Needless to say, there were many whingers on The Miniatures Page (it really, really is starting to annoy me!) moaning about the queue. I went earlier than usual to give me time to set up my galley for Big Red Bat's invasion of Britain game but ended up getting in not much earlier than if I had gone at my usual time, which is about 11.15. It seems obvious to me that if you turn up for the opening time of an event with limited entrances, volunteer staff and thousands of visitors you are going to be in a queue. Who actually needs to be there at 10.00? Do people really spend the full day there? Maybe they do.
S in 1987, Fit!
In fact, I have to confess that I disappeared from the show at about quarter past one for an hour or so to have lunch with an ex-girlfriend who was registering for the marathon. I had run into her, coincidentally, two years ago outside Salute 2012. "You're not still playing with toy soldiers are you?" was her opening line. She didn't run last year but we agreed to meet up this year. I didn't fancy any of the food from the nasty looking kiosks in the hall (and there was no chance of a seat this year) so we escaped from the building to one of those weird chain pubs whose name escapes me.
The food of champions!
I was starving, having not had any breakfast, so ordered a healthily sustaining lunch while S (not the S from Vancouver, this is another one - I did tend to go out with women who all shared the same first name a lot. Usefully.) pigged out on asparagus and mushroom tagliatelle. Why is it so many women are going vegetarian? The (rather lovely) waitresses were somewhat overwhelmed in the restaurant (I'm too old to queue at bars) of the pub (goodness there must be a big event on this weekend. It's completely taken us by surprise! Again.) so S asked me to order while she nipped off to the ladies. Now, having not been running properly for twenty years I didn't think and ordered a bottle of Australian rose. Of course she couldn't have any so I just had to drink the whole bottle on my own. Anyway, S, sadly, had to go to stay with her friends in Blackheath for the start the next day, so having wished her luck and patted her on the bottom for luck (several times - she always did have a pert posterior and has retained it to a remarkably pliant degree) I sat and finished the wine while planning what I needed to go back and look at again at Salute.
On my second lap of the show I was less worried about the traders (I was less worried about anything after a bottle of pink wine) and looked at the games instead. Now one of the other critical comments I have seen about the show from several people is that many games were just moving dioramas and not proper games at all. Personally I actually like the "moving dioramas" and even the non moving ones (which are, perhaps, more of an issue) as I find them very inspirational. Perhaps because I am more of a painter I respond more to the visual look of games (and indeed figures) than the gaming aspect. I'm actually not very good at gaming! I'd rather see beautifully painted figures on lovingly made scenery not being played with than a game actually being played on a green cloth and using those weird stepped hills that some gamers seem to like. I know they are probably very practical but I have always believed that art should triumph over practicality.
That's how to invite participation!
People at the display games were not that friendly and should have been inviting participation more.
Hmm. This begs the question as to why people run games at Salute. I don't think it's necessarily the role of Salute games to recruit people into the hobby. Not The Hobby (TM) of course. Indeed, where has the Nottingham behemoth gone at shows? They used to always have the biggest stand. Maybe they are waiting for a report from their new store inspector general, who they were trying to recruit a few months ago. I keep imagining a crisply suited young lady with horn-rimmed glasses, a bun and a clipboard inspecting each store but that's probably just wishful thinking.
I would guess that most people run a game to give themselves, as a club, a joint project that many people can work on together and have the satisfaction of bringing it all together. Increasingly too, there are the "sponsored" games which are being used to publicise a set of figures, rules or, increasingly, scenic items. That said, Big Red Bat's Roman invasion game clearly publicised start times for the three games being run and had a list on which people could sign up to the games. Very organised. Simon (the Bat himself) was also excellent at engaging casual visitors in conversation about the game, as I witnessed myself. Personally, I can't imagine anything worse than sitting down with a bunch of people I don't know and attempting to play a game I have never played before but obviously that's what some people are after. It would also eat into my shopping time!
The display games weren't as good this year
Well, I think that may depend on what periods you are interested in, perhaps. The big D-Day game looked impressive and I know that was the theme of the day but another D-Day game? D-Day landings, Pegasus Bridge, Stalingrad all seem to come around with monotonous regularity. I liked the game which consisted of an assault on what looked like a French chateau. That was a bit different. Maybe there were a few less showstoppers this year.
Carpet tile games
Further to the above,this year there seemed to be a lot of games played on small boards about three foot by three foot; no doubt due to the increasing popularity of skirmish games. These small board games did give off more of a "it's just the two of us and don't bother us" vibe but the quality of scenery on some was impressive. I was quite intrigued by this approach, I have to say, and it all seems a lot more achievable.
It's all trade stands and you can see everything you need on the internet
Most of the criticisms I have highlighted here are arguable, I admit, but I take issue with this one. There is no substitute for seeing a product in real life, For a start cameras quite often distort figures' proportions and I am very fussy (on the whole) about anatomy. It is also impossible to tell the height of a figure from one range compared with another. I quite often go around shows with a pocket full of figures so I can actually compare them with ones I am contemplating buying. For example, I decided not to buy any Indian Mutiny figures from one manufacturer because the size of the figures was inconsistent within the range. I hate that! You couldn't have told that from the internet. Equally, I often see something that I haven't seen before, despite following TMP and Wargame News and Terrain. This year it was a book on Napoleon's German Division in Spain. Thirdly, if you are buying scenery or a lot of metal figures you can save significantly on postage.
It was darker than last year
This was the longest time I spent at Salute and I was there from about 11.00 until about 15.45 and (lunch break excepted) by then had had enough of the terrible lighting. This was the first time I remembered to bring my glasses, otherwise I would have had no chance of reading the plan. My photographs show how bad the light was with moving people blurred, as the camera cuts the shutter speed to compensate. I used to work in the Lloyd's of London building and that had a similar diffuse light situation which got really tiring by the end of the day. ExCeL makes great play of the fact that it has cut its lighting energy use by 74% by using different light bulbs. Green issues are leading us into a world of Stygian gloom!
The concrete floor was very tiring on the legs
Well, it certainly was. I will wear trainers next year, for sure. However, the cost of hiring carpet for events like this is about £6 per square metre. Can you imagine how much that would add to the cost of Salute?
There were more people/less people than last year
I thought it was more crowded but I have seen opinions either way. Only the Warlords know. It would be interesting if they gave out attendance figures but event organisers always tend to closely guard these as they have commercial implications.
It was smelly
I have never, I have to say, noticed that wargamers smell worse than other people, despite the constant comments that they do. Maybe this is an urban myth (like we are all enormously fat). Some, maybe, but the vast majority are not. The key smell at Salute this year was, as Giles rightly identified, the smell of laser-cut wood. Frankly, it smells like rotting fish.
I guess everyone looks for different things in a show like this and you can't keep everyone happy but South London Warlords do an excellent job, on the whole, in running such a big show. It's still my favourite show, despite the issues.