Showtime. Triples, Salute and Partizan – the Spring Classics. Two were above expectations, Triples sadly wasn’t. I am not sure what happened, there was just a dearth of decent games. Great trade presence as ever, but somehow flat overall. And I still can’t get used to climbing the stairs only to be confronted with the WWII German goons. They aren’t all locked up yet. Salute was a very good show this year, even by their standards. There were some high quality games and you can, if you search a little and keep calm, find just about anything you are looking for on the many stands. And that is, I suppose, its great appeal. The problem of the Kensington Crush was as bad as ever, but will be solved next year with a move to Olympia for Salute 2000. Let’s hope they can maintain the atmosphere.
And then there was Partizan I in Newark. I have raved enough about these shows in the past to make it almost embarrassing to repeat the same old stuff. Fortunately I am not easily embarrassed, and the Partizans are still both an enjoyable pilgrimage and a highlight of the year for me. And to explain how good a show this is, before I mention the games, let me tell you a story. The Newark Irregulars are good enough to lay on a courtesy bus from the station – a real boon for non-drivers, or those who choose to use the train (I happen to be both). Arriving at 10am, bleary eyed, I was waiting around for the bus with two other gamers who had come up from London, but there was no sign of movement and it was, for late May, pretty chilly. One of the Partizan organisers (Richard Tyndall, I suspect) arrived soon after, chatted for a bit, realised the bus was going to be delayed, and was kind enough to drive three complete strangers to the very door of the venue. Now that is great service, and also considerate, typifying what has become a friendly, well run show that is easily worth the early morning start.
It also happens to have the very best games anywhere and once again I was spoilt for choice. At the end of six hours or so, one can easily decide which games appeal the most, as one keeps drifting back for another look. And that is important because due to the sheer number of people and games, over 700 and thirty respectively, Duncan and his ACW-vintage camera can no longer get round to take pictures. Which is a shame, but understandable. So, I’ll have to make do with memories and you’ll have to put up with my descriptions unless the talented souls listed below can be tempted to a Stratagem Studio Session (“Give me Belligerent! No, no – I want pouting!”). We start with the stalwarts – The League of Augsburg put on an impressive Thirty Years War game (I still love those flags), Peter Morbey had an exciting Napoleonic tussle going on, the Bog-A-Ten boys had their fantastic new terrain (this could easily be the best (looking and playing) participation game ever) and The League of Gentlemen (all snappily dressed in tuxedos!) had an massive and eye-catching Stephen & Matilda battle using realistically contoured terrain and (I suspect) close to a 1:1 figure scale in 25mm. Made my twelve man units look a bit lame.
The Premier Division included The Perry Twins’ Peninsula Napoleonic game which was, pretty much, to the standard I aspire to reach one day (they were using Shako rules, which prompted me to have another look at them). It would be hard to explain why it shone. It was partly because they and friends were actively playing, because the situation looked interesting, the terrain was good without overpowering the figures, and there was that unit of British Hussars that made me want to get straight on the train home and finish off mine. Next door Dave Andrews was reprising his understated WWII game. I wasn’t fooled this show, and spent a lot of time looking at details, the superb terrain, the build quality of the tanks, and those exquisite paved roads. Runner up was a very nice ECW game to which I kept returning. The terrain was rolling, the road was sunken, the trees were effective, the bricks were red and the effect was very England. I am pretty sure this was put on by the infamous Redcar Rebels, but I apologise if my map plan notes are in error. Either way, they had infectious enthusiasm and chatted away happily about their game, the hobby and terrain. And that makes all the difference.
But the best of all was a most unusual, and striking, game. Skirmish Wargames put on a wonderful 54mm French Indian War vignette, with Rangers and Hessians storming ashore from boats, in the shadow of a huge, and stunning, lakeside wooden fort. Huge trees set the scene, a wharf stood full of supplies, and the overall picture conveyed great atmosphere. All of this was dusted with first snow, with the lake looking cold and foreboding, and it was a sight to savour. The fort was a work of art, quite brilliantly put together – the best compliment I can pay it is that quality-wise it would have not looked out of place in Disneyland (and I speak as a huge fan of theme parks). Worth the trip alone, but as ever there is so much more to see at Partizan. If you’ve not been before, try and make a visit. I guarantee you’ll want to return.
There have been some interesting figure releases in recent weeks. I can safely say that the Old Glory fuzzy wuzzies and Dixon pirates are among the worst of them, and that Gripping Beast’s German Tribes, AB’s tank crews, Foundry’s forthcoming Assyrians and the new style Elite British Napoleonics (a huge improvement, these – the officer comforting his horse is inspired) are among the best. I am also warming, by the day, to the Darkest Africa concept. Partly helped by the display on Dave Thomas’s stand, and a couple of good games around the shows, I have also really been impressed with the latest packs of figures and am starting to realise the gaming potential (slowly. Give an old man time to adjust). The Victorian womenfolk are some of the best figures Mr Copplestone has produced, the various tribal warriors are growing in exoticism, and I really like the chap with the parasol.
Thanks to Bill Gaskin Esq, I am now in possession of a video tape of four BattleGround episodes; the seminal TV series shown in the late seventies that makes The Ghame of War look very poor indeed. I had a vague recollection of the originals, but to see them again was a real treat. Despite my looking forward to the Waterloo episode, I have to say Gettysberg was the best – both featuring the great Peter Gilder who was, though he never knew it, my mentor in my formative hobby years and to this day remains a strong influence. As many of you know, your esteemed editor appears in one of the episodes and even puts up a good performance. Must be all that hair giving him strength. £500 in used fivers will keep it off the pirate circuit Duncan. £1,000 will prevent the private screening at Salute 2000.
There has been much talk in these pages about the gaming desert that is Canada. I find that easy to believe since there are just so few Canadians rattling around up there in that huge vastness. I think there are seven people in all of Saskatchewan (but don’t get the impression I’m knocking the country – I’d emigrate there tomorrow). Anyway, I have recently received a plaintive letter (or thinly disguised plug request if you prefer) from one Dave Jackson, owner of True North Productions, a manufacturing firm based in Merrickville, Ontario (one hour south of Ottawa). He reckons that there are just 2,000 to 3,000 gamers in all of Canada, but that they are as keen as the next man. True North have a range of Napoleonics, 15mm WWII and 1/144 aircraft and decals – but I bet they don’t have German WWI lozenges. Who does? Pay attention, here’s the dull bit: Box 579, Merrickville, Ontario, Canada, K0G-1N0; phone: 613-269-2557; e-mail: jacksond@DFO-MPO.gc.ca. You too may now send me the readies Dave, in a plain brown wrapper.
Bob’s Bits produce WarGrid, a range of 1/300th terrain which is ready to place on the table and use. Produced using the latest computer graphics programs, the card roads, rivers and railways (particularly nice, these) are pre-coloured and combined with the fields, hedges and (forthcoming) buildings, the result is striking. Personally I hope to combine the card templates with Terrain Maker hexes, weathering the colours down a little to merge in to the tiles and I think the result will be quite impressive. Bob Bosscher makes a huge range of terrain already, and it seems to be very reasonably priced (unlike a ‘Terrain Starter Pack’ I saw recently, being sold by a well know hobby figure, which can be charitably described as a rip- off). WarGrid lists are available from PO Box 76, 16 Parliament St, Ramsey, Isle of Man, IM99 4JG. firstname.lastname@example.org