Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Wargames Shows, and how to suck eggs.

Im a close follower of the Yarkshire Wargamer, partially because Ken had the good taste to 'interview' me for his podcast.But I would like to think we both enjoy wargaming and want to see the hobby thrive. On his blog, yes he is that productive he was discussing wargames shows, their future etc. 
Like so many things, the Covid restrictions damaged wargames shows and Ive no doubt that some will never see the light of day again for whatever reasons. 
Certainly for example,Salute, the biggest UK wargames show suffered a setback as it climbed ever upwards. My personal view of this show is that it had become just too big and impersonal and perhaps the last two years offers up the hardworking team the chance to reset the show and look at its core values, ie what is the aim of Salute. Now I think it would be very cheeky to advise the organisers what they were doing wrong, because basically they were doing everything they could to make a success of things, just it was a victim of its own success and grew exponentially. For me the show penciled in for next year should perhaps consider finding a smaller venue and focusing on what made it successful, ie quality wargames, the exhibitors striving to win the coveted awards. A painting competition that was open to all and offering them a chance to win and perhaps introducing a class that previous winners would enter which would allow lesser mortals the chance of glory and not see the same brilliant painters winning year after year, and finally affordability, which in London is very difficult.It looks like Im telling the Warlords how to suck eggs and no doubt they will have looked at many things before they re-enter the maelstrom that is Salute, one thing they will no doubt be looking at is volunteers to help, because I know they were always battling that issue which must affect all wargames shows.
So is there a future for wargames shows? Absolutely. Do there need to be changes? Most likely as nothing ever stays the same. Will wargamers return to the shows in large numbers? Probably, especially if the show organisers can find a balance of a good venue, cheapish food, a wide range of trade stands and a mix of table attractions, ie similar to the mix Partizan have achieved.
 So really more of what we already had pre-lockdown but focusing on quality not quantity. I admit Im biased, because Ive always enjoyed wargames shows, both big and small, and attended some pretty dire ones over the years, but they all allowed me to appreciate the hobby and receive a frisson of excitement as I paid the entrance fee and walked into some dingy room where toy soldiers were being exhibited and sold. And to emphasize the good bits of wargames shows Ive completed some of the figures I bought at the bring and but at Battleground;   
  

Some of my purchases from the Battleground Bring and Buy. They needed some touching up and rebasing but they have come up very nicely. These are for my growing Burgundian forces and will hopefully be used in our first Billhooks Deluxe game against the Swiss. I expect defeat, but hope for a winning draw.








I painted these archers using a recent purchase from E Bay. Yes they are dressed a tad early for the Burgundian War period but these are lovely sculpts from Foundry, so I had to paint them up. The one mistake, I based them on the wrong sized base, but its too late now. 



Another purchase from the bring and buy at Middlesbrough, There was only five but I had a spare figure in my scrap box that was fine. I think they are Mini Fig riders with different horses.



Now, ancient Nubians that I bought part painted from a stall at Fiasco, Leeds. I wanted another archer unit for my Persians, definitely anachronistic but I liked the figures so they have been drafted into the horde.

And finally, a figure that I paid full price for. She is one of the lovely Belt Fed range sold by Colonel Bill and is Queen Elizabeth 1st. Now, she will lead my Lion Rampant units. 

 

15 comments:

  1. Fantastic post Robbie
    I enjoy going to wargame shows as often as I can, sadly down here in Devon wargame shows are few and far between. Plymouth, Exeter and Cornwall are the nearest ones to me, Bristol, Bovington are further afield. I try to plan visits to further away shows around visiting family, saving money on petrol. Visiting shows at Plymouth or Exeter I normally will put on a participation game, for the fun and to meet friends or make new ones. Also I like to see trade stands and foundel the toys. As pointed out the hobby has been dying since the 70’s when I entered this wonderful hobby but from my perspective the hobby has grown and still is. Onward and upward, it’s all about pushing our toys across the table.

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    1. Im currently re-reading the Battle magazines [for the tenth time] and poor old Terry Wise was talking of the demise of wargaming back then. I look at my hobby and know its pretty safe as long as men possess sheds, small corners in a house and the need to be a boy again. I havent included girls simply because being a white misogynist I dont recognise them [ just joking] Shows still have a key part to play in our hobby and as long as they offer various attractions they will survive.

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  2. Happy gaming, merry Christmas.
    Willz.

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    1. Thanks Will, looking forward to have a few pints with you next year.

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  3. Robbie I have enjoyed your blog for many years and find myself in agreement with most of what you write . I am a member of the South London Warlords , the group that manages Salute with help from some other clubs and whilst I am not on the committee and cannot speak on their behalf I thought I should at least make some response to your observations. A lot of what you have written is accurate and true. I think your points about the painting competition are valid and I will ask the committee to review your suggestions.As far as I am aware the competition is open to all but I will check that out. The new committee is very open to new ideas and their are a number of new initiatives in place for next year’s show. The emphasis of the show has and will always been to try to attract a wider audience as possible to celebrate the hobby . If the show moved to a smaller venue we would have to limit the numbers , in previous years the club had to move venues because the numbers attending were close to the legal limit due to the fire risk. The clubs vision is to be inclusive but I accept this comes at a cost.
    One myth I would like to slay is last years Salute , yes there were some last minute cancellations and yes numbers were down but both were low single digit percentages. Excel had surplus space and gave the club 50% extra for free so the show did appear less crowded. Salute is based in London which is expensive in terms of transport , hall hire and refreshments but Salute is meant to be a celebration of the hobby and if wargamers do not support it than inevitably it will go the way of Sheffield and Derby which would be a shame for the wargaming community as a whole. Like you I think I continue to go to shows to meet friends old and new and Salute is a great venue to catch up .

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    1. Cheers Martin,
      informative post and thanks for reminding me of Sheffield triples. Fantastic shows, đŸ˜€ well spent in the 80's for me.

      Willz.

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    2. Hello Martin, good to hear from you. I had a feeling you would reply. I know all the hard work you and your team have put into Salute over the years, and I appreciate the financial risk that your group are under when you moved to the Excel.I dont like the Excel, thats my personal opinion. Given the sucess of Partizan and Hammerhead post lockdown, I really hope Salute sells out. I would hate any show to go under, and given how popular Salute has been I cant imagine you will fail. But as an aside, can I suggest you put in more places to sit, especially given how big the place is and how out of shape most wargamers are. Oh and by the way, I believe that Triples is coming back in 2023, obviously this isnt confirmed yet, but I know there is a group willing to bite that bullet. Anyway, great to hear from you.

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    3. Robbie thank you for your comments , not sure the last time you were at Salute but the last two shows had a massive increase in seating. It’s a common comment and I know the committee listen. The last two shows a large seating area was provided in a separate room , clearly marked on the map and they remained under used for most of the day , I think this is a case of better signage. This year the committee have made more changes to respond to constructive feedback to make the show better for everyone. All the PARTIZAN shows are great and I have enjoyed them but if you live in the south it’s an expensive and long trip offset by free parking and a reasonable entry price. Alas if you live in the north it is very expensive to travel down to London and venue hire is eye watering. I hope all shows flourish as they share a common goal - to celebrate the hobby.

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    4. Sadly my sister no longer lives in London so havent visited since pre lockdown. I wasnt well that year and really struggled, the seating or lack of was an issue. I knew the Warlords would sort things. Funnily Ive been reading a review of Salute when you held a show in Margate? The photographs were charming, God we were keen and naive back then. Loved your Indian game by the way, you lucky cockneys, getting lovely figures cheaply.

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  4. It will trouble you I expect to hear that I largely agree with your views. I have not been to Salute for a few years now, finding it soulless, overpriced, over crowded, under lit, lacking seating, stuffed with gnomes and space fairies. I could go on, suffice to say I could not muster even a crocodile tear if it folded. Partizans are far superior events for wargamers, though even here the figure fiddler's 50 figure army/games in a box brigade are creeping in. WMMS is back I see and with Hammerhead will do for me unless I make Claymore or Carronade to see friends.

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    1. I am worried now David. An ex communist and me having something in common. Like most wargamers we love the hobby and are very heavily invested in the whole thing. As Don said, what would he have done if he hadnt discovered wargaming, where indeed.

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  5. Hi Robbie, nice bunch of recruits there.

    Good to hear your views as you have been part of the show scene fabric. It’s funny, when you mentioned Salute (to which I have never been), I immediately thought that it’s circumstances / environment / nature, make it a different beast from the ‘other’ shows that I attend and from that perspective, it highlights that the fixes that we need to keep the show scene vibrant are likely different according to the nature of each show.

    Salute is without doubt a flagship event with an international element, that alone sets it apart from other shows.

    Across the board, I would like to see better food / eat facilities and certainly more seating so that I can rest weary joints and somewhere where Mrs. Wargamer can sit out with a book for an hour after exhausting herself on a 20 minute walk around the show with me pointing out things with much excitement.

    It would be nice to think that shows had a richness of goodness to choose from, so that they could balance trade, so that a wider diversity of scale and subject was covered and even choose some game themes for clubs or individuals to put on, that has a link with something they might want to support, such as solo gaming or the anniversary of a notable action etc, it would just need to apply to a couple of tables.

    I would also like to see one section of the play area separated out to show typical games that can me played in the modern (small) type of house that we are developing in the UK. Of it’s own design, this might give some emphasis to smaller scales - the lack of which at small shows is a ‘put off’ to some gamers even wanting to attend, because enter a show and you walk into a 28mm world (I like 28mm by the way), but you know what I mean as you have seriously collected at both ends of the scale spectrum.

    So in short, increase trader and game diversity at shows. Give me somewhere to sit and something that is a bit more than a burger at a van come lunchtime and try to be mindful that wargame partners should be encouraged (or at least not discouraged) to attend. Thinking of ways to keep gamers at shows beyond 12 noon, might of itself fix some of the elements that I allude to.

    There should also be a huge SHREDDER at the door for visitors to deposit their back packs upon arrival :-)

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    1. I'll be honest Norm, if Salute was closer and my sister still lived in London I would attend. It has an excitement about the show that I did enjoy. Yes it was hard on the feet and yes it was a bugger to get to but I did enjoy the buzz. You mention shows that exhibit/display smaller games etc, well I would definately recommend Hammerhead, where virtually all the games on show are participation/ small games. As for food, well the best value this year had to be Battleground at Middlesbrough simply because with having no entrance fee, or parking fee, the bacon sandwiches were really free. As for the issue of keeping wargamers past dinnertime has been a problem for many years. I did attend a show in London years ago where Christopher Duffy and Colonel Elting did a talk and Q,A session, it was funny and brilliant and worth missing my bus.

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  6. The evolution of wargame shows during the past decades has followed the evolution of the hobby: instead of wargame-tinkerers (do everything yourself), we now have wargame-consumers (buy everything yourself). This is reflected in the products available, but also in the attitude of show-visitors. I remember shows in the late 80s/early 90s, that the "tinkering spirit" was still strong: you went to show to see what other gamers were doing, how they made their terrain, what rules they used etc., so you could replicate those things yourself. Now people go to shows to buy things, and yes, there might be a few gaming tables getting in the way of the shoppers.

    Neither is right or wrong, but it's fair to say the hobby has changed, and so do shows. However, I do think we will see a trend back towards the gaming conventions. People can shop online, and especially for EU shows, Brexit has basically eliminated the shopping aspect of many shows (wargaming still being an anglocentric hobby).

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  7. As insightful as ever Phil. The days of wargamers using banana oil,a hot pin and cheap glue have gone, thank God. Its a tribute to the hobby that certain people have seen a market that generates an income of sorts for them, and more power to their elbows. I know I could still make terrain, and probably very well, but time is now an issue, so Im a consumer. As for rules, well Im now of an age where I want 'simple' mechanisms and no longer seek the holy grail of absolute realism, which never existed anyway. The best rules Ive used in the last couple of years were free in the wargames press and provided a game that felt right.

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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