This year’s Salute show was a different experience because I came down with man-‘flu mid-week and seriously doubted whether I would get to ExCel, but on Saturday morning I felt better so decided to make a quick visit. By arriving late (11:45) I missed the normal queue but failed to get my free figure. The size and nature of the show was the same as normal; rather overwhelming and daunting when first encountered, poorly lit but with plenty of room to walk around. The number of punters seemed similar to previous years but the atmosphere felt less manic, possibly due to my own late entrance. All the major traders are present, plus a great selection of small, niche traders, and generally I found it easy to access the stands I was interested in. I like the balance between traders and demo/participation games and I have noticed a progressive increase in direct links between traders and particular games they are demonstrating, and I find this useful in helping me to decide whether to invest in a game or not. My itinerary at all shows follow a standard pattern; firstly shopping for specific items I need/want, then wandering around viewing the demo games and possibly taking part if possible, then finally inspired by my travels, I make impulse buys. I find this last phase needs to be carefully controlled and if left too long I start to make poor purchasing decisions, so after 2 or 3 hours I need to leave!
This year I managed to get my must buy items: Saga v2 and Dark Age lists; more Peter Pig ACW riverine models; some D12 dice for the Shogun boardgame; some Samurai civilian figures and some paints. Not a huge haul, but I hoped to get some ideas from the demo games and new product releases. A couple of ECW games inspired me to get the new ‘For King and Parliament’ rules, a derivative of the successful Ancient ‘To the Strongest’ rules. I look forward to trying them out on the table. The new RFCM wild west rules were being demonstrated by Peter Pig and look very interesting, and I’m sure I will buy a copy when released sometime in May (they will allow me to get my Plains Indians and 7th Cavalry out of their boxes). Before Salute I was curious about ‘Blood Red Skies’, so I spent some time at the Pacific theatre demo game (very nicely done) and checked out the rules. They did not grab me; some nice ideas but too simplistic for my taste, so in this case, the demo game actually saved me some money! On the whole, the range of demo games was fine but not spectacular. Those that particularly stand out were: A C18th game set in Florida between British and Spanish; an ACW game with a large fort and ironclad; a WW2 Operation Torch/Crete game with nice arid terrain and seaplanes; and a Blood & Plunder pirate game. There seemed to be more SciFi-type games and less historical games than usual. The only Napoleonic game I can remember was a Command & Colours version of Aspern-Essling. There were a few Ancient games at one end of the spectrum and a re-emergence of Cold War games at the other end, with little in between. A bit disappointing overall!
So, that is Salute done and dusted for another year! Not especially exciting, but at least my wallet was not emptied, and I’m still waiting for some new gaming inspiration.