Search Glorious Little Soldiers

Thursday 29 June 2017

What do you expect from a "Wargames Show" ?

 Recently I was reading up a few blog posts regarding the recent Durham Wargames Group show- which the T.W.A.T.S  attended with a 40mm Wars of the Roses game- which it has to be said was well received by several bloggers despite the odd factual inaccuracy.
 However in other ways the show got a bit of a spanking. Various chaps called it tired and lacklustre which I think was a bit harsh- and wishing to consign it to the dustbin of history is a bit unkind even if it is just a chairman's ego trip,

Sash and Saber 40mm Napoleonics. Emulating a pic from a Featherstone book.

 Now I'm not conversant with internal politics at the Durham club- nor do I wish to be but the points raided by Colin Ashton and Zabadak are worth considering in regard to small shows in general and what people expect from them.

 Putting my traders hat on for a moment I don't go to Durham primarily as a trader  as it is too small- and possibly more importantly - there is no space.

40mm English Civil War - again from a Featherstone book. The figures are  mostly Romanoff some with Sash and Saber heads

However even if there were space I'm not sure I'd go as it is too small and I doubt I'd cover the £250-£300 it would cost to do. Frankly an awful lot of small shows are like that. Battleground in Middlesborough  did not do the economic business- the last one I did being- financially speaking- the worst show I'd attended for over 20 years (which probably means , taking price rises and inflation into account the worst EVER by a long way). Border Reiver looked to be heading that way too. Now I'm no longer involved -and have no axe to grind- being no longer financially responsible for the show (and yes taking a cut of the fees and door money since I was paying most of the bills) I can say that without that - in straight day trade so to speak -the show was ,at best, marginal over the last 4 or 5 years with last year being pretty poor. Over the years I've been to other small shows across the country where trading has frankly been at best marginal at worst a waste of time. Over time these events have been winnowed out of the Old Glory UK calendar.

40mm Sash and Saber Viking and Saxons slugging it out. Again from a Featherstone book 

Now how other traders  fare at these events is, of course, a question for them and nothing to do with me so if they do OK  and fulfil their own criteria then they will keep going I assume. Of course if they are part-timers they may not have strictly economic  criteria to fulfil but that is another story.

Old Glory 25mm - or 28mm if you prefer . The difference is purley academic. This picture inspired by Young.

Now back in " ye olden tymes" before the internet going to shows was just as much about advertising as about making a few quid. Despite some chaps thinking traders should go to shows "for the marketing opportunity"(whatever that actually means. In extremis  it has tended to mean standing about for 8 hours while some geezer tells you the sandals of your 15mm Samnites are from the wrong century or asking you why your 10mm figures don't have bare feet. Yes both of these happened to me at different shows - neither of which we do now) shows just are not as important as they used to be. Now as it happens I still think customer contact is important so will continue doing some shows each year as long as they remain economically viable which,for me, means not actually losing money by turning up i.e I'd like to at least break even. In the past I've given shows a couple of years to do this  but now I'm down to a bedrock 7 events a year ALL  of which have in past years cut the mustard.
 This year only the new Derby Worlds at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire is a possible candidate for future dismissal but we'll have to see. Yes Old Glory UK are going to the show but as I said in a previous post I'm only taking the 15mm lines and maybe 10mm so other range will have to be pre-ordered Jumping the stand price by almost 20% was a bit on the steep side so even with a smaller stand  factoring in Van hire, Hotels and crew wages a Grand will have gone before I've sold a soldier. It therefore follows that on the whole, for me smaller shows are not always economic

Now taking off my trading hat and putting on the Punters cap.....

As a punter my wants at a show -especially a small one -are a bit different and Durham filled those very well. This is not to say that I don't see Colin's and Zabadak's points as, if  I and the rest of the T.W.A.T.S  were not doing a demo there I personally probably would not go- simply because in most respects I'm no ordinary punter in that I live with this stuff every day. I'm surrounded by it and on most days -unlike a hobbyist- I can't simply walk away and do something else.
 Having said that I enjoyed Durham in a way that I didn't enjoy many of the lacklustre shows I have traded at. It is pretty nice to talk to chaps without my traders hat on and to connect with the hobby in a way other than business. The onus to at least cover your sometimes considerable costs simply is not there.

But in the wider sense is that enough? I like running a demo  game now and again but is that the same for everyone? I enjoy the player and punter interaction but obviously some gamers do not judging by how hard it is at some shows to actually get a word out of some demonstrators. This kind of stuff has happened at shows since Christ was a corporal. "Introverts R Us " is nothing new but at best it is bad manners at worst downright nasty.What these people expect from a show is largely beyond me. I can't see why they would bother when all they do is the same as they would on "club night".

More 28mm Old Glory and Sash and Saber. Inspired by Young.

My personal impression is that it is on the rise again after mostly disappearing in the 90s. I do far fewer shows  these days than I did back then so perhaps I notice ignorance(and bad hygiene) more now than I did then. What that means is that I don't want to fall into the same trap on my "one demo a year" as I have found at other shows. Not being obsessed by the actual gaming is an advantage here. Understanding that mere dice rolling is not an intellectual activity means that I can turn my energies to other things within the broad spectrum of the hobby. And yes blokes at shows often ARE interested in other aspects of the hobby besides the dice rolling. Whatever the game design lobby may think.

 On that level Durham does well and gives us what we want from a small local event. No pressure, a  relaxing day . A chance to put on something a little better that our normal games in the pub (no beef butties though!)and a chance to talk to chaps outside our group about what we- and they- enjoy about the hobby. So for a smaller event that will do nicely thank you.

The photos- all of these are "studio shots" of pictures I've done at various time "re-imagining" pictures from the classic books. I leave it to you , Gentle Reader, to guess which books .


  1. BWMS and Charhe! were 2 of my first 3 wargaming books (Littlewars being the 3rd) so I can tick 3 of the pictures without getting up.

    I sometimes wonder why so many gamers go to shows/cons, inc myself since the closest one is 1,000 klics away, esp in the age of internet when you can at least see pictures of everything before you buy and get delivery in no time and can get good coverage of what other people are doing.

    Individual reasons vary of course but despite our increasingly virtual word there is still a difference between seeing the real thing in person and looking at a picture and exchanging messages and talking to someone. You can also see things you would necessarily look for or pay attention to in a virtual world. eg seeing some new terrain or basing or gaming methods, a new period or a different style of figure and painting. (eg Despite having seen glossy toy soldiers on line and in mags, I never contemplated painting any that way until I handled Dick Larsen's 40mm B series Britains and Scrubies in Seattle one year)

    For those who do not belong t a large and active club that shares their interests it is also a chance to meet new people and to catch up with old friends and acquaintances that one only sees at shows.

    Lastly one must not dismiss Hubris. The chance to show others what one does whether it is how well one apes the fashion of the day or how innovative or how talented or knowledge steeped etc etc one is.

    All natural human traits. Our hobby doesn't have the biggest, best attended shows so its not just us.

    1. By Gum Ross we are agreeing again. Almost exactly my reasons for liking shows when I was a punter and even as a Trader they still work.

    2. Ross now a few more days have passed I can announce that you are of course right about the photos. 1 is from BWMS and 4 and 5 are both Charge. The other two are both from War Games Campaigns.

  2. I'll echo Ross's comments above although I haven't been to a wargames "convention" as we call them in the U.S. in over 30 years. Were I to do so, my expectations would be, in no particular order: the chance to socialize with other enthusiasts and merchants in attendance, participation games, a few well presented display games, bring and buy tables, and, of course, the chance to purchase new figures, scenery, or books. The virtual world and blogs are great, but they certainly don' replace actually being in the rooms with the the tables, games, and people physically before you.

    Best Regards,


    1. Can't argue with that. However I have found that there are significant differences between a US style convention and a British show- I did Histoicon several times in the 90s and noughties-. For a start US Convnetions are mostly long weekend affiars whereas most British shows are a single day- even 2 day events tend to be just 2 single day shows in the same place each one opening in the mornimg closing in mid-afternoon. There are none of the 2 in the morning pick up games I found at Historicon while jet lagged - yes were were also staying ant the convention hotel that year. -Tens not to happen in the UKas most shows are not in hotels or convention centres as these are too expensive. I've only ever done 1 show in such a place -at the NEC - cost a mint barely broke even.
      In terms of games most games at US events are participation BUT are far more adult on average- that the "a dozen kids come and smash you gear up for an hour " type of games I have seen over here. The Convention programme will tell you period scale rules and duration of game- as well as number of players. I have rarely if ever seen that over here. Though I'm told it does sometimes happen.
      British shows could take a few lessons from Historicon, Cold Wars and Fall in and it has happened over the years but most British show goers come in spend their brass - have a pint and a chat then go home- hiding their swag from the missus (yes I'm being a bit waspish but if you had seen some of the stuff I have over the years you would not believe the lengths blokes go to)
      Both styles of show have something in their favour but for the more games orientated the US Convention probably has the edge- never played AOR at 3 in the morning over here !!

  3. Thoughts in no particular order;

    I love a visit to a wargame show. I am always a punter, it feels like a treat to me. I will spend most at my local show to keep it alive. Like a groupie, I visit other shows, usually within a radius of 100 miles.

    The sums have got to work, traders have got to take money, so I sigh when people boast that they managed to limit spending to just a getting a pencil sharpener or something. there is a bottom line, shows need to take money or they will die!

    Are we reaching a point when we own so much stuff, that buying more becomes difficult in terms or storage or need?

    that leads on to the Bring and Buy, are these becoming too big, too dominated by resellers and are they taking money out of the show, rather than having it cycle back in. At a recent show, one chap brought in 4 bulging suitcases of stuff to sell and then made two more journeys to his car, call me old fashioned, but that feels like it sits outside the spirit of the thing and by any other name would be considered a trader, but paying a selling commission rather than paying the money a trader pays for a display space.

    Are shows losing their trader diversity, seem much is 28mm as traders chase the money. If you are into smaller scales, the bit of the show that will interest you is grossly under-represented, both by trade and by games being played. Good to hear that OG will take 15's and 10's to their next show, diversity needs to be rescued.... urgently.

    Are some shows over-traded, perhaps a ratio of less traders and more participation games might help some shows.

    My own experience is that broadly most gamers at the shows will break off to chat with you if you show interest in their game.

    At a show, I want to see more representation of all scales, more participation games, more games that are realistically related to what many of us can or cannot do at home in terms of size certainly, some seating so that weary legs and bad backs can rest, adequate refreshments, a skills demo tables such as basic how to airbrush, how to use inks or any one of a 100 things that would help us all raise our game, reduced bring and buy capacity - so that it doesn't start to look like the main event and anyone with a back-pack should be arrested on sight - though it has become something of a standing joke, my wife got sideswiped by one at York ... not funny.

    Anyway, I like shows and I hope they stay part of our fix for many years to come.

    1. Norm you raise some interesting and very cogent points. As a Trader for instance I now sell more 15mm than any of the other sizes I offer both online and at shows but there does often seem to be a dearth of smaller scale games at shows . There are always some but so called "28mm" is seen as the optimimscale- sometimes I think that is simply because it is seen as the most photogenic.
      Some shows are definitely over traded as that is where the organisers can rake in the cash- or make sure they cover their costs or even both. Trader fees can be eye-watering especially if there are no punters.
      I've always found Bring and Buy's to be a bit of a two edged sword sometimes they are where Games Workshop go to die but the number of "semi-pros" using them has certainly risen. The use of the Flea Market idea at some shows has helped but yes it IS a problem as you outline.
      As for diversity another good point- but are TRADERS keeping THEIR diversity also. Over the years I've seem a mushrooming of re-sellers all cutting each others throats selling the same old same old . It started with GW now it is assorted platikrap. BUT for some organisers any trader willing to cough up a fee will do.

      I'd actually agree with all that you say here in principle- though the practicalities of skills demos are a bit difficult sometimes unles the organising club have a wizard painter or two and they are willing to take the strain.- Who pays ? Though in truth I have seen some at a few shows so it is possible.
      I'm always a bit uncertain about participation games- I've run a few over the years and they do have a place but overall I prefer the American method here- see my reply to Stokes above
      Like you I still enjoy shows and will continue to go as long as I can.

  4. Andy! Do we actually almost agree on something? 😁 I've no idea of the internal workings of the DWG are. You could go back in time 20 years and the only difference would be Gladys running the refreshments. I go to the Durham show as I have been doing almost continuously for a long or longer than you. It hasn't changed which I think is my observation. But hey it draws people in and the traders seem happy. But too few games and no space to expand. All the best. Colin

  5. It is true that games are few and far between there- and no more expansion I seem to recall we had more games and less trade in the 80s when we were both there as members. I certainly recall running games myself in spaces now occupied by trade. I wonder what the financial imperative is for the show?. Could they for instance drop a couple of the traders to get in another game or two and would there be any point?
    I have not been a member since 1992 or thereabouts- just after I started OGUK anyhow so well over 20 years but there were definitely more games at some of the 80s events.

  6. Devastating Double D1 July 2017 at 03:26
    Big Andy,
    With you traders hat on, in relation to orders at a show.vs online, what is the ratio? Do you get 20 times more orders, 100 times? I guess online orders and their £ value has got higher and higher through the years, but has it stabilised now, or is online sales still growing?

    1. Obviously it depends upon what you are selling and how often you bring out new kit. Nothing lasts forever and nothing expands forever. There are no simple bean counter formulae here. Even when I did 26 shows a year show income was only about 1/3rd of total. But that was 20 years ago.

  7. Interesting viewpoints. I went to the Sittingbourne show, Broadside, about a month ago. It was a very hot day so the hygiene issue was noticed. As it is also set in a basketball court in a sports centre it looks very like many UK average sized shows. Theorganisers have a lovely little show where there was actually a very good standard of displays. I've seen a few before in various iterations. However most gamers were perfectly happy to stop and chat which was good. I also found a couple of traders who are recent start ups which had products I was taken by and bought bits from.

    Interesting points. At the door we were asked where we can from, Kent, London etc. So the organising club is obviously thinking about how to contact people. I don't recall that happening too often.
    In my opinion not enough PP. There was a very attractive Star Trek game and a game of Jurassic Park seen at Salute. Personally I think PP is a good thing as we need to get the Public interested in taking Part. That's how you add to the hobby (doh)
    Traders - one or two big traders but the rest were small to medium. A couple of who are actual retailers on the high street as well. I suspect the economics of the show and venue mean that the big trader probably pays a large portion of the hire and the others pad out and pay for table hire etc. ( Table hire is likely to be the second largest cost after the venue unless the venue has it's own.)
    I was however frankly underwhelmed by the relaunch of bloodbowl - never liked it

  8. Scott- Noticed this post only today. See your points In Gawd Knows how many years as a show punter I've never been asked where I come from.
    I'm not anti- PP by any means though the idea of "the Public" coming to a show out of curiosity never actually seems to happen at least not so as you would notice... I wonder if those 2 old ladies ever did find the cake stall.... but that does not mean that the effort should not be made even if PP tends to mean- these days merely another advert for another instant sci-fant skirmish- a -like.

  9. Good article , I am going to spend more time learning about this topic. Explore photo and video images on Instagram, latest posts and popular posts about Pictame.