03/02/2020 at 09:47 #130882craig cartmellParticipant
I thought it might be interesting to discuss our experiences of Vapnartak this year, especially as it is the first big show of the year.
For those who have not been, Vapnartak is held in the York Racecourse building. Like Colours – which uses the Newbury racecourse building, this means that the show is spread across multiple floors. The venue is modern, has good multi-floor access through stairs and lifts, is well lit and has plenty of catering and toilet facilities.
It also means that the higher you ascend the narrower the floors get, more on which below.
The show is well-staffed, there are maps everywhere and parking is plentiful.
All the people you might expect were there, some with quite large stands. The unusual shape of the venue’s floors and the amount of traders that were packed in meant there was the congestion in the aisle-ways that we have come to expect. This started out as being jolly with lots of “excuse me” and “after you” – “no, after you”, but as feet became sore, old knees ached and the swag bags became laden with loot, it soon moved to jostling and grumbling.
I was almost knocked off my feet by one young fellow striding through regardless of the havoc he was leaving in his wake.
All my favourites were there, including Annie (in fine fettle), the Ainsty boys, Dead Hand Games etc. I did note that a lot more of the stands were of the strict historical nature, which attracted mobs of grognards. When you have enough chaps of my size and rotundity there is a danger of a critical mass occurring and stall have been known to implode.
On the very top floor, near the tables set aside for private trading (i.e. gamers selling off their own stuff) were a number of very interesting little companies. Producers of resin and 3D printed models amongst them.
The 3D model stands really interested me. The variety and quality of what was on offer was rather good. One producer packed up their products with all the support struts still in place, the other had actually removed them. I suppose the former saved a lot of time for themselves, and it is not really any different to buying models on sprues.
One resin company – Iron Gate Scenery – had a really good range of scenic items, including excellent doors and windows, the bane of all gamers who make their own buildings.
I rarely get the opportunity to be a punter because if I am at a show I am usually putting on a game. I was hoping that I could spend the day browsing wares at a range of stands, that I usually only see online.
My target was to obtains scenic items for a IHMN2 game I am putting on later in the season, and this was mostly accomplished. Stacks of crates and sacks, and a couple of porters’ trolleys were obtained.
I also got some doors and windows to try out the concept of using pre-made ones for my buildings.
And finally, I got the raging Annie figure from Bad Squiddo. I intend to convert it from SciFi to fantasy for one of my Thud & Blunder warbands.
There were a couple of larger demo games, but most were fairly small and none seemed to have the wow factor. It did not help that quite a few of them were indifferently hosted, which is a problem I have seen at many shows. There was a distinct lack of punter engagement.
Now this annoys me. If you are going to put on a demo game then, in addition to the people pushing the figures around, you need at least one person who goes out of their way to engage with the public, explain what is going on and who can field questions. Scattering a couple of A4 sheets around and expecting people to read them is, in my arrogant opinion, a dereliction of duty.
Honestly I had thought the age of clubs turning up to just abuse the venue so they could play a large club game, backs to the punters, was waning. Some used to do it just to get free entry.
Perhaps the show organizers should ask people to actively engage with the public, as this benefits everyone. This seems to be the case with the Partizans, where they have a designated Demo game zone and the game providers are encouraged to engage through awards.
Another issue was that many of the large demo games were packed in between trade stands, and if people did gather to watch or just to take a photo this blocked the flow of trade.
A lot of these were exiled to the upper levels of the racecourse building and into space not much wider than a decent corridor. I have put on a game there myself and it can prove challenging.
That said some of the games providers were cheerful and proactive in engaging the public. The RAF boys were there and entertaining all who passed them.
I must admit that I did not spend too much time up there, but there was a decent range of games, some of which seemed busy, but others that were moribund. Now that always puzzles me. You go to a show to put on a participation games, prepare the game, the scenario and all the supporting materials, carry in a tonne of scenery and figures, set-up the table then either sit there looking at your feet or abandon the table altogether and go a wandering.
Although it met all my shopping needs I was somewhat disappointed with the demo and participation games. Having many of them scattered through out a multi floor venue meant that many of them did not get seen by the majority of attendees.
The main trading floor suffered due to the aisle-way congestion that I have gone into above. The only major trader not on the ground floor was Sarissa and they were stuck in a cul-de-sac which meant browsing their wares was almost impossible.
Compared to other shows I find Vapnartak and Colours claustrophobic, which is entirely down to their venue, not the professionalism of their staff. I think that they need to spread out the major stands across the floors and widen their aisles.
I doubt that I shall attend again next year, but overall it was worth the trip as my wife and I had a lovely weekend in York.03/02/2020 at 13:25 #130888MikeKeymaster
I think that they need to spread out the major stands across the floors and widen their aisles.
Trouble is, that takes up space that paying traders can occupy, less traders means either less cash or charging existing ones more.
Balancing the available floor space can be tricky, especially if your overheads are large.
It did not help that quite a few of them were indifferently hosted, which is a problem I have seen at many shows.
You go to a show to put on a participation games, prepare the game, the scenario and all the supporting materials, carry in a tonne of scenery and figures, set-up the table then either sit there looking at your feet or abandon the table altogether and go a wandering.
How was the catering?03/02/2020 at 17:15 #130925David ClemmetParticipant
I enjoyed your review of the show as it brought back memories of why as people with disabilities my late friend and I stopped attending the show following the 2017 show. The aisles issue was patchy- in some places there were no problems, in others a crowd of two or more completely blocked the aisle. At the time I last attended the show I was using a 3 wheeled walking aid and could only progress down certain aisle by reducing its width to minimum, I am now a wheelchair user and would not contemplate attending the show. As a former show organiser (my late friend and I organised the Stockton Shows between 1981 to 2008) I appreciate Mike’s point about the need to fund overheads via trader fees but I am sure given careful thought aisle widths could be made more consistent without reducing trader numbers although I suspect some trader relocation may be needed.
I agree that the lifts give good access to all the upper floors assuming the dedicated disabled lift is used but I had never found a disabled person’s toilet – I was always nervous of using the main toilet on the ground floor as its floor was often slippy.
Parking may be plentiful for regular car drivers but not so for cars with disabled drivers or passengers – the small disabled parking is quite a distance from the show entrance and other than the catering area I never found anywhere to sit down and rest.
I much prefer to attend the Battleground show held in Stockton every November where none of the points I raise above occur03/02/2020 at 17:47 #130930Northern MonkeyParticipant
I popped in for an hour as per usual. I agree with Craig, they should cut back on some of the demo/participation games and allow the traders more space, they also really need to organise the bring and buy a bit better as it often ends up as a free for all.
Mike the catering is run by the racecourse and is reasonable enough.
My attempt at a Blog: http://ablogofwar.blogspot.co.uk/03/02/2020 at 18:08 #130931RhodericMember
Not to go off-topic, but thanks for the Iron Gate Scenery tip.03/02/2020 at 21:31 #130950deephorseParticipant
I’ve been going to Vapnartak ever since it was held in the Merchant Venturers Hall in the centre of York. Consequently I’m aware of the issues raised by Craig. I thought that this year some of the crowding and access issues had been improved. In places where there used to be trade stands there were now empty spaces, making for a better flow of people in those areas. I also thought that there were slightly fewer traders than last year, but that might be an optical illusion. The improved access was, however, undone by the all too frequent gathering of groups of five or more people in the gangways, oblivious to the blockage they were causing.
I too thought that none of the games was visually inspiring and maybe the show would be better off without them. Particularly the one where the players went to great lengths to ignore the passing public. Isn’t there at least one show now that requires all games to be participation?
The refreshments were fine, and even though I left it until around 2pm to eat all the menu options were still available. One thing about the restaurant/cafeteria that does annoy me is that some patrons often feel no pressure to leave and free up their tables once they have finished their food and drink. They’ll sit there thumbing through their new Osprey whilst people with trays of food try to find somewhere to sit. I’ve given up being polite now and I will just go and park myself amongst them hoping that they will get the message. It’s like this every year though.
All this said, I enjoyed my visit, spent more than I should have, and will go again next year.
Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen03/02/2020 at 21:33 #130951MikeKeymaster
Isn’t there at least one show now that requires all games to be participation?
When I ran my sci-fi show for a few years that was a thing I insisted on.04/02/2020 at 09:08 #130968RadarParticipant
Firstly a big thank you to everyone who helps put the show on, it is very much appreciated. V apnartak is one of my favourite shows – it’s timing hints that spring is around the corner, plus it gives an excuse to visit York.
Before I begin I hope the chap who had managed to bury his car axle deep in the mud got a tow!
A few observations
Vapnartak website: I knew where I was going, but it might help new attendees if you put the location of the show on the front page. An up to date trader list would be good, as would a downloadable floor plan – when the show is spread over many floors it is good to plan ahead so you don’t miss anyone. Not everyone uses or wants to use Facebook.
Parking: the Bishopsthorpe Road entrance was locked, which meant a minor detour. Funnelled everyone through the main entrance, which would be fine if it weren’t for drivers blocking the road to drop people off. Those with mobility issues and those arriving by taxi need somewhere to be dropped off, a dedicated space would have helped. The upper, grass car park, is accessed via pinch point in the road where it crosses a bridleway. Chaos ensued when two way traffic met – the locked entrance removes this issue.
Ticket desk: great that there were three ticket sellers, shame that everyone had to walk past all three to enter the show (no room to pass behind anyone buying tickets). Perhaps this annoyed me because of the ignoramus who just barged through me and my two boys when we were buy in tickets.
Space: when I was there the space between stands was good, I know Peter Pig weren’t in attendance, looked like a few other traders weren’t there also. The bring and buy is much better than it has been in previous years.
Games: agree with Craig. Why put a game on at a show if you don’t want to interact with anyone?
Traders: even without Peter Pig, Vapnartak is still one of the best shows for 15mm fans (due to number of manufacturers in attendance). Beats the much bigger Salute hands down.04/02/2020 at 10:31 #130970hammurabi70Participant
Great OP and interesting discussion. A bit far for us Londoners but lots to learn. One would have hoped that after years (decades) of shows the hobby community could have got their act together but evidently there is still a lot of room for improvement.
I thought racecourse venues were supposed to have oodles of space and lots of parking so restricted space for traders or demos did not apply; evidently I am wrong. Given the pressure on space it would seem that talk of the demise of the hobby is a tad premature.04/02/2020 at 13:46 #130983Sane MaxParticipant
It’s always been a struggle to get around the place. I find the only way to get where you want to go when it’s busy is stride through regardless of the havoc I was leaving in my wake (Just Kidding Craig)
One thing I notice as a very long term attender is that it gets very quiet earlier and earlier each year. At one point it used to close at 5 and they would be chucking punters out. Now, it was dead after 2.
I would suggest some of our differently abled / Older gamers consider attending after 2 – it is much quieter and easier to get about.
I picked up a lot of stuff – a lot of boxed plastic (despite not being a fan of it) which I will be splitting with a friend to do a couple of Lion Rampant Retinues, and about a hundred quid’s worth of bits and pieces to boot. I even bought some stuff from Foundry, which I would not normally – at their prices i try to hunt the stuff down second hand. I spoke to many traders and all seemed to be doing well, which is very nice.04/02/2020 at 17:17 #131010deephorseParticipant
One thing I notice as a very long term attender is that it gets very quiet earlier and earlier each year. At one point it used to close at 5 and they would be chucking punters out. Now, it was dead after 2. I would suggest some of our differently abled / Older gamers consider attending after 2 – it is much quieter and easier to get about.
Which is one reason why I aim to arrive there around 1:15pm. You can usually park fairly close to the entrance at this time, and this year I got within 50m of it. A major plus if you have to trek back to your car with your purchases every so often. In 2019 I arrived around 3pm and some folk were already packing up so I wouldn’t advise going as late as that.
Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen09/02/2020 at 12:10 #131310WhirlwindParticipant
I went to Vapnartak for the first time this year. My impressions mostly tally with those above:
1 – There was a very good range of traders. The only thing I wanted that I couldn’t find was anyone selling 15mm Zvezda vehicles.
2 – The show was busy, very busy until around 2 or so, and access is not always easy.
3 – The demo games were few and not placed well for engagement for the players or the onlookers (typically placed against a wall or against main thoroughfares).
4 – The participation games were relatively few and not placed well for playing IMHO – too close to main pedestrian flows. It was a shame I didn’t have time to have a go at that very interesting looking Arnhem game.
5 – It was good to have a very specific area for the tabletop sales.
6 – There were quite a few groups of well-turned out re-enactors. I am never very sure how to engage with them though – am I meant to be asking them questions, or are they trying to recruit me?
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