In one of the Meeples & Miniatures podcasts, Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies commented that CRISIS was the best wargame show on the circuit. When I looked it up, I realised that it fell on a weekend where I would have time. I have never been to a wargames show before, so in the spur of the moment, I decided to give myself a treat and head to Antwerp.
I had the plan to arrive one day earlier to stroll around the city. To my embarrassment, I completely forgot that Friday was a holiday! I did like what I saw of the city (not least the great café I discovered downtown), but not surprisingly it felt a bit deserted.
On Saturday morning I was heading to the harbour area were CRISIS was located in a huge hall. I was amazed by the queue at the entrance, but the waiting time was shortened by a very pleasant chat I had with another wargamer and things moved quickly anyway – testimony to the great organising skills of the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp, the club behind the event. I was early enough to get my complimentary figure, a model of a 18th century colonel that looks really nice and will be appropriated as The Governor for our pirate games.
Upon entering, I was completely overwhelmed by the plethora of traders and games. I had a small list of things I wanted to look at and also had preordered a couple of items. But mainly my plan was to stroll around, take in the atmosphere, do some shopping and maybe play a game or two.
The first part of the plan succeeded very well. As my local games store does not cater to my special interests (i.e. non-GW), my wargames shopping is normally done almost exclusively over the Internet, with the exception of paints. So I was very happy to get a chance to look at all the shiny stuff in the flesh (or lead or resin or MDF). I brought a big bag of loot home: Fire markers by Early War Miniatures (as featured in the latest issue of Miniature Wargames), medieval artillery and small scenic pieces from Magister Militium. I got a couple of Baueda medieval tents to make a camp for my Wars of the Roses project. I also got some books: an Osprey on the Battle of Towton and some WotR publications from the Lance and Longbow Society. The find that pleased me most was a book by Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith entitled Scenarios for All Ages – I am a sucker for scenarios and I very much enjoyed the Tabletop Teasers in Battlegames Magazine. I started reading the book in the café after leaving CRISIS and immediately loved it. It’s very charming and inspiring, the scenarios are full of exciting ideas and most of them will easily be adapted to different historical settings. Highly recommended!
I also got myself a carrying case for my figures from Figures in Comfort. As you will remember, I am busily painting miniatures away from home and will one day have to get them back to where I live. I have long pondered about an ideal transport solution and couldn’t come up with one for individually based 15mm figures – let’s see if this case will work.
However, the biggest acquisition was a complete castle layout from Kallistra. I always wanted to play sieges or games centred on fortified places and have collected a series of scenarios based around such features. Time and again, I have pondered about building my own castle, but the task seemed to daunting. So I decided what the heck – the Kallistra model looks very nice and seems to be quite versatile. And what would a visit to a wargames show be without spontaneously throwing money out of the window!
There were lots of other things I saw and liked but didn’t buy. The steampunk stuff, especially the various resin vehicles, looked very good and tempted me to think about starting a skirmish project in that period, as did the Crooked Dice rule system and pulp miniatures. At the Baccus stand, I was blown away by the look of 6mm figures – if I ever want to do large battles, I will probably go down that road, as I really like the mass effect of that scale.
I also realised that I am becoming increasingly fascinated by the idea of naval wargaming, especially after seeing the incredibly good looking Punic Wars naval game put on by Militia Brabantia Wargames Club. However, I did resist the temptation to buy two envelopes marked ‘1/1200 Roman and Carthagian fleets’ from a second hand dealer.
So much for strolling around and shopping. When it came to playing, however, I failed miserably. There were some games that piqued my interest: the aforementioned ancient naval battle, a very impressive AWI game and a good-looking recreation of the Battle of Culloden. There were at least two science fiction space games, one X-Wing and one Star Trek. The two-storey Warmachine game was an interesting idea, although for a person my size it was difficult to see what was going on on the upper floor. I watched SAGA, Dux Britanniarum, Freebooter’s Fate and quite a few WW2 games.
However, being completely overwhelmed by the shopping prospects, I didn’t have the calm to approach a table, ask what it was all about and sit down and concentrate on a game. Many games also looked a bit ‘closed’, and sometimes I couldn’t say if this was a demonstration or a participation game. But perhaps I was just intimidated by the opulence of it all.
There was one noteworthy exception, and that was Chain of Command. Richard Clarke ran a game that was also fun to watch. He explained everything in a clear and lively manner so the audience could understand what was happening. I admire his showmanship and really enjoyed watching him running different players through a scenario. It seems I’m not the only one to have liked this, as TFL won the award for best participation game – congratulations!
I am really happy to have been to CRISIS and enjoyed my first visit to a wargames show tremendously. There was only one thing that marred the experience, and this concerns the ‘official’ photo report TSA put up on Youtube. I didn’t take my camera with me and was looking for some pictures to show to K. Imagine my consternation when, in the middle of the video, there was, as an ‘interlude’, an image of scantly clad women. I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but I for one find it rather sad. It also contradicts everything I saw at CRISIS, where quite a lot of women were present – not only to help behind the scenes, but also as consumers, participants and gamers. The ‘joke’ in the video suggests that CRISIS addresses only men (or 14 year old boys?) and that only men are active wargamers. Well, my girlfriend would object vehemently – she is, as you will know by now, an avid wargamer. And so are many other women out there.
Speaking of K.: She was quite sad that she couldn’t come along, as she had a business trip that weekend, but already announced that she would join me next year. So I am looking forward to my next trip to Antwerp!