Yesterday, I took a trip to what is, more or less, my local show, organised by the Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society* but taking place in neighbouring Tonbridge (yes, I know it’s tricky, do keep up!). The weather was glorious, if cold; the drive from Hove was relatively easy and I arrived at around 10.30am, avoiding the queue. The parking, by the way, is ample and FREE on Sundays.
There was already brisk trading going on in the main hall (actually a large gymnasium), together with a few demo and participation games, whilst the bring & buy seemed busy in the smaller Medway Hall alongside more games. The Society of Ancients was, as usual, tucked away in a separate room on the ground floor (where they were playing Raphia 217BC using the Lost Battles rules), alongside a Tex-Mex war Sharp Practice game being run by chaps from Southend under the pseudonym of the Anti-Alchemists. (See the gallery below for all the games.)
As is so often the case these days, by late lunchtime, the numbers had dropped off precipitately. It’s a sign of the times that many wargames shows are treated as a shopping trip and little else. Not that I minded the reduction in crush because, as usual, I spent almost the entire day chatting and catching up with friends I haven’t seen for quite a while, especially given that Salute was the last show I went to, a full 10 months previously.
I was really glad to catch up with Postie, Ray and Lee from that enthusiastic band, the Posties’ Rejects, with whom I had a great chat about their 6mm Zulu Wars project and my Patreon project; Mike Lewis of Black Hat Miniatures was demonstrating a wonderfully old school version of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame using his range of 54mm Britains’-style glossy toy soldiers (I wanted to chat with Bob himself, but sadly he was too ill to attend this year’s show); and Will Townshend of Plastic Soldier Company was trying to cope with the demand for his latest Cold War ranges – not my bag at all, but clearly popular. I was more interested in a couple of his Battlegroup rulesets, as you’ll soon see. By the way, I’ve pencilled Will in for a podcast interview in May.
Of more immediate relevance to my Patreon supporters was my brief encounter with Mike Siggins, with whom I made a provisional date to have him on the podcast but who has also promised to send me something for the blog. Given that, in my opinion, Mike is one of the most talented and knowledgeable hobby writers in the business, I’m absolutely delighted about this. I was also accosted by Mick Sayce, whose work I have been gradually publishing via my Gladius imprint – as mentioned elsewhere, I’m going to effectively re-launch this over the coming months, because the events of the last year or so in my personal life rather took the wind out of my publishing sails, but that’s all behind me now.
I also want to mention the dedicated Alan Butler of TWWS who steers so much to do with the organisation of the show, and he and his fellow committee members have once again pledged to make a donation to my Combat Stress Appeal from the proceeds. Over the years, these generous souls have added thousands to the total and I can say with confidence that the charity is incredibly grateful for these donations. (By the way, I was delighted to be asked to design the new logo for TWWS late last year, which you can see above.)
There were others I bumped into as well, some of them supporters on Patreon, with whom I exchanged a “hail fellow, well met”, including Iain Burt (known as Essex Boy on a certain forum), Ian Marsh of Fighting 15s, Stuart Armstrong of Colonel Bill’s Wargames Depot, David Lanchester with his terribly tempting books, and a particular delight, Duncan of Helion & Co, with whom I did a great deal of catching up. I’m truly delighted to see how this little publishing company has grown to become one of the most highly respected imprints in the business, producing books of superlative quality by authors who really know their stuff.
A special mention goes to Brian Glazebrook, who I found in company with Paul Brook of the South London Warlords. Brian is a quiet soul who shuns the limelight, but I want to mention him because he was responsible for naming the units in the army of Grenouisse, and a brilliant job he made of it too! it turns out that he and I also share an interest in ancient Persia, so who knows where that might lead…
Another mention in dispatches goes to David Crook, a friend of Bob Cordery and also friend and wargaming companion to the late Eric Knowles. (To find out more about this esteemed gentleman gamer, see various posts on Bob’s site but especially this one.) David had contacted me when I put out an appeal for names for my Dahlia/Chindrastan sub-continent last year, venturing the name Madasahatta. Amongst the turmoil of recent months, I hadn’t looked into this suggestion more closely, but when David contacted me last week I did so and immediately realised the special significance to Eric’s family and friends. I am delighted to be able to report, therefore, that my map now boasts the Madasahatta Archipelago, together with its capital city, Knowlesabad. David sought me out at the show to thank me, and I was able to assure him that it is an absolute pleasure for me to be able to make such a simple gesture that evidently means so much to those that knew Eric.
And last but not least, I bumped into the current editor of Miniature Wargames, none other than John Treadaway, cameras in hand for an official report for that august publication. In fact, I travelled to his home just a couple of weeks ago for a bit of sci-fi gaming, so we didn’t have too much catching up to do, but it was nice to see him out and about.
All wargames shows are odd, in that you can be talking to someone, then you turn around to speak to someone else just for a few seconds, only to turn back and discover that the person you were talking to originally has now vanished into thin air! So, to all those with whom I promised to continue a discussion, my apologies, and I hope you enjoyed the rest of the show.
The catering at Cavalier is decent: there’s a cafe on the first floor, which does a range of coffees, teas, chocolate bars, sandwiches, rolls, and the obligatory sausage inna bun or bacon sarnie (which can be lathered with a choice of squirt-on sauces). These are all filling and tasty enough, and reasonably priced. There’s a major supermarket right next door, and the centre of town just a hundred yards away, so if your preference is for something different, there’s not far to go, which can’t always be said of wargames show venues!
Overall, a pleasant few hours out of the house, and a very sociable, friendly show with a decent leavening of traders. Even though there were few of the ‘big name’ companies there in person other than PSC and Essex Miniatures, there were plenty of general retailers stocking their wares – plastics from Perry, Gripping Beast and Warlord, for example, were all in evidence, and the smell of scorched MDF products from 4Ground and others was quite overpowering at times! It was also good to see stalwarts like Early War Miniatures and Eagle Figures there – you can see the full list of traders here (though sadly Peter Pig were unavoidably absent and much missed). Lots of good quality scenery was to be had as well.
I’ve snapped all the games I came across (see gallery below), and the full list of games is here. It seems Crawley’s beautiful Siege of Girona 1796 won the Best Demo Game category – much deserved, and this club is notable both for the quality of the presentation and the friendliness and consistent approachability of their blue T-shirted members. Well done them. Maidstone won Best Participation Game, with their huge and impressive Twisting the Dragon’s Tail, featuring a massive battleship, worthy of the accolade duly given them.
Did I do any shopping? Ummm… Just a teensy weensy bit. I fell foul of Dave Lanchester’s books (a work on ancient Persia, another on Wellington’s engineers, a book on Xenophon and the art of command, the Histoire et Collections study of Fontenoy and an A4 book on someone’s Seven Years War campaign), and may have inadvertently purchased a few Gripping Beast Arabs that could be given a ‘conversion by paint’ for the forthcoming Ayton imagi-nations campaign, and maybe there was a nice MDF building I brought home that, apart from smelling divine, looked just the part for a typical town house in Biebersfurt… In truth, more than I’ve bought in one go for quite some time, but then it’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in quite a while.
Will I be back there next year? Absolutely, a charming way to start my own wargaming show calendar.