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Friday 4 December 2015

Controversial MOI !!

So last Saturday saw the Battleground show in Stockton on Tees- in the posh bit with the pretentious street names "University Boulevard and "Council of Europe Boulevard" - Give me a break it looked like a cross between an outdoor shopping mall and an East German  Housing estate- but a good bit tidier.
 We got our gear in quite easily this year- Leon had got more doors opened and the whole look of the show was far better than last year with better games and better lighting.. There was little of the boutique games - Introverts R Us that was such a feature of last years show. I only saw one unplayed  'orrible board-gamey thingy - half a dozen plastic men on a card map- no-body there no idea what it was. Didn't care either.
 It was whilst I was checking out the Westerhope Clubs Colonial game one of their number claimed I was "Controversial"
 What little  Moi  !
 Of course the gent was absolutely right  both controversial and provocative. I hope that is part of the point of this blog , I think many of us take our hobby too much for granted and need to think about what we do and - at least some of the time WHY and just possibly articulate the why a little better- see Andrew the Tekkies new Blog- Tantobie Internet Tattler
 for his view on the lack of  articulation - not only in our hobby but in general..
 Personally I don't get this  what is so difficult about acting like a human? I know fear of public castigation plays a part in our hobby at least and that some blokes seem a bit shamefaced about what they do, but surely that is a hangover from past times. Or are we entering a new Intellectual Dark Age  where knowing ANYTHING  about anything - except perhaps the plot of a currently popular Soap- Opera - is seen as not  correct or appropriate.
 However back to the show. Actually it was a 3 hour event- the hours from 1 pm to 3 pm  were mostly dead. I could tell this simply because I was walking about instead of working. The hours 10am to 1 pm were not exactly hopping either but there were people in the hall - the stats apparently say over 400 - but not all at once- not including the demonstators and traders of course. I'm not convinced 200 yes 300 maybe but if 400 some must have only stayed for 15 minutes.

 Starting about 12.45 the hall emptied so fast I thought someone had shouted "Free Beer".

 Mind you the games looked good. I'd opine that overall  they were the best I'd seen at a North-East show this year and possibly last year too.. See various other blogs for photos including 2 on my blog list- Carry on up the Dale and the Independant Wargames group.  but there are several other reports about. All comment upon the quality of the games so it is needless for me to add anything here.

Yet there was a serpent in Eden.

To maintain the show  organisers need the Trade- after all our fees pay for the hall. I doubt- despite the opinions to the contrary that a show without the trade could fly- would the gamers actually pay a proportionate cost of venue hire or the  demonstrators?  Experience says not. Now I'm aware that some  non-traders think that we should just turn up so they can look at stuff  even going so far as to only take samples and little stock. I've heard it called a "Marketing Opportunity" this had some merit in a pre-Internet world but now?  Anyhow  how do you market to an empty hall ? And who pays?
 Now don't misunderstand here I don't expect to make money at every show some days are just not your day but it seems odd that for the past 2 years Battleground has been botton ranking show in my personal league. This year by a larger margin than previously - yet its predecessors in the same area were not always propping the rest up by any means  and, visually speaking, they were not as good looking and were often in far worse venues.
 So what is it about shows in that bit of England north of York but south of Berwick in the second decade of the 21st century.? I know I'm not the only chap who sees this-  other traders at the same event  had a far  worse day than I did- one chap taking less than 40 quid all day and another- who had not done badly the previous year called this show a "savage Re-adjustment". Others were expressive and more brutal r  but less eloquant!!
 Nevertheless shows in other parts of the land do not seem to suffer this- even shows of the same size- Falkirk for instance. Partizan has been suffering a bit but  that should change with the new venue. Salute and Donningtonat the other end of the scale, move on . York ,in the middle so to speak,  is splendid. Now obviously you get fluctuations up one year down the next - it can take a whikle for new stuff to move through the ststem- like  out new Napoleonic Transport range or the new Bavarians Swedes Saxons Danes and Wurtembergers- to which the Swedish and Danish Cavalry and gunners  available by the time you read this. .

 Are NE gamers wedded to workshop and similar kiddies games ?-
The evidence of the show games says not and that goes for all 3 of the NE shows I attend..
Yet I'm told 10mm fantasy is popular- never seen a game yet. (As an aside Why- if you are going to do Fantasy surely you want the WOW factor of big dragons and large well finished models that surely is the appeal of Fantasy- but if your WOW pieces are smaller than a 25mm cavalry figure don't you lose the point rather or is that just me??)
Having said that by no means all wargamers I know go to shows- several of the TWATS were working  and have to make arrangements to get to any shows and other blokes in different parts of the country do 1 or maybe 2 shows a year at most or even none.
 These are questions I pose rather than have answers to.
Equally  mail order to all points is steady- I do more business with Finland that I do in the NE and even those countries that had a far worse recession than we did are improving- business with Spain is up by 52% France and Italy  by about 15%. Even the USA buys ranges from me  that are not Old Gloryor that we produce here- like the aircraft for example.
 So why in the NE are we seeing lower show attendences?
Another point- most shows I do -especially those from York and South  I usually have pre-orders for. Chaps have made sure they get the stuff they want- and of course take advantage of our "6 for5" deal where they can. This does not often happen at NE shows- except Durham where we don't Trade .....???
Currently I'm not sure I'll go back to Battleground. If I do it will be with a smaller stand which means I'll have to leave stuff behind ....
 I'm going to have to think about this


  1. DOwnton Abbey, Downton Abbey, Downton Abbey, Downton Abbey!!!

    k, now that's out o my system. I think it's the combination of a bunch of things including the rise of internet commerce, a gradually shrinking group of wargaming hobbyists since the heyday back in the 70s and early 80s, fewer young folks entering the hobby, and, as you say, the general trend of people knowing less and less and having no curiosity about much beyond the current crop of scandal-laden "celebrities". And then there are the scourges of 21st century life. . . instant gratification and smart phones. No one wants to do anything that requires time, thought, care, or doing much beyond swiping from one app to the next on their damn phone. I think society is in grave trouble. In a way, the robots have already taken over. They'll begin killing us off before long. Happy fourth day of Advent by the way.

    Best Regards,


    1. Stokes. I hate bloody Downton bloody Abbey- perpetuating the myth of now utterly nice the upper cwust really were. Total b******s. Of course the writer is a memebr of the Establishment and a UCT himself so what would you expect.
      As for Society its always in trouble but seems to muddle through - give or take the odd revolution though I do think we are in a period of serious self centred Narcissism as well paradoxically of Conformity so we must all be self -centred together ???
      Doubtless a trick-cyclist would have something to say about thatas long as he got his 200 buck an hour ....

  2. You controversial Andy? No, least not if we know you. I agree it was good to see an majority of proper demo games rather than the boutique stuff which might be ok for a club night (not) but don't visually appeal and engage with the punters. Mind you putting a game on is definitely a job for the youngsters, i.e. Under 55!

    Howling gales and horizontal rain here so off to bed after a day of fighting Lobositz again using Honours of War. knackered.

    1. . The only problem with that show was how fast eveeryone buggered off- never mind the Trade some of the games can never have been looked at! A tad breezy here too !

  3. As we would expect from him Big Andy tells it as he sees it and what he sees has concerned us for some time. The big question is - what is the answer? We have thought long and hard and have come up with a possible approach. On 9th July 2016 we will be staging a different type of show at the same venue as the Battleground show. "Muster On The Parade Ground 2016" will have at its core participation wargames. We intend that our wargames will use the “Hammerhead” approach – every game being a public participation game with successful participants receiving a ticket that they can enter into a prize draw. The prize draw would be made towards the end of the day with the prize or prizes being a voucher exchangeable for products from traders at the show (or within a short period thereafter). We intend to provide table space for as many public participation games as we can attract covering as wide a range of periods and scales as possible.

    As with our other shows there will be other attractions such as a traditional bring and buy stand, displays of model vehicles etc and we intend to attract as many displays by re-enactment groups we can find covering as many periods as possible.

    We intend that there will be plenty for visitors to do and see and not just go shopping - although they will be able to do that too! More details can be found on our website -

    We realise that our approach to this problem might not work but to do nothing is not an option - we have being promoting the hobby publically for the best part of 35 years so cannot stand aside now.

  4. Thanks for the comments Andy, always good to hear honest feedback and it's genuinely appreciated. If I could reply to some of the points raised:

    - The show certainly wasn't dead by 1pm, although it may have been quieter in your section. I was up in the gallery around that time taking some pictures and the place still seemed vibrant. Things did start to tail off after that, but that's a common theme at most shows these days and something we as organisers need to find a solution to.

    - The door stats are spot on accurate, every show visitor gets a wristband on entry, which are bagged in 50's. At the end of the show we count up how many are left. This year we had 469 people through the door, plus the 121 traders and gamers to make 590 overall in the hall. This was just under 10% down on last year, which is a shame considering the amount of advertising we'd done, but it's something we'll look at and fix for next year.

    - I'm not sure which traders you'd spoken with, but I'd really like to hear from them as well. The only way we can improve the event is by hearing all of the feedback from people. Your main issues from last year were the unloading access and the games not being good enough, so I'm glad we were able to improve on those. All of the reports from this year's visitors have been massively positive again, so that's good to hear.

    - This years tabletop sale was a massive success compared to 2014, with all of the tables sold for most of the day. This would have taken some of the spending money away from the traders.

    - On the trader side of things, I've heard back from 20 of the 37 so far, with 12 of them seeing increased takings, 4 being around the same and 4 being down on 2014. Last year I heard from 19 of the 36 traders we had, with 17 being up, 1 being the same and 1 being down. Overall that shows a good trend for a lot of the traders and I hope we can build on it again next year. If Battleground has been bottom of your league both years then maybe the question isn't 'Why don't traders make money at Battleground?' and should be 'Why am I not making money at Battleground?'

    - 10mm Fantasy is indeed a very popular genre, thanks in part to GW and their Warmaster rules all those years ago. We've picked up a lot of those gamers with our Warband rules this year and we had a display game on show at Border Reiver a few months back. As a result we saw record takings at the show, over 50% of which were 10mm Fantasy. We would have had a similar game at Battleground but sadly our rules author had to work that day.

    - You've painted the show in quite a negative light both years now, which is a shame, so if anyone's interested in the visitor opinions from the event, there are 10 happy bloggers listed at the bottom of our show report here:,11025.0.html

    - Finally, it would be a shame to lose Old Glory from our trader selection, as you bring a huge array of products/scales and are one of the bigger names in the wargames industry. Hopefully you'll come along in 2016 and we'll do everything we can to make sure it's a better day out for you.


    Leon Pengilley

    1. What a splendid piece of self- justification. Really I need a lecture from somone so wondefully experienced in self- satisfied phyperbole.
      Since I have made money at all the other shows I did this year then the logical respnse is simply that its the show rather than the trader- If I'd messed up several shows then you would have a point .
      As it happens- and as I said you did all the right things games were better access was better advertising better- yet attendance was apparently down. Had I been a punter doubtlees I would have found the show useful - possibly even entertaining but when I'm working my perspective is notably different.
      And yes I chcked out the report- your link took me to the 2014 show which is not relevant as you massively improved over 2014 as I made a point of saying but of course we don't mention that bit do we?
      Ineed I noticed a few nicely two- faced comments concerning OGUK which poster would not have the balls to say to my face- this is one of the lest edifying points regarding forums - which is why I rarely bother.
      Don't misunderstand - you did a good job but I still wonder if I'll come back for a third year.

    2. Hi Andy,

      Thanks for the reply again. My comments are nothing to do with self-justification, it's about offering up both sides of the story. Last year your blog post on Battleground was 'the death of the medium sized show', so combined with this year's comments it's not really selling people on the event? Of course it's not your job to do that, and you're giving your honest assessment, which is why I appreciate the feedback. But my reply was simply meant to give people another viewpoint on some of your comments so that they don't write it off based on one opinion. I did also acknowledge your positive comments about the games and access, and I appreciate those.

      I did make a mistake with our show report link, so apologies for that. This is the 2015 report:,13246.0.html

      My comment about making money at Battleground seems to have been taken the wrong way slightly. If 17 out of 19 traders had increased sales in 2014, and 13 out of 21 had increased sales this year, then the general spending trend at Battleground is a good one. If a particular trader, regardless of who they are, has found themselves not making money both years, then they have to ask themselves why. That's not a dig at anyone at all, it's something every single company in this industry should be doing.

      We had a similar problem with Crisis, where other traders were having better sales than Salute, but in our 5 years there we only generated a profit once. So we had a look, and this year we took the reluctant decision to not attend. The only reason I can come up with is that 10mm isn't as popular on the continent at the moment, so we need to work on that. Another one for us is Phalanx, it's a great show and well attended, but we just don't sell a whole lot of stuff there. I have no idea why, but as we enjoy it and it's the only show we do in the north-west, we keep going.

      As I said initially and I'll repeat, we really don't want to lose Old Glory from the show, but I understand completely that the numbers need to add up for it to be worthwhile to you.

    3. It has to be said that Phalanx was - until this last battle ground the only other show I've lost serious money on - so no we didn't go back. After several years Crisis went the same way though the sheer effort of the travelling also put us off as well as increased travelling costs .
      Obviously you wish to defend your event but overall I really do wonder if the NE can support 5 or 6 events in a year- actually 4 or 5 in 2015 . The question you have to ask is why should Traders choose Battleground above any other event in the NE.
      Now normally with a new show- which Battleground is- new venue new name= new show I'll give it a couple of years so Battleground has had its 2 and has not so far found its level. so I need to take a viewand wonder if its worth my overhead- which most other traders don't have all of Van Hire paying the team fuewel(not much for me) and stand fees. Cutting the stand size will save me a tenner next year- WOW!! as I simply can't operate on less than 18 feet.
      I have not made a decision yet by any means but it is in the balance.

    4. I agree that there's probably too many events, but that can be said for many other areas of the country. The problem up here in the NE is that we have a limited catchment so the downsides are felt more keenly. Next Feb/Mar there's WMMS, Hammerhead, Cannon and Triples within a month, all Midlands/South Yorks area shows, but they've got a huge catchment area to support them all.

      In recent years, I've seen the NE customers as having 4 shows, York in spring, Durham in summer, Reiver in autumn and then Battleground to finish off the year. Those are nicely spaced out so that people have got time to save up and spend at each one.

      Hopefully the traders see Battleground as a show that is improving each year and moving forward. There'll always be niggles with venues and catering and whatnot, as you'll know from running Reiver, but we'll iron those out as they come up and keep working to grow the event.

    5. I'm not sure York is a NE show as it draws on a much larger catchment area. but I see your point I gave up with WMMMS years ago and have never done Hammerhead(don't recall ever being invited but its a bad date anyhow) never heard of Cannon?? so probably wouldn't WANT to go but I do Triples and have done for 20 plus years and am likely to continue especially now it has moved back to its traditional time in March.
      I don't as it happens run Border Reiver I am merely the sponsor. Running the show is the job of the Border Reivers club.

    6. This year was our first at Hammerhead and we had a decent day there. It's moved venue to a bigger exhibition hall (the same place that Partizan will be going next year) and they got close to 1000 visitors through. Cannon is a smaller event in Retford town hall, maybe 20 or so traders and I think 200-ish visitors? We did it for a couple of years but found the sales weren't great for us.

  5. Some interesting points of view here, so here's some more from me (in addition to the post on my blog,
    The show had tailed off by 12, and the buzz was gone shortly after. Indeed, I had a nice little chat with another big trader at 12.40 who had decided to have a wander around as his stall hadn't had a customer for a while. From what I could see, it was mostly gamers and traders by this point.
    As for trying to keep visitor numbers up towards the end of the afternoon, what about a later closing time? From past experience, it seems that shows that close at 4 die around 2, so the pattern seems to have repeated itself here but replace the times with 3 and 1.
    As for the door stats, well, it is a shame that the numbers were down. As per my own post about the show, it was an extremely well organised event. You can only put the event on and hope people turn up. And that's something I'll come to again.
    Leon mentions the table top sale. Now yes, it was well attended and there wasn't much of the "Games Workshop Graveyard" that usually occupies such areas, but here's a few questions. Leon states that the table tops would have taken trade away from traders. Why? And if so, how much are the table top people charged for the table and for how long do they get the space? If you want to classify the table top in effect as competition against traders, then surely you must charge the same for both? My belief is that they don't take that much trade away at most shows. Table top/bring and buy areas are opportunistic sales, not planned. After all, what traders bring to shows is a known factor, so in believing that, do traders have to worry about losing sales to that sector? If so, that is concerning, both for the show itself and the mentality of the attendees. Why bother buying from traders when I may get it second hand. No sales to traders, no money to pay for tables; no tables, no show.
    Now, as for the comment about the question, 'Why don't traders make money at Battleground?' and should (it not) be 'Why am I not making money at Battleground?' That is frankly a tad arrogant. I mean, as said above, put the event on and hope people turn up. Then hope said people spend money. On more than one occasion during this years show, the words "I just wanted to have a look, I shall buy online" were uttered. Fair enough, but the promise of a possible purchase at some undetermined point in the future against buying now doth butter no parsnips.
    So what am I saying? Well, let's put it this way. There are three factors to a show. The organisers, the traders and the punters. Battleground 2015 had the first two sorted, no complaints there. It was the third factor that was unknown, as it is at every show. The fact is, some traders did not have a good show. And blaming the trader is unfair. They bring the goods, it's the public who choose to spend the money at a show. And in this show, a lot of them didn't. Maybe it was the time of the year (just after most people's November pay day), maybe there has been a change in what's cool/uncool in the world of wargaming (Never thought I would use that term in relation to the hobby), I don't know. And neither does Leon, nor Andy. Which makes the last paragraph of Leon's comment quite sycophantic. He doesn't want to lose OGUK from the show, (and in truth, I don't believe Andy is trying to avoid selling figures!), but the hope of trying to make it better for next year is, I believe, a forlorn one. He can't guarantee a high gross from customers (and he has already ironed out the few wrinkles from the 2014 show!) The only way a show works is if the traders make money from the punters spending theirs. The organisers can just hope for the best. I'm sorry if this is blunt, but the public have to spend their money at these events, as I did that day and will continue to do (in amounts that I can afford) at every show I attend.

    1. Thanks for the reply and the blog link, I've added that to the list on our show report, I hope that's OK.

      The finish time of the show is an interesting one and there could well be some psychological impact there. In the previous incarnation of the show (which finished at 4pm) the last hour of trading was always very slow, so most of the traders were already packing away. With the time of year as well, it was completely dark by the time they got on the road home. So we brought the finish back to 3pm to try and avoid that dead hour and to let the traders get away while there was still some daylight. I have wondered myself whether some people look at the finish time and leave a few hours before it, regardless of when it actually is, so this is something to consider.

      In general, keeping people in an event is something almost every show in the country is trying to find a solution to. I don't think talks/lectures work in the current show culture, so I'm not sure that's the way to go. We did try and bring in more living history groups this year, to provide something other than trade/games and also as something of interest to the families coming along, but I don't think that's going to keep people there. Other options would be a raffle/prize draw which is done after 2pm? Reduced entry price for visitors after midday? Painting competitions? Each of those throws up their own further complications to the organisation so we need to have a think about it. I try and chat with the organisers at all of the shows we attend, to get their thoughts and ideas and see if there's anything they've found useful.

    2. On the tabletop sale, my comment was really meant in a year-on-year sense. Last year the tabletop was very slow, only 3 or 4 tables were used throughout the day, so it was a very small percentage of the total spend at the show that went to those sellers. This year, with 11 of them being almost fully booked out, there was a lot more spending money distributed there rather than with the traders. If someone comes along with £100 to spend, then drops £40 on an impulse purchase on the tabletop, that's a big chunk of money not going to our traders.

      The tabletop itself is a lot cheaper to hire, but the folks on there are only getting a small 6x2ft space in half-hour slots. It's really only meant for private sellers wanting to shift some old goodies, so they don't get any advertising in advance of the event, they're not listed on the website, map, etc. We've had small/new traders asking if they can go on, but I've turned most of them down. There may have been one guy there this year with some lasercut stuff who was trying to launch a business.

      Apologies if you found my 'making money' comment arrogant, it certainly wasn't meant that way and I've explained the point further in my reply to Andy above.

      Also, my last comment wasn't designed to be sycophantic at all, Old Glory is one of the biggest and most well-established names in the industry. When potential punters are looking at a show, they want to see names like Dave Thomas, Caliver Books, Warlord, Old Glory. And show organisers want those big names at our events, as it brings more visitors in. Sadly this year we lost Caliver as they're cutting down on the shows, but we've worked very hard over the past 3 years to add more of these companies to the event. I also try and add new traders who bring something different or fill a niche that we don't currently serve, hence adding Baccus after Irregular dropped out, or Hawk and Studio Minis as we had a lack of Sci-Fi, or Grubby because I don't think there were any other 20mm guys there.

      At the end of it all though, you're completely right that there's only so much that can be done and then it's up to the visitors to come along and spend their money. I'll keep plugging away though, finding more websites/forums to post on, driving further afield to put posters in games shops and pestering the local press to give us some coverage!

      Apologies for the massive post as well, I've had to do it in two parts as it wouldn't allow it all in one!

    3. Just a small point regarding the Tabletop sale how can you be sure that those using that facility are NOT traders. In the past I've seen- at other events traders- usually painters but also at lest one book dealer using bring and buys/ Tabletop sales to shift product without paying trader fees.
      Now the above is something Joe public doesn't care about but weboth know that some "traders" a by nature underhand- they think they are being clever.

    4. True, and there's no way of completely knowing until they turn up on the day, but I do keep an eye on it.

      If a trader does sneak in, they're probably paying more for the space anyway. If they take a tabletop table from 10am-2pm that would be £8, plus the £3 to get into the event, so £11 for a 6x2ft space. A regular trader (at next year's prices) would be paying £30 for a 6ft stand but with 8ft depth, giving them 4x the space of the tabletop guy.

    5. So a Not-trader-trader gets his stand for a third of the regualr trader- OK so he can't bring in as much stock but then some of the smaller guys only come in their own cars anyhow so again how do you tell. A source tells me that 2 traders used the tabletop sale at battleground . Now I don't know personally but if a bloke books tabletop space for the whole day you are bound to be a tad suspicious surely ?

    6. I'd have to check as I only had the details of those that booked in advance, the rest were walk-up bookings that Middlesbrough Gamers dealt with. I had two 'all day' bookings, one of which was the MDF guy, the other was a regular punter as far as I know.

      I certainly don't think a Not-trader-trader is getting a better deal though, they're getting a confined space to sell from, no website/online advertising of their presence at the event, no listing on the offers page, no Facebook posts to promote them.

    7. Hello Big Andy,

      Sorry, I've only just had the chance to read this blog post of yours and the comments posted on it. In regard your mentioning of a Pendraken Forum poster saying something about OGUK, that person was myself.

      Reading the statement I made on the Pendraken Forum, I can only respond to what I wrote by saying, contrary to what it states, that I would, in all honesty, be happy to purchase from OGUK, should I have need to. That, I still don't necessarily agree with your views on how gamers should be collecting and gaming the hobby, but at the same time I'll admit to being envious of people like yourself who can, and do, play games on large tables with vast amounts of 25-28mm scale units.

      Obviously, a year has passed since I wrote the comment in question and I cannot remember the full circumstances at the time it was written. However, I believe what I wrote was, in fact, influenced by hearing yourself being loud of voice, and swearing, while taking part in your game at the Durham Wargames Group open day back in 2014. It was the swearing, in the presence of children and women, that annoyed me at the time and no doubt influenced my written words on the forum post in question. Fair enough, I should have said something on the day to you, but I didn't - also, you were in conversation with two other gents and I didn't with to interrupt.

      Now, if you would like for me to come and introduce myself, to the OGUK stand at the next show we will be both in attendance at, I would be happy to do so?

      I'm not looking for any sort of argument, nor do I have an issue with you personally, especially since I don't know you, nor you me. In truth, up until reading the above blog post, I'd completely forgotten all about the DWG open day and what I wrote on the Pendraken Forum back in 2014.

      If you would like an apology from me, then I'd be happy to do so. Equally, I would be happy to simply brush this aside and for both of us to carry on with our lives.

      All the best for 2016.

      Roy Evans (Williamson being a pseudonym)

  6. Mr Evens / Williamson. It doesn't matter- had I not been misdirected to the Pendraken forum I'd never have known and therefore wouldn't care.