Sunday, 21 April 2013

Salute 2013

Had a great day yesterday at Salute at the ExCel centre in east London. I haven't been to Salute for about five years and I thought it was about time to go and have a look.

I was a regular attender from the early 80s when it was at Kensington Town Hall, then when it moved up the road to Olympia. In those days being on the west side of London it was just that bit easier to get to. The move to the east of London in the former docklands site which is now home to the Excel and the Millenium Dome now renamed the O2 centre, has added another forty odd minutes to the journey. This together with the travel and venue costs had put me off going for the last few years. However given that it is the premier show in Europe, and as all that is great in wargaming is produced in the UK (only joking), I thought it was about time to soak up some inspiration that a major show like Salute can supply.

The journey up to London from sunny Devon is a round trip of just over 500 miles, which entails about four and a half hours in the car up and back. In previous times I have split this journey up by staying overnight with friends and family but yesterday I decided to drive it in one day. Fortunately I was joined by three mates from the club, Vince, Ian and Steve H.and my eldest son Tom so we enjoyed plenty of good chat on the way up and back. We also met at the show one of the Devon Wargames Groups extended members John M who has lived for a number of years up near John O Groats in Scotland. John has recently been surpassed as our furthest away club member by Gus who has moved to Cyprus, but will be maintaining his membership for home visits.

The day started at 6am and concluded at 8.30pm when we got home. A day like this takes careful planning, so on arrival at the show, about 11am, we sorted out meet up times and Tom and I set off around the venue picking up pre-orders I had with various manufacturers and photographing games we had planned to see. Excel is a big arena and we decided to work our way up and down the rows of traders and games ticking off our list of people to see.

So to what in my humble opinion were some of the best games of the show. The games I have pictured are what I would be happy to present to the non wargaming public as our hobby of historical wargaming at its best.

First up is, what I believe won, best game of the show. A stunning 20mm Normandy encounter from the Nantwich Gamers "When Chaos Reigns - A detailed company level game using the Kampfgruppe Normandy rules. Grenadier Guards and King's Shropshire Light Infantry  with armour support assault over the River Orne into a large French town defended by experienced German infantry and armour"

The attention to detail had to be seen to be believed, with shoulder patches included on the British infantry. My dad who served with Guards Armoured Division in Normandy would have been impressed with this game. Very well done.

Sherman Firefly covers the advance

A rare sight in Normandy
 I'm afraid I don't get the American Civil War. The advance to rifled muskets and artillery for me take away the beauty of the three arms working together that Napoleonics offers in buckets. That being said I can appreciate the colour and pageantry of the blue and the grey.
Having walked the Gettysburg battlefield I was immediately caught by this beautiful rendition of the attack on the Little Big Top by Wargames Illustrated to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Next up was a 15mm Stalingrad encounter by Arbuthnot's Terra Firma League of Gentlemen.
I love to see how people manage to model city battle landscapes and this modular terrain style seem to capture the look quite well. I certainly came away with ideas form my own collection.

I hadn't picked out any of the ancient of medieval games to look out for, but Tom called me over to check out this beautiful game. I'm sorry I'm not sure who the presenters were, so I'm guessing that this was the "Battle of Cravant 31st July 1423 - Lance and Longbow Society, An Anglo-Burgundian army encountered a Franco-Scottish army outside Cravant in Burgundy"

In addition to the great terrain and figures, check out the arms and heads of the less fortunate souls crossing the river, that Tom pointed out to me.

Back to my current theme, the Peninsular War, I managed to get a few pictures of the Victrix "Iberian Glory - Fast and Furious 54mm Napoleonic participation game with prizes". I love the detail 54mm scale has to offer. This had me wanting to get straight back to the painting desk.

Now I come to, for me and the unofficial Devon Wargames Group Salute Committee, what was the "Best Game of Show" but which actually received second best. The number of pictures of this game really gives a clue to my thoughts. Not only was it massive, but the standard of terrain, figure painting and overall presentation, just put it, for us, in first place.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present from the Essex Gamesters "Waterloo - A full size 28mm Waterloo display game. The team were in Napoleonic re-enactor uniforms giving a detailed talk about the battle".

To see this game was a real treat. The guys from Essex had set up the whole of the Waterloo field from Genappe to Hougomont. I was able to stand with Tom, who is not as familiar with the events of the battle as myself, and give him a blow by blow description of the battle by simply pointing out those events captured in this wonderful display game. Check out the pictures below and let me have your thoughts.

The French cavalry under Ney assault the Allied Squares

Bruswick Uhlans to the rescue

Belgian infantry resisting furiously

I love Carabineers

The Guards will hold fast

Watch out there trying to get in through the back!

The irresistible force meets the immovable object

The Nassau hold the gardens

Here comes his Britannic Majesty's Life Guards

The 42nd Black Watch line the sunken road

"Scotland the Brave"

La Haye Saint held by the KGL with the 95th Rifles in the sandpit

Hogoumont - the model, as the game was being put away

The Guard in reserve

More Guard and the Grand Battery facing the allies across the valley

"His hat was worth 40,000 men on any battlefield"

The Red "Dutch" Lancers of the Guard look on
I gather from the Essex lads that this game took three hours to put up. A massive thanks to them for a fantastic game.

So that was another Salute for another year captured in the memory. I had a brilliant day with lots of laughs with good friends. I managed to pick up some figures for my Napoleonic collection, some terrain including my bell tower as discussed previously, and some other stuff which I will talk about in future posts. I also want to offer my apologies to my fellow bloggers who I had hoped to meet at the show. I'm sorry guys but I didn't realise how much we had to do in so little time before hitting the road back to Devon. I hope we might meet up in future.


  1. No need to apologize for taking pride in the British wargaming. For decades now you Brits have been well ahead of the curve in terms of game design, miniature production, and overall enthusiasm. And as these photos amply show, you Brits put on some gorgeous-looking games as well.

    Just one minor quibble from a Yank, though: it's "Little Round Top," not "Little Big Top."

    But thanks for sharing. This was a fun post!

  2. Hi Mark, there you go, that proves how little I know about the American Civil War. I stand corrected sir, and I intend to leave my "mess up" for posterity.

    Thanks for your comments


  3. Great to see your photos of Salute!, Jonathan.

    You note that Essex Gamesters' Waterloo was a display game. Fantastic looking game, by the way. What exactly is a display game? Is it a static display or a wargame? Perhaps this is a case of two countries separated by a common language?


    1. Hi Jon,
      Good question, the games at most UK shows tend to be categorised as "demonstration" or "participation"' thus indicating the game is either to show off the models and terrain possibly showing off a particular rule set in action and inviting questions from interested observers or indicating that interested people can join the game to play. The Waterloo game was definitely the former where there was no playing involved, but was a static affair to give an idea of events that occurred during the actual battle using the models.

      Yes it was a superb display, I came away very inspired to press on with my own collection.

  4. I totally agree with you on the Little Round Top game (although if I was the figure painter I might be dis-appointed that everyone was raving about the terrain) - it was a really nice example of how not having wall to wall figures on the table can work so well - and I believe they were actually playing a game. And I really liked the Stalingrad game too.

    But I wasn't so impressed with the Waterloo diorama - it seemed to me to be a real case of put all your toys out on display, beautiful terrain, lovely figures (although there were a few nitpicks when you looked closely) but if they weren't actually playing I don't think it can be called a "demonstration." And guys dressing up as Napoleon don't do much for me. But obviously a huge amount of effort went into it and the attack on Hougomont was very nice.

    But was it me or were there fewer big games this year? Lots of small "boutique" tables but pretty much only the one really big game.

    And the Cravant game was put on by the author of this blog,

    1. Hi LiitleArmies, you raise some good points. On the way home, we were pondering why the Essex display didn't get first. Perhaps the fact that they were not playing was a factor. I guess my perspective is that I take more interest in the modelling and painting skills on display rather than what particular rule set is being demonstrated. The Waterloo game was very playable so the fact that they weren't would seem a bit of a harsh penalty. It comes down to your point of view at the end of the day.

      I take your point about the size of games presented, we thought the same. The other thing that struck us was there didn't seem to be the normal "razzle-dazzle" that we have had in previous shows ie no Star Wars lookalikes or even Jason's walking around the hall.

      We all thought the venue was great. The space between tables was enough to make it easy getting around the hall to see traders and games alike without having to deal with a crush of people.

      I am certainly thinking about going again next year, but not there and back in a day. I'm getting too old for that!

  5. Very nice report,
    Would have been cool to see Napoleon getting dragged away at the end by a couple of guys in white coats with him shouting "you must believe me I am Napoleon!!!" (obviously with a French accent).

  6. Hi Paul, I was trying to imagine the same game done in God's own scale, 18mm.

  7. John, I was all in favour of not having re-enactors there - I was one of those appalled during the "National Socialist Home Front" furore a few years ago. I wasn't too sure what those people in Middle Ages dress as you went in were there for - as far as I could see they mostly sat around eating sandwiches and chatting to one another (although I'd have liked to see them demonstrate their trebuchet on the Star Wars troopers that have become a perrenial part of the show). God, I've become a grumpy old man haven't I?

  8. Committee decision ? was I asleep when the vote was taken ? for what its worth my favourite game was the Normandy game and I'm generally not that fussed about WW2 . The Waterloo game had great buildings ,nice figures and the quantity was impressive but it was just too crowded , the figures to ground to visual aspect ratio wasn't right.
    My first time at the Excel venue after attending Olympia and Kensington in the past and it was an enjoyable day out with friends ,its always nice to see what you are buying plus the temptation factor of stuff you hadn't considered however my general impression was that it lacked atmosphere , when I got back I have been searching for the right word and the best I can come up with was soulless .

  9. Steve, we always wait till your asleep before we discuss the serious stuff. I know what you mean about the atmosphere, perhaps it's indicative of the times, an austerity Salute!

  10. Fantastic images of a great convention, I went there back in 1996...many years ago and loved the place. I will have to get back there again soon.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Vinnie, thanks mate. I think Salute is one of those "itches" you have to scratch every now and then. I think I enjoyed it more for not having been for a while.