expansion bar Fenris on day one, and Gloomhaven, day two) I would have sacked off helping them out and entered myself!

The big attraction to Zatu on Saturday, apart from my gorgeous visage, was Forbidden Sky at the cheapest price of the event and a demo of My Little Scythe. Being able to sit down and have games taught to people seemed to be a unique attraction for Zatu and even some older treats were well received. As were the exclusive Zatu goody bags, on Sunday it was near impossible to move without seeing a Zatu bag slung over someone’s shoulder.

After lunch I jumped in a telephone booth and changed into a regular punter. To address some of the more negative feedback I’ve seen online, yes the attendance didn’t feel like what was expected/advertised however the feel of the event was quite unlike the ‘rush’ of the expo. A more relaxed vibe hovered over Alexandra Palace (or was that the London smog?) and the fantastic grounds it sits in. The staff of the Palace were excellent, and I found the free parking and short uphill walk more appealing than the NEC alternatives. Though more space made it feel more empty there was also no rush, and in two half days I got to play almost every demo game I wanted to, missing out on Keyforge, not by choice, and Pandemic: Fall of Rome, by choice.

Standouts for me were Martin Wallace’s Wildlands, which has been billed as a skirmish game, I don’t know how true that is, but nevertheless it was a hugely enjoyable demo. Planet is a tile-laying game where your tiles are magnetic and stick to a 12-sided 3D ‘globe’ sort of thing. I enjoyed it but wished the drafting was more interesting - the ability to plan long term almost made up for that. I look forward to trying it again with more evil gamers!

Kero is a two-player real time dice rolling game that I have wanted to try for a while. Set in a Mad Maxian future both players have impressive truck shaped egg timers which represent their fuel, a precious resource in the race to claim the only habitable land left on earth!

Overall I think Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 was a great start. It’s not the UKGE or Airecon and nor does it need to be. There is room for a convention like it and I’ll be there next year for sure.

Ben G

Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 was my first experience of a board gaming convention. Going in, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The only board game conventions I’d heard about beforehand were the likes of Origins, Gen Con and Essen. I knew enough to be pretty sure that Tabletop Gaming Live would be quite different!

Outside of board gaming, my only convention experience is a few trips to the London Comic Con, which is another massive event that basically exists to sell merchandise. Because of my experiences there I expected the convention to be sales-focused, with heaps of games all around the hall. While there was certainly plenty to buy, as someone specifically interested in board games there wasn’t the volume of games that I was expecting. This was perhaps due to exhibitors not knowing what to expect from the convention’s first year.

In the end, I came away from the event having bought no new games.* But I had a fantastic time anyway. The atmosphere around Alexandra Palace was brilliant and helping on Zatu’s stall gave me a front line view. I loved the chance to interact with hundreds of people over the course of the day. Through dozens of short conversations, I really got the sense that the convention was a hit. People seemed to be having a great time buying games, trying out new things, entering competitions and more.

My personal highlights were the games I got to play. I played a full game of Wildlands, the upcoming miniature skirmish game from Martin Wallace and Osprey Games, and a couple of rounds of The River, a new release from Sébastien Pauchon, Ismaël Perrin and Days of Wonder. I’ve never had the chance to play upcoming games before, so I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I’m also very grateful to the representatives from Osprey and Asmodee who taught the games!

On the other side of the demoing coin, I also taught Azul to a couple of different groups at the Zatu stand. This was actually my first time playing the Spiel des Jahres 2018 winner, but I think I managed to get the rules right. It seemed like the groups I taught enjoyed themselves, so that’s the main thing!

There was something very satisfying about being able to sit down and enjoy a game with total strangers, whether I was the one teaching or being taught. I had a blast with all of the games that I played at the weekend, and together they formed the main highlight from my time at the convention.

Tabletop Gaming Live was an excellent introduction to board game conventions and has given me a taste for more. Bring on the UK Games Expo 2019!

*I should admit that, while I bought no new games at the convention, I did pre-order Wildlands and The River as soon as I got home...

Matt T

UKGE, Essen, GenCon. Some of the well-known, well-loved and “famous” board game conventions. All of which I have never been to. In fact, until recently, I have never been to any kind of board game convention. Tabletop Gaming Live, which debuted at Alexandra Palace on the final weekend of September, was my first experience of a board gaming convention. I was there on the Saturday and got some time to see the show as a visitor and exhibitor. So, did I enjoy it? Was it everything that I hoped? Was it worth it?


From a visitor’s perspective I really enjoyed the show. There was a variety of vendors to browse all showing their latest games and back catalogue. There were plenty of demo games to be played from the classic Catan and Ticket to Ride to the new hotness like KeyForge. The main exhibitors hall was not on the UKGE scale (from what I have seen) but this was the debut show so I would say a modest start. There was enough to keep me wondering around a few times and browsing what was available.

I didn’t get chance to try out any new games or play any games in the open gaming area from the games library, something which I would remedy next time. I was a bit like a “rabbit in headlights” to begin with. But I did manage to grab a few games that were on my wish list at a decent price. All-in-all I enjoyed my time at the show as a visitor and plan to attend gain next year. I will hopefully be playing more demo games and hitting the open gaming area a bit more.


On balance I think I enjoyed my time on the stand more than I did as a visitor. Being on the stand gave me more opportunity to talk to people about the hobby, tell people about Zatu and generally interact more with fellow games. It was busy, tiring and great fun. Forbidden Sky and Ticket to Ride: New York were two of the “must have” games of the show and were selling like hot cakes. The buzz around these two games was high.

There was also great interest in the Scythe bundle star prize that we were offering. We were also the only stand (as far as I could see) to have a Tombola, I never knew that a Tombola was so popular. Everyone loved it. I also demoed Azul in the afternoon, which was a big hit. I think I played about six games in total. As soon as one game was finished another set of people wanted to play.

I was on such a buzz when I left, really enjoyed my time as a visitor and as an exhibitor. A modest start for the show which hopefully they will continue to grow and improve next year. There was decent amount of traffic at the stalls but not too much that you couldn’t get too the stall, again something which might increase as the show grows.

When Tabletop Gaming Magazine announced this year that they were launching Tabletop Gaming Live at the Alexandra Palace, my interest peaked! You get a real buzz from expos like this, meeting the designers and the minds behind some of the top games of that time, meeting like minded individuals and being able to share experiences and just have a day dedicated to trying out  new games and playing your favourite ones, and of course, it gives you a great excuse to add to your collection!

What made this new expo even more exciting however, was the opportunity to help out Zatu on their stand. Having reviewed games and been part of the community for about four months, it was a great opportunity to get to meet the guys behind the popular blog!

The Expo

Having been and gone and reflecting on the two days of Tabletop Live, I have to say it was a great success, more so for Zatu but also for Tabletop Gaming as well. Trying to impress on your inaugural year is always tough but the organisation and the venue itself, Alexandra Palace, really made this event come together and provide the community with a fantastic two days of gaming!

There was a good mix of sellers and publishers and since it was its first year, the crowds were manageable. My partner and I managed to try out a fair few games (I will talk about these shortly) and there was no massive crush at trade stalls with people trying to snap up bargains. The speakers and seminars on offer also gave attendees a good level of variety, making sure there was something for everyone! Although I didn’t personally attend any of them, after speaking to people who had gone, they all gave positive remarks. Overall, in my opinion, it was a roaring success and it's clear that Tabletop Magazine felt the same as they have already announced dates for 2019.

Games and Demos

We tried out loads of different games while attending the expo but there were some stand out games that I really enjoyed playing. Detective - A Modern Crime Board Game was available to try out and both my partner and myself loved it! It incorporates fantastic narrative with a need for real detective work and bundles it into a fantastic board game which you will have hours of fun with! We tried out the demo case and managed to score a very respectable 32 out of 40 (apparently that’s a really good score for first timers) and after that we were hooked (that game went straight in our basket!). I am doing a review of this so look out for that on the blog soon!

Another game that really grabbed my attention and is now swiftly becoming one of my favourite games of all time is Escape the Dark Castle. Having had an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign with three new expansions set to release soon, this game is going from strength to strength. I tried it out there and I was instantly drawn in by the art style and the simplicity of it. I was amazed at how such a simple concept could produce such a fantastic result and needless to say, I have been playing it non-stop since. A must-have for any collection!


This was Zatu’s inaugural visit to an expo of this size and I think opinions were mixed in how we would do during the two days. While I was only helping out on the stand on Sunday, Saturday looked to be a storming success; every time I walked past the stand, they were swamped with customers all wanting to grab a great deal, while also trying their hand at the tombola, a notable highlight of the event.

The Sunday was slightly slower (it is safe to say we were concerned that no one would even turn up in the first hour) but by the end of the day, we had managed to drum up a great amount of trade while also managing to really advertise what we aim to deliver, that being to deliver great service and great prices to the gaming community!

I think this event was incredibly beneficial to Zatu and it was a privilege to be able to help them out during the event! Of course, I also got to meet a few of the other contributors and writers who are part of the team and it was great to get together and share our experiences and chat about how we all got into the hobby and just generally get to know each other.

The community that Zatu has built is a fantastic group to be a part of and it looks to be growing each and every day! I look forward to see what the future holds.