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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Salute 2017

So another Salute show has come & gone - what did this one bring?

Well, for starters this was Oscar & my first Salute show in 4 years that we'd not been at the SG stand helping out, so it gave us a lot more time to look around, and that was a great thing - how much we'd missed out on in prior years! To start with, this year the bag had the Salute exclusive mini;

Also in the bag was another model, this time an injection moulded plastic figure for Wild West Exodus, which is another good thing! They actually had a stand at the show too, together with somone actually dressed as Captain Nimue - and no, I didn't take a picture!

Now having a look around Salute all day is (as many of you will know from any show) an exhausting experience. Gamers are a mixed bunch, and the amount of pretty rude and backpack-wearing blunderers in the show seems abnormally high! Still, that aside, most folks are pretty cool, and we got to meet face-to-face a fair few folks we'd had on the Hub Systems podcast, which was great.

Anyway, let's not get ahead of ourselves - what did we see at Salute? Well, let's run down our highlights;
  1. Runewars
  2. D&D Figures
  3. Hawk Wargames
  4. Dark Souls
  5. Shattered Void
  6. The Drowned Earth
  7. Mierce Miniatures
I'll also talk a little bit about the Spartan Games stand, and some other random thoughts that come to me...

1. Runewars

So let's kick off with Runewars. This is Fantasy Flight's entry into the fantasy wargaming genre, and I've been thinking about it for a while, especially so after watching Sorastro's YouTube guides to painting ( After watching a small part of a demo game, I decided to take the punge and buy the absolutely enormous box, at a discounted show price (though I later found it for slightly less elsewhere in the show....well, you can't win 'em all, can you?). I'm going to do a proper unboxing on this one in another post, so will leave those thoughts for then.

2. D&D Figures

Salute is a dream if you're looking for figures for D&D - there are so many manufacturers and traders selling appropriate items, from generic adventurers through very specific classes (Halfling Barbarian, anyone?) to monsters of all sizes and shapes (giant rats and beetles to enormous dragons). I picked up a couple of Wizard/Mage figures as they looked ideal for Red Wizards of Thay for the Rise of Tiamat campaign. Here they are:

3. Hawk Wargames

Hawk are easily identifiable at major events like salute because of the 10mm scale frigate that Dave and his team constructed and cart about as a central icon for their stand. This was as impressive as ever, and around it were demo tables with both Dropzone and Dropfleet. Behind it is the trade booth with product and display cases. I wanted to get an Athens for Oscar's UCM, and also another for a friend over in the US. Unfortunately we got to their booth after the first 30mins of the show in which all 150 they brought sold out. They did have Corvettes, launch assets, resin objectives and other pieces, which I was sorely tempted to buy, but also found them at a lower price through other traders (unsurprisingly!).

On display were the new casts for the Scourge and UCM Battlecruisers, which looked great - the Scourge one looking especially good. 

There were also the advanced sector tokens for display as well:

There were full display cases with fleets for all four races, looking as sexy as ever, this time with the Corvettes added to them. There were plenty of staff around, including Hawk Dave himself, and the stand felt like it was buzzing every time we went to it or past. In short, Hawk seemed to be having a really good day, and their games seem to be doing very well.

4. Dark Souls

We backed the Dark Souls Kickstarter, and this was the first time we got to see physical models and play first hand. The models are beautiful, and the gameplay is as brutal as in the video game. Oscar and I played the warrior and the herald against the Dancer, and actually did ok - getting it down to 6HP (from 34!) before I finally succumbed to a nasty attack (and when one of you dies, you all die!). The AI system is very good, and the models are incredibly detailed for board game items - something we all tend to expect nowadays. The chap who demoed the game was very good, and showed us all the models first hand. We had such a good time we forgot to take any pictures, so here's one borrowed from Beasts of War to show the Dancer in action

Really looking forward to getting this when it hits UK distribution!

5. Shattered Void

Meeting podcast guests in person is always a pleasure, and that was very true of the chaps at White Dragon which we covered in Episode 23. Oscar and I both backed their Kickstarter, and the ships shown at Salute this year still look great and the plastic games components and cards also look really nice - the stats slider is particularly good, and has a really nice feel to it when using the sliders - something like this for Firestorm would work really well, I think. Alan & Mark were pretty hoarse from talking most of the day by the time we met them, which is a good sign for the game, and we look forward to getting all of our goodies when they arrive soon!

6. The Drowned Earth

We covered The Drowned Earth in Episode 29, and met James to put a face to the name. We also got to play a demo game, where Oscar tried to crush my lizard dude with his hulking simian, jumping down a platform at him after taking three arrows from my leader...only to have his cold-blooded nerves of steel win for him, as he shot him squarely between the eyes as he sailed through the air at him, stepping aside as the lifeless body tumbled down the stairs behind him. He then bravely raced toward the objective to transmit the coordinates, only to be reduced to a flaming corpse by a dual hand-flamer wielding woman guarding the stairs. Oscars strange cross-dressing chap then successfully reached the transmitter, as my monkey-man couldn't shoot for crap.

Their Kickstarter is live, and I'd throughly recommend both listening to The Hub Systems episode where we talk to James and backing the game (we have!), as it's a very cinematic and fun game, with some really nice unique elements, such as the mixed factions (not "Apes vs Humans" or "Lizards vs Women" etc). I'm not sure how long we played (maybe 20 minutes?), but it felt like five minutes of complete fun - our thanks to Chris for that, he did a great job. The minis are very good, and seeing them cast when we were talking about initial concepts, art and renders back in December was a real treat. Also, although James was pointing out the unfinished bits of his boards for the game (you always see the flaws in your own work!), they actually looked great and really added to the experience.

7. Mierce Miniatures & Darklands

The Mierce Miniatures stand has drawn our attention over the past few Salute shows due to its incredibly detailed resin monsters, and this was no exception. This time they were also giving out free rules for their game Darklands. Their miniatures are absolutely A1+ grade, but they are pricey (though compared to GW, this makes more sense, and compared to Forgeworld there's no contest). Giving the rules and lore booklets out for free is a nice move, and I'll have cast a critical eye over them in the near future. For the time being, however, they remain as eye candy. If the prices were 20% or so less, they would be very desirable purchases, at the moment I think they're just too high-end to appeal to many beyond the exceptional display-piece painters out there.

Unfortunately Mierce's website is horrible, and really doesn't make it easy to showcase their beautiful sculpts, so the best place to see them is at shows. They organise models by factions, which unless you're already a Darklands player (unlikely) you've no idea where to look. This might make sense for the creators, but it doesn't help at all for new players to get into the game.

As an example, you have to go through about 4 screens before you get to see the mini above, which is a really nice sculpt and very nicely painted - yet hiding in the recesses of the site. Really the first thing you should see when you get onto their site are models like their Chimera, which is simply staggeringly beautiful. Unfortunately, even knowing what to look for, all they have on their website is this:

Now you can tell this is nice, but they have a painted mini, which shows the detail off beautifully and there's also absolutely nothing to show scale here - the actual model is massive, so why not have another stunning 28mm model paladin or something fighting it to show this? I mean, at the RRP of about £120, you need to see what you're getting! I think this is really limiting Mierce at the moment - they haven't really understood that their website is their shop window, and at the moment it looks like the outside of a German adult store.

Final Thoughts

Salute 2017 was a good show - it was great to see gameplay in person of games we've backed through Kickstarter, and good to meet the people we've chatted to over the ether for the Podcast, and see their labours come to fruition. It got me excited about mini games and painting, which is always a good sign. My main regret was not buying more Hawk stuff, but then I need to get more built and painted first, so that's probably a good thing!

Now of course I haven't mentioned Spartan Games here - something many of you may be glad about! Well, they were present, but with quite an underwhelming stand, with Halo being (perhaps predictably) the most predominant game. One could argue that there are good reasons for this, they're doing a lot behind the scenes etc, but let's face it - at a show, who cares about that? No one, that's who. Spartan need to improve their game dramatically or they're going to find it impossible to claw back any market share for their games beyond their status as a niche with a dedicated following. 

Having seen the leaps and bounds Hawk have made, and the abundance of fun, slick-looking games made out of people's attics (as Shattered Void is), then if they want to survive they need to do better, MUCH better. They've made a whole bunch of promises lately, but then Spartan's promises aren't even as good as GWs loose rumours, so we'll wait and see - it's not like  haven't got a whole lot of other shineys to look forward to right now!

Salute is a very particular kind of show, a real showcase exhibition point in the UK gaming calendar. It's a great show for looking at what's hot and upcoming, and you can bag a few bargains along the way (Terminator game for £10 anyone?, we didn't think so either....!). It's still a firm date for any gamer, though you need to get in early to grab those desirable show exclusives. If you're not concerned about that, its big enough and lasts for enough of the day that you can take it at a nice pace, though its still exhausting, and I still hate paying double for anything food or drink related "just because it's London". That's not enough to dissuade me from going, however, so I'll be looking forward to next year!

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