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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The best wargames show ever?

 After reading the latest post from Andy on his blog, Glorious Little Soldiers, about what we want from a wargames show, it got me thinking about what are the best bits for me and what I class as a successful show. In no particular order I think that what I class as a good show, are
 [1] A varied amount of trade, whereby I am able to see their latest stuff in the flesh, and then able to buy from them.
[2] Traders that I normally dont see, and which then allows me to buy their stuff, ie Eureka and Bicorne Miniatures would be good examples.
 [3] A really well run bring and buy, which is selling a varied amount of items that I just might want.
 [4] A decent and good value cafe/ eating establishment.
 [5] A well lit venue, which allows me to see everything clearly and not a place clouded in Stygian gloom.
 [6] Some well produced and inspiring wargames, run by people who are happy to talk the legs off a donkey.
[7] Free parking, a difficult one nowadays.
[8] A painting competition, with a lot of entries.
[9] A show where I meet other wargamers for a chat.
 So really basically what a majority of shows provide now, with varying degrees of success.

However after a bit more thought, I realised that one of the best shows I had attended had also been one of the smallest and also one that hadnt really ticked many of the boxes in the list above. However at that show, because of the wonderful weather I ended up sitting in the sun just jawing to a group of wargamers about the hobby.
 This then got me thinking about the shows in general, and how their format had changed very little in the last fifty years.Which led me onto the accounts about the very first wargames convention staged by Donald Featherstone at his home, where I believe about twenty or so people attended to talk, play and talk some more about the hobby.
The key for the success of that meeting appeared to be a bunch of like minded people who just wanted to meet, play and talk about the hobby. Now could that be transported forward into the 21st century.
Ideally such an event would be staged in either a suitable wargames club, or a decent interesting venue, preferably near a decent transport link and perhaps a selection of B and B's.
 In order to make such an event worthwhile I could see three or four keen wargames traders being invited to not only enjoy a weekend, because that's really what would be the aim, but also to bring along some of their stock relevant to the main interests of the other attendees, to sell to the group.
Do you see where I'm going with this. Ideally there should be at least three or four tables on offer, with decent terrain on them, and also some first rate toys to push around the tables.
I'm certain that the offer to fight a battle in two or three periods would appeal to most wargamers.
 To make things more interesting if one of the attendees was wanting to try out a new set of wargames rules, then even better.
 To add further interest to the small event, I would encourage one or two of the attendees to give a short presentation on either a historical battle with models to assist [that's toys, not women]
and perhaps insist that all attendees enter at least one set of their figures to be judged in a competition. Size wise, I think no more than 30 attendees would be allowed, but that could be open to negotiation.
 Of course there would have to be a cheap and cheerful meal involved with drinking and talk until we all fell asleep.
 Now THAT would be my best wargames show.
So is it pie in the sky, or is it doable? Collar and tie would not be compulsory though.

17 comments:

  1. Ah what a wonderful world it would be if those things could happen.
    I'm afraid your Rose tinted specs are getting in the way- I wish it could be like that as well but it won't happen for the following reasons
    Money, Money ,money and .... er Money .
    Trade - Now before I've sold a soldier I'm into any show for several hundred quid- Van Hire 60 quid a day. Fuel- less than it was but Salute for instance was thick end of £150.00.- Though this is the farthest I travel now. Stand fees- vary wildly but still - The cheapest show means I've spent the best part of a monkey before I've shifted a single little lead man. Factoring in Hotels and or Babd B- frankly often Hotels are cheaper unless you find an' orrible Doss House ! . This means that for Salute I've kissed a grand and a Half goodbye before the portraits of Her Maj flow in my direction again.
    Smaller shows at any distance are just not economic.
    Those early conventions- and even as late as the early 90s were simply not as diverse as todays hobby .
    My favourite convention of the 90s was Warcon - which in theory had all that you outline plus more punters. I both Traded and ran games- also once doing the Qand A panel thing with Todd Fisher of EHQ. The lack of interest was palpable. I'm afraid that many of our bretheren didn't want knowledge then and still less want it now. I don't understand it frankly - surely if you are into a hobby you want to know about that hobby but that does not seem to be the case for many of its participants- though there are without a doubt still lads who ARE interested and who do put themselves about a bit.

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    1. Sorry for the delay in replying Andy,
      some things just seem to waylay you as you get older. Anyway,
      I know what your saying, but since my post, which was a bit tongue in cheek, I have given more thought to it, and I honestly think that in the kernel of the idea is something that can be a success.
      Cost, as always is an issue, but if there is sufficient reason to attend, then I believe people will want to make a weekend of it.Anyway, I will think anon of how to make the idea work without pauperising? myself.

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  2. There has been the two Blog Con events over the last couple of years, though that was solely focusing on gaming and the only trader present was Foundry (as the first event was housed at their Nottingham premises). But one thing those two events does prove is that a 'show' can be put on by the gamers, for the gamers and that enough people will attend and make it work.
    There has been discussion over holding another Blog Con event but it failed to materialise in 2014 and it doesn't look promising for 2015, either. One of the main issues is location. One thing that the North East has in abundance is traders and, actually, locations to hold an event. Given the clubs and wargaming bloggers in the area I would imagine a regional 'show' could be organised and well-attended on much the same lines as you proposed.

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    1. Sorry for the delay Roy,
      I always reply to any comments, but I have been a bit remiss this time.
      I think your absolutely correct, and given a bit of extra thought and effort I am becoming convinced that a 'show' would be achievable without causing too much cost and stress.
      Give me a bit more time to think about what could be a sucess and I will post up a few ideas for discussion and critique.

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  3. Different days those early days of Don's first convention I'd suggest.. back then I remember it well, the total lack of information, having to go to the library and reserve books, snippets in magazines etc. Pandora's box is now open though, the internet means the urgent need is now met almost instantly (unless you have my b/band) and that need for people to meet and communicate is replaced by period/rule/scale/manufacturer specific forae... gamers will always meet to play games, WHC make a living from it, but on a purely personal/selfish level I'd find out more about my hobby, and more idea's, on the web than I would at a small show like you describe...

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    1. Thanks Steve for your reply, and sorry for the delay,
      if you read my replies I have moved on from what was a bit of tongue in cheek, to think that there is some merit in the idea.
      Whilst the internet has revolutionised wargaming in a lot of respects, I still think that wargamers are pretty gregarious at heart.
      If the reasons to attend are strong enough I honestly think there is some merit in putting together an 'event'. It is just a question of location, costs and what is on offer.
      I will hopefully put a few ideas together in a post for discussion etc.

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  4. Your idea sounds great but I agree with Andy that it would sadly make no commerical sense for traders. I think actually the internet has filled that gap of the early wargaming days by allowing like minded gamers to meet and chat and share ideas. My own area of interest is pretty obscure and the chance of meeting others interested in it within a reasonable travelling distance is quite low (actually having said that there are more than I would have expected!). I do find that the internet and blogging provides a social side to the hobby that otherwise you could only get from a club setting but it can be much more specific to your interests.

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    1. I think your doing your interests down. There are a lot of wargamers who collect and use some pretty obscure figures and periods.
      As for traders, the key would be to invite wargamers/traders who would want to attend anyway, for the social and gaming aspects and as an aside bring some of their ranges as would be suitable to the event. This would act as an incentive for attendees, and also would encourage the trader to come with the added bonus of selling a bit of stock [ hopefully at a bit of a discount ]
      The internet is great, but physical contact is still better where possible.Anyway as I have already explained in other replies,I will kick around a couple of ideas in a post.

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  5. Robbie,
    I would take a contra view and say it is eminently possible. Shaun of the bunker ran the Last of The Mohicans weekend which saw Galloping Major attend, the Ayton weekend with the addition of a couple of traders would fit the bill so I think it is very doable, especially if said trader wished to be involved in the gaming.
    Yes Andy is right when it comes to the larger traders etc, but a show/meeting you described would potentially have a main theme so full stock wouldn't necessarily be required. Also with the smaller venues the reverse of the larger shows would be true, I.e. The traders don't pay - the costs covered by the gamers. I was invited a while back to a themed weekend and would certainly have gone with my stand if I hadn't been on holiday. Yes there's a cost element but for some of the smaller events as long as I cover my costs I'm happy if it's something I want to do - hence the attendance at the Culloden event last October, you wouldn't see any large traders travel that far North for a small show. But for me a cracking weekend, covered my costs, spent time talking to Prof. Duffy and generally having a good time.
    So Robbie time to get your thinking head on.

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    1. Exactly Graham,
      You know wher Im coming from,I will give some thought to this whilst Im slumming it in Nashville this weekend.
      Best of luck at Partizan.

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  6. Some good ideas here - but you still have to tell people. Don't know about you but I don't tend to spend half my life staring at a computer screen - adise from anything else after half an hour or so I lose the will to live and want to do something real. So once I finish this I'm off to cast some Mig3s and Pucaras for customers.
    As for themed shows- I did the very first Hammerhead- though I don't think it was called that back then- was supposed to be a "Fantasy" themed show so we took all the ranges that could loosely be called Fantasy - even ran a game based on a Conan story.
    All we got all day was "why didn't you bring >>>>>"- whatever HISTORICAL range the customer wanted. Also we used to do the Napoleonic Fair- great fun but we sold all sorts of stuff not just Napoleonics Even did the VMS fair once- total disaster financially- you couldn't get your gear intrto the venue and had to move the van every couple of hours.......THAT was fun .....
    So since then I've been a bit dubious about themed shows ... .
    They may work for chaps who only have a limited period specific range but even if we just included say the SYW./FIW I'd have ranges in 4 different sizes to take- 10mm 15/18mm 28mm and 40mm so it would require a small transit and- as always a driver. A Napoleonic show the same- with maybe a bigger van and you just know they'd ask for different stuff .....

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    1. Again I know where you are coming from Andy,
      I also attended one of the Napoleonic events, and thought it was great, but that was a large commercial affair. I was thinking a more modest event, more wargaming, discussion and general talk about anything really.

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  7. Well to us little fish then I guess the glass is half full rather than half empty. Especially if we're also enthusiastic about supporting and taking part in such events :)

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    1. Graham- but then - with respect up to a point it doesn't matter to you if you lose a couple of hundred on a show as you have the fall- back postition of your pension ...... your glass is always full .

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  8. Robbie
    I like your idea and also remember conventions from the 1960s, but there was a certain magic in the air in those days because means of communication were much more difficult and you had to attend some event to really understand what the "big boys" in the hobby were doing. Even their books didn't substitute for the chance to actually talk to other wargamers and see their figures and terrain. I think themed weekends mainly for the wargamers would be good as long as attendance was small and not stupidly exclusive or expensive accommodation and catering. Somewhere central in the UK with good public transport links would help too. Good to see that Graham is supportive and I'm keen to hear how is efforts at forthcoming Partizan for AMG members is received; pity I can't go now.
    Chris
    http://notjustoldschool.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Sorry for the delay Chris,
      Youre right, its about cost, location, timing and what is on offer.
      The idea of exclusivity crept into my head, but I dont know if that is a good idea.
      By that I mean making it such a small event that you would want to attend, just to say ''I was there''.
      A bit like the AMG which is ticking me off a lot, but hey ho.
      Anyway I will think some more about a few ideas and post accordingly.

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  9. Just to pick up on this following the rather excellent day the AMG members had at Partizan. This was such a rip roaring success that yesterday Graham posted asking if we wanted to do it again next year and the response has been very positive.

    Whilst it is early days yet there seems to be a move towards exactly the kind of event you are talking about where we not only get to game but show off our collections to each other and maybe even get a speaker in - although with some very distinguished members I suspect that wont be a problem.

    For me the idea of having a couple of invited traders there would not go amiss. We already have Graham and Jim Purkey for the figures although I am sure others could be represented.

    Essentially this is a club weekend made up of folks that are geographically separated and cannot just meet up a couple of times a month.

    Early days yet but it is looking promising.

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My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating