Monday, 5 February 2018

Not So Fair Toy Fair

Our booth behind the column.
I rushed along long corridors filled with cardboard boxes, plastic wrappings, pallets and trash. I had already walked through three large halls. Hall 10, where our booth was, was still to be found. Eventually I found our 3 meter x 3 meter spot: behind an almost meter wide column, which blogged the entrance and visibility to the booth. “This can not be true...” I picked up my phone and called to the contact person for the Toy Fair. He soon found out what my opinion was of being charged a full price for a booth in such a location.

Very hard obstacles

So our first impression of the Nuremberg fair wasn’t the best one. Part of it was due to the fact that I hadn’t got time to read all of the information material the fair provided on their website. Now that I have read those, I still haven’t found all the information we would have needed beforehand to avoid all our trouble. It seems, maybe due to the long history of the event, organizers cannot see it from the first timer's point of view. When I compare the communication we got with, for example, UK Games Expo, it is like night and day. From UKGE I have got a personal service, from Nuremberg I have got mass produced emails with irrelevant information.

We managed to find a reasonable solution with the organizers concerning the entrance blocking column but the biggest obstacle was still ahead. In the morning, our son was not allowed to enter the fair. The fair has an age limit of 16 years. I had talked about our son’s participation earlier that week with the organizers' representative and got the impression it should be ok, because he has an exhibitor pass. I had also visited the fair service office during the assembly day with him, but nobody had said anything about his age and possible difficulty to enter.

You can imagine how furious and frustrated I was. It took three hours of negotiations to get one form filled in and an approval from high up. Eventually I got an A4 sheet with a signature and a stamp. With that, Väinö was able to enter and start working. He gave an interview in English and charmed many customers on the first day alone.

Timo and Väinö interviewed by Eric Martin from BoardGameGeek.

Professional or passionate

I kind of understand the age limit. Nuremberg Toy Fair is a business-to-business event. Nobody wants to have children around playing. The fair has a system where young Toy Experts must have a permission to enter. They are, however, obviously not very keen to promote and use that possibility. This year, our son was the only minor at the fair.

For three months I have been deleting emails which offer hired models for various tasks at our booth at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. During the fair I saw those models, professional in looking good. What I don’t understand is how a model just smiling in a pussycat costume can be seen as more professional in a game fair than an 11 year old presenting a game he has designed.

Brain teasers designed by Constantin
Even though we were expecting a b-to-b event, we didn’t expect it to be so stiff and formal. People in suits were selling toys, games and funny costumes. But they didn’t seem to enjoy it. There was no enthusiasm, no passion, just profit expectations.

Our booth neighbour was a nice exception. Jean-Claude Constantin designs and produces wooden puzzles and brain teasers. Beautiful, almost art-like toys which are very hard to solve. It's also a family business, but their son was old enough to work at the fair without extra hassle.

We also met a nice couple from Brighton. They were the very first visitors with whom we could talk about gaming itself and the passion of playing. @iplayred tested Darwinning! and liked it. Can’t wait to see her review.

Far away

After a couple of days, the half a kilometer route from caravan to booth became familiar. Across fallen oak leaves, over the big road. Past the concierge in funny costume. Then through the halls: first remotely controlled cars, an atrium filled with miniature tractors, then outdoor toys with trampolines and bikes. Pyrotechnics, balloons and party equipment, carnival costumes and insane variations of demonic contact lenses. Some chess boards and jig-saw puzzles and eventually: our booth behind the column.

On Saturday morning it snowed a little. I phoned my mother. I had had my morning coffee from a mug my recitation group gave as a farewell present. It has a winter scene from Lapland. I felt a little home sick, but when my mother told it was still -20 degrees celsius, the feeling eased a little bit.

The Nuremberg Toy Fair was the first of over 20 conventions we are going to participate in this year. Here is the list of events and cities where you can find us for the next 4 months:

8.-9.2. Cologne, Germany
10.-14.2. Brussels, Belgium
23.-25.2. Cannes Games Festival, France
1.-4.3. LeiriaCon, Portugal
9.-14.3. Valencia, Spain
16.-18.3. Ludesco, Switzerland
24.-25.3. Ratingen Spieletage, Germany
6.-8.4. Modena Play, Italy
12.-22.4. Venice area, Italy
24.-27.4. Rome, Italy
30.4.-9.5. Vienna, Austria
11.-14.5. Brno, Czech
15.-17.5. Krakow, Poland
18.-20.5. PyrCon, Poland
1.-3.6. UK Games Expo, U.K.
4.-26.6. around U.K.

So far we have travelled over 3,000 kilometers. And as you can see, we still have a few ahead. I hope to see many of you on our tour!


  1. It was a pleasure to meet you both, and yes Darwinning is definitely our kind of game. We are introducing it to our regular gaming group tomorrow. We look forward to seeing you in June if we cross paths across Europe before.

  2. Let me try, where can I find you in Ludesco? I plan to around tomorrow and/or Sunday, any chance to meet and say hi?