I’ll spare anyone reading from going into exhaustive detail about my first expedition to Salute.
For one thing, Sunday evening still finds me slightly knackered after leaving the house in Dublin to start my trip to London not long after 02.00 on the Saturday morning. Much more importantly from a blogging perspective: in all the excitement of the day, I forgot to bring my camera and was too engrossed in things to stop to take any pictures on my phone inside the hall itself. Not one!
In a nutshell, though, I had a fantastic day out and I’m delighted that I finally made the trip over.
The day was slightly surreal, but in the best possible sense. Having been dabbling in the hobby since my very early teens, but nearly always being confined to online shopping, it was my first ever opportunity to see the wares of just about every wargames company I’ve ever ordered from up close and personal. The sheer novelty of this alone really made the trip for me.
Were this not enough, the range of different games, periods and scales on display inside ExCeL were sufficient to satisfy even the most obscure of wargaming tastes. From a long list, some particular personal highlights included the 28mm Battle of Arklow game run by Wargames Illustrated (I’ll admit to a slight bias here due to the obvious attraction of the Irish subject matter!), the enormous (and I mean enormous) 15mm Kursk presentation by Loughton Strike Force, and the Skirmish Sangin game laid on by Radio Dishdash, which featured terrain that looked straight out of a news report on Helmand.
Those three are very definitely the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think there was a table I passed, even when it was a period or a scale that wouldn’t normally interest me, that didn’t feature beautiful scenery or figures. From the perspective of a habitually solo hobbyist, this was all hugely encouraging and inspiring. Huge credit to all the individuals and clubs concerned for all the hard work that had to have gone in in the run up to the day.
I also had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with a number of very friendly traders and hobbyists, including Paul from Empress Miniatures, Julie from Name It! and Duncan MacFarlane of Trent Miniatures. I spotted the irrepressible John (Waterloo745 on YouTube) complete with kilt at one point, but couldn’t track him down inside the hall to say hello.
As for the inevitable hobby splurging… looking over my haul twenty-four hours later, I think I showed reasonable discipline!
Going clockwise from top left: a Perry British Foot Artillery 9-pounder and crew for the 1815 campaign (which makes my very first Napoleonic artillery piece, of any nation), a pack each of the very, very nice new Mutton Chop 28mm early First World War British and German infantry, a pack of 28mm Irish War of Independence IRA gunmen from Musketeer Miniatures, and the free 28mm show figure of Commander Colin Maud on D-Day, sculpted by Michael Perry. Slightly more prosaically, underneath is a brand new cutting mat from Army Painter. I’d long wanted one for the painting desk and Salute seemed the perfect place to pick it up!
About the only impulse purchase that doesn’t relate to an existing project of mine is the quartet of IRA men from Musketeer. I need a new period like a hole in the head, but having learnt about it since primary school, the 1916-23 revolutionary era here in Ireland is of definite interest to me, and I just couldn’t resist sampling figures from such a comparatively niche period.
I travelled with a rough shopping list, most of which I managed to check off. I had intended to pick up one or two sample packs of AB Miniatures’ 20mm Second World War stuff, as I’m still a little bit on the fence over going for 15mm or 20mm for this period. I had no joy in tracking any down at the show, however.
Paints would have featured on my shopping list, but the potential hassle involved in bringing liquids back through Stansted in my hand luggage put paid to that. For exactly the same reason, the thought of trying to convince a dubious customs officer that the grass-like substance in my backpack was intended for use with little toy soldiers meant that sampling some of the lovely basing material at the Army Painter stand was out.
The only other major omission was the Perry twins’ new book – seemingly one of the highest profile new releases at the show. Although undeniably gorgeous, I eventually decided that I couldn’t really justify spending nearly £30 on something that would in all likelihood be leafed through a couple of times before taking up a permanent residency on the bookshelf. I’m still slightly torn over that, though, so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that a copy will eventually wing its way over to this side of the Irish Sea!
Tired but happy, I can now fully understand why Salute really is the wargaming event, at least on this side of the Atlantic. I’m looking forward to making the pilgrimage again.