We (well I actually as the rest of the team were either working a shift or on holiday) visited this for the first time last year and had a great time wandering a show which wasn’t exclusively for miniaturists, in fact the number of ‘proper wargames’ you can count on the fingers of one hand but if your interests go beyond just pushing miniature figures around this is a must do on the calendar.
Taking place at the NEC over three days at the end of the spring bank holiday this is a big event with some major players in the fantasy role playing and similar genres being present but there always seems to be room for smaller companies trying to make their mark. The format is similar to the traditional wargames show of traders selling their wares and some form of competition gaming taking place.
This year the show had two adjoining halls with the competition being in most of one hall featuring card games, HeroClix, Star Wars X Wing, L’Art de la Guerre, Warhammer, Bolt Action, DBMM, Star Trek Attack Wing, etc; in all I counted 75 competitions from the programme over the three days. The rest of that hall and the main hall was the trade, around 350 of them, plus a myriad of free to play participation games of latest or tried and trusted products run by enthusiastic representatives and this is the thing to do even if its not really your particular interest. I had a go at a card game called Xi, a mass fantasy thing by Para Bellum, a board game (Band Manager I think), Carnivale – fish monsters in renaissance Venice (nice buildings), a bit of Dropzone, a post apocalyptic vehicle shoot em up similar to Gaslands, and the cyber punk wild west game I can’t remember the bloody name of!
We wont play any of these at the club but its fun to see how others play and wandering around there are a plethora of figure manufacturers catering to the dungeon and small skirmish market some of which were quite beautiful (and expensive!) – Dan Kelly at Lion Tower Miniatures, a very talented guy and nice to chat to. Then there is the various scenery producers, big mdf manufacturers like TTCombat – couldn’t resist the in show offer on Tatooine style sci fi terrain, others doing a few buildings plus playing accessories like Commission Figurines and my personal favourite find Iron Gate Scenery who do some lovely resin accessory scenery – these were those kind of people who you can have a friendly chat with while buying a little or a lot and come away thinking ‘must look out for them at the next show I go to’, I can’t wait that long so it’s mail order during the next week.
Of course any reference to small and friendly must include Carl at Second Thunder Games and his Open Combat rules, I think we chatted for about an hour and a half on publishing rules and Brexit and all I purchased was a couple of sets of dice!
Some of the trade I didn’t even have a passing interest in, the various dice bags, dice trays, dice boxes, dice towers and associated wares are very much for a niche I’m not part of but I do have to mention the purpose built gaming furniture that two outlets were selling; these are serious pieces of furniture, dining table and coffee table proportions designed to be used as such and then opened up to reveal an inside gaming arena for board games, card games dungeon floor plans, complete with drinks holders, dice drawers and token boxes. The coffee table retailed at £2485 and the dining room table at £3600! just for the sheer amazement value go to the website of geeknson.
I’m not sure if I’ve done real justice to this or not. I didn’t mention the kids zone – because mine are grown up, I didn’t mention the numerous break out areas where people just set up and played, there were loads of games that I just didn’t get to play – both years I’ve wanted to give the Star Wars stuff a bash but no luck, oh and there was a huge bring and buy which was so busy I couldn’t even get in! My main point, which I think has been lost on the rest of the team, is that there is more than just historical wargaming with figures out there and this is a good show to see it, maybe get some ideas and maybe broaden the base a bit.
Next time some ‘proper wargaming’.