Essentially it's a large hall with 150 trade stands, and a lot of demonstration games running throughout the day - visited by ~6000-8000 people in a 7 hour period. You're encouraged to participate and spend. That's the facts, but it would do the whole day a disservice with just that description, it was a lot of fun.
As grown men, our teen nerds and adult wallets were unleashed in combination and we spent a good five hours walking around, looking at games we'd never heard of, skim-reading rulesets and getting excited about figure ranges we'd never seen.
The haul for the day as follows:
- Top row: Infernal Golem (Titan Forge), Nazi zombies (Studio Miniatures), Weathering effects (Modelmates)
- Middle row: Infamy ton* (Infamy), Engineers' Guild (Guildball)
- Bottom row: Dimitri, Ivan and Hell'ington standard bearer (Blight Wheel), Hired Hands and Salute 2015 Limited Edition (Black Scorpion), Dragon Huntress (JoeK)
* Mine was missing the deck of cards, which was the primary item of interest but I've mailed them to ask if it's still available. Sadly I consider this my own stupid fault for not checking there and then :(
The single downside to the event was people with massive rucksacks and no understanding that it doubles the depth of where they're standing, or how frustrating it is to be behind two of them and unable to see anything. The conference equivalent of getting the basketball player in front of you at a concert. Everything else was pretty good, from queuing to go in, to every booth being filled with enthusiasts ...
... which leads nicely on to my highlights from visiting the booths.
- Guildball. Backed this on Kickstarter and picked up the only team I missed at the time, Engineers, and chatted with the guys on stand for their original campaign - it's a great range of figures across all the teams and definitely worth a look. Considering all pledges were posted to backers and they had to prepare a stand for Salute in the same week, they were clearly shattered but still soldiering on. Impressive.
- Titan Forge. I want all of their figures and ideally right now, please. Settled for a single large purchase of their Infernal Golem, but it was hard narrowing the choices down. I think the website's out of date compared to the range on display at the show, but worth a look. Their range of Chaos Dwarves is marvellous.
- Black Scorpion. Small but broad range of quality sculpts. I grabbed the Hired Hands and limited edition sculpt for the day. Crisp figures.
- Modelmates. They had some great looking weathering effects available, so I picked up some rust and verdigris. Will see how these pan out in the next month or so.
- Figone. Not only does Jérémie Bonamant Teboul have a nice line in figures, but his painting is incredible, basically flawless, and I just stood slack-jawed looking at the figures he had on display. Bought? Nothing, but I would like to steal Jérémie's ridiculous skill for this hobby. What a talent.
- Infamy. Backed this on Kickstarter, and followed up with a few additional purchases on the day. The man behind it, James, is a bundle of enthusiasm and willpower and it shows in the range he's pulled together.
- Forgeworld's queue. Considering the two limited edition figures on offer weren't that hot, the permanently long queue just to reach their stand was highly entertaining. I'm sure if you had a specific requirement, or wanted early releases, it was worth the while - but that didn't look fun standing there. I felt sorry for traders within two blocks, as it killed access to a few of them.
- Studio Miniatures. Whole unit of Nazi zombies packaged in a VHS box to look like an old war movie and for £13? Sold. Wonderful concept and well executed.
- Blight Wheel. Seriously loving the Sino Russia range of figures, but played safe and just picked up Dimitri and Ivan to play with, then ... spotted the Hell'ington standard bearer and got that too. Would have liked more, but didn't want to blow the budget on a single stand!
- Infinity. Hadn't paid much attention to this game previously, but have seen a number of well painted figures for the various factions - but it overwhelmed us a little at the show how much of everything there is for this game. My friend's now the proud owner of the starter set, so no doubt that will see action in the coming weeks. Full marks to Troll Trader for lowest overall prices on the big ranges.
- PRODOS. Their online store is as unfriendly as their figures are amazing. Persevere with the online bit, because the range is worth it. I'll be picking up the Dark Legion range when time and budget allow - and they've got a talented set of painters too.
- Freebooter Miniatures. Probably the prettiest, painted full range set of display miniatures we saw on the day, and in an ideal world I would have brought them all back. Didn't buy anything, but seeing their highly skilled sculptor, Werner Klocke, dressed as a buccaneering pirate made my day.
Obviously that wasn't everything, just the handful of store highlights from my perspective. The hardest part of the show was picking the stands I could justify spending money on this year, and the silver lining was starting to build a list for the coming year.
Other things that occurred ... someone was dressed and looking uncomfortable as a 10 foot Space Marine, Stormtroopers were walking around - but they looked a little short to be a stormtrooper to me. Rick Priestly was there talking up Antares. I was very grown up and didn't run over to bear hug and thank him for a postcard he sent in reply to a rule query that age 12 me wrote to Games Workshop in the late 80s. That's restraint, right?
See you there next year.