Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Salute 2015

I decided to go to Salute this year at fairly short notice. I originally hadn't planned on going, particularly as I've done very little miniatures gaming in 2014-15, and have a number of stalled projects. But I was finally talked into going at the last minute by a wargaming friend, and capitalised on an already paid for weekly travel pass.

We didn't get to the event until almost 11.00, by which stage we were able to stroll in, with no queue at all. We heard there had been somewhat of a scrum earlier on, but I still don't understand the urge to be in there first. With the bring and buy stall now gone, there seems less incentive to get in early to pick up bargains.

Salute is a huge event now. It seemed even bigger this year and it is now difficult to get around it all in a day. There is simply too much to see. We managed to see every game being staged but didn't participate in any as we were both feeling too tired / under the weather. There were some excellent games out there, however. If I'd had the time and energy, the following looked like they could be fun:

A superb Star Wars battle on Hoth, with what looked like about a dozen players on both sides. The umpires had built Hoth using white insulation foam, including a great depiction of Echo Base, complete with its own electric lighting! They were using the old Palitoy Millennium Falcon and imperial AT-ATs, which somehow looked right scale-wise against the 25mm Wizards of the Coast Star Wars miniatures. This ought to have received the best in show award and I'm not sure if it did...?

Inside the Russian warship
A special forces game highly reminiscent of the opening mission in Call of Duty - Modern Warfare. Commandos are landing on what looked like a Russian destroyer, fully created deck by deck in 20mm scale. The destroyer could be taken apart according to where the action was.

A very ambitious amphibious operation from the American War of Independence, I think the Penobscot Expedition of 1779 as brought to life in Bernard Cornwell's The Fort.This was a huge game with 28mm figures and some beautiful waterline ships. Truly magnificent and I'd have loved to get involved in this one.

A pirate game using converted Playmobil ships and 40mm figures, with all the umpires dressed as pirates. The ships were moved around on stands with wheels, which allowed a larger playing area to be created. This was highly effective, I thought. Even islands were up on their own stands, and you had to imagine the intervening waves, but I still thought it worked.

I saw Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies fame demonstrating the new Fighting Season rules for modern platoon level combat, which I've got my eye on if I ever decide to stop using Force on Force for this period. The real question will be how this manages slightly more conventional battles - e.g. Falklands War or 2003 invasion of Iraq. Afghanistan seems to be the default setting, although I know some people on the forums would like to see how it works for the Vietnam War.

The battle for Hoth in full swing...
There were a LOT of naval wargames this year, which was good to see. Naval games are much easier to take to shows. I was part of a team that put on the Battle of the Nile at Salute in 2005, and can attest to the ease of transportation. There was an interesting WW1 dog fight game involving a German U-Boat, and a small group playing the Battle of the Dogger Bank. WW1 was very much in evidence all told, including a game from the campaign in Palestine against the Turks, and one that focused on the role of stretcher bearers on the Western Front.

I made very few purchases this year, as I feel I've got so many dormant projects which really need my attention and for which I rarely seem to get much time. I picked up a copy of the rules for the Judge Dredd skirmish game and I also stumbled across a copy of the new Car Wars from Steve Jackson Games. Other than that, I picked up some more trees from 4Ground, but that was it really. I pondered buying a copy of To The Strongest to re-start my Punic Wars project, but decided that first I needed to give Sword & Shield a go.

And that was it really. Salute is now such a large event that it is almost impossible to see everything. The setting is still very soul-less and there was still not enough seating when it came time to rest the weary feet. We both reminisced about the 'good old days' of Kensington Town Hall in the 1990s. Maybe we're getting old. Will I be going next year? Hard to say, really. I think the most fun I had at Salute was when I was involved in running a game. It was more exhausting but also more enjoyable. But for that you really need a crew of dedicated people and the backing of a club to make it happen properly.

A 1980s NATO game - Soviets trying to seize an autobahn bridge.

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