In the previous two posts I looked at Salute through the eyes of a first-timer and focused on a selection of the Vendors and Traders that caught my eye. That’s only half the story however as what Salute’s also famous for is the huge number of demonstration and participation games on hand. It would be futile for me to even attempt to cover them all within the scope of my tiny blog, so I’m not even going to try. Instead I’d like to call out a few to hopefully give some idea of the breadth and variety available on the day. Many were of course laid on by the studios and vendors themselves directly as demonstrations. A few I’ve mentioned already such as Spartan who were showcasing Halo Fleet for the first time alongside their tables for Dystopian Wars and Firestorm Armada. Hawk Wargames with a number of tables for Dropzone Commander nestled alongside their impressive six metre long Assault Cruiser and Scourge Invasion display table. You could play Guild Ball with the games designers, another hugely successful Kickstarter and game that’s getting a lot of solid reviews. At Warlord Rick Priestley (yes, the Rick Priestley) was on hand to help walk you through a game of ‘Gates of Antares’ and if something more historic was to your tastes they of course had tables running for Bolt Action as well amongst others.
Mantic Games had demos running for Kings of War, Mars Attacks, Dreadball and Dreadball Extreme along with prototype and work in progress examples from their forthcoming Dungeon Saga game. If that wasn’t entertaining enough for you, the ever exuberant CEO of Mantic Ronnie Renton could be grabbed for a chat. Another thing to look out for are the larger retailers who often locate a number of demo tables within their event space to showcase a number of the games they stock.
These demonstration games by the manufacturers are great and the opportunity you often get to engage with the designers directly is fantastic. That being said, the stars of Salute are really the independent gaming clubs and individuals who lay on the participation and display games, of which there were many!
Games like the X-Wing ‘Death Star Trench Run’ by Chelmsford Bunker, or the stunning Napoleon’s Last Gamble 28mm Napoleonic display.
Gripping Beast also had a good sized presence with plenty of demonstration tables running their hugely popular Dark Ages SAGA ruleset. This is a game I’ve been increasingly intrigued by an would have liked to have found out more on the day. Sadly it was so popular every time I popped over it seemed to be fully occupied, so it will have to wait until another time which is probably not a bad thing considering how much I already have on my plate.
Something more ‘Fantastical’? The ‘Ardhamma guys had it covered with a gorgeous Warhammer Fantasy display game running under 3rd Edition, which goes to prove you really don’t have to get sucked into the rulebook upgrade cycle just because one’s released. A great example of “play what you enjoy” in my opinion, which is why I’m still playing Starship Troopers version 1.0.
The list and variety of genres, scales and formats goes on and on pretty much guaranteeing there will be something there that you will want to play, I’m certain of it.
What I’ve shown here is a mere glimpse that in no way does justice to the scale of the show from a gaming point of view. The phrase “Gamers mecca” is often thrown around, but in this instance I think it’s as good a description for “Salute” as any.
I’ll wrap up here with a few final impressions. Did it live up to my expectations considering it was my first visit to ExCel and Salute? Very much so, in many ways it actually exceeded them. I knew it was going to be busy and the huge numbers gathering in the advanced ticket hall only confirmed that. That being said, once you are in the event is really spacious; this is no claustrophobic or cramped Games Day affair. It feels far more relaxed and welcoming than frantic. There’s an atmosphere of satisfaction that you only get when thousands of very content visitors are doing something they really enjoy at a pace that suits them.
I was also pleased I’d done a little research prior to the event and heeded a few very sage pieces of advice from more seasoned Salute campaigners. In no particular order they are:
- Pre-order your ticket and get there early.
- Wear comfortable footwear and travel light, you are going to be walking around for a lot of the day and it can get warm in there.
- Take a bottle of water or something to drink, especially for the queue to stay hydrated.
- Remember to take a bag that’s comfortable and easy to carry if you plan to make any purchases while there as you’ll be lugging it around all day.
I know these all seem pretty obvious common sense, but they really do make a difference to how comfortable you’re going to be during what is a very long day. The good thing is there is so much space in the show there are always free tables to be found where you can stop and take time to re-organise your ‘loot bag’. To the comfort factors above I would also add a few more worthwhile recommendations:
- Have a plan, at the very least for the early vendors to visit. Things sell out fast so if there’s a particular show miniature or limited release you want sort it out first if possible. You can then leisurely fill the rest of the day happy in the knowledge everything after that is a bonus rather than feeling disappointed because you left it too late.
- Set yourself some goals or ground rules on purchasing. It’s very easy to get carried away and start buying stuff you don’t really need once the ‘new shiny syndrome’ takes hold. I can guarantee you’ll still break them, but at least it should curb the worst of it (hopefully!)
Finally, manage your expectations. The biggest lesson I learned is you can’t see and do everything so don’t try, you’ll just put too much pressure on yourself. Accept the fact there will almost certainly be vendors or games you’ll not get around to visiting and only realise after the event. It’s easy to go “off plan”, don’t worry about it and just make a mental note for next time. For me that was not managing to find out a bit more about SAGA or Pyre Studio’s “World of Twilight”.
Would I go to another Salute? Yes, I think it’s safe to say I would. Even after weighing up the cost of stopping over the night before and the travel it’s worth it as an annual pilgrimage I think. Being fresh and fully fuelled ready on the Saturday morning all helps get the most out of it and I must add getting a chance to meet up the night before with a few of the other “Beasts of War” backstagers helped set the weekend up nicely. At the end of the day there’s nothing better than kicking back with a whole bunch of other ‘Grognards’.
On that note I’ll call it a night and get back to the workshop tomorrow to unpack the new goodies and crack on with the Imperial Assault painting.
Oh! I nearly forgot, I dumped all of the photos from the day into Flickr which you can check out if you want to see more.
Have a great week.