Across the Pond: PAW ’24

I’ve just remembered! The wargames show in Plymouth is on very soon! We should go – I know you’d like to!

The Lady Lollard, my beautiful wife and Dune-esque mentat

So it was then, that one overcast morning, on the Third of February, your humble correspondent and his wife travelled by public transportation into the city of Plymouth. For those American (or indeed lucky British) readers who have never set eyes upon the turgid, grey settlement on the northern bank of the Plymouth Sound, let me describe it to you: upon sighting the dirty smudge of brutalist architecture on yonder horizon, the traveller will understand why the Pilgrims in the Mayflower were so convinced to leave, even to travel halfway across the world, to escape it. Much like Mos Eisley on Star Wars‘ Tatooine, “you will never find a greater hive of scum and villainy.”

Persevering through the belly of the bloated urban beast by rail, and then by bus, the Lady Lollard and I found ourselves at the Kitto Centre, a large gymnasium and events-space run by the YMCA – formerly the Young Men’s Christian Association, though the acronym now stands alone as an unexplained title and the name of the world-famous, homoerotic singsong by The Village People. Within these well-lit and slightly shabby halls, we found the 2024 Show of the Plymouth Association of Wargamers – or PAW ’24 for short.

Perusing the stalls, there were none of the major players represented. Though one can be satisfied that Games Workshop doesn’t have a dominating presence at wargaming shows such as these, Plymouth’s status as a small city on the fringe of provincial Britain makes travel economically unfeasible for most wargaming companies, even those in the fabled Nottingham “Lead Belt”, such as Warlord Games. Most of the traders, besides the Bring & Buy area which occupied the entirety of the back wall, were third-party retailers for numerous manufacturers: Games Workshop, Warlord Games, Mantic, Reaper Minis, Great Escape Games, Victrix, and so forth.

There were a handful of sole traders, making their way with their own bespoke produce. The Cornish company Pirans Warriors were selling, alongside their painting service, their range of “1859 Austrians”, which presumably would be suitable for wargaming the Austrian forces in the 2nd Schleswig-Holstein War of 1864, and the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Athena Miniatures, producers of very beautiful, “made for painters” metal miniatures, from historical periods as diverse as the Dark Ages and the Franco-Prussian War, were also in attendance (I have resisted the urge to pick up their models two years in a row now, I may cave when I return to PAW next year). A personal favourite of mine, the 3D print trader Disain Studios, was also present – as someone who has neither the space, money or inclination to own a 3D Printer, I intend to make full use of Disain’s 3D printing facilities in future, particular for Wargames Atlantic’s Digital range.

Get on with the games!

But of course, dear reader, you are not here for a trader list – we are wargamers, and we like games – preferably about war. PAW did not disappoint; the first thing the Lady Lollard and I saw as we walked into the Kitto Centre’s main gymnasium was a medieval naval battle being fought using Andy Callan’s “Never Mind the Boathooks”, a light hearted seafaring add-on to his High Medieval cult success, “Never Mind the Billhooks”.

I wanted to have a closer look at this game immediately. However, one of the gentlemen nearby the table was in such dire need of a wash that the smell drove me forwards and onto the next gaming table – where there are wargames, there are soap-dodgers, such is life! The next table, as it happens, was the only game, either demonstration or participation, for a Games Workshop product – a large game of “Adeptus Titanicus”, the modern game of Titan combat set during the Horus Heresy.

This game was visually impressive, although it was clear that the table was a cobbling together of GW and non-GW collections. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the clearly non-Games Workshop items were all placed at one end of the table, so that it looked like, for all intents and purposes, there were two separate games being played on the same battlefield (perhaps there were!). I’m not a huge fan of Games Workshop’s present offings – the last game of Warhammer 40’000 I played was in 8th Edition, my last game of Warhammer Fantasy was also in 8th Edition. I’ve never played Age of Sigmar and I don’t have the disposable income for Adeptus Titanicus, Legions Imperialis, or any of the other “Specialist Games”. Indeed, merely mentioning to the Lady Lollard that a single Warlord Titan costs nearly £100 (in American money I think that’s about 200 hamburgers, or maybe 3 football fields) brought about a gasp of astonishment and a quick move away to other gaming tables.

There was a delightful English Civil War battle, based upon true events in Plymouth itself, fought using a modification of Too Fat Lardies’ “Sharpe Practice” ruleset; there were two separate tables running participation games for “0200 Hours” by Grey For Now Games; there was an alternate history scenario, fought with home-brewed rules, where Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobites escaped to North America, and were besieged by the British there; there was a refight of the ill-fated battle of Isandlwana, where the Redcoats were massacred by the Zulu; there was even a large Viking Raid played out using the still-popular “SAGA” ruleset by Gripping Beast.

Of Pyramid Schemes and Perspectives

The most curious episode of PAW ’24 actually occurred on our first lap of the gymnasium; we encountered a very friendly husband & wife who were selling secondhand military books, including a copy of Osprey Wargames’ “Fighting Sail” alongside paper ship profiles for quick assembly and gaming. Having a friend who is keen to get into naval wargames, I snapped up both items as they were being sold for a reasonable sum. It was at that point, I noticed that their little book stall was next to an equally little “Utility Warehouse” stall. For those American readers unfamiliar with the brand, Utility Warehouse is, as the name implies, a provider for household utilities such as gas and electricity. As it turned out, the organisers of PAW let the couple run a Utility Warehouse stall as brand ambassadors. The couple themselves would be paid £50 by Utility Warehouse for every person who took them up on their offer to change their utility provider. It was completely unexpected to see a service provider at a show for toy soldiers, but they were very pleasant, and my energy bill has recently skyrocketed….

Overall, PAW ’24 was good fun – with most of my hobbying being taken up by solo wargaming and sitting at my paint table, it’s a joy to plug back in to the wargaming world at large. However, PAW did feel like a smaller event this year than previous – even the Lady Lollard noticed that there were fewer stalls, and less footfall. However, if we want these events to persist, then it is imperative that we as wargamers go to them, and make use of the traders that also attend, in order to keep our small hobby going.

Smells like Wargamer Spirit

As a parting shot, I stuck my head into the basketball court that had been converted into a tournament space – PAW ’24 ran tournaments for “Warhammer 40’000”, Mantic’s “Kings Of War”, and even “Field Of Glory”. I sorely wish I hadn’t.

To say it smelt “a bit funky” in the tournament room is a bit like saying that swallowing a lungful of seawater is “a bit unsafe”, or that Pol Pot “went a bit far” in the Killing Fields. The noxious, rank body odour assaulted my nose, colonised my nostrils, and stayed firmly in situ all the way back to rural Cornwall, where the fresh sea air can drive out all manner of stinks.

I hope you enjoyed reading this unusual review of a British wargaming show – the next one is in a few months, at the Legionary show in Exeter. I will see if I can attend this one also, and grace Splendor Of Fire with yet another awful piece of wargaming journalism!

Addendum – the Lady Lollard and I both took pictures at PAW ’24. It should be taken for granted that all the good pictures were taken by her, and all the bad pictures were taken by me!


3 responses to “Across the Pond: PAW ’24”

  1. Thank you for the highly entertaining correspondence that puts most of the con reports in the pay-magazines to shame. I also learned a thing or three! For instance, I had thought it was the baleful influence of the pilgrim’s ideological (r)evolutionaries that gave us Brutalist architecture; what a surpirse to learn that they were fleeing from it! No doubt this is what Thomas Morton and his debauched associates were building in Merrymount before their well-deserved ouster!

    As for the stink, well… the more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess. Rank smells are the one aspect of sci-fi/comic book/pop culture conventions that has never been reformed. I am happy to report, however, that at the HMGS wargaming cons I frequently attend here in Pennsylvania, there is hardly a whiff of body odor. Must be something to do with the advanced age of the crowd here.

    And obviously your wife is a delightful lady with excellent taste!

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