May 22, 2024

Reporting from GAMA Expo – Day 3

Brant Guillory, 26 April 2023

Days 1 & 2 were just getting my bearings, and trying to figure out what else was in the deep end of this pool I’d been dropped into.  Both were rather different days, too, as Monday was a lot of welcome events, and some one-offs like the retailer awards and media first look program, whereas Tuesday was more “routine” with the publisher presentations, exhibit hall, and game night.

Wednesday was a close copy of Tuesday, which meant a lot of ’empty’ time in the morning, which I was able to fill with a combination of following up online comments from yesterday’s coverage, chatting with Twilight Struggle designer Jason Matthews and Chris from Board Again.  Truthfully, one of the highlights of Wednesday was working with Cynthia Tuck from GAMA to get a hitch in our Origins schedule fixed1.

The publisher premier presentations are one of the key features here at the Expo.  As you’d heard me mention before, media folks are actually expressly barred from these – as are anyone that’s not a retailer.  These presentations to the stores are a combination of “here’s what’s coming this year” with a side of “and here’s how we can help support you” among other things.  It’s a chance for the publishers to make their pitches directly to the people at the ‘pointy’ end of the business.

There are probably over two dozen of these presentations here.  Publisher pay for their timeslots to make their pitches, and the also contribute products toward the retailer appreciation boxes – over 300 copies of their game/product going into those boxes!  The retailers can use those copies in their boxes for in-store demos, prizes, store libraries for games, or just to learn the games themselves.  To be eligible for the boxes, the store has to attend at least 7 of the presentations, and you can split the party and send people from the same store to multiple simultaneous presentations, if you choose.  What’s in those boxes?  There was a two-table display in the exhibit hall.  Again, not a lot of wargaming here, but truthfully, how many wargaming companies have 300+ copies of any game that can go into these retailer boxes?  The scale of the operation with these general boardgaming companies far exceeds most of the wargamers.

Expo23 retail box 1


Expo23 retail box 2

click images to enlarge

Back in the exhibit hall, I did stop by the Modiphius booth, to express my sorrow and regret that Starforged is sold out at the moment, but was told a second printing is coming after they clear a few other projects first.  The did have Rocky’s favorite 5 Parsecs and a couple of Star Trek products on display.


The Chaosium booth was showcasing the upcoming Pendragon starter box, and with an expected June arrival date, there’s a decent chance it’ll be available at Origins, though it’s not guaranteed.  There was talk of a starter box for 7th Sea at some point, but they would not commit to any sort of date.  Rivers of London is a standalone game with magic ‘returning’ to England, and the artwork is definitely on point.


While I didn’t talk to many people at the Games Workshop/Warhammer display, it was because they were tied up with retailers. Also, there’s a lot of paint racks/displays at their booth, but those only look so cool when photographed.  Of note, there’s a new edition of Blood Bowl.

Also in the exhibit hall, Jim Dietz noted that since our Tuesday night live unboxing of Littoral Commander, he’d received another 12 orders for the game.

Kevin & Jason were holding down the Fort Circle Games booth all weekend, and there were a good number of stores with interest in Votes for Women and other inquiries about Shores of Tripoli


There was an open board meeting on Wednesday night.  These are usually held in Columbus, and there was one about 2 weeks ago, so there wasn’t expected to be much happening at this one.  GAMA Executive Director John Stacy noted that the Expo this year was the largest attendance they’ve ever had: 2039 unique attendees, and 355 different retail stores.  There were over 200 exhibitors and they’d actually oversold the exhibit hall, which necessitated the creation of Thursday’s new exhibitor spotlight for those folks (more on that tomorrow).
Several of the board members were only weeks into their tenure, and during their individual reports noted that the Expo allowed them the opportunity to talk with a whole bunch of their constituents in a focused, compact window of time, which was deemed a net positive.  The board has separate representatives for publishers, manufacturers, creatives, retailers, wholesalers, and media & events, so each of these divisions had something to report.
When the opportunity for public comment arose, there was a very strong statement from a member of the audience objecting to the Expo moving to Louisville, KY because of certain laws in that state targeting marginalized communities, and the board agreed to a resolution to craft an official statement of response to the concern.  (please note that while the Armchair Dragoons are very firm about keeping political discussions out of our forums and away from our site, we’re reporting this because it came up during an official event at an Expo we were invited to and hosted at, and were covering as a part of our obligations as a guest of the organization; please refrain from launching into diatribes in the comments or in our forums about this topic)

With the drama wrapped up on the board meeting, where the audience was outnumbered by the people on the board (and the audience included 2 former board members!) it was time for a game night that was way too crowded to even get up the stairs for photos.  So just trust us that it happened and it was packed.


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  1. watch for our weekly preview coverage starting next Wednesday

Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

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