Everything is New at GAMA Expo 2024

This year’s GAMA Expo was new and shiny. New digs, bigger facilities, and loads of brand new games. What stood out to Andy at GAMA Expo 2024?

Welcome to Louisville!

GAMA Expo is a primarily retailer-based trade show hosted by GAMA (Game Manufacturers Association) and has been in operation for decades. While the last few years have taken place in Reno, Nevada, this year they debuted their new venue in Louisville, Kentucky. This is convenient, not only for me (being from Nashville) but also for a multitude of other attendees. The ease of travel to this new location at the Kentucky International Convention Center was mentioned by many people I spoke with during the event. And the proof is in the pudding: attendance was up by 30% over the previous year for retailers, publishers, manufacturers, and of course media (like myself).

In addition, the new space was much larger than previous years, by tens of thousands of square feet—giving more capacity for vendors, more space for attendees to walk around, and more room for sessions and meetings.

What’s New on the Table?

One of the great things about being a board game media outlet like Meeple Mountain is the chance to see what’s going to be hitting tables over the next year or so. For example, when we attend Essen Spiel, we’re given a glimpse at what might make it to North America the following year. But when we visit GAMA Expo, we’re getting a definitive look at what will appear on retail shelves in the next 3-6 months. Publishers are showing their wares, not only for media, but for distributors and retail store owners, many of whom might leave the event with signed contracts for cases upon cases of the very games I’m about to show you. So here you are some of the most interesting titles that I saw while in Louisville this year.

We’ve covered many games from the Hachette Games family (which includes Le Scorpion Masque, Studio H, Sorry We Are French, Randolph Games, Gigamic, and Grrre Games). And there’s a reason: they put out good games.

This year’s roster includes a hotly discussed dexterity banger called Nekojima, a game all about building cool structures for cats living on an island of cats. Other Hachette titles we saw were Vampire Village, Evil Corp, and From the Moon; along with Line-It, Garden Getaway, and Quoridor Pac-Man (for which we’ll have an upcoming review)

The Lucky Duck table also had some interesting upcoming titles: Divinus and Kingdom Rush: Elemental Uprising (which will both soon be delivering to backers), Quartz Dice, Nestlings, and a family weight cooperative game called Toriki: The Castaway Island that has some elements of legacy style games where you can save your progress.

The OP had a number of upcoming titles that caught my attention. Aqua, a tile laying game that’s already available, had packed demo tables every time I walked by. Gnome Hollow, a game about building mushroom rings, harvesting them, and bringing them to market. And Stalk Exchange, a market manipulation game which had players planting and harvesting flower bulbs. Stalk Exchange was one of my personal favorites of the event.

Allplay had a strong presence at the event (somehow I didn’t get any photos of their tables), and another one of my personal favorites of the event was River Valley Glass Works. It’s being billed as a lighter alternative to Azul, but with a bit more going on. It’s lightweight with beautiful artwork and components, and I can’t wait to get my own copy.

At an event like this, you see too many titles to call them all out by name, but here are some other ones that caught my attention. Citizens of the Spark from Thunderworks Games, Tangram City from Capstone Games, Life in Reterra (the recently announced Eric Lang game being published by Hasbro), Landmarks from Floodgate Games (a tile laying game with some deduction and word play). Personally, I was very excited to see Mundo, an expansion for World Wonders which is one of my favorite games of the last year or two.

It’s the People that Make the Event

People go to events like this for many reasons. For some, it’s a job and they’re trying to find products that might resonate with their customers. Others might go because they’re passionate about games and want to find the newest and best. For me, I go because of the people. Sure I love board games, and I’m always on the lookout for games that you, dear reader, might be interested in reading about. But my main reason for attending board game events is to meet people. I exchange emails with publishers and designers every week, I trade tweets with other media folks, but there’s nothing like meeting people face to face. In some cases this week I was able to meet people in person that I’ve been talking to for years digitally. I wasn’t able to get photos of everyone, but here’s a quick series of pics of friends, both old and new.

Growing Pains

While I had a great time at GAMA Expo 2024, there were some issues with this new space that are worth pointing out, if only so the team can acknowledge and address them. The retailer and publisher portion of this event are decades old, while the media program at this event is relatively new, just 3 years old. I think GAMA has some really solid ideas of what they’d like to do with media, but they’re not quite there yet.

The lines at many of the entry points were quite long, but this affected everyone. Getting my badge was the work of minutes, but collecting my “additional materials” (program and coupon books, and lunch vouchers) took 45 minutes or more, with the line consisting of hundreds of people. Unfortunately, this line had only a few staff manning the tables, and while I’m sure they were doing their best, they really needed three to four times that many people in order to quickly get attendees through the line.

Access to the vendor hall was another pain point. Other events I’ve attended, like Gen Con or PAX Unplugged, give media access to the vendor hall an hour or more early so that we can meet with publishers first, so that we don’t have to wade through other attendees or bother booth staff while they’re helping customers. They did give a 30 minute early entry option on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough.

I’d also like to see more programming aimed at media folks: social media tips, community building, improving video, hosting a website, building a review team, etc. Some of these would even be useful to publishers or retailers. GAMA did offer a “new media event” on Monday night, which was a chance for us to walk around and meet publishers without any other attendees around. But it was only 1.5 hours, which again didn’t feel like enough time. One thing I heard suggested was a Sunday night mixer (before the event begins) for only media attendees. That would be a great chance to meet other people doing the same things you are, or different for that matter.

Customer Service is the Name of the Game

The keynote speaker was Peter Shankman, who asked attendees how they were best serving their customers. We all have thoughts, but he suggested that we simply ask them. Talk to your customers and say, “How can I help you today?”

That really stuck with me, because I feel that here at Meeple Mountain we have two sets of customers, with some overlap. We have our readers, the reason we write and publish our content, without whom we’d be shouting into the aether. But we also have our publisher partners—the people who provide many of the products we review.

We take pride in being honest in our reviews—telling it like it is with integrity and tact. Sometimes, that causes some conflict and disappointment, but it also gives us a solid reputation within the publishing community. If you send us a game, we’ll always review it and tell our readers what we think about it and why.

So, my main takeaway from GAMA Expo is customer service. No matter who you are, or why you landed on our site, “How can we help you today?”

About the author

Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor in chief of, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.

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