Sunday, 8 March 2020

Alumwell Show (WMMS) 2020

The WMMS (The West Midlands Military Show), also known as Alumwell is a UK show located just outside Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. It is a spacious location with 38 traders and 28 game tables and there is a very friendly atmosphere.
One of the many excellent models on
the modelling club stands

I have always liked this show and was glad to get a visit in, after missing it for the last couple of years. The Coronavirus (Corvid 19) is just becoming a ‘thing’ in the UK and I wondered how that might impact the show. Would people stay away? or would it be seen as a good chance to get to a show now, before the virus has a bigger impact on life and public movement? 

The rest of this post gives way to some comments and pictures on what I thought was a fabulous show.

From my own perspective, back pain was more the deciding factor of whether I would go or not, with another recent flare-up, first from a misstep on stairs and then after helping to move two stupid 100 litre bags of bark chipping! Anyway, come this morning, armed with a stick and paracetamol, I set off at just after 7 AM.

The venue is a large hall in a leisure centre. Since my last visit, it now has a Costa Coffee outlet at the front of the building. This is helpful as it used to be just an empty space and at least now provides some much needed seating to rest the bones!

I thought the show itself was fantastic. The traders are basically around the outer edge of the hall, with the centre being filled by an excellent array of games and overall there is a really good mix of interests.

Re-Enactment Groups - There were four (21st Ligne - NA, Putneys Lace Wars, Hortons Regt - ECW and WWII Displays J. Vaughan, which included a jeep).

Modelling Stands - This is the only wargame show I know of that gives so much space to modellers stands - 10 altogether and obviously standards were high.

Bring and Buy - this was well organised, always busy, but not the several deep scrum that some shows seem to succumb to. The dominance of the bigger scales feeds into the bring and buy tables - so I didn't see anything that grabbed my fancy.

Game tables - Three important things strike me about these. Firstly there are a lot of them, with a wide range of topic, plenty here to inspire and oblige us to cheer the traders with the jangle of cash.

Secondly - the standards of the games were simply superb. Tons of work had gone into them, very impressive, giving loads of ideas to steal :-) and just adding to the 'good to be at a show' feel.

Thirdly, this show in particular seems to support the smaller game - the one that you could envisage playing at home. I don't know whether this is a deliberate policy, but the mix always has been very good. Also era and scale diversity were ever present amongst the selection of games. Anyway - well done to all those that made the effort to travel to the show with their games for the benefit of the rest of us - thank you.

Traders - I know I'm always banging on about this, but no traders no show .... no money spent with traders .... no traders .... no show. It is a big effort for a trader to load up etc and give up a day (or two). So thank you to all the traders that make the effort to make the show a success. I hope your day was worthwhile.

Overall, I thought the trade support was excellent. As a smaller scale gamer, one is struck by the dominance of the 28mm scale, but at this show, there is some diversity, with Peter Pig looking after 15mm and Pendraken doing 10mm and Tumbling Dice were doing all things naval and air in the smaller scales and I found enough things from other traders to keep my buying interest up, such as Newline Designs doing 10mm and Parabellum Models doing Zvezda 15mm vehicles and 15mm terrain was freely available.

One thing that I have noticed of late is the gap at shows for rulebooks. There are smatterings, but not the sort of concentration that Caliver Books are known for.

I got the impression that most traders were cycling through enough customers to be consistently busy (but I was gone by noon), with only the odd one looking quiet. On my way out, I asked the gents on the desk how numbers had been and they said that they had held up on last year, so in tough times and with a strong internet sector, that is good news.

I had a critical shopping list but bought more, I think just handling things is massively more enjoyable than the internet buying thing, plus pretty much every conversation you have has a positive vibe.

Anyway, the important bit, some photographs. Some apologies are due here. I didn't get the details of everything I photographed and I didn't photograph everything. Also, I am having to balance photo quality and numbers of pictures with viewers data download allowances etc, so the picture quality is some cases reflect that, but you will get the gist.

I just loved the juxtaposition of the first two tables that I fell upon. The first a gorgeous 28mm ACW game that made me say wow and the second a compact 6mm Napoleonic game that also made me saw wow! The strengths of both scales, sitting next to each other, clearly evident.

Above - the first game, I'm really sorry not to be able to accredit this.

Above - the view from the Union side of the table.

Above - 6mm Battle of Vyazma 3rd Novemmber 1812. French forces are retreating from Moscow. This landscape has been nestled into a converted wooden pasting table.

The game is using Blucher rules

Run by a very friendly crew, who were happy to explain about the game. Don't you just want to own this!

Above - Ancients, sorry I can't accredit this, but what a beautiful ton of work!

Above - this looks a bit like Hougoumont (what do I know!).

This is a close up of that lovely building, with clever and subtle shading.

Above - Many of the games have this sort of notice near the table, I just liked the graphic on this one by Chase Wargames.

They ran another smallish table, taking advantage of 6mm. Operation Friderrikos (near Kharkov) 17th May 1942, from the book Grey Steel, Red Storm, which I get the impression is a scenario book authored by one of the players.

Above - Battle of Ypres-Commines Canal, late May 1940.

Above - Gold Beach 6th June 1944, using Blitzkrieg Commander V4 rules.

This is the German response at the other end of the table.

Above - sorry I can't accredit this. Could it be Telford Wargames Club with a Sharp Practice game. Either way, I thought this was a lovely scene.

Above - Wyrley Retinue doing The relief of Fort Nummanmason with Black Powder Rules.

Above - Lawks Drift! by Huntington & District Wargames Society. An incident from Zululand February 1879. Excellent thatch effect to the buildings.

Above - Wolverhampton Wargames Club. I was taken by this 28mm being played in a 6' x 4' space, it looked really nice. I have the Kingdom is Ours rule set and must dig them out as I always thought they needed a bigger table.

Above - I loved this scene. It is a big table and at the other end is a very substantial town with a lot of nice buildings like the one shown here.

Above - Sorry, can't accredit. A 28mm winterised scene between German and American forces, so perhaps a Bulge game.

The work and effect in this is incredible, every angle could give a superb picture.

Above - Sorry I can't accredit, they were a pair of very nice armies and I took the picture as a record shot for when I consider basing some Pike and Shotte.

Above - Tripods and Triplanes! a lovely table, with 6mm giving the kind of landscape that an air game needs for perspective. At the other end of the table are the alien tripods.

Above - Paper Armies, en masse and looking good and another example of the diversity of tables at this show. Note the Jacobite 45 book top left, which I assume is where the armies came from.

Above - A table in association with Peter Pig - A really nice small game, it may even have been the smallest there. Pirates me-thinks. Peter Pig had that game mat on sale at their stand.

Above - Little Big Horn. this is a big table, but this shot just begged to be taken!

Above - Somewhere in Southern England, Summer 1942. This is all about a downed German air crew that are carrying an experimental bomb sight...... can they escape with it!

So, some great looking games.

Toys for the Boys!
This is just a shout out for the traders that I can remember making happy!

Within minutes of my arrival, I came across two traders that were in pole position on my hit list;

Peter Pig - I took starter forces in 15mm infantry for German / Russian east front 1943, well enough at least to get me up and running anyway, plus some 30mm x 30mm bases, which I am hoping to make as my standard basing size for the Pocket Armies project. They also had a copy of their Civil War Battles (ACW rules) for a 'show price' cost of a tenner, so that counts as my reading material.

Ironclad Miniatures - I recently bought his excellent resin 15mm rail track, plus a few buildings and pieces, including that windmill that painted up so nicely, shown a couple of posts ago. So today I hoovered up another bunch of useful items, including a fallen chimney stack, a ruined large factory and three Normandy buildings (which of course is looking into the future a bit as far as British / U.S. troops are concerned).

Parabellum Model Shop - a new dealer to me. Very friendly and selling a variety of plastics, so I got some more Zvezda 15mm (1/100) WWII fast build kit vehicles.

Pendraken - Vallejo primer, paints, decals and basing grit. I am trying to get a colour that is right for my latex waterways and that is proving harder than I thought. I had previously bought Vallejo Pastel Blue, but it is just too light, so bought Oxford Blue today, which looked okay in the hall lighting, but having just applied it, it has something of a mauve / purple tint, so they need more work, perhaps with inks, but the Vallejo Pale Brown is a great colour for the latex roads.

Battlezone Scenics - a couple of unusually shaped hills. One is a crag hill and the other, described as a large hill, is intended to fit the corner of the table, so that's quite useful.

Charlie Foxtrot Models - some irregular 2mm thick bases for scenic construction and one of those useful perspex templates that show 45 and 60 degree fire arcs.

And finally, I can't remember the trader (sorry), but they were selling Army painter stuff and MDF buildings. I got their Dark and Soft tones washes.

All of this is going to find its way into the Pocket Armies project, which I must admit is a bit overwhelming at the moment as I have so much stuff coming down the pipe, but it will all come good ..... soon ...... eventually ....... one day - pick one!

The thing that I like about this show is the diversity in product and game type, size and era. It strikes me as being a show that offers something for everyone and for a medium sized show, it is punching above its weight.

The number and standard of games were excellent. I loved the 6mm Battle of Vyazman game, sitting in its pasting table nest, ideal for the home setting and looking just the thing to inspire a new project and spending spree with traders, which is exactly the symbiotic relationship that serves a show well.

I almost feel guilty highlighting that game, because so many other games were just as marvellously eye-catching.

I didn't see much in the way of foliage and fields type terrain, terrain mats or as said, rulebooks, other than companies offering their own systems, such as Warlord and Pendraken.

There was a good supply of buildings, especially MDF, but also nice examples of resin casts.

Anyway, a very good show experience, well done all those involved, who make it look easy.

Resource Section.

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is a bit more snippet based than here. Link.


  1. Enjoyable report: thanks for taking us along (especially given your back strain). Interesting point about games suitable for "taking home"--that might make a good theme for a convention, actually.

    1. You know, that is a good idea on con theme. Something like, “Try this at home.”

    2. Thanks Ed, it now the next morning, I have just awoken and my back is paying a price! Boo-Hiss.

      It's funny how over the years things can stick in your mind and I have one image from the Triples show, oh from the 90's I would say of a 6mm Normandy game played on a half sized dining table space - very impactive. and of course do-able.

  2. Thanks for your report on the con, Norm. Besides the nagging back pain, looks like you had an enjoyable day out.

    1. Thanks Jonathan, I love the immersion in a show and this is a particularly good one, though it has been my first for a while, so perhaps it was touching that brain bit that does the 'fix' thing.

  3. The 6mm Battle of Vyazma game is certainly eye-catching and suitably compact. A nice summary of the show, and agree with your comments on smaller tables being inspirational.

    1. Thanks Peter and the Vyazma game encapsulates all of that.

  4. Thank You for the report and photos sir!

    1. Thanks Michael, i spent much longer on the blog post than I did at the show :-)

    2. Ain’t that always the way...😀

  5. Great I have put on previous reports on other blogs, that's one if the downsides of being in New Zealand ....we don't have this sort of show here. I recall attending two or three in Glasgow and Edinburgh about forty years ago, they were fantastic even then!

  6. Thanks Keith, we are truly spoiled here and I fear they may be taken for granted and we could lose some. I did 100 miles each way for this one and stayed just over two hours, so it became a buying trip for me ... good for the show, but I would have liked more time there. Chatting to the traders is an interesting part of all this for me and I think traders get something from that too.

  7. Great report. What a terrific range of great looking games they had. Grey Storm, Red Steel was IIRC a set of WW2 wargames rules from the mid 90s put out by Firebase Games/Barry Lovell.

  8. Hi Ellis, the range was very good. Even amongst the ubiquitous 28mm, there wasn’t the usual ‘everyone selling the same plastics things’, instead there was a big variety in metal ranges. I remember the Firebase people, i think they did Vietnam rules. I wish I had been able to speak with more people.

  9. A great show report Norm. There are some great looking games. It does annoy me though when clubs put on a fantastic looking game, but have nothing on there stand to say who they are.

    1. Hi Ray, when I take a snap, i do the table and any info sheet so that i can marry them up later for the blog post — there were some good info sheets here and a few without.

  10. Thanks for a great show report Norm and pics of some lovely tables. Some friends and I used to go a few years ago, but since they have all moved away, it's sadly not worth the long round trip for me, which is a shame, as it's one of the best shows I've been to. Having re-enactors is a big bonus as well as the good variety of games and scales on show.

    1. Thanks Steve, it is a solid show. It would ge interesting if the desk took a post code when you arrive, just to see the typical journey that punters and traders make. I don’t think Peter Pig make it any further north than this show.

  11. So many diversified and wonderful looking tables, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Phil, it certainly was a ‘something for everyone’ dhow.

  12. Excellent report, Norm, thank you! And timely as I'm headed to "Cold Wars" here in the US this coming weekend. The atmosphere at conventions is something that I really cant explain but I always come home loaded with new motivation to finish projects, likely as a result of being around all those great looking games, dealers, gamers, etc. The loot i usually score isn't bad, either!

    I hope your back is feeling better.

  13. Thanks Steve, enjoy your Con. There also the thing of where do you put all those goodies you just bought while all that excitement and motivation is going on :-)

    1. Wow that's a fantastic point I have all of these bags hanging off me! And what about the mega-buys from the flea market?!?!?!

  14. A great review of the show.

    I'm really glad you liked the Vyazma game. I did get to take it home as I made it. ;)

    More info can be found on my blog:
    Go back a few pages and you'll find a couple of "making-of" posts.

  15. Hi Richard, thanks for visiting the blog and for your link.

    A lovely game indeed and I will check back through your posts.

  16. Norm
    A very comprehensive report - thank you. Very nice to read some appreciation of the efforts of all involved. I've done a few of these at various times and your comments are the first time that my attempts have been picked up for comment, which makes me feel that the early start, all-day standing and talking in a very loud voice were somewhat worthwhile!

    The Chase Wargames table was very much a 'you could do this at home' game. It was a late replacement (one week's notice) and I wanted a game which would actually play through on the day, rather than being a diorama. We are a small club and are rarely going to pick up awards for best game or best terrain but I hoped people would see that the game did actually move along.

    In turn, that was the point of the graphic which you photographed - it was presented in order to demonstrate the two sides' plans and to provide a reference to show how it had gone over the day. I suspect I should have included a key for the arrows and little squares (the lines of attack and the pre- planned bombardments) but I am so used to our iconography that I missed that point. Anyway, on the day, the big German right hook eventually won out despite the commitment of the Soviet Tank Brigade on that flank. A close German victory - 4 victory points to 3.

    You are correct that the scenario is one from the book I wrote, Grey Steel, Red Storm (available at Wargame Vault I became aware after producing it that its title was similar to a set of rules but as they were from the nineties, I thought they were far enough removed to avert confusion. Alas I forgot that wargamers are old and with long memories!

    Thanks again for the post and keep up the blog. I particularly enjoy your investigations into a variety of board wargames.


  17. Hi Andrew, thanks for dropping by. I really enjoyed the variety in the gaming tables this year and yours of course looked very ‘do-able’. I like the idea of a rules / scenario author being at the table, as that thing of personal passion, knowledge and investment in the subject just gives everything a +1.

    The closeness of the victory suggests a good game and a balanced scenario. The fall of the dice don’t always give us that, but when it happens, you know you have had a good game. Thanks for bringing the game to the show. Norm.

  18. Great review of nice diverse sounding show!
    Best Iain

  19. Thanks Iain, it certainly got a lot right.

  20. Very cool. I like to watch YouTube videos of shows like this.

  21. Thanks Dean, there are some really good vids being done. Wargames Illustrated Magazine host some good half hour vids of the big shows.

  22. Nice pics of my Hougomont skirmish game. I was busy losing the chateau to the French and was so distraught that I didn't take any pics of the game myself. Our groups nom de guerre is the Phoenix Society and we put a Napoleonic game on every year for the Allumwel show. You've provided a well balanced description of the event and I agree with the points you've made. Do feel free to have a chat next time you're at the show.

  23. Thanks Tony, I just looked up my 2015 report on the show, remembering that there was a Hougoumont game then as well. I thought your building was quite spectacular. I will be returning next year for sure.

  24. Hi Norm, a great show report and photos, some lovely looking games on display there. Of course what caught my eye here is the pasting table game, that is such a clever idea! I too will follow the link above to see how the table was converted to fold on the long edge because I might just have to copy that at some point. What a showcase that game is for 6mm scale, I would love to see it in the flesh. Thanks for posting the report.

    1. The Vyazma game will be at Hammerhead this coming weekend and then at Chilcon in Sheffield.

  25. Lee, I thought of your project as soon as I saw the table. It’s funny, a photo should be 100% accurate, but you are right ‘in the flesh’ is different from the photo, the units looked particularly nice. I did check back through Richard’s posts and he has done a couple of these tables, though with the heavier 5mm MDF board. All very interesting.

    1. I have spent some time reading back through Richards blog and it is certainly one I will add to those I follow, a real treat of 6mm wargaming. In a simpler form a pasting table that can be folded in half with a gaming mat or similar fitted inside would be very useful for me.

  26. Great job chronicling the show and taking pics. I’m a big fan of seeing the games put on. I like it when there is a mix of stuff to get the hobby juices flowing. 😀

  27. Thanks Stew, your own Con reports are always to be looked forward to and your involvement in game hosting at shows gives you an interesting insight into the effort needed to do that.

  28. A truly captivating report Norm. Many thanks for sharing. I was in Leicester over the weekend but unfortunately had no time to spare - it would have been nice to pop into such a well presented show.

  29. Thanks Mike and it's Hammerhead this weekend, so two really good shows back-to-back in the middle of the country. Not sure how the progression of the virus problem is going to start hitting the viability of shows for the traders, punters and hosts.

    1. It’s only a matter of time I’m afraid.........

  30. Hi there, shout-out from Wolverhampton Wargames Club, we are the guys behind the unaccredited ECW Game,if you want to get in touch with us about basing or painting feel free to get in touch through our respective websites;

    If you are after high quality flags for most any period including ECW. I highly recommend Wargames Designs.


    'Little' Steve


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