Salute is, without doubt, the largest and best attended Wargames Show in the UK. Despite all the problems such as the noise levels and aircraft hangar venue, it is also one of the best organised and remains friendly despite its size.
It is because of this, and our experiences of IHMN here over the last two years, Charles and I decided to launch Daisho at this enormous show. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans of mice and men are oft to go awry – the rulebook was not available. This is mostly due to Charles and I being complete novices at publishing so we did not factor in enough time for layout in our schedule. However, it shall be available in May.
So back to the show…
Charles, Bill and I set off at sparrows’ fart and ventured the London Orbital Motorway/Car Park (the infamous M25). Despite there being far too many road works, and a section of road whose harmonic frequency filled the car with a eerie and ear-splitting whine, we arrived in good time at the Excel Centre near the old East India Docks.
Negotiating the labyrinthine back stage areas, we eventually gained access to the venue and unloaded the camels. Now, when you attend the show as an ordinary punter you are surrounded with people and noise, because of this you really do not get a sense of the scale of the place. The hall in which Salute is held is truly enormous. You could easily accommodate a monster truck show in it and when we arrived it was full of vans and pickups offloading trade stands and participation/demonstration games.
What immediately impressed us was the efficiency and friendliness of the South London Warlords who organise and run the show. Volunteers to a man they work like trojans throughout the whole event. We were immediately greeted, guided to our table and our needs assessed and met. Later on a SLW organiser dropped by to make sure we were OK.
Being one of the smaller teams we had our table set-up and ready to go in under half an hour so had an hour to spare before the show actually opened to the masses already queuing in an adjacent hall.
Our neighbours were the nice lady and gentlemen of Oshiro Miniature Terrain. They set up an entire 6’x12′ medieval Japanese town which made us feel a wee bit inadequate with our little rustic villages. Anyhow our layout consisted of the two Daisho boards that Bill and I had laboured on over the last few weeks and that are documented at length on the Daisho blog and IHMN Facebook page. Photos of the final layout can be seen in this report.
Once set-up Bill disappeared and then returned in a very nice Japanese costume. He was worried he might get too hot during the day but soon discovered that the loose-fitting robes were designed for a warm and humid climate like Salute when full of thousands of gamers.
Within minutes of the doors opening, we realised that what seemed to be a brilliant location on one of the main aisles quickly became a bit of a nightmare. Opposite us was the mighty Forge World, who seemed to be running a number of special show offers. A humungous queue formed winding from their stand and down the main aisle completely blocking us in. Quite a few gamers who eventually found us said they had walked straight past not realising we were behind the wall of black-clad, Warhammer 40K players eager to part with hundreds of pounds for models that would probably be obsolete in the next edition of the rules. C’est la vie…
Despite this we soon became busy with a constant stream of people who wanted to try out Daisho on our participation boards. Right up to the last few minutes before the show closed we then had people learning the game. As with IHMN it took about two minutes to explain the game then start playing. By the third turn, we were able to step back and just let the players get on with it.
We had gamers of all ages from a nine-year-old to chaps of my great age playing. One chap (Carlos 13) brought his non-gamer girlfriend who got stuck in and handed him his ass in great style 🙂 Well done Lucinda!
All through this there were people coming to take photographs of the boards and many were kind enough to compliment us on them. At one point a ‘delegation’ from 4Ground appeared to take a look at Bill’s non-standard thatch on his 4Ground village. Like myself, Bill had eschewed the use of teddy fur (we both oppose the killing of teddy bears for this purpose) and used brush bristles to create a very effective and realistic look.
We also met and chatted with lots and lots of IHMN players from newbies to stalwarts. There are too many to mention here by name but I would like to say it was a particular pleasure to meet Mike, aka Skrapwelder, from the Lead Adventure Forums, who had travelled from California to attend. Apparently they do not have trade shows like this in the USA, most shows being much smaller and concentrated on providing games rather than sales opportunities.
The East End Boys, Martin, Steve et al., dropped by. Looks like they are sitting on their laurels this year having picked up the Bill Brewer award at last year’s Salute for their excellent IHMN table.
A member of the South London Warlords came over to us and explained that IHMN had taken their club by storm with regular games being played at their club meets. That such a large and prestigious club is using our rules was a real compliment and I couldn’t stop grinning for ages.
Although there were only three of us, we did rotate our duties so we could each get some time to take in the show. On my wanderings I was able to track down a number of people including the splendid Guy Bowers – who was running a participation game of his first published game, Black Ops (soon to be available for Osprey Wargames).
[Note that this photo has been stolen from my friend Legatus’ report as I forgot to take one].
The stalwart chaps of the White Hart, who in previous Salutes had run huge IHMN games, this year were demonstrating the new Frostgrave game. This is written and published by Joe at Osprey and there is an extensive figure range (metal and plastics) from North Star Miniatures. It looked an absolute hoot, and I shall certainly be getting a copy when it arrives in July this year.
Over in the far corner Dave Wise and his merry band from the Games Club Network were running yet another of their unusual and interesting IHMN participation games – Judge Dread 1895. As in previous years he shall be showing this up and down the length of the UK. So, we have had IHMN participation and demonstration games at three Salutes in a row, not bad for a little game eh?
Our friend and fellow small publisher, Simon Miller, was running another impressive game using his ‘To the strongest!’ ancients and medieval rules. The battle of Cremona was incredible if only for the sheer number of excellently painted figures, never mind the superb terrain. He even dropped by and gave me a copy of said rules which I shall read and write a review on sometime in May.
At the end of the day the Warlords were trying to usher the remaining throngs out of the door and we had to say goodbye to our last players, who had to have the dice practically prised from their grasp. They had just got into close combat and wanted to know who would get the upper hand.
It is only once you have packed up and the adrenaline retreats that you realise just how absolutely knackered you are. My vice had been reduced to a subterranean rumble that would make James Earl Jones jealous and my poor old knees were going sideways. We managed to drag our stuff back to the camel and set off into the sunset.
We learned a lot from the event that we shall carry forwards to others we shall be attending this year. Not least was a complete overhaul of the player’s buntai rosters. What looked completely logical to us confused a few and we spent a lot of time pointing to stats and bonuses. A detailed listing of skills and powers was completely redundant as the players relied on us to explain them rather than read them – which is fair given that they were sat down for just half an hour or so.
The game balance for both scenarios though was pretty good with each of the buntai winning in equal proportions. That said in my game the Sohei Monks have two archers, yet the Samurai Clan Patrol have none. This shall be rectified by adding a single Samurai Bushi with Daikyū. I shall also be opening up a few more routes across my board by removing a couple of fences.