The Las Vegas Open. Adepticon. The NoVa Open. The Warhammer Open. A wargaming convention or Warhammer tournament is an absolutely amazing thing. It’s nerd summer camp, where for a few days you leave behind work, your family, your dog (1), and instead just spend a few days absolutely immersed in fandom. But as much fun as these conventions are, they are still relatively small scale events. The LVO is (in 2022) sharing it’s space with the same convention area as the former official Star Trek Las Vegas convention; NOVA shares it space with the hotel that hosts Blerdcon and the DC-area furry convention. Adepticon shares its space with the area that held, um, DashCon. Our wargaming conventions are just one seemingly-small drop in the bucket that is nerd culture.
When it comes to fandom conventions, all conventions are held to one terrifying standard: San Diego ComiCon (SDCC). If you haven’t been to SDCC before, let me tell you: there is no convention like it in the world. The convention proper takes over the entire San Diego Convention Center and the neighboring *three hotels*. SDCC’s offsites, basically temporary theme park attractions, take over a significant chunk of the entire Gaslamp District. One can, if they are willing to stand in a brutal line (2), try for access to some one these special events.
Despite Comicon being the Ground Zero of all of nerd culture, it has not had a major emphasis on the miniatures hobby, Warhammer, or wargaming in general. The focus has been on the comic properties, “genre” media properties, action figures, Funko pops, literature, and video gaming. In 2015 when I went, the only reference I saw to 40K was a single third-party T-Shirt. In 2016, one could be forgiven for even thinking Warhammer existed! The only wargaming vendors were Fantasy Flight (shoved in the corner of the Star Wars booth near the center of the exhibit hall) and CMON giving away early releases of the A Song of Ice and Fire miniatures game.
Things have changed in 2022, following the end of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders and the effect those orders have had on our culture.
CMON is no longer confined to a small booth in the middle of the hall, or a medium-sized booth near Artists Alley. In 2022, CMON had a huge booth in the gaming area of the hall, with lots of room for demonstrations of their various games. They also had a display of the miniatures for their games – and those miniatures were painted. To me, this reflects the expectation that miniatures should be painted even outside of the wargaming context.
In 2022, many vendors were proudly touting their partnership with Games Workshop and selling 40K merch: Factory Entertainment was selling an exclusive 40K lunchbox, and ABYStyle proudly touted their Warhammer license. Diamond Previews had both the Macfarlane and JoyToy action figures on display as products they shipped. As the Con was winding down, I was able to pick up a couple for relatively cheap, to boot!
I bring this up because SDCC is a clear indication that Warhammer, in relation to greater geekdom or nerdom or whatever you want to call it, is changing. Warhammer is becoming more mainstream, and Games Workshop has done a great deal of work to ensure that Warhammer can become mainstream. This means making the rules for the games easier to learn and more interactive, this means making new types of paint that are easier to use, this means making models that don’t require additional work to make them look decent. This is all good. This means making Warhammer an inclusive and accepting universe, where everyone can see themselves in powered armor and fighting Orks or Tyranids. No matter their race, creed, or whom they love.
By bringing Warhammer to SDCC, our hobby is showcased to a wider world. It is the biggest growth opportunity, and one that I hope very much accelerates in the future.
Will, one day, we need to go to Hall H for a Warhammer preview panel? It’s not impossible…
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to sleep. SDCC is the one convention that is more exhausting than a 40K Supermajor.
(1) Well, owing to home renovations and my current house, I’m bringing my puppy to NoVa with me.
(2) Were you line for Forge World at Adepticon 2022? Which took an hour to get through? That’s *standard* at SDCC.