One of the problems of being a writer and purveyor of fine rulesets is that you spend every show you go to demonstrating them on the tabletop and rarely have any time to appreciate the event itself. So it is, that for the last two years, I have not been to a show where I had time to browse the games and traders or chat with people.
This year I chose not to sign up for Partizan but instead go along as a humble punter. After all, we had already run games at Vapnartak in York, Salute in London and Carronade in Falkirk and honestly, we were knackered. So, along with my good friend Gareth, I set off at sparrow’s fart on Sunday for the long trip from Mid-Wales to Newark. Three hours later we debarked outside the George Stephenson Pavilion on Newark’s showground.
Now I have always been a fan of Kelham Hall. It is the most unique location of all the UK shows, being set in a 19th century stately home. Besides the two great halls, one with a magnificent dome, the show sprawled through nooks, passageways, crannies and smaller chambers. However, you could easily get lost inside its labyrinthine structure and many traders and games simply could not be found without a native guide and lanterns.
So looking at the ‘aircraft hangar’ in which the new venue was set brought both trepidation and relief. The ‘pavilion’ is a long, tall, metal-clad shed which proved to both light and airy. It has none of the character of Kelham Hall, but brought many advantages, not least of which was being able to find everything you came to see.
As usual, the Partizan crew were both friendly and efficient so queuing was kept to a minimum. When a fire alarm went off they acted in a professional manner and no-one felt unduly alarmed. I can only imagine the pandemonium if a fire alarm had sounded in Kelham Hall.
For the most part, the traders were spread around the circumference of the pavilion and the games were in the centre, helpfully divided into two zones. The first was for participation games and the other for demonstrations. The passageways around the traders and the games were wide enough to ensure an easy flow and there was less of the feeling of being packed in like sardines that you get in shows set in schools and community halls.
My first port of call was to see Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo games as we had a present for her, a signed copy of Blood Eagle. Annie is an excellent retailer and many of our players have remarked upon the efficiency and friendliness of her service. Then we did a complete circumference of the traders, and what an excellent turnout there was.
Now, I had done the sensible thing before coming and taken out a set amount of cash to spend, however, several of the traders revealed a dangerous new technological development; credit/debit card readers that worked through their smartphones – what devilry is this? Fortunately, my card was locked securely in my car or I could have been facing the wife in the divorce courts ere long.
Particularly tempting were the beautiful terrain mats being marketed by at least two traders. The problem is how do you smuggle a 4′ high roll past the missus? A book can be hidden as can a handful of blister packs but a roll – unlikely.
As we progressed I was greeted by many splendid chaps, certainly too many to mention without fear of missing one and insulting them. Let it just be said that barely ten yards could be walked without running into someone eager to have a chat.
There were also a few I sought out deliberately. These included:
- Dave Wise of GCN & COGS. Once again putting on his justly famous fast-play IHMN games for the public. Dave now boasts having every single company from the three IHMN books and Gothic. Not satisfied with that he also showed off his splendid, hand-made, Victorian Daleks.
- Richard Dallimore of Copper Mine Miniatures. He is the chap who is creating all the steam horse figures. Dave Wise had a selection of these on display, including one of the COGs division of the Household Cavalry. I put an idea to him for his next project, but that is a secret…
- Simon Miller, an old pal and the creator of To the Strongest. He was once more running a very popular demonstration game, this time based on a fictional Roman encounter written by the author Harry Sidebottom. Who just happened to be on hand to chat about it all. A fascinating gentleman indeed.
- Paul Chapman of Painted Empires and his lovely companion, the Lady Teresa. You cannot miss Paul when he is at a show as he is dressed as an Edwardian gentleman, with the most magnificent set of whiskers. He showed me some of his latest painted miniatures just to make me envious, the cad
- Shaun McLaughlin, Terry and Mick. Shaun was displaying a huge tabletop town featuring the Winter of ’79 game. The whole thing really took me back to my Navy days in the late seventies. A winter of discontent indeed.
- Dave, Karl and Dean of the White Hart gamers. They were running a couple of Frostgrave participation games on the Northstar/Wargames Emporium stand and, as usual, everyone seemed to be having a great time.
This year, for the first time ever, I managed to make it to the Wargames Bloggers Meet. A dozen or so of the UK’s finest wargames bloggers gathered in a darkened corner and swapped hints, tips and, ideas. I don’t know why but I had expected something a bit more organised. However, the friendly anarchist collective approach seemed to work well enough.
I also spent some time talking to the Very British Civil War crew, whose demonstration game was one of the highlights of the day for me. I have admired this game from afar for quite some time and it was smashing to spend some time talking about it with the authors. I just wish I had the time to invest in it and get some games in.
One person I had hoped to meet, but who was not there, was Dan Mersey. There was a lovely participation game of his latest rules The Men Who Would Be Kings run by two of his comrades but, alas,no Dan. To make myself feel better I went and bought Dragon Rampant from Annie.
Of course, we met up with our good friend Nick Eyre. Nick and we have a number of secret plans for the next twelve months which we shall let you know about in good time. One thing we can tell you is that we shall be at The Other Partizan in August running Blood Eagle participation games on Nick’s stand.
Something I did note was that there were fewer demonstration games where those running it just sat and ignored the public. Salute is especially bad for this, however, all but a couple of games at Partizan were crewed by people keen to show what they were doing. One fellow, whose name escapes me (sorry) was running an Irish game with the Jacobites facing off against William’s mercenary army across some magnificent terrain. The fellow had spent three years putting it all together and the effort really showed. He was using the Beneath the Lily Banner rules, which I had heard of but never seen in action.
Overall I think the show has benefited from its move to the Newark Showground. The layout and the light, airy hall makes a real difference to the experience. The Partizan crew, the traders and, the gamers, worked hard to make it a pleasant experience for one and all. It was well worth the long drive over and back. We shall be looking forwards to returning in August to contribute our own game.