Click on the linked names below for those particular games....
'Serenissima' by Dominique Ehrhard and Duccio Vitale
It's been some time since the Ragnars visited 'Salute' or any other games convention, but a chance conversation with the 'Orc's Nest' prompted Kendall and Dicken to seek permission from wives and children and to make the trip up to Olympia. Arriving had all the feel of the first day of a Test match. The crowds on the station platform were unmistakable as gamers (rucksacks, male) and following the stream led straight to the cavernous jaws of the exhibition centre. Dicken had discovered (on the net) that a queue-jump ticket could be purchased, but as it cost 95p ('...almost a pound') had declined the offer. A good move seeing as there were only a smattering of folk in front of us (10.30) and despite the demand for 'EXACT CHANGE'. £7 entrance included a badge, programme, Richard the Lionheart figure, d6 and red carrier bag (essential gaming equipment).
The place is big and it was heaving. With no further ado Kendall and Dicken determined on starting on the Lower ground Floor and working up to Ground and then First Floor, the aim being to have a good look and to promote Ragnar Brothers with stall holders (hence our rucksacks full of games - honest).
Within minutes it became clear that whilst away we have been missing the BIG picture. The gaming hobby is NOT about board games, but about figure gaming. They were there when we touted 'Angola' and 'Bobby Lee' and they are still there ten years on. Table after table of scenery and figures and rules and dice. People (generally men) getting on with their thing. Familiar booming comments '... have you finished moving?', '.. right, let's see you roll those dice..', '...firing!...' Fantastic work and effort put in, particularly on an 'El Cid', 'Arnhem', 'Berlin' and 'Cholma' (Russian campaign in the snow).
And to go with this are all the stall-holders selling figures, scenery, rules, dice. Not a board game in sight.
But hey, who is this? It's Mike Siggins! And not only Mike, but an introduction to Richard Breese to whom Mike has just been speaking. The Ragnars first encountered Mike when game-testing 'Chariot Lords' with Charles Vasey, that being when Mike was still writing Sumo.
But enough of name-dropping, where has he been and what has be been up to? Well, apparently he's virtually dropped out of the board gaming scene and is heavily into figure painting again. A quick conversation on the state of the hobby confirms our worst fears - he has gone over to the dark side.
Ground floor is a repeat of Lower Ground Floor, but with the added interest of the mass of folk queuing up for the bring and buy stall (is this where you need the fast track ticket?). Kendall is keen to start a 'spot the hairiest man' competition, but his interest is short-lived after spying the long bronzed legs (tights apparently) of Laura Croft in the entrance foyer. There are very few women in the place, so much so that one can't help but ruminate about genetic coding.
But hey, who is this? It's Simon Ellis! Being a good Ragnar, Ellis acts as though he hasn't seen anyone. Ellis is half-owner of the afore mentioned 'Orc's nest', but is here looking for some Sassanids. 'See you in the foyer at one o'clock...' and then he's gone.
Onto to the top floor, where Daleks and Star Wars intermingle with full costume American Civil War and colonial British Empire displays. And there, in the dark corners lurk the board games sellers. 'Leisure Games', 'Caliver Books' and 'Second Chance Games' all deserve mention as they continue to buy our products after ten years or more. They don't know any Ragnars (personally) from Adam, but they are glad-handed like lost friends. Dicken buys 'Hunters and Gatherers' ('Carcasonne' in the jungle) and 'Amon Re' by Knitzia, whilst Kendall snaps up a copy of 'Age of Steam' by Martin Wallace. They put them in their red carrier bags and feel more part of the crowd.
There are also a couple of traders unknown to the Ragnars ('And so it Begins' and 'Behind the Lines') and they each receive a copy of the latest product list and kindly spare some time to chew the fat about games. Another stall, Crimson Empire, has some dashing Gothic art-work advertising an RPG system and that leads to another brief chat.
.... And that's about it. 12.05. Time for a coffee. Or what about a beer? Or what about a beer in that pub just outside?
A pint of Young's later and Dicken has talked Kendall out of meeting Ellis in the foyer. Another pint each and lunch seems a lot better idea. And so it proves.
Arsenal v Bolton is on the Sky channel and a couple of Scottish gents, Dale and Dave, join the table. They've also been and bought in 'Salute' so Dicken feels emboldened to ask if they are from Edinburgh and do they know 'Mac's Models'. They are from Glasgow, but remember 'Mac's' before it went out of business. And so the conversation meanders on through 'History of the World' and 'Bobby Lee' and the state of the hobby.... Nice guys and they kindly agreed to be photographed for the web site.
Ellis shows up, with Dave (Ragnar) Roberts in tow. 'Too crowded in here, we'll see you first right down the street'. And so it proves. Two more pints, introduction to Tim (possible Games Night guest) and other friends and Arsenal losing a 2-0 lead. Does it get any better?
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