Salute 2017: A Snapshot of Stalls26 Apr 2017 0
This weekend just gone we attended the annual Salute wargaming show in London, UK. Run by South London Warlords and hosted in the ExCel centre, it is the highlight of the year for UK wargamers, and one we weren't going to miss. Hitching a ride with Slitherine, who were attending the show themselves, we got to experience a full day of Europe's best and finest wargaming.
There were too many cool things to see in one day, and definitely too many to talk about in one article. Still, Salute means different things to different people, so for your pleasure allows us to present our snapshot of show, as told by eight different companies.
Hawk Wargames, creators of Dropfleet Commander & Dropzone Commander, are very fond of Salute. Dave Lewis, Director and progenitor of the company's major games, told us that the show was essentially their birthplace. They've used the convention to show off early versions of all their games, and it's been a great platform for them to get out in front of fans and the wargaming public.
“It is one of the Top 3 most important shows for us and we come every year.”
What Dave especially likes about Salute is the fact that it's not corporate – granted, it's a retail-orientated event with shop stalls from wall to wall, but it's run and managed by fellow enthusiasts in South London Warlords.
“These guys are real wargamers who run their own club and know what people want.”
Dominating the centre of Hawk's area was a massive replica of a Dropfleet Commander ship, lovingly created by Dave himself. This was a Strike Carrier, one of the smallest ships in the game. What was unique about this piece was that it was made to the scale of Dropzone Commander, Hawk's original ground combat wargame.
A veteran in book publishing, Casemate have been catering to wargamers for decades by publishing and distributing books on military history – essential research material – as well as rules and other written accessories from various partners. The UK branch is celebrating its 10th year as a company this year, and to get a different perspective on the show I spoke to Simone Drinkwater, VP of Business Development.
For Casemate UK, Salute is not really about selling. As well as their own stall where books were being sold, there were several other retail partners at the show also selling Casemate books. They weren't trying to compete though, they weren't even running discounts. For Simone, Salute is a great way to keep in touch with their consumers, find out what they're buying and why, and what they might want in the future.
“Bookshop chains are shrinking and the internet is incredibly faceless – we want to keep in touch with our customers. We have all the sales data, but it can't tell us 'why' people are doing what they're doing. We come to Salute because we want to understand what we can do for them that they can't get anywhere else.”
“It's always a pleasure meeting and talking to the people who buy our books. I'm always striving to find the book's 'place' in the world, and this is a great place to do that.”
A different kind of publisher, Osprey (who way back when was a close partner of Slitherine) create and publish their own line of wargame rules. Specialising in 'Miniature Agnostic' rule-sets, they mainly provide setting guides and bespoke mechanics for various eras and/or themes.
“We're very proud of the fact that we're not tied down to any specific miniature line,” Head of Osprey Games Phil Smith told me, although recently they've been working with a company called North Star to create bespoke miniatures for their fantasy ruleset Frostgrave, a partnership Phil says has been doing very well.
On Salute itself, Phil considers it the high-point of the UK wargaming scene.
“We've been coming to this show since even before I joined, which is almost 10 years ago. We don't attend a lot of shows but we always make sure we do Salute. We like meeting our customers here.”
Frostgrave has a very wide appeal, so it does well for them, but Scrappers was also a hot seller at the show being a new game. Amongst their OWG line, Medieval Europe was the best seller this year (along with anything written by Dan Mersey).
Anvil and their skirmish wargame, Afterlife, were pretty unknown to me before the show, but at Salute they stood out. Kitting out an SUV to look like a futuristic tank and parking it In the middle of the hall might have had something to do with that, however:
For Lead Designer Joel Pitt, Salute is an easy choice for them because they're based just down the road. Their yearly plan usually revolves around the show and they love coming here year-on-year to meet & greet their fans.
“We want to have fun when we come here, not just sell things- hence the SUV! This is our sixth year at the show, and we want to keep going with more demos, and more fun things. The car has been quite popular with the kids today... we've just had an endless stream of tiny people.”
Afterlife has had an 18 month hiatus recently due to the company focusing on other projects, but they are planning another big push to invest more into the game. They've previously been known for their customisable sci-fi miniatures, as well as conversion kits. Afterlife was the first game they created rules and bespoke miniatures for.
Bad Squiddo Games
Annie Norman runs Bad Squiddo Games. These guys create their own miniatures and Annie is especially proud of her range of believable female miniatures. As well as her own creations, she sells items from over 50 different manufacturers.
Salute is the highlight of Annie’s year and a great place to show of the brand new releases. It always inspires here to do better:
“I always want to keep things fresh and show off new minis for people to buy. We have the largest collection of female minis in the world and I want to make sure that I'm always trying to offer new things.”
Recent popular lines have been their range of female Soviets and Shieldmaiden minis. Annie was especially proud of the Soviet models because a lot of research went into creating historically accurate and believable uniforms, and she's had a great response from buyers.
“Sometimes I create things for myself too – for example I created a Catherine the Great model, just for myself, but it sold loads! Apparently it's really big in the Imaginations Fantasy-History circle, which wasn’t something I was expecting.”
These guys could be considered the specialists of specialists. They don't really have any rules or games they support themselves, but they do create incredibly high-quality and researched miniatures to suit everyone's needs. From the English Civil War to modern times, their 28mm (and some 15/20mm) figures are highly sought after.
Director Paul Eaglestone enjoys coming to Salute, not only because he does a lot of business there, but also because of the social aspect.
“60% of our business is world-wide, yet a lot of our International customers will fly to London and Salute just to buy from us directly and say hello. We've had people all the way from New Zealand.”
It wasn't all game makes and retailers – the hobby press was also out and about, including our brothers and sisters in arms from Wargames Illustrated.
Owned by Dan Falconbridge, they've been going to Salute since it started and the magazine itself has been running for 30 years. They mainly use the show as chance for loyal subscribers to re-new their subscriptions, as well as giving a lot of support to show itself.
“We give around 12 pages to Salute every year, and most of that is going to be photographs. As our name suggests, we 'illustrate' Wargames and promote the visual aspect of the hobby. This year we're going to be trying out some 360 photographs, which we're very excited about.”
It was about lunchtime when we caught up with Dan so he hadn't had a chance to see everything, but his game of the show at that point was Fort Mosquito, based on Osprey Game's The Pikeman's Lament rule-set. This covered a 'what if' scenario around the failed North American colony of New Sweden. Swedish, Dutch and Native Americans all fighting it out – what's not to love!
Last but certainly not least, we caught up with Spartan Games. They were primarily at Salute to demo their products – leaving the selling up to various their retail partners. There was a bit of everything – Firestorm Armada, the first models from their recently Kickstarted Dystopian Wars and of course their Halo properties: Fleet Battles & Ground Command. It was these latter two we were personally more interested in catching up with the company about.
For CEO & Founder Neil Fawcett, he's found it a very unique experience to be what he termed as a “microcosm” within a huge multi-media franchise, with software giant Microsoft as a partner no less.
“It's been a challenge on the one hand – with licensing deals there's often an instant gratification in terms of product but that can't apply here – we're a hobby. Educating a marketplace on what we do has been interesting, but luckily a lot of the guys at 343 are Wargamers. They understand.”
“It's also been really cool though. One example I like using is a Covenant ship we released recently. It was briefly mentioned in the lore previously but had never been seen, or written about in any detail. Basically, it didn't exist, and we got to come up with the design, look and capabilities for it. We got to create It from scratch!”
Fleet Battles and Ground Command have been good for Spartan games, and they've had an especially positive reaction out in the US. Niel commented that GC was the trickier of the two to develop. Fighting on the ground is the bread-and-butter of the Halo franchise. It's Spartans vs. Elites and everything in between.
“We've got to get everything right,” he said. “But 343 have been very supportive and everyone's loved the work we've done so far.”
These guys only made up a a small portion of Salute – there were so many cool games, people and stalls to see and it's a shame we didn't get around to more. With only a day to do things in though, it's a pretty intense run. We did manage to get a couple of demos in before everything came to an end though, so look out for some coverage in the next week or two there. A massive thank you to everyone who agreed to speak to me during the course of the day.
Did you go to Salute? Got any of your own stories or experiences to share? Let us know in the comments!