Living in the far North it can feel like your miles from any wargames show but there is one local event which offers a fantastic slice of hobby for anyone in the area. Some of you may have heard of Smoggycon which was the current show’s forerunner. This year under a new title of Battleground and in a new venue, the Durham University Campus in Thornaby the show was on top form offering traders, participation games and a whole host of excellent displays displaying the very best Northern wargaming has to offer.
We arrived bleary eyed after an early start at Thornaby Station platform and, after getting lost and receiving help from a friendly student, we made it to the excellent Campus Sports Centre which this year played host to the show. Filled with a mix of excitement and apprehension at the potential effects of the venue change, we entered the enormous hall.
I’m thankful to report the show was brilliant, although the venue’s single room was slightly smaller than the three in Middlesbrough the organisers had somehow managed to fit everything and more in without creating a sense of claustrophobia.
First stop for me was the Ironclad miniatures stall. I’d ordered a number of the brilliant Sanwar sets from this top class company and happily collected them on the day. The prices were fantastically reasonable and the service was peerless with a very friendly and helpful stall runner. In a fit of excited new miniatureitis I painted up my Sanwar the same day.
With my In Her Majesty’s Name force secure I was then free to peruse the excellent array of other attractions on offer. Several stood out for me. First was a great display game of a Vietnam beachhead raid by American troops on a fortified Vietcong base. The base featured two large islands a seascape and expertly modelled jungle as well as a flight of no less than 5 Bell Huey helicopters on wonderful scenic bases and a huge Phantom jet which I can only presume must have been 1/48 scale. Seeing how great a board can look has spurred me on to begin work on my own board for IHMN.
The second great game for me was an Italian Wars What if scenario featuring the Borgias against the combine armies of Venice and Florence. The game oozed period style and featured wonderfully painted knights charging Landsknechts and the awesome Perry miniatures Carroccio which I intend to soon acquire simply because it is a breath-taking model. The Independent Wargames group was, as I found with everyone there, a friendly and passionate group who like nothing more than sharing their hobby. I do have one gripe though, now I want to start playing the Italian wars as well! I wonder where that comes in my list of projects?!
The other real standout game was a participation In Her Majesty’s Name Game run by the Brompton Bankers club. The anarchist forces of the Brick Lane Commune squared off against the Metropolitan Police and a decidedly Germanic looking group of bounders using Mutton Chop Miniatures Freikorps. Excellent stuff! As you can see in the picture below the terrain was excellent and really showed how a small board can be used imaginatively and engagingly with superb MDF (I think) houses and a police Black Maria.
Other excellent games included the brilliantly imaginative WW1 game which played the entire Western front on one board using tiny figures which must have been at most 6mm. The amazing thing was that whoever painted them had given the figures more detail than I can manage on 28mm figures. At the other end of the Spectrum was a 54mm version of an attack that formed part of the Battle of Waterloo. The game must have been a crazy undertaking to actually produce but the work was well worth the stunning effect of the massive figures in tightly packed ranks. A suitably Northern themed game was a Witch Hunter General horror scenario which featured an evil group of monsters assaulting Whitby during the English Civil War with only a bunch of fanatical Witch Hunters there to protect the town’s citizens. The board was superb with a mighty set of castle walls and old Mordheim houses. I’ve just mentioned a few but all the games were fantastic and everyone showed the huge level of work that must of gone into making them.
My one criticism comes in regard to the Flea Market, and this was in no way the fault of the Battleground organisers, but there seemed to be very little turnover at the flea market. The few sellers who were there weren’t really selling anything for my areas of interest but even so it would have been nice to have a little variation and a few more traders there.
This was however more than made up for by the fantastic selection of traders on offer. For me, beyond Ironclad miniatures, the second hand stall offering foundry figures for a pound was a highlight. Foundry, renowned for their services to capitalism are needless to say normally very expensive but great quality. I picked up 5 very cool Napoleonic era figures not for any reason in particular other than the fact that they are pretty fantastic looking figures.
I was amazed at the quality of Ainsty Castings terrain including the simply phenomenal gold mine setup they had on display at the show. Incredibly tempting. Witch hunter general had some good looking Civil War horror figures available and the Barghest caught my eye or though the actual model wasn’t on show so scale was a little hard to guess. I really liked the look of some of the Warlord games figures for the period and I know if I ever decide to do that sort of thing the company will be my first port of call.
My final purchase of the day was a last minute find on the Reiver Castings stall which was almost hidden between a number of wargames emporium stalls. The stall was stacked high with beautifully presented miniatures from a variety of under covered periods. I’m working on a VBCW game in 20mm at the moment but I’m extremely tempted by the huge range of 28mm miniatures for this what if period that the company offer. They also have Sino-Japanese troops, Irish rebellion troops and most attractive for me, British soldiers in berets with SLRs. I bought five of these for the Zombie Apocalypse game I’m working on, civilian militia with surplus army kit anyone?
So there you have it, my first attempt at a show report for the thankfully still excellent Battleground 2014. London can keep Salute, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the best show in the country. Thanks for reading.
This is Frontline Armchair signing off.