Battleshed Diaries

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Salute 2016

What a fantastic weekend of gaming nirvana at Salute 2016! My first visit and wow, it was a huge show. Packed with traders, diverse demo and participation games, wonderful miniatures, models and scenic displays, enthusiastic and friendly gamers - all accompanied by the backdrop buzz of enthusiasm and excitement. 

The evening before, I travelled down from Beyond the Wall via a short flight from Edinburgh to London City Airport with my regular gaming trip buddy (and brother-in-law), 'One Finger John', staying at the Holiday Inn Express ExCel.

After breakfast at the hotel (good value, clean, friendly staff), we headed to the ExCel centre, only a ten or so minute walk away and arrived just before 8am.

There was already a queue outside the event hall but after a short wait our hosts from South London Warlords led us into an adjacent hall where our advanced tickets were scanned and the official Salute goody bags handed out. This was the holding hall, there to stop big queues building up on the main boulevard. A practical arrangement, after all, there are other events going on!
The holding hall
An hour or so waiting and chatting as the holding hall filled up, the hum of many gamers building as more and more of our fellow hobbyists joined the staggered lines. It was a wee bit chilly too (even for us Wildlings) as a cool wind was blowing through from the Salute hall as the traders finished setting up - the outside doors were allowing access for vehicles. Drat! The inaugural unveiling of my custom 'Battleshed Diaries shirt' had to be covered by a bloody windbreaker! Luckily, after about thirty minutes, the outside doors were closed and the place soon warmed up. 

It was quite an international crowd too. In the queue behind us were a group from California, whilst in front Spanish and Portuguese gamers. Even a couple of Scots. Four of the goody bags contained 'golden tickets' for cash prizes on the day so it was amusing to watch my fellow gamers eagerly rummaging through their bags at the first opportunity! Including me. And no, no such luck.

Just before 10am there was a big cheer and the queue rapidly gathered speed as all us gamers, armed with backpacks, cameras and shopping lists surged into Salute 2016. I headed straight down the centre of the hall to get my bearings. Oh wow! It was bigger than I thought. Row upon row of traders (around 150) and gorgeous, eye-candy tables covering an area of 14,000 square metres!

With my free map to hand, if a bit crumpled, I had two main objectives. The first was easy - collect my advance order of Age of the Wolf from the Gripping Beast stand. I headed there first. The second was to source 'mythical warband miniatures' suitable for Blood Eagle and the other fantasy games I play. Not dwarfs. I've enough of those!

No, I was particularly drawn to the idea of creating a Jotun (Giant) warband. About an hour later I found the Otherworld stall and I spotted the miniatures I wanted. Seriously, I just had to have them! However, I dutifully completed my circuit of the hall before coming back, just to be sure. It wasn't long before my wallet was taking its biggest hit of the day! Full details under The Haul section.

The rest of the day was spent picking up few bits n' pieces, including bases for my newly acquired Jotun, watching demos and trying out a few participation games, avoiding Warhammer 40k patrols and taking hundreds of photos. Thanks science for digital memory cards! I'm crumbly enough to remember rolls of film. And taking them to the local chemist only to get a set of blurred, lob-sided pictures back a week later!

Of course, with Blood Eagle being on my mind I headed straight for the Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare stand where the esteemed Craig Cartmell and Charles Murton were in attendance. I was fortunate enough to try a game hosted by Craig where I played a 'run the gauntlet' type scenario against my opponent to get at least one character through the small Dark Age village (lovely board!) along the wharf and aboard ship within 6 turns. It didn't go too well. Let's just say that by turn six I only had my leader left, trapped in a building and contemplating a heroic but totally suicidal charge! Usual story for my gaming.
Craig Cartmell from the Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare hosting a demo of Blood Eagle

Another familiar stand was Great Escape Games. Now, my readers will be aware I'm a massive fan of Dead Man's Hand so I was delighted to find their latest offering on demonstration, 'The Chicago Way'. Set in the Prohibition era United States, it's basically Dead Man's hand with sub-machine gun wielding Gangsters, Moonshiners, Prohibition Agents and Police officers. There were two guys trying the system for the first time so I helped them out with the mechanics. All great stuff. And yes, I'm sorely tempted!

The Chicago Way from Great Escape Games

I also tried one of the standout games, Star Trek: Savage Dove from our Warlord hosts. This was featured in the free publicity material and, given the whopping 1/10 scale (!) quite a draw. Now, I have a bit of a Star Wars v Star Trek thing going on with one of my gaming friends and so I'll be magnanimous in my Star Wars convictions by visiting a game from the losing franchise. Ha! This game has the Enterprise officers having to defend the ship (oh, really!) from Gorns, Klingons and some mad bloke called Khan. It all would have been a lot easier if they had Light Sabres, but that's another story. 

Star Wars: Savage Dove (for that is its name)

By the time I'd helped save the Enterprise (something I never thought I'd say!) it was well past 1pm. That's the time scheduled for the unofficial bloggers meet in the centre of the hall, where apparently bloggers meet up with old acquaintances and put faces to blogs. And I bloody missed it! I'm blaming Star Trek all over again! Drat! And double drat! I consoled myself by getting 'wrist stamped' and gorging on a hot bagel from one of the multitude of sellers lining the central boulevard outside the hall.

The rest of the afternoon was a mix of working my way through traders and watching games. Luckily, pre-warned, I brought a comfy pair of shoes - otherwise the hard flooring would have ruined my stilettos and shredded feet.

The ExCel has a noticeably industrial asthetic with correspondingly poor acoustics. It must be quite wearing on those hosting games all day. I didn't see an awful lot of Steampunk games, despite this year's theme. Apart from the odd person dressing the part - unless that's their normal attire. There was a good balance of historical/fantasy-SF, although the eye is naturally drawn to the flashy SF displays which may distort their prevalance. In my case, after visiting the Full Thrust stand which had a rather arcade look, I came across a contingent of Star Wars Stormtroopers and officers. 

They were busy interrogating some poor unsuspecting gamer who'd unwittingly committed the offence of sporting a T-shirt with R2D2 emblazoned on it. With appropriately electronic voices I overheard the Stormtroopers with lines like, "This isn't the droid we're looking for" and "Move along," as they brandished their blasters. Cool!

I envied the folks, young and old, testing their skills with the 30 minute painting challenge. I'd still be umming and ahhing over the primer in that time! The entries in the official painting competition were eye-waveringly good too. All lined up in lighted glass cabinets, being scrutinised by the Warlord volunteers. For me its always a pleasure to see such displays of consummate skill and dedication in our hobby,

Judging the Painting Competition

What about the haul?!

Probably not as big as you might expect for Salute. However, keeping to recent form I stuck pretty much to plan, the biggest expense by far the four Jotun giants:
SAGA Age of the Wolf campaign, 5 70mm round bases from Warbases, Salute 28mm official 'Steampunk Girl' miniature, Salute pin badge, a bag of very small 5mm D6, assorted 'Salute' regular D6, 2x 28mm Maelstrom's Edge Epirian Handler miniatures (from Goody bag), a Salute thermal flask thingy and an official Salute 2016 T-shirt.

Otherworld Giants (with 28mm GW miniature for scaling). Left to right: G3 Frost Giant, G7 Storm Giant, G4 Fire Giant, G5 Cloud Giant. All based (pinned and glued by me) using resin 50mm Rocky Terrain bases from Model Display Products.

With about 30 mins before the show closed I met up with John and with bulging bags we decided to head back to the hotel. Via the nearest watering hole of course. A beer was most definitely needed!

Me, 'relaxing'
After a dinner we spent a very convivial evening chatting to fellow gamers over more beer. 

John apparently never goes anywhere without some sort of card game to hand - where he puts them when he's running marathons or cycling up mountains I most definitely don't want to know - so a few games of a Firefly themed Flux were played. With even more beer. 

With a late flight the following day we headed into central London via the Docklands Light Railway. We trekked quite a few miles over the course of the day, on one side of the Thames or the other, seeing the sights and taking yet more pictures.

The weather had picked up and it was a great day to relax after Salute. Fortunately I somehow managed to cram all my goodies into my small backpack, although I was a bit concerned my Jotun might cause trouble at airport security. They didn't though and by 9pm we were back in the Realm of the Battleshed. A cracking weekend and a most excellent show.  

A big thanks from this gamer for all the hard-work put in by the volunteers at SL Warlords. I'm always appreciative of those that take time and effort from their regular lives to progress our hobby. As a great actor said once, 'I'll be back.'

Where are all the pictures then? Over here...

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