Apologies for the lateness of the post, but I've been reading through older posts after joining and thought that some misconceptions here should be addressed. If an article is going to compare two countries then it should really rely on more than hearsay if it's to avoid mis-informing people. I do feel from a number of your articles that you see the UK and US in competition over these events, when you're comparing apples and oranges. There are definitely differences between US conventions and UK shows (one clue is in the name) and there are reasons for this which haven't really been explained or understood. For a start, there's no equivalent to the HMGS, nor does there seem to be a need. The BHGS is focused on tournaments.
Contrary to the article, the vast majority of UK wargames shows are not organised by traders, nor have they ever been. A quick look at the list here https://sites.google.com/site/tringwarg ... ames-shows
shows that clubs and societies do the heavy lifting; yes, even the behemoth that is Salute. I'm not sure the economics stack up anyway for an industry still consisting mainly of smaller operators to organise shows on top of what is often a second job, especially when the scene is currently thriving. The money from shows does come in handy for the clubs though, who can subsidise their ongoing activities.
It's also not helpful to suggest that the majority of games at UK shows are demo games (as though that were a bad thing in itself). Whilst there are shows such as Hammerhead (100% participation), it tends to be around 50/50, for reasons I'll come to. There seems to be some confusion and a perception amongst some in the US that UK gamers enjoy turning up to shows just to watch other people play and I just don't see it.
Both culture and expectations of shows appear to very different, which is understandable. From the list on the Tring wargames website, there are 8 shows within an hour's drive of me. Add an hour each way and it more than doubles. On top of that, there are plenty of games clubs locally, on multiple nights of the week, so for me certainly, gaming is not a priority when attending a show. I know lots of other wargamers (certainly in England) are in a similar situation.
The investment in a show is therefore usually low and limited to relatively local travel, a few pounds entry and some lunch. You could turn up to half a dozen and spend the same as you would for Historicon (gamng purchases aside, possibly). People turn up to have a browse, chat to friends, make some purchases (and there's always another show in a month or two) and maybe, just maybe, play in a participation game. They might only be there in total for 2-3 hours and the show will start at 10 and be packing up by 4. In that context the idea of running a 3-4 hour participation game is unlikely at best.
I've run quite a few participation games and played in far more. Games usually last 30-60 minutes and pick-up is still patchy, whether game start times are advertised or it's run 'on-demand'. The younger generation are more likely to join in, but even if they wanted a longer game, the accompanying adult usually has things for them to be doing. I've seen amazing participation games (e.g. Mad Max) and more basic ones, but even shows like Hammerhead (with lots of a high standard) are not rammed with games running many times over the day.
Therefore demo games themselves serve a number of purposes for UK wargames shows:
- ensuring sustained gaming actually takes place and giving clubs the chance to put on something larger than the 3-4 hours they might get on a midweek night. They're part of the scenery and may inspire, but they're not the reason people turn up.
- allowing rulesets which require longer to play the chance to actually be demonstrated. The 6mm MDF figures I picked up at the Joy of Six was a result of seeing the painted Napoleonics on a battlefield.
- engaging people. When you look at the multi-day events in the UK, they're either tournaments or linked to historic sites (e.g. the Tank Museum). These bring in a lot of casual non-wargamers and whilst a participation game can be engaging if they spare the time, a good demo game catches the eye and lingers in the memory. You do need accessible information and someone willing to talk to the public, but I think people are getting better at that these days.
Either way, if you want to game at a wargames show in the UK, you can do so by planning in advance and putting a demo game on with friends, or you can choose from plenty of participation games. Lots of wargamers don't seem to be too worried about either option though and I know that's different to the US. Vive la difference.