Saturday, 24 June 2017

Pheonix Wargame Show 2017

Phoenix 2017, a new Cumbrian show.

This is a young show (organised by West Coast Gamers), now in its second year, held at the Rheged Centre, Redhills, Penrith (top end of the Lake District in North west UK).

The venue is rather unusual, being a large space that looks like it has been built into a rock face, with the roofed area covered with grass and so has something of an eco feel about it, having a sort of synergy with the beauty of Cumbria.


Inside, the large space has nine shops and three cafes and there is a strong emphasis on crafts and local produce. Upstairs there is a gallery and small cinema and on the top floor there is a lot of conference space and this is where the wargame show is held.

The immediate advantage of the venue to me is that it is quite an inviting place for wargamer’s partners to wander around and relax in, without actually having to suffer the wargame thing. Plus Cumbria is a beautiful location, so it makes an ideal location for a mini-break. We had a stop-over the day before, so had a good wander around the area and then next morning arrived at the show quite fresh.

Anyway, with the scene set, for the rest of the show report and photos of games, please use the 'read more' tab.

The show had a pretty good mix of traders and a good balance of actual games being played. The show attracted a few local traders which is nice. There were about 20 traders all told and enough space to walk around in comfort.

There was a Bring ‘n Buy of the ‘do your own’ variety. Basically they rent out table space to the visitor for a pound per half hour and they said that they would run the availability based upon demand, so that all sellers could have a fair go at selling.

I had actually packed and labelled some stuff to sell, but at the last minute decided to leave it at home as I thought it a better idea to just spend my time wandering around, rather than selling, it just felt a bit more conducive with the aims of having a weekend break away and on reflection I am glad I did that.

There was a fair bit of fantasy and sci-fi on the bring and buy and a goodly selection of 20mm - 28mm scales, so my renewed focus on the smaller scales was not particularly rewarded here. However I did get a 15mm resin / metal Hetzer (WWII vehicle) for £1, which I was pleased about as I had previously owned the Rubicon 28mm version, which is just a fascinating quirky vehicle and for another pound a quite battered copy of Volley & Bayonet from GDW - but I didn’t care, I remember in years gone by, loving my own copy and I am simply going to enjoy re-familiarising myself with this and see if any of the scenarios can inspire me.

Entry price to the show was £3 and though the show did not open until 10 AM, the centre itself opens at 8.30, so it is a good venue for any early arrivals, grabbing a parking space (of which there is plenty anyway) and then enjoying a leisurely coffee and a sit-down in one of the cafes. 

In addition to traders, there were tournaments running, these being Batman, X-Wing and two Magic the Gathering tourneys and apparently one for Blood Bowl.

The show organisers have worked well with the available space and everything seemed to be well run, so for such a young show, they are getting much right. One thing that I think the organisers could do better, concerns the presentation of their website. Right up to the show, it had too much 2016 information on it, showing a floor plan for that year and also listing the 2016 traders, stating they would update with the 2017 list, but didn’t, leaving one a bit less than certain of what they were travelling to. My drive there was over 100 miles, so that sort of thing can matter.

As always, there was a lot of 28mm on sale, but I was able to buy for my 10mm - 15mm interests, so there were signs of some scale and subject diversity. Also some of the traders felt unique, such as Barwell Bodyworks, who were selling airbrush related products and I bought a new filter for a spray booth from them. I think anyone sitting on the fence about whether to get one or not would have been well served today.

Anyway, the important stuff - photographs. Here I give my usual apologies for not photographing everything and somethings may be mistakenly credited to the wrong people etc - If so please add comments to this posting to correct anything.

Below - Dumfries Wargamers put on a nice large 28mm Bunker Hill 1775 game, this shot is taken from the American positions in the centre.



Below - The buildings are over on the American right flank


Below - and this is the left flank. The group were using Black Powder rules and the Rebellion supplement (the best BP supplement in my view). Interestingly they had reversed the fire / move phases as they were not keen on the way that BP unmodified can allow units to travel a long distance and then deliver fire, without a defensive response to interrupt that.


Below - Those large movements have the British on top of the American defences. Anyway a lovely looking game and a very friendly crew who were happy to halt the game and chat about it.


Below - I think this was put on by Matt Crump. It was a participation game on Hawkinge Airfield - a scenario from Operation Sealion 1941.


Below - A view from lower down. there was a lot of interesting details on the ground and a great example of a good game being run on a small table. Bolt Action rules in use.


Below - West Coast Gamers (responsible for the show) had a nice looking Batman table.



Below - It was one of those tables that had a lot of lovely detail, you could walk around and see something new in there from each perspective.


Below - Oops, committed this one to memory - always a bad idea, I think it was also West Coast Gamers. This machine was sporting a very nice paint job - looked new to the fight.


Below - By contrast, this machine looks like it has seen a few combats and probably has the medals to prove it!


Below - Not sure who put this on, but it was a fairly big game with different things going on at various locations. The figures look to be the rather nicely proportion Gates of Antares soldiers from Warlord Games - over to the right were those drones on flight stands that come with that game - a nice big tactical game that looked like it had a lot of scope to go in different directions.


Below - This might have been put on by the Falkirk group. A WWII desert game with a quick reference sheet for the rapid Fire rules. Those defences have been rather cleverly routed out (or perhaps even built up), either way, they were attracting interest from a visitor as I took the picture.


Below - Dyrrachium 1081, Normans v Byzantines. I think this was put on by West Coast Gamers - anyway, a very friendly table who were eager to talk with anyone taking an interest.


Below - They were using Hail Caesar rules, with the appropriate supplement. This is the Norman left. Note the building in the far distance (see below).


Below - This is a side shot from the Norman side, looking at the middle of their line.


Below - A lone building on the board, it may have been a bit of filler on the Norman right flank, as their line was shorter than the Byzantine line, but it made a lovely addition to the table.


Below - Annan Gaming Club put on this Flames of War battle. The gamer felt a little disappointed that he had not managed to paint all of the units before the show. We talked about that and I said I thought it was a good example to others that it is more important to get things on the table and paint as you go along - certainly true for new people who want to start the hobby ..... keep them interested, keep them playing, don't let ANYTHING put them off!


Below - These were part of the painted force and very nice too. Version 3 of the ruleset was being used.


Below - Last week, my Phalanx show posting showed this trader stall as I thought the lovely buildings should be a must buy for anyone with lovely looking troops ..... anyway, I forgot their name at the time of posting, so here they are again at this show and this time I am getting it right ...... drum roll ....... They are 'Games of War', Google them and see better pictures than I can do!


Below - A most important buy of course. This is a display case from Colonel Bills trade stand. It shows two rather nice pre-painted 4Ground MDF buildings and some nicely painted SYW infantry from Fighting 15's. Anyway, last week I bought the small building on the right at the Phalanx show and liked it very much and when built proudly showed it to Mrs. Smith ..... who, remembering that and no doubt being massively impressed by my building skills, today, bought me the bigger building on the left.  I like these because they have a small footprint while due to their height, have quite a presence.

It just shows how much Mrs. Smith likes going to these shows and this is her secret way of letting me know she wants to go to lots more :-)


Anyway, that nicely leads me to my haul - In brief, I got more 15mm armour, with an eye to early war, a mix of Plastic Soldier Company and Zvezda models. For terrain I took some hedges, fencing and a resin pool from Hoka Hey Wargames and from Colonels Bill’s, some more of those posh soft foliage 4Ground trees, this time four young poplars, plus the building as mentioned above. Also a quick shout for Dave’s Wargames, he is doing MDF buildings and expanding to cover 10mm apartment blocks and 15mm 19th century housing, so I picked up a 15mm part ruined shop with an eye to France ‘40 scenarios in the future.

Conclusions. This is a young show that I hope prospers. The North West is surprisingly short of wargame shows and this is a beautiful part of the country, sitting just at the top of the Lake District, making it ideal to combine a bit of leisure time with a wargame hit. The cafe capacity in the building provides plenty of opportunity to sit out for a bit to rest legs and the very modern building has lifts, escalators and ramps to make moving around easier for anyone with mobility problems. Unusually for a wargame show, it adds an element of being a family destination. There is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and the show is set at a pace that allows for plenty of chat with traders and gamers. I left around 12.15 and it wasn’t showing signs of quietening down as some shows do by that time. Thanks to all those that made it work, especially those that had a lot of travelling to do.



  1. Some very cool games there!

  2. Thanks for the report Norm and it sounds a nice sized show to attend, in a lovely venue and wonderful part of the world:)

  3. Is there a wargames show EVERY weekend? Sure seems like it! I like the Spanish buildings very much. Are those from Old Glory? If 25mm, I could use them for my Peninsular War project.

    What really caught my eye was not a photo but something you wrote. Early War WWII including France 1940 has me very interested. That is where my 15mm WWII project sits and I would enjoy seeing you expand into early war with your rules.

  4. Thanks Gents. Jonathan, I am looking at early war specifically because yourself and others have mentioned it.

    a show every weekend would be very nice :-) but even here, I think most of use would consider ourselves to be in acceptable reach of a show perhaps 2 - 5 times per year.

    The buildings are privately made by Games of War and the chap was telling me today that he is making some additional modular pieces that would work with the building shown in the picture, by adding an extra storey or balcony etc. The guy was rightly enthusiastic about his own product.

    1. "Games of War." Yes, I should learn to read...They reminded me of the buildings Old Glory is releasing for pirate games.

  5. Wonderful pictures, and splendid units!

  6. This would be a superb venue if the range of scales and historical periods broadened. As a committed walker, this would make for an ideal couple of days away.

  7. Andrew, there is some great walking potential around and Keswick is only 17 miles down the road. I think the show is starting properly by being small and not over-trading and spreading the jam too thin, so that traders will come back. There is another room that was quite large and under-used, just a couple of tourney tables I think, so it looks like the show does have some potential for growing, while staying in the same excellent venue. I think they need to be a bit better at marketing the show, but there is no reason not to think that it could easily grow another 25% in the near future and be sustainable. It does need some scale diversity, but this is an issue for many shows as traders chase the 28mm money.

    One of its strengths is the potential for doing the visit as a mini-break.

    The previous week is the Phalanx wargame show, which is 100 miles further south, even with this distance, Phoenix may suffer by losing an audience that have had their fill at Phalanx - but then it didn't stop me and I spoke to one trader who this year traded at Phoenix instead of Phalanx. I don't know how well he did, but it does show that there is a relationship of sort between the two shows.

  8. Thanks for the report, Norm. Also, nice to hear of your encouraging words for the chap disappointed he couldn't quite get his figures finished in time. You're a top man!


  9. Thanks for the positive report on our show Norm- we'll certainly take on board your comments. Please keep in touch via our FB page as we are very keen to develop the show further. Our "target" visitor base is from the North East, North West and Southern Scotland and whilst there may not appear lots of shows in any one of these areas there are several:- Carronade/Phalamx/BorderReiver/Claymore all coming up every few weeks - finding a free slot with the venue that doesn't clash is difficult. However we are unique- Cumbria's only show.

  10. It sounds like the show has potential.



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