Monday, 22 April 2013

Salute 2013 impressions

I managed to get to Salute this year, having missed it last year due to getting back the previous day from Argentina. I trained it up from Brighton with my son and friend Mark, really just to have a snoop around and see what was what. I was particularly interested in picking up a copy of the Malifaux game rules, and some Vikings for my Saga project. But the rest of this post really relates to my impressions of the event, which I feel is a good barometer of the state of the hobby in the UK - taking the temperature of the patient, so to speak.

This seemed like the biggest and most well-attended Salute to date. We arrived about 11.30 in the morning, expecting to go straight in, and there was still a queue. Not only that, but it still seemed busy at 4.00 in the afternoon; punters obviously stayed on longer. And I can see why. I'm not sure we got to see everything there was to see. Going with my son means I've got to compromise and allow time for him to look at things he enjoys, which included the replica trebuchet, medieval arms and armour display, and the MDF models from the likes of Sarissa Precision Engineering.

A Japanese Sengoku era battles using Warhammer.
There were quite a few display games, as ever, but I feel that these days a large ancients battle with two guys playing each other is not going to cut the mustard, and indeed few people spent time next to these tables.

Manufacturers are obviously taking the opportunity to demo games and miniature ranges, including timing new product launches for the event, and this seems a wise move. The absence of Games Workshop was noticeable, although you could still buy GW figures at many stands, including Wayland Games, which seems to be emerging as the dominant retailer of the fantasy and sci fi rules stepping up to take on GW.

In terms of the games on offer, I lingered by the Space 1889 battle, which always makes for a good convention game. Although starting out as an RPG setting, it seems to lend itself to flights of the imagination when it comes to war gaming. We also enjoyed the sheer spectacle of a feudal Japanese battle which included a large number of 28mm buildings. This looked simply awesome, although it was also serenely quiet, with the players all pondering their hefty Warhammer Ancient Battles tomes. [Zzzzz] I don't game feudal Japan at the moment, although I did study it at university, but a table like this might persuade me otherwise!

Space 1889 battle
Steampunk seems to be emerging as a big theme with war gamers generally. I've already mentioned Space 1889, but there were also a few other steampunk games on the go, one of which featured some excellent fog-shrouded London streets using reams of cotton wool. Very atmospheric. I only had a time to take a shot and move on. Overall, the sci fi / fantasy presence at Salute this year was perhaps the biggest I've ever seen. We speculated on why this might be, and our conclusion is that an increasing number of people who have cut their teeth playing GW games have moved on to play other things. Their presence in the hobby means there is less emphasis on the drier historical topics. And even here, you're getting some much faster-paced, innovative rules, like Saga for example, which are placing more emphasis on fun.

I think my overall impression of the hobby from this outing is that it is in rude health. It is difficult to say to what degree the miniatures gaming industry still relies on GW as its recruiter, but I'm sure this is significant. At a time when the country is still in economic straits and where table top gaming faces increased competition from online / video gaming (including in my own household), it is pleasing to see so many people, including large numbers of kids, having a good time. It was tough to give up a rare sunny day to spend it in an artificially lighted hangar, but this is likely to be one of maybe only two cons I attend in 2013, so worth the price.

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