There’s a time leading up to any event where it stops being an abstract point in the future, and becomes concretely real. Less a vague sense of wanting to book hotels before the good deals are gone, and more directly worrying about whether the extra socks you bought from Amazon will make it on time.
For me and the US GHO, this was a week ago, when I was roasting in the sun and trying to pound out the last of the Military Base terrain kits. In addition to playing in the GT, I had a lot of logistical support for the event on my plate, with the tables in different places and states of construction. My job, the only value I was adding to the entire event, was making sure that come hell or high water (ironically, the remains of hurricane Ida did cause some light flooding last week near where we had the terrain stored) all of my precious MDF children made it to Rockville in one piece. After everyone finished setting up on Friday, I looked around the room and saw what looked for all the world like an actual GT, which it was, being run by actual professionals, which we aren’t.
I’m not usually a fan of toxic positivity, or positivity in general, but I ran repeated Vibe Checks over the weekend, and not a single one came back anything but positive, so mission accomplished there. As an organizer, I couldn’t say enough good things about the GHO. The attendees, the staff, the venue, all huge wins. As far as These Unprecedented Times go, the Covid policy appears to have worked – mask usage was consistent, and checking vaccinations went smoothly. As a player? We’ll get to that.
Dark Angels Battalion Detachment (1995 points, 10CP)
1 Lazarus (Warlord, Brilliant Strategist) 110
1 Primaris Librarian (Aversion, Righteous Repugnance) 95
5 Assault Intercessors 95
5 Assault Intercessors 95
5 Regular Intercessors 100
1 Bladeguard Ancient (Relic: Pennant of Remembrance) 75
5 Bladeguard Veterans (neo-volkite) 180
5 Bladeguard Veterans 175
5 Deathwing Terminators (literally the Dark Vengeance models plus a Watcher in the Dark) 200
1 Ravenwing Apothecary (Chief Apothecary, Selfless Healer) 135, -1CP
1 Redemptor (Plasma, Icarus, storm bolters, flamer) 180
6 Bikes (2 plasma, combi-plas) 210
10 Hellblasters (heavy, relic plasma pistol) 335, -1CP
I absolutely never even fired that stupid relic pistol that I blew a CP on. Hell, I just now remembered that I paid points for a Watcher in the Dark, two full days after my last game ended.
If you’re going to offer feedback or try to dunk on me, know this: I do not care. You have concerns, I know. That’s fair, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the list-building advice, but that’s not what this was about. Yes, this is “real bad”, in that it might be one of the worst GT-legal things you could pull from the Dark Angels supplement, but that was in no way part of the rubric I was building against. This list wasn’t supposed to be good – if it accidentally was that would have been neat, but it wasn’t a design goal. My ability to have fun playing Warhammer is at most tangentially related to how many points I score. I just wanted to show up with a painted army where I knew most of the rules.
The start of my problems was that I had 25 tables to build, leaving zero time to paint new models, which necessitated using what I already had. I also didn’t set out to deliberately build a joke list, which meant no Astraeus and no Booley’s Tau. In the end, I used a simple and utterly disastrous strategy: open my display cabinet, start grabbing what I think are my best-painted models, and throw them in a box until it hits 2000 points. This is why I used Lazarus: I like Azrael’s rules more, but I painted the horrid little gremlin two years ago and he isn’t up to my 2k21 standards. I have plenty of Inceptors, assault Hellblasters, and non-assault Intercessors, but they don’t look as nice, so they stayed home. This wasn’t a ploy to win Best Painted – that was realistically never possible – I just didn’t want to put something down on the table if I wasn’t proud of it, and I’m better at looking at models than I am at reading a codex, so visual appeal trumped rules support here.
After some delays, including the fact that I didn’t start packing my bags until noon, I arrived in Rockville. I threw my bags in the hotel room, took a few blessedly unmasked breaths in private, then immediately ran back to my car to meet everyone at the storage facility and grab the terrain.
Exactly one building broke in transit, and it was a clean break separating the two floors, making it more of an upgrade than a problem per se. Some time after setting up and ogling how great our tables looked, I realized I never ate lunch, so within about a minute of being seated at the ramen store for dinner I was mass-ordering fried chicken thighs. I ate about 5 in the time it took my giant bowl of soup to arrive.
Scott Horras Heresy and then I attempted to get a practice game in on table 1, but it didn’t work out. I don’t mean that we didn’t play: we did. But it stopped being table 1 halfway through when we decided to renumber them, and it also wasn’t much of a game, because Scott is a very good player and I am not. This would be the first (and decidedly last: I’m never playing this list again) practice game I would get with my army.
Up at 7 after about 4 hours of sleep, and eating a bagel at the check-in desk. The parts of conventions that I really enjoy are the smaller groups that form spontaneously around the margins of the main event. I find the chaos of the actual thing we’re all there for to be a lot to deal with, and can’t really enjoy it so much as survive it – it’s hard to socialize when you’re either rolling dice or running between tables as pairings are released. The meetings in the hall, or grabbing food with a subset of the attendees, those are where the real fun is for me. It’s the only time the churn slows down enough to get to talk to friends or strangers, and it’s always fun seeing the little temporary groups that start to emerge after the same people randomly bump into each other two or three times. The downside is that it’s entirely random, so some people you don’t see much, or at all.
Dice dropped at 9:15, and my first opponent was running Sisters. He was a good dude against whom I would slam hams any day of the week (this trend actually held for all six games, without exception they were all great people), and I quickly found out that it was his first event. This not being my first rodeo (it was, in fact, my second), I took a moment to give him the sum total of advice I have to offer: use the chairs provided instead of standing all day, and stay hydrated, especially with the masks requiring a little more vocal projection than normal. I checked in with him after game 6 ended, and found out that he’d gone 4-2, which is insanely good for a first tournament. He also thanked me for being a good opponent, that it calmed his nerves a bit, and that the chair helped.
Lunch was a chili cheese hot dog. Dinner was Fogo de Chao, as promised, and I was feeling profoundly unwell afterward. Nonetheless, I made an effort to go pester the Narrative players during their night game before FaceTiming my wife and collapsing into bed.
Someone asked me at dinner whether it was a lot of work to run an event like this, and I had to think about it for a second. My initial reaction was: not really? I didn’t have to take any time off work in the run up, and I still had downtime where I wasn’t consumed by MDF sheets. Then again, I did spend three full Saturdays with a tube of glue in my hand, and I sweated my way through loading/unloading a truck and jogging boxes through the conference center, not to mention organizing the terrain build days. The biggest piece of “work” I had was actually the mental overhead of knowing how utterly screwed we’d be if I didn’t get it done. Failure was absolutely not an option, and it weighed heavily enough that minutiae like “winning games” didn’t even register. In some ways it’s very cool to feel real, visceral, fear. It turns the volume down on all your other issues, reduces them to background noise.
In the end, the answer is yes, organizing an event like this is a ton of work. The reason it didn’t immediately feel that way to me is that I wasn’t the one doing most of it – most of the tasks (ordering materials, working with sponsors and venues, building event packets) were spread around other Goonhammer staff, and for the ones that were my problem, we had such an incredibly eager (not just willing: eager) corps of volunteers that it didn’t feel like a lot of work even when it was. Enough folks asked if they could help – entirely on their own volition – that by the time our actual intended worker drones arrived, the room setup was already done.
By the time the games started, I had nothing to worry about but playing. There also was a dog.
Another early day, and three more long games. Only one of my six games went all the way to time, but I never got tabled, so I did get a full five turns in on all of them, and that’s a lot of Warhammer for me. The advantage I had day two was that I started on the lower tables. The way we’d settled on numbering, the bottom tranche of tables were up against the side of the room, which meant that, if nothing else, I had a power outlet I could use to charge my phone. A few empty tables nearby provided doubled-up chairs, so that both me and my army could sit. Nice.
I had a burger for lunch. It was fine.
After game 6, against another standout opponent (playing your last game on the bottom table you obviously don’t tend to run into hyper-competitive types, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for being salty at that point – this dude was the exact opposite), we got to the awards ceremony. I’d been looking forward to this one all weekend.
Obviously, I had no chance of winning anything. Goonhammer staff weren’t eligible for the prize support, and also if you know anything about me, it’s that I have never won, will never win, at a Warhammer contest, but I still managed to insert myself into the conversation. Following the presentation of the Smoking Boots Award, I Columbo-ed my way in with one last thing. All weekend long, I had been on a sneaking mission – I hadn’t told anyone about the prize being given away, or even let the players or the TO know that this contest existed in the first place.
A few weeks ago, I started talking to Chase “Gunum” Garber about the GHO. He wanted to contribute somehow, despite not being available to attend, so he came up with a scheme. I want to stress here that I did nothing except enable him – this wasn’t my idea, I didn’t furnish anything, all I did was act as Chase’s sounding board and telepresence avatar – so all the credit goes to him. What he’d done was look over all the GT lists, determine which was the most in keeping with the spirit of Hearing Him Out, and send them a treat.
He settled on a bonkers Aeldari army rocking 15 Harlequins with Fusion Pistols and 15 bikes or whatever with Haywire Cannons. It fell to me to congratulate the winner for their Innovations In Pervert List Construction, as well as hand over their prize: a new-in-box genuine Forge World KX139 Ta’unar Supremacy Armour, fully armed. Giving away a surprise titan was one of the high points of the weekend for me, and I have it on good authority that the model went to a welcoming home for wayward lords of war.
Dinner didn’t happen until 10pm. I’d gotten tied up moving things back to the storage unit (here again, our volunteers crushed it: within 2 hours of dice down after game 6, you’d never even know we’d been in the room, it was spotless) and missed sushi. The loosely organized group I’d fallen into were now at Nando’s. At this point I texted the crew “boutta fuck up a whole-ass bird”, and proceeded to do exactly that. This is the pro-tier Nando’s order: a whole chicken, with hot Peri-Peri sauce, and no sides. In about 20 minutes there was nothing but bones on that plate. I’m a man of my word.
Now let’s get on to the games, a proper GT report.
I lost all 6 of them.
This concludes my report from the first Goonhammer Open. We’ll have a lot of better coverage on the site in coming days. As always, the comments section is open, or you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.