It is back! After an absence of two years due to pandemic restrictions, Hammerhead is once again taking its position as a premier participant in the UK wargame show circuit at the Newark Showground (Nottingham UK).
This is a great wargaming experience, spread across two roomy and well-aired buildings, the Cedric Ford Pavilion and George Stephenson Exhibition Hall, accommodating a goodly host of traders and participation games and an ample parking area immediately outside.
One of the notable features of the show is that all of the games put on, have to be participation games. The effect as people stay throughout the day to play, counters the traditional nature of shows where punters start to depart in large numbers around noon, leaving a sluggish trade for the rest of the day - this way the attendance / spend pattern is smoothed out and sustained over the course of the day. Secondly there is a genuine welcoming from all of the game tables from those involved. Could this become the future model for shows?
Hosted by Paul and Sally of Kallistra, they have put a lot into getting this show on the map and it is simply a great success. The feeling that I got today was that clearly gamers were returning with gusto to the show scene.
The rest of this post covers a fine day out - please use the ‘read more’ tab to find out more.
In both buildings, the layout was that traders would ring the room, with their tables set up by the walls, while the centre of the room was ranked up with participation games. Each had a refreshment section and a place to sit and eat or just rest weary feet and catch up with friends.
The trade represented a well balanced cross section of hobby needs. Figures in the various scales were catered for, together with commercial terrain, paint brushes, airbrushes, paints, rulebooks and general military books. The show guide listed 55 traders altogether.
I went into the Cedric Ford Pavilion first and it was nicely laid out, looking like a smaller to average sized convention show. I then went over to the other building at around 11 AM and wow .... it had twice the number of everything of the first building and there were plenty of punters.
As I navigated both buildings, I didn't recall seeing any traders without customers, so hopefully they all did well. There was certainly a buzz of enthusiasm and success about the place.
The participation games were a real joy to browse around. Everyone had made an effort and were happy to talk about the games, with plenty of invites to join in. The show guide listed 64 participation games. I arrived not long after 'doors open' and I only saw one game table that had not been occupied, but that may have been a late arrival, I can't recall seeing an empty table again.
The game subject matter was very diverse, something for everyone would seem a fair assessment. What I did notice was that plenty of games were using smaller tables and looked exactly the sort of things that many of us with limited space could do in our homes - hooray! This in part may be due to the demands of games being participation in nature, so they need to be smaller / shorter to cycle people in and out and not 'steal' their entire day.
There were also a goodly number of games that were built around the smaller scales, so definitely, something for everyone and if you saw something you liked, there was likely a trader there that could supply it.
They have retained the bring and buy, though at Hammerhead, this is run by the sellers themselves. You pay something like a fiver for a table for half an hour and sell your wares. It was very popular, but for me, still showing some 'social distancing' caution, the typical crowding that comes with bring 'n buy, kept me away (from the bargains - BooHoo!).
The food / hot drinks supply was well organised and there was plenty of room to sit down. Ideal because Mrs. Wargamer was with me, so I could bomb around while she took to her Kindle and coffee in some comfort.
There is a painting competition run by the Wargames Illustrated magazine, though I was not here at the end to see who had won any of the 'best of' categories for painting or for the other awards for the best game etc.
It was a fiver each to get into the show and you could pay an extra one pound to get the Hammerhead 2022 figure, who this year is Chester the Jester. He looks an ideal figure to be given a role in one of my Imaginations Wars of the Roses games.
I have put some pictures up below (click for an enlarged slide show) to give a taster of some of the games. I apologise to all those who I haven't covered and partly also to those who I have (as I didn't record any details, so can't give credits and where I do comment, I might just be simply wrong on facts).
Above - I liked this because I thought it struck a good balance between a small table, plenty of terrain and the smaller scale. I think it is either 6mm or 10mm (see what I mean about possibly being wrong!). The terrain is nice and there is plenty of space within the game to manoeuvre around. Look at the fort in the top left corner.
Above - Here is a closer look at that fort.
Above - There is a bloke who regularly has his hex terrain shown on the Kallistra Facebook page, where Paul describes it as bespoke. It looks to be textured with a sand or grit based compound and with tree bases built into the hex templates. It looks really good. Anyway, this was one of the few big tables and was using 15mm vehicles on the 4" hexes - very attractive looking game.
Above - Part of an eye-catching table and looking very bad for those at the other end of the bridge.
Above - Typical of several tables that combined the larger figure with the smaller table to good effect. I like this level of play that sits somewhere between bigger battle and skirmish.
Above - I liked this very much. Andy Callan and friends were playing a game with the pre-painted acrylic WoFun flats. I have seen these quite often on the internet and thought they just looked okay, but in the flesh, they are visually very good, obviously best viewed head on. Andy gave me a sample base (Celts) to bring home, with which I have spent quite a bit of time 'deliberating'. Next to their table, Helion Books had all the Peter Dennis / Andy Callan paper armies books .... very interesting and something to keep in mind.
Above - Barbarians I think! lovely figures and a very nicely crafted building, heavily texture and based to give a nice BUA. It is all on Hexon terrain, but I think they were using it as modulated terrain, rather than it being a hex based game.
Above - A great theme for a participation game, just 3 ships per side.
Above - A game board that is half land port and .......
Above - half sea port. What a superb set of ships!
Above - Again, a nice blend of figures in a small space. I regret not asking about rules etc on this one. This is exactly the sort of table that I think would encourage gamers to go directly to a trader and pick up 2 - 3 boxes of figures, with every prospect of actually getting this to their table and it underpins my argument for the need of more smaller games at shows. A few years ago, Liverpool Wargames Association, put on a demo of a DBA sized Hastings game on a 4' x 3' table, which directly inspired me to buy a pair of 1066 armies.
EDIT - Please see comments section, which advises that this is a James Morris game, using rules that he is honing for publication (I know from the net his El Cid stuff is lovely).
Above - I took this purely as a reference shot as I want to make a building complex like this on a single base. It looks like it could serve both my napoleonic (for a small footprint farmhouse) and WWII games.
Above - This is my favourite shot of the day. Just look at he windscreens on the trucks, they have wiper marks showing the mud wiped away .... superb. The dust on the vehicles has a gradient of density as it moves up the bodywork.
Above - Another ideal participation game. The model of the mammoth that has fallen into the pit is very good. There were 4 or 5 games on show, like this, that would have had instant visual appeal and high playability for both youngsters and adults alike. There were also two games that used kids wooden vehicles, one of them played out on an actual child's play-mat - very good. On the other were a few fully grown 6 years olds (with beards) having a great time, including good banter with the punters. This sort of thing really adds to the family friendly aspect of the show. Well done.
Above - Sorry for not getting more info on this, this is exactly what I would like on my dining table at home. I think it might be a Swordpoint game. I do however know that the figures in the front left unit are cataphracts. Visually very appealing.
Above - An ACW game in a compact area with sculpted terrain. There were Fire & Fury rules at the other end of the table. Note the horse drawn wagons on the back road.
Above - My camera flash blew this out a bit, but the resin terrain, together with the muted uniforms gave a very pleasing and subdued rustic look - are these Reivers?
Above - A lovely table, you can look into this for ages, finding new bits of visual effect throughout. Like many of the tables here, the work put in to get a good look for the show has been impressive.
Above - Another of my fave pics. There would have been many fans of the art of Old School, casting an appreciative eye over this table, put on by the 'Like a Stone Wall Wargames Group' (see, I did write something down!). There were two striking things about this presentation. Firstly they were doing the Battle of Prague 6th May 1757 with 40mm flats (just how good is that). Secondly, they had taken the trouble to do a very nice 5 page coloured pamphlet (with paper parchment style colouring to the pages for an aged look), that clearly explained the action, with one of the pages discussing the figures themselves and the rules used (modified 'A Gentleman's War' by H. Whitehouse), setting a great benchmark for this sort of thing and again reflecting the investment that those supporting the show have made.
Above - This actually looked nicer to the eye than my camera shot shows. While taking the pic, the organiser was talking to another punter and said with a note of encouragement 'the armies for this are smaller than you might think' and again it was a reminder of how really a good looking game can be put into a smaller space without the need to paint or collect a lot of stuff (as already said, the participation aspect of the show drives this kind of game). I know there are gamers who bemoan the trend away from big armies, but take one look at this and you may be likely inspired to start a new project that is do-able as you can instantly see it working in your own home. Actively getting us to get games onto tables perhaps should become a primary focus of the show scene and our supporting wargame magazines / blogs.
Above - This second shot shows the table just left of the previous photograph. Another scene that is just nice to look into and to cast an eye around. A lot of eye candy and game narrative for a low figure count.
Above - Another example of collectable armies on the smaller table.
Above - And another! This time a Saga game.
It feels really good to see the show scene in such robust form. Everything was done just right here and there was a really good focus on game tables, with the trader support to back it up. Reality for me is wargaming life with a dining room sized table at home and a relatively short session spent standing at it and this show in particular, by default, because of the participation nature of the games, emphasises those traits and I think because of that, I found several of these tables today inspiring.
The ever thoughtful Mrs. Wargamer saw me wide eyed looking at the hill terrain on the 'The Tree Fellas' stall and she bought me two large hills. I wonder if she will let me store them on her bookcase :-).
A few times I found myself picking up bags / boxes of figures, only for Captain Sensible to kick in, with images of the lead mountain that is already too large. Instead, I made a focus on terrain improvement (hills, fields, walls and marsh) and support material such as brushes, paint, basing and flags, though I did get a couple of the Armourfast 1/72 Panzer IVD models.
I had gone along with a half baked plan to look at some AWI figures to start a project for my recent purchase of Live Free or Die rules, but that didn't happen. I came close to adding to the 1066 plastic pile, just because the discounted boxes winked at me and then I came super close, on the way out, to picking up King & Country (Warlord Games starter set for ECW), which was at 20% discount, but despite cuddling it for several minutes, I set it gently back down, to no doubt the joy of the next punter following on my heels.
Anyway folks, that is just a quick blurt around the show. I am sure there will be plenty of other online sources supporting this show over the next few days with a bit wider coverage. I did spot a Vlogger, who generally puts up 30 minute content of shows, so I will look forward to that .... to recall the things that I have both forgotten and missed!
It is of course obvious that a huge amount of organising and goodwill has gone on behind the scenes for the benefit of the visitor. Thank you to everyone who gave up their Saturday and travelled to make this show such a friendly success and in particular to the Kallistra team who have come up trumps (again!).
I love a wargame show and so my weekend has been very good and further enriched as while visiting the area, I discovered a record shop in another town (60 miles away!) and had a mooch around. I came across a newly released album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (Raise the Roof). Who knew they had worked together? Well everyone apparently except me! This is not their first album. I was looking for something that was an easy listen for the evenings and these two great voices are set to give that. The bloke in the shop played 3 tracks on his system for me ... and Mrs. Wargamer also liked it ..... sold!
My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.