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Tuesday 19 May 2015

What do you want from a Wargames show !

 Now there is a question. When I think of all the shows I've attended over the decades  as both punter and trader then  I realise that they really have not changed much at all . There have been some excellent shows of all sizes- from Salute and Derby at the large end to Durham at the little end- with all sorts of others in between. There have bee some true Turkeys as well. I recsall one in Washington(T&W) where the trade out numbered the punters all day and one in the Midlands that I attended for about 10 years or so - and never did the organisers  make themselves known to me. I've been in Sports Halls that smalled of Jockstraps and wee-wee Snazzy museums peopled by security men of small brain.  First or second floor Venues with lifts or without lifts. Places where the organisers couldn't help you enough - and places where the organisers couldn't- or wouldn't help at all  Shows that try to move with the times and shows that still think its 1975.

A Period of Agonising...again and again .

Now the last few months- or possibly years has seen a good deal of agonising about "The Future of the Hobby" and "The Future of Shows"  but in all this hot air few or none have actually said what they DO want  rather than the legions of what THEY  don't want. Part of the problem is the simple fact that "Wargaming" is not one hobby but  several and paradoxically both  fragmenting and narrowing at the same time. Those of you who perceive yourselves as "Old Men with Tape measures" want something different from the  GW Geeks or the  Boutique games freaks. Now of course some of you fit into some, all or none of those categories some, all or none of the time. That is of course assuming that you go to shows at all. And after all of this there are those who try to tell us this is one homogeneous hobby - what planet are THEY on pray tell?
 So  I think its time we accepted that "The Future of the Hobby" means different things to different people- assuming you give a damn in the first place and don't simply want to continue enjoying your chosen bit of the overarching catch all they call "wargaming " in your own way, without reference to the various agony aunties  ....

Do we actually care?

Now there is an inherent dichotomy here- at least for me. There are two distinct levels that I operate upon  in which shows exist  but they may - if this isn't a bit zen - exist differently .
 On the level of the Trader and small Businessman my wants from a show are actually pretty simple.
 Punters who spend cash at my stall .!  
That one is the biggie - there is no getting around it  Without chaps willing to spend their hard -earned at my stall there is no point in me being there. No point in me and my crew getting up at  twenty-past ,God its early!  to sit in a transit van for several hours before shifting a tonne of metal into a  venue  standing about for 6 hours or so  then shifting- hopefully considerably less- metal back into the van for the trip home.
 Now there are subsidiary reasons for being there once you have that above. Talking to the chaps who spend their cash is pretty important- meeting some of the chaps you only know as addresses on an email  or a voice on a phone line .Now I'm aware that some outfits don't want to talk to their customers  but that's not my style at all . Come to my shop and if you need help or advice with or about your purchases you'll get it if I can help .
Other stuff is incidental really-  food and drink is useful- especially if it is actually edible !
 Easy access is good. Of the shows I currently do the worst access is Newark and possibly Battleground the best Salute and Donnington. The Newark access made worse by the venue owners giving the show organisers a hard time.
I have not mentioned Trade Stand fees for me these range from the rather modest fees charged by the smaller shows to the pretty expensive at the larger end of the spectrum- If I've paid up and been to the show more than once or twice then it was and is worth it. I am aware- unlike some Trade-Whiners I've heard that show owners cannot guarantee that punters will spend money at my shop ! That bit is my problem! 
 What I do expect from show owners is a bit of advertising- and not simply on obscure  Internet fora that nobody visits .
Now without the Trade I'm not sure there is a show- after all we pay for most of it. The door money in many- if not all- cases represents the organisers working profit

.....However speaking as a punter ...

My wants as a Punter are a bit different. If I'm running a game I want reasonable access and set up time- in the same way traders do. I 'd like decent food and drink in the same way Traders do- but I've a little more freedom as a Punter so I can step outside the show and find a decent pub  for a pie and a pint - or local equivalent if available.
 I'd like a decent mix of Trade stands to satisfy my wants- unless I'm mean (or skint) and won't buy anything (mind you if I'm skint I shouldn't be at the show anyway perhaps ??)
Games of course will depend upon what I'm into this week. If I'm historically minded and into one or more given periods then I'd like to see something from then- maybe played or displayed in a new way or an unfamiliar style-this of course can work for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy chaps too . If I'm merely a games player  with no interest in anything other than the dice rolling then I perhaps don't care what anything looks like as long as its easy to play and possibly free- after all as a games player I'm possibly not prepared to put any effort in myself so why should I expect that from other.... or perhaps I'm a games hypocrite who wants every one else to put in the effort  so I can get something for nothing (that last bit doesn't count if you are only 10 as you probably don't know any better yet ! )
The sort of game I like to see. A shot of the TWATS Fontenoy a like at Durham a few years back.There are still good numbers  of chaps who can do this sort of stuff. See the Pics on Robbie Roddiss' blog

Somewhere to sit and have a pint with your mates is also nice- but not always possible.
 Free parking is also nice- I don't mind that as a trader either but don't always get it- probably do however more often than not so its a minor point for me.
 Lighting- again  a minor point- not all shows are like the Stygian gloom of Newark- I take extra lights for my stand and may even take a headlamp for digging stuff out of the stock  bins !!!   Most other shows don't require such drastic measures.
 Such flummery as "girlie -friendly" dolls house purveyors we can leave at Dolls house shows- do they have "wargamer -friendly" parts to their shows? I have no objection to craft and modelmaking materials on sale though.

Basically  the main problem with Wargames shows  is ... well Wargamers really - or some of them at least- they want to narrow it all down to the dice rolling. Fortunately there are still plenty of chaps who have a broader view.



  1. The mere fact that all these shows are being organized year after year means that it's probably a good format. If people keep coming and having a good time, that's all anyone can really expect, right?

    1. Phil - Can't disagree with that that is how it should be- the point is that it doesn't stop the agonising.

  2. Evening Andy,
    Your post seems pretty straight forward and to the point, as usual.
    I dont know what your views of Triples were, but would be interested to see what you thought. Ive posted mine already.
    As you know, shows have become something of a theme for me, [some would say something else]
    Your right in that wargames shows have changed very little since the first club ones in the 1970's. Trade, a bit more trade, a few games and some wargamers, what could be simpler. The truth is I still look forward to wargames shows, but I know there are many detractors. Using this template, some shows can be really enjoyable, and others just seem to fail.
    One of the best shows I attended was at Durham of all places, where because it was a nice day, John and I sat outside and ended up talking to a group of wargamers we had just met. Kicking around ideas was really enjoyable. It must have been the weather.

    1. Robbie One of the problems with wargames shows iswargamers! - Perhaps the biggest problem indeed. Now Triples wasn't too bad- wasn't brilliant but not too bad either.ome nice games- see my reply on your blog.
      People moan about lack of atmosphere- what does that actually mean- usually it boils down to "I didn't get what I thought I wanted out of the show so I'm spitting my dummy out". the people make the "atmosphere" not the venue. Look at the tossers who complain about the noise of those splendid cars at Donnington - what a bunch of selfish wimps. The Drivers and racegoers are merely enjoynig their hobby the same as we supposedly are so why are these gits being so nasty . Yet there are dweebs in our ranks (... er "rankers" perhaps?) who HAVE to find something to complain about as it seems to give thier miserable pointless lives some meaning... Pathetic
      Of course most wargamers who go to shows don't blog or agonise but still go to shows so most show get it mostly right most of the time.
      Speaking purely as a punter I prefer Donnington (Derby) to Salute simply because you have a bit more time and its not as frantic- yet it IS just as big.
      Speaking as a Trader Salute is still top dog- though Donnington runs it a close second in a good year.
      Ultimately the choice with any show is simple- either go or don't. I've cut down massively since the 1990s when I did 26 a year for much of that decade
      including 2 European events. Now I do 10 shows in 9 weekends and am not looking to add any more. Indeed I'd go further and say if a show drops off the map then I won't try desperately to add another. Further I have never in 30 years gone to a show I have not been invited to as either Trader or Demontrator .
      My final point is that Wargamers want their shows local and easy- that means too many in a given year- but if I'm not there then who cares about 'em !

  3. It seems most if not all war games conventions/shows are little more than industry trade fairs, which obviously cater to the converted ie war gamers and industry traders. While this is appropriate occasionally it would make more sense if shows catered for the general public first, people looking at getting involved in the hobby, or a like hobby. As enthusiast we're aren't exactly best placed to advise on how to do this. The one thing I do know is that your average war games show (see above) has a decidedly unhelpful atmosphere as far as the general public is concerned (common with trade shows in general). To set up a show for the public is something of a specialist field but that doesn't mean expensive, I would certainly like to hear (not go as a punter, it's not catering for me) about more of these types of events.

    1. Dave I can't see how that can done practically - how do you tell them ? Advertising isn't cheap . Setting up the show is probably no big deal but how do you get the mythical "Joe Public" through the door?. The only way really is for a Wargames club event to be part of some other more public event- such as an agricultural show or a general hobbies event.
      Back in the day we used to attend the Essen games fair in Germany- a general gaming event attended by the likes of Nintendo and Parker amongst many others 4 days of being a very small fish in a much bigger than usual pond- and almost the only "miniature tabletop" games compnay there other than GW..

  4. To continue. The Essen games fair was HUGE!! Nintedo took over a whole floor and had several 40 tonne trucks bringing their gear in. Wizards of the Coast paid out 25 grand for their stand one year. We had a 5 meter stand that still cost around a grand. Add in Ferry, Van Hire, Hotels food etc and it was the most expensive show of the season back then. We didn't always break even.despite the fact that around 30,000 people attended ove the 4 days. Only a very tiny percentage visited us- the vast majority of those being already in the hobby to some extent.
    So I don't really think that "intrested joe Public" exists as a major force - this kind of stuff has to be done one bloke at a time !

  5. I don't believe that wargame show do attract newcomers to the hobby. Wargame shows are for wargamers, not for people who are looking for a new hobby.
    If you want to attract new blood, it's much better to have a stand at a general hobby fair organized by the local community, school, church, etc, where you have a stand next to the stamp-collector, the flower-arranger, and the beekeeper.

    I think current wargame shows - if well run - are really the sweet spot for wargamers: some trade, some games, lots of opportunities to talk to people. Make it more professional/commercial, and you quickly end up with a trade fair only. Make it even more informal, and all you have left is a big hall with gaming tables.

    1. Phil- Can't argue with that- I've done a few like that back in the day- next to the German post office in Essen. Next to a man who made model threshing machines in Hartlepool and next to a splendid cake stall in Thornton- le Dale ! - Said cake stall got most of my profits that day ! . Before I was in the biz I did several events in schools- some being only wargames shows and some not.
      When talking to non-wargamers about my business- most of them get the collecting angle and almost all get the history angle- the gaming part is the hardest bit for them as they often simply see it as GW- if they have heard of GW or they are not infrequently bemused as to why especially when you try to explain tounaments or non- historical stuff. .

    2. Yeah I agree, and more or less said much the same, wargames shows are for the converted. Maybe Andy has a point and Joe public is now a mythical beast. I noticed at the states major train fair there were a number of other hobbies represented and they all had a goodly amount of people paying an interest.

      Train fares are the sort of events that Joe public does seem to go to, probably because all kids love trains (including the big ones). It does seem something of a pity that a hobby that is well established like ours can't come up with a solution.