Home Forums General Conventions and Shows The Future of Wargames Shows in the UK

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  • #180762
    Avatar photoKen
    Participant

    https://yarkshiregamer.blogspot.com/2022/12/wargames-shows-do-we-still-want-them.html

    I’ve put together a blog post following my display at the Recon show in Pudsey yesterday, there are 20 or so pictures on the link above.

    I’d done a full post on the Siege of Forli (What If) game not that long ago so I’ve taken the opportunity to discuss the future of Wargames Shows in the UK.

    I would love to hear your thoughts. Me I’m hearing rumblings and it’s not my stomach after a bacon butty. It’s not like there hasn’t been a perceived “crisis” in the hobby before just look back at old copies of your Wargames Magazines for the previous portents of doom, even a few years ago the cheery “Your all dying, Wargaming is [email protected]*#×d” video from Little Wars TV asked a similar question.

    Give it a read and tell me what you think.

    Regards Ken
    The Yarkshire Gamer

    Http://yarkshiregamer.blogspot.co.uk

    #180768
    Avatar photoThuseld
    Participant

    The last wargames show I attended was Colours in 2016. Before that I had attended Warfare in 2012, Salute in 2013 and 2014. For me, the cost of travel, entry and time(?) just isn’t worth it. I would rather spend an extra £5 shipping than all of that.

    However, if I were involved in a local club, and could split the travel cost with a car load of people then I would be more inclined to go to shows. I just feel alone at shows.

    #180770
    Avatar photoTony Hughes
    Participant

    I’m less inclined to go to multiple shows in a year at the moment but mostly for personal reasons rather than having become disenchanted with shows.

    Travel is a big issue for me. I don’t drive and railway chaos stopped me going to two shows this year and it doesn’t look as if a solution is anywhere near yet. I managed two shows and enjoyed both, didn’t spend a fortune at either but did collect some pre-orders and a few bits. The social side of shows is also a plus for me, I get to see people I only ever see at shows, which is good.

    As I get older I paint less and I have stocked up for what would have been a normal year’s painting but it is taking me twice as long so I’m still working on projects bought over the past two years. I’m getting past that age where getting to a project ‘eventually’ is a sensible choice. If I didn’t buy another thing I could keep on with what I have for at least 5 years – and that is only the stuff I definitely want to complete, there is even more vanity bits I could still get to if the fancy takes me.

    At one stage in my hobby life I could make good use of 4-8 shows a year but now I doubt more than 2 or 3 are really ‘useful’, the rest would be just a day out – which is fine by me but doesn’t do the traders much good.

    Certainly the post-pandemic shows aren’t quite recovered to their previous glory and some traders I miss from shows (often because they are even older than me !!!) but I’ll still go when I can and be happy with what is there, knowing the effort that goes into a show it would be churlish not to.

     

     

    #180778
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    Honest answer: I don’t attend enough to be able to tell.

    But my feeling is yes there will be a thinning of the numbers.

    The smart money I suppose would be on the big ones surviving but perhaps they are getting too big and too ambitious for their own good? I have never been to Salute and see no reason to start now. Similarly I’ve never been to any variant of Partizan.

    This year I got to two shows: Warfare at Farnborough and at a 220+ mile round trip I can’t see myself bothering again for a noisy main hall with poor lighting. (I believe they may move hall within the venue next year). I don’t know how much Farnborough costs but I would be surprised if there is much of a profit in hiring somewhere so specialised. The other was Reveille at Lincombe Barn, Bristol which I enjoyed and did buy from.

    I would normally attend Colours, Attack and Crusade (the latter has now ceased)as a minimum as well.

    I used to travel to a lot of others but increasing laziness means for example I can’t be bothered driving to Leeds and back from South Wales as I did twenty years ago.  Not when I can get a better range of figures I want on the net. It will be a shame, but times move on, and shows are no longer the best shopping space as they were when bricks and mortar shops and mail order were the only alternatives.

    PS – I don’t recognise your comment re Little Wars TV at all – they asked a question, interviewed a lot of interesting people and the majority seemed to think historical wargaming was in rude health.  No wailing or gnashing of teeth; quite the reverse, probably a little over optimistic in my view.

     

    #180782
    Avatar photoKen
    Participant

    Cheers everyone, plenty to talk about and discuss.

    Guy, the Little Wars comment is a joke, I think what they do is brilliant but if you boil the question down to its basics, the hobby is greying and the Old Guard are thinning out and if we don’t bring in new people to the hobby the last of us will be stood in a small square at our own Waterloo.

    I was very pleased with the many positive responses to the question posed, it was great to hear, but I think I did a fair summary of the question as you did of the answers 👍

    Regards Ken

    The Yarkshire Gamer

    Http://yarkshiregamer.blogspot.co.uk

    #180785
    Avatar photoMike Headden
    Participant

    I’d echo what Tony Hughes said, with the exception that if I bought not a single figure more (As if!!) at current rate of painting my lead mountain would last me a millennium, at least! I have two figures bought in 1978 that are based and undercoated but not yet painted.

    I made it to Claymore (local show) and Joy of Six this year. Both excellent. Plans for Carronade, Battleground and Fiasco were scuppered by rail disruption or illness.

    Purchases from traders and Bring & Buy are largely things I don’t need, bought with money I don’t have for projects I’ll never finish. 🙂 I’m on my own, I have the cash (more or less) and the space (for now) so f*** it, why not?

    Biggest draw, for me, of shows is a chance to meet the people I only see at shows – traders and punters alike.

    Next is the chance to see things in the flesh (well, in the lead, plastic, mdf or resin) and plan online purchases for the future.

    Finally, I photograph every game, or at least intend to, which I rummage through from time to time if I’m looking for inspiration for figure colours or a piece of terrain or whatever.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    #180793
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    For me, the main reason I go to shows is to discover stuff I didn’t know I wanted. The Internet is a ‘Pull’ media – I have to want something and search for it to find it. Shows are a ‘Push’ media, like tv ads – you see something and go ‘ooh! I DO like the idea of a crumbly Flaky Milk Chocolate that tastes like chocolate never tasted before…. and she is nice …’

    In this case at Pudsey I also noticed another factor. I have several Rampant games, I like Rampant but let’s be frank, once you have played Lion Rampant I didn’t really need Dragon Rampant, or even i suspect The Men who Would be Kings – I coulda done most of what was done in those books myself if I could be bothered. So when Xenos Rampant was being bigged up i was very much ‘Nah…. no, i dont think I will’ – but when i saw it in the flesh, picked it up and leafed through it I was impressed, and so I bought it – it’s the only thing I bought at Pudsey apart from some cheap brushes for Varnishing.

    The hobby has always been grey. That doesnt bother me much – the kids we could be luring in with flashy shows and amazing games? I didnt get lured in that way, I wanted to play with toy soldiers and I made an effort, so can they damn them :).

    But I think shows will just naturally die off, as the numbers fall. The Internet, the Internet – and there is damn all we can do about it. We are horse-enthusiasts in the age of the Motorcar, asking what can be done to make horses more attractive to the car-driving public.

    Oh… and i really like your banner…. was it made to look like it was on Teabag Material on purpose? Very clever if so. I wanted to ask you to your face, but thought a punch in the face might offend if i was wrong about it – the internet is much safer.

    #180795
    Avatar photodeephorse
    Participant

    A little background first.  I turn 67 later this week.  Ughhh.  But it’s better than the alternative.  I’ve been playing with toy soldiers since around the age of 5, and doing what most here would recognise as wargaming from my mid-teens.  Firstly with SPI hex & counter games, solo, and then with various models once I discovered a club in my town.

    The older club members would drive us to the various ‘nearby’ shows.  Northern Militaire, Sheffield Triples and Derby World Championships, to name the bigger ones.  Once I could drive I took myself to these venues, and have fond memories of them.  But that’s all they are now, memories.

    In the pre-internet days I was ‘stung’ many times by ordering castings by post that turned out to be little more than blobs.  So attending a show to see the blobs/not blobs in person became essential to avoid wasting my meagre (at that time) resources.

    I also attended Recon and FIASCO, because they were (almost) on my doorstep.  But with the demise of Sheffield and Derby, something happened within me and I no longer felt like driving the lesser distances to the Leeds shows either.  I could attribute this to a decision to concentrate my gaming interests and spending to just a few periods and scales, and finding that shows were leaving my interests behind.  If there was nothing new for me to see or buy then there was no point in going.

    I persisted with Vapnartak because it was relatively close, and closer still once I retired and moved house.  But also because a key (for me) wargaming great supported it and was always there to chat to and buy from.  Moving also brought Battleground within range, and I’ve been there several times now, with the most recent show being a highlight of my year.

    I had a pre-order to collect and pay for, but I also made an impulse spend of a significant amount on some painted figures which I wouldn’t have done had I stayed home and bought from the web.  As mentioned in another topic on this site, I have little interest in other people’s games.  They are not playing what I play, and I’m too invested in what I do play to change tack now, especially at my age.  Battleground did have one game that I do play, but I met the ‘backs to the audience’ types there, and eventually walked away.

    Of course none of this rambling addresses the future of shows.  I go to shop, and maybe impulse buy, but not to play or socialise for the most part.  So would I miss them if they disappeared?  Yes, I probably would, for a while.  I stopped mourning Northern Militaire et al a long time ago, and my stash currently fills two houses, so I’ll pass on with so much product untouched that it’s almost a crime.  And yet I still shop 🤔

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    #180796
    Avatar photohammurabi70
    Participant

    The internet has certainly made it easier to use mail-order and a few pounds postage cost is less than travel and an entry ticket price so unless you have some big bulk orders the finances do not justify it.  However, some people do have big orders, it is good to see new products and social aspects are important.  I should think big shows will be able to last as traders are likely to want to limit the number of locations they visit but have ones with big footfall and sales.

    As a demonstrator at WARFARE this year I would certainly recommend the new Farnborough venue: good lighting & heating, easy road access and plenty of parking.  Remarkably, it is a two-day show.

    www.olivercromwell.org; www.battlefieldstrust.com
    6mm wargames group: [email protected]; 2mm wargames group: [email protected]

    #180797
    Avatar photobobm
    Participant

    Shows in the UK were always about the shopping for many visitors.  They thrived on you seeing the product and knowing if you didn’t buy it there and then you might never see the range in full again.  The internet has undermined this completely.

    There are things that could be done that might start to change the nature of shows.  However they probably can’t last forever as a “buy it now” purely shopping experience.

     

    e.g.

    Show organisers could make more effort to inform what games will be available to join in on the day…even providing booking forms.

    Traders could provide discount codes for follow up internet purchases.  I have regularly considered post show to buy some more “X”, a discount could seal the deal.

    A greying hobby might have more spare £ but it also tends to have a lot of stuff already awaiting paint…

    There's 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.....

    #180799
    Avatar photoPhil Dutré
    Participant

    The “dying of the hobby” has been predicted since at least the 70s, so one can safely ignore all such discussions.

    The future of wargaming shows is a ifferent matter though, and a very real problem in mainland EU. Wargaming still is very anglocentric, but since the you-know-what, traders have it more difficult to cross the channel. As a direct result, CRISIS, the biggest wargaming show held each year in Antwerp, has stopped. But also smaller events have thrown in the towel. The 2 shows (one of them being CRISIS) I went to each year have now disappeared.

    So the ideas that are floating around now is to go back to “gaming days”, events where clubs meet each other, play some games, but no traders are present.

    I feel there has to be at least something to keep a community feeling. Otherwise, wargaming will degenerate to a hobby played in isolated groups only, and then there’s a real danger for it to die.

    #180805
    Avatar photoKen
    Participant

    Hi, yes the Banner was made by my mate Andy Dickinson and designed around the Yorkshire Tea logo and the material gives it a bit extra lol

    By all means come and have a chat next time we don’t bite 😉

    Http://yarkshiregamer.blogspot.co.uk

    #180812
    Avatar photoirishserb
    Participant

    This is a really interesting discussion, and I don’t mean to barge in, though I am sad to read of the problems being experienced by some of the conventions.

    In the US, participation games have long been a primary draw at conventions, at least since the early 1980s.  Games, usually run by a single gamer, are scheduled, listed in a program, and attended by other convention attendees, through on site or often advanced registration prior to the date of the convention.

    Venders, flea markets, demostrations, seminars, and other activities may also be part of the schedule.  Venders are often a big draw also, but not usually the primary draw.

    I realize that the “infrastucture” of the gaming community is very different over here, given population density, informal gaming groups v. proper clubs, etc.   But, is there any potential to maybe evolve European conventions to offer a different “product”, maybe incoporating elements that are more common in the US, or otherwise catering to the needs of the European market and hobby community?

    #180814
    Avatar photoJim Webster
    Participant

    I confess that for me, a show is a tour of the trade stands, to see the stuff I never discover on the internet. Then there’s a chance to acquire stuff I never knew I wanted on the bring and buy. I look at the games, sometimes to marvel, sometimes just to glance and move on. Occasionally, perhaps once in every few years, a game will inspire me. This latter isn’t knocking the games, they aren’t going to inspire everybody because they will only appeal to a subset of the hobby.

    I sometimes catch up with friends but they’re more likely traders than other visitors.

    As for the community feeling, that is one thing the internet has done. It has allowed a lot of people who never see another wargamer from one year to the next to be part of the community. I suspect the community has got bigger. We’ve found people we never knew were there.

    https://jimssfnovelsandwargamerules.wordpress.com/

    #180815
    Avatar photoMartinR
    Participant

    I largely agree with Sane Max. The hobby has been greying and dying out ever since I started wargaming in the late 1960s. Supposedly killed by board games, RPGs, computer games, smart phones, Tik Tok or whatever particular fad each decade had.

    I go to shows to say hi to people, fondle the goods (so much more satisfying than shopping on the Internet) and look at other people’s games. I often help run a game too. Unlike the 1970s or 80s, I don’t go to shows to play games, instead there are perfectly good games conventions for that sort of thing, and I go to a couple of those a year.

    I probably go to as many shows now as I ever did, there seem to be plenty to choose from, although many are quite small. Joy of Six just seems to get bigger and bigger though.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #180825
    Avatar photowillz
    Participant

    I enjoy going to wargame shows as often as I can, sadly down here in Devon wargame shows are few and far between.  Plymouth, Exeter and Cornwall are the nearest ones to me, Bristol, Bovington are further afield.  I try to plan visits to further away shows around visiting family, saving money on petrol.  Visiting shows at Plymouth or Exeter I normally will put on a participation game, for the fun and to meet friends or make new ones.  Also I like to see trade stands and fondle the toys.  As pointed out the hobby has been dying since the 70’s when I entered this wonderful hobby but from my perspective the hobby has grown and still is.  Onward and upward, it’s all about pushing our toys across the table.

    #180826
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    By all means come and have a chat next time we don’t bite 😉

    I wandered over and muttered a few things, didn’t introduce myself as such – I am just some dude off the Internet 🙂

    #180828
    Avatar photoChris Pringle
    Participant

    There are different ways to divide up the “wargaming market” (that’s us): by geography, by period of interest, by scale, by preferred ruleset … perhaps the successful events will be those that are clear about which segment of us they are targeting and do so well. Large, broad-scope regional events covering regions large enough to support them; themed events like the Seven Years War convention or the Naval Wargaming Day; Joy of Six for us 6mm devotees, Perfect 10 for 10mm; the Bloody Big Battles Bash Day (OK, no traders there yet, but you get the idea) …

    #180846
    Avatar photowillz
    Participant

    There are different ways to divide up the “wargaming market” (that’s us): by geography, by period of interest, by scale, by preferred ruleset … perhaps the successful events will be those that are clear about which segment of us they are targeting and do so well. Large, broad-scope regional events covering regions large enough to support them; themed events like the Seven Years War convention or the Naval Wargaming Day; Joy of Six for us 6mm devotees, Perfect 10 for 10mm; the Bloody Big Battles Bash Day (OK, no traders there yet, but you get the idea) …

    You have hit the nail on the head there Chris, targeted gaming events.  For my Seven Years War fix I attend a hotel based event.  This runs for the whole weekend, I have to pay a fair bit of money out but it does cover the cost of food, tea, coffee, cakes.  I consider it a bargain for a whole weekend of gaming with liked minded gamers, we get 24 attendees each year.

    #180848
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    I’m all for ‘targeted’ events.

    But those aren’t ‘shows’.

    Shows are by their nature eclectic and catholic. If we are after the serendipity Sane Max, Jim and Martin were extolling I doubt you are going to find it in a single period/genre/rule set event. Not that they aren’t great and deliver what you want at the time, but they don’t offer what you don’t know you want until you’ve seen it.

    #180849
    Avatar photoJim Webster
    Participant

    I’m all for ‘targeted’ events. But those aren’t ‘shows’. Shows are by their nature eclectic and catholic. If we are after the serendipity Sane Max, Jim and Martin were extolling I doubt you are going to find it in a single period/genre/rule set event. Not that they aren’t great and deliver what you want at the time, but they don’t offer what you don’t know you want until you’ve seen it.

     

    There’s a place for targeted and there is a place for serendipity 🙂

    https://jimssfnovelsandwargamerules.wordpress.com/

    #180850
    Avatar photowillz
    Participant

    I’m all for ‘targeted’ events. But those aren’t ‘shows’. Shows are by their nature eclectic and catholic. If we are after the serendipity Sane Max, Jim and Martin were extolling I doubt you are going to find it in a single period/genre/rule set event. Not that they aren’t great and deliver what you want at the time, but they don’t offer what you don’t know you want until you’ve seen it.

    There’s a place for targeted and there is a place for serendipity 🙂

    Oooh big words  😀 , I  think we should all contact our MP’s and get them to fund local wargame shows every month 😀.

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