Salute in Review: Aftermath

Salute 2014

This was my first time at Salute and I didn’t really know what to expect. Especially as my last experience of an event at London ExCel had been a pretty average Star Trek related event. So when I rolled up and saw the crowds it was kind of amazing.

Salute 2015 pic shellcase

That wasn’t even half of it!

I’m glad to say though that Salute didn’t disappoint. Though a bit overwhelming at times (not helped much by the map, which seemed to be a bit off on some of the stands locations) it nevertheless managed to combine the feel of a big event with the friendliness of a much smaller one.

Marking themselves out as I walked in were Hawk Games, whose Dropzone Commander large-scale model drew the crowds in with its elegance.

After that I had a bit of a ramble around to get myself acquainted with the layout of the place. What caught my eye was the diversity. Though admittedly the mainstay was futuristic military sci-fi games and the fantasy hack and slashers that every wargamer loves, dotted around were some more unusual fares.

From the Dark Age skirmish game Valhalla, to a strategy game about building a bee hive and making more honey than anyone else, there was plenty of variety if you were willing to look.

In typical wargamer fashion, more people were interested in the foam dice than the board with colours beyond red brown and metal.

In typical wargamer fashion, more people were interested in the foam dice than the board with colours beyond red, brown and metal.

Then it was time to meet up with the rest of The Shell Case team, who had bravely risked their lives trying to collect orders from the Forge World table during the peak time of the day. Plunder in tow we stopped to chat, grab a bite to eat and stare at all the pretty miniatures.

The standard was so high this year with an appearance by Mierce Minatures, though it seemed everywhere you looked there was something new and wonderful. Black Scorpion being nestled away in the corner with some fabulous models were another highlight, along with West Wind’s Secrets of the Third Reich line.

Then it was off to look at the KR Multicase stand. They were great guys and more than that, they had chairs available to the public – “And there was much rejoicing amongst The Shell Case Crew”. [Dogs were starting to bark by then. -Ed.]

What did surprise me was how inventive the folks running the stand were, constructing all manner of things out of the blue foam, including their banner, which could be clearly see from the other side of the hall.

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I managed to grab myself some deals too, topping up the gangers I already have with some reinforcements from Heresy Miniatures, some very solid resin terrain from Simple Box Miniatures and a couple of rule sets that caught my eye (you’ll hear more on those in the future).

My thanks go out to all the #warmongers who met up with us on the day, the traders who were happy to chat and the many, many people running intro games, especially Christina, who graciously overlooked me calling her Selvig by accident after looking at the name on her t-shirt. You made Salute 2014 a great day and I’ll be glad to see you next year.

Now, where did I put that pen and paper? I have armies to plan!

Salute 2014

Salute 2014So tomorrow the big day will have finally arrived. And it cannot have come soon enough. These last few years I’ve pre-ordered my ticket as soon as possible. Not because I’m worried about missing out but because when I wake up the day after Salute I’m already looking forward to the next one.

For me Salute is the most important date in my wargaming calendar for the simple reason than it’s a room full of people, all passionate about ‘the hobby’ which has many facets to it that go far beyond genre, scale and metal vs resin vs plastic. For a day no one cares who plays what or how much crap we got painted from the year before. Or how much of the stuff we got from the year before we even still own. It’s a coming together of community behind the most inclusive and welcoming hobby there is. And then we walk, talk and breathe toys. And then we spend all of our money on all of the things.

It always tickles me that every year, and I include myself in this, there is a frantic burst of eBaying, Twitter bartering and the chucking of stuff on Amazon Marketplace in an effort to push the budget as far as possible. Because taking £100 isn’t enough. Oh no! £150, that’ll do. But if I sell this or that, or borrow from the savings and promise to put it back, I’ll have £200! And so on and so on. My budget this year is a little less than I’d have liked. The weight of home ownership has rested heavily these last few months. However, it has made me more focussed on what I want and what I need. The difference being that I don’t need the Praetors from Forge World but want them so I’m getting them anyway. But I do need a few bits to round off my X-Wing fleet until the next wave of stuff drops.

I also need to remember to take lunch money because walking around with a satchel or backpack all day is a pain in the arse.

Tomorrow is going to be a brilliant day. And not just because of the buying of all the things. Okay, a little bit that. But because it’s an opportunity to explore the parts of the hobby I haven’t seen, haven’t had the chance to look into or are totally new to me. It’s a chance to make new friends and get reacquainted with old ones and generally embrace this wonderful hobby of ours.

I’m really looking forward to the #warmongers Meet Up, as is the rest of the team. We’ll be meeting at 1pm outside the hall at which point we’ll find somewhere out-of-the-way and compare swag. The last couple of years it’s been a recessed section opposite the hall so we were nice and visible to any late comers.

Finally, we will have The Shell Case pin badges to give away to the first people who come and say hi to us on the day. We won’t be hard to miss, the entire team (apart from our beloved Ashley who is stuck on the other side of a very large bit of water) will be there in shirts. And just in case, they’ve got our names on them so you can tell us apart.

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See you all tomorrow.

#warmongers #miniswap 2014 is GO for launch!

Well the deed is done #warmongers, I’ve just sent out the pairings emails for the 2014 round of the #warmongers #miniswap! 18 lucky people are now paired up and will be sending each other a lovely miniature (just the one mind, this isn’t a regiment painting service!), to apply some paint to.

There are plenty of pairings from around the world this year (twice as many as last time): Norway, The Netherlands, USA and UK are all represented and I’ve tried to maximise the far-flung pairings so that where possible people aren’t swapping with a next door neighbour. I’ll be reporting back on progress as the swaps take place and keeping the #warmongers community up to date on who’s swapped what and with whom. For now, the match-ups are:

  • Archaeolas
  • Jamie
  • Jaime Barron
  • Richard miller
  • Harry Brown
  • Oliver Maclean
  • Patrick Harms
  • Jay Richardson
  • wouter lute
  • Rich Taylor
  • Lee Parry
  • Aj
  • Art steventon
  • Sarah Gransee
  • Faron Adams
  • Darren Bogus
  • Nigel Bartlett
  • Tom van de Ven

Cheer them on when you see them talking about it on Twitter, prod them for progress if they aren’t!

I’m sad not to join in this time but the numbers didn’t quite work out (it would’ve been odd swapping with myself I suppose…), but this is a great little project that will hopefully continue to grow until finally, IT TAKES OVER THE WORLD!! Er, sorry, maniacal tendencies put back in their box, for now…

The Shell Case does Salute – Neil

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

And now to Neil to wax lyrical:

Neil

So it’s that time of year once again and with just over a week to go, I couldn’t be more excited about Salute 2014… that is unless I was Mat, but first times are always more special. Last year was great and so this will be a tough act to follow, but as always Salute has attracted a lot of great companies and I’m sure it will be awesome.

That said, this time last year I had just fallen hard harder than is comfortable for Dreadball and as a result a lot of my day was spent looking at all the brand new and mega exciting stuff that Mantic had to offer me, nearly emptying my bank account in the process. This year however, unlike Rob, for the first time ever I am going to Salute with no real plan at all. For the first time in a long time I am really not in need of anything major for any of my armies, and although there are some great games out there, I am tight and I’m yet to come across a new game that is getting me hot and hard enough to part with my cash. However with all the great new stuff companies usually bring I’m pretty sure that will very quickly change.

There are however a few things that will definitely be on my to do list;

1. Just enjoy spending the day with the rest of The Shell Case guys and the chaps. It’s sickening I know but a day with them is always a laugh.

2. Hopefully meet some of you at the #warmongers gathering and checking out some of your best buys.

3. I always have room for a new Dreadball MVP or 3, and maybe a new team. One using season 3 rules would be very cool.

4. With all the shiny around, I’m sure it will be almost impossible to resist buying at least one new game. I have been toying with Malifaux and In Her Majesty’s Name from Osprey.

Once I am there, I will suddenly find a million extra awesome but unnecessary things to buy to add to my Orks, Prussians or Banebrood. So, you know, it’ll be Salute.

The Shell Case does Salute – Mat

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s what Mat had to say:

Mat

MAT BUY TOYS! Sorry that was slightly involuntary and besides Rob did warn you [Yes I did, but perhaps not well enough if people are actually reading this. -Rob].

So yes this is my first Salute. It’s not my first event however: I have attended Games Day in bygone years but then I had bugger all disposable income. And it was a pure Games Workshop event and I’m reliably informed that Salute is nothing like. Other than it involves toy soldiers. And as some of you may realise, I’m really hot for other companies’ miniatures and games anyway right now so, bring it:

  1. I will be partly attending this year to perform my duties as an ambassador for The Shell Case and chatting with some awesome peeps, who do know I’m coming. As well as taking photos for The Shell Case. MAT BUY TOYS! Ahem. Sorry.
  2. I will definitely be heading over to see Andy from Heresy Miniatures we’ve been getting a bit of a Necromunda itch here, and he does some brilliant miniatures for a Delaque gang. MAT BUY TOYS! I’m so sorry, I don’t know why that keeps happening.
  3. After reading Ashley’s article about Saga I’m thinking of checking that out, along with Maulifaux which I have developed a warm squishy place for. And Godslayer. And Dreadball. Honestly my list is endless. I don’t know if I’ll part with my cash on these… Yeah, whatever.
  4. I do have a few other bits on my list that I definitely want to purchase…MAT BU- Sorry! Sorry! X-Wing toys for my growing Imperial fleet are a must. Some bits for my Tau force providing I can find a bargain, and I’ll be hitting up Forge World for a tasty Battlesuit. I also want to find some models for my Beastmen Mordheim Warband. I don’t want to have to use the standard models.
  5. #warmongers meet is going to be pretty cool and I’m looking forward to putting some faces to names.
  6. I’m just really looking forward to hanging out with The Shell Case crew and spending a day looking at all the shiny. MAT BUY TOYS! ARRRGH!

[The Shell Case would like to apologise for Mat. Really we would. His mother also got in touch and extends her sincerest apologies also.]

Play It Fun

Play.
It.
Fun.

Three words, and a simple message, but for me at least they mark the beginning of a journey to reconnect with the roots of why I got into this fantastic hobby of ours in the first place.

“Fine”, you might say, “but why, Rob, are you bothering to tell the rest of us this?” Fair question. Over the last few years I have been more involved in the hobby and my local gaming community than at any time of my 25 years, or so, involvement in the hobby, and over the last 3 years in particular I have noticed (and this is particularly prevalent in the 40k community) a trend towards win at all costs gaming and a discourse mono-focused on the tournament scene as the arbiter of ‘what counts’ as a game of 40k and whether a new release is good or bad. Let me be clear about something up front: I have participated in the tournament scene in many ways over the years and I enjoy tournaments for the different focus they give to my games and approach to list-building. I have never gotten to the stage where tournament participation is the be all and end all of my gaming though and that seems to be where many in the community have ended up today. Again, if you are a player who enjoys tournaments so much that it’s the focus of your hobby then all credit to you, I am not sitting here criticising anyone else’s approach to the hobby. What I am concerned about, though, is the effect that the shift in emphasis towards tournaments as a primary mode of playing games does to new players entering the hobby.

The On-Ramp to Gaming Goodness

More and more, players are coming into gaming with the tournament scene forming their first impressions of what this community of ours is and what they should expect from joining it. This is worlds apart from the situation when many of the ‘old guard’ (and depressingly I probably have to count myself amongst them) [And me. -Ed] got into wargaming for the first time. Like many, I got into the hobby via the Games Workshop on-ramp; no-one can deny that over the years they have done a fantastic job of producing a product that sells brilliantly to the teenage market and draws us into the wider wargaming community. The ramp no longer exists in the way that it once did, and I think that’s a bad thing, because Games Workshop used to deliver something that independent stores find more difficult, simply because they aren’t focused on one company’s games.

Gone are the days where you would begin your journey by playing an intro game at Games Workshop and then maybe bring a squad or vehicle to join in on a Saturday in one of their huge battles with your friends, pitting yourself against the wits of the store staff on some crazy mission dreamed up by a key-timer whilst hung-over on a Saturday morning (yup, in the dim and distant past, I was that key-timer) [And me. -Ed]. You would complement these games with games against your friends at home, on the dining table, or floor, with crap scenery (everyone remembers books under tablecloths as hills, right?) and no aim other than to use as many of your models as possible and shoot loads of stuff. The rules, whilst not unimportant, were usually second fiddle to the cultivation of enjoyment.

In Games Workshop stores certainly, the rules were often tertiary. Staff would be called upon to arbitrate in occasional disputes during the “veterans” evenings (that have long since departed) and often store managers, in lugubrious mood, would cock an eyebrow and make up something on the spot that bore little relation to either the initial dispute or the rule book. But it didn’t matter, because the game was isolated from some ‘wider world’ of “the rules” vs “the fluff” (which seems to have become the medium of the back and forth between players these days.) These were the days when Games Workshop ran huge campaigns, like the Eye of Terror, Armageddon (for 40K) and The Storm of Chaos, Albion and The Nemesis Crown (for Warhammer) and it felt like they had the resources and the desire to engage the community as a whole and not solely ‘as customer’. Of course it would be naive to think that they weren’t aiming for a financial return off the back of these events, but at least as a gamer it felt like they were trying to involve you in something bigger than your local store and the ‘usual suspects’ that inhabited it for hours over the weekends and school holidays. More importantly it set the tone of new gamers’ understanding of what it meant to be a wargamer, to have a bloody good time, laugh a lot and maybe win. It simply doesn’t work this way any longer, and the shift in emphasis that the Games Workshop are bringing with their one-man store model is making it harder for new gamers to get anything other than a tournament-centric introduction to the hobby.

Where does it all begin?

There has been an explosion of independent gaming club/store combos in the last few years and this hybrid model, which let’s face it is modelled on the Games Workshop approach to combining gaming and selling spaces, has led to a massive increase in the number of tournaments run. Shops need to bring players in and tournaments are a fantastic vehicle for doing so, unlike Games Workshop, you can’t just set up a store in every town to increase your pull. To get the players they have to offer good prizes to make the travel worth-while, and prizes breed the kind of competitive approach that leads to net-list armies and “can’t be bothered” paint-jobs.

For me, the tournament scene works best as a way of delivering that sense of something ‘bigger’ than your local players and club hobby community, which we used to get from better engagement from Games Workshop and their big campaigns. Unfortunately, community and competition don’t always make comfortable bed fellows, and it is especially difficult for new players to pick their way from those first few friendly games at their local club through their first tournament with nothing in between.

What do we need to do?

It’s definitely not all doom and gloom though, and several of the podcasts I listen to (The Independent Characters, The Overlords, Dwellers Below, Garagehammer, ODAM (of course!), and many others) are already either trying to diagnose why things are “going bad” and or discussing how to turn this situation around. In both 40K and Warhammer scenes there is a general dissatisfaction with painting standards and the approach to playing the game, but we can meet this with positivity and attempt to shape the way it ends up, unlike the Games Workshop release schedule or codex content this is something we have a say in and, in fact, control over. Games Workshop has, quite obviously, never had any interest in the tournament scene. We do have an interest in the tournament scene; it’s our main way of meeting new gamers, playing different kinds of army and learning about how others approach the hobby. It’s also become the main ‘next step’ for new gamers, which is why it’s so important that we find a way to change our approach collectively.

What is Games Workshop doing?

We also have the recent positive developments from Games Workshop itself. There are three things I would bring up in this context: White Dwarf Weekly and the shift to weekly releases, the new Community Manager role, and the Imperial Knight release.

First up, White Dwarf and the weekly release schedule. After five weeks I think this has proven to be a good move. Ff course back in the old days, releases were always done this way and White Dwarf, whilst a monthly magazine, had a different role to fulfil. The tone is right in White Dwarf Weekly, focused on the hobby and the models with a smattering of rules content. I’ve heard people complain that they’d never buy a model without getting the codex/army book first and that the weekly schedule is a mistake. I disagree completely. For one thing there is already more talk (and it is positive talk) in the community about the releases each week, not less. Secondly Games Workshop are releasing rules alongside the models and they are the right rules, that give an insight into the army as a whole without giving the whole game away; they are the ‘right’ rules to be giving away in that they generate more talk and give all stores an opportunity to be a hub for chat about the hobby again, though I still believe that until they address the problems that the one-man staffing model causes in this regard, they won’t really be able to take the maximum advantage from it.

Secondly, the new community manager role. If taken at face value this promises to give Games Workshop a chance to listen and to adjust a few things. Now, of course, you could be negative and say it’s nothing more than lip-service to make it look as though they’re listening. I see no point in adopting that perspective, it brings us nothing and only serves to potentially dampen the impact that whoever gets that role will have. This role will report to the CEO, it will have the ear of the right people to effect the right changes and that has to be a positive thing. I have my own ideas what they could do, but we’ll just have to wait and see, it will obviously be a balance between risk and reward for Games Workshop.

Thirdly, the Imperial Knight release. Why? Well, just look at the social media channels; they are on fire with positivity about this release. It’s a classic “do no wrong” release, it’s straight out of the rich tapestry of background material that Games Workshop have to draw upon. It comes with a book that itself extends and expands that background and brings it to life with a model that is spot on. Finally I love it because of what it shows the top-tier of the company – that if they let their studio deliver content that is based on what they know the community love that it will sell by the bucket-full. For me, it’s as if someone in the main studio said “Hey, how about you let us act like we work at Forge World for a month and release that?”, someone (a very smart someone) said “sure why not” and the result is the awesomeness that is currently causing all of us die-hard gamers, who were last week depressed about how crap everything was and how Games Workshop were going out of business and couldn’t get it right, to cream our collective pants.

So, slowly, I believe changes are being made that will help us rejuvenate some of the jaded inhabitants of our community and we should take these changes as positively as we can and push them further through our clubs and events.

How to Play It Fun

So, Play It Fun, what is it? It’s not complicated, there’s no mandated approach, it’s not a demand to never play in tournaments, or to do more painting or anything specific. It’s simply a call to arms for anyone who wants to recapture that initial spark that got them interested in gaming in the first place, it’s a prod to get you to look at your and your opponent’s models on the table top and yell “this is frickin’ cool!” Bring this enthusiasm to your club, to your next tournament and encourage others to do the same.

As a friend recently said to me, the moment you start pretending to yourself that you aren’t just a 6-year-old shouting “pew-pew!” with toy soldiers is the moment you may as well pack up and go home. You’ve forgotten why you’re there.

#warmonger of the Year 2013

A year or so ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided I’d find out who the #warmongers community thought had contributed the most to our merry band and reward them for their efforts. After a lot of votes and some very worthy nominees @docbungle was the deserving winner.

So popular was the ‘award’ that I simply had to run it again. Voting went on right up until midday yesterday and there were more votes than last year, with even more nominees. However there can be only one winner and the person to have earned the respect and admiration of their peers is none other than @NigelSBartlett.

Having got to know Nigel via the Twittersphere I’m delighted to announce him as the winner. Aside from being a top hobbyist, he’s always on hand to offer up tips and helpful hints to his fellow #warmongers.

So a massive congratulations to Nigel. He’ll be receiving some lovely toys from Avatars of War and a signed copy of Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight…and anything else I can organise between now and the new year.

BloodOfAsaheim01_873x627

#warmongers Secret Santa 2013 is Live

Those that signed up to this year’s #warmongers Secret Santa should have all received your emails by now. Some of you I’ve not emailed before so make sure you check you spam/junk folders.

warhammer-40k-christmas-space-marine-scout-santa

Apologies to all for the delay in getting the emails sent out. It’s a lengthy process administrating a Secret Santa with this many people across 4 continents and spare time is in short supply at the moment.

Just a reminder to those taking part what you’ve agreed to:

The spend limit will be 10GBP/16USD/12.00Euro excluding postage. You don’t have to spend that much but try not to go over. Obviously I can’t impose restrictions but I suggest you avoid gifts that are, or include the following:

Perishables

Adult or sexual in nature

Offensive

Sharp objects

Fluids

Glass

Anything that could or will go boom.

Parcels must be posted no later than the 15th December 2013 to allow for postal services to be shit and please include in the parcel a note saying who you are, your Twitter name (if applicable) and a festive message. I know it’s supposed to be secret but the surprise in the post is secret enough. I think it far nicer to be able to thank the person.

Anyway, good luck and happy shopping and if you have any questions tweet me or use the hashtag #warmongersSecretSanta.

posterprosperoburns

Salute 2013

Salute2013

It’s crazy to think that a whole year has gone past since the last Salute and if anything I’m even more excited about this one. Mainly because I’ve been saving for months so I can really go to town – not that I didn’t do badly on the toy front last year – but I get to spend a day with The Chaps, meet up with the #warmongers and generally have a brilliant day up to my eyes in wargaming.

I shall be doing my best to Tweet throughout the day – network permitting – so keep an eye out for pictures and what have you.

I’m also really looking forward to the #warmongersMeetUp so those attending Salute that want to come along keep an eye out on Twitter for that hashtag as it’ll be appearing on numerous Twitter accounts. It’ll be great to see the guys from last year as well as hopefully new faces too. Any and all #warmongers are welcome. I’m hoping to get a photo of all the guys that have #warmongers shirts to share with you.

One last thing: Reading various feeds last night on Twitter I was struck by the phenomenal amount of work that the traders put in to prepare for this event. Incredibly long days and a lot of money investing in stock they hope will sell. Not to mention getting to the venue, setting up, serving members of the community all day and then they get the pleasure, whilst we sod of with all our wares, of packing up again and taking long drives home. With this in mind, to all those who are attending as customers; do your best to thank all the traders you deal with for making the effort to come along. I guarantee you it will mean a lot to them.

All that’s left to be said is have an amazing time tomorrow to all those going and if you see me about – I’ll be the guy in The Shell Case shirt – then do say hi.

Charity Wargaming

M’comrade Rob, staunch #warmonger and loyal member of the Shell Case Alliance is being a rather splendid chap and playing wargames for charity. Not just any charity mind, but Multiple Sclerosis UK, a charity very close to my heart.

For those that haven’t heard of Multiple Sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system. In MS, the coating around nerve fibres (called myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms. Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS. It’s normally diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40, and affects almost three times as many women as men. Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life, but treatments and specialists can help you to manage the symptoms. We don’t know the cause and we haven’t yet found a cure, but research is progressing fast.

And Rob had this to say over on the Moss[op]:

Hello lovely #warmongers

Some of you already know that myself and my other half, Beth, are running the Virgin London Marathon for the fantastic Multiple Sclerosis UK. The training is going really well (even if my legs are screaming at me right now after our third 20 miler last night!) and we’re raring to go on April 21st.

MS-UK are a brilliant charity, very local to us and the work they do by giving support to those with MS is a brilliant example of the impact that well-organised, dedicated and bloody hard-working charitable organisations can have.
What am I doing?
Well, this is a question I often ask myself in a different context, but right here, right now I’m raising money for MS-UK, in support of my sponsorship for the London marathon, by having a charity wargaming marathon. That means 26.2 hours of non-stop gaming (!) starting at 12:30 on Sunday the 30th of March through to 2:20pm on Monday the 31st March.

Read more here.