A Jarl’s First Grand Tournament

Goonhammer Patron “Jarl” Ian Donovan recently attended the US Goonhammer Open in Bethesda Maryland, finishing 10th overall with a 4-2 record. This is his story.

Alright, so here’s the tl;dr version: I flew down to DC, played 6 games with my Space Wolves army, won 4, came in 10th, and the flew home.

Pairings are up! (and the Wolves are loosed)

Still reading? Okay, so let’s go into more detail about my first GT experience.  It was a great time, and I hope that this event gets held every year going forward.  Of course, the experience is more than just the games, there’s the travel, food, and sagas that are born of the tournament, so let’s tell the story!


Getting to the event was rather straightforward.  Goonhammer chose a great location for its inaugural event; Rockville is on the DC metro and DC is a great travel hub for people to fly to and from.  I packed my mini’s in foam and put them in my carry-on suitcase (I will never, never check my minis).  TSA was remarkably cool with the minis, even the drop pod that looked like a grenade.  They gave me more grief for an ankle wrap than for any mini or dice.  Landing in DC, the subway system has a spot adjacent to the airport you can get to by walking.  And the hotel was 5 minutes walking off another subway stop.  Truly, a great location, and I’d attend the event again at the same location.

(Jarl walks the under-Fang in prep for the battle)

Getting in Friday meant that I had free time on my hands, so I decided to go bother the Tournament Organizers.  They turned this around and had me and some others help set up terrain for the GT and Narrative tables.  I paid them back by stealing an objective marker (there were a couple hundred left over, so no tables were shorted by my larceny).  But it was a good time, and it was great to meet people I had previously only spoken to on Discord.  I wound up going out to Korean BBQ with some other Bostonians, and going to bed early.  The BBQ was a 15 minute walk from the hotel, but it was sidewalks the entire way and well-lit.  No car or uber needed.  The hotel beds were comfy, and the rooms spacious.

(Damned Guard, don’t they know the Wolves are the real heroes of the Imperium?!?)

My first game was against Scott Horras “Heresy” of Goonhammer himself.  It was also 3 feet away from the TO, Shane Watts (this would be a theme with my games, I was always near the TO).  I got first turn and some lucky dice.  I killed three Taurox through the 5+ Invulnerable Save the HQ gave them, then had my Eliminators kill the HQ.  I charged his screening units and had his army in the back corner.  I got unbelievably lucky.  I made enough saves to keep my Wolf Guard alive in that ruin in the lower left quarter (they would go on to push Scott off his home objective, denying him primary for several turns) and four out of eight dice came up six’s when my Multi-melta Long Fangs shot at a charging Taurox, killing it and leaving them free to shoot in my Turn 2.  I won this game, largely on the strength of that early push.  It felt great to win my first game, and I was feeling pretty good as I went to lunch.

(Bloody bugs, bloody, lucky bugs…)

My second game was against Sam Kenney, a fellow Bostonian.  We’ve played a lot against each other and know each other’s tricks.  I lost this game, and I deserved to lose it.  I chose very poor secondaries, and Sam punished me for it.  I didn’t keep any banners up, never got stranglehold on a four-objective map (Emperor knows what I was thinking with this one), and while I held the vital ground, it wasn’t enough.  Sam used a Trygon, some Warriors, the Adrenal Gland upgrade, and a psychic power to re-roll charges against a target to take my home objective and surround me.  The game was still only twelve points apart, but I earned this loss.  Oh, and Sam is the person I was sharing my hotel room with and eating a lot of meals with.  Luckily, we are both mature adults and this game didn’t change anything.


My third game was against Andrew W. with Sisters of Battle running Morvenn Vahl, Celestine, a blob of 20 Sisters, 2 squads of Retributors, a block of body-guarding Sacristans, and some supporting characters.  This game ended up being the closest at 78-71, for the Wolves.  Andrew took Banners, Engage, and To The Last.  I took Banners, Oaths, and Assassination.  I ended up only getting three assassinate points, but I did well on Banners, Oaths, and Primary, and spent a considerable effort pushing my opponent’s army off objectives and tearing his banners down.

(I forgot to take pictures of all my games, so please take this photo of the GT in full swing in lieu of an army photo)

Dear reader, allow me this small moment to rant about the Bodyguard rule.  It is absolute horse-hockey!  I don’t mind there being a way to stop snipers, but when you hide a single Sacristan behind a wall and put Morvenn Vahl on one wound in front of the wall, I feel you should be allowed to shoot Vahl.  I had 6 snipers that could see Vahl, couldn’t see the bodyguard, and Could. Not. Shoot. Vahl.  This was followed in the next game by Death Guard Deathshroud Terminators hiding behind a wall while the Biologis Putrifier stood in front of the wall stopping my charges.  Bodyguard needs something changed, whether it is a visibility clause, a nearness clause, or some mixture.

Game 4 vs. Ian Donovan’s Space Wolves

My fourth opponent was Rob “The Chirurgeon” Jones himself! Luckily for me, I had faced off against similar lists two times before in the last month and had a pretty good idea how to play the mission.  It was hold 2/3 with four objectives in the no-man’s land and far away from the center.  I took Oaths, Assassination, and Retrieve Octarius Data.  For anyone shaking their head at Assassination, look at the lists.  I knew from experience that if I cracked his protective shell, I could get his characters for a song.  As for why I took ROD and Oaths, I used my Phobos units to their full effect here.  I had a unit on each of the four middle objectives before the game started, and with a unit of Assault intercessors on my home objective, I was already set up for Primary and ROD points.  We ended up duking it out for five turns, and while Rob was ahead on killing things and had the better units left alive at the end, I was fifty points up.  And I maxed Assassination, so take that you nay-sayers!

Rob: This is, of course, complete bullshit. Ian played a great game but also got a massive boost from some insane luck with his Redemptor that resulted in a 20-point swing and was the only way he was actually able to take out my characters (the explosion killed my out-of-line-of-sight Deathshrouds) and max Assassination. He still played a strong game and would have won but if you want a more *accurate* account, you can find one here. No, I’m not at all bitter about Space Wolf bullshit. Get away from me.

My fifth opponent was TJ Lannigan.  I know about what he did before; it’s worth noting that at this event he was wearing a camera and rolling in a defined dice tray for the entire game.  He was a pleasant opponent and tight player.  He whooped me 97-75, and we were done in ninety minutes.  This is the only game that was a disappointment to me, because I feel I could have been a better opponent and put up more of a fight, but alas, his Plagueburst Crawlers just picked up my Redemptors and Wolf Guard.  We talked about it after, and while I could have potentially scored more points with a “go wide” strategy, I was not winning this game.  So I went upstairs, watched some Netflix and ate some Gummi Bears.

(My last game I get to kill some Smurfs? Fenrys Hjolda!)

My final opponent was John van Dusen of Cuddle Buddies aka Roboute_G on Reddit, the man who posts Meta Mondays.  John didn’t deepstrike a thing, and placed his Invictors and Infiltrators pretty far forward, planning to redeploy them back if I got first.  He got first, ran the Invictors up to kill my Cyberwolves and the Infiltrators did a ROD.  The Invictors then failed some charges and were left very exposed.  This combined with leaving a Redemptor outside Psychic Fortress range allowed me to get in the game.  I spent Turn 1 killing a Redemptor and both Invictors, sniped a unit of Suppressors in a long-range duel, and was picking up my secondaries.  John brought out his remaining Redemptors and supporting HQs, and that was a nut I didn’t want to crack.  T7 (8 with Might of Heroes), 5+ Invulnerable, and -1 Damage is a beast of a castle.  On the other side of the field, my Terminators made a 9” charge on a reroll, and that pushed him off getting Engage points.  The game ended 91-69 (nice!), to the Wolves.

And here I need to make a note about sportsmanship.  Early on in the game, John was gracious and let me take my psychic phase back, turning on the assault doctrine for a unit of Wolf Guard and killing one of his Invictors.  I repaid this by (eventually) letting him set up a unit of Incursors that he had put into reserves via stratagem and forgot to put back on the table before they were destroyed as reserves left off after Turn 3.  But here’s the thing: I didn’t want to let them on the table.  In fact, I almost didn’t.  John was visibly upset at my poor sportsmanship, and I don’t blame him.  He’d given me a take back and I repaid it by not reminding him about his unit and then not allowing him to put them on the field.  At one point I said “Let’s do a roll-off”, but that wasn’t right.  I was trying to avoid having to be a good sport, and John called me on it.  I did let him put that unit on the table and they did make a charge against me.  I don’t know if this could have lost me the game, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I was willing to throw away an enjoyable game and leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.  Luckily, John convinced me to do the right thing, and we left feeling good about our game and talking about it on his Monday Meta post in the comments.  This was a good reminder for me to be a good sport, and focus on the experience, not just the win/loss record.

The award ceremony took place, and it was great.  Awards were given to top players, best painted, craziest list, and everyone applauded each other and the organizers.  Me and Sam went to a restaurant a little bit further away to avoid any crowd and had a quiet dinner.  Followed by some TV and a full night’s sleep as I was flying in the morning, and Sam had a full day of driving to look forward to.

Overall, this was a great event and I really enjoyed myself.  I’ve got another GT coming up in October, and I’ve already made adjustments to my list (Eliminators and Termies are out, Bladeguard Veterans and another unit of Wolf Guard with Jump Packs are in).  I went to this event with the goal of going 4-2, and that’s exactly what I did.  I hope everyone else who attended the event enjoyed it as much as me, and I look forward to seeing all my new friends at whatever event we meet at next!

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