AireCon 2020 (Saturday Review) – Tabletop Games Blog

Dates: 13-15 March 2020
Location: Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Organizer: AireCon

It feels like a long time ago now, but thinking back to AireCon, which took place last month, still puts a smile on my face. It meant a long car journey for me, travelling over five hours from the South Coast all the way up to Harrogate in deepest Yorkshire. I started early, around 6am, on the Friday, because I was aiming to get there by lunchtime. I wanted to see a few people who were going to be there – one of my wonderful Patreon supporters, a game designer who I got chatting to on Twitter and who was demoing his new game at the event, a more established game designer who I was hoping to arrange an interview with, as well as the board game “celebrities” who had made their way from across the pond. It was going to be busy.

I arrived at the Harrogate Convention Centre relatively fresh and awake. I was too early to check into my hotel, so I parked my car in the nearby car park, put on my Tabletop Games Blog hoodie, took my notebook and press ticket and made my way to the convention, which was literally two minutes’ walk away.

I was first greeted by the friendly AireCon staff in their yellow t-shirts, who quickly sorted out my press pass – and then I was greeted by the now-famous AireCon letters, that beckoned me down the steps into the main hall.
It was immediately clear that this was an event all about playing games, that happened to have some exhibitors alongside. There were plenty of open gaming tables lined up in long rows, with many people already playing games, but still plenty of space for more people to set up their own games.

I decided to work my way around the exhibitors first, just to help me get my bearings. The stands were basically a combination of some tables and chairs and maybe a banner or two, giving it all a very informal and friendly feel. I clearly didn’t notice a number of people on my first walk around the stands, which I regret, but I seemed to have gone slightly people blind. It was actually really busy and the exhibitors had lots of interest in their products.

Yet, I did notice Sally Jones of The Crafting Jones, and how could you not, as well as Tom Lovewell of Redwell Games, both of whom greeted me warmly. As I continued my circuit and went around the exhibitors for a second time, I spotted Robin Kay of Ruined Sky Games, whose game Circulari was available for demos, including the new solo mode that he had recently developed to a point where it was ready for people to try out. I also saw Scott Snowden-James of Minerva Tabletop whose game was recently rebranded as Swatch and had a new art style applied. I had booked a demo session with him on the Friday morning, so was looking forward to speaking more with him then.

There were many more exhibitors of course, including Oink Games, whom I would be visiting the next day to try out Deep Sea Adventure – and then buy a copy of it, of course, along with Nine Tiles Panic. However, I was mostly here to play games.

So I headed over to see Minerva Games where Scott demoed Swatch to me and a couple of other attendees. It’s a great game that is really easy to learn, but has plenty of complexity and thinkiness to keep even heavier gamers entertained. It’s the sort of game where you play a couple of turns and have an “a-ha” moment as you realize how the game works. However, as you play more rounds, you will have a second “a-ha” moment as you see the extra level that this game offers and which makes it such an interesting game to play.

After I finished the game, Bez Shahriari of Stuff by Bez asked me to join a playtest session of Seize the Power designed by Tiz Creel. The game is an asymmetric game about aliens with different privileges trying to improve their situation and make the best of life. The theme is great, but what makes this game so much fun is the table talk. Every player has personal goals, which translate into victory points, and which require you to help others. So a lot of the time you’re bargaining with other players, offering them help or hoping to call in favours. Alliances are formed on one turn, only to be broken on the next. Promises are made, but then not necessarily kept. It was so much fun to play and I hadn’t laughed that much in a long time when playing a game.

The next day, Saturday, I went to see Robin at Ruined Sky Games, because I had run out of time on Friday. I wanted to try out the solo mode of Circulari. It took me a couple of turns to remember how it all works, but it’s a game that is really easy to teach and learn. The complexity arises from the gameplay, which is very thinky and a real brain burner. Now, I’m not a solo player, but the solo mode of Circulari is really great. Every turn you turn over a card from a shuffled deck to reveal a different bonus that will make one of your actions more effective. So rather than playing against an artificial opponent, you try and play the best you can. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the game to come to Kickstarter – hopefully later this year.

Afterwards, it was time for a game of Arraial with Paula Deming of Things Get Dicey fame, amongst many other things of course. I had never played that game before, but it was great fun and is now on my wishlist. As we played, Matthew Jude of the Death by Monsters podcast, Emma of the Pointless Parrot PodcastRoss of More Games Please and Dave Luza of the This Game is Broken podcast joined us for a game of QE, which I also had never played before, but always wanted to. It was a lot of fun and I nearly won, but of course, ended up betting a little bit too much on the last auction to be out of the game. It was great.

It was soon time for me to head home. I couldn’t stay the Sunday unfortunately, so I used my last half an hour to speak with Dávid Turczi about Excavation Earth, the upcoming Kickstarter project due to launch on Monday, 6 April, and trying to arrange for him to join Antoinette of Board Game Inquisition and me on our Tabletop Inquisition podcast. It was lovely speaking to him and seeing his enthusiasm for his latest game. You’ll have to check out our interview with him, which is scheduled to go live this Monday, the same day as the Kickstarter. He told us all about how he approaches game design in general and solo modes in particular, as well as all the games that he is working on at the moment.

After that, it was time for me to say good-bye to AireCon. Thank you to Mark Cooke and the team for putting it all together. It was so nice to be surrounded by so many wonderful people from our community. I left with a huge smile on my face and felt reassured that there are a lot of friendly and positive folks who all share a passion for playing modern board games.

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was given a press ticket for free entry to the convention.

Personal Vlog

Podcast Review

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Music: Fun Party by AShamaluevMusic (


AireCon 2022 (Saturday Review) – Tabletop Games Blog

Dates: 11-13 March 2022
Location: Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Organizer: AireCon

My last board game convention was AireCon 2020 and it was the last event of its kind in the UK. As it turned out, there wasn’t going to be another in-person UK board game convention until 2021. It was a wonderful event, even though everything felt weird. Nobody was sure whether to shake hands or not. The special guests who had flown in from the USA weren’t even sure if they would be able to get back home. Luckily, they did make it back safely and it wasn’t long until the UK went into full lockdown. So, I was keenly looking forward to AireCon 2022, the first board game convention I was happy to attend after a two-year break.

Let me start by saying that the organizers did an amazing job trying to make everyone feel safe. Entering the convention required a valid COVID pass or negative flow test. Everyone had to wear masks unless they were sitting down and playing games and, of course. There were exceptions for people who were exempt from masks, who relied on lip reading, etc. There were plenty of places where you could clean your hands with sanitizer. There was plenty of ventilation and I feel that everything was done to make everyone feel comfortable and safe.

So, I can only praise the team for their great work.

Open Play

AireCon is an event that’s focused on people playing games together. That’s how it started and that’s what it still is. Yes, there is a number of exhibitors showing off their games or other products. There are also events throughout the weekend that aren’t all about playing, but there is a lot more space and time dedicated to the playing of games. I don’t know what the percentage footprint is of open gaming tables versus exhibitor stands or the percentage of time that AireCon offers to play games compared to the time for events or the exhibition space being open – but I reckon it’s hugely in the favour of playing, probably in the range of 10:1.

Generally, the event felt a lot busier than previously – but not in an overwhelming way. It seemed like everyone made a pilgrimage to AireCon this year. It was as if everyone was ready and couldn’t wait to see people in person again and enjoy playing physical board games together once more. It just had been too long since we had been able to congregate and have a wonderful time together.

Plenty of Room

Despite it being so much busier, twice as busy as 2020 according to some of the exhibitors I spoke to, there was always room to sit down and set up your game, whether you were there with a group of people you already knew or were still looking for more players to join you and make friends with. It was so great to see so many happy faces at the tables, playing a huge variety of games. People had brought their own games with them, some had hired them from the on-site games library and others had just bought a game from an exhibitor or from the bring-n-buy sale.

On top of people organising their own game sessions, there was a dedicated family zone. It was run by the wonderful Imagination Gaming team and looked really busy throughout the whole weekend. Lots of happy kids getting excited about playing games, as well as families discovering new games and enjoying quality time together.

Meeting People

Personally, I saw a lot of people I know from social media. It was so great to finally see them in person and chat with them face to face. There were publishers, designers, illustrators, press and many others from the hobby. Everyone was just as lovely and friendly as I knew them from their tweets, DMs and other social media interactions. It was such a huge pleasure to spend time with them during the event. I think that’s one of the main draws for me to go to AireCon, despite it being a 5-hour drive for me each way. Seeing all these wonderful people and chatting with them is so rewarding.

Watch It Played

Of course, it was also wonderful to finally meet Rodney Smith from Watch It Played in person. When he spotted me, he came over to say hello and give me a hug. It felt as if we’d known each other for ages. He was so warm and welcoming and even though he didn’t have much time until the next event. He didn’t rush and took his time to have a quick chat. I also saw him during the Str!ke tournament on Saturday. Yes, he did a great job making everyone feel comfortable and ensuring we all had fun playing this really fun game.

Str!ke tournament at Airecon 2022

It was also great to see Paula Deming again, even though only briefly. I was lucky to play a game of Arraial with her in 2020 and she had been really kind when she recorded a little jingle for Tabletop Games Blog Radio, so I wanted to thank her by giving her a Tabletop Games Blog t-shirt. She was just having a bite to eat between the many events she was part of, so it was just a quick hello, but it was lovely to see her.

The whole Watch It Played team was at the event and everyone was always happy to have a chat with people. So as I was walking around the show, I regularly saw happy fans talking to Rodney, Paula, Matthew, Chaz, Monique or Navine, taking selfies and just having a great time.

A Great Time

Generally, walking around AireCon, everyone seemed to have a great time and it was clear that the organizers tried to cater for as many requirements and needs as possible. Like every year, there were dedicated accessible gaming tables as well as a quiet gaming zone, if you needed to get away from the noise and people and have a bit of a quieter time to enjoy the hobby. If the event was getting too much for you, there was also support at hand in the Roll Through It area, where people were on hand to try and help you with anxiety or if you were otherwise getting overwhelmed by the number of people or for other reasons.

So, as I mentioned before, AireCon really did everything they could to make the event as comfortable as possible for anyone and everyone.

Charity Work

Now, I cannot end this article without mentioning the amazing charity work that AireCon does every year. Apart from the raffle, which takes place every year and which did amazingly well this year, running out of raffle ticket books about half an hour in, there was also a dedicated pay-what-you-want games sale in aid of Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – Appeal for Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine. It was great to see AireCon do so much to support so many great causes.

The raffle was in support of The Wren Bakery, an enterprise using baking and coffee as tools to give women who experience disadvantage, opportunities towards employment, and UNHCR – The Refugee Charity, whose work includes launching special appeals during emergencies, as well as projects to help refugees rebuild their lives, such as through education, livelihoods and healthcare, and it raised over £5,500, split equally between the two charities.

The pay-as-much-as-you-want games sale raised over £8,000 and will be donated to DEC – Humanitarian Appeal for Ukraine.

So this is another opportunity to appeal to everyone who reads this article to consider donating to those charities yourself or trying to find ways to help however you possibly can.

In Closing

Overall, AireCon was just amazing and even though the journey there and back was long for me and I was rather exhausted afterwards, it was also hugely rewarding and so much fun. I felt so re-energized to know that our hobby is so great and the majority of people are wonderful, welcoming and friendly. I can’t wait to see you all again for AireCon 2023.

Here is a short video giving you some brief impressions of the event:

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was given a free press pass to attend the event, but paid for travel, accommodation and other expenses myself.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (