I think I have spoken about this before but having spent the weekend in Reading for the Warfare show I thought I would add some comment.
Reading is a two and a half hour drive away, but distance has never stopped me attending a show in the past. I have yet to attend any shows in Scotland, but I have probably visited every major show in England over the last twenty years or so. Some good, some very bad, alot no longer in existence, the odd one rebranded or else moved venue. It used to be that half a dozen of us from my club would have a day out, particulalry at the old WMMMS at Alumwell (now in Wolverhampton) or Triples in Sheffield.
Now more often than not I go alone, either because I get leave at short notice or else no one else feels like going. If Peter Pig aren't in attendance my spending is greatly reduced, not because of financial constraint but more out of prudence.
Shows dont hold the same magic they used to and I dont see that changing. Take Warfare. Yes, the usual traders were there. Yes, its better known for its competition gaming. But, other than a museum piece Battle of Blenhiem (more in a moment) and the Lance and Longbows Bloody Barons game, there wasn't one other game that made me think 'ooooh thats nice'. Either I had seen it before or else it looked like a club game taken out for the day.
Don't get me wrong, everyone seemed to be having a good time but a couple of the games really weren't any better than any Friday night game down at my club. Now that comment is open for dissection and yes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But if I think of shows like Partizan and York which have numerous games of interest and aesthetic appeal, I just think the efforts at Warfare were in the main sub par.
The one stand out game was Blenhiem. 28 feet by 6 feet with several thousand nicely painted 28mm figures on decent terrain with a display board discussing the battle. But was it a WARGAME? Hmmmm. I think one or two players did move some of the units around and there was the obligatory kapok to indicate musketry along the line. But a a wargame? Dont think so. One of the players told a passer by that there was £20,000 worth of figures on the table. Out of reach of most of the punters on the day I suspect.
Now Warfare is a Wargames show. For wargames, by wargamers to show off wargaming in its best light, hopefully recruiting the odd new wargamer who on seeing something that peeks his or her interest goes on to spend a few quid with a trader.
There are two thoughts on this. I have seen numerous large scale games at shows over the years. I think its the Mosborough and District club that often put on a large Seven Years War or ACW game at Sheffield and Partizan. Unattainable for the individual but as a club project not so. And they play out the game. You know, rolling dice, waving tape measures around and move troops over the table. The Perry twins often put on big games at Partizan and Salute and play out their games with gusto, still leaving time to chat and shoot the breeze. Again the sheer volume of figures may be unattainable (at least in the short term) for the individual, but as a group project not so.
On the other hand I have seen numerous displays at shows where the players set up and then sit back to admire their work. Undoubtedly beautifully painted figures with the obligatory number of vignettes (camp fires, soldiers at ease, wounded and inevitably an execution scene) on superb terrain that wouldn't look out of place on a model railway. But are they WARGAMING or creating a display that would be more suited to a museum?
I would argue that although they use WARGAMES figures, the display they create has little to do with wargaming. I would even go onto say that using card counters cut from a cereal packet that has dots painted on them that I use for playtesting rules is far closer to wargaming than setting up thousands of ponds worth of figures. What are the people who do these displays trying to achieve? Is it a bit like a peacock showing its plume, telling passers by just how much money they have spent? What has it got to do with WARGAMING? Sorry to bang on and yes its their money, their time and this hobby is a broad church. If I had seen any dice rolling with the odd cavalry melee going on it would have grabbed my attention more. But despite my interest in Blenhiem, it left me underwhelmed and disinterested. I doubt any newcomer, at his or her first show looked at the display and thought, I'll have a go at that. £20,000? Blimey.
Sorry, rant over.