Sunday 17 March 2024

Alumwell Wargame Show 2024

Also known as West Midlands Military Show (WMMS), the event is held at Aldersley Leisure Centre, Wolverhampton, UK.

The last time that I went to the show was in 2020, just a fortnight before the national lockdowns for Covid. For reasons of Covid controls, it could not go ahead in 2021 and then in 2022, it looked like the show would not be returning to the circuit.

In 2023, it triumphed and returned. I really wanted to go as a gesture of support, but life had other plans, but here I am at the 2024 event.

Prior to going, I had some reservations as we planned to book accommodation and despite the advert saying there would be 30+ traders and 35 display / participation games, by the 1st March, the show website was only showing 15 traders. The list was updated on the 10th to show 20.

The point I am making is not that the advert is wrong (though it is), but rather that when Iast visited in 2020, I recorded 38 traders, so something is changing.

I say this against a background of the bigger shows (York, Partisan I & II and Hammerhead) showing good growth - so are we seeing a consolidation of the bigger shows and a decline of what we might think of as the mid-size show?

Anyway, once I got to the show, I noted that in the intro on the show leaflet, the organisers bemoaned the fact that it was proving difficult to maintain the traditional trader base and the comments were made against the background that this show sits in a good sized catchment area.

I have always thought of Alumwell as being very close in nature to the Phalanx show (in the north west), both are similar size, using the main hall of a leisure centre, so it will be interesting to see how this year plays out, with Phalanx in June and whether trends are starting to appear.

Anyway, I think this year, I may skip the bigger shows and throw a bit of support behind the mid sized show. Hopefully, money spent there, together with a more determined footfall, will encourage the trade base. The rally cry needs to be ‘support your medium sized shows or you will lose them!’

I digress. I normally attend this show alone, but this year, Mrs. Wargamer was bribed into making the journey with the offer of a short break that included visiting the lovely town of Shrewsbury the next day - an excellent plan as it turns out, as Shrewsbury has two model shops and a Warhammer store! :-).

The early Sunday Morning drive was as pleasurable as driving gets these days and even though we arrived at 9.30, there were few parking spaces left - a good sign of footfall perhaps. 

It is just a fiver per adult to get in (bargain) and I noted on my show leaflet that 19 traders were listed, together with 22 game tables, 10 modelling clubs and 3 Living History groups.

For refreshments, as soon as you walk into the building, there is a Costa Coffee service and seating.

The show is held in a sports hall, with traders around the edge and the middle filled with gaming tables.

Regardless of my above comments, there were enough traders for my needs and the games were all just lovely. So hoorah to those traders who made the journey and to all the gamers that took the time to invest in presenting lovely games and tables for the benefit of the punters.

The following is just a selection of table scenes that caught my eye, I’m sorry that I didn’t make the effort to be able to credit the games to clubs and individuals and this is not a full run through of all the tables, but no doubt over the next few days, YouTubers, who can do a better job than I can, will be uploading their videos.

The last photo is for Keith!

The Haul. 

Before attending the show, I noted to myself that this is going to be a funny old year for me. Last year I concluded a big clear out and streamlining of subjects and so entered this year not needing much and being determined to clear the lead / plastic mountain, rather than buying much new stuff - making me (this year) exactly the sort of person that undermines show viability! but there we are.

I have a small 1809 project going which requires one French allied unit in the order-of-battle and the thought of just using my Warlord Games stock of French infantry and painting a unit up as the Swiss did appeal, but with the recent release of the Perry plastic Duchy of Warsaw infantry figures, with their red breasted tunics, they were now a definite possible on my list - so I wanted to see them. Outside of that, nothing was on the shopping list …. last famous words!

Shock / Horror, traders ambushed me from all directions :-)

Firstly, I did get the Duchy of Warsaw infantry (from Dave Thomas, who has a ton of Perry stuff) I was with Mrs. Wargamer and while paying, I picked up a scenario booklet from his table and flicked through it - it was just lovely and as I have been preparing my own rules to knock out a Print on Demand copy for myself - I said to Mrs. Wargamer, “look, this is how it should be done. Isn’t it absolutely tasty gorgeous”. 

Anyway we went our separate ways as Mrs. Wargamer disappeared for coffee, only to return minutes later having bought the said scenario book for me as a gift, I am delighted, because it really is absolutely tasty gorgeous and I must remember in the future to drop more hints about what I like :-)

Edit - oops nearly forgot, the booklet is Let’s Fight Leipzig - Wargaming the Battle of the Nations by Steve Shann.

My actual first stop was at Last Valley, a terrain maker, you have to get to Andy quickly because he sells out early. Anyway, I just wanted roadside hedgerow, but he said he had sold out at Hammerhead a couple of weeks ago (that might tell it’s own tale in terms of show dominance). Anyway, I consoled myself with a small field (9”x12”), a medium field (12”x15”), another section of road to match what I already have and 6 lots of 12” lengths of ACW snake fencing, which I will add some tufts to.

Ironclad Miniatures do nice resin terrain and at first I thought I wanted a 20mm trench system, but on prolonged browsing changed my mind and instead bought a Russian barn, some fencing and a large defensive entrenchment formed of a bank of earth, with gabions and stakes, it really is an attractive piece. I already have it’s smaller sister.

Early War Miniatures (EWM - being sold on the Battlezone Miniatures table) do rather nice resin vehicles in 20mm, plus they are unbased, so they match what I have. I love their big lumbering T-35 and T-28’s and kept picking them up, but I am trying to firm up a 1943 force, so instead I went all sensible and got a BA-64 armoured car, a German heavy Steyr car with 3 occupants and a Soviet horse drawn cart with supplies, which should make a nice narrative piece.

For more east front reinforcements, I picked up from 2 separate dealers (sorry, can’t remember your names) four boxes of 1/72 Zvezda ‘Art of Tactic’ models, two being Soviet motor cycle combos (which I have not seen before), a 122mm howitzer and a 76mm snub nosed infantry gun (like the German 75mm version). I also got a die cast JSII for an amazing £3.50 and since I have one in a plastic kit to make up that has a thousand million parts (well some anyway), then the die cast pre-paint was a no brainer.

I did a bits and bobs re-stock with Pendraken. A dropper bottle of Vallejo ‘off white’ (those 1809 Austrians like a lot of it!), a large pot of Vallejo earth texture and a variety of MDF bases, including some 80mm x 80mm to replace the ones I have been making cornfields with.

Athena Miniatures have some really lovely crisp metal figures and a nic Wars of the Roses range. There was a really nice model of Marguerite d’Anjou on a horse, being guided by a footman, this will make a useful base for my Wars of Roses games. There is a storyline ready and waiting for her.

The trader had some arrow shafts on the front of his stall which he kindly allowed me to handle. One was the bodkin point type. I was amazed how smooth and machined looking the shafts were and I asked if they were lathed. He said hand done with a plane type device in the traditional way and that a blacksmith could produce a bodkin head in 15 minutes. He said attaching the goose feathers was the most laborious part.

It made me realise that considering these things went into the air in their thousands, the financial investment in longbow archers must have been huge.

The bring and buy was fairly easy to get into a browsing position (these things can be like rugby scrums), but nothing took my fancy.

So considering I didn’t need anything, I came away with a few carrier bags of goodies and obviously the inspiration to paint 8 hours a day forever!

With a decent shopping splurge today, I might only do one other show this year, happily diverting funds to the smaller shows, in the spirit of use them or lose them.

Of the shows I visit, it is fair to say that for the most part, each has their own character. I just love the Alumwell show, it is hard to put my finger on it, all shows have a friendly, family feel, but this show just seems to ooze it.

Weaving between the game tables, I really enjoyed the quality of the games and everyone running them was helpful and friendly. They are also good for an idea or two. In an ACW game, the artillery was based as a pair of guns on a single base, with a limber parked across their backs. I’m guessing the base size was around 4” square, but it look more functional than having guns based separately, giving more of a diorama look, you could simply do something more with a base like that.

I didn’t really have a favourite game, I would be hard pushed to choose one, but since I am amidst an 1809 project, I did like the villages in the napoleonic game, represented by the lovely Conflix buildings - of which, I have some, the two trains in the ACW game looked the part and the castle that had the bolt shooter on the turret was a modelling delight.

I think that partly because I genuinely attended thinking I would not buy much …. and then surprisingly enjoyed some retail therapy! combined with the great enthusiasm of the gamers, modellers and living history groups, that I actually enjoyed this show more than any other that I have been to in the past couple of years.

It was very obvious that the crew at each game table had pushed the boat out to do something special for the public event. 

Thanks to all the traders who gave up their day and made the show.

Overall, I hugely enjoyed my visit and would just like to thank everyone involved, traders, gamers, modellers, living history groups and the organisers, for giving up their day and putting the time and effort needed into getting these things to work and to look and feel good. See you next year.

EDIT - today we popped into Shrewsbury and I visited the two model shops. One is mainly a rail model shop and I got some foliage and grasses from there. The other is called Think Tank, a good old fashioned model shop, getting rarer these days. They sold lots of kit and support. Here I got extra Zvezda models, tufts and a Renedra building for the 1066 project - all good.

It was also nice to see that the local castle had 4 boxes of Perry Miniatures for sale and a display with 6 historically based units painted up.

Resource Section.

My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’  showcases the various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.


  1. Excellent show report with many a stunning game presentation. Looks like a very enjoyable weekend out.

    1. Hi Jonathan, today we have the weather with us, so the makings of another good day. On the tables, the scenarios themselves were nicely planned and thought out, adding to the sense of a good presentation.

  2. Great review, I bought the Leipzig scenario book the last time I was at the Dave Thomas it's very nice, I'll probably just go to Salute and Partizan, now I feel bad! The medieval convoy looks ace!
    Best Iain

    1. Hi Iain, the Dave Thomas stand is most excellent and his support of the show circuit notable. Partizan is a really good example of what this hobby can showcase.

  3. A nice and measured show report Norm, glad that you enjoyed and continue to support it. Being one of the organisers in its early days it is close to my heart as you can imagine. It would be a great shame if it folded through lack of support.

    1. Hi Phil, yes, a lovely show. We have Triples (Sheffield) to serve as an example of easily a powerhouse show can disappear. Hopefully the traders did well enough this year for things to at least stabilise.

  4. Great report Norm and some really good looking games on show. Time very well spent by the sounds of it.

    1. Hi Donnie, one of lose little islands of enjoyment that pop up in the yearly calendar.

  5. Oh, my! What z show! What a battlefields!

    1. Michal, you would have loved the medieval game put on by the local Shrewsbury Wargamers (the game with the castle and baggage train crossing the bridge).

  6. A marvellous report of what is one of the best shows on the circuit and the only one remaining in the West Midlands catchment area! I love the fact that you had such a small list yet bought so much stuff! A true Wargamer despite last year's downsizing!

  7. Hi David, I thought overall, there was a positive vibe from the trade and with much to tempt🙂. I am looking forward to breaking into the Duchy of Warsaw figures.

  8. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful report, and for supporting the show as you have. Lovely pictures! It was truly a wonderful day! I also purchaced the Duchy of Warsaw figures from Dave Thomas, with a view to using contrast paints for most of the work. Then, I realise with horror the mountains of other stuff already in progress to also get through! Some things never change.....

  9. Hi Paul, Probably as you have already done, I opened the Duchy of Warsaw today and was very impressed with that A3 sized painting guide, they have excelled with this. Also the figures look really nice and I fancy, will push themselves to the very top of the painting queue!

    1. Agreed! I was pleasantly surprised to find the painting guide of a far higher quality than expected, and most informative too. We shall press on!

  10. I don't need to buy anything.
    but I want to support the small local show.
    buys a pants load.
    LOL 😁

    I do know what you mean by wanting to support small local scene. My area has a few small to medium cons that I try to throw my support behind with the same idea; if you don't then it'll cease to exist. It's same principle in marriage I'm told. 😁
    Though I tend to support by hosting games rather than by buying stuff. for example, the con coming up in April I'm hosting 4 games.
    Because I really don't need anything and what i do want is often not at the con anyway.

    1. PS. You only took 1 picture of the ACW table?

    2. Stew, I think the two shots with the train in are also ACW.

    3. Hi Stew, taking this show as an example, all those that put on a game gave the show a significant part of its backbone and was a great contribution by individuals.

      it is hard for the gamers to leave the table and go and enjoy the show. I also felt sorry for the two guys on the door. They smiled throughout ……. But missed the show!

  11. I've not been to the show for a good few years, even prior to lockdown. A few of us would drive up together to share the petrol and frankly to help pass the 2-3 hour journey time from Bristol. Parking was always a nightmare, with many a daffodil meeting an untimley end I seem to remember. A shame that my friends have all moved away, as it's a good show, with the re-enactors really adding to the feel of it. Some lovely games on show, based upon yours and other photos. Lots to inspire one for sure:).

    I was at my parent's this weekend and my Dad asked me if I still go to shows anymore, as we were talking about the cost of attending them as he loves model engineering. His age precludes him going anymore, but even if he were younger, the cost of getting there and a ticket would prevent him I think as he's just has his basic pension. So for him he simply orders online now.

    In a sense I'm in a similar position to him (Carer's Allowance at £1.35 per hour😠) in that I have to think carefully as to whether I can afford to go or not. For some shows a quick calculation showed it would cost me £70 to attend without buying anything, so quite an outlay for myself. Of course there is the whole social and inspirational side which one can't put a price on, but still I have to be selective these days.

    As for traders, they had started attending less shows pre-lockdown and in the past few years, even some of the 'Big Boys' have cut back their presence or stopped attending even the main shows. I hope they continue to go, but rather like you, I've had a big re-think on the wargames front and in all honesty, don't need to buy anything new for many years, given the size of the leadpile. Of course this hasn't stopped me suddenly investing in some Samurai forces, nor pondering the Italian Wars! Even so the expenditure is modest in the extreme compared to other games.

  12. Hi Steve, it is a quandary. I left home at 0710 and arrived at 0935, though this included a pit-stop for a coffee, so it is hardly a local show, but in the big scheme of things, I consider it so.

    By the time I got home, I had done 240 miles, which cost me £28 (I filled up again when I got home, which is how I know the cost) in petrol, plus £5 to get in (still a bargain) and then whatever coffees etc I needed for sustenance. All other costs were self inflicted so to speak.

    I look at that cost and think some people are easily spending that a week on drink or other activity that is paid for without a second thought.

    We managed to insert this within a couple of days of having a break, so it becomes harder to quantify in terms of cost in relation to the total cost of the break.

    What I did find though was that there was a sheer pleasure to being at the show and I have come away still enthused by the whole thing and so it is difficult to put a price on such a thing, though much easier to put a value on it (I value it highly) and that is simply something that dear old internet shopping cannot compete with.

    The other thing I note, is that when you see a game in the raw with the Mk I eye ball, it can look stunning ….. photograph it and somehow it diminishes, it still looks nice, but it doesn’t look amazing, so the table in my photos might look okay or even very nice, but in the real moment, they were really nice and the activity and interactions going on around the table, again moves it all up a notch.

    However, there is one thing that a show needs, if it is to keep the traders coming and that is spend and I know that for myself, storage space is limited and I already have a lot, how does one square that circle? Currently it is the raw behaviour of buying that is working (to various degrees as the economic cycle does its thing).

    I spoke to an ‘old hand’ trader at Partisan who said that from this year he was drastically cutting down his show presence and that decision was not purely about money, but included the logistics of show attendance and an increasing age! Combined of course with a website that works!

    I suppose in the end, the major questions sits with us, the punters … do we allow the show circuit to decline? To what degree are we willing to take a philanthropy approach to keeping it going? Or is is just a case of evolutionary pressures and the strongest will survive?

    I guess the answer will reveal itself over the next five years.

    Perhaps with everyone having so much stuff - a new type of show might spring up based around a huge bring and buy, where we pretty much re-circulate a lot of stuff, but for that to become mainstream, new sales would need to reach some sort of saturation point and I doubt we are even close to that …. I know because I need some more Panzer III’s, A France 1940 set of armies, an English Civil War set of Armies, AWI armies and …… :-)

  13. A great report Norm with excellent photos.

  14. Thanks Lee, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day.

  15. That sounded like a grand day out indeed Norm….
    And you got some nice loot by the sound of it…

    All the best. Aly

  16. Hi Aly, there was a nice napoleonic game with a grand scope that you would have enjoyed.

  17. Yes they were Conflix buildings on my 1813 Battle of Lutzen game although a few changes had been made to colours. I've supported this show for many years as its the most local to me. Birmingham despite its sized no longer hosts a big wargames show apart from Paul Broadhursts one in October. Ive always found it to be well attended with lots of high quality games. Some shows such as Partizan are too big for my taste as I am overwhelmed by number of things to look at.

  18. Hi Tony, thanks for dropping by, I loved the look of your game and dropped by several times during my stay.

    Just thinking about this side of Covid, I have visited several shows, including the bigger ones (York, Hammerhead and Partisan), but I came away from Alumwell feeling like it was the one I enjoyed the most in that time and I think that you are right, that part of that is being able to properly absorb the show. Looking forward to next year :-)

  19. Good to see you enjoyed the show, having seen some of the games on others blog s they look really impressive. Let’s hope you won’t be selling the extra stuff in a couple of years. The Warsaw infantry look great but I have enough french already

  20. Hi Matt, all reports so far are giving a positive vibe, so it looks like it was widely enjoyed. The Duchy of Warsaw troops look like they might jump the painting queue. The painting guide that comes with it is very impressive at A3 rather than the usual A4.


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