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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The death of the Middle-sized show ???

 Now Battleground on the 29th was only half an hour or sop down the road for me and the crew - but was it worth it- well honestly no it wasn't.
 Bearing in mind my earlier questions regarding the new venue for what was really a re-vamped local show
the venue and its surroundings looked somewhat like a recently redecoated  city block in East Berlin in 1972- Housink for ze Prolitariat  , though probably actually  student halls of Res- same difference perhaps !
 The access was horrible- lots of doors you couldn't get you van near so everyone and his brother is unloading into one door - with very little road access. Design by committee perhaps !!
 Next - because the other doors were inaccessable the trollying distance was equivelent to a half marathon - and I wasn't the worst by any means .
 None of this was the organisers fault- other than perhaps the choice of venue in the first place- but then there is often little choice in these areas wherever you live.
 Plus points the venue was light enough and - despite being a sports hall didn't smell of jockstraps and wee wee.
 Catering- well none the Caff was across the car park and provided cardboardy tea and adequate - if flaccid bacon butties. I've had worse.... much worse, usually at Partizan 
Games- after you had seen the ones you'd already seen before -so Border Reivers Vietnam  A nice Operaltional level WW1 a 54mm Waterloo A. N. Other western Gunfight then you were left with one game- Robbie Roddis  Renaissence  one- nice- actually that would apply to all of those I've already mentioned as well  as for the Rest there was a 20mm WW2 which I never saw anyone playing or even at the Table and  the rest were dross, 4 foot table  dross crewed by people who simply wanted to fiddle with dwarfs or wizards or cards- some of these put on by companies trading at the show so having an axe to grind but all simply looking like a bad club night.. Of the 15 or so games the majority- say 2/3rds ish  were like this. Godawful . No wonder most of the punters had legged it by 1.30. Once again not directly the fault of the organisers.
 Part of the problem is the current popularity of what my mate Ken Natt calls- rather appositely- "Boutique games"   4 foot table a dozen figures a side or less  or simply open the box and play- not  the stuff you expect to see as show demos or even P P but they are starting to infect the show circuit- saw evidence of it at Donnington but because there were plenty of other games then it wasn't so obvious. Here such crap was in the majority. Now they may PLAY well but they look like s*** at an event that is supposed to showcase the hobby  4 dweebs sitting around a 4 foot tablel mumbling to each other and ignoring the public reall REALLY helps .... NOT!!
 Such stuff is very well and good at club night but not at a show ... 
 It seems that "Wargaming" as most of us understand itmay be  on the decline at middle sized smaller catchement area shows such as this those run or even partly organised by "Gaming clubs"  which is usually a euphanism for "crap fantasy and unpainted GW played here". There was also evidence of this sort of stuff at this years War Torn, Now I've often thought that to be done well Fantasy and Sci-Fi are actually harder than historicals as they often don't have such a strong crutch as history to lean on - though they may have a six foot thick Fantasy or Sci-fi book series of endless turgidity  instead  but the number of decent lookng fantasy/sci-fi games at shows seems to be on the decrease. The Warlords "Thunder- Run" being a fine recent exception. Many of the others - especially when run by Commercial Companies rather than clubs fall into the "Boutique Games" trap. Now I can rememebr quite a ferw Fantasy games over the years which- while I may not have wanted to splash the cash did pique my interest. - A latemedieval/ Renaissence game with plenty of Leanardo's War machines springs to mind as does a game which seemed to consist of floating islands- beutifully modelled and a wonderful 1970s pastiche called Diamond Geezers. All well able to stand alongside any Waterloo or Mons or whatever other historical  display you care to mention.
Where in this welter of "plug and play" boutique games has all the imagination gone !!
 That the organsiers had done a respectable job is not in doubt  Weather such shows can survive in the commercial hurly- burly  with out more support from the gaming public is another matter entirely


  1. Interesting read. I am always struck by the difference between shows on different sides of the pond. My local show is almost pure participation gaming with very little on display outside of demo games by publishers. Though some tables are stunning the majority are high end club night worthy with a very odd one in the unpainted GW category. I didn't make it this year so can't comment on boutique gaming.

    However, the one huge difference is that you go the show to play games and not stand around and watch. Less than top rate presentation matters less when you are actually pushing lead and four guys huddled around a 2 foot table muttering cryptically to one another is not an issue when you are one of the four.

    1. Pat I've done Historicon on the OG stand on several occasions- though not for over 10 years so I am aware of some of the differences . Our smaller shows try to be carbon copies of the larger shows - but can't make it. As a punter I would have been very dissapointed by the show in the post UBNLESS i had an army to buy. I don't do Fantasy and Boardgames for instance interest me slightly less than watching paint dry so Fantasy boeadgames are a non- starter- especially if there is nothing to see and no spark of communication from those running the game.
      With the overhead of attending this show running at close to £400.00 before I'd shifted a soldeir- and its comparativley cheap. Then I wonder about its viability for the future without more intrest from those trhough the door

  2. Sorry I am late in posting a reply Andy, I have just got back from working in London for a few days.
    Its interesting how people have different views of the same event, and it would be boring if we all thought the same. Anyway, as you know I thought for a new venue, and really a new show, it did okay.
    I know what you are saying about access, but I didnt think it was too bad, but then Im not humping loads of metal about.
    I thought the hall itself was better than a lot I've been to over the years, it was light, airy and large.
    Personally I thought the cafe was fine,I know it was a walk across the carpark, but personally I thought the food was cheap and wasnt too bad to eat.
    I thought Leon and Pendraken were to be applauded for taking up the mantle and putting on a show after the demise of Smoggycon and the Stockton show.
    I do know what you are saying about games. It was noticeable this year that tables at wargames shows were getting smaller, and had less figures on them. Personally I think if a table gets smaller the figures should get bigger, ie 54mm and above.I do like seeing large figures in skirmish games, especially if they are well painted.
    Personally the number of wargamers collecting large armies is shrinking in my view, and it can only be down to cost and actual time to paint.Plus of course the influence of Games Workshop type armies, which tend to have about 100 to 150 figures maximum.
    Being of a certain age, I still love LARGE WARGAMES, with lots of figures, but I am a throwback to the Peter Gilder / Charles Grant school of wargaming.
    Anyway, always nice to see you throwing a grenade or two about, if not wargaming life would be very bland. Good post again.

    1. Robbie I sort of agree with most of that - except to say than I ans I assume other companies are still selling goodly numbers of figures.
      I dont think Leon did anything actually wrong- except perhaps in having too high expectations of what is actually a small cachement area show which wasn't advertised enough. The assumption that everyone lives solely on electronic devices is unsound to say the least. - There were a good number of regular northern faces missing. and the event died by 2 ish at the latest. Most punters seemed to only stay for a couple of hours or so- was that becasue there was nothing for them to see or do once they'd said hello to their mates and dropped a few quid on the trade?
      Small is not always bad but the small games were also those that were badly or shoddily done or were boardgames. There were numbers of people there- supposedly putting on some kind of public display who were just playing with themselves!!! (Pun entirely inteded)

  3. I agree with the small games, out of the box type thing... Not my bag at all.. Let's have some spectacle...and let people play it...
    I found out about this late and did offer to take my cowboy game along , but it was already full for participation. In the end when I looked at what was on offer , I stayed at home 10 miles away ..

    but no use me moaning about it , so If I want to see something with spectacle maybe I should do something about it... Gilder style Sudan anyone?

    1. Dave see your point but I've run enough games in my time with lots of expensive kit to be very very wary of "letting people play" as it is - or certainly was an excuse for numpties to smash you stuff up becuase its not THEIRS. Frankly I'm dammed if I'm going to let young Tarquin beat up my carefully painted ECW or Modern Brits or Napoleonics while his Dad buggers off to buy his toys..
      Thse days I do 1 diplay game a year at Durham. I have players by Invitation but I won't do a straight PP for the above reasons. Once was enough- actually it was twice and the games we ran at tripes little Tarquin didn't turn up fortunately and the players mostly didn't hamndle the troops

  4. Interesting comments, first from the trade point of view I did ok and the loading unloading was bearable, don't know which door you came in!
    Never got chance to try the cafe as flying solo meant I took sarnies and my own coffee.
    Northern shows I generally find to be less well supported although I had a few customers who had never been to a show for 10 plus years, had gamed for 30+ and more importantly had heard of this one through word of mouth!! But as you say some regular attendees were missing!
    Games there were as you say a few good ones - Robbie's was the best. I think we have to accept that the gaming trend is to the smaller game/ smaller table but it doesn't stop it looking good and actually if a participation game then good terrain, good scenario can work wonders.
    Think if it was possible it would be good to find out why people didn't or don't gonto shows? Are we spoilt, is there too many?
    The other trouble is most of the larger shows have become closed shop, new, smaller traders like myself half the time don't even get an answer from the show organisers, which only leaves the medium to small shows for us to grab a chance at attending. Lots of vicious circles.
    But a few large, impressive games next year wouldn't go amiss, especially ones which engage with people.

    1. Graham- the lack of engagement on most of the games was my main non- trade bugbear as well as the fact that many just looked crappy . They don't have to be big but when I see what I presume was a WW2 game which consited of 2 lines of 3 identical houses shooting at each other and 2 dudes rolling dice I do wonder. So many of the games had had zero effort expended on them.
      As for trde I see your point - though I have cut lots of shows and perhaps there are too many but then I don't go to them any more so don't give a monkeys about shows I don't do .
      I suppose I did OK ish on the day- certainly better than many but was the cake worth the candle ? After the overheads what is left?

  5. Andy,
    cant disagree re the games. Maybe Leon needs to do some trawling at Hammerhead for some good quality participation games. Overheads is I guess always a big issue re shows, I will support this a) its so local it would be an injustice not to do so and b) I like Leon and Dave and would like to see the show develop.
    Let's see where it goes.

    1. Doesn't matter wether I like 'em or not when it comes to full time business- and I've known Dave since the late 1970s- local is an issue but rather to the detriment as you get taken for granted at local shows and the overhead is much the same anywhere between Edinburgh and York - van hire is the same stand fees much of a muchness- staff wages more or less the same with - of the shows in question Falkirk Claymore Newcastle York and Stockton - the last being botton of the leader board of which York is the top and Claymore second with both York and Claymore having more than twice the "points" of stockton and both Newcastle and falkirk exceeding Stockton by a considerable margin..
      Its all to do with the numbers for local shows- and I have a pretty broad definition of local- any I don't have to spring for a hotel is in the costs sense local .
      Still we'll see how the numbers stack up for next year ... maybe ... possibly