Sunday 5 February 2023

Vapnartak 2023 - York Wargames Show.




Held at the York Racecourse (North East England), this annual ritual for many gamers is the first wargame show of the year and so is always popular as we emerge from our brief winter hibernation.


In terms of trade / wargames, I previously felt it a very unbalanced show, with a strong emphasis on traders and little tabletop eye-candy going on, but this year, I got the impression that more games were being showcased. 


Spread over three floors and trade stands everywhere, there are several choke points throughout, where the volume of attendees makes movement around the venue hard work, especially for anyone carrying a disability or injury ….. bizarre why some insist on wearing their backpack, doubling their body mass! The good Mrs. Wargamer was side swiped by one a couple of years ago and so has taken up karate - be warned!


My past few visits have left York falling from my list of shows and yet, here I am again, drawn like a moth to light and after this year’s visit, I’m really glad that I did go - perhaps it is just that buzz from the first show of the year, confirming that wargaming still has a pulse.


Of interest though is that we find ourselves as a nation, sliding ever deeper into budgetary restraint with the financial crisis of high inflation and high energy costs biting ever deeper. How will this effect a show that by reputation is trade focussed?


Please use the ‘read more’ tab for a quick tour around and chat.




I am presently suffering from a ‘back flare-up’ following a fall and so with limited time that I can stay on my feet or even sit for any length and with forward flips and hand stands definitely out! this show was put to the back of my mind.


So it really was an ‘out of the blue’ decision to go - though I think secretly, Mrs. Wargamer had been banking on a trip away and was not going to let me off that lightly, as it was her encouragement that sealed the deal.


For what is essentially a trade show, I hadn’t really thought about a spending plan. If I were being sensible, I would look at the stash that already exists rather than add to it, but happily, the traders have selling charms and handling the delights on offer is so much more satisfying than admiring fro afar on a 2D screen!


The first thing of course is that initial wave of euphoria of walking into a show - a perfect self indulgent moment that just presses all of the right buttons! - thank you, thank you, thank you, to all those that make these things possible, from organisers to traders and those putting on games, it is hugely appreciated - please, keep the show scene alive forever!


Without a shopping list, I just went with the flow, aimlessly walking around. I actually thought it was less crowded than the last time I went, so I was able to visit traders fairly comfortably. 


Anyway, browsing around and returning frequently to a table (for a rest) that Mrs. Wargamer had bagged for Kindle reading and pinching all the treats I had packed away! - I stayed mobile for long enough to see the things that I wanted, but I’m sure I still missed things.


There were four main elements to the show. The trade, the demo / participation games, a set of tables for wargamers to privately sell their unwanted items on and areas for refreshments.


Demo / Participation Games;

My own feeling is that there were more of these than the last time I visited. They were well attended, plenty of work had gone into them and everyone who I spoke to or annoyed with the flash on the camera were friendly and generous with their time and a special shout out to The Lance and Longbow Society in that regard.


Here are a few pics. I’m sorry, I know I missed some and am not able to attribute many, but they give a good sense of this part of the show;



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. Now I really liked this table (above and below) because it was small, easily do-able on a kitchen table. It was next to the Warlord Games area and I think the idea was you looked at it and thought ‘I could do that at home’ and would then buy one or two starter armies from Warlord Games - exactly the sort of symbiotic relationship that traders should have with demo tables.


By the way - I am told that the new Epic armies will be released at salute, so we can probably expect a pre-order campaign very soon.




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. The above three shots were of the Hei Lei Bridge game (October 1922) …. See, I do remember some things!






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. The above 4 shots were from a Vicksburg game, done in 10mm I think.




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. The above two shots are of a Dark Age scene, where everything other than a few metal miniatures had been 3D printed from STL (is that right?) files - amazing. The bloke running it was very friendly and helpful.



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. The above two shots are from a ‘battle of Britain’ game. I did of course memorise the name of the game system ….. but …. that was few hours ago now!




. Lovely big board game …. But just take a closer look at the game counters (below) using models on bases.




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. This is a resin dungeons type game and the layout looked superb. I have just bought the D&D starter kit for when the grandchildren visit …. Just to see. Something like this would really help set the scene.


So that was most of the games and they set a good tone for scale and subject diversity - something for everyone!

 

Private sellers;

The last time I went, this seemed too chaotic for me to join the queue for, it was something of a rugby scrum, but this year, the sellers tables seemed to have more space to breathe … or maybe less punters, who knows.


The idea is you rent a table for an hour or so and then sell your own stuff. I know Hammerhead do the same sort of thing. Anyway, there was a lot of nice stuff there and of course a lot of variety. I had one of those moments when I picked something up (a Roman 28mm army) and it was almost in my hands for too long and was nearly mine! But then I remembered the four unpainted projects at home and calm was restored.


There were some gorgeous painted units / armies for sale, going for decent money. I would not have been able to part with them myself - but I wondered, on a ‘bring and buy’ stall, do the punters spend ‘decent money’ on such things, or are they mainly looking for £10 bargains? - I really don’t know.


They were beautiful and worth their money, but that is not my point, is that the right environment to sell them? Will they shift? I suppose you get to see them in the flesh, so to speak and there is no chance of damage in the post. 


I noted some painted armies on the trade floor going for good money, with one army at £12 per cavalry piece - they were lovely, but that did make my eyes water!


I am though, glad that lovely painted figures can achieve a price that respects the work that has gone into them.


Anyway, I thought this was a well handled and successful part of the show.


Refreshments;

There were a couple of places at the show where you could sit and grab a coffee and snack. I am hugely grateful for these islands of sanctuary and really, all shows, with an ageing customer profile, should look to providing more seating.


The Lance & Longbow Society offered me to join in the game - and I looked at that spare chair more thoughtfully than I should have :-) 


Today, I had pain and pins & needles and was glad of a chance to sit down - on another day (when I haven’t fallen off step ladders), I would be fine, but I saw other gamers on sticks or limping etc and there must have been many more with invisible impairment - so this seating is really important …. plus, how else are you going to show your mates your new Aztec army!


So yep, for this big venue, another thumbs up. 


Trade;

Vapnartak is big on trade and if you are buying, it doesn’t disappoint. 


For my own plunder;

The night before the show, I had seen a couple of YouTube videos looking at the new edition of Hail Caesar rules from Warlord Games and thought I might look at them. I have first edition and never used them, but the new edition is expanded to cover the Wars of the Roses, so ….. essential then :-) 


Plus, at some future point, I will be doing 1066, so the new rules are worth consideration.


Anyway, when I got to the Caliver Books stand, I went into panic mode in case they might sell out and bought a copy from the big stack :-)


A couple of months ago, I ordered a few bags of 1/72 metals from Tumbling Dice, just to explore them. They have a lot of tin in them, so the metal is very hard (good). I quite liked their proportions.


Anyway, to continue my trials, I bought a further 4 bags. One of WotR retinue archers, one of 8 Norman 1066 mounted knights and two bags of four horses each to go with the riders.


He had painted samples in the showcase, which is what made me jump, though he doesn’t have painted examples on his site. The owner feels that punters typically zoom in on the screen to see the detail and of course such digital scrutiny is seldom kind to painting efforts - just as it isn’t to the human face of course. I get that, as I often think the same about the blog, but I still think he would be better with the images on the website, as these days they are expected as a matter of course.


Next stop, Early War Miniatures (EWM). WWII 20mm specialists. I noticed that his display cabinet had new items …. 3D printed houses. The thing about these is that they have a nice compact footprint, but the body has quite a bit of presence.


Part of the cost is for the interior detail, but as I am a philistine and always glue the roof down, then some of that is wasted on me. I bought two different houses and a walled garden yard for one of them. These look ideal for north West Europe games.


Finally, a visit to The Last Valley for some terrain pieces from Andy. I got some river sections that would do at least 6’ plus curves etc for a bit of variety, plus a pond feature with a tree and some fencing, just for a bit of dressing.


Conclusions.

There are shows that you go to from which you could be forgiven for believing that only the 28mm scale exists, whether on the trade side or the gaming side. York is much more a ‘something for everyone’ type of show.


There were several traders selling books and rulebooks, a couple doing boardgames, many either fantasy / sci-fi or Euro style game and all of the mainstream figure scales were represented.


I note that there are also traders here who are cutting down on the number of other shows that they attend, so this is a place to catch them. 


This leads on to the question of show viability. It seemed last year that some of the bigger shows had increased numbers through the door, post pandemic. On my way out today, I asked the staff on the door how numbers had been, mainly because I thought the day was slightly quieter, but they said numbers were up.


So, is it the case that the bigger shows will survive or grow and it is the small to medium shows that will have to worker harder as some traders cut down on their overall show support?


I must say that one show that I went to last year, that is in the latter category, reported record numbers attending, so who knows. I have noted some gamers reporting on blogs and forums that they will now only attend the most local of shows, so this might actually help the smaller show in terms of numbers.


In any case, footfall is a crude test of viability - it is the takings at the till that will ultimately decide the issue. We will probably have to wait a few seasons before post covid fallout, the squeeze on family finances and spending patterns feed into the wider picture.     


Anyway, I hugely enjoyed my day and would again thank all those that make such things possible.


On the way to the car, I was trying to explain to Mrs. Wargamer how the influence of reforms of the Austrian army in 1809 mattered, but quite honestly, it was hard to get a word in edge-ways, as she wanted to talk about the Sunday roast that we had booked at the hotel, something about that being the highlight of the day - surely not :-)


EDIT - as an aside, on the high street today (WH Smith), I bought the latest issue of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy magazine. Pages 35 - 50 were missing and in their place, other pages had been duplicated. I got back to the shop just as they were closing - nearly all copies had the same problem, three didn’t. So if buying, just do a quick check as it looks like the problem is sporadic or indeed might only be limited to the batch at this shop.


Resource Section.


My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’ is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.


https://commanders.simdif.com


33 comments:

  1. Norm, interesting report as mine was pretty much the opposite of yours 😁. They had something like 2000 through the door so numbers up significantly! I felt fewer games than normal! The table top sale had improved but I feel the organisers have become pretty apathetic to developing the show I have colleagues who have volunteered to put on top quality demo games and have never received an answer from the organisers.
    Today I arrived at ten past ten and it took just over 40 minutes to get in, previous years both here and at other shows they’ve had people out selling tickets before the doors open to get the first tranche of punters through the doors but not today. I’m glad you enjoyed the day, I enjoyed catching up with people but unless it changes or clearly becomes a trade only show I won’t be going next year, I’d rather make the effort to go to Hammerhead in March. Plenty of seating there 😁

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    1. Hi Graham, that is very interesting. I got into the Queue at 9.45 and the doors opened spot on 10. It took just a few minutes to end up inside. That big delay that you experienced to get in, is likely the reason that I thought it was quiet!

      I think one of the things that this show has going for it is that we generally have a stay in the area and enjoy a break, usually in York, but this time in nearby Harrogate, so my 2 hours at the show is but a small slice of a bigger agenda.

      Yes, hammerhead next month ……. But also WMMS (Alumwell), that is a lot of goodness :-)

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  2. Thanks for the review Norm and I'm getting that itch to attend a show, but nothing near me realistically until Colours in September, other than the excellent Cotswold Wargames Day. Partizan may be an option if we can get enough of us together to make it a viable day out, given petrol costs etc.

    I've pre-ordered HCII but have yet to receive an e-mail to say it's been posted, but I think it was only released today?

    By the way those files are STL's, short for stereolithography.

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  3. Thanks Steve, I have amended that - I think I was getting confused with the sexual disease clinic :-)

    yes, I saw a couple of YouTubers doing their HC videos over the past couple of days, though perhaps they got advanced copies as ‘influencers’ or some such - but then the postal delivery service at the moment does not seem an exact science!

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  4. Interesting read Norm. Not received my copies of HC2 yet either, so you're not on your own.

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    1. Thanks David, just nice to see the show season kicking off again.

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  5. Good to see you out on the show circuit again. Too bad to see that your back is giving you problems. A bad back is no good.

    Reading Graham's show recap on his blog, I wondered if you and he attended the same show!

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    1. Hi Jonathan, having heard grahams experience, i am sure the difference in our appreciation is that my main activity at the show was in the first hour, which I thought was quieter than usual. It appears the reason for that was that the crowds were still outside in the queue - bizarre!

      We were gone by 12 noon and due to an aching back Vs growing crowds, I did not have the enthusiasm for a final dash around, which I usually tend to do. I now know that I missed two traders that I would have bought from.

      We tend to use this show as just a backdrop to having a couple of days away in York, so it becomes a smaller slice of our bigger agenda. I think all those things taken together has given me a different show experience - I must say that my previous visits have been much closer to what Graham describes - this year I just got lucky I suppose.

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  6. Sorry about your fall and back issues. Feel better soon. πŸ˜€
    Show sounded like a lot of fun for you.
    I got my PDF of HC2 about two weeks ago and my hard copy about a week ago; from the preorder. Plenty of time for folks who are gun-Ho about it to put up some content. I’m reading it at my leisure. πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks Stu, this set back makes it clear just how much my back dad been improving over 2022. Note to self … don’t try and fix your own gutters!

      I like the look of HC and like yourself will be taking a slow stroll through it. The new period stuff at the front of the book seems to have come at the expense of losing the big battle reports at the back of the book, which I think is a shame, but overall, it looks a very smart update.

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  7. Interesting to contrast your opinion on the show with that of Graham. whose I read a few hours ago. Of course, in New Zealand, we would give our eye teeth for ANY kind of wargaming show - you guys really don't know how fortunate you are to have a pick of so many (or maybe you do!) The games in your pictures all looked pretty good to me too.

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  8. I think you are exactly right, the show scene here is rich and generally for years has taken for granted, certainly since the internet became an alternative social platform.

    Perhaps the pandemic gave a shock to the system and brought an enforced moment in time to realise how important it all is, since numbers now seem to be generally up - though I don’t know about spend, which itself has to be set against a background of gamer spend going up via the internet over the pandemic - I think we all have an extra unpainted project or two!

    The show scene here might evolve, but that needs another 5 years or so to show its hand.

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  9. Interesting to read your thoughts on the show, we were planning a trip up again this year. Like you we tend to make a weekend of it with our wives but there was a conflicting event. I must admit I wasn't really bothered about attending I am well stocked with kits and figures and games in the past have been a little samey. Which is interesting given Grahams comment about getting no response from the organisers.

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    1. Hi Phil, I had been thinking the same for a couple of months, but in the end, with no will power, I went ….. However, the do seem to be voices, particularly from those who do the circuit, that they are less bothered about this show. I think that should cause a discussion amongst the organisers - what we don’t know is that considering the super high footfall it got ….. how much was spent and was enough to keep traders happy?

      My own spend was down on what it might normally be, but then as you say, I look at what I have already and I feel the instant dampener of restraint.

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  10. If I had known you were attending Norm I would have bought you a cup of tea. Thanks for the photos as I didn’t really take any. We found ourselves in the queue for much longer than normal. Having been a regular attendee of York for a while I have seen the show develop and change slightly. I remain very open minded about the difference between shows and I don’t have a view that they should all be the same. York for me is all about shopping and the bring and buy, Partizan is all about the games. It certainly seemed very busy to us but slightly fewer traders. The bring and buy perhaps less productive but I have had so many bargains over the years I can’t complain. I did manage to get some very good value Napoleonic commanders and a French infantry regiment, although not for £10 ! Anyway we had a fun day out πŸ‘ ps do hope your back improves.

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    1. Thanks Matt, the back survived the rest of the break :-) My main activity was between 10 and 11 am, so maybe there is a sweet spot there. We should all turn up at these things wearing a red rose or something, so that we could all find each other!

      I note a regular vlogger has put a video up, just looking at the games and a few voices have said they thought the games were not up to much, which I felt was a bit rich. Those that volunteer their gaming services should be held in higher regard and the truth of the matter is that it is important for us to see at shows, things that reflect or could reflect our games at home. That old thing, I want to see gamers like me.

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  11. Interesting to see your views on the show, Norm. As you know we (the Lance & Longbow Society), were in one of the choke points and the first few hours of the show did seem congested. Thank you for the comment about our participation game and please make yourself known if you venture to the Phalanx show in June. Always a pleasure reading your posts. Hope your back improves soon.

    David

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    1. Thanks David, my comment on your game was also made against a background that you attend and support several shows and are always consistent in sharing your enthusiasm - an excellent ambassador for the hobby - thank you. I will sit down and join in next time.

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  12. Ive never been to Vapartnak, I should probably add it to the list. For photos of games at shows, I usually take a picture of the game/club display board prior to each photo sequence. Much better relying on my increasingly fallible memory.

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    1. Hi Martin, good idea. I only took one game board photo and it did help. Now home, I have just dug the program out of my bag and if I had sourced that, it would have helped :-).

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  13. Cheers for your post on the show Norm, I was at PAW2023 putting on a Mollwitz participation game. Plymouth is a small show with 230 paying punters through the door on Saturday and 70 paying competition gamers plus about 80 paying punters on Sunday. It was a great weekend and I ran my game 3 times, using my own fast play rules. What I have noticed with lots of wargame shows is lack of advertising and most seem to be on facebook and none appears to be aimed at the general public. I believe that we should encompass and welcome more non hobbyists to have a look at our hobby, maybe they may enjoy it and take wargaming up as a hobby.
    Anyway BZ on a fantastic show report.

    Willz.

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    1. Thanks Bill, your PAW game looked impressive. I agree about advertising and since I don’t do facebook, that is lost on me. The thing that surprises me is that most club / organisers run a web page, yet many look like they have tumbleweed blowing through them, with few updates. They could do with one person being appointed to keep up on that sort of thing.

      Interesting to see the split between your Saturday and Sunday audience.

      When I look at what I just bought, but weigh that up against the cost of getting there and staying there are a break etc, it actually makes my purchases relatively expensive compared to buying on the internet - so shows have to do something that is not just about trade, the punter has to get a proper feel good experience that sits outside of monetary value.

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    2. Cheers Norm, I don't do facebook either.
      So unless it public like you it's wasted on me.

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  14. Thanks for the review Norm. I decided against attending, but mainly because im saving my £££’s for Hammerhead at the start of March. Thanks also for the tip about the latest issue of WSS - I checked my copy and all pages are “present and correct”. Thanks goodness.
    Cheers,
    Geoff

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  15. Hi Geoff, there is Hammerhead and WMMS (Alumwell) in March, so much goodness so soon :-)

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  16. The puddle between us is rather annoying at times, you are lucky having so many choices of shows. The minis for Quartermaster General looked excellent

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  17. HI Gary, Lucky indeed. The Quartermaster game was an excellent hybrid of boardgame and good use of figures, very visual.

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  18. A very fair report of the show Norm. I am like a kid at Christmas regarding York. I see it as the start of the campaigning season and try to enjoy every minute. The show hs been heading towards being more of a trade day than a typical wargames event, and I dont mind that, even though I didnt buy much new stuff. Frankly Ive given up on having a plan at shows, I just go with the flow and hope I dont go too mad.

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  19. Hi Robbie, Graham has a figure of 2000 attending, which is a fantastic figure, so the hobby vibe is clearly coping well at the moment. I would say that most of my show purchases turn out to be opportunistic. I do like the ‘real’ shopping experience, flipping through rule sets in cartons, the way we used to flip through vinyl at record shops - there is something very satisfying in that, which cannot be replicated with on line buying.

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  20. Sounds, and looks like a great show, if I was being dispassionate the cost of travel etc far outweighs the savings if we were just talking about purchasing, I'm looking forward to Salute, because it's close but I'm definitely heading to Partizan as I enjoyed it so much last year, bought a bit but not too much, your purchases do seem to run against your one scale to rule them all pocket armies mantra or am I missing a trick?
    Best Iain

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  21. Hi Iain, totally agree about the cost of travel etc has to be taken in consideration. `even show discounts and saving on postage would not come even close to outweighing the cost of attending, so the show has to be ticking some other boxes.

    I just like being in the show atmosphere, so that has its own value and retail therapy that does not involve a screen brings its own joy, but I think a show needs to add additional value, so that overall experience is improved and that is where I see the value in proper refreshment places, seating and a better balance in trader / game presence and in that regard, the likes of Hammerhead and Partizan give the better experience.

    As for scales purchase, I am in an ‘exploring’ mood, but it was only the figures from Tumbling dice that are ‘off message’. The 20mm are a fit for my 20mm WWII and also for smaller footprint terrain for the 28’s. The river and pond item are fine for the 28’s. There will of course come a point (again) when a determined foot is put forward and clear-out happens!

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  22. I liked the York Show when I used to trade there. I have never been as a punter.

    We stopped going as the price of diesel and the lack of cheap hotels in York made it uneconomical to attend. It was always an eventful weekend - counted 6 hen nights one evening when we went out in York!

    Good to hear that numbers are up - I only managed to get to Warfare last year but really enjoyed catching up with friends in the trade and chatting to other people about the game we were running.

    Hoping to make it to more shows this year.

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  23. Hi Mike, I’m sure there is a healthy appetite to re-connect with shows, the higher numbers through the doors over the past 8 months seem to suggest so anyway. I have heard York referred to as the ‘Salute of the North’, I’m not sure how true that is, but there looks to be the makings of a show super-league, certainly with a top 5 and maybe that is ultimately where the survival of the show seen will come to lay!

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