Saturday, 15 June 2019

2019 Phalanx Wargame Show

This is a nice sized show, set in the sports hall of a community centre in St. Helens (UK). I have been going for more years than I care to remember and it is nice to see some of the traders who were fledgling  game companies back in the day, who are still out there, doing it and supporting this wonderful, but niche hobby.

A magnificent table that greets the visitor

This posts covers some of the demo games and traders and offers some thoughts as to how the show is shaping up to a 2019 audience.

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

There are three main elements to this show. A trader hall, a side room that has the bring and buy stall and a courtyard with open air catering.

This is a medium sized show, with just shy of 40 traders and it does manage to retain a good diversity of traders, with the smaller scales holding their own against the tidal wave of the 28mm scale, that seem to dominate some shows.

The trading space shares the hall with demo tables and participation games and there is enough space to get around easily.

I have commented before in previous posts on the bring and buy ..... it gets rammed and one wonders whether the ratio of trade between this room and the trade hall is in balance, I have no idea as to be able to answer that or of how much of the money made there is brought back into the trade hall. Regardless, with limited time on my feet (due to back ache), it is just a room that I can’t bring myself to visit to join the scrum of bargain hunters or to queue to put my own wares up for sale, I would rather just crack on and enjoy the show itself.

There used to be on-site catering upstairs, but this has not been available for a number of years now and an outside caterer has been brought in and which sets up in a courtyard. Usually they bring tables and chairs, but this year it was just the van, with a crew of two serving from the van window. Considering the bad weather we have been having this summer, with persistent rain right up to yesterday, everyone was lucky that today was dry enough for it not to matter. As it neared lunchtime, groups had gathered outside, eating, drinking, talking and standing! I think it is fair to say that many of us are at an age when a sit down to rest the old legs is part of the solution to encouraging people to stay at the show longer.

My shopping list - Boardgames have been making the biggest grab on my funds this year, but I have been holding my figure / material spend back since last years shows, deliberately, to inject some customer cash into this show, a personal decision to help keep it viable. As with many things in life, and especially in this era of austerity, use it or lose it is a mantra worth remembering for punters.

I had a bit of a mental buying list, nothing written down, so, latex roads, some nice small trees to continue the programme of replacing ‘loo brush’ type trees, the new second Edition of the Black Powder rules and perhaps some naval assets to do a bit of napoleonic naval gaming with, were all possibles. Also a fleece table mat might get a second look.

Of late, I have been getting a sense that wargaming in general is moving over to games with fewer figures on smaller tables in our smaller houses. Wargame magazines and game shows give an impression that we are all gaming with 28mm figures in big spaces, with plenty of storage room. Yet speaking to some of the traders of the smaller scales today, they strike me as being really busy and their customer base is saying that lack of gaming or storage space is making the smaller scale attractive to them.

Interestingly, at this show, though there is a mix of table size, there was not an equal reflection of the range of available scales, as most were using 28mm. I know that this is a spectacle scale, but if we are to be tempted in parting with cash, some table inspiration relative to how we game as individuals, especially at home, is needed.

This got me thinking. I am always banging on about the importance of the demo / participation game to inspire punters to go straight to a trader with wallets open, a belief if you like that there should be a relationship between game table and the trade. Anyway, when I look at what I bought today, none of it was inspired by any of the games being played, so I don't know what to make of that really, though of course many 28mm gamers may have and opposing view and bought based upon what they saw.

I suppose the only time it will really matter is if fans of the smaller scale stop going to shows and just do an internet order instead and then we would see an entire sector of the wargaming world become publicly invisible.

I know that Pete Berry (Baccus 6mm) often beats this drum and he now annually holds a dedicated 6mm wargame show (the Joy of Six), but I would like to see both clubs and magazines take a slightly pro-active stance and work to encourage a proportion of their game tables to host games in the smaller scales. I know it's not easy and you need people to 'do it', but if you start to make such things actual policy, then things do tend to happen.

Many years ago at Triples, I saw a small 6mm Normandy game being played and it was one of those truly inspirational show moments, for me anyway. A few years ago, I played in a demo game with a chap using Kallistra terrain tiles. I went straight to the Kallilstra stall and got my first order.

Perhaps shows can ask clubs to put on certain games so that a wider portfolio of games are there to greet the punters. There were empty tables at this show, I don't know whether they were intentional seating areas (if so thank you so much - I took full advantage of a mid-show rest) or whether they were 'fail to appears', I hope it is the former, that would be such a good step forward for any show.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that without exception, whenever I spoke to anyone at a table, they stopped play and spoke with me. Thank you all, just another aspect that makes this show feel so friendly.

Anyway, here are a few shots of the games, sorry if your game does not get a mention (or for that matter it is not  properly attributed), but from a blog management perspective, I am trying to keep picture quality good, while limiting total download size, so that those using mobile platforms for viewing don’t get their data allowance battered and this inevitably means fewer images per post.

As always, please excuse the orange glow that the sodium lighting in this venue casts over photographic endeavours.
Carry on Zulu!

The Liverpool Wargames Association always put on some good games in this, their ideal recruiting ground. Today they did a 28mm Zulu game.
Zulu game

They used the Men Who Would Be Kings rules from Osprey.
Towton in 54mm

There was a nice 54mm game by the Independent 54mm Wargames Club. This may have been the biggest table at the show and each side had three 'battles' with those individual bodies giving a good impression of the organisation of a grouping within the army of the day.
Visual feast

I think this one may have been put on by Cheshire and Staffordshire Wargamers. There was another settlement like this one at the other end of the table and the church in the mid distance sat on a raised mound, with everything sitting on a sort of bushy teddy bear fur, which from memory of a blog entry last year, was bought from DunElm soft furnishings. Anyway it looked the part, nice texture and a good shade of green.
I love the understated colour in this scene. You
can click on and look into the image.

The Phoenix Modelling and Wargames Society are regular attenders. They had a good mix of models on the table today, including a few fun pieces, but it was this diorama really grabbed my attention.
You can't really notice from here, but this
board is using hexes.

This was almost certainly the smallest playing table at the show, probably the size of a medium boardgame. The bloke running it was very friendly and enthusiastic and a good example of getting a lot of game into a small space
Well, a T-34, it was always going to
get a spot here.

Another small board (together with a 40k one), but I think it was a show piece for 4Ground (MDF kit producers). It was in front of their stand and is much nicer than my picture suggests. The staff are very good with the public.
A very attractive table, looking more orange
than it should here, due to the sodium lighting

This table, put on by the show hosts (The Spartans) is crammed full of delight. It was located near the front entrance to the hall and the gamers all had their Spartan 'T' shirts on, so they were easily placed / located if anyone needed to speak with a club member.
Two torpedoes incoming!

Warlord Games Cruel Seas had a good table. The bloke running it had put a 1/144 aircraft on the table as a bit of a visual thing and it looked really good. These ships are 1/300 scale and you don't need many models or much space to get a good game going. A starter kit (which doesn't include the bigger ships) and a blue cloth and away you go.
Unfortunately there is that orange light again! The mass figures were a lovely sight.
There was only one table using Kallistra hexes and they were using it for the modular terrain benefits rather than using the hexes themselves for measurements etc. This was a rather lovely 15mm game and again, those around the table were really friendly.
I think this was a DBR Italian Wars game

The Assault on Sant' Agnello had a lovely concentration of renaissance colour and seeing so many pike in one location is impressive, though I doubt moving all the pikemen was an easy task! :-)
The mysterious 7 Years War game!

One of the battles I was really looking forward to was advertised as a 10mm 7 Years War battle. But, in my time there, the game did not seem attended and it looked a little sparse, though the game mat was amongst the nicest that I have seen. I would liked to have known more about the game.
Columns advancing on the bridge

This is an AWI game on a very big table with a lot of figures ... lovely to look at. I had a chat with one of the blokes and he was explaining how he had scratch built several of the terrain features, again, another very welcoming table. Sometimes it is just worth remembering the logistics that some gamers have to negotiate just to get something like this, built, transported and set up for the benefit of the show / visitors.

Anyway, I thought the game tables were a successful part of the show.

I enjoyed all of the trade stands, most seemed to be busy, but a couple looked a bit dismayed, which I think is pretty typical of a show. I kept away from the Bring and Buy, so have no idea what the numbers were like in there, but I thought the hall looked healthy and would hazard a guess that numbers were easily as good as last year.

As far as purchases went, the following traders grabbed my attention. This listing is just to flag up future projects that the blog will see and to highlight some traders who helped make my day;

I did get by Black Powder II book, but I am sorry that I don't know the name of the chap who sold it me. He is a regular trader and often has good deals on a few rule books. I got the rules at £25, while it was £30 on the other stands. I know he used to share a stall with Lancashire games many moons ago.

Great Escape Games - I like their Iron Cross rules, though I felt they needed a bit of a tidy up to clear up some ambiguities. Anyway, we had a chat about that and they plan to PDF some more army lists for those rules and have just released the modern version 'Seven Days to the River Rhine', a Cold War Gone Hot type game. Anyway, it looks very accessible, just like Iron Cross, so I picked them up. I like their rules because they pretty much have everything in one book. The rules look like they cut to the chase in a very playable format, handling a potentially complicated subject rather nicely.

Dave Lanchester - Dave runs a great book service, with a huge range of titles, which allows you to dip back and pick up some gems as well as selling new tiles. I was tempted by the Bruce Quarrie Airfix Napoleonic Wargaming, but in the end I picked up Scenario book 3 for General de Brigade, which amongst other things, has three Marengo scenarios.

Warbases - The MDF people, where would we be without them. They now have a very big range of buildings and accessories, plus of course a wide selection of laser cut bases and dice frames too. New to me, were two 8" rulers in MDF, one marked in inches and the other in centimetres, which look really handy and just £1 each.

Pendraken - 10mm specialists. They have just introduced Blitzkrieg Commander army packs for their new BKC IV rules, so I took American forces in NW Europe, including the new re-modelled Shermans. With my liking of these rules, I thought this was the best way to get a balanced U.S. army started. I also picked up (again!) an army pack for 1809 French ..... yes, I think I may have regained interest again in my Napoleonic Hex based rules. Finally I took two of the Escenografia Epsilon Normandy houses. These are pre-paint resins, a bit rustic and often freely washed, so that staining can show, but I love them for their sheer charm and character. Oh, nearly forgot, the Vallejo Sepia shade wash to try out ... a new shade for me, I mean what could go wrong! I find their washes quite strong so do a 50/50 mix with water.

Tumbling Dice Miniatures - Always a friendly and chatty trader, he sells the very small aircraft and the three small scales of sailing ships. The posh ones with rigging and the very small ones. But rather like Goldilocks, I have gone for the 'just right' (for me anyway) ones in the middle, while I explore some naval fighting, I think these are 1/2400, but might be wrong. Anyway, I got a starter pack of 8 ships. I had wanted the blue hexes from Kallistra, but they are waiting for another production run, so I can catch up on that another time. I have a hexed boardgame system that I could use and also have the Osprey Fighting Sail rules booklet. Anyway, we shall see, but this will have been my truly new thing from the show.

Kallistra - They do 6 figure blisters for the price of 5, so I thought I would get 6 and do a mix and match on current interests. I got 3 blisters to round out my 12mm ACW stuff and to allow some re-basing and also give me dismounted Confederate cavalry, a pack of War of the Roses Levy Billmen, an AWI 6dr pack with Continental crews and an AWI British Grenadiers advancing pack. The last 3 are just tasters for future projects (I know!). I also picked up another pack of level 2 slopes. The more you have, the more flexibility you can get with doing high ground, so the odd pack here and there over time to add into the collection helps. Paul showed me the new sculpts for the 12mm Roman / Celts which will be released in the autumn and they look really nice, I think that will be a popular line.

Coritani - two small resin pre-painted swamps. They look very nice and I am slowly collecting these for my 1066 battles to supplement my hex swamps. I will add a bit of the Woodland Scenics water effect and the lightest of flocks to the ground to bring it as a closer match to my other stuff. They always have something interesting on their table.

Commission Figurines - This is the chap who is doing all the interesting stuff with 6mm MDF armies. Amongst his packs, I found a kit to make up 1 metre of MDF 10mm earthworks in 10cm (4") sections. Basically each section has a base and an etched wooden fascia panel, I assume you just add filler to make an earth bank on the other side. Anyway, worth a try and 10cm does match my hex size.

S&A Scenics - My eye caught sight of an 18" ridge feature, something I have wanted for a while and which also matches the other hills that I have bought from him. I also picked up another pack of 8 'deluxe' small trees, which I am using to slowly swap out my older stiff bristled 'loo brush' type trees, I have some cheap ones that have a very coarse bristle (not the K&M ones) and it would be good to get them into the 'deep reserve' box! Simon did say that he could make me a bespoke ridge if I wanted a longer one, so that service may interests some readers.

So all-in-all, a splendid day, only made possible by the hard work of the club and the willingness of traders and those putting games on, to make their various journeys to support this show and the punters that keep the whole thing viable - long may that continue and thanks to everyone who put a foot through those doors.


Last years report of the same show. LINK

My sister webspace COMMANDERS that is a bit more snippet based than here and probably better organised! LINK


  1. Norm, you provide a very detailed show report-out. Great info for those not able to attend.

    I am not a fan of the current direction toward few figures and skirmish level gaming. Some of us still enjoy large tables and masses of troops. Perhaps, that is a symptom of age and our time in grade?

    Again, great show recap!

    1. Thanks Jonathan, I think some of this falls out of the contrast between those who have been around long enough to accumulate bigger armies and those who are buying into 'all in one package' type games, but somewhere across the full span of the age / experience profile, there are also gamers doing both.

      Kickstarter is certainly starting a lot of 'fad' games, in which gamers have barely enough time to get familiar with the subject, never mindpainting the figures, before the next great thing is on the horizon and demanding cash and attention.

  2. First year as a trader with Scotia and thoroughly enjoyed it. Agree about the games and I think we will look to put a 6mm game on next year. Great write up of today's show.

  3. That would be really good. It was nice to see Scotia there today and it would be good to see a 6mm game that makes people want to actually go and buy from them. Even linking up with another dealer who is selling say a given set of rules, so the punter can get the rules, figures and some scenery from the same show.

  4. Nice show report Norm and as always some interesting points. I completely agree that there should, IMHO, be more games that reflect the type we play at home. It can be daunting seeing some of the really, really nice games and thinking how can I ever do this at home etc? Space is also another issue that has come up in lots of conversations with fellow gamers over the past few years.

  5. Thanks Steve, there is probably an industry standard that thinks 6’ x 4’ is typical, but from running my ‘wargames in spaces blog’, I am acutely aware that even this ‘standard’ space is luxurious to many and that these days, it would be better to revise that down to 4’ x 3’ kitchen table gaming and even accept that there are gamers who would love such a space. Against that background it would just be nice to see both magazines and shows have a quota of total display space that considers small space gaming. I love the spectacle of the big game and there are gamers and clubs that have the facility to be truly inspired by such from a spend point of view, but it strikes me, that for the sake of show diversity and getting maximum numbers through the doors, the smaller scales need to be better represented at the table.

    Eric (above) has made me stop and think that I can’t just argue the case and that perhaps I should also be one of those that does something about it.

  6. Great show round up! The Italian wars game looks fab! I think I fall between big games and a bit of skirmish games, time can be an issue too with a large game and not just space!
    Best Iain

  7. I knew you would like that table, I don’t know enough about the period, but the riot of colour reminded me of your work.

  8. Nice pics of the tables and looks like you had a good time. That’s the important part. 😀

    I do think that the ‘wargaming media’ - whatever that includes- could do a better job of showcasing all the scales and types of games that available to someone. But I also think that when it comes to putting on a game at a show (or a convention as we would say here in the states) people tend to want to go above and beyond than what they do At home in order to put on something special. In that way they’re not doing what they might usually game.

  9. Thanks Stew, I think that is right and the magazines tend to support the bigger scales because it photographs well and I am guessing that that is where the biggest part of advertising revenue comes from, but whether that reflects what is 'really' happening in the hobby or not is another matter and whether the smaller scale gamer gets as much out of a show as a larger scale gamer is something that is likely to feed into show numbers and ultimately viability.

  10. Diversified and splendid tables/vignettes, thanks for sharing this awesome show!

    1. Thanks Phil, we are lucky in the UK, that if we wanted to, we could do half a dozen shows a year within a 2 hour drive.

  11. Great show report Norm and as I am unable to attend these kinds of events, I enjoy reading summaries like yours.

    I have ordered a copy of Iron Cross to see what they are about as I like a simple rule sets. You mentioned some ambiguities in the rules, can you elaborate on what these are? I hope there are not too many!

    Thanks, Dave

  12. I think you will like Iron Cross and appreciate them for both their cleverness and simplicity. Part of that simplicity comes from dropping things like artillery fire and air strikes.

    The rules are all there, but sometimes you have to hunt down a one line rule that you remember seeing somewhere and overall, you are left feeling that another page of text to fully explain the rules and intention would have helped. No game breakers or errata, just a feeling that this just needed an extra pair of eyes before going off to the printers, to give a smoother, more organised read.

  13. Great write up as always and a special benefit when once again I couldn't be there in person. Hopefully next year!

  14. Hi Mike, There was a chap there selling a new sealed Devil's cauldron by MMP for £50. I don't think he realised what he had. I told him to do a price search online as it was gem, but he didn't seem too interested in doing that. I note Andy currently has it at £350 discounted to £300 and that's for a punched copy!



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