A DUO behind a board gaming triumph are setting out on a starry enterprise.

For next year’s event in a series of conventions will – for the first time – feature a starship bridge simulator giving guests the chance to act out being on a space ship.

And Mark Cooke and Ben Clarkson are certain it won’t be mission impossible for AireCon – for the board game gatherings they started in 2015 with a modest 25 or so people are now attracting upwards of 4,000.

“The board gaming hobby is going through a boom time,” said Mark, who founded AireCon after an impromptu session at his Guiseley flat and now books Harrogate Convention Centre on an annual basis.

After starting out, the conventions switched to Bradford for a couple of events but it soon became clear somewhere bigger was needed.

“After searching across Yorkshire, we settled on the Harrogate Convention Centre,” said Mark, 37, who is CEO of a Denmark-based board gaming company. “We also changed to running it annually to allow more time to make sure it was a good event.

“Subsequent years have seen the event grow with more and more space being taken at the convention centre.”

Ben, 38, lives in Bradford and is a finance manager at the city’s Christians Against Poverty charity, where Mark also worked at one time.

“We had hoped to keep the events in Bradford but we simply couldn’t find a suitably-sized venue,” said Mark. “The Harrogate centre is huge and so there is room for us to grow.”

Mark and Ben are now two of four directors running AireCon Ltd, although all also have full-time jobs elsewhere. “We still do this in our spare time,” said Mark. “Although I don’t think anyone thought it would get so big. There was not much like AireCon when we started out and now we are the second biggest in the UK.”

As well as providing hundreds of games and the space to play, the three-day event will also have exhibitors, demonstrations, a quiz and role-playing sessions. There will also be a quiet area and family-oriented activities.

“We try to make as much as possible free or cheap for people when they get there,” said Mark. “It is a really social way of getting away from technology.

“We have always enjoyed bringing people together and seeing the joy that tabletop gaming can bring. And this remains the same today as it did back in my flat. The emphasis is on fun and it will stay that way.”

In the starship attraction, visitors become part of the bridge crew on a virtual space ship, acting together to complete missions with ‘space’ projected on to a wall. “In general this is very new,” said Mark. “It’s a bit like an escape room, but more co-operative and less puzzling.”

The event is set for March 13 to 15 next year at Harrogate Convention Centre. Details are on the website airecon.co.uk