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Saturday 10 October 2015

Definitions and Dillitantes.

 Now the recent- but short- discussion surrounding the merits of Donnington show  last weekend on this and Robbie Roddis blog has prompted me to think a little on shows and what punters expect from them .
 As always the first conclusion is that they don't know what they want but the moan when they don't get it.
 Again I'm being deliberately provocative becasue I want answers - which doubtless I won't get.
Now Robbie admits his idea of some kind of overarching organistion to do "12 or so regional shows" is a fantasy but it does give us a worthwhile starting point to examine shows and why some blokes like Robbie find them  unsatifying..
 Now as it happens I don't have a problem with the current show structure and I'll tell you why. I like its individuality and quirkiness. The different levels of differing shows is  an advantage- From Salute at the top via Donnington , Triples, Partizan Claymore etc. down to tiny shows like Durham- all have something to offer. Now  I've not been to a show purely as a punter  for a good few years- my last was Fiasco at the Armouries in Leeds and frankly a mere wargames show could not- for me- compete with the magnificence of the Armouries. So I spent about an hour at the show and 3 or 4 hours in the Armouries- no contest. Nevertheless different shows have different levels- I always enjoy Durham- its the only show I demonstrate at these days. Deliberately doing a different game each year. All of the other shows I attend I attend as a Trader and big is not always best. My favourite "Club" show this year was Carronade in Falkirk- a little craker. See my report earlier in this blog.
 I don't for instance do the "Warfayre" show in Reading in November any longer. - Sunday was a waste of time Its a 6 hour trip each way  the venue is falling to bits and smells of jockstraps and wee wee- or used to.
 Similarly I don't do WMMMS any more for similar reasons or SELWG- mainly because for us it is a total pain to get to- another 6 hours each way- for a one day show with really bad unloading its not worth it.
 Nevertheless - these show continue without me so someone is getting something out of it- and it can't just be the wedge the organising club make!
Yes all shows can be a bit samey and Robbie quite rightly picks out the old WARCON show of the early 90s as a fine example of its time. - I both traded and ran games there and it was great fun BUT the additional lectures etc  were mostly failures- very few turned up. These days I'd wonder if any would. The intellectual down marketing of our hobby is now a constant . knowing stuff- in almost any walk of life is seen as not quite the thing so its bound to reflect in what we do. Look at the outporing of  simple background  knowledge free games. Intellectually low rent  for the hard of thinking- but well produced, marketed and of course priced . Convenience Wargaming for the Convenience Generation.
However moving on . How for instance do we get to Robbies Fantasy- who decides which are the "best" games- A Committee of retired Civil Servant and ex-Police Wargamers ?(after all they have the time and the money) -  NO CHANCE over my cold and festering corpse. A Committee of Traders- I refer the gentleman to the answer I gave a moment ago- only more so .
 The problem with any kind of National organisation is that it will inevitably lead to a narrowing of what is "allowed" . Give any group power and they will abuse it and  twist it to their own ends and there are always enough  brown nosers and fellow travellers who think they can get something out of it- and no I don't mean just money.
 Yes I'm a cynic devil a doubt but it is the differences that make this hobby so much fun. The current  commercial climate has seen a ferocious narrowing over the last few years so that in some quarters anything other than the "dice rolling and counter pushing"  is no longer in vogue. We need to keep the diversity- some of us are incurable Dillitantes- which is why I probably  wouldn't want to trade at a "themed" show for instance- though I might demo at say a Pike and Shot  show if invited and if I could get there- I wouldn't go near a SYW only themed show- too narrow and just possibly too far  up itself for my egalitarian soul.. No more diversity not less- if a show is crap don't go then it may die and be replaced with something else- Darwins Natural Selection perhaps?
 I remain of the opinion that many Wargamers are- for whatever reason - lazy in some respects, hidebound in some respects and don't want change- why should they when they enjoy their hobby..
 Wargaming shows no signs of snuffing it, sure it changes and its far far more trend and fashion concious than it used to be- but that is a reflection of the world in general. .
Most Demontrsators and PP games masters at shows are- despite commercialisation still volunteers giving of their time and effort more or less freely because they want to do it.
 Long may this  diversityand Freedom  continue.


  1. I do like your style Andy and you have made many valid points which I can't take issue with. I also made comment on Robbie's blog but one point you made on his blog which is valid that we are all veterans at this, been going to shows for over 40 years. Been there done it philosophy. We've been at the forefront of new products, new rule sets so it should come as no surprise that even though still small the hobby has developed and grown and of course from a trade point of view then it must find new products and new styles.
    Even if the old grognards like Robbie doesn't like it then the convenience game sells because it's almost a buy, drop and play game. Like you say any committee whatever the make up would start to reflect their preferences and with that introduce their rules and limitations. Not good.
    As a punter we have the choice to vote with our feet, just because we may becoming grumpy old men and some of the shows don't live up,to,our expectations they continue to survive so someone must like them!
    As I don't do too much buying at shows I like to go and see good games, have a chat and look at products I haven't seen or get some inspiration. I don't care if it's big or small (but crap smelly locations are off) hence like you I enjoy Durham for example because it doesn't try to be something it isn't ( although I do seem to recall the crammed loads of traders in and hardly any games and it wasn't an enjoyable experience )
    Be it 18th Century ( not your forte) I still contend that for the sort of thing Robbie is looking for then themed days with low cost limited themed fade support is a serious option . Wargame shows will stand or fall on their attendance - so for example Triples I feel need to look at what's wrong and merely moving the date will not solve their problems.
    No answers - how can there be when the hobby is so diverse then what right have I got to criticise :)

    1. Graham- agree with your points- moving Triples will help but like many shows there needs to be tinkering about on the show floor- so More talking heads on games- I get fed up with watching various views of Builders Bum where- however intresting the game no- one running it wants to tell you . Even on a well displayed game you are often expected to read blurb in micro-print.
      As a general rule I find that the smaller the game the less likely you are to get a response from the players "Introverts R Us" again.. A show is not the same as a club night but plenty of blokes still think it is. How can a show organiser stop that- answer he can't because those putting on games are volunteers. In the same way the organisers of Partizan can't get rid of the nose in the air "I'm better than you how dare you move a trolley full of product near my fat arse that is deliberately in your way again " attitude that I and my crew have experienced almost every year- less so the last few years than formerly mind..
      Like you I rarely buy at shows these days- other than books of course- and like you I don't care how big a show is Good is Good.
      You may indeed be right that Robbie would be better off at a small themed show where everyone thought the same as him- me I'd probably be bored witless after an hour or so on the been there done that, principle.
      As for SYW- the last game I did at Durham was SYW I have around 1000 plus 18th century figures in 25mm.
      Used to love the period and still have the library.
      I've gone off it a bit for several reasons-
      The battles became awfully stereotyped
      Been there Done that- some of the collection is over 25 years old .
      I get sick of hearing how wonderful Frederick the Average was.
      when the Marquess of Granby had better pubs !
      I suspect I simply got bored with it .on the principle of the more popular a period becomes the less I want to do it.

      You can't avoid the idea that the biggest problem with Wargames Shows is .... Wargamers .... and always rememeber Ancient Chinese Proverb- Be careful what you wish for you just might get it !!!

    2. Just to provide balance.. Warfare is probably my favourite show of the year.... :o))

      "I don't do too much buying at shows I like to go and see good games, have a chat and look at products I haven't seen or get some inspiration. I don't care if it's big or small " ...ditto for me... I can buy stuff on the web - I want to see those things in the flesh before I splash my dosh

      Lectures - waste of time... UK wargames shows are too short for wargamers to want to waste precious buying time sitting listening...

      Recipe for my perfect show?

      1/. Diverse set of traders, carrying at least a representative selection of their product - displayed well - good lighting (bring your own if the show's is not good enough)
      2/. Interesting demo games, not bothered about participation games - one they generally tend to be creches (discuss??), two I have shopping to do/games to see
      3/. Open on a Sunday - I'm a family man, Saturdays we do "stuff"
      4/. Room to move - pls don't ram the tables together - I did Colours with my grandson in a pram this year - downstairs was errrr... "comfortable"
      5/. Bring and buy (yes I like to browse - and eBay is bit remote)

      ...and that's enough from me....

    3. Steve- Agree with the majority of that entirely the only problem I see with your list is a traders one. If you and others don't buy stuff what are we traders - who PAY for the shows existance doing there?. If I make a loss at each show I go to why would I keep going? Now I don't make a loss at every show or even close but it has been nip and tuck a couple of times this year- there are always shows like that in any given year.
      Also a a general rule at most 2 day events Sunday is a waste of time both Colours and Warfayre being famous in that regard when I used to do them.
      I don't mind Sunday shows per se -as a one day event it usually does not matter. which weekend day they are on though personally I and my crew prefer Saturdays as the crew have other jobs.

    4. Andy - I think - and I'm not sure - that the pattern of buying is changing for the general public... increasingly I buy on line these days, I'm guessing I'm not the only one when I look around the various blogs I read... I looked at a sales chart for Amazon the other day and they've gone from 15 to 60 billion $'s in 5 years, with no reason to see that tailing off... now I know the example may not be pertinent, but I think the figure companies need to be looking at the shows more as a marketing opportunity than a selling opportunity.... a good web site is fine (and most aren't), but there's nothing like being able to see the product in the flesh (metal?)... the kind of thing I'm thinking is trader A turns up with an example of every item he sells on a well lit display, with a sign by the side of the stand saying "buy at the show, free postage" (I saw Front Rank do this one year at Salute)... no idea if it would work I'm not a trader or a marketeer.... :o)

    5. Steve I don't disagree with that on principle by any stretch- buying patterns are changing in many areas but it is really only the small to medium shows that are suffereing
      We do most of what you suggest already. We take about half of our ranges and all the popular ranges as fully as we can. We encourage pre-orders and stuff we don't have at the show will be sent on post free if paid for at the show. It has been this way with us for several years like the neverending "6 for5" deal- since our gear is mostly 20% or more cheaper than most of our rivals ..... Most of our prices have not risen in 5 years .
      As our figure ranges are bigger in terms of breadth than the next 2 put together we'd have a problem having even 2 of everything at a show the cost in stand space would be enormous especially at a Colours or Salute and a little less at Donnington or Triples.
      Of course in the real world the phrase
      "I won't buy them now I'll order on the net " often mens
      "I don't want these as the wife will kill me"
      Yet having said all that there are still plenty of chaps who buy at shows because they want a good feel of the gear.

  2. Anyone who thinks that a national organisation of wargamers is a good idea should be made to read the entire back catalogue of HMGS and Historicon threads on TMP.

    1. Can't argue with that I only add I have them do it whilst sitting astride a rail fence!
      AS You may gather I'm not in favour !

  3. Where is Robbie Roddis' blog anyway? What's it called? I've tried Google and can't find the thing.

  4. The link is up on my blog list further up the page- The Independant Wargames group. is its title. There is plenty of intresating stuff there.

  5. I believe individuality in shows is key for the hobby, every show covers a variety of interests, so if every show has something to offer for a lot of interests, then more potential punters for more traders, more traders means a paid for show for the organisers, everyone is happy. Personally, a couple of good book dealers does me but even that is a stretch at some of the smaller shows. Don't get me wrong, I understand why, and geography has a lot to do with it (living in North West County Durham, it IS an issue), so I settle for attending a decent number of shows, both small and large scale, and accepting that whilst they all have their issues, the fact they are there and are a continuing fixture in the calendar, that can only be a good thing!

    1. Exactly ! Hence more diversity rather than less

  6. I agree pretty much with Andy's view on wargaming organisations of any type. This ends up with say competitions for WW2 where only one manufacturer's product is allowed. And I actually represented Scotland for a couple of years on a national organisation (so it just proves what a numptie I was).

    I do however find it a bit ironic that Andy says he lost interest in 7YW as it was too sterotyped. Is that not for others an attraction of sorts?


    1. Scott- regarding 7YW- I agree the stereotype rules and organisations put me off. Doubtless I'll go back someday but for the moment Tricorn Hatred is rife!
      Equally I agree that the saminess may actually be what some chaps like but I've used 7YW armies for over 20 years now- time for something new