Monday, 9 September 2019

Wargames Shows - a personal view

Having been to two very different wargames shows in two weeks and read reviews of both on various Blogs, as well as chatting with traders and attendees, I thought I'd jot down my personal thoughts and experinces. So in no particular order:

  • My job is as a modelmaker for a design company, so I find making stuff very easy. So when I see some of the stunning bespoke boards at shows, I have a good idea of the time, money and commitment required to make them. It therefore irks me slightly at times when I read comments such as 'the games on show were average' etc. I'm not sure what fellow gamers are expecting? Ver Linden style games which look stunning and not much happens, if at all? Even putting on a 'standard' home style game takes a lot of time and effort. I should know as I used to do it for quite a few years.
  • At the recent Cotswold Wargaming Day I made a simple 'Old School' board out of MDF, which I then gave a basic paint finish to. Nothing fancy but materials wise the cost was circa £40 and in terms of hours spent making it, probably 18 hours plus spread over a few weeks. Imagine what some of the visually attractive games cost in terms of materials, hours spent etc. So maybe take time to take this into consideration before 'critiscising' the quality of games?
  • Now I love to see great terrain, but I actually prefer to see games that I feel I could put on at home using a simple gaming cloth and standard (if there is such a thing) buildings, hills etc that are multi-purpose in their use. Sadly I do not, like most gamers, have a dedicated gaming space, so storage is always an issue. 
  • A greater variety in scales would be great to see. I know 28mm is probably the dominant 'scale' of the hobby, but a good mix of scales and table sizes would be refreshing to see. Pendraken try to ensure variety at their Battleground show and the Joy of Six does what it says on the tin, but maybe the organisers could try and get a bit more variety? Now I'm fully aware that you are reliant upon the gamers willing to put on a game, but surely vareity is the spice of our gaming lives?
  • I go to shows primarily to see wargames in action. However at times I feel in the minority as listening to other gamers in queues to get in and talking to the traders, the shows seems to be about buying stuff and there just happens to be some games on show as well. So I find the Cotswold Wargames Show a refreshing change when it is all about the games. Don't get me wrong, I like to have a peruse as I did this year at Colours, but don't forget the games!
  • I just wish all games would have some information on display about the game being played, the rules used etc. Show guides sometimes help in relation to this, but not always. It would be nice to have people to chat to about the game, whilst it was being played, but naturally this epends upon having enough people interested to help out, which is  difficult to achieve I know. Bruce Weigle was on his own at Colours but was doing a sterling job trying to run the game and chat to people. When I helped Michael Leck and Co at Salute, we always had two people playing the game and ideally two on hand to talk to the show attendees. Again hard to achieve but it would make the experience greater IMHO.
  • Skirmish games on small tables, such as 2' x 2', often get denegrated as not being real wargames, but given some of the above, this maybe all that certain gamers have the space and money to play. We are not all retired with the family flown and therefore plenty of gaming space, so spare a thought for those of us who can only game on the kitchen table (if SWMBO permits!).
  • I'll admit to having succumbed to some of the above in my time, so I hope to remember my comments here when looking at games in the future. To err is human and all that.

Hopefully the above may have been of interest to you and as always I look forward to reading any comments, both for and against the above.


  1. I spent a year back at the beginning of the 90s traipsing around a number of wargame shows with a wargame we were demonstrating. It's a lot of work.

    1. When I put games on at Colours, I think I spent 11-12 hours away from home, which included the travel, setting up, taking down etc. You then need to add in all the other prep such as scenario prep, trial games etc. A lot of work for for sure. Maybe I'll do this again one day, but I very much doubt it.

  2. Good points Steve. A show needs to be a balance between trade and gaming, each serving the other. I have come across games that have inspired me to make an impulse purchase, to go straight to a trader and get 'stuff'!

    But this to a degree needs harmonisation, so if you have 6mm and 10mm games on, you need the likes of Pendraken and Baccus present to then capture any enthusiasm generated.

    Successful games are often ones that the trader has organised and has set up in front of their stall.

    You also need at least one trader that has a good selection of rule books, this has been a weak point in shows that I have visited over the last couple of years. Big shows have relied on Caliver, but if they don't attend, that is a big gap in the diversity of show product. Thank Goodness for Dave Lanchester who sells books and has a few cartons of second hand rule sets,he is at a lot of shows and supports the smaller ones.

    There is a big proportion of 28mm related stuff within the trade stands, but I can't really argue with that as following the money and the supply / demand thing does what it does.

    I do wonder how many smaller scale gamers (and I include the mighty 15mm audience in that statement!) have already given up on the show circuit?

    The numbers that attend shows are in my opinion relatively low anyway and the same faces can attend several shows, so the jam is spread quite thin. I often wonder how many of the traders can make it financially work. It is not uncommon to see posters write that they didn't buy anything or they just bought a brush and an ink etc, of they just bought of the Bring 'n Buy ..... this kind of spend in not in any way going to sustain shows in the way that we understand them in 2019, as punters, we have to support a show financially, especially our local one, if we want to see it continue in the current format and get the spin off benefits of gaming tables and a place to meet up etc. There is an equation to an ongoing successful show and it involves us as active punters.

    And that may become the nub of the thing, where is the red line that causes a trader not to attend, but just to have a one day decent sale on their website instead?

    Hammerhead seams to be thriving, they get big numbers of punters and traders and going to a model of Participation Games only seems to work for them - the idea is that you spend several hours there and indulge. York just seems like a shopping fest and Brit Con in Manchester might be reliant on the tournament side of their show. So shows do develop their own character and perhaps they need to be one thing strongly rather than trying to be everything.

    I always come away from a show grateful for the traders, the organisers and those putting games on - I suppose missing from that is us turning up and properly financially supporting it.

    We need a sort of mantra along the lines of keep your local / favourite show alive. My local show is 16 miles away, I then generally in the position of having to travel 90 - 160 miles to get to other shows.

    LOVE your show!

    1. Thanks for your reply Norm! Eloquent as always. I agree with everything you have said.

      Peter Pig always have a game right by their stand which must help sales. I think for Baccus and Pendraken this would be difficult due to the size of their stands and the layout of the show. It has been done at Salute as there is enough space. It couldn't be done at Warfare in Reading as you can barely move around the traders as it is!

      I've noticed that at the past few shows there has been a dearth of rulebooks for sale; not sure why, maybe because you can often buy cheaper on Amazon or Ebay? Still I miss being able to peruse both old and new offerings on the rules front.

      The posts I've read re: Colours have mentioned the lack of purchases, which is obviously of concern to the traders. I always try and buy something, but from a purely shopping perspective, it is cheaper for me not to drive and enter the show, saving me approximately £15 - £20 which I could spend online. This probably works well for the traders too, but they do need to show off their wares. As with this show I bought stuff that I wasn't sure about online as I could see it in the flesh and it was what I wanted. Then there are those impulse purchases which one cannot account for!

      If a show didn't have any games to see, frankly I would make the trip. So shows need games and traders!

  3. Great points! Living in Belgium I am not exactly spoiled for choice regarding shows, but I always visit Crisis in Antwerp and usually WarCon in Ghent. I tend to spend a fair amount of money there, mainly because it saves me a lot in shipping costs! I wholeheartedly agree with your points on the amount of time and money that goes into the games, which I admire very much, and more's the pity that often there is only little information about the games or the rules being used. More often than not I can spend a fair amount of time watching a game without anyone approaching me to explain. Obviously, I could just ask myself (and sometimes I do), but it tends to put me off when players seem completely engrossd in their game and seemingly not noticing anything around them... When I get the chance to play a game (which is not very often) I game in the smaller games (15mm,10 mm and 6mm), which are very rarely seen at the shows. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy gaming shows, both for the games and the traders! And I would really like to visit the Joy of Six next year.

    1. Thanks for your comments and interesting to know you have similar issues at Crisis etc. We are lucky in having reasonable postal charges here, so I tend not to worry about them. I might make a conscious effort to go to Joy of Six next year, just to get a gaming fix based upon a scale I can enjoy and appreciate.

  4. The Grimsby Wargames Society is putting on a game at Pendrakens Battleground Show I dread to think how many hours we put in so far

    Here is the latest pictures for the work completed

    Take care