Date: 27th& 28th October, 2018
Location: Norbreck Castle Exhibition Hall, Norbreck Castle Hotel, Queens Promenade, Blackpool, FY2 9AA, UK

For the final weekend in October, we head up England’s North-West coast to the city of Blackpool and the Norbreck Castle Hotel, home of this year’s Play Expo show.

The Norbreck Castle Hotel
The Norbreck Castle Hotel

Play Expo is being held in the Exhibition Centre, which is in Norcalympia – the left part of the somewhat sprawling complex of function rooms and guest accommodation.  The building looks rather run-down and in need of either significant restoration or something more drastic.

The part of the complex housing the Exhibition Hall
The part of the complex housing the Exhibition Hall

Play Expo is a large retro gaming show featuring hundreds of PCs, consoles, handhelds, arcade video games and, of course, pinballs. For the last few years it was held at the EventCity exhibition hall in Manchester but, apparently, the owners of that facility had become too difficult to work with, and so for this year only the show has returned to the place it all began – Norbreck Castle in Blackpool.

We arrived on Friday evening during the set-up time to check out the pinballs provided by members of the pinball community and managed by the Northern Lights Pinball team.  These machines are located in a corridor running down the length of the adjacent main hall.

Setting up the last few machines
Setting up the last few machines
These seven had just arrived
These seven had just arrived

The main hall was also looking pretty complete, with all the games, computers and consoles in place ready for the start of the show at 10am the next day.

Inside the main hall
Inside the main hall

We returned on Saturday morning before the doors opened to the public, and there was a sizeable queue of visitors waiting for the start of the show.

Part of the queue to get in just before 10am on Saturday
Part of the queue to get in just before 10am on Saturday

Members of the Northern Lights Pinball team were going over some last minute organisational details and fixing machines which didn’t survive the journey to Blackpool unscathed.

Getting everything straight before the doors open
Getting everything straight before the doors open
F-14 Tomcat gets some last-minute attention
F-14 Tomcat gets some last-minute attention

In a small side room, a curated set of machines formed the Pinball thru the Ages collection, complete with explanatory cards showing how pinball progressed through its history.

Pinball thru the Ages thru here
Pinball thru the Ages thru here
The older pinballs on the left
The older pinballs on the left – Kick-Off, Space Ship, Wizard!, Paragon and Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man
Newer machines on the right
Newer machines on the right – Deadly Weapon, The Addams Family, Medieval Madness, Revenge from Mars and Dialed In!

Once the doors were opened at 10:00 sharp, it took around twenty minutes before all the pinballs were occupied.

It wasn't long before every machine was in use
It wasn’t long before every machine was in use

There were 57 pinballs at Play Expo 2018.  Here’s the full list:

AC/DC Pro Metallica
Addams Family, The Mr & Mrs Pac-Man
Addams Family, The Nautilus
Aerobatics NBA Fastbreak
Aerosmith Pro NBA Fastbreak
Avatar Paragon
Batman 66 Queen’s Castle
Batman: The Dark Knight Revenge from Mars
Black Knight 2000 Robocop
Black Rose Silver Slugger
Circus Ski Jump
Creature from the Black Lagoon Skill Pool
Deadly Weapon South Park
Dialed In! Space Jam
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Space Ship
Elvis Spectrum
F-14 Tomcat Spider-Man
Family Guy Star Trek (Data East)
Flintstones, The Star Wars (Data East)
Free Fall Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Getaway, The: High Speed 2 Theatre of Magic
Getaway, The: High Speed 2 Tron Legacy
Hobbit, The WhoDunnit?
Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure Wizard of Oz, The
Iron Man Wizard!
Jackbot World Poker Tour
Junk Yard World Poker Tour
Kick-Off X-Files
Medieval Madness

The Addams Family electric chair challenge – as featured here in Pinball News – was back, giving visitors a new way to experience the classic game.

The Addams Family Electric Chair Challenge
The Addams Family Electric Chair Challenge
Ad Jonker brought his Silver Slugger and Free Fall games from the Netherlands
Ad Jonker brought his Silver Slugger and Free Fall games from the Netherlands

There were three high score competitions taking place.  The adult one was being run on World Poker Tour, the kids one on Creature from the Black Lagoon, and there was an EM competition held on Skill Pool.

Creature was the Kids high score machine
Creature was the Kids high score machine
The EM high score competition machine
The EM high score competition machine
All the machines remained busy throughout the day
All the machines remained busy throughout the day
It was especially busy in the Pinball thru the Ages room
It was especially busy in the Pinball thru the Ages room

Occasionally, all the constant play took its toll and a machine developed a fault, as pinballs do.  Every machine was numbered, and faults could be reported at the organisers’ desk for swift attention.

The organisers' desk held the keys and also had various LED displays for sale
The organisers’ desk held the keys and also had various LED displays for sale
This NBA Fastbreak had lost all solenoid power - a fault traced to a broken wire on the coin door interlock switch
This NBA Fastbreak had lost all solenoid power – a fault traced to a broken wire on the coin door interlock switch

The rest of the show was just as packed, with any available spaces in front of monitors soon pounced-upon.

In the main hall
In the main hall
Lots and lots of 8-bit and more-modern gaming
Lots and lots of 8-bit and more-modern gaming
Presentations and demonstrations were held frequently on the main stage
Televised presentations and demonstrations were held frequently on the main stage
Presentations and demonstrations were held frequently on the main stage
Immersive and connected gaming were popular too
LAN gaming held here
LAN gaming held here

The arcade video equivalent of the pinball display was located at the back of the main hall.  Several clusters of upright cabinets brought back many classic videos for visitors to enjoy.

A few of the many arcade video games
A few of the many arcade video games
Classic titles to play
Classic titles to play
An overview of the main hall
An overview of the main hall

Play Expo closed to the public at 6pm on Saturday, but for a select group there was an extended private ‘lock-in’ from 7pm until 2am where those who brought machines were able to play all the games in relative peace.

The pinballs during the 'lock-in' on Saturday night
The pinballs during the ‘lock-in’ on Saturday night
In the main hall during the 'lock-in'
In the main hall during the ‘lock-in’

The show continued on Sunday, while we began our four-hour journey back home.

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