Monday, 2 May 2011

Salute 2011 review

Imperial Stormtroopers patrol on one of the GW tables
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently went to Salute - a huge wargaming convention that takes place every year in Central London, run by the wargaming group the South London Warlords.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Salute is massive - it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest annual wargames shows in the whole of the UK, and I've been a regular attender for the last few years.

In fact, Salute has been going for years, and was the very first wargames show I ever attended back in the day (aged about 14 or 15)

and Ultramarines exiting a drop pod - also a GW table
It was Salute that first introduced me properly to historical wargaming, having previously been solely a 40k gamer - and it was at Salute many moons ago that I bought my first 6mm Napoleonic models from a little company called Adler (still going strong) along with Sapherson's book Peninsular Armies, which has been a goldmine of information for painting napoleonics ever since. Back then "In the Grand Manner" was the flavour of the month rules-wise, but I digress.
A refight of Pearl Harbour - from the air. Homebrew rules I think.
 I took an extended hobby break in the late 90s/early noughties, which ended a few years back with the advent of 4th edition 40k and a box of Cadians, soon to be followed by a return to historical gaming in the form of the excellent Flames of War, but it wasn't till this year's Salute that I took the plung back into Napoleonic wargaming again, this time in the form of 28mm plastic from the Perry twins and Victrix. More about them in a bit.

The same Pearl Harbour board from a different angle
 Salute is always an excellent show, but this year's offering was particularly superb. It's a wonderful showcase for innovative games, tables and models, like this beautiful weird-history Pearl Harbour refight - and I always come away inspired to try something new, either new models or new table inspiration - there's plenty of stuff to stir the hobby juices, and mine really needed stirring this year. In addition, I had a beautiful new camera to try out - hence all the awesome pics.

The harbour itself.
 There's always so much to see at Salute that it always manages to make the all-day event seem short. My usual thing is to go once right round the whole hall and take in everything at a glance, to get a feel for where the stalls are with the bargains, and to make sure I've seen all the gaming tables at least once. Then I make some decisions about what I want to buy and go back to the vendors with the best deals. With the best will in the world, that pretty much takes the whole day.

An awesome looking modern-warfare game
 It's also a real effort not to spend a ton of cash, since it's pretty much the only time in the year that I get to browse the wares of some of the small vendors that get stalls there, and there's always so much cool stuff to see. Of course, you can always buy from them online, but nothing beats seeing the models up-close and personal rather than in an image on a screen.

As usual there was a ton of tempting stuff, and I was looking for something to give me a break from all the 40k modelling I've been doing of late.

The Evil Mastermind HQ complete with shark tank.
This year there were plenty of games that hooked my attention. For a start there was the game pictured opposite - I forget the title but it was a cult-tv themed skirmish game that looked a lot of fun, with enough leeway in the rules to allow you to recreate situations from pretty much any cult tv show. The table they featured though seemed to owe a lot to James Bond films.

Is that a missile in your silo or are you just pleased to see me?
This got me thinking about skirmish games, which I love but haven't played for quite a while - my last outing being the Wild West rules produced by Warhammer Historical. Then I came across the actor who played Harris in the excellent TV Series Sharpe (he had a stall there) and that sent me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

I started hunting around for some decent Napoleonic Skirmish rules. Having done this online once, but not taken the plunge, I had a fair idea of what I was looking for, and it didn't take me long to find Sharpe Practice - by TooFatLardies, a very well-regarded set of Napoleonic Skirmish rules with a distinct Sharpe flavour.

One of the Perry Brothers manning his stall in person.
My only task then was to find some models to go with the rules. 

I'd read a fair bit about the new(ish) 28mm plastics for the napoleonic era back when they first came out, and was impressed by both the Perry Twins offerings and the Victrix models so I decided to take the plunge and got a set of both. I've been beavering away painting so I'll probably post some pics soon - but in turn that got me thinking.

A Cestus Assault Ram at the Forge World stand

While I love historical wargaming I'll always been primarily a 40k gamer, and the 28mm models produced by the Perrys and Victrix are pretty close to GW's "Heroic" scale models. Being an avid guard collector, what were the conversion possibilites of these new napoleonic models? Guardsmen with Shakos maybe? Yes please.

Can't remember the name of this vehicle, but it's a troop transport.
I'm still enjoying my hobby break at the moment, painting up some napoleonic figures and playing "Sharpe Practice", but when I'm done with that you can be sure I'll be crawling back to 40k again, and when I do expect to see some interesting conversions. I'm already thinking through my long-held dream of building a proper Rogue Trader army (probably counts-as IG) with a Napoleonic flavour - Rogue Traders in sashes and bicorns anyone? We'll see.

A special forces themed modern game in progress
After making my purchases I went back to take another look at some of the more interesting stalls and tables. Some interesting things I noticed: -

 GW's presence was pretty thin this year. Last year they had a proper GW stand with plenty of tables and stock - pretty much none of which sold because of the presence of other retailers selling their products at a hefty discount. This year their approach seemed to be to only bring stuff that other people couldn't sell - in practice this meant Forgeworld and the Black Library with new releases.

A fairground! Awesome.
Several other products seemed to be enjoying a significant increase in popularity. Dystopian Wars seemed to be everywhere, as did Infinity. There was an absolutely stunning futuristic table which was present last year and made a return this year which I took about a million photos of. It was so stunning I'm going to do a seperate post about it at some point in the future. Seeing it tempted me seriously towards trying Infinity, but on reflection I realised I mainly wanted to play on that board and, not owning it or having the time/resources to build something similar, I was better off taking my hobby break elsewhere.

Hey, this table uses the same base-boards as me! I think mine looks better though.
 Finally this year caused me to reflect on how far my own hobby skills have come. Previously at Salute I was always wowed by the tables there and wished I could do something similar. This year for the first time I honestly felt my recent efforts at city-building wouldn't have looked out of place amongst some of the other tables at the show - a nice warm-glow-creating realisation if ever there was one.

Congratulations folks for making it to the end. Sorry it's been a bit of a ramble - hope you've enjoyed the pics though. If you're UK-based and have not been to Salute before, seriously consider it for next year. I think the provisional date is April 12th... put it in your diary just in case!

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