This weekend, at the invitation of the South London Warlords, I travelled up to London from Devon, for the second time in a week to visit perhaps the premiere show in the hobby, Salute.
I am of an age now to be able to look back and see the development of Salute and indeed the hobby, with memories of this show from its first incarnation back in the early eighties when Mr Steve and I used to travel up to Kensington Town Hall; then into later times when the show relocated to another West London location at Olympia to today now firmly established in the former docklands of the East end of London at Excel.
|It's a crisp morning, about 09.15 as I make my way from Royal Victoria station on the Docklands Light Railway to the Excel Conference Centre in the East-end of London|
Salute like the hobby has grown and changed as you would expect from those earlier times but I think one thing has remained a constant is its position as the premier showcase of all things new in the hobby and a launch pad for the next big thing to grab our collective attention.
|This dockland area has been transformed from its shabby past life into a major exhibition and entertainment area of London amid the cranes from another time in the history of the place.|
I think Salute is a fantastic showcase for the hobby and a must see show for anyone new to the hobby or anyone of any experience in wargaming to see and have the opportunity to refresh their ideas about what is out there and new ideas to enhance the way they play their games today.
As part of that idea I set out on my trip to the show to do something a little different from the way I had presented other visits to other great shows here in the UK and last year in Antwerp on my visit to Crisis where I presented a very subjective personal view of those shows illustrated most obviously in the games I chose to focus on.
|It 10.00 and the doors have just opened to eager gamers keen to see what's new|
My intention was to do the same thing here in this look at Salute but also to include a look at some specific traders and manufacturers that captured my imagination with the great products they offer and to bring you a bit of an insight into their businesses and plans based on conversations I recorded on the day whilst highlighting the new trends affecting our hobby.
So setting out from Northwood at 08.00 on the Saturday morning I took the tube across London aiming to get into the venue an hour before opening to allow me to get a good start on my plans for the day with interviews pre-arranged with several traders and games marked up on my floor plan to enable me to work my way around methodically, not to mention picking up some additions to my own collections along the way.
Arriving at 09.20 I met up with members of the organising team who informed me that they were expecting around 6,000 visitors and that the club had just about a full turn out, around 140 members to help run the day.
|Marin Murray from Warbases explaining the new game from them, 'All for One' to Nick Skinner from Too Fat Lardies|
Of course I was not alone in my efforts to explore all things new and interesting and so my first 'port of call' saw me joining Nick Skinner to record a chat with Martin Murray from Warbases showcasing their new skirmish game 'All for One' to be released 'very soon'.
You will be able to hear more about this new game on the Lardy Oddcast hopefully featuring more from Sydney Roundwood who was tabled on the day to be playing the game.
The rules have been written by Anthony Spencer and Sam Catteral and are a one on one skirmish set designed to be played, as shown here, on a two by two foot table capturing the period drama of the the Three Musketeers going head to head with the Cardinal's Red Guard.
Needless to say, a ready supply of suitable terrain will be available from Martin and Warbases.
After chatting with Martin and Nick, my next appointment was with Julian Blakeney-Edwards owner of Victrix Ltd who kindly put time aside to share some of the exciting plans for all things new in Victrix Miniatures and I started our conversation by asking Julian to outline what's next from his company.
|Saxon Command figures part of the Saxon range to compliment the soon to be released and eagerly awaited Vikings|
Julian listed off a pipeline of new products starting with the highly anticipated Vikings with tooling all done and ready to run the first test sprues and with the Saxon castings about another three to four weeks away.
|The Early Germans, now with the tooling room|
The Early German designs are now with the tooling room and the recently announced Dacians are in the sculpting phase with a new Romanian sculptor who has joined the team bringing all his native passion into this other exciting new figure range.
|The just recently announced Dacians, which needless to say really excited my interest going forward|
The regular sculptor on the Dark Ages range is about done in with designing figures in chain-mail and so to have a break, the plan to produce three different packs of Normans will be put on hold and the focus moved back to Napoleonics; with the design of some 95th Rifles figures and some cavalry options to be confirmed but possibly either Swiss/Dutch Lancers or Chasseurs.
But just to add yet more excitement to things Dark-Age we can expect to see some Huscarls soon.
|I added to my own Victrix collection with a pack of the new Roman Generals,|
two packs of EIR Cavalry and a pack of the new Roman Shields to compliment
my metal figure ranges.
Not only that but the Imperial Romans can expect a reinforcement with Head of the Design team having just completed a brief to produce a new Scorpio model together with a Roman Ox Cart - be still my beating heart!
I was very keen to get an insight into how Victrix go about planning their design and release plan as obviously keeping the design team fresh and creative is very important and Julian explained the need also to combine that with product ranges in tandem so that Romans are launched with Celts, Punic Romans with Carthaginians and Vikings with Saxons.
|The next big thing from Victrix in 2020|
The other intriguing aspect of Victrix design is that their sculpting team are first and foremost qualified artists with a deep understanding of anatomy to which is added the skills of computer aided design technology and the on the job learned skills of avoiding the dreaded undercut and of course unsightly seams.
With an upfront cost of anywhere between £10,000 to £25,000 to produce a tool for molding, Victrix are in the forefront of this technology and their passion for the product is obvious in their models with a growing team of designers able from the experience they get to produce better models each time.
|12mm Tanks, mock ups for the new project from Victrix next year|
Finally Julian showed me the next big thing for 2020 from Victrix that sees plans for a new range of 12mm late WWII vehicles, infantry and equipment to be launched as a complete gaming system in a box containing figures, rules, cards and dice, with supplementary vehicle and figure sets to be launched after.
The first twenty vehicles from the NW European theatre for 1944 are designed and the two plastic mock ups that were on display together with an impression of the sprue for the Panther and Sherman can be seen above.
Victrix are one of the great examples I saw at Salute showing why this is such a great time to be in the hobby and I am really grateful to Julian for sharing his enthusiasm with a fan like me who just can't wait to see the additions to their range in the coming years.
Next on my list was an invitation from the chaps at Battlefront UK to come and visit their stand and see how another leading manufacturer in the hobby goes about things, as well as adding to a few things to my WWII collection.
|Nicely turned out display tables showing off the latest ranges from Battlefront|
My interest in WWII wargaming has a long history and I well remember the early days of Battlefront as a small company with a limited range of somewhat dumpy off scale resin and metal model tanks at a time when the main source of 15mm vehicles and figures were the Command Decision range from the then Skytrex.
Suddenly Battlefront reformed in the early-mid nineties into a major player in the era of 15mm WWII withdrawing its old models and embarking on a dramantic launch plan of scenario books, new and much better models and the Flames of War rule set I that had watched the first incarnations of develop online.
Since then the company has grown with the additions of Gale Force Nine, new terrain items, new eras from WWI to Modern and now a range of Fantasy models licensed for Hasbro's D&D, not to mention their former association with Wargames Illustrated Magazine, charting a truly meteoric rise.
|Battlefront's CAD design system on show at Salute this weekend|
I have not got into all the Battlefront ranges and rule sets but have always collected their WWII figures and vehicles which I think are some of the best models in that era despite some very nicely designed competitors coming into that market in recent times.
In addition, never having been part of the competitive wargaming persuasion, I have not waned in my appreciation of the company and its models during its necessary changes to rules and collection requirements, aspects that are not important to me; and so I can celebrate the fact that Battlefront have been part of the growth in the interest in one of my favourite historical periods that has lead to an even greater choice in models and other associated materials that just add to my enjoyment.
|A model sprue seen side on showing the kinks where parts are lower or higher to allow for strategically placed injection points that wont detract from the model when it is assembled.|
Being a big player in figure and model design, I was very keen to take up an offer from the team to sit down with Tim Adcock who very kindly took me through the intricacies of designing the latest plastic tank offering which looked at the Israeli Merkava as an example, which is due out in the next week or so.
Tim explained the first principle in plastic model design in Battlefront, namely before any work is started, an assessment of the market for the model being considered and the likely sales it would generate; a perfectly good place to start when considering the upfront costs of these plastic kits.
He then listed the steps of planning and design leading up to the tool making process where the kit would be planned around how many variants to include, leading to a mock up of the model composed of generally twenty-five to thirty parts, that would be signed off on in New Zealand.
The design ethos is very much around, ease of build, robustness for handling and wargaming, enjoyable to make and paint, and most importantly an accurate model of the actual vehicle.
|The end result of all the design technology with new models for the Oil Wars range of Arab-Israeli vehicles|
Once signed off, there is about a six week period to engineer the various parts that will make up the model in CAD and the likely split line on the mold to allow the part to fall easily from it in production.
Then a gell prototype is created for final signing off in the V1 stage where the aspects of the design ethos are checked and to make sure it will tool correctly. This process includes aspects such as sliding four part molding to allow for the tracks to be produced raised on the sprue but placing the split line along the edge of the track avoiding unseemly lines and injection points on the model.
In all, Tim estimated that the design process to final manufacturing for the new Merkava tank model was about nine months and that represents the kind of lead time the business is working to when considering new ranges.
It was interesting for me to note that Tim and his generation of plastics designers mainly herald from the Games Workshop stables but that the design principles they use for tooling go back to the pioneers that worked for Airfix and Matchbox who were hand pattern makers instead of the computer controlled tool making today.
After speaking to Tim about the design and production side of Battlefront's business I then got to see some of the new historical periods on show including the WWI range of tanks and infantry, with many of the vehicles here are produced in metal.
I then finished my visit with Battlefront taking in a quick game of Tanks, their fast play tank on tank game where Christian Sale patiently took me through the mechanics of the game before we sat down for a match up of my Leopard, duelling it out with his M1 Abrams, all plastic and very nice models.
I have to say it was rather fun rolling a few bones and enjoying a bit of drama as both of us were looking for those sixes and the chance to see the critical hit cards getting turned.
Thank you to Freddie and the Battlefront team for making me very welcome and sharing the behind the scenes story to their great range of products. I am really looking forward to the release of the new late war collections of figures and vehicles in June this year and will be an early customer.
|My Oporto Seminary model built by James Sharp from Oshiro Model Terrain|
The final interview I did on the day was with James Sharp the creative talent behind Oshiro Model Terrain and the man responsible for my beautiful hand made model of the Oporto Seminary that appeared in my series of Peninsular War games last year and previously.
As well as having a stand at the show James also had a marvellous Victorian Steam Punk style game entitled 'Horror in Limehouse' that showed off James' modelling talent with his beautiful rendition of Victorian London complete with top hats and handsome cabs, looking like something straight out of Ripper Street.
As you can see James' work is exquisite and right up there with the best terrain available and explains why a huge part of his time and output is taken up with commission work.
James spent twenty years as an architectural model maker and now has managed to combine the professional side of his life with his hobby.
He explained that he uses a range of model making materials for his buildings with a major use of mounting card that he has found to be strong and robust as well as workable, but will use laser cut acrylic for his sci-fi builds, spray painted for the finish and has even turned to the 3D printer to produce specific items such as the church spire on the Georgian church seen in the Lime Street display.
For commission work such as my seminary model, James will pull out the stops to research the look of the building during the period it represents and in the case of my model spent time looking for additional references to see how the original building differed from the one that can be seen today in modern pictures.
As the Oshiro Model Terrain name implies, James has a personal passion for all things Samurai springing from an early introduction to the 1970's Far East meets Western movie 'Red Sun' starring Charles Bronson and the later Shogun stories by James Clavell and produces a stunning range of buildings for this period in 28mm, 15mm and the early start of a 40mm range.
As you can imagine I really like the work James does and can recommend him without reservation to contact if you are looking for that specific building or buildings to complete or make the perfect looking table.
I even picked up some modelling tips from James during our chat and now have a new technique for painting and weathering my buildings with inks and paint to try out on a future project.
Thank you James for taking the time to chat after a long busy day at the stand and it was really great to finally meet up.
So following, and in between, my various interviews I also did what I normally do which was to capture the feel of the show with the various games on display which appealed to and caught my eye in no particular order, plus I managed to meet up with an amazing chap who has greatly influenced my own thinking about Napoleonics over the years and who happily took time to share his thoughts in conversation.
Warlord Games seem to have taken the WWII Coastal Warfare scene by storm, if you'll excuse the pun, and somewhat surprised themselves in the interest and demand for product their game Cruel Seas has generated since its launch just before Christmas.
If the queue to buy models and materials at the Warlord Stand was anything to go by that excitement and demand has not abated any and I struggled to get close enough to picture the display game happening as I passed by.
Interestingly it seems from recent press releases by the company and the display going on next to the Cruel Seas table that Warlord are now gearing up to raise similar interest in the Age of Sail era with a pre-production roll out of their new game, Black Seas.
I managed to grab some pictures of the models and chat to one of the organisers about the game which as you can see is set to roll out with a range of kits for the era initially focused on the Napoleonic period but likely to include others later on.
The models were and will be kitted out with card sails and these pre production builds were also nicely rigged that added to the visual appeal with it seems game mechanics and recording materials similar to Cruel Seas.
The flyer that I picked up from the table says the game is due out Autumn 2019 and will include a
"forty-eight page rule book, three frigates, six brigates (Brigs?) wakes, ship stat cards x 12, card sails, punch board scenery and tokens, d10 x 8, d6 x 2, paper battle mat, wool for fire and smoke and an A5 flag sheet",
all of course subject to change in the mean time.
This game will no doubt likely cause much discussion in the pre-launch period and interest in how well worked through the rules are prior to release following the interesting launch of Cruel Seas.
With my own focus very much on 28mm ancients and the Romano-Dacian collection it was great to see that the 'big battle' game was very much still alive and rumours of its demise greatly exaggerated in the form of Simon Miller's To the Strongest rendition of the Battle of Watling Street.
If you have been following Simon's lead up to this game you will know the work that has gone into generating eighteen odd thirty-six figure warbands needed to produce a table like the one below, not to mention the chariots, and as someone on to my eighth thirty-eight figure warband, I can greatly admire the effort to produce two such beautifully turned out armies and a pure inspiration for yours truly.
The game was in full flow when I took my pictures and thank you to the players who stepped back to let me get closer to the table.
Needless to say I am greatly inspired to get back to the painting table as soon as I have published this post.
I think I saw a comment come through on some Facebook chatter about this game that the Britons broke through the Roman Line at about 16.30 on the day.
Having recently played my first game of Rebels and Patriots and thoroughly enjoyed doing so it was great to see the co-author of the rules, Micheal Leck putting on the Battle of Danholm using the rules with his lovely collection of 28mm figures.
As you can see the table was a simple but very effective model of the terrain involved and showed off Michael's interesting 3:2:1 figure basing arrangement to model his units that creates a unit look without them being too formalised into lines thus keeping the skirmish effect of this level of game.
The game recreated a French attack on the small island of Danholm with a flotilla of small boats and rafts carrying elements of the 3rd Legere, sailors and Guard engineers to eject the Swedish garrison.
Not a period from the Napoleonic era I am greatly familiar with but a very nice game to see with some nice modelling on show.
Talking of periods I am not overly familiar with, I think you could safely include the 2nd Sino-Japanese War and this scenario put on by the Ardhammer Group, using Bolt Action to model the fighting that occurred in November 1937.
The table seemed to really capture the look of this war portrayed in the period photographs and I really enjoyed seeing the modelling on show.
|The road to Nanjing|
Next up we had an Oriental set piece, French Colonial and allies versus the Black Flags in 28mm recreating a French naval landing amid some inspiring terrain and including some beautiful figures from Gringo 40's and GJM Figurines,
I have never and am very unlikely to ever play a game like this but as a wargamer I can really appreciate the effort that has gone into producing this fantastic table.
With my own interest in the Wars of the Roses and my collection awaiting attention from the brush, I always head over to the Lance & Longbow Society to see what's new and the game they have on display.
This year I was very pleased to see the lovely game they had on display, the Battle of Bauge, 1421 from the collection of Simon Chick with a mainly Perry's set of figures built around Lion Rampant a set of rules I am looking to play more of in the future.
Every time I moved to a different position around the table another cameo group of figures seemed to just yell out, 'don't forget to do our picture!"
A really nice table and a pleasure to take in the detail.
Command and Colours, the GMT boardgame system for playing ancients and Napoleonics seems to have captured a lot of peoples imagination with a growing trend of players transferring their love for this card driven hex-board system to the tabletop using figures.
The Old Guard club were demonstrating this idea with their rendition of Vimeiro, a battle I am not that unfamiliar with and thus I was intrigued as to how they set about portraying the battle in this way.
It's not a game system that appeals to me but I had to appreciate the modelling that had been used to combine tabletop to boardgame.
Mike Whitaker has recently been posting about the face-lift he and the chaps at his local club, the Peterborough Wargames Club had been applying to their original boards produced to play Omaha Beach using I Aint Been Shot Mum, from the Too Fat Lardies.
Having built and played a few games around the Omaha landings myself I was really interested in seeing the fruits of their labours and thought the look of the game was really good.
Dave Brown is always a good bet to produce a nicely turned out game and when its a Napoleonic set to using 'Gods Own Scale' for this period, you will always see me getting some pictures for the reference library.
Having walked the Ligny battlefield for the bicentennial, taking in the French and Prussian positions and the close network of streets that make up the village astride the brook running through its centre, I was really taken by how well this game captured the look and feel of the real thing.
The scale of the game really allows the Grand Manner of Napoleonic battles to be captured with regiments and battalions looking the part.
These days of forums and Internet media it is very easy to find people willing to share their opinions about various subjects and occasionally you come across people who are willing to share but also really know their stuff and Dr Stephen Summerfield is one of those chaps and a thoroughly nice chap to chat to as well.
I have Stephen's co authored book on Napoleonic Artillery which has been my turn to authority when considering the use of and likely effectiveness of this particular arm, but Stephen is a mine of knowledge on the period and I had a great conversation covering a wide array of topics particularly around the Peninsular War.
I spent some time chatting with Stephen about my planned tour of the British Peninsular War battlefields this summer and I now have two book recommendations that I intend adding to my pre-reading list and included here should others be so interested.
Both books are published by Ken Trotman and capture the notes and importantly colour illustrated maps produced by Major Becke who accurately recorded troop movements and positions on various battlefields I intend walking this summer but also studied in great detail the movements and logistics of the armies of this period captured in the second title focused on the Waterloo campaign but equally applicable to the other theatre.
Thank you Stephen for being so generous with your knowledge and advice and I will certainly look to share pictures and accounts of my journeying this summer with you.
Finally as well as picking up my additions from Victrix and a few AWI additions from the Perry stand, I happened to come across this little board game, 'The Cousins' War' which combines a nice little map board, coloured wooden blocks and cards to set up the events that drove the key engagements of the Wars of the Roses played over five turns of card play and battle resolution.
The play sequence and game components really fired my imagination and the game, coming in a very handy small travel box, makes this a game that might be a nice distraction to take whilst travelling with friends as well as a potential campaign game generator.
More anon but there is a link below for more information.
So there we are another Salute 'done and dusted' as they say.
I really enjoyed the day although I have to say that by the time I got across London I was absolutely knackered, but in a pleasant way, with lots of great memories of conversations had and games seen which I hope have been captured here.
Thank you to Iain Fuller (sorry we missed meeting up on the day Iain) and to Matt Still and all the members of the South London Warlords for their warm welcome and excellent organisation of the day.
Thank you once again to everyone I got the chance to chat to through the day. I came away greatly enthused about the state of the hobby with lots of exciting things happening in it and lots of inspiration and ideas gained form my own projects.
Well done chaps and keep up the good work