Whilst trying to find the hall in the huge ExCel complex, I did encounter hordes of people registering for the London Marathon. This lead me to realise two things:
- Marathon registration needs a LOT of space.
- I was in the wrong area, as explained by the following Venn diagram from the Warlords’ blog:
The main, if not sole, reason for going was to meet up with Craig Cartmell, a friend from Portsmouth that I don’t think I’d seen since 1990 at Colours in Reading. Otherwise I’d avoid this event as table-top wargaming with armies of miniatures is not an interest of mine so there is usually nothing I want to see or buy.
Craig along with Charles Murton have authored “In Her majesty’s Name”, a set of Steampunk/Victorian Science Romance skirmish rules for Osprey publishing. Salute was Craig’s opportunity to demo his first professionally published rules set except The White Hart Gamers took that arduous job off his hands.
I didn’t have an opportunity to join in a demo of this game, or, in fact, many games. A big problem for me is that participation games are very opportunistic – there is a tiny window of opportunity in between each 30-40 minute game where you can grab a seat. So it’s the norm to come up to a table where the game is in full swing and so move on to the next table/stall/stand/exhibit/etc. until you find a new ready to start. I put in a few miles at Salute…
I did manage a couple of games, though, after sufficient hanging around – “Wings of War” (now relabelled “Wings of Glory”) and 7TV (from Crooked Dice). Wings of War is a fancy version of the old Sopwith PBM game with landscape mats replacing sheets of hex paper. Each turn, you set up a sequence of three manoeuvres (bank left, ahead slow, etc.) that you hope will put you in a good position to fire on your opponent. This will be very familiar to fans of Roborally. Was pleased to start the game by taking out the enemy Fokker Dr.I triplane with a single burst of gunfire after an Immelmann turn but eventually my plane was shot down and the game lost. Thanks to Marquee Models for the chance to play.
At these shows there are always people with incredible historical knowledge who can provide tid bits to explain why the game was designed as it was. For example, the manoeuvre cards for the Sopwith Camel included sharp right but no sharp left due to the rotary engine used by that plane. As I later found on Wikipedia:
With rotary engines, the crankshaft remained fixed while the cylinders and attached propeller rotated around it. The result of this torque was a significant “pull” to the right. In the hands of an experienced pilot, this characteristic could be exploited to give exceptional manoeuvrability in a dogfight. A 3/4 turn to the right could be done in the same time as a 1/4 turn to the left.
Crooked Dice, according to their website, “specialise in wargames rules and miniatures inspired by the many and varied iconic worlds of 60s-70s Cult TV” so they had demos of 7TV, 7ombieTV (George A. Romero) and 7th Voyage (Ray Harryhausen). After waiting for the zombie running my game to finish his lunch (jacket potato, thankfully), I was lead through a The Sweeney vs. mad scientist style combat. Like most skirmish rules, combat is very simple and quick using d6, modified by character-specific skills and attributes. The figures and sets are all lovely painted so the games are never quite the same when you play them at home.
A game I didn’t manage to play but really wanted to was a large, vertical version of Snit’s Revenge. Excellent way of entertaining young attendees – the rules are a bit simpler than for the other games on show (but not much) and the idea is comic enough to be more attractive than, say, an English Civil War battle.
With the rest of my time, I had a look at the amazing scenery and terrain that people were using to demo their games. The time and effort spent on making what are often works of art must be huge.
There is a market for flat-pack self-assembly buildings as shown by the stock being offered at the Wolsung steampunk skirmish game table. Storage space is a major problem for table-top miniature wargaming and having buildings you can take apart when not in use sounds ideal. I’m not sure I could afford this setup, though – their website is selling the two-storey building (or something similar) on the left of the photo for 30 Euros so the whole complex will be over 100. And then you need the figures and accessories… This hobby is definitely a rich man’s game.
Almost forgot to mention the obligatory goody bag.
In addition to the branded die (which now seem compulsory for every event), there was also a build-your-own Jason (of Argonauts, not Friday, fame). In the programme, they explained the processes they went through to make this plastic figure and then went on to describe how to paint it.
I don’t think I can fully explain how dispiriting I find the idea of painting Jason. We do have the paints and brushes somewhere in the house (from when Sue went through a phase of painting some of my D&D figures) but I don’t have the patience or coordination to attempt the job. The instructions even detail what colour to use for the irises of the eyes! It’s a 28mm figure – I can’t even SEE the eyes properly, let along paint their centres.