In what has now become an annual tradition, I bring you reports from my yearly trip to London’s cavernous Excel Centre and Salute which occurred this Saturday just gone. For those who don’t know about this festival of all things geeky and game related, it’s run by the chaps over at South London Warlords. Every year, they rent out a couple of halls (think aircraft hangers) at London’s biggest building (in terms of area covered), the Excel. From heavyweights like Forge World and Wayland Games, to the smallest of independent traders and the most obscure games, there are a vast amount of stalls selling everything from miniatures to stencils, from books to boardgames, and from paints to scenery. It’s a great place to shop, and for a few years now, it has been a fixture in my calendar.
Allow me briefly, as I am wont to do, to set the scene for you. The Excel is on the other side of London from me, and for someone who lives West (because West is best), it takes an hour to get there via trains, tubes and the faded, once futuristic driverless trains of the DLR. Once there, you are confronted with thousands of people, and not just those who are there for Salute. Our nerdiest of conventions always falls on the same weekend as the London Marathon, and those mad fools who are readying themselves for a 26 mile run the next day, all turn up at the Excel for orientation. The chaps outside Salute in their High Vis vests were shouting “Wargamers in here! Runners keep moving!” as if anyone could confuse the two. Not many long distance runners have the builds of sedentary pie eating champions, and very few of the wargamers in the queue for Salute could spell the word “exercise” without running out of breath. That being said, many of those wargamers smelled more of sweat at 10am on Saturday as those Marathon runners did after reaching the Mall on Sunday.
That all sounds a bit mean, but it’s a yearly bugbear. Applying deodorant shouldn’t be a complicated instruction to master. Washing is not optional. And, speaking as a fat guy who feels model thin when I go to Salute, some of these guys need to understand that Doritos are not a fruit. But there you go, rant over. Back to the day in hand.
After queuing for about 10 minutes, in a queue that covered an actual kilometre (my Pokemon Go told me so), we get in through the door and of course, as with every year, the queue for the Forge World Store is already so long that it’s going back out of the door. It’s always the most popular stall and I dare say they do very well from this event.
But many other stalls too are already thronged with eager gamers and painters trying to get their hands on products while stocks last. A smattering of Cosplayers, including our resident Blood Angel and Guardswoman (who I’ve met before – lovely people) were stomping around. Speaking of women, again, there were definitely a few more ladies at this year’s event, and not just tolerant and long suffering wags – actual gamers. That’s a great thing to see, and it’s always pleasing to se our hobby’s appeal growing outside of the typical audience.
Already by this early point in the day, a lot of games are being played. Each year, I usually see some really fun, interesting or amazing boards, but this year there wasn’t a whole lot new in the super impressive and noteworthy stakes. There was a big Apocalypse battle going on of course – always good to see some Titans stomping around, and that was impressive enough. One other game that did catch my eye was a Jurassic Park game which looked like a lot of fun if nothing else. The dinosaur-loving kid that I once was really enjoyed seeing that experience going on.
The Painting Competition remains a popular centrepiece to Salute and there were a lot of fantastic looking entries there, all vying to pick up one of the shiny new trophies which looked very good on display. I’m going to let South London Warlords show those off – its very hard to give credit, but I would like to show you the diorama that I liked the most. I can’t give any credit because I couldn’t see the name, but if you know who did it, do give me a shout – they deserve much praise for this Batman/Only Fools And Horses/Goblin mashup. Made me laugh – always a great bit of praise that you can give to a mini.
So what did I pick up? let’s have a look at the haul…
I eventually managed to get close to the Forge World store, but by the time the queue had died down sufficiently, the Moritat with Volkite Serpenta that I wanted was sold out. In fact, when I went to Nottingham a couple of days later, the guys in the Forge World store told me that there is now a 10 day delay on what has been one of their most popular Space Marine kits ever. It’s now on order for me. I did manage to pick up a couple of Blood Bowl special characters (including the event exclusive Star Player Duo), but more on that in a later post.
I popped along to MDP’s stall – something I do every year, and picked up many useful things. Rods to fashion pipes and girders, some snake chain to make pipes and some mesh to make fences. Oh, and a cutting mat because mine got, well, cut through. Finally, aside from all of the bits that were in the goody bag (and there were many bits in that bag) I picked up an elephant. My first 75mm scale miniature, which is a tad daunting. I want to try working properly on a larger scale, and i shall do this later in the year. I got it from Figone, which is run by Jeremie Bonamant Teboul who makes some wonderful pieces – truly beautiful figures and busts. The elephant was just too pretty to pass up.
A couple of other stalls I should mention, include Mierce Miniatures who almost got my large scale miniature money with one of their wonderful sculpts. Their beastmen particularly are worth looking at, but the whole range is splendid enough. Also, a new game that was getting plenty of attention was Rumbleslam – a fantasy wrestling game. The miniatures aren’t much to shout about, but the game looks like a lot of fun and it’s worth taking a look. Great to see these fun sort of ideas coming through each year.
I think I’ve written enough on Salute now. It’s always a pleasure to go there, and an annual event that I thoroughly enjoy. What’s more, I got to meet a couple of heroes this year as well. Running into Jes Goodwin was rather lovely, and I had a proper fan girl moment when I bumped into Rick Priestly as well (on a day when a big announcement was being made about the game he invented – more on that later). And then, I shall leave you with my favourite encounter of the day. It was like looking into a mirror…