It's that time again, one of my 'must visit' shows. A friendly medium sized show at St. Helens in the North West of England.
Held in the large hall of a leisure centre, with an off-shoot room covering a very popular Bring 'n Buy, the show is efficiently run by the St. Helens Spartans Wargames Club.
The following is a general report of the show.
please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post.
Pre visit ramble (for those not interested, scroll straight down to the show report).
I have covered this show before (see links in the Resource Section at the foot of this page) and one of the things that has always plagued my reports has been the sodium lighting that never fails to give my photographs a heavy and unpleasant orange cast. An internet search suggests setting the camera's White Balance to 2700 can help overcome such lighting - so we shall see.
It is only the 8th June today, so 9 days to go to show time, but I am already thinking about what I want to buy, just in case pre-orders are needed to ensure availability on the day.
A driver for me this time around for this show is that at home, storage is a problem with shelves bulging and things are now being stacked on the floor - not a sustainable situation, so the time has come to be a bit more certain about which scales I will pursue going forwards and then off load as much as I can carry to the show's rather excellent Bring 'n Buy.
I have been running small and large scales side by side for a couple of years now, fascinated and captivated by the larger scale but restrained for practical reasons to the smaller scales, but I now need to desperately consolidate one way or the other if storage equilibrium in the Smith household is to be restored. Without going into all the whys and wherefores of working out what should go, I have decided that the smaller scales are simply more functional to my circumstances and that large terrain features from the bigger scale in particular are too demanding of space and they also sit awkwardly with my fancy of the 4" hex. Consequently most of my 28mm plastic dominated collection will go - sad though as that is!
Whenever I take stuff to a Bring 'n Buy, my philosophy is that I don't want to end up with unsold items that return home with me, so I deliberately price low and this tends to ensure that things shift. I always take all monies made in the Bring 'n Buy room, back into the main trader hall, to spread joy and happiness to the traders and for me, this is part of the essential balance of ensuring a healthy show. The Bring 'n Buy room is always chocker at this show with punters and so can give an impression that it is the most vibrant part of the show, I can only hope that the balance is right and that its apparent success is not interfering with the trader hall.
However, all this is plan A, as depending on how my back is, makes the difference whether I will carry stuff from the car and then stand in the sellers queue. Often I don't bother doing this sort of thing. At the moment, the bad back signs are not good, so at the back of my mind is Plan B (not bothering to sell).
Anyway, we are more than a week away from all of this and so I can sort, consider, package and label what is for the chop at a fairly leisurely pace and just see how it goes
Right - Game On! After sealing and pricing things up for sale, my first job was to take a cargo from the car to the Bring 'n Buy stall. Yesterday, I had a Eureka moment. I have one of those metal and collapsible two wheel trollies that can shift up to 90kg of stuff, handy for bags of compost etc, but equally ideal for a stack of wargame boxes. I also have one of those canvas strip seats (really light and compact), both these tools being perfect for getting stuff to the Bring ‘n Buy and sitting while in the queue. Anyway, stuff delivered and then the trolley taken back to the car. The results were well worth the hassle, a goodly sum was raised, giving me a real spending boost for the main event.
I did my usual quick dash around to eye everything up before getting into any serious shopping. The show had a fair balance of trader to game ratio and I found the gamers quite happy to be interrupted and discuss their games, all adding to the friendly feel of the show.
A few of the tables were supporting the products of nearby traders, I quite like these tables as they are usually well resourced and the gamers are really happy to answer questions and I spoke to them all.
As for trends, it felt busy and I would say that numbers were at least the same as previous years, perhaps even up. The place does quieten down a lot by 12.30, though this is true of many shows. There were a good number of smaller 'kitchen table' sized games, which I feel do inspire by giving something that translates into what gamers can see happening in their own home and at least for me, it worked in one case, as I bought figures because of one of the games. I also thought that a bit more scale diversity was returning into the show, all the main scale were represented, though obviously 28mm is still very much the daddy, but enough of the gaming tables had the smaller scale to stand testimony of its continued viability.
Since Caliver Books have stopped attending the show, there doesn't appear to be anyone who has picked up the rules side of things to anywhere near the same degree, book are well covered, there were two excellent sellers there, but rulebook availability remains a little hit and miss.
The Bring 'n Buy was as always super busy and for the most part at least two deep. How much of this money recycles into the trader hall I have no idea, but I did happen to speak with a trader on the subject and he saw the Bring 'n Buy as a good thing and something that he used himself.
Catering again was covered by an external catering company (Suzies). They have a kiosk van and set-up outside, so good weather is a bit of a must and once again today we were lucky in that regard. Their service is fast and efficient and it makes for a welcome pit-stop.
They provide 4 tables, each with 5 swing out stools on each side, so 40 people can sit at any one time and from what I saw, that worked well for this show, with seats available each time I went out (though 1 bin is not enough!). Anyway, I enjoyed a bacon barm and a coffee first thing to help me spring into buyer mode.
Game-wise, the following caught my eye, sorry if anything is wrongly attributed or not attributed at all, the camera became a bit of a burden as my hands filled up with bags, so not everything is covered. Let me know if something needs changing.
To try and combat the sodium lighting, I messed around with the camera settings, resulting in ....... well a mess. Everything turned out orange and I was annoyed to the point that I was either not going to add the photo's to this post or change them to black and white - anyway, I am ploughing on with the snaps as they are and include just a taster of what was available, but the photographs do not reflect the glory of what I was looking at - sorry about that.
Above - This is the first game that I came across that made me get my camera out. It was one of those boards that you could stare at for ages and keep on finding new things to look at, a sign of a good effort.
Above - Kallistra's ongoing WWI roll-out to match the passage of the 100th anniversary of The Great War. We are of course now up to 1917 and so their demo game in front of their stand is Cambrai. I think the dimensions for this table were a tad over 4' x 4', and to the eye it looked like the kind of thing that many could adapt to the kitchen table.
Above - As far as the production time-line goes, 1917 brings us tanks and this is a close up of the rather marvelous Kallistra models (12mm), I was speaking with Paul and he said a few other tank models are in the pipeline and should be ready soon.
Above - This was the demo (Dead Man's Hand) game in front of Great Escape Games and it is a real pity that the light ruined this shot as it is a very nice board and again, ideal for a small gaming space. I asked them about their Iron Cross rules and they felt that the desert supplement was 95% complete, so we should be seeing that soon.
Above - This was one of those many moments when I thought it would be easy to remember who to attribute the picture to and guess what! Oh well, this was a traders stand and I took the shot simply because the display looked so attractive. If you have beautiful figures, then this is the sort of terrain that would compliment them.
Above - This is just a snapshot of a very large WWII 28mm game. I think the snow scenes for WWII look superb and winterising does seem to have become popular, especially with the release of the Bulge Bolt Action book. I am not sure whether this was an east or west front game, but again, a clear example of a tremendous amount of work to make a good spectacle for the show.
Above - Well chronic lighting or no chronic lighting, I wasn't going to miss an opportunity of highlighting a hexed game, put on by the East Lancashire Wargames club. This one caught my eye because it had mixed the big (small) trees from Last Valley with the smaller scale, something I would have avoided, but it looked very good, so I will give that a go on my next hexed outing..
Above - This was just a small slice of this game, but the building was so nice (set off by the dashing cavalry), that it just begged to be photographed. That building is beautiful - I would put it in as many games as possible if it were mine.
Above - The Liverpool Wargames Association always have a good presence at Phalanx with games usually over two or three tables, it is of course a great recruiting ground for them. I took this one because it is a Crossfire table and gives a good idea of how much terrain and its proximity to each other is needed for that system.
Above - Another Liverpool Wargames Association game, this one a nice 15mm Samurai game. I was taken enough by this to go and get some 15mm lead (more of that later).
Above - Another shot of the Samurai game. I like the balance between mass and detail on this scale of figure. Once again I am frustrated by the lighting combined with my lack of camera savvy.
Above - Another big game for 28's by Manchester Area Wargames, but the table was certainly not full of troops, which was interesting. They were doing Crysler's Farm 1812 and there was a Black Powder rule set to one side, so plenty of room for those deep moves that these rules can throw up.
Above - This was a 15mm game using Keith Flint's Honours of War rules, put on by Manchesters Mailed Fist. They had a really friendly and enthusiastic crew and we spent a bit of time chatting.
My Haul - I tried to keep things focussed on current projects for this year, which also includes adding to and enhancing my hex terrain. A big part of that was of course off-loading to the bring 'n Buy, the sales from which gave me a significant spending boost, while tickling my recycling tendencies.
What follows is more of a thank you and recognition of the traders for making the effort to get there, rather than a specific listing of Haul, it also points at some direction and progress in my project plans and distractions!
Kallistra - Usually my first stop and that was no different today. As part of my terrain improvement, I went for wide (2 hex) rivers and some more lengths of single brook. They were also doing a show special of a double span bridge painted with the road surface done in the same sand as their roadways. I picked up lead to take my Hastings 1066 project to the next level, Their 6 blisters for the price of 5 of course being attractive, so both Normans and Anglo-Saxons were added to the basket. I do like their 12mm figures, they remind me a bit of early and small 15mm of yesteryear .... before all that scale creep nonsense. I also bought some of their 40mm wide by 25 deep and 30 deep bases, so that their Norman cavalry (provided with 40 x 20) can have a bit more 'movement' reflected on the base by being less formed.
Magister Militum - Seeing the Liverpool Wargames Association Samurai game in 15mm got me thinking about doing my Napoleonics 1809 project in the same scale. I took an initial bag of 8 French Line infantry from MM, went away and studied them and went back and bought a French brigade (inf, cav and art, like a small army pack really). Future wise, I will want French, Austrian and Russian, Richard said the lines were more or less complete and they had just engaged a new designer to fill any gaps in the same style of the old designer, which is what you want to hear when investing in a range. Anyway good service and nice figures.
I couldn't find a copy of Dave Browns new Napoleonic rules anywhere, so also picked up a copy of Colours and Guns (10mm napoleonic rules) from Magister Militum and hope for a good read from this. Oh - and also at last! I now have a proper dice bag, you know one that I can actually get my big hand into ..... Hooray!
Pendraken - I got three buildings by Escenograffia Epsilon, timbered buildings with lovely red tiled roof. They can look a bit rough (perhaps rustic is a better word) and they are heavily washed, enough to leave some stain marks, but this all adds to their utterly charming look and dare I say non-MDF look! I really like them. I also took some of their snake fencing to try, tank decals and some very fine sand, because it matches perfectly my Kallistra roads and I want to 'mod' some slope hex tiles so that I can run roads over the raised ground.
Colonel Bill - As stockists of 4Ground, I picked up a couple of small 15mm timber framed and pre-painted MDF buildings, one for Dark Ages and one for Medieval. The dark age one actually has some material to glue on the roof to look like thatch etc. This might make some scenic eye candy to any 'what-if' 1066 scenarios that may fall out of my Hastings project.
Also, each year, I pick up a pack of trees from them to slowly swap out my 'loo brush' type trees for softer and posher foliage. This year I got a pack of 4 young birch and a MDF basing system. This is a long cry from my teenage years of making trees out of matchsticks and dyed cotton wool - aye weh've never 'ad it so good!
Coritani - Always something interesting on this stand, today I got high walls (painted) and two unpainted resin marshes - each will drop into my hexes rather nicely.
The baggage Train - A local trader, that has a ton of interesting stuff in resin for the small scales. I picked up a couple of resin ruined multi-storey building blocks (footprint of a hex) and some shell holes, which I will embed into some terrain features.
PE2 Collectables - Always has at least 10% off things, so a box of PSC 15mm Churchills was chosen to start the basis of my WWII British '43 - '44 forces.
Grubby Tanks - I always thought he only did 20mm vehicles, but he has a 15mm section. PSC Soviet 45mm Anti-Tank guns picked up. I am doing a 15mm conversion for my Tigers at Minsk rules (hex based), so am collecting forces for some live testing.
Warbases - Last year I bought MDF dice boxes and 7mm dice to make casualty markers - whatever was I thinking as my banana fingers can barely lift them out of the box. So an opportunity was taken today to upgrade to 10mm boxes and 10mm dice. They will look a bit more obtrusive ...... but will work for me without tantrums!
An excellent day, and it is one of my highlights of the year that I refuse to miss - yes really! thanks to the show organisers (who make it look easy), the traders (and those traders who looked after me today) and to all those putting on games. It all comes together to make for a good friendly show, where I will continue to make my biggest yearly spend to help ensures it continues to be strong.
Phalanx 2014 Show - LINK
Phalanx 2015 Show - LINK
Phalanx 2016 Show - LINK
My sister website COMMANDERS is a bit more magaziney than here and hopefully a place that visitors like to pass through to see project updates. LINK