When we arrived at about 9:30 it was for me quite a long walk from the entrance of the Excel to the queuing hall. I had my walker, a wheeled Zimmer frame contraption with a seat and handy shopping bag, but it was still a struggle. That's OK as I'm used to it. What was excellent was that I'd been in communication with the organisers to check on facilities for disabled visitors, so when my wife and I arrived we were whisked off to a waiting area right at the head of the queue of what looked like a few thousand wargamers snaking several deep backwards and forwards across the hall. That meant that when the traps were raised so to speak I was about 14th or so into the event, although I was quickly overtaken in the final 10 metres! Brilliant. Once inside, my wife left me to it and took my iPad off to Costa for a quiet sit down so I was left to my own devices for a couple of hours while she did some on-line shopping.
By 10:30 I had collected all my pre-ordered stuff so was able to point myself towards some of my mates for a catch up chat. It was then time to check out the games. I have to say that even though a significant majority were sci-fi/steam punk/zombie/fantasy games (often very pretty and different, but not my thing, which is not to say that they are any less important to those gamers to whom that genre is their thing) that with a few notable exceptions I was mightily disappointed at the standard of games on show. So many were just so small, the 'boutique' type of game, many were dull, with what appeared to be little or no effort put into them. For example, I'd been looking forward to seeing the 15mm refight of Konigratz 1866 (150th anniversary this year) but the game was just unimpressive, wholly unimpressive actually for a battle that involved several hundred thousand men, with less than mediocre terrain. Likewise, the 28mm refight of the Battle of Kunserdorf looked promising when I first saw it at about 10:30, but when I saw it at 3.00pm hardly anything had moved! Actually, my version of Kunersdorf was just as good (better even) although the figures were very nicely painted, but it was let down badly by lack of action, lack of info, average terrain and lack of people playing and available to chat. Any of the games that me and the guys put on at our homes or at shows in the NE past and present were better than most of what was on offer (In my opinion).
The only games to really stood out, for me at least, were Bill Gaskins gorgeous, nay, stunning 28mm Seven Years War game, Ian Smith and friends' equally stunning 40mm Spanish Peninsular War Napoleonic and the 20mm Winter War pitting Russians against Finns. The siege of Bristol was also pretty good, as was a big Vietnam game. I might have missed some to be fair. Apparently Bill Gaskin's game failed to win the Best Game Award, which is a travesty IMHO, but then again, had it been filled with Steampunk Prussian cuirassiers and a Robot Frederick the Great it may have had a better chance!
Overall verdict. Excellent (groan) with room for improvement where the games are concerned. And very big and well organised. As for my swag I had a nice box of Eureka 28mm SYW Saxons, CS Grant's Refighting History vol2 and his revamped Marburian book, an excellent and very large book from the Pike and Shot society covering Hesse and other minor German states in the late 17th century, a few mdf bases off Warbases, and a few odds and ends. A respectable haul indeed.
The best thing for me about the day was meeting up with so many good friends and acquaintances from the war-games community, and the fact that I survived it and only ran three people over with my walker! I will return one day for sure.
And the kangaroo? Well, "can you tell what it is yet?" I had a pre-order to collect from Eureka. If you greeted them with the words "G'day" you were given a free 28mm kangaroo (I chose the one standing with the Joey peeking from its mothers pouch). I was sure I'd put it in my swag bag but can I find it? No. I had a really good vignette worked out as well. I've looked in me billy can and down me didgeree-do but I guess its hopped off to hide in some Billabong somewhere to suck down a few buckets of prawns and tubes of Fosters. Oh well. And a BIG BIG thank you to Katherine as well.
POSTSCRIPT: My boomerang never came back but Skippy did, hiding in the official Salute giveaway bag! I am well pleased.......