Tonight’s rant: UK event ticket prices are too low

UK Kings of War events are too cheap, especially for weekend events.

I see event organisers reluctant to raise ticket prices past £30-£35. Even at £45, the Northern Kings GT stands out as one of the most expensive two day events this year.

“We have to keep things as cheap as possible because x, y or z” arguments are bollocks. I’m going to use the latest two day event I attended, the UK Masters at £30/ticket, to illustrate why. While a lot of the arguments are specifically around the latest Masters event, the same applies for all UK events.

Typical preface that I enjoyed the event despite the limitations caused by the ticket price being so low. The Kings of War community is generally really nice, and I had great opponents over the weekend. It’s always good seeing friends, and this one felt especially important in “getting the old gang back together” after the last few years, even more so than Clash 21 was. The event was really well run by George and his backup crew.

Masters Issues

To summarise my feedback sent to the UK Masters event at £30 for a ticket:

  • The venue was too cramped with players unable to pass each other between the tables or be able to sit down on their side of the table without blocking the aisle completely.
  • The food (sandwiches, half a bag of crisps, an out of date sausage roll) was poor, almost inedible.
  • The venue was in a poor location, 15 minutes drive away from hotels which were themselves in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
  • The toilets were awful, with a leaking urinal leading to a puddle of piss you had to walk through.

Ticket prices are a minimal part of the cost

Here’s what I spent at the UK Masters

Hotel1 room, 2 nights, unusually cheap£70
FuelTom drove, lifts provided between hotel and venue£30
FoodHotel meal deal for 2 breakfasts and 2 evening meals, drinks included£50
Drinks & SnacksNon-alcoholic from the venue£10
Booze£50
Event Ticket£30
Total£240

The hotel was exceptionally cheap (it was the middle of nowhere). £70 for one room for two nights is nearly unheard of and would typically cost double that. Even if I were sharing a room, a hotel would normally cost upwards of £70 anyway. The AirBNB the Northern Kings stayed at for Clash was £100 each.

The hotel meal deal was cheap, overall. We didn’t go out for an evening meal at a restaurant, which is the norm for most two day events. This could have easily been another £20 if we’d been closer to civilisation and gone for a meal out.

Same with booze. The lack of going out meant far less spent on drink.

Even with this being a budget weekend event, with a very cheap hotel and cheap food, it still came to almost £250. The ticket being £40 or £50 instead of £30 barely scratches the sides of what the weekend costs. Putting prices up makes near enough no difference to the overall cost of attending an event.

If someone can’t attend a weekend event for financial reasons, it’s because even if you skimped and saved every penny you could, it costs at least £200, usually far more, to attend. Not that the ticket is £40 instead of £30.

“Oh with this ticket price increase I’m going to be spending £210 on the weekend instead of £200, now I can’t go. I could afford £200 but I can’t afford £210.” Bollocks.

Cheap prices, cheap venues, bad food

Cheap venues are cheap for a reason.

They could be far away from civilisation, they could be dirty and dingy or other things that detract from the overall quality of the event.

At UK Masters, the venue was in the middle of nowhere, a bit too small and tables were really cramped. The toilets were not amazing, and one of the urinals was leaking. On day 2 there was a puddle of stagnant piss that you had to walk through. £10 to not wade through that and have more than 2 feet between tables would be very good value.

The masters committee has been asking for feedback. A common thread is the quality, or complete lack of quality, of the food. Some crappy dry sandwiches, half a bag of crisps and an expired sausage roll is not ideal. Dairy free options were even worse. An extra £7 would have brought the food budget up to the level we expect at Northern Kings events.

Piiieeeeeeee…. yours for only a £7 increase in the ticket cost over dry sandwiches and a stale sausage role

Cheap venues are more expensive for the player

Hear me out.

You have the decision between a venue near a hotel (or even in a hotel) or one that’s £10 cheaper per player. Except the cheaper option is further away from a hotel. Only it’s cheaper, so it’s a cheaper option for players, right?

Except the players still have to get to/from the hotel. Sometimes a lift will be available, but ultimately taxis are going to be involved at some point, even if it’s only a couple of miles.

If someone is travelling via public transport, then a location further out means an additional connection or a taxi. More cost.

A cheap location in the middle of nowhere is going to be limited for food choices. We ate at the hotel because there just wasn’t any other option. There weren’t any restaurants, cheap or not, nearby. If someone was so hard pressed for money that an extra £10 on the ticket could make a difference (which is bollocks, but let’s consider it for the sake of argument), I’d say a lack of cheap food options nearby would be a bigger problem. If there was a Subway, McDonalds or other cheaper food option within walking distance of the hotel then I could have eaten for less than £15 rather than £50. If were on a shoestring budget then having to spend £50 rather than £15 on food would be a more pressing problem than £10 extra on the ticket.

As soon as I got back from Masters, my trainers went in the wash to try and get rid of the smell of piss. Luckily the washing machine sorted it, but the cheaper venue could have ended up costing me a new pair of shoes – far more than the £10 saving in ticket price. An almost literal example of the Vimes Boots Theory of Socio-Economic Unfairness in action.

Kirsty Blackman on Twitter: "Captain Vimes' Boots Theory of socio-economic  unfairness. Pratchett at his very best.… "

Inflation is a thing

I remember the two day event Fools of War back in 2017 which was £30, and that was run at barebones cost. Inflation takes that to almost £35, likely more .

You can argue about wages stagnating, sure, but whether wages have stagnated is irrelevant – the costs of running an event have gone up. If a barebones event cost £30 per person to run in 2017, just from the baseline inflation figure it now costs £35 per person to run an event of the same quality in 2022.

Jack Monroe argues passionately (and correctly) that official inflation figures cover up even higher rising costs at the cheaper end of the scale. While they do argue from the perspective of the cheapest food at the supermarket going up by far more than the headline inflation figure, I’ve seen similar changes in costs for running events. If you paid £10 for the cheapest option in 2017 rather that the mid-range option of £15, that cheapest option has increased in price far more than the mid-range option. You might be looking at £14 for the cheapest option but only £16 for the mid range option.

5 years ago running a Kings of War event at a public event hall just wasn’t financially viable. Now the cheapest cost, using a gaming venue like Element Games, has risen far more than inflation to the point that it’s not much more expensive to run an event at a public event space (not knocking Element, just stating the relative costs).

We buy custom dice for attendees. We went with the mid-range option for various reasons, which has barely increased in cost at all. The cheapest option was half the cost, but has risen significantly more and isn’t much cheaper than our mid-range option now.

Even if you were to only consider headline inflation, and ignore all other considerations, UK weekend tickets should now be in the £35-£45 range, not trying to still keep prices in the £30-£35 range.

We play an expensive hobby

Same as people who moan about a £25 annual Clash of Kings update. We spend hundreds of quid on armies, paint and all the other paraphernalia for this game. Even if you were to attend 4 weekend events over the year and they all went up by £10, it’s still less than the cost of an expansion to your army.

Spend a little more, make it a great weekend

We don’t have many weekend events.

If we’re making the travel effort and spending the cost of going to an event, why not spend a tiny bit extra and make it a better event? Let’s spend a tiny bit more and enjoy the whole event, not have to hold our noses when we go to the toilet or be crammed in without enough space between tables.

Lonewolf GT in Texas, held in the room above, costs the equivalent of £55 and doesn’t include food. “We have to be as cheap as possible” is a UK problem.

What difference does it make though?

I hope I’ve beaten you over the head with how little difference it makes financially for the individual player if the ticket were £40 instead of £30 (and could even be cheaper for things like evening food costs or taxis). What difference does it make to the organisers?

£10 extra comes to another £220 budget for the Masters. That’s a huge difference.

If I were running an event at Element, for an extra £10 per player you can increase the food spend by 50% and hire extra tables at to give everyone a 2′ sideboard for bags, dead units etc.

At UK Masters there was a second smaller room of gaming tables that wasn’t hired. I’m sure that the extra £10 would have been enough to increase the food budget AND hire the smaller room too, giving people more space in the main gaming hall (which was a massive issue) and/or sideboards. Another £5-10 on top of the ticket price could have gotten a venue closer to hotels.

For the Northern Kings GT this year, we have an evening space booked for the quiz. At the first NK GT, we put on an evening buffet but this year we’ll struggle to do that. Our ticket this year is £45, which is already one of, if not the most expensive non-clash events. We’d have dearly loved to whack an extra £5 on top of that, which wouldn’t make much difference to the players but would allow us to easily put on food in the evening. The quality of the event would improve significantly for very little additional cost for the players.

From an attendee perspective, I no longer think that a good 2 day event can be put on for £30. I know the masters committee did the best that they could, but significant compromises have to be made at that price range. If I have to choose between going to a £30 event or £45 event, I’m going with the £45.

I’d also really like to see “gourmet” tournaments start to happen. Put on a £70-£80 ticket price, hire a nice hotel or brewery event space.

2 thoughts on “Tonight’s rant: UK event ticket prices are too low

  1. Reblogged this on Hysnaps Music and Mental Health and commented:
    I have to agree with the general sentiments of the poster – keeping the price low does not enable organisers to provide a positive uplifting experience – I least weekend attended the birmingham bullrush which was a great event – although I’d have happily paid £30 for it to be in a more roomy environment which was slightly warmer.. Now Board in brum is a great venue if you wish to have a game with a few mates, but the fact that when there was a tournament on they still let in other players tells me their margins are very slim. I personally would love to attend an event that I could bring my wife to, alas doing it on the cheap or for the lowest price just means that it appears to outsiders that we are ashamed of our hobby.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely. One of the things that I really admire for US events is that they’re often in places that you could bring a partner.

      One day events I could almost see an argument for them being cheap, but like you say it would be nice just to spend a tiny bit more.

      Like

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