Sunday, 21 April 2013
Resolved to make the annual pilgrimage to the largest UK wargames show, a group of stalwart Taff’s girded their loins in preparation for an adventure across the Bridge, and to the big smoke! Wives and girlfriends had received the news with mixed emotions; they knew we may not make it back (with any money) but it was a risk we were prepared to take!
We would come together at first in two groups, and travel from Cardiff with the aim of rendezvousing for second breakfast at Reading service station.
The first group consisting of Ian, Dai, Jack and Rob W (honorary Taff for the day) headed off without incident at around six; Jack had been up all the previous night, the excitement proving to be an effective enemy of sleep, but this would not diminish his enthusiasm during the long day.
The second group, Mike, Rob J and John G set off from Caerphilly a little after six; with a brief delay to pick up Ken, we were also off to a good start.
The first part of the journey passed without incident and with the use of nothing more than the Force the two groups met at Reading as intended. A splendid breakfast, accompanied by witty banter and before we knew it we were ready to set off again. Spirits were high, but there had been a tense moment when John had been quizzed as to his intended purchases. Unknown to us it must have been at this moment that John, a famously abstemious hobbyist, had resolved to make at least one purchase before the day was done!
We set out from Reading, the Fellowship complete and in a convoy of two cars, with Ian leading and us following, using the glint from the reflected sunlight on Dai’s pate as our guiding light, we journeyed around the North Circular. Passing the time discussing the virtues of the Jewish community, prompted by the numerous Orthodox members of that community that were on view as we got closer to the promised land.
We arrived at the Excel Center a little after nine-thirty, and with spirits soaring we left the cars to continue on foot to the show, all except Rob that is, who had brought his own wheel chair. Sitting comfortably he was pushed by Ken into the vaulted chasm that is the Excel Center although Ken nearly threw him on his face at the very first kerb he came to!
It has to be said that spirits were dented slightly when we joined the back of the very, very long queue waiting for the start of the show. Whilst we stood (sat in Rob’s case) waiting for the queue to start moving, we were entertained by the no doubt intended irony of who were sharing the venue with…about twenty thousand marathon runners! As we, men mostly of a certain age and physique, stood in eager anticipation of seeing the latest and best toys our hobby had to offer we watched an endless procession of lycra clad men and women pass by to register for a 26 mile run. I’m not sure which group was more confused by what they saw as they looked at each other, but what I can say is that after about five minutes of trying to hold my wargamer’s belly in, I gave up and just embraced my inner-geek; each to their own!
After a wait of about half an hour we were in….and immediately frozen to the spot in the entrance…wow it looked brilliant!!!
Dai’s military training quickly came to the fore, and he set out the battle plan for how were going to get around; woe betide anyone who deviated! Of course there was too much to see to recount adequately here the full splendour of the show, but I will pick out some highlights.
Of the manufacturers, there were all the usual favourites; Perry’s, Trent, Warlord, Foundry, Fireforge, Forgeworld, Gripping Beast, Victrix Musketeer Miniatures, Front Rank etc, etc and of course our very own Stu with Great Escape Games (and very busy they were).
The stands were mostly well presented, and bursting full with the toys within. It was nice to see some of the planned projects on display from the likes of Warlord, with drafts of the BP and HC supplements for the American War of Independence and Crusades respectively out on show.
As we moved from stand to stand it became obvious that some traders were not relying on the allure of the toys alone to bring the punters in, but had resorted to using shapely females in tight tee shirts or short skirts to help; being hard-core gamers we were immune to such tricks…well mostly!
The demo/participation games were of the highest standard, with a couple of the 28mm WW2 games looking brilliant; a real inspiration. The recreation of Waterloo in 28mm also had to admired, especially as it came with a 1:1 scale Napoleon!
The books stalls took a pounding, and Ken had himself a great bargain from the Bring and Buy; Bolt Action rulebook for just a tenner…Jack's for the rest of the day!
I have to report that the Battlefront stand was very rubbish, and FoW around the show looked like it was flagging a little, which was a shame.
After six hours of taking it all in we decided to call it a day and head for home; Mike had been to the cash point on three separate occasions but despite this it was Ken who had spent the most on toys; who says that public sector pensions are not what they were! Rob did buy some furniture, but that doesn’t count….
With the Fellowship assembled at the cars we headed for home, totally knackered, but having thoroughly enjoyed the day. As we drove into the setting sun we all agreed that our hobby was in a great place, with so many great companies producing so many great toys. We have a brill club full of like-minded people, and a super venue in Firestorm to bring it all together!
We are motivated for another great year of gaming!