Monday, 1 July 2019

Phoenix 2019 wargame show report

This is the fourth year of this young show and my third year of visiting. It is held at the Rheged Centre, which is an eco friendly community venue that has enough other things going on that a non-wargaming partner or friend could enjoy, while the gamer visits the show. 

Situated in lovely Cumbria, with very easy access from the M6, being 10 minutes from Ullswater and just 17 miles from Keswick, this is an ideal Lakes District destination, making this show even more family friendly by being able to perhaps include it in a overnight or two stay in the Lakes, if you want the show to sit inside some bigger plans.

This post is just a general show report, looking at traders and games, with some observations about the show itself.

This is a fairly compact show with around 20 traders, 8 game tables, a bring and buy area and two tournaments (Magic the Gathering and Blood Bowl). It is run by the West Coast Gamers. Parking is free. There is a fair bit to look at in the Centre and it is just £3 to get into the show area.

The Bring and Buy is an easy going affair, you just turn up with your stuff and ‘rent’ a small table area (3’ x 2’) for £1 per half hour. Here, it works very well, it is out of the way in a corner, it has the space to operate and punter numbers are relatively low, so you don’t get the problematic congestion that is common to some shows. In fact, I thought the selling potential was a little under utilised, with just a few sellers, who in any case were mainly doing Games Workshop and Star Wars kit, though of course, this fits in much better with my view that a bring and buy should be a much smaller part of the overall show and that the trader side of things should be seeing the most of the cash flow to ensure show viability.

Having done the Phalanx show a couple of weeks ago, which is bigger with 40 traders, one of the things that struck me about a smaller show was that fewer traders and games made me focus much more on what is there and interestingly, you get a more intimate sense of people, product and games as you linger around each of those a little longer.

My attendance wasn’t certain this year, as I had started the week with a bad back and could barely get into the car. By time the big day came, it had loosened and together with painkillers, it was ‘game on’. This did bring into sharp focus a real positive of the show, it really has some good seating areas and chairs are also placed around the room ...... thank you, thank you, thank you!

We arrived early, before doors open, so we stayed downstairs in a cafe area, had a coffee and that sense of a very easy going, chill day, started there. I went up to the show, happy that there was enough other things to look at in the building, that would take Mrs. Norm’s fancy, plus a few coffee shop areas to crash out with the Kindle. 

For a full list of traders and games, there is a link in the resource section at the foot of this post.

I am still not convinced that the show organisers are doing as much as they could to publicise this show. The actual announcement of the trader and demo game list was not published until 17th June (though it must be said, it was posted across several forums), yet I was faced with the issue of booking accommodation several weeks earlier than that, neither in the knowledge of who might be there or indeed that the show was definitely on. All the media stuff related back to the 2018 show and the countdown clock was out by a month! 

The show competes with the catchment area of the Phalanx show, 95 miles to the south, which this year was on two weeks earlier, so people like me, who spent up there, need as few barriers as possible when planning this event into their calendar. As an aside, I have the latest edition of Miniature Wargames magazine and the event is not listed in their show calendar. Is this a sign that this was missed or is it a case that magazines have become less relevant in a digital media world?

Anyway, onto the games. I am bound to get some details wrong and might even have missed one (my sums don’t add up!) so please forgive any errors or omissions.

I was very pleased to see fellow blogger Matt Crump again putting up another participation game (last year it was ‘What A Tanker’ by the Lardies), this time an ACW setting, using his fine 28mm figures and the new Osprey rules, Rebels and Patriots. 
Rebels and Patriots

It was of course a hit with the punters. Matt is a natural and relaxed presenter and his table looked just right for someone to say’ I think I will go home and do that’. In fact the show in general gave that sense of inspirational gaming.
Nice incidental figures

The board was made specifically for the show and had Matt’s gaming table trademark of lots of textures. I liked the coarse surface and he confirmed that it was hanging basket lining. I have been looking for this stuff in garden centres, but it has been too think and cut into unhelpful shapes (i.e. to fit hanging baskets :-) ), but anyway, Matt had got his ‘sheets’ from e-bay, so I need to explore that.
The stream was sunk into the board.

On the next table, Ian Mitchell was flying the flag for the smaller scales with a lovely looking 6mm Jacobite game on Culloden. The game mat is divided into a 12 x 12 grid of squares and to my eye, the whole mat was probably less than 3’ x 3’, so great for smaller gaming spaces.
6mm Jacobites

The armies were very nicely presented, using good contrast in the painting style to make pleasing units. I did have a crafty try at lifting one of those micro dice off the unit base, but my banana fingers just couldn’t do it. I knew they wouldn’t because at home, I made some bases with bigger 7mm dice and MDF dice frames and I can’t lift them out. My latest venture has 10mm dice in frames, which does work for me ... though visually are more distracting.

I am guessing that Simon Millers ECW rules are in play here. There were playing cards on the table, the one I saw (nine of Diamonds) had the word Jacobite printed boldly on the top in a fancy font, so they were bespoke cards, how good is that! Anyway, this was another table getting a lot of interest, again no doubt causing people to leave the show inspired to do something new. 

Andrew Wylie brought another small format game to the show, ‘Tombs of Blood’. There was a lot of building structure to the display, but impressively, the terrain was on printed cardboard and looked very good.
Tombs of Blood

Also as rather a really nice touch, Andrew had printed up a ‘cast’ listing in billboard fashion that attributed all of the companies involved to the products on his table. I had not really thought about this, but what a great idea and perhaps for the show circuit, that sort of trader support could be used more widely at the gaming tables.

The Dumfries Wargamers had two things going on on their table. On one half was the boardgame ‘Hold the Line’ by Worthington Publishing. This is a hex and counter game with moveable terrain tiles covering 18th Century battles. I did own the game, including the French / Indian expansion, but I always felt that the activation system was so tightly governed that a player only really got enough Command Points within the timeframe of the scenario to have half their army advance and attack - but the unit counters do look nice.
Published by Worthington Publishing

On the other half of the table, there was a Cruel Seas game from Warlord Games’ new naval system. With the models at 1/300 scale, it makes for a very visual game. In this shot, I this may have been a scratch built vessel, when I next went past, three official WG plastic kit Motor Torpedo Boats had joined the scene and the action was hotting up. The game cloth worked very well and was a much better proposition than a bright blue felt cloth that I would use.
Cruel Seas

West Cumbrian Wargamers had a big table with an eye catching  7 Years War game in 28mm. A Black Powder play sheet was on the table.
7 Years War  ... with elephants!

This had everything including elephants, camels and glorious splashes of colourful uniform throughout. There wasn’t much terrain on the table, but to one corner this small footprint building caught my eye. I don’t know whether it is the ‘old school’ gamer in me, but this table just felt like a joyous celebration of the charm of figures and wargaming.
Note the small footprint

Durham Wargamers had put a lot of effort into their Star Wars (Legion) game. The scale of the tree trunks bring a sense of drama and in some respects has the hallmarks of a film set. Only the trunks were being represented, without that pesky leaf canopy! This sort of scaling works well to bring those magnificent two legged walkers under visual control and to bring perspective to the scene. It is also a great way to represent forest floor without a foliage canopy getting in the way of play.  There was a chap around the table for a while who had a fantastic looking camera with a long lens. I don’t know whether he was an independent or doing something for the club, but I am guessing his results will be quite special.
Very cinematic 

Footsore Miniatures had their Gangs of Rome display table with them and the range of support material that they have for this skirmish system continues to impress.
Gangs of Rome

I didn’t get to see the Blood Bowl / Magic The Gathering tournaments as they were upstairs, but in any case, I am a little more aware these days that tournament players have a single objective and someone like me asking questions or taking pictures is a bit of an intrusion.

So altogether, I thought the game tables were really good and two of them have struck a chord with me for my own projects, one resulting in me buying some related product from a trader, so my faith in the importance of relationship between gaming tables and traders at shows is restored. All of the games were new to me and the hard work to get them ‘show ready’ was obvious. Thank you.

One of the nice things this year that the show offered was a free figure to the first 200 gamers. Not many shows do that, but Bow and Blade Games (see link in the Resource Section) came up with the goods. This was a metal 28mm figure of a Dark Ages King with his falcon on his arm ... as a lovely and appropriate touch, he is King Urien of Rheged.

This is what the blurb said that came attached to the baggie;

‘Urien Rheged was the son of Cynfarch Oer. A 6th Century warrior king of North Rheged, an early British Kingdom of Hen Ogledd (the Old North), the Brythonic Celtic speaking region of what is now Northern England and Southern Scotland.

He was a great warrior attributed to many battles and victories, including the Battles of Gwen Ystrad (Bernica). Llech Gwen (North Yorkshire), Cells or Berwy (Bremenium), but most famously for besieging the Anglo-Saxons on Lindisfarne in the middle of the 6th Century.

Some of Urien’s victories (the battles of Gwen Ystrad and Alt Clut Ford) are celebrated in the Book of Taliesin, by the Celtic Bard Taliesin, which features 8 poems dedicated to Urien’.

All of that just brings a sense of intimacy with the figure and would make you want to paint it, whether or not you were interested in the early Dark Ages.

Despite some of the traders also being at the Phalanx show a couple of weeks ago, I did pick up things that I either missed then or at least had decided to defer the cost.

At the back of my mind, I knew that I would soon be needing some airbrush thinners and cleaners and some Vallejo primer, so I brought that purchase forward and as a mark of gratitude to Bow and Blade for the figure, I bought them off their stall.

Also missed at Phalanx was ABC brushes. I don’t know why, I probably only walked past his stall about twenty times!  He does quite a bit of Pro-Art stuff, which keep their point quite well for their price, so I picked up three fine brushes off him (only £2 each). Turns out he had also put a free keyring in my bag - thanks.

And something else I spotted at Phalanx, but got ‘spent out’ before making the leap, was some resin river sections from The Baggage Train. It must be said that he uses a nice quality resin and his product is crisp. I recently got some of the Woodlands Scenics ‘realistic water’, so I hope to make these river sections quite ‘posh’. The waterway is 4" wide, with the banks adding another couple of inches to the overall width.

I also spotted a resin WWII city ruin, the sort that just forms a single corner of a building, but with a height of 8" and a base of around 4", it should give plenty of presence for a small footprint. Another thing I didn't know I needed :-)

I love the eclectic mix of product from Colonel Bills, he is an avid supporter of the show circuit and a very relaxed seller. During the last couple of years, I have been picking up the odd pack of the 4Ground trees that he sells, in an effort to slowly switch my tree collection over to softer foliage. Anyway, he had some reduced product today as he will not be selling that line in the future, so I picked up a packet of two handsome Birch trees. These may have suddenly become my tallest trees at 8".

The Hoka Hey display has a nice mix of terrain items and with my current WWII interest, I settled on a couple of those ruins that Javis do for 20mm, again keeping an eye on maintaining presence while going for a small footprint.

Finally and I had already decided ages ago that I would not be getting this, but I picked up the Hail Caesar supplement ‘Shieldwall’ from the Warlord Games display. My reason for not wanting it was that it concentrated on the Dark Ages period up to, but not including 1066, but it was the 1066 bit that actually interests me the most, though this apparently will be covered by a sort of part two supplement sometime soon (I hope). 

Anyway, they had an open copy on the display, so I saw the content for the first time and that together with my King Urien of Rheged figure, killed off my resolve (the booklet has a map of Britain 600 - 800 AD, which shows the Kingdom of Rheged, so this is an appropriate buy). In fact the Supplement comes with its own free figure, the wonderfully named Harald steptoesson, so now I have two fledgling early Dark Age armies, each of one figure! so obviously, I will have to get hundreds more :-). Anyway, the supplement is actually very nice, it covers the history of my part of the world and will get a cover-to-cover read.

As a final shout, there was a new company there (to me at least) called Lasercut Architect. They do a very good quality MDF range of terrain, some looking very good for use with the Star Wars Legion, he also has some good plans for new sets due at the back end of the year. Anyway, nice kit and as a new company, here is a link to his site ..

By noon, I was forced to retire by the combination of painkillers wearing off and too much time spent standing, fortunately our hotel was only four miles away, so all that was good. I could quite happily have spent more time there and of course regretted not getting a chance to have a go at Matt’s game. As I left, I thought numbers at the show were still good.

I really did enjoy the show. There was a nice selection of trade and game and I was grateful for the available seating to grab the odd 5 minutes here and there. There was a positive and friendly vibe from punters and traders alike and everybody on the gaming tables were happy to stop and speak and to let this budding photographer / journalist nudge them out of the way for the eye candy shots :-).

There are many aspects to a show, the one I am facing right now, as I am back at home, is where do I store this new goodness :-)

As always, thanks to everyone who helps make this show work, numbers looked up on last year to me, so we must hope that the show will return in 2020.

Last year’s report. LINK

List of traders and games for this show. LINK

Matt Crump’s Blog. LINK

Bow and Blade provided the free figure - here they are. LINK


  1. Excellent report-out, Norm! A lot of good looking games. Matt certainly sets a fine table.

  2. Thanks Jonathan, he does indeed.

  3. Gorgeous, splendid looking games Norm!

  4. Hi Phil, those putting games on certainly worked hard to enthuse others.

  5. Excellent report Norm thank you. Every year I tell myself to go to that show. So far other plans have not enabled it.

  6. Thanks, one year, everything will fall right :-)

  7. Thanks for your report Norm, comprehensive as I really only managed a fleeting look around. I do think it has a nice size but would like to see a couple more games on show as it does attract a few non-gamers as they walk past. Publicity, means people means more that would be good. We’ll see how it develops 🙂

  8. Replies
    1. Incidentally I have checked ebay but can’t find exactly the same hanging basket liner that I bought. It came in a roll about 1.5 x 8 metres.

  9. Thanks Matt, I wonder whether it is stock that is based on seasonal interests? I have checked two centres and all I ended up with at each was coffee and cake ... Oh well the search goes on :-)

  10. A nice report Norm and some really nice games on display. Sadly too often I check on shows to see what is going to be on game wise, what traders are attending etc, only to find them updated too late for me to be able to make the commitment in advance to go:(

    1. Thanks Steve, I think a show simply needs a dedicated webpage, with someone tasked to keep it current and interesting. These days you can get a free site with ease and managing it is a doddle without any programming skills at all.

  11. An informative and fair report, my second visit and certainly not the last. Nice to meet you again and have a brief chat.

  12. Thanks Phil, enjoyed our chat, hope your weekend went well. We spent the best part of today in Keswick ... always nice to be there.

  13. Comprehensive and detailed report Norm. Many thanks for sharing. Cumbria is such a gorgeous place, would like to visit again.

  14. Thanks Mike, Cumbria and a spot of light breaking out onto the hills is a great mix.

  15. That was an enjoyable morning read with my coffee Norm. I really liked the look of the Jacobite Rebellion game in 6mm and the Rebels & Patriots game.I miss the hobby show scene, so it's another thing I'm looking forward to getting back to :)

  16. Hi Lee, hope the weather is cooling a little for you there. Yes, I enjoyed both those games and have been thinking about the 6mm game this morning, so there is an ‘after show’ impact.

  17. Nice write up of a great sounding smaller show!
    Best Iain

    1. Hi Iain, I quite like the way that these shows can bring in some smaller traders that are local to area and that you are unlikely to see elsewhere.

  18. I enjoyed reading your show report Norm. I picked up a copy of Rebels and Patriots some time ago and I especially enjoyed the great artwork in the book as well as the game photos. Now I need to find the time to base all the ACW, AWI and F&IW figures I own and try out the rules ...which will again present a storage problem for me.

    Cheers, Dave

    1. Thanks Dave, I got the rules a few weeks ago from Waterstones and it was the artwork / photo's that pushed me to buy, but increasingly, I am becoming interested in the rules themselves.

  19. Looks like a nice little show and that you had a pleasant time there, which is the important thing. Hope your back continues to mend.
    So good looking games on display, especially Matt’s.
    And welcome to the dark ages. 😀

  20. Thanks Stew, I enjoyed my day, two shows in two weeks .... what's not to like :-)

  21. Thanks for the show report and everyone's feedback. I am sure we will take it on board for 2020. Most important though is that everyone seemed to have a good time.

  22. Hi Graham, thanks for putting on an very enjoyable show that is now a fixture in our calendar. see you in 2020

    1. Cheers look forward to seeing you next year. Fancy putting on a game? Sure Chris would love to hear from you- he does all the work, I just enjoy the day. :)


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