Saturday, 23 June 2018

Pheonix 2018 wargame show in Cumbria

This is the third year of the show and my second year of visiting. The event is held in the beautiful county of Cumbria, at the Reghed Centre, which is an eco friendly community venue that has exhibition space, a small cinema and shops that support local crafts and food. The whole place has a welcoming atmosphere as soon as you walk in.

This year we decided to make a bit of a weekend of it, so booked into a place in nearby Keswick (17 miles away), a lovely town above Derwent Waters, making the show a worthwhile destination for my non-gaming partner.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.

This is a smallish show with 19 Traders and 7 game tables and a friendly, easy atmosphere. A few of the the bigger names were there as anchors (though Warlord were missing this year), together with some of the small regional traders, several of which I had not met before and I like that local feel.

The venue is very modern, being comfortable and airy and in parts of the building there are craft / artisan type shops and places to grab some light refreshment, so overall the venue works as an enjoyable destination and ideal for non-gaming partners to enjoy and perhaps find a cosy corner and just sit-off and read ... just in case the wargamer loses all track of time!

The show hosts are West Coast Gamers and their interests brings the show a balance between Sci-Fi and historical traders and game tables, with their tournament games being Blood Bowl and Magic the Gathering. Entry into the show is £3 and free to under thirteen year old, so extra encouragement for a family day out.

There are bring and buy tables and these work on the basis that you pay a £1 for half an hour and then you are responsible for selling your own goods from the table. It works fine and though I have stuff to shift, I decided I would just rather be on the show floor today as my time there would be limited due to my back hating me this week!

This show falls on the weekend following the Phalanx wargame show (95 miles away on a good road and pretty much a straight run), which is one of my target shows, so for visitors like me, from the south side of the catchment area, I suppose Phalanx is a competitor, so Phoenix has to encourage additional spending from those who emptied their pockets at Phalanx. The two shows are  different in feel, size and setting, so probably complement each other in part and anyway, who cares, it’s nice to have two shows in a month for some treat time and in any case, though I didn’t go with a shopping list, I did come away with bags!

One thing this show really needs to start getting better at is the pre-show advertising. Last year, details of traders attending was not updated from the 2016 list and this year the update was not made until a week before the show, for someone like me who wants to book accommodation in advance, this is frustrating. I had ended up phoning a few traders myself from the previous year’s list to see if they were attending before I booked rooms. The show is so nice, as is the venue and area, that it seems a shame that they may be losing potential visitors because of this. However, having said that, the show appears to be growing year on year and organising shows while doing ‘real life’ things is not something that many of us would want to take on.

I was particularly pleased to meet Matt Crump (blogger of wargames in the Dungeon - link below in the resource section) for a quick hello and chat. Matt was supporting the show (again) with a participation game to introduce gamers to the Lardie’s new What a Tanker rules, using 15mm figures on a 4’ x 4’ gaming area. 

Over recent months, I have been fascinated by Matt’s blog as he builds up from scratch two 28mm ACW forces and presents the games that have fallen out of that. His attention to detail and photographic skills make those blogged presentations something to keep returning to (link in the resource section below).

Game wise, I enjoyed what was put on and appreciated the effort of gamers getting their displays to the show There were both ‘kitchen table’ and larger sized games being played, together with some  boardgame / figure hybrid type game that are growing in popularity. 

The following is a selection of photographs from various tables and hopefully I have credited the right people, if not let me know. I have not been able to include everything as the iPad software I am using (this being posted from my room while I am away on this weekend break) does not compress the files particularly well, while keeping detail, so to keep bandwidth reasonable for mobile device users, I have been necessarily selective.

Annan Gamers were doing what looked to be a pirate type game with a mix of land and water terrain representing a landing party doing whatever needed to be done and all rather nicely.

I caught the action fairly early as troops were leaving the ships.

Lovely modelling going on here.

West Coast Gamers had an ACW game going in 28mm.

It looked like a meeting engagement as forces appeared over time  from different parts of the board.

All rather nicely done, On a nearby chair was a box of Confederate troops yet to be deployed and they looked really nice, with 3 to a base in a loose style.

Matt Crump was introducing passers-by to What a Tanker rules by the Too Fat Lardies and he was kept busy by a constant stream of interested people.

This a 4’ x 4’ table with 15mm buildings and vehicles on the table, presumably doing the game in 10mm or 6mm could see further reductions in game size.

Mrs Smith said she thought the scale looked good .... so it would have been rude of me not to go and pick up a few 15mm items :-)

Dumfries Wargamers had a charming table. I think last year they did 28mm AWI - Bunker Hill, this year something that looked suspiciously like 54mm French / Indian wars was looking good.

The moose .... credentials for this being somewhere in the wilderness. 

A nice scene outside the strongpoint. These are lovely pieces.

A highlander I think, with a descriptive pose showing him clearly to be a leader of men.

This is just a small slice of terrain from a 40K game with some heavy hitting armour roaming around off to the left.

I think this may have been House Lancaster, anyway it was pretty close to the Mantic trade stand and has the look of their Walking Dead. In fact from memory, I’m sure that vehicle set with the biffed front is theirs. Anyway, a lot of action in a 2’ x 2’ space and attracting attention.

Despite last weeks spend, there were still things here that caught my eye. 

A pack of four 4Ground Chestnut Trees from Colonel Bill. I get a stand of these posh ones at most shows as I slowly replace my ‘loo brush’ style trees.

The Kingdom is Ours - by James Daniels, these looked a fairly interesting fast play English Civil War rules from Helion Company, with quite a bit of flavour and some unit explanations that should help me understand he period a bit better

The Kings of War Historical rules from Mantic Games, but bought on the Victrix Games stand (they had their lovely new plastic 28mm elephants there), these look a highly playable set, derived from the Mantic fantasy ‘Kings of War’ rules, which normally retail at £20, but there was minor handling damage to the book and it was on sale for £5, so it was snaffled by yours truly.

I seldom look at bring and buys, simply because they are usually so busy and I have limited standing time, that I am better just working the trade stands - however, with space to breathe at this show and the tables well set out, I had a looksie and there were a couple putting out Flames of war and 15mm WWII stuff at ‘must go’ prices. I picked up a nicely painted resin church and two unpainted resin ruins, which looked good, plus a still packaged Battlefront resin Stuart tank kit (just to have a play around with it) and some Soviet decals. The fact that I sold off all my 15mm stuff before Christmas, does of course annoy me now!

The Hoka Hay stand seems more diverse this year. I took a couple of pre-made fields off them and saw other things I have earmarked for the future.

Finally, new to me is 15mm Skirmish Supplies, run by a really friendly bloke and with an interesting range of stock. Anyway, he had a couple of boxes of pre-formed vacuum plastic hills by Amera, which reminded me of Bellona (from years ago) but the grade of this plastic was like heavy plasti-card and each one was only £5.95.  What attracted me was that one is a quarter hill that sits on a table corner, which seems quite an efficient way of using table space. He said they take spray paint well, so with the warm weather set for next week, this looks like my next terrain project.

As I had almost returned to Keswick, I could have kicked myself as I had forgotten to pick up the resin roads and a bridge that I had earmarked with The Baggage Train - these looked to be particularly well moulded and flat, with good straight ends to butt properly against the next piece. Doh!

Overall, I was pleased with the show and it just seem to slot in seamlessly with the leisurely nature of our weekend away. As a new show, I think it is still evolving as some traders have changed since last year and the new traders of course can’t evaluate what the show means to them until doors closed today. I didn’t go upstairs to the tournament room, so can’t really judge what the overall numbers at the show were. We left around 12.20 PM (and went to Keswick Market) and it still seemed to be well attended at that time.   

As always, the organisers and traders and those who give their time to put on games to make show visiting such a pleasure, do a great job in making these things work. Regardless of who I bought from, I did see plenty of other things from other traders that I will come back to.


My sister web space COMMANDERS, which is a bit more snippet based than here LINK

Matt’s blog ( a must read) LINK

Last years show report LINK


  1. Thanks for the report and pics Norm. Colours is bad at updating traders and games, almost leaving things until the last minute, which is annoying as I want to know whether the show is worth attending. Last years was but will have to wait a month or so to see if I will take a trip again this year.

    1. Thanks Steve, it must be tough doing real life and administering a show, but those who successfully use social media and web space set the benchmark and that becomes an expectatiion. It is obviously more noticeable if you want to know whether paying for accomodation is justifiable or want to make a pre-show order to guarantee a purchase.

  2. Fine looking game report, Norm. Do you have a Wargames show every weekend? Sure seems like it!

  3. Thanks Jonathan, no I have to wait until the middle of July for the next one :-)

    In truth, in the UK we are well blessed with shows and probably don’t appreciate that fact enough. The UK has a lot of shows between February and Deceber and being a relatively compact compared to the U.S. means that several shows are within easy ‘day out’ distance, which here, I suppose we think of as being around 100 - 150 miles give or take, so some shows, even if they look busy ae partly getting the same audience by gamers who have their own personal show radius and so spend evens out over a number of shows and over geographic radius. Our shows are trader driven rather than being a games Con, so the games are nice, but most are demo games and it is the traders that draws the crowd, so no traders means no show and I think some shows are under pressure to hold their traders because of limited spend, while others are thriving.

  4. Thanks for stopping by for a chat, Norm, and kudos for posting the show post up so quickly! Your pictures are much appreciated as I didn't get away from my stall into the bigger area to see the tables.
    A comment on my facebook page from a display table participant said that they were to be running the French Indian wars game in 1/30 scale figures using Ganesha Games "Song of Drums and Tomahawks" ruleset. Looks lush. Hope you back gets better soon - was obviously giving you bother.
    Cheers, Sam (15mm Skirmish Supplies)

    1. Thanks Sam, hope your day went well, the French Indian table was just one those things that brought a smile to faces.

  5. Nice pics and report. You guys in the UK do have an abundance of shows. You got two show posts in a row!

    You also got your post show post up before Mat so you win the blog wars! 😀
    Hope your back continues to mend.

  6. Thanks Norm for posting and your kind comments. It was good to catch up and again thanks for your kind gift 😀 keep in touch and we’ll try and sort out a trip to the dungeon if you are up this way again soon.

  7. Thanks Stew, we do have a lot of show goodness. As the above post shows though, the traders and those putting on games don’t really get a chance to get around the show, so their contribution is particularly appreciated.

    It was good to to get chance to have a chat with a fellow blogger and Matt has already dropped a comment over on last weeks blog post (the Phalanx show post), he must have done that while I was still typing this post up.

  8. Sounds like a really nice, small scale show, great to have it relatively local and the venue sounds lovely!
    Best Iain

  9. Thanks Iain, on the day of the show, they announced next years show date, so the organisers have the enthusiasm and confidence to go forward. It will be traders who shape how the show looks over he next few years.



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