Saluting trade exploration

Posted by  | Sunday, April 17, 2011  at 3:30 PM  

The annual wargaming event Salute was staged at London's ExCel exhibition centre on Saturday 16th April.

After hauling my bony butt from the comfort of my quilted coffin, I met up with Frogprince and Geekgirl before beginning our expedition to attend this prestigious trade show widely considered to be a calendar highlight for everybody in the wargaming industry.

Aside from Black Library Live last month it is the first event I've attended in a long time. It is the first trade fair event of its kind I have ever been to. I have not made it to a Games Day since the 1990's. UK Gen-Con is an event which I have participated in maybe as recently as 7 or 8 years ago, but assuredly none of these experiences has been quite like Salute. Funnily enough Black Library was present. As were a myriad of British merchants and manufacturers from around Europe.

Our product exploration was a spur of the moment decision. I have known of the event for quite some time and always fancied going. An old friend of mine and his fiancee said they fancied it too so off we went!

One of the big attractions at an event like Salute is new releases. There are a number of exclusive items available for the first time on the day. Some manufacturers go so far as selling items that have been produced exclusively for the show. I should have liked to mention something of it in advance as a few folk have since indicated they'd have liked a few exclusive show items if we had been able to pick them up. One to consider for next time.

The organisation of online sales for retailers is questionable! Some have what I consider poor web pages or site that are unfriendly to navigate. I spoke to a couple of companies who either admitted to having no web presence or they had poor web sites. There were too many flyers being handed out. One flyer was for Citadel components and the company name was Bits Box who (in their own words) don't have much stock right now. Time wasters! They don't have a webstore being as this was a different firm to Bitz Box who do have a great web site and periodically update their stock.

What was brilliant about Salute was viewing all the magnificent stuff close-up for real and wrestling with decisions over what to buy and whether to buy it or not. For instance I went to one trade-stand with the intention of making a purchase, then ended up being blown away by another tradestand ran by some very talented Polish guys. Micro Art Studio make bases that are so characterful that they stand a bloody good chance of upstaging the miniatures that you would be sticking on to them! I picked up some samples to work with for my upcoming gang projects from their Battle Bases range. Browsing through their online store I am now being tempted to order some graveyard themed bases in addition to these wood-planked ones. While at the stand I even joked to MAS staff that we could try fighting opponents using just these attractive bases with no warriors on them!

For sure there is a varying amount of (crap!) detail on a number of these Micro Art Studio bases. They are open to a lot of interpretation when being painted. For instance there is a futile amount of effort that has gone in to painting the bases which were on display at the show. It does not help buyers that there are no miniatures planted on them because that leaves zero impression of their end value. That is stupid guys, really stupid!

We didn't attend the show for any of the games being ran. A few hard-sellers were cajoling me to invest time on games demos and part with my gold crowns on their products but nothing new has peeked my interest in that sense. There are trillions of games in the market to investigate and a lot of interesting ideas. Convention marketplaces and online shopping trends have loosened the hold of the ivory tower presence Games Workshop commands from the high street. The gaming giant has to perform like never before to maintain its market share with serious contenders chomping at the bit.

There were a couple of marvelously sculpted ranges of pirate miniatures featuring tasty tricorn-hatted femme fatales and swashbuckling freebooters from Black Scorpion and Freebooter miniatures respectively. Unfortunately a lot of these high fantasy products come across as being too cheesy for my gritty tastes, and by that I mean fantasy formats where comedic license fails to balance itself. A lot of the work I saw was cute. It lacked in edge.

I did bear witness to camaraderie between artists when one miniature designer stood present 'swapping' his latest releases with the staff on another traders stand! That was a cool moment from the event.

The contrast between real and unreal factions at Salute really stretches the brain. Alongside established historical publications are a mind-boggling array of fantastical realms to keep up with. Weird looking creatures packaged in boxes or blister-packs fill the many racks of vendors. Menageries of strange imaginary beasts being referred to by differing titles, some worryingly familiar, some not at all. We failed to find any Fimir and there was a zero count on Werelions.

While there were a number of really impressive historical gaming set ups, I was not awestruck by any of them. Certainly not after reading reports from European events such as my co-conspirator Cianty's experience at Hamburger Tactica 2011. You can see read his report here.

There was a severe lack of decent terrain on sale of any kind. While disappointing this saved me a lot of money. I have already amassed a quantity of custom built scenery on top of cobbling together some of my own items for my Marienburg adventure. Maritime accessories were few and far between. Between the crest of the waves I did spot some handy looking crates and grain sacks to decorate a wharf on Luydenhoek Isle.

Ultimately, my existing back log is wicked enough that I resisted the urge to go crazy around Salute snapping up all the shiny releases I liked the look of from a few of what I considered the best quality producers. Acting on impulse I did walk away with the new Marienburg Land Ship though. Frogprince eventually bagged himself the Chaos Dwarf Hellsmith after braving the horrible queues in the mad scrum which signifies the arrival of Forgeworld.

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