Saturday, 18 June 2016

Phalanx 2016 Wargame Show

Phalanx takes place yearly in St. Helens (Northwest UK), thanks to the hard work of the Spartan Wargames Club.

This show is a favourite of mine, I can't remember ever missing one - even one year getting a taxi straight from hospital to the show after impatiently awaiting discharge following surgery!

But for me, this year's show has been the most enjoyable.

For a show report of this year, please press the 'read more' button for the rest of this post.

This show just happened to come at a time when I was just coming out from my gaming stuff having been in storage for 6 months, ongoing extensive house renovation and a series of hassles that have served as a substantial distraction.

At the same time, I have been getting increasing drawn into an interest in the 28mm side of wargaming and I was needing some inspiration as to whether to progress the 28's or abandon that and expand my smaller scales.

So I had high hopes that this show would inspire, rejuvenate and put my gaming back on course - it did all of that.

If you don't want to read my personal perspective of the show, then please scroll straight down to the photographs. Again photography was plagued by the Sodium lighting in the place, so there is a lot of orange hue in the shots, so I am afraid that most of my shots do not do the subject justice ... Sorry!.

Firstly - a decision to be made before the show - do I want to box some unwanted items up and take them along to sell on the 'Bring and Buy' - I generally avoid the bustle of the Bring and Buy, preferring just to get on the trade floor, as a bad back etc, limits the amount of 'on feet' time that I have. In any case, I am a bit indecisive at the moment (having a crisis of scale), so would be bound to later suffer from 'sellers regret'. I did however get some boardgame stuff together and some 20mm stuff that I was not going to use and took them along, which yielded me some £70, money that I was able to later take back into the trade hall and make some traders happy.

I have mentioned before in other show related posts my view of how important it is to spend money with the traders. If they don't do well, then they stop going and a show can start to go into decline. In this day and age of austerity, it seems more important than ever to pick the shows you want to see survive and spend your money there.

I know a global audience reads this and other blog media and that for each of us, our ability to spend money on a hobby is related to our individual circumstances - so although today I was well funded (for reasons that need not explained here), I do not want the tone of this post to have any sense of arrogance. I am conscious that we are lucky in the UK to have such a vibrant wargame scene and that I was lucky today to have had disposable funds.

So I arrived early, got my stuff onto the Bring and Buy stall and then went for a bacon roll and coffee while traders and game tables continued to set up. For the third year running, the venue has not had on site catering, rather this has been supplied externally by 'Suzie', who runs a catering van and provides tables with this seats that are like 'swing in' stools. The refreshments were fine, I heard positive comments from others, but once again, my (only) criticism with this show (and others) is the lack of a seating area, where you can take some time out to recover and then carry on with the important task of making the traders happy :-)

Even the catering seats are not good for, shall we say older, big blokes, who may have a few aching joints - not that that describes me in any way :-) .

The first thing I always do is a quick sweep of the place and see what's what and where I am likely to spend money. Once again I took a shopping list, but it never left my pocket, inspiration, shiney things and traders who would weave their spells on me - took over my normal levels of restraint and clear thinking, leaving me laden with gifts for my wife and children ...... No wait!

If this show did one thing for me, it was to finally draw me off the fence and commit myself more convincingly to the 28mm scale. There is just so much lovely stuff around and the modeller in me is awakening (again!).

Unfortunately, I can't remember the names of everyone that I bought from, but I can give a shout to most. My first stop was at THE LAST VALLEY. He does a wide variety of battlefield terrain with a continuity of materials that makes everything match. His fields and fencing are really nice and together with some roads, ponds and the like, his stuff will instantly elevate the look of my table.

Someone was selling the new armour game from GALE FORCE NINE called TANKS at just £14.50. this is a nice package with rules, cards and 15mm plastic tank kits in. the cards cover other vehicles not included, is I thought the system might even work with some 28mm vehicle - worth a look anyway. RENDERA had a spattering of goodies spread across a number of traders, but notably, I got my Rendera bases from CORITANI, together with some additional painted river sections (which I collect) and a resin wooden plank bridge that will cross those rivers. Someone (sorry, I wish I could remember who you were as you were so polite) sold me the Rendera American church for £16, which looks a lovely model.

Simon at S and A SCENICS supplied more hills (the larger ones this time), which match the others I have. He will do some bespoke stuff, so I might ask him to do me a two piece long ridge at some point. I stopped by at WARBASES for MDF bases of various sizes for the various 28mm projects I have in mind and then I got drawn in to buying some of their buildings, plus some rather grand Highland cattle that will now appear in all my battles, regardless of where and when they are fought (when I got home, my wife likes them so much that she bought them for me - so now I have to do a super posh base and tell her it is my favourite thing).

In an effort to improve my stock of larger trees, but also to get something a bit more realistic, I picked up some tall poplars, with fine foliage from 4-GROUND, I have never had much luck at making my own clump foliage trees, but these look well glued and have a sabot base.

A fave buy for me was a pack of confederate casualties from 1st CORPS, there seems something rather luxurious about buying 28mm metal. I crossed back over to WARBASES to get those square dice holders, so that I can make casualty bases that includes both a figure and a die holder to mark the casualty values.

GREAT ESCAPE GAMES had a box of Rubicon German vehicle stowage, which I thought would be useful, but unfortunately they were right next to the Rubicon Hetzer kit, I am fascinated by this funny little tank destroyer at the moment, so I thought it was worth a punt and so got both boxes. The company also had a fairly priced selection of grass tufts - with all the basing I am about to do, they looked a necessary buy.

Finally there was a copy of Waterloo Quelle Affaire (boardgame) by River Horse marked down to £19 so well worth a snaffle. I only know the trader as Paul and think he used to work with Allan from Lancashire Games.

I think the traders might be missing a trick by not at least putting a business card in the bag handed to every customer .... Though someone gave me the business card of Hysterical Games and I can't for the life of me work out what I bought from them.

I have put a couple of items to one side as it is Father's Day tomorrow and it just helps them sort dad out and it stops me getting socks ....... or worse, something to clean the car!

Here are some of the shots that I took of games in play and a mention of a few traders. I'm afraid most pictures are not attributed, I am sorry about that, I don't want to take away the great contribution that you made to the show.

This is a Frostgrave game, I think put on by the show hosts. The table was very nice, my camera has let them down.

The chopper is part of a 'rescue the hostage' scenario, the chap who ran it had done a good background story, that sounds like it could have generated several scenarios. I'm pretty sure he did the Hungarian / Romanian assault at last year's show.

A 10mm game - just off camera to the right is a flanking attack coming in and the chap in the photo (or at least his hand) is motioning a sweeping movement that looks like it could spell disaster for that open flank.

Here is a Sword and Shield Fantasy game. The new rules should be out soon. I have the Sword and Shield Ancients set and like them, so I sat for a while to re-familiarise myself with the mechanics.

Not sure what these two characters are, but they were crashing up the flank in the above game, note the die behind them is part of the activation system.

This was a lovely game by The Wargame Retreat, presenting Operation Tarboosh, a Sudan demo action. Now that's what you call a square!

This was the market square from the same game, at the other end of the table.

And this was one of my favourite shots .... Camel riders arrive, I couldn't quite lean into the table to get a closer shot. Camel riders do make for magnificent figures.

15mm East front game, look at the base of the aircraft - named pilots (Red Witches), nice touch and nice models.

The same game, some ruins, giving a sort of mini-Stalingrad look, there are a lot of nice textures in this game and the 'winterising' works well.

A lovely Japanese setting, with plenty of buildings dotted around. There are relatively few figures around the place, some female figures and a lack of exposed samurai swords, so I was wondering whether this was a role play game or since it was on such a big table, that perhaps more forces were due on later.

I can't remember what this game was covering, but this is the left flank and it is crammed with troops. The other player may be a little awestruck! ...... as his troops seemed to be covering the other flank!

There was a solitary table with dioramas on. I thought this was a fabulous model and stared into it for ages - there is a lot of work in this - admirable.

Now I really must apologise for this shot, this is where the lighting is unforgiving, these are Perry plastic Wars of the Roses, painted by the professional service of Glenbrook Games. He has some absolutely lovely stuff, so much so, I couldn't choose what to photograph, in the end, I picked these, because I have painted the same figures ....... I used to quite like mine, until I saw these beauties :-) Anyway, his figures are delightful and because this photo does not show his figures off to how they looked to the eye, I am including his web address here so you can check out his work.

Not sure what this scene is taken from, but I have seen it at a few shows, I like the 'adventure film' feel to it, perhaps James Bond or similar to suddenly appear!

This looked a good table for a WWII game. The units have not yet been placed and a mixed infantry / armour force sits off table to the right. This is the right side of the table.

and this is the left half, it has rather a nice moody look to it with some rather posh buildings.

It was nice to see the Osprey Honours of War rules on the table. This was a fairly a big table with 15mm (I think), so one of the bigger battles perhaps, as these rules don't need that much space.

A close up of some battalions in the above game.

A medieval game giving the inside of the castle walls at the tables edge - this is a lovely model in muted colours, giving a natural look.

Looks like some of the troops have sallied out of the castle. Not sure what system is being played.

If I could have voted for the best looking game, I would have picked this (the photo does not do it justice - too much orange!) It is 28mm Napoleonic on teddy bear fur. I am not a big fan of teddy bear fur, as it often looks just like ....... well, teddy bear fur! But the paints rubbed into this gave it a good look. And it worked well with the scale

Troops in the above game arriving from the table edge.

And some more troops occupying the settlement.

The cavalry wing ... Splendid of course.

Oooh one of my favourite battles .... Hastings 1066. Liverpool Wargames Association put on this lovely game and they were superb with the public. They were using their own rules that seemed to have connections with DBA and had gone for 100mm wide bases (in the Impetus style) - and those cavalry looked mighty good on them. It gave me some good ideas.

A close up of the cavalry, I just thought they looked superb, 5 figures to the base, staggered in two lines. Of all the armies I have seen today, this is the one that I would most like to take home.

Every year Bob Martin of Lancaster Wargames South puts on a demo game. He is always so enthusiastic it just makes you smile when you stand at his games. The last few years, he has been on a big table with themes of Dr. Who, the Eagle has Landed and an airfield night attack by cavalry. This year his games looks to be on a mat that is less than 3' X 3' - so some good inspiration for 'kitchen table' gamers - really nice with tons going on in a small space. It would be good to see more of this sort of thing at shows.

A SAGA battlefield, this was a beautifully contoured board (not picked up too well by the camera) and a fine looking game and showing you don't need a lot of figures to get a good game up and running.

I liked this, a trader (Shellhole Scenics I think) had put a mini display on their counter to showcase their new range and it just did the job - made you stop and look. There is a rather fine train in the background that I missed with the lens.

A close up of the right hand side of the above display.

TANKS is a new game from Gale Force Nine is association with Battlefront (I think). They had a demo set out that was interesting enough for me to buy a copy. Another case of the sodium lighting spoiling this shot. The idea is that a handful of tanks will fight it out in a 3' X 3' space. The terrain is cardboard. The new Airfix system was in the room and I wasn't sure whether to get TANKS or the Airfix game - in the end I settled on this.

The Old Contemptables put on a hex grid game for WWII, it was quite a big table, so plenty of room for manoeuvre. I wish I had hung around to see how it played. They did a hexed naval game last year

The only thing I didn't get that I wanted at least to look at, was a Cigar Box fleece mat. This was the only example I could find, (adorned with some very nicely painted models) but I don't want one with a strong pattern on it. I wish I could remember the name of this trader, because he was a real gentleman. He sold shield transfers and he explained to me the proper way to apply them ... I have been doing them wrong, using them just like a wet and slide transfer. I got a Victrix French Napoleonic cannon set from him as they had a bit of discount.

So overall, a fantastic day out for me. Do I have nit-picks? Well only one really and it is a problem affecting a goodly number of shows, it is the lack of seating to just be able to take 10 minutes out every so often and rest weary legs / back etc.

But that aside everything else was great. I embraced a new scale and there was a positive buzz about the place. I believe over 400 people had attended by midday (this is a typical figure for the show - but it felt busier to me than it has been over the last few years.

The club members were out in force and were very friendly . They have a knack of making this show appear to run seamlessly, it is of course only down to the dedication and hard work of the organisers and club that makes this all possible - so well done them ...... Again!

Looking forward to next year.


Previous show 2015 LINK HERE

My Sister website COMMANDERS is less article based than here (I.e. News snippets) LINK HERE



  1. Was my first time at the show and must say I agree with you, though I didn't get to see too much, stuck with my own pitch, I enjoyed the show, it was very well attended and everyone was pleasant and chatty. Already booked for next year.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed my brief visit today. It's a nice show that I try to get to every year....time constraints because of children. Thanks for the post, nice pics!

  3. Thanks for the write up on the show and the pics. Always good to see what is going on at shows too far away to attend.

  4. Thanks gents, It is interesting to see how shows are prospering at the moment, but my gut feeling from those I spoke to is that it was generally a good day and the show stays strong. The only missing company that helps mark a top flight show were Baccus, but as they say on their web page, they couldn't attend due to unforeseen circumstances and that they will be there next year.

    I think the bring and buy also had the most items placed than it has before, requiring them to put things on an 'inner' table - my only hope is that's balance remains and that the bring and buy does not suck money away from the traders in the hall. I think some people use the bring and buy as a place to personally trade from and that doesn't feel good to me.

    The North West doesn't really have another comparable show - so this one is precious and supporting it paramount.

  5. Great pictures, thank you for sharing them.

    I really liked the Heroquest ogres on the giant beasts and the Sudan square was a thing of beauty.

  6. The Sudan game was wonderful to the eye. A combination of that dreadful yellow sodium lighting and the fact that I resize photo's down to 700 pixels to stay within my Blogger limits, means that my pictures really cannot do that table justice - those camels were quite a sight.

  7. Hi
    The pic of the left flank crammed with troops, that was our game (Manchester Area Wargames)for the battle of Fuentes de Onoro. Was the third day when most of the attacks came from that flank and used 1 unit to 2 battalions. Can agree with your comment about the lighting, same every year.

  8. Thanks for looking and for clarifying. The lighting does a brilliant job at lighting up the sports hall ..... But it plays havoc with the camera. Will you be doing a display at Manchesters Brit-Con in August ?

    1. Unfortunately not, on holiday, but will be back next year with a 25mm black powder american war 1812 battle.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Bring & Buy was great but the 'trading' aspect is a valid one. I've always thought of the B&B as a bargain hunt but it tends to see a lot of traders / resellers stocking up as well....understandable but not really 'cricket' so to speak.

  10. Dave, we will never get to know the figures, but it would be interesting to see the balance between what is spent in the bring and Buy and what is spent in the trade hall. Digging deeper, how much of the 'new' cash raised in the Bring and Buy gets taken back into the trade hall to spend ON TOP OF what would be spent anyway.

    I suppose what I am getting at is how much punters money is going into the Bring and Buy and then never coming back into the trade and at what point commercially does the Bring and Buy become the bigger part of the show to the detriment of the trade side (I have no idea myself) - I have never seen it as busy as it was this year, but I do know somewhere people were trading there rather than just being wargamers who want to turn around some of their stuff so that they support new projects etc.



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