Thursday, April 17, 2014

Salute 2014 (Pic heavy)

Held in the massive ExCel Centre London over one day, Salute is the biggest wargames show in the UK with over 150+ traders covering the full gamut of tabletop gaming from sci-fi to fantasy to historical to steam punk and everything in-between.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of making this event for the first time in my nerd career.

The Journey

The journey from Dublin, Ireland to the ExCel Centre in itself was epic.


My flights itinerary was as follows:

Flight there
Dublin T1 (DUB) to London (Gatwick) (LGW)
Sat, 12 Apr, Flight FR 112, Depart DUB at 07:40 and arrive LGW at 09:05

Flight back
London (Gatwick) (LGW) to Dublin T1 (DUB)
Sat, 12 Apr, Flight FR 119, Depart LGW at 21:25 and arrive DUB at 22:45

I really didn't help matters by going out on the town the night before and not going to bed until 2.30 am.

Anyhow this epic journey started at 5.30 am with a sore head and a mild hang over. The GF dropped me off at the airport. I had already checked in online so I stumbled straight through security in my drunken zombie state.

I grabbed a cuppa and a croissant at Starbucks and had a close call when the girl at the till spilled my tea and nearly scowled me with hot water. That woke me up a bit.

I then proceeded to the gate and met my fellow adventurers, Greg and Brian. Both are seasoned Salute raiders and were kind enough to allow a noob like me to tag along with their PUG. They were well equipped with legendary gear including the ubiquitous Bag of Holding (i.e. rucksack) to carry their loot.

The flight was uninteresting. Praise be to the Omnissiah and Ryanair's vigilant Tech priests. I snoozed all the way to Gatwick.


Upon arrival Greg informed me that we will need to get 3 trains to get to the ExCel Centre. I groaned audibly.

To make things interesting, the queue for the train tickets were massive to the point that security decided to open the gates to the terminals to alleviate the human traffic that was quickly building up. With the prospect of either queue for tickets and wait 30 mins for the next train or make a dash to the train that was about to leave in 3 mins through the now open gates without tickets; we decided to chance our arm and ran for it. We made it with around 2.3 seconds to spare. Nice.

Our first leg of the train journey was on the Gatwick Express from Gatwick Airport to the station at London Bridge. Here we wandered around and found a ticket booth to buy our day trip tickets (which we should have bought earlier at Gatwick).

Gatwick Airport to London Bridge via Gatwick Express
We then made our way on the London Underground from London Bridge to Canning Town. It's nice to be in a country with an integrated transport system!

London Bridge to Canning Town via Underground
We then grabbed the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) from Canning Town to the ExCel Centre London. Here I was mistaken by a fellow passenger on the DLR for a marathon runner. This was the same weekend as the London Marathon and so the train was packed with super fit marathon runners going to ExCel to pick up their running packs. Instead of telling her I was going to the nerd Olympics I expertly redirected the conversation with a "So is this your first Marathon? No. Me neither". Followed by winning smile. Alright. Still got it.

Canning Town to ExCel London via DLR
After this epic journey we finally arrived at our destination. Now I have journeyed to Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe) when I did the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand last March. The journey to ExCel London was right up there. And the Centre itself looked to be the size of Mount Doom also. No joke. It was ginormous.

ExCel Centre London - comparable to Mt. Doom in dimensions
The Dungeon Crawl

The Salute Trading Hall
Salute covered one huge space with trader stalls and gaming tables that stretched out forever. Ok maybe not forever but it was really really big. Greg, Brian and myself decided the best course of action would be to split up our adventuring party and meet back at the entrance for lunch and at the end of the show. With that we split and began our search for the shiney loot.

Now I took loads of photos (badly) which I will dump at the end of this post but what impressed me most with the event is the bewildering array of miniatures and game systems on show. Like most gamers/hobbyist I started out with 40k and then later branched out to other systems. Salute has stuff on display that I have never knew existed from fantastic laser cut terrain to miniatures from numerous scales and genres.

In addition, some of the demo boards on display were outrageously good. The other thing is the quality of the paint jobs. I have never seen so many models painted to such a high standard in my life. This event was an extreme exercise in self control!

We had 6-7 hours and I spent all of it ogling the display cabinets and throwing cash at the overwhelmed traders. One thing I didn't do was to get in some demo games on those gorgeous tables but with so many stalls I didn't want to miss out on any of it.

So for me the event was more of a glorified shopping trip then a miniature convention. However it was interesting to see some of the upcoming products that either had a release at Salute or were previews of soon to be release products.

I wasn't sure what to think of it at first given the expense and effort involved in getting there but looking back at my loot pile I felt like I had completed a very difficult dungeon, defeated the end boss and nabbed the loot that dropped. And I wanted to do it again!

My loot pile
After completing the dungeon crawl that is Salute 2014, we made the long journey back to Gatwick Airport. Given we had a couple of hours to kill we settled ourselves in Wetherspoons at the airport for some warm ale, hot food and even hotter wenches and shared our stories. Needless to say when I got home, I promptly clonked out and slept for 24 hours.

The Damage

Now if you're curious as to how much this all cost, here's a brief summary:

Flights - circa €90
Train tickets - circa €11-€12
Ticket to Salute - circa €12
Loot - as much as you want

So it ain't cheap especially if you had to travel from outside London. You can grab bargains at Salute but when you factor in the costs of getting there they aren't really bargains at all. Therefore if I were to go next year I think I would stay the night and make a weekend out of it. London is always a pretty cool city for a piss up anyway.


Before I leave you with the photos of my journey I like to thank Greg and Brian for letting me tag along. Cheers bros!

Here are just some of what was on offer at Salute 2014:

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