A couple of months back, through the media of the Forum's Forums (Are you registered yet? If not why not?) I made a very generous offer. As I was unable to attend Salute I offered to pay the entry fee and incidental expenses for anyone willing to prepare a report on this major show. Suprisingly no-one took me up on the offer!
Warlord's Back of Beyond
However, as luck would have it, the Lads v Dads lacrosse match (an annual event in which a horde of murderous ruffians wearing helmets and body armour strike with overwhelming force against a cowering group of middle aged men with the intention of inflicting maximum pain and embarrassment. Such is sport!) which I could not miss on pain of divorce or worse, was postponed by one day. Then I found that I had to attend a meeting in London on St Georges Day. Serendipity at last, Train tickets were purchased on-line, and a visit to Laterooms.com furnished a hotel room to minutes from Olympia for just £30, no breakfast but a bargain anyway!
|More action in the Beyond!|
I arrived at the show very early for me, 8am, but even so the venue Olympia 2 was a hive of activity as traders and display gamers were working hard to install their parephenalia before the doors opened (and queues were forming outside already). The hall itself is on three levels, the basement was to house a number of traders and display games as well as a very large bring and buy.
The Main Floor more traders, games and the Painting competitions, While the first floor housed even more trade, more games and the refreshment area, as well as a "drill area" where re-enactors presented static and live action displays throughout the day.
If that sounds big......it is!
|A milk crate put to an unusual purpose|
Some 74 display games, large (some very large) medium and small, supported by over 100 trade stands from all over the UK, Europe and North America. These covered every aspect of the hobby from roleplay by e-mail to exotic dice, books rules, magazines, and just about every figure range you can think of. Despite this, and the large numbers attending (though the glorious weather and Underground problems may have kept some away) the show never seemed overcrowded, and the air-conditioning kept the temperature cool.
The only real jostling I saw was around the Bring and Buy, but even then only occasionally. Despite what I had been told to expect, the Bring and Buy was well staffed, effectively laid out, and nothing like a rugby scrum. The other surprise was the amount of well painted models for sale at very reasonable or even cheap prices. I had been told that the prices were extortionate at this show, but not from what I saw. Perhaps the recent stagnation of sales and prices on Ebay has had an effect.
There was plenty to see on the trade stands, I spent some time checking out the new range of flags available from Redoubt called Body's Banners. The initial releases are English Civil War, and will be followed by Seven Years War in North America, then ACW to complement the Redoubt ranges, and at £2.50 a sheet they are very good value. Vendel had the complete Reiver range available, and what little beauties they are, buy the full set and you have a complete skirmish campaign ready to go.
The Assault Group hit on a novel idea, use camouflage to make your stand more attention grabbing, it worked and drew attention to the excellent figures on display including the new Samurai that were attracting much positive comment. Steve Barber, whose busy hands are never still, has turned his attention to the Three Musketeers and his 42mm range are truly magnificent, and oh so tempting.
|Messrs Morris and Jones present Dux Bellorum|
New to me was the German figure range Excalibur Miniaturen, which featured some very impressive fantasy figures (including a very saucy erotic range) and the Fearless gaming system, and I am sure that we are going to hear a lot more from them in the future. Of course popular favourites were also present all with something new to show, Lancashire Games with WW1 in East Africa, Ainsty Castings with new resin cast terrain, Alternative Armies with the Greek Mythology based Typhon game system complete with rules and some wonderful figures.
|Guinevere stands defiant|
It was also great to see the i-Kore stand prominent on the corner, and to see them doing good business. They have had their problems recently, but now trading as Urban Mammoth hopefully they will now continue to great success.
|North London Wargames Group: War of the Worlds|
gathered round a couple of table was a very intent crowd, obviously attracted by something special. Edging my way through these folks I was not wholly surprised to see the skilled brushes of Kevin Dallimore and Inge Jensen at work. It is always fascinating to watch real craftsmen at work and hopefully the tips that they passed on will help improve the quality of painting for those who could find the time to study their techniques.
|Skirmish Wargames Society Italian Job|
But of course it was the games that I wanted to see, and there was certainly something for everyone. I like the Oxford Wargames Society Lost Column game with a colonial force on the North west frontier under assault from various tribes such as the Vindaloos, and the Jalfrezis.... hmmm student humour? The Continental Wars Society presented a map game of Custoza 1866, which was very different from the normal type of game and well worth a look.
|The Continental Wars Society|
Deal Wargames presented their Korean game that I reported at last years Battlegroup South, and the chaps from Warhammer Historical pitted a bunch of Greeks against each other at Chaeronea 338BC (watch out for the Spartacus WAB supplement due out in late June). The S.S.W.G. from Southend presented a very nice display based on the battle of Teugn Hausen 1809, with excellent terrain and well painted models. The inimitable pairing of Messrs Morris and Jones decided to attempt to work themselves to death by staging a multi-scenario game based on the Dark Age legends of Arthur. Very impressive it was too, and with the film due out in July will no doubt find more fans.
I am not sure if it was the shouts or the costumes that first attracted my attention, but whatever it was not possible to ignore the Ad Hoc Wargames Group's presentation of the 19:42 From Benghazi, which was a 54mm, crazy action with LRDG units storming through an Axis base. The enthusiasm of the club members ensured that this game got a lot of attention, all of which was deserved.
Hot work in Benghazi
A similar atmosphere could be felt at a neighbouring table where the Whitstable and Herne Bay Wargamers proved yet again that they are totally mad by giving us a The Mummy in the Back of Beyond of Darkest Africa, hunts for Indiana Jones in Jurassica. If you want to know more check out Random Shorts in the coming weeks.
Whitstable and Herne Bay with another cracking display
But for me there were two outstanding games at Salute, and they went from the ridiculous to the sublime. The first was The Kingston Games Group, Hambusters. This pitted flying pigs against militaristic sheep. The Anti aircraft fire was resolved by throwing small balls of cotton wool, and the sheep had reconnaissance aircraft Ewe 2s. This game was always busy, and everyone was having fun.
At the other end of the scale was Southend Wargames club, and the Rayleigh Wargames group who presented the 1/300th game "The Blooding of the Bull", Operation Epsom 1944. As it happened I had been reading about this battle on the way down to London, having just reviewed Ian Daglish's Operation Goodwood and wanting to fill in more of the background.
The Stunning "Blooding the Bull"
The game looked very impressive, the terrain having been produced with infinite care, and research. The clubs had used contemporary military maps to create the topography, and to position the emplacements, trenches etc. This was superb wargaming, and I don't even fight the period.
|Southend and Rayleigh gamers' superb demo|
Of course there were plenty of other games at the show, but I simply do not have time, or the wrist power to report them all, though I must congratulate the Dortmund Amateur Wargamers on their Pacific Island game, and The Mongrels on their continuing to impress Winter War on tour display.
Dortmund Amateur Wargamers
Salute was a thrilling show and well worth the effort necessary to attend. I know that some people hate the event, and decry the commercial hardsell of the organising club. But I travel to a range of shows up and down the country, large and small. Most have something worth seeing, and Salute had an overwhelming flood of such gems.
Mongrel's Winter War
Further it is the only show that currently attracts anything like the sort of attendance of Games Workshop's Games Day, or is as commercially successful for the Trade. I suppose for some that commercialism within wargaming is unwelcome, but it is the only way for the hobby to develop in the longer term. So I have no choice but to salute the organisers of Salute!
Please remember to mention Wargames Forum when contacting traders!
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