UK Wargames Show congestion…

…or why I am not going to Salute in a couple of weeks…

I’ve been covering UK wargames shows for the gaming media – be that one of the gaming magazines, or the podcast – for a number of years now – so much so that I made the decision at the start of this year (2018) that I would take a year off, and simply go to wargames shows as a punter for a year, partly in order to recapture the joy of going to a show.

Whilst it’s not always the case, if you are working at a show, you are constantly looking around for photos, or the opportunity for a chat or interview with a trader. That can get pretty wearing – especially at big shows like Salute or the UK Games Expo – so I wanted to take time to re-engage with the events I was attending.

Normally, especially as part of the wagames media, you would not consider missing Salute – after all, it is the biggest one-day show of the year, and so many companies use it as a focus to release new products, plus you get to see people who do not see anywhere else on the UK Show circuit.

As a gamer who is based in the Midlands, this year has seen that part of the country more well served by gaming shows than ever before – but the calendar hit a snag when Hammerhead in March was postponed due to snow, and rearranged for the end of April.

All of a sudden I have five shows, four of which are local, in the space of 2 months – CHILLCON (Eccesfield) on 31st March, Salute (London) on 14th April, Hammerhead (Newark) (for which I had bought an advance ticket) on 28th April, Partizan (Newark) on 20th May and the UK Games Expo (Birmingham) on 1st – 3rd June.

If I was working in my usual media capacity, then this wouldn’t be a problem – however, in my capacity as a punter, there is one of these shows that stands out like a sore thumb – Salute (I will take the UK Games Expo out of the equation at this point, as it’s a 3-day show, and something of a different proposition from the others)

Given the considerations of travel cost (including parking) and ticket entry cost alone, Salute will cost three times the price of the other shows to attend – you have to consider that in travelling from the Midlands, I would be spending something like £60 – £70 just to attend the show, in comparison to somewhere between £15 – £20 for the others. Considering how good shows like Hammerhead and Partizan have become in recent years, is the extra ‘stuff’ that Salute has to offer worth the price difference? In other years…maybe. This year…almost definitely not.

This is not meant as a knock on the cost of Salute by the way. It’s a show that takes place at a major convention centre in the nation’s capital – that simple fact comes with a price tag attached.

The moving of Hammerhead to the end of April is one major factor in all this – this other is a much more personal factor – hobby budget.

If you have seen my post from yesterday, you will know that my hobby purchases during last month have not been insignificant – mainly due to the long-awaiting release of Star Wars Legion on the 22nd March. That was a fairly major purchase that would put a dent in anyone’s budget. Add to that a couple of Kickstarter projects that are launching in April, plus having to complete a pledge manager for a certain large plastic dragon, and I find myself in the simple position of not having any budget to spend even if I went to Salute – and despite the enjoyment I get from chatting with people at shows, I think you would agree that £70 is a lot of money to spend simply to go window shopping…

And so, in a perfect storm of an abundance of local shows which offer better value to attend, being at the wrong time of the month (i.e. smack in the middle of pay dates), and the fact that I had decided not to work media at shows this year, and Salute seems to have become a casualty of common sense.

It will be the first Salute I have missed for several years, so that will feel more than a bit weird.

I hope you enjoy Salute this year, and I will be very interested in hearing/seeing people’s stories of the day.







19 Comments on UK Wargames Show congestion…

  1. Martin Armstrong // April 2, 2018 at 10:48 // Reply

    Hi Neil,
    You will be ok missing Salute. I attended every salute since South Kensington but my Daughter’s wedding day falling on the same day as Salute 3 years ago changed this and I have not been back since. I now only attend the other shows that you list and I have no regrets

    • Hi Martin
      That’s really interesting, as it is a thought that I have already had – once ‘out of the habit’ do you actually miss it?
      I failed to mention in the blog post that the final nail in the coffin of Salute this year was when the Great Guru Luff and ‘my other mate Dave’ both decided that they would rather watch Leicester Tigers play Northampton rather than go…

  2. Gary Keep // April 2, 2018 at 10:48 // Reply

    Hi I agree even living in Cambridge a trip to Salute is very expensive, I now travel to Partizan for both shows as I think the displays and traders I see there are much more diverse than Salute. I think the South London Warlords need a rethink on the location of Salute and its format, before I go again.

  3. Stuart Mccorquodale // April 2, 2018 at 11:09 // Reply

    I haven’t see anything of Salute since 2005 being stuck on the GEG stand :-). Remind me to ship you an advance copy of the new book!

  4. Dave Newton // April 2, 2018 at 12:08 // Reply

    I think it’s only fair to redress the balance a little by saying how fantastic and unique a show Salute is – I’ve missed one since my ‘return’ to the hobby over 10 years ago, and it was one of the most miserable days I’ve had – I knew what I was missing and I wasn’t happy about it! I fully appreciate it’s not for everyone, both in terms of location, size, cost etc but as has been said above, the rest of the country is hardly badly served by shows and the clue to where this is best located is in the title of the club organisers…… £10 plus public transport represents excellent value for money (in the South East at least) – this gets you a full day (how often do other shows fizzle out after lunch, not so Salute) with more traders and games than can conceivably seen in the time. It’s a truly a national and increasingly international event and I thank the Warlords for the huge effort that goes into putting this on. It’s a massive shame the Meeples won’t be there this year (I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated the effort you’ve put into capturing interviews previously), but the Meeps will certainly be well represented!

  5. I live in West London, and my travel is free, but bang for buck Salute no longer works for me. Though that may say more about the state of my income, and the rising price of everything, which together conspire to make me feel too poor to attend.

  6. Gary Keep // April 2, 2018 at 12:18 // Reply

    The queuing and “Fast entry” method needs addressing.

  7. I am in agreement with Dave Newton. The one Salute show I missed was a miserable day knowing what I was missing. The Devizes Wargames Group has hired a coach to head for Salute since it moved to Excel.
    This year will be no exception. If anyone living withing striking distance of an early start from Westbury, Devizes or Marlborough wishes to join us there are plenty of spare seats at £15 each – far cheaper than train from our part of the country.
    For me – especially as I get older – the shows are more about the chance of meeting old friends and talking to people that I have not seen in a long time. The joy of not working at a show – not that I ever have but I used to travel extensively putting on Seven Years’ War participation games – that was until I realised that I had been doing that for more years than the war lasted.
    I shall enjoy the show, meet friends and even buy a few things. Well done to the South London Warlords for an enjoyable day out.

  8. John Haines // April 2, 2018 at 14:00 // Reply

    I live in London and, until last year, Salute was the only show I’d been to. Last year I went to Hereward and SELWG as well and had my eyes opened to different ways of enjoying a show. I went to Hereward mainly to see Forager and enjoyed a demo game. I also had some interesting conversations, including with Neil. SELWG was more disappointing, but that was mainly because I didn’t commit to anything in particular, but just wandered about. I’ll be going to Salute again this year but I think I’ll spend more time on the games, rather than the buying.

  9. I’m missing my first Salute for many years this year too. Funnily enough one of my gaming chums Geoff Bond (yes that “hello Geoff” Bond) was trying to arrange a gaming get together at Firestorm in Cardiff to try out What a Tanker. Having carefully avoided the Salute weekend off seemingly obviously reasons, it’s turned that none of us are going to Salute this year so we are getting together on that weekend instead.

    Sounds like it will be empty (joking!!!).

  10. I do find it slightly puzzling why it is seen as a bad thing that the South LONDON Warlords have a show in London? I live in London so it costs me about a £10 to get there and back. I appreciate that if I lived in the Midlands it would cost more. It would also cost more if I lived in Germany, Italy or France (yet I see plenty of Europeans there every year..). I can’t make some of the bigger shows outside of London but don’t feel the need to question the policies of the show organisers every year or moan about the cost (of not going). Please guys, try to look at it objectively and try not to see it as a bad thing that the South gets a big show once a year.

    • Excuse me Chris, but did I say it was a bad thing that Salute was in London?
      Was I in any way complaining about the cost of the show, or any policies of the organisers?
      In fact, was I criticising Salute in any way? I think not.

      As I said, the size of the event, and the fact that it is held in London comes with its own benefits and costs.

      I was simply making a point that I would not be going this year – many people have already asked me if I was, and have been surprised that I wasn’t – and explaining the reasons why.

  11. John Haines // April 3, 2018 at 18:11 // Reply

    Salute is a victim of it’s own success. When you look at the distribution of Wargames shows around the UK, Salute is the only one of any size in the south-east that has both historical and SF/Fantasy represented. Salute is, for a large proportion of the UK population, the only one in reasonable travelling distance. The demand means that it needs a big, therefore expensive, venue and there is crowding on public transport, especially as it’s often the same weekend as the London Marathon. The size also means it’s impossible to see everything, especially if you want to get involved in a game or two. On the other hand, it’s a bold trader who doesn’t go there.
    It will be interesting to see if the new show at Alexandra Palace in September attracts a significant number of the same traders and punters. I see that the Lardies, Osprey and Fantasy Flight (to pick just three who are very familiar to this community) are going to be there.

  12. For those of us in Scotland it’s just as easy and about the same price to go to Crisis in Antwerp as it is to go to Salute. I’m off to Belgium for the fourth time this year, but I’ve never been to Salute 🙂

  13. Trevor Allen // August 21, 2018 at 12:06 // Reply

    Where are the shows now. There’s hardly any in the UK from Aug until the end of the year. Several years ago you could find one almost every weekend. Is the hobby in decline?

    • I count at least twelve from August until December, which is more than one every fortnight.
      Yes, I think there are fewer shows, but as costs increase for both travel and venue hire, I think some of the smaller shows have become too expensive to maintain.
      I think ‘The Hobby’ is buoyant, but it does depend on how you define what ‘The Hobby’ actually is…

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