I have returned safe and sound and find I must be one of the last people to do a report on Salute, doing so is a bit like the Beaujolais Nouveau thing when people used to strive to be the first to bring the wine to the UK. I checked on my iPad and there were pictures up almost before closing, a number of popular Bloggers were given 'Press Passes' and early access to the hall, so they managed to go about their business without fighting to get to a table, a good idea.
Having read reports on previous Salutes I had some reservations but they came to naught mainly, I dreaded the smell but perhaps I was acclimatised, no problem there, I didn't think the hall was too big and I think the location is just perfect for a venue which needs to hold upwards of 7,000 wargamers, trade stands and games, and very easy to get to. I do think the space could have been handled slightly better, there were parts here and there which were fairly empty and then elsewhere some poor traders were fighting for room, when you think of the number of people who wanted a table but didn't get one should it be bigger? There have been no complaints about queuing this year, I played smart and arrived at 11am and walked straight in, you could also have done this at 10.30, if you were in the crush I believe it took ten minutes at the most, excellent organisation. In fact, despite moans I think the South London Warlords deserve a lot of credit for this exhibition, they are a wargame club after all, not event organisers. Is the concrete floor hard on the old plates*, I didn't notice and anyway after trudging around London for a day and a half previously mine were sore anyway.
Considering the theme was 'Steampunk' there was not a lot of that around, what there was was a high proportion of Sci-Fi games which I suspect outnumbered historical games by a fair margin. A lot of companies also laid on games involving their own products, this may have had an effect on the space available for others, 4Ground for instance had several tables with very good displays of their products in a gaming environment. I was especially impressed with their Dead Man's Hand set up, I think it was 4x4 feet and it was packed with buildings and must be a joy to play on. When and if I get my wargame room this is what I will do with my DMH stuff.
At wargame shows I usually find myself ready to leave after a couple of
hours, I get what I want, maybe buy a spur of the moment item, look
around and I'm off, I spent four hours at Salute which is a record. When I got there I went straight for the Last Valley to get my terrain before he sold out and it was just as well as he was doing a brisk trade, I then picked up a couple of things my son had pre-ordered, a great way to beat the crowds and both Gripping Beast and Ainsty Castings (Footsore) were great to deal with in this respect. I also managed in quick time to get the Bren Gun teams, WWII telegraph poles and flowering tufts I had on my list, my only impulse buy was a pack of 4Ground corrugated iron sheets, there is always corrugated iron lying about in WWII. Apart from being impressed by the range and ingenuity of MDF buildings etc. available from a number of manufacturers I was blown away on the cowboy front. I got a look at Black Scorpions kickstarter for 100+ new figures for their Tombstone rules, they are some of the most beautiful wargame figures I have ever seen, the characterisation on them is a joy to behold, I don't really need any more Western figures, but I do need these!
What about the games? OK, skirmish games ruled the roost from Vikings to the Gates of Antares, most played on areas not much larger than a couple of feet square, one I saw was not much bigger than a mouse mat, why? Many of these smaller tables were eye catching and were innovative in their design, one space ship game had under table lighting and was fairly spectacular and the Frostgrave table was very nice, snow seems to be a big thing these days.
Another which I thought was stunning and which I found out later did not win best of show was a huge Seven Years War battle with beautiful buildings, I thought I had taken a picture of this but it looks like the Siege of Bristol game which was also lovely.
A couple of random shots of a North West Frontier game and one using an immense amount of Teddy Bear fur and its not even Open Season.
Lastly I joined up with a bunch of friends doing Hastings for the Lance and Longbow Society, this was a last minute thing and considering the time scale I think they did a splendid job getting it ready in time. Hastings is one of my favourite battles and I am glad to say the Saxons won both the morning and afternoon games. It was also great to spend some time with the lads and Jenny and I look forward to seeing most of them again soon at the May War and Conquest tournament.
In the middle of all this I popped along to the Bloggers Meet to muscle in on the annual photo-shoot, I met a few of the guys whose blogs I recommend here, Ray, Alistair and the Legatus, all thoroughly nice chaps, I could only guess at a few more, I said a quick hello to Simon Miller and then wandered off. Ray has put a Facebook page up if you would like to check some of the bloggers out. I did not get a lot of pictures but if you have not already seen some then if you pop along to Shed Wars Eric the Shed has lots.
I will certainly go again and hope to next year, a great show and a great effort by all involved.
*Plates of meat - feet, cmon.