Salute 50 – A grand day out

We’ve made our first journey to the annual South London Warlords’ event, Salute 50 (and the pundits will say, what kept you?).  And the verdict?  Awesome doesn’t even cover it.  

So, while the glue is drying on a freebie we received from that said event on a gloriously dull Sunday afternoon, which has only been disturbed by the occasional National Emergency Alert, we’ll give you the lowdown of how the day went for us yesterday.

On the way there, we got a little lost on the DLR, and promptly jumped off at Canning Town when we realised we had to get off the train sharpish.  Luckily our Geekdar kicked in just in time, and we spotted four fellow travellers on the adjacent platform heading towards Customs House.  All we needed to say was ‘Salute 50?’, and they all said ‘Yes’ with exceedingly big grins on their faces.  We were certain that our early start to the day was a wise one, as most of the event’s stalwarts had arrived well before the 10am start.

Salute 50

Some likened the day before on social media posts as being like Christmas Eve, which we initially passed off as hype.  As soon as we got to the Excel centre in London and started queuing, only then did we get it.  Totally. 

As we stood waiting in the increasingly long line to go into the hall, the great and the good filed past.  Anyone who was anyone in this game would have recognised a few familiar faces, one of which was Duncan Rhodes who walked past the queue carrying a big cardboard box, flashing a big friendly smile back at us along the way.  Christmas Day it was…the very first videos that I watched when I started to paint were old Two Thin Coats’ guides to painting on YouTube.    

On arrival, we received our official goody bags with the programme in,  some useful blurb and a beautiful freebie 28mm resin model commissioned especially for the 50th Salute event made by  (somewhat appropriately) Warlord Games.   The details on the Viking Jarl with his flagon, shield and chest of plunder was designed by  Wojtek Flis, their resident sculptor based on drawings and concepts  fleshed out with Alex Hammond of the South London Warlords, the end result being a finely detailed cast. We’ll put pictures of ours online once we have painted  them.  We were also handed a nice solid commemorative dice with the Salute 50 emblem on the six side.  Nice touch.

Salute 50

We entered the hall and were immediately waylaid by people in various Warhammer costumes, lovingly built, and happy to have pictures taken along us gluttons for all things GW.  There were many signs of their products at the event, although they were not themselves there as traders.  The traders that were there all had put an incredible amount of hard work in, and the ones we spoke to were all as chuffed to be there as we were. 

From Green Stuff World showing off their latest toys, TT Combat with their laser cut sets, Wayland Games who sponsored the goody bags, Warlord Games and Mighty Lancer Games who we had a good old chinwag with…the great and the good were there.  From the favoured 28mm figures to the incredibly detailed 6mm set pieces, there was something for everyone.  And there were lots of smaller traders, not lesser in stature by any means, with lots to show off and displaying their technical prowess with justifiable pride.

Salute 50, as you will probably know by now is the 50th anniversary event of The South London Warlords’ (SLW) annual exhibition that consists of wargaming clubs showing off their talents, traders showing off their wares, and people swapping and sharing stories and tips.  It has been going almost virtually uninterrupted with the exception of the COVID lockdown for the last 50 years since the seventies.

Amongst the promo material the SLWs were selling this year on one of their stands were some of the tee-shirts from Salute 2020, which many bought for the irony and humour value.  The pandemic forced that event to be scrubbed, and the Excel where it was supposed to have been held at the time was temporarily converted into the first Nightingale Hospital.  Walking around the vast space, it made you wonder just how many casualties were being estimated by the powers that be if their projected worst case scenario had actually unfolded.

Salute 50 wargaming tabletop gaming

Counterintuitively, many of the traders there had actually made a profit during the pandemic as their sales went up.  Us modellers are a hardy and solitary bunch sometimes,  and like a lot of you reading this, we bought stuff online to keep us sane and amused during lockdown.  Moonhopper Games as a company itself was in fact a lockdown baby, as we started up in September 2020.

As we went around the floor, we were literally like kids in a sweet shop.  Our resident Paint Pixie Charlie suggested that next time we should attach a child’s wrist restraint to her in case she wandered off and bought too much stock!  We were practically dumbstruck by the sheer level of detail on the 6mm scale armies brought in by quite a few of the exhibitors, and there were also some 3mm tall figures. All of the tabletop games going on had upped the ante for the event.  As hobbyists ourselves, it’s given us something to aspire to.

Nothing was spared, and everyone participating pulled out all the stops and one or two others along the way for the hell of it.  Our jaws are still aching from all the gawping we were doing yesterday.  We must have looked like bailiffs, wandering around pointing at things and making notes of what to get next.

There was the annual painting competition, and we saw many prize hopefuls carrying their hard painted efforts in small boxes, all nervous and expectant. We personally wouldn’t have liked to have been judges as all that participated had set the bar high.  From Lisa Mason’s Snow Dragon for the Best in Show category, to Caleb Beaver’s Fulgrim in the Junior competition.  Everyone went all out in terms of effort.

As for the tabletop battles that raged across the hall, we were spoilt for choice.  From a fine re-enactment of Operation Barbarossa set up by Anschluss Wargames, albeit with some sneaky tank tactics that may or may not have been in keeping with historical record by their own amused admissions, and a very thoughtfully recreated table of the Dambusters Raid on the The Möhne and Edersee dams by the Peterborough Wargames Club, which included actual debris from some of the ill-fated bombers that went on the legendary raid, no detail was too much. 

Salute 50 Operation Desert Shield

The siege of the American Embassy during the Tet offensive and Operation Desert Shield were amongst the more modern historical battles raging, while naval battles from a different age such as the Napoleanic Wars were on separate tables.  We had a good old natter with the Cornwall Wargames Association with their fantastic Blackbeard against the Royal Navy battle table, and they were in fine fettle, dressed in character complete with uniforms and tricorn hats.  And the odd pith helmet, belt and braces were the order of the day with the Crawley Wargamer Association, who  replayed the 1845 battle of Ferozaphur when the Sikhs mounted a spirited attack on the British Empire’s East India Company.

Salute 50

Then there were the sci-fi and fantasy tables that were dotted around at Salute 50.  From Warhammer to Moonstone, Relicblade to a skirmish amongst asteroids with South London Warlord’s inventive game ‘To the Scattered Bodies Go’, every table at the event just popped, giving us new ideas and surprises.  For many societies, this isn’t so much an exhibition, it’s more akin to a pilgrimage to see their holy grail or to nod with their equivalents of the druids at Stonehenge on Midsummers Day.

Then there were the peripheral but no less important tables.  The colouring-in table provided by Bad Squiddo Games for the younger visitors was a neat idea and a very needed area for some of the kidults there.  The coffee area for weary travellers was at the back of the hall, which we found at the last hour; that’s our fault for not swatting up too much on the programme beforehand.  We’d dived in and out at key points of the event, the first time for a coffee break outside at Costas a third of the way round the event, while the second third was taken as an opportunity to get emergency Noodles for lunch in order to fuel up and rest our weary feet. The noodles were good. Really good.

The Kickstarter tables were also fascinating and there were some incredible concepts on display. The Tiny Conflict Universe created by the good humoured Department of Wargaming has developed a very cheap and cheerful concept, by the inventive use/reuse of old sprues for tiny spaceship fleets. We picked up their copy of the Milky Way Weekly and had a good chat to them. In this day and age where inflation is going stupid, this is a very affordable way of gaming for those on a very tight budget.

The Salute 50 café area was situated near ‘The Lard Zone’ an area dominated by some splendid games run by the Too Fat Lardies, who were having a whale of a time with games such as ‘Chain of Command, ‘What a Cowboy’ and the one that tickled us, ‘I ain’t been shot mum’.

Salute 50

There were speed painting tables for all to enjoy that were being run by Paint All The Minis and Trans Atlantis/Two Thin Coats, and in the discussion zone the Salute 50 panel guests were just the right mix of talent. Duncan Rhodes strutted his stuff as usual, and the Women in Wargaming panel was lively to say the least, very well received and enlightening.  With a decent panel of Hobby Heroes, as well as panels on game design and terrain building tips during the day, there was something for everyone at Salute 50.

By no means least, the Armed Forces charity, the Soldier, Sailor and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA) were also present with a a well manned and friendly stand.  It is perhaps more important than ever to acknowledge the positive value of our hobby in relation to mental health and wellbeing, so it was very appropriate that the charity was there, which supports ex-servicemen and their families in times of hardship and distress. 

So, we finished the day there at 4pm, one hour shy of the end of the event.  Happy but exhausted, not just from wandering about such a big space with lots of fellow enthusiasts, but also dog tired mentally – but in a good way.  This state of affairs was temporarily relieved with a can of lager and a packet of cheese puffs on the long train journey home from Waterloo.  An early night was called for after the excitement of the day, but it’s definitely on next years’ calendar for us.  To the South London Warlords and everybody who made it such a fantastic day at Salute 50, we thank you.

Roll on Salute 2024.

Salute 50

Helpful links

South London Warlords Homepage – Salute

Department of Wargaming

SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity