Friday, April 22, 2016

A Half-Hearted Salute from an American

As I make the final preparations for Mepacon in Scranton, I must comment on the fact that Salute in England took place this past weekend.

For us here in the States, Historicon is the grand-daddy of wargaming conventions.  dozens upon dozens of events, tournaments that properly fit in the prescribed wazoo (and not spilling out of it), a flea market  area, and a sizable dealer's hall. 

We do have a vocal minority that likes to complain about everything HMGS and Historicon's staff do regarding the convention:  It's too far away, the dealers are scattering to the four winds, and there's too many events with felt and counters (i.e. there's fewer modeling masterpieces.) 

Some of these people have suggested emulating some of the positives of Salute.  In fact, one of the HMGS directors decided to travel to London (at his own expense) and reach out to the dealers and South London Warlords club that run  the show.

While many Salute is a great show, the European model of wargame shows is completely different than the American, and as an American, I have no burning desire to go.

First off, Historicon is a four-day "destination event"  that in it's pre-move heyday at the Lancaster Host hovered under 4,000 attendees.

Salute is seven hours long and is rumored to be attended by thousands more, but most of those people are merely there to shop the one hundred ninety (190) different vendors attended and filled most of the EXCEL Center. 

Whereas the biggest fault in Historicon's events is the fact that great game fill up quickly, Salute provides two types of games. 

Demonstration games of the English persuasion are not your traditional "Learn Munchkin" at Steve Jackson Games' booth at Gen Con.  Rather, they are beautifully constructed boards with figures of impeccable details beyond reproach, with players from the local club presenting the game.   No one with a standard admission is touching anything on the table, must less playing with it.  Perhaps it's great for club recruitment, or to support a recently release set of rules/line of minis, but if I wanted to see museum quality figures and terrain that's effectively behind glass, there are plenty of dioramas at museums I could visit. 

The Participation games are more akin to the American model.  However, since you want to get as many people to play at the table as possible, sessions are truncated, and only the basics of gameplay discussed/used, so effectively a participation game in England is a demo game here in the States.

Confused?  It will be alright, I assure you.

As a practical American, going to Salute is pure folly, unless it lines up as an off day for a holiday/business trip.  To travel across the Atlantic for seven hours of show for nearly $30US is fool-hardy.    Despite some nice discounts, anything I pick up at the show might be subject to duties (much less added luggage weight).  I'll kindly grimace at shipping rates and limit my orders.  And of those 190 vendors, there might be dozen that interest me, which is a smaller percentage when compared to HMGS cons.

This is overdone perfection for a game. Picture from Musings on Wargaming and Life
We gluttonous Americans prefer our buffet of wargaming options to play, even if it's 5mm Napoleonics on felt roads and wood block buildings.   The club option of play is much better organized in England, but for my $30, I'd like to play a few games, reminisce with old friends, make a few new ones, and come home with a respectable haul. 

Yes, some of the boards are fantastic, take a look at the reports below and you can largely discern between participation and demonstration games.
Wargames Gazette
Big Lee's Miniatures Adventures
Doctor Phalanx
Murphys Heroes- Participation Games (in Dutch)
Murphys Heroes - Demo Games (in Dutch)
Shed Wars
A Wargaming Gallimaufry
Wonderful World of Nozza
Gaming from the Cupboard

The British model of the convention is akin to the local comic book convention.   Most people are interested in perusing the vendors, and a few special guests/gimmicks/promotions draw some of that group away.   At least with comic books shows, there's covers and issue numbers to help you out.  Try finding 15mm late Macedonian scout archers and it's not as easy. 

1 comment:

  1. I think the main differences result in the literal scale of the countries. For example where I live (a small town in the English midlands) there are at least three gaming groups & shops I can use for both historical/fantasy games. There are numerous other groups/club within a short driving distance (i.e. less than a hour away).

    The cost of mail order is relatively cheap and reliable. I order through my FLGS to help him out plus I don't have to worry about collecting a delivery or waiting in for one.

    There are regular and fairly large (1000+ attendees) local shows through out the year where I can pick up practically everything I need. There is normally a chance to play new demo/participation games.

    Saying all that I have never attended Salute and probably won't in the future. I'm in no rush to buy anymore figures and I know I'll see quite a few of the displays/games during the year.

    I know several people that only play at home with a small group of friends which as far as I can gather is more akin to the American experience. It would then make sense to invest the time and effort to attend a big four day event like Historicon.