Why I have not gone to SALUTE this year

I decided this morning that I am not going to go to SALUTE this year.

This might seem a little odd as the show takes place in London (I can actually see the venue – the Excel Centre in Docklands – from the front drive of my house!) and – thanks to my Freedom Pass – it could cost me nothing to get there.

So why am I not going?

Firstly, I don’t like the venue … and from what I can gather, I am not alone in disliking it. (A good friend of mine works in publishing and has to attend the London Book Fair at the Excel Centre … and he tells me that all the attendees he comes in contact with hate going there.) It is large, impersonal, very crowded (it does not help that all the runners in the London Marathon will also be there to collect their race numbers etc.), and the food and drink that is on sale there is over-priced even by London standards.

Secondly, getting there by public transport is not as easy as it would be getting to other possible venues. The quickest way would be for me to get to the O2 arena on the Greenwich Peninsular and then to take the Emirates Air Line (which is a cable car) across the Thames to the Excel Centre. If I drive to the O2 and park, it will cost me £11.00; if I go by bus, it will cost me nothing but entails two changes of bus route. I would then have to pay to travel on the Air Line. Alternately I could go by Docklands Light Railway from Woolwich. It would involve a bus journey to Woolwich and changing trains once whilst on the DLR. This would cost me nothing, but I know from experience that the journey will be uncomfortable and crowded … mainly due to the additional numbers of passengers going to the Excel Centre to register for the London Marathon.

Thirdly – and most importantly – there is not a lot happening at the show that I want to see or do. I am not a great fan of the ‘moving diorama’ games that seem to predominate, and I have no great desire to add more figures to my pile of unpainted lead. I usually spend a lot of my time at SALUTE meeting and talking to old friends … but I know of at least three of them are not going to the show this year, and this was the deciding factor for me. So instead of going to SALUTE I will be painting my L-shaped built-up areas and sorting out my growing collection of Del Prado pre-painted 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic wargames figures.

That seems to me to be a good way to spend a Saturday morning and afternoon … and it’ll be a lot less stressful as well.


32 Comments on “Why I have not gone to SALUTE this year”

  1. I can understand your not attending these sorts of bun fights. Christchurch hosts NATCON once every three years at Easter – and this is one of the three. I may turn up on one of the days if I can – catch up with old friends – but I'll stay only an hour or two then sod off home.

    Probably the biggest attraction will be seeing what 2nd hand stuff might be going, maybe a glance around the games, a bit of socialising (not that I'm all that much of a socializer), and that's about it.

    Competitions do absolutely nothing for me – never could see the point – but I can understand the desire for an event like this. It seems, though, that competitions are the draw. Go figure.

  2. arthur1815 says:

    I haven't been to Salute for a couple of years now, and won't be going again today. I share much of your disenchantment with the venue – especially the journey – and the display games which I find the opposite of inspiring because I know I have neither the time, space, resources or talent to achieve something that looks remotely similar.

    So, once I return home from teaching this afternoon (earning some money is another good reason to miss Salute!), I shall resume preparing some diagrams to accompany an article and working on some of my adaptations of Portable Wargame and Square Brigadier rules.

    I'm sure you will enjoy working on your Napoleonic armies, and it will be a more productive use of your time.
    Best wishes,

  3. Archduke Piccolo,

    I know quite a few people who will travel from many miles away to go to SALUTE … and I am sure that the effort will be worthwhile for them. For me travelling to and from the Excel Centre will take me longer than I am likely to want to stay there … so I don't see the point of going.

    I am spoilt in that I have another much smaller (and friendlier) wargames show – SKIRMISH – that takes place twice a year only ten minutes drive from where I live, and two shows in Kent (BROADSIDE and CAVALIER) that I can get to in less than an hour.

    I don't like competitions (there are none at SALUTE) but I can see why some wargamers enjoy them. They are just not my cup of tea.

    All the best,


  4. Arthur1815,

    I must admit to being at a loss to know who actually enjoys the 'moving diorama' games that tend to be put on at shows like SALUTE. The club members who put them on generally look too tired or distracted to convince me that they are enjoying the experience … and you often cannot see anything for the attendees who are photographing each game in minute detail.

    (I sometimes wonder if there is an attitudinal link between some wargamers and users of pornography. They like to look and get excited … but daren't actually bring themselves to take part!)

    It sounds to me as if you are going to spend your time far more productively that I will … but with luck I should be able to put together a proper inventory of my Napoleonic wargames figure collection by the end of today and get some painting done as well.

    All the best,


  5. Jim Duncan says:

    For many of us Northern British, Scots if you like, Salute is a Show Too Far.

    I only know of one of my local chums who is attending, mainly due to a family get-together within reach and a convenient day pass.

    There are many other wargame shows within easier reach of us, York being about the furthest south most of us will travel apart from Antwerp for Crisis which is probably the best all round wargames show in Europe, UK included.

    Belgian beer and chocolate are big pluses.

  6. JWH says:


    What would your ideal wargames show be like?



  7. Noverre man says:

    Bob et al, Bravo for speaking against the hype but little else show of the century (Every Year)
    As a trader it was always held that if you weren`t at Salute you weren`t nothing.AS a gamer it is just an awkward expensive shopping trip, with a little bit of eye candy.
    I too will spend a more productive day, after setting up for Mondays game and briefing the enemy commander i will proceed to mow the fields of battle in preparation for my very own funny little war.
    Regards Douglas.

  8. Les Hammond says:

    I only work at the weekend so to fully enjoy the day I would have to take a short holiday. I went a couple of years ago, between 12 hour nightshifts, at least I had a good excuse to not participate.
    Am resolving to have a game or do some painting instead of looking at the sumptious games and saying to myself “must have a game soon…”

  9. Jim Duncan,

    I must admit that being located in London does make SALUTE more than a little difficult to get to for quite a sizeable chunk of the UK's population. In fact I suspect that for many who don't live in the South East getting to Antwerp would be easier and quicker than getting to London … and you are right, the beer and chocolate would be better as well!

    All the best,


  10. JWH (John),

    My ideal wargames show would be one where there was enough space for attendees to move around without having to push and shove each other, where the trade stands were large enough to see what was on sale, where the wargames were all short participation games or demonstration games where there were lots of 'meeters and greeters' on hand to explain what was happening, and where there was space to meet, sit, and talk to other wargamers.

    I would BAN backpacks and attendees whose personal hygiene needed attention. (These two things really do annoy me in public places and not just at wargames shows.)

    I'm not asking for much, am I?

    All the best,


  11. Archduke:

    “Competitions do absolutely nothing for me – never could see the point”

    I can only 'Hordes of the Things' scene, but the first HOTT tournament was organised as a massed playtest of the then in development second edition of the rules. A tournament provided the kind of robust environment the rules needed at that stage.

    Of course, a lot of the players knew each other from the HOTT Yahoo Group – but only as names attached to emails. So, yes, it was a tournament – but for most of us it was the first time we had met people who would become friends. Everyone enjoyed it so much we did it again the next year. This year's event will be the 14th time it has run, although my last attendance was in 2008, a couple of weeks before we emigrated to Australia.

    To be fair HOTT tournaments do have a reputation for being easy-going social affairs. And it's pretty much the only thing that will drag me along to most shows here in Oz – a chance to play a game I enjoy with people I don't regularly play with or, indeed, may never have played against before.

    As for Salute, I think the last time I went was 1995 or 1996. We used to take participation games there (I do enjoy running a participation game), but seemed to stop doing Salute for some reason. I think my club has been back there over the last few years but, of course, I'm not really local any more 🙂

  12. Noverre Man (Douglas),

    I totally agree about the hype that seems to surround SALUTE. It seems that the organisers have fallen prey to the 'biggest has to be best' way of thinking. I also think that the organisers are kidding themselves – and the rest of us – when they say that they don't make a profit from running the event. Frankly, if professional event organisers can make a living from organising smaller shows (e.g dolls house shows) whilst charging both attendees and exhibitors less than SALUTE charges, then the organisers of SALUTE must be inept or inefficient … or worse.

    Sorry for the rant, but it is something that has annoyed me for quite some time. (I do have some experience organising large events, and know some of the problems that an event like SALUTE can generate.)

    All the best,


  13. We actually run 'moving dioramas', if that's what you want to call them, at the small con put on by our local university's gaming group each year. We're technically attached to that group, despite not being students, so it's our way of giving something back. The group is mostly boardgames and role-playing games, so that's really what the con covers; we provide a miniatures game for attendees to look at as an alternative. We've done big HOTT games in previous years; this year we did an ACW battle in 28mm using Black Powder. We even had a punter like the look of it early on, take a command and play all day.

  14. Les Hammond,

    I sympathise with your plight, and can imagine that giving up a day of work would only be justified if the show was really worth it. Better to spend your spare time actually wargaming … or at least preparing for fighting one.

    All the best,


  15. Kaptain Kobold,

    I am not surprised by what you have written about the HOTT competitions/tournaments as HOTT players have always struck me as being a much more sociable bunch than other competitive wargamers. It must be something to do with the imaginative element in the way players put together their armies.

    All the best,


  16. Kaptain Kobold,

    The 'moving dioramas' I am describing are wargames that are set up by clubs (usually taking several hours) and then left for people to gawp at. There are no 'meeters and greeters' to explain what is happening … or might be about to happen at some time later in the day. If any of the club's members are next to the wargame, they spend all their time talking to each other and ignoring people who are looking at the scene. The only exception to this is if someone – usually a child – gets too close, at which point they are generally spoken to in a less than friendly way. The figures MIGHT be moved once our twice during the day … but nothing else will appear to happen.

    The above does sound like an extreme example, but it is exactly what I saw going on at SALUTE the last time I put on a participation game there. I suspect that the 'moving diorama' your group puts on is nothing like this, and is more of a 'hook' to get people interested than anything else.

    All the best,


  17. Bob

    I can't imagine *not* going to Salute, but your criticism of the venue is well-founded. One thing I particularly dislike about it is the dim lighting.



  18. Doctorphalanx (Richard),

    I find the lighting at Excel gives me a headache after about an hour, and – if the floor has not been covered with carpeting – very hard on the feet if you have stand for any length of time.

    I hope that you enjoyed your visit to SALUTE.

    All the best,


  19. Stu Rat says:

    We don't do the Demonstration or moving diorama thing much here in the States. Of course I pretty much stick to the little local cons. The nearest show of size is 400 miles away and the big ones over a thousand. Depending on airport situation, it might be easier for me to go to Salute.

    Oddly enough, we have an Excel Centre here in St.Paul, MN*. Technically, with modern re-branding it is the Xcel Energy Center. A great hockey venue, but no game conventions so far.

    * Originally named Pig's Eye, the French had to go and change the name to the pedestrian St. Paul.

  20. Bob

    I find Salute useful for buying things and catching up with old friends, but the WWW is now so much more of an inspiration.

    There seemed to be a long wait in the queue even though I had what they used to describe as a 'Queue Buster' ticket. As someone quipped, it means “Queue, Buster!”

    As a result of standing and thus developing back-ache I only made it about three-quarters around the perimeter before sitting down to a cappuccino and almond croissant. Although expensive and not part of my normal diet, the croissant was delicious!


  21. Stu Rat,

    I suspect that I might be more at home at a US convention than at SALUTE, if only because people go there to immerse themselves in wargaming (i.e. They play wargames, they buy wargames stuff, and they talk about wargaming). My problem is that I am spoilt by being able to attend COW every year; after that experience most wargames shows are rather limited.

    I suppose that in the UK we are rather spoilt for choice when it comes to wargames shows. Even one in Scotland is not much further for me to travel to than your local one is for you. I think that it is another example of 'in the UK we think that 100 miles is a long way whereas in the US they think that 100 years is a long time'. (I'm not sure that quote comes from, but it does sum up the difference in attitudes quite well.)

    All the best,


  22. Doctorphalanx (Richard),

    I think that I would not have been very happy having to queue to use my 'Queue Buster' ticket!

    It sounds to me like it was rather a fiasco and yet another example of poor administration. If you buy a 'Queue Buster' ticket I think that you have an expectation that you are not going to have to wait to get in, but I understand that some people who bought tickets on the day got in ahead of people who had bought tickets in advance. Not very good business practice in my opinion.

    I hope that your coffee and croissant help you to recover, and that the rest of your visit to SALUTE was more than satisfactory.

    All the best,


  23. The pre-paid queue did get in first this year and I think I was in the 'hall' by about 10:15. A friend who joined the cash queue at the same time I joined the other one said he didn't get in till 11 am.

    I still wouldn't miss it, although I didn't come away with much except for another box of Hexon, a few 10mm ACW buildings and some paints.



  24. Pete. says:

    Never been to Salute- too much money and effort to make the trip down from West Yorkshire. I go to 5 shows a year I reckon so I doubt there is much ill miss.

    How far North would you be prepared to travel Bob? Triples is spread over 2 days and is a bit more spacious….



  25. Doctorphalanx,

    I am pleased that the pre-paid ticket system worked this year. The last time I went with a 'Queue Buster' ticket I had to queue for longer than people who paid at the door.

    At least you came away with something that will enhance your wargaming. I suspect that all I would have come back with would have been a headache!

    All the best,


  26. Pete,

    In my opinion, if you can get to TRIPLES you haven't missed much by not going to SALUTE.

    I have been to TRIPLES and PARTISAN in the past … and enjoyed both more than SALUTE. They were more relaxed, less crowded, and there were plenty of traders to satisfy my retrial therapy needs.

    All the best,


  27. It takes me a car drive, a train, the underground and then then the DLR to get there and took me about an hour and a quarter door to door today. The numbers of people are a strain and I often miss things because it is so big/crowded. I agree about the lighting. It is horrible. I actually remembered to bring my glasses this year so I could actually read the plan – I don't need them in good light.

    I actually like the “moving dioramas” and even the non moving ones as I find them very inspirational. Perhaps because I am more of a painter I respond more to the visual look of games than the gaming aspect. I'm actually not very good at gaming!

    I was peripherally involved in the WSS invasion of Britain game and that was done very well with three clearly advertised games for people to sign up to and enough people to talk to the punters without interrupting the game flow for those playing. Agreed, not an easy thing to do, though.

    Primarily for me, though, it's a big shopping expedition, where I almost always find something I would not have seen otherwise. I agree about the floor, though. My feet and knees hurt tonight!

  28. Legatus Hedlius,

    From your description I think that I was wise not to go yesterday … especially as I was in the run-up to becoming unwell.

    If your interest is mainly the visual aspect of wargaming then I can see why the 'moving diorama' games would be very appealing.

    I think that clubs that put on game sessions at set times and who have 'meeters and greeters' who will talk to passers by do the hobby a great service. I only wish that there were more of them.

    I hope that you retail therapy was successful, and that you came away laden down with lots of goodies!

    All the best,


  29. arthur1815 says:

    I think it was doctorphalanx who made the point – with which I totally agree – that these days the internet/web enables us to keep up to date with what is happening in those areas of the hobby that interest us (and to avoid those that don't!). I can research figure ranges, or other products, from the comfort of my chair, rather than trek to/around Salute. And I can buy books at bargain prices from Amazon, rather than lugging them around in a backpack (you might be a bit harsh wanting to ban them!)all afternoon.

    As for eye-candy, a quick late-night trawl of some links from TMP showed me photos of many of the games. Nothing particularly original there, just some high-quality modelling – but then, I suppose only the eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing games get photographed, so no pictures of Megagame Makers' Napoleonic campaign game with maps and troop blocks!

    Basically, most wargames don't work well as a spectator sport – too slow moving, unintelligible if one isn't already familiar with the concept, and difficult to explain 'live' to an audience in the busy Excel environment.

    Participation is key, but to do that effectively one needs a short, simple game so players can assimilate the ideas quickly, enjoy playing it AND have time to visit the rest of the show. This is difficult to do with most of the popular commercial rulesets, but could, perhaps work with your PW systems and a small gridded terrain.

    But would the clubs &c want to put all that modelling effort into games they might perceive – wrongly, IMHO – as being simplistic and lacking in historical realism? And would the Warlords wish to present games which were less than superb examples of diorama modelling and figure painting?


  30. Arthur1815,

    I agree with everything that you have written, especially the bit about wargaming not being a spectator sport … although I thought that GAME OF WAR was a valiant effort in that direction. (I thought that it was seriously let down by its production values … and that TIME COMMANDERS was too much like a game show to be taken too seriously.)

    All the best,


  31. Everybody has made good points and I had to put up with a listless and fatigued Sunday (but all I had booked was a family lunch by the Grand Union Canal so I was perky enough for that) …

    … but I still enjoy Salute and for me it is a networking opportunity (I do a lot of shows during the years but at Salute I meet many more people than elsewhere including our euro-friends who pop over) …

    Olympia was a much better venue but Salute is still an expedition worth the effort.

    Megagame Makers won 'Most Innovative Wargame' award for their 1813 game. OK, as Jim W said, perhaps they should call the _only innovative wargame – but then again you can't say the organisers were ignoring the usual suspects.


  32. SoA Shows North (Phil),

    I agree that SALUTE is a great place to network … but I suspect that the underlying reason why I did not feel like going was more to do with my imminent bout of depression than anything else.

    Olympia was not as easy for me to get to, and access was not as good as Excel if you were putting on a display … but the building seemed to be less oppressive to be in for any length of time.

    Having seen photographs of their game, I did think that the award to Megagame Makers was well deserved … and that Jim's comment about it being the ONLY innovative game at SALUTE was well made.

    All the best,


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