Saturday, April 30, 2011

London, Excel, 16th April

Salute 2011
This year, the Salute display was not as we had originally planned ... Although we booked in advance, and forwarded details earlier than we had done last year, we were deemed 'too late' and were only grudgingly given two 2.5x6' tables for our entire area (less than half what was required just for the 28mm Lost Battles display we had scheduled).

(Corporate - and chauvinistic - Salute)
In some ways, perhaps, this might not be a surprise - although vast, Salute at ExCel is clearly becoming the creature of the vast commercial 28mm operators (and 28mm, includes, of course FoW 15mm WW2 ...).. And to be a volunteer-run, historically based enthusiast club is clearly going out on a limb (and will seemingly get you flung out on a limb..)..

(Harfleur scratch-built in 90mm)
With the reduced space available, I was asked to step in with Greyhounds in the Slips. It fits into a small space, and we hoped the big 90mm skirmish figures would somehow bring us out into view a little ...

I built this ruined building for the interior of Harfleur to raise up one of our caption boards. Although you wouldn't really know, it is actually quite big, and might stand out in other venues.

( ... and upon this charge, Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George')
This made Salute the public launch of
A Domino Double Header, the new Society of Ancients publication featuring The Elephant in the Room and Greyhounds in the Slips.

A Domino Double Header is available from the Society of Ancients. Compiled by Graham Evans, Graham describes what you get on his blog (Wargaming for Grown Ups/Domino Double Header)

I think the corporates know how important it is to stand out in ExCel's amorphous vastness, already, so have used their money to create zones within the show in which they can waste space in order to be as big as their brand demands (space, I guess, which would otherwise go to clubs and Societies).

So, the first requirement is a big table, even if the bit you play on is no larger than wargaming at home. Fill the rest out with a camp, or a random town or just an empty space.

(Warlord Games/Hail Caesar)
Needless to say, it often works very pleasingly ... having enjoyed the Kadesh game at the BattleDay, I wandered over to the Hail Caesar game. It was splendid, and very well presented. There were enough of the 'professional style' Romans to look the piece, and the game was being played.

Unlike the BattleDay, Rick wasn't actually running the game himself, but was on the Warlord stand signing copies of the glossy book.

The 'more is more' approach was best exemplified by Gripping Beast. It is quite telling that I managed to get a photograph of the Maldon game with nobody even near it (and that's quite random - I can only take pictures on my break, so if the game looks unmanned that's how it was when I went snapping). Lost in the middle of that picture is a wargame.

(Gripping Beast/Maldon)
A wargame you could equally have fitted on your dining table at home. As I'm sure will show up in other people's pictures, gobbled up by their long lenses, once you reach into the green, there are some quite splendid figures in there ...

Do all those piles of odd dice mean it is WAB? They didn't add much to the spectacle - but I can't tell you much else as there was nobody around to explain any of it. Presumably they were taking money off punters (really the whole object of the event, for them and their customers).

The side table with ships and campers on it was splendid, but appeared only to be there to ensure the game took up even more space.

I remember Philip Sabin did one of these battles for the Society of Ancients many years ago back when Salute was in Kensington Town Hall. It was using 'Shieldwall', an earlier version of his historical games system (and published in Slingshot). It might have been Maldon. 25mm, it would have fitted on that side table. It got played all day long. Times have changed.

(Crush the Kaiser)
I must admit, really, this was one of the duller Salutes. I suppose the big corporate zones are off putting to those of us who haven't joined the faith, but their sheer size and sameness tends to swamp everything else ... so the little gems fade away into the 'much of a muchness'.

I thought the 'Crush the Kaiser' mud was better than the Gallipoli sand (part of the Battlefront zone) ... and I thought (part of the Victrix zone) the painted backdrop to the Peninsula game was well worth the effort (somehow a way of shutting out the 'Excel shed' effect that I was surprised succeeded so well ...

One of the most refreshing games (again, almost lost in the crowd) was this excellent ECW game of the Siege of York. Not rectangular! How long has it taken?

My 'Welcome to Jerusalem' of a decade ago was, of course, not rectangular - but sort of became rectangular when it went down on rectangular shows pitches. 'By The Pike Divided' had managed to lap their irregular shape over the tables in such a way as to preserve the shape. Maybe their table had its own legs.

Full versions of those pictures on ECW Battles (here ...)..


(The Battle at Verneuil)
But I'll finish on a high spot ... Lance & Longbow's 28mm Verneuil game, which won Best Demonstration Game ('Figures by Simon Chick, Darrell Hindley and Nick Palmer. Terrain provided by Simon Chick') ...

(the English camp)
August 1424, England's 'Second Agincourt', Verneuil is the battle where the ground was famously
baked so hard the English couldn't use their stakes effectively and got broken thorough by heavily armoured Italian mercenaries. On a fearfully bloody day, however, Bedford's English still prevailed over its Franco-Scottish enemies.

More pictures of Verneuil (La Journee)
Simon Chick's blog (Je Lay Emprins)

So, in the end, a reasonable day out for the Society - and probably a good day out for the visitor (though I'd have thought the average punter gets a better deal from Triples or Warfare these days, unless the corporate zoning really matters to them ..)..

Salute is changing. And even though it may not be in a good way, it might be that we have to change with it, in order to allow our unique SoA brand to be shown on fair terms with the overblown machines of corporate wargaming that will otherwise and happily drown it in the pursuit of profit.

How? is a different question.

Boy, it has been a busy and exhausting Spring.

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