Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed: A Newcomer’s GT Perspective

Everyone has their first, and this was mine. Most of you have been to a big event, but it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of people out there who have never been to a more “serious” event than an RTT. Until recently, I had only attended small doubles events and a few RTT’s. This fact changed as of last weekend when I attended the Michigan GT, the most significant event by far that I had participated in (118 40k players showed up).

I prepared extensively for this in a lot of different ways leading up to the weekend of the event. I read the mission pack and event rules, joined the Facebook discussion group, reached out to friends who had been to the event before, and made a four-week painting plan to ensure I was 100% ready. But despite my best intentions, I was ill-prepared for what the GT actually was. Most of my challenges came down to the fact that I didn’t respect the considerable differences between an RTT and a GT.

Editor’s Note: For details on how Charlie built this awesome display board, check out today’s Narrative Forge on making display boards.

My Army List – Chaos Soup, 1,998 points

Nurgle Daemons Battalion (+5 CP, 744 points)

HQ: Poxbringer
HQ: Sloppity Bilepiper

Troops: Nurglings x4
Troops: Nurglings x4
Troops: Plaguebearers x30 w/Instrument + Icon
Troops: Plaguebearers x30 w/Instrument + Icon

The Purge (CSM) Spearhead Detachment (+1 CP, 774 points)

HQ: Daemon Prince w/Wings, Malefic Talons, Nurgle

HS: Hellforged Deredeo w/Butcher Cannon Array, Greater Havoc Launcher
HS: Hellforged Deredeo w/Butcher Cannon Array, Greater Havoc Launcher
HS: Hellforged Deredeo w/Butcher Cannon Array, Greater Havoc Launcher

The Purge Supreme Command Detachment (+0 CP, 480 points)
Specialist Detachment: Soulforged Pack

HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon, Warlord
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon



Day 1

A massive lack of foresight led me to decide to drive up in the morning, a journey of one and a half hours on the first day of the tournament. Lance (badass Astra Militarum player and friend) and I left before sunrise to arrive at the hotel with enough time to register and sip a few cups of coffee waiting for things to kick off. I knew going into this that I shouldn’t bank on my playing skill to pull me into a decent shot at best-in-faction. I’m a mid-tier player at best, but an avid painter. Luckily for me, the Michigan GT likes to reward all aspects of the hobby and weights painting and theme points to approximately three wins worth of battle points. Therefore, with a respectable paint and theme score alongside an average battle round score, I hoped to stand a chance at winning something.

I had labored for the past four weeks working on my display board and army. None of the previous events I had attended factored in a display board for scores, so this was the first pass at needing to have one. Having no clue where to start, I did what I always do when I need to learn something new – I turned to YouTube. Whether it’s miniature-related or practically anything at all, YouTube has never let me down. This case was no exception. I had found a series of terrain-making videos that seemed easy enough to follow, and I had made sketches, prototypes, and mentally conceptualized my display board countless times in the month leading up to the GT. But, because I had no real clue what I was doing, I ended up making my display board too big. Like, WAY too big. Like, “have to turn it vertical to get it out of the house,” “have to put the seats down in the backseat of the car,” “have to politely ask the people at the tournament to scoot out of the way as I’m walking down the aisle between tables” too big.

As Lance and I sipped our coffee next to my giant-ass display board, I started to realize that there is no world in which I could navigate three rounds of a crowded banquet hall while toting this son of a bitch around. I was going to need to try and get it judged in the few minutes before the round starts. Luckily, I spotted a red-shirted judge who was in the middle of another army’s judging not too far away. I politely hovered near him, waiting for him to wrap up before awkwardly trying to explain that 1) I’m a complete newbie, 2) I’m also an idiot for making my display board too big and 3) I’d really appreciate it if he could come to judge my stuff so I could put my board back in the car. He seemed to understand and was cool about it, so he came over to score my stuff. I had no clue if I should walk him through my army and try to explain how everything is Nurgle-aligned, or if that would be weird to influence his judging. At the RTT’s I’ve been to, I just left it up on the judging table and walked away. But for the GT, they place so much prominence on the army theme that I had typed out some background information for my army. I ended up deciding to at least point out the printed pages of fluff and then awkwardly pretend to look at nearby armies, all the while trying to see what marks he gave me for each point of the rubric. Lots of 5’s and a few 10’s out of 15. Hmmm, what’s going on? As he wrapped up, I decided to ask if he had any feedback for me. He did and pointed out some inconsistencies with my basing and the board, which is fair enough – they were off a couple of shades, despite my best efforts. I decided not to push it for all the details and as a result, didn’t realize it at the time (but did after the event when I asked for clarification) that the theme score was mostly visual. I had thought list components factored more into it as well, like the fact that everything in my list was Nurgle-aligned. It didn’t count for nearly as much as I expected. I had misunderstood the rubric and as a result, had massively missed the mark on theme scoring.

Then, I was able to take the behemoth that was my display board out to the car just in time to make it back as pairings were announced. The entire month leading up to this event, I was mentally preparing myself to get bent over by the new Marines. Imagine my excitement when I see that my first game is against Raven Guard.

Game 1 Raven Guard

Alex's Raven Guard Army List - Click to expand

Raven Guard Battalion (+5 CP, 915 points)

HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield, Warlord
HQ: Kayvaan Shrike
HQ: Librarian w/Jump Pack

Troops: Intercessors x10
Troops: Scouts x5 w/Sniper rifles
Troops: Scouts x5 w/Sniper rifles

Elites: Aggressors x5 w/Boltstorm

Raven Guard Battalion (+5 CP, 784 points)

HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer
HQ: Chaplain Venerable Dreadnought w/Litany of Hate, 2x CCW+Storm bolter

Troops: 5x Scouts
Troops: 5x Scouts
Troops: 5x Scouts

Elites: Assault Centurions x6

Raven Guard Spearhead Detachment (+1 CP, 301 points)

HQ: Phobos Liuetnant w/Occulus Bolt Carbine, Grav-chute, Master-crafted Occulus Bolt Rifle

HS: 3x Eliminators
HS: 3x Eliminators
HS: 3x Eliminators


My first game was against Alex, a friendly Raven Guard player. I had listened to enough podcasts about the new Marines to expect his three units of three Eliminators, but had never witnessed Assault Centurions firsthand. Flamers and a shit-ton of shots are precisely what my Plaguebearers don’t like, so I knew it would be an uphill battle. The entire event used a custom hodge-podge of missions, incorporating tactical objectives (cards) with drafted secondary objectives (most of which weren’t scored until the end of the game), and truly endgame objectives that were different across each mission. I had a chance in the previous weeks to practice at least the first mission in the pack, so I felt decent about how to proceed. Unfortunately for myself and my three Lord Discordants, he deepstruck just shy of half his army, leaving Scouts, Eliminators, a Librarian Dreadnought, and a couple of smash Captains as the only things on the table. With nothing to charge, two of my Discordants held back and a third rushed across the board to serve as a hopeful distraction for when the Centurions came in. This was probably a mistake as they would have been better used as counter-assault units. Sloppy unit placement on my part, along with the three groups of Eliminators roughly equally spaced across the board, allowed for Alex to take out my Bilepiper turn one and my Poxbringer turn two.

Careful deployment on Alex’s part would protect him from my Plaguebearers wrapping a unit of Scouts. My Plaguebearer screen was still in much of the middle of the board, causing his Aggressors to be forced to shoot at them. They counted as moving after coming in from reserves, so I, luckily, didn’t have to weather double shooting from them. We were on the clock and turns three through 6 went reasonably quickly, mainly coming down to his Centurions walking into my army and having their way with me, joined promptly by Shrike. I played the tactical objectives reasonably well but dropped the ball when it came to the custom secondaries and endgame points. The score ended up being two points in his favor for a final score of 23 to 27 (25+/- the differential). Looking back on the game, it was winnable had I had better character positioning, had been a little more patient with my Disco Lords, and kept the secondaries and endgame objectives in mind more. These parts of the mission would continuously prove to be troublesome for me, as I’m much more accustomed to playing ITC missions.

Game 2 T’au

Wayne's Army List - Click to expand

T’au Sept Battalion Detachment (+5 CP, 897 points)

HQ: Cadre Fireblade w/Markerlight
HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar battlesuit w/3x fusion blaster, supernova launcher

Troops: Breachers x5
Troops: Breachers x5
Troops: Breachers x5

Elites: XV8 Crisis Bodyguards x3 w/3x Burst Cannon

FA: 6 Shield Drones
FA: 6 Shield Drones
FA: 6 Shield Drones

HS: Broadside Battlesuit w/2x missile pods, 2x SMS, Advanced targeting system, Seeker Missile
HS: Broadside Battlesuit w/2x missile pods, 2x SMS, Advanced targeting system

T’au Sept Battalion (+5 CP, 295 points)

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Warlord, 4x missile pod, Puretide engram neurochip, Through Unity, Devastation
HQ: Darkstrider

Troops: Strike team x5
Troops: Strike team x5
Troops: Strike team x5

T’au Sept Vanguard Detachment (+1 CP, 808 points)

HQ: Commander Shadowsun
HQ: Ethereal w/Honour blade, hover drone

Elites: Stealth Battlesuits x6, 4w/Burst cannon, 2w/Fusion Blaster + Velocity tracker
Elites: Stealth Battlesuits x6, 4w/Burst cannon, 2w/Fusion Blaster + Velocity tracker
Elites: Stealth Battlesuits x6, 4w/Burst cannon, 2w/Fusion Blaster + Velocity tracker


T’au was my first and main army for about three years, so when I saw round two was against a T’au list with no Riptides and a unit of three Crisis Suits, I felt confident. Wayne was a lanky and pleasant opponent whose win over me would teach me not to be overconfident. Wayne chose the better of the two deployment zones, featuring a three-story ruin just big enough to castle nearly his whole army. Because his Broadsides and Commanders were reasonably safe on the upper floors of the ruins, I was left trying to clear out the bottom of the building first to get to him. I tried to get fancy to avoid a massive overwatch through For The Greater Good by warptiming a Disco Lord to the rear of the building where most of his units couldn’t see me. This plan worked to reduce the damage I took, but I was not able to shoot through all of the Fire Warriors and drones to touch anything important in combat. In another stroke of idiocy, I got confused on his units, leaving one model in a 6-man group of Stealth Suits alive and failed to achieve a three victory point secondary for killing a unit in the first turn. And then I lost 10-11 Plaguebearers in overwatch on the first turn.

Throughout the game, I was never quite able to do as much damage to him as he was able to do to me, and he kept my Discos off of him well enough. This was the first game that I seriously considered the possibility that taking my Lord Discordants as the Purge for the Nurgle Mark (remember, theme points) might not have been worth passing on the Flawless Host’s extra attacks. As Purge, they just felt a tad underwhelming. The game ended in a 29 to 21 loss for me.

At this point, I was 0-2 and starting to question if I would meet that 3-2 goal I had set for myself ahead of time. In my previous RTT experience, I’ve consistently gone 2-1 and felt I was a strong contender for the 50th percentile that weekend. The level of competition at a GT, both in gameplay and painting, was miles ahead of anything I had witnessed at the RTT.

I somehow found the time to finally meet up with a couple of friends I had made through Facebook 40k groups, which was excellent to shake some hands finally. They had already both won games, so it was just myself who was struggling. Neat. I joked with my wife through a text message that I had always shot for 3-2, so I was getting those two losses out of the way early. What a jokester, I am.

Game 3 Chaos Soup

Cole's Army List - Click to expand

Chaos Daemons Battalion (+5 CP, 704 points)

HQ: Daemon Prince of Khorne w/Wings, Skullreaver
HQ: Poxbringer

Troops: Bloodletters x20 w/Icon, Instrument
Troops: Nurglings x3
Troops: Plaguebearers x30 w/Icon, Instrument

Thousand Sons Battalion (+5 CP, 690 points)

HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch
HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch w/Dark Matter Crystal, Wings, Malefic Talons

Troops: Rubric Marines x10 w/8 Inferno Boltguns, 1 Soulreaper cannon
Troops: Tzaangors w/blades, Twistbray
Troops: Tzaangors w/blades, Twistbray

Slaanesh Daemons Battalion (+5 CP, 600 points)

HQ: Daemon Prince of Slaanesh w/Wings, Hellforged Sword, Warlord, Soulstealer, the Murderdance
HQ: Syll’Esske

Troops: Daemonettes x10 w/Instrument
Troops: Daemonettes x10 w/Instrument
Troops: Daemonettes x10 w/Instrument


Pairings got announced, and I see that in the last round of Day 1, I’m facing off against another Chaos Soup list. It seemed like my opponent, Cole, had the units to deepstrike the shit out of me, and I was right. I screened well-enough to keep everything off of my Deredeos for multiple turns. However, through another severe mistake, I failed to bide my time with my Lords again appropriately. Turn one for me saw me make a turn one charge into a line of Plaguebearers only to kill about four of them. On his first turn, he quickly flew a Daemon Prince over his lines to kill my foolish Disco Lord. Only now realizing my mistake as he was rolling a bunch of wounds on my Lord Discordant, I took a break from the painful sight on the board to review the mission secondaries and endgame objective. I was trying not to let my past two games’ mistakes bite me again. It’s at that time that I remembered each mission had a unique scenario. The first person in the entire round to achieve it wins a prize. For this game, the particular situation was losing a character to another character in close combat. Hell yeah, I’ll take that consolation. I call a judge over to explain I’d just met the requirements for the scenario and ended up winning a Forgebane box on the spot. It was the high point of the game because everything else about the game was pretty much downhill from there.

The Deredeos utilized the Purge stratagem a few times in this game to shoot at in-combat units, which was overall excellent and validation that the Purge was the right choice for them. However, Cole did a great job keeping his troops units between my guns and his characters, meaning that a lot of time, I was forced to shoot into units I didn’t want to. He also made rolling a 5+++ look easy. Primarily it came down to the fact that I couldn’t back up my gun line any further, and his advance was too fast for me to stop. This was another game in which my Lord Discordants felt like they underperformed, were underutilized by a poor general (i.e: me), or both. This was a crushing 4 to 46 loss for me and further illustrated my lack of thought put into the endgame and secondary objectives. For this mission, kill points played a significant role in the final score. You could choose one for 1CP or two for 3CP unit types (troop, HQ, etc.) before the game to count double victory points for kill points warded for those types of units. In hindsight, the bonus points are clearly worth 3CP, but I only spent the 1CP.

After the shellacking I had been through that day, I was ready to get food and beer, not necessarily in that order. Lance was 2-1 for the day and feeling pretty good. We ended up grabbing some steak sandwiches from a mom and pop nearby and sat at the hotel drinking, talking to one of those friends I got to finally meet earlier, namely Scott. Due to the rankings, it was very likely that Scott and Lance would play in the morning (ranked 43 and 44 in the placings), and it was fun listening to them both talk about their lists. This is one of my favorite differences I’ve found between the two types of events, RTT’s and GT’s, the hanging out. With just the one day events, you don’t have the time to shoot the shit and drink with friends. I definitely prefer the bigger events now specifically for this aspect. Not only do you learn a lot talking with better players than yourself, but it’s fun to hang out in general.

Before bed, I FaceTimed home to check-in and see how the wife and kids were doing. My four-year-old has recently been very competitive about nearly everything she does, but can’t stand to lose. You bet your sweet ass I used my humiliating 0-3 record as a teaching moment. “Dad played a lot of games today and didn’t win any of them. But I had fun playing, and that’s what’s important.” Yes, it was a bit heavy-handed, and I would have loved a single win, at least. But if I can take a complete gutting experience from 40k and turn it into a Dad-win, I’ll take it.


Day 2

Despite getting legs cramps all night from the amount of standing I did on Saturday, I slept surprisingly well for sleeping in a hotel room. It probably had something to do with the fact that there were no naked, screaming toddlers bursting into my room at 3am – a common occurrence in our household. Per usual, my wife was amazingly supportive and had already sent me an encouraging message in the morning, reminding me that, regardless of the score, it’s incredible to spend a weekend doing something I really enjoy. She was right.

Game 4 Knights and Mortarion

Death Guard Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment (-1 CP, 470 Points)

LoW: Mortarion

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment (+6 CP, 1,529 points)

LoW: Knight Despoiler w/Avenger Gatling Cannon, Infernal Household, Ironstorm Missile pod
LoW: Knight Rampager, Infernal Household
LoW: Knight Tyrant w/Plasma Decimator and Volcano Lance, Shieldbreaker Missiles, infernal


Using the same logic that we used when figuring that Lance and Scott were going to play, I thought I was going up against Harlequins for game four. It’s not uncommon for a bunch of drops to happen on the second day of an event due to a poor showing the first day, being hungover the second day, or some combination thereof. As a result, I ended up paired against Matt, the most polite 40k gamer I’ve ever played against, and his list with three Renegade Knights and Mortarion. I’ve played against Knights before and have run Mortarion myself, so I had a good idea of what I was facing. The gatling Knight luckily had just one gatling cannon, so his relic to ignore negative to hit modifiers wasn’t as potent as it could have been. Even still, I figured that and Mortarion were higher priorities for me to take out than the Lord Tyrant (Chaos Castellan) or the new Rampager kit.

Enter the custom mission rules for round four. In this mission, the further away from your opponent your shooting unit was, the better their save got. This worked out well for me, combining with Prepared Positions to make even my T6 Lord Discordant warlord somehow survive concentrated firepower from the Lord Tyrant. As this effect lasted for the first two battle rounds, it also negatively affected me, resulting in Morty only losing four wounds after three Deredeos shot their loads at him. Another player that made rolling 5-up Disgustingly Resilient saves look easy.

Due to the short deployment and how fast Disco Lords can be after advancing, Warptime, another advance, then charging with the Soulforged Pack stratagem, I got one Lord Discordant into combat with the gatling Knight. Unfortunately, the second Lord failed a 7″ charge with a re-roll, as destiny frowned upon me further still. Whether a victim of bias or not, I feel this is another prime example of how my Purge Lords were not the correct choice. I had primed the pump by using Daemonic Shell, a stratagem that deals mortal wounds in the shooting phase, to cause the gatling Knight to have already lost wounds this turn, activating full rerolls to hit in the Fight phase for the Lord who made it into combat. This legion ability, along with all of his attacks, resulted in a gatling Knight with four remaining wounds left at the end of turn 1. So fucking close and yet, so very far away. On his following turn, he backed the Knight up and charged Mortarion into one Lord Discordant for an easy slam dunk. The rest of the game can be summed up with the fact that the Despoiler had a hard time chewing through 60 -1 or -2 To-hit Plaguebearers, I took way too long to kill Mortarion, The Orb of Unlife was finally actually useful for once and helped finish off the gatling Knight, and I forgot the objectives gave endgame points. The game ended in a 15 to 35 win to Matt, and I remained win-less.

Game 5 Necrons

Daniel's Army List - Click to expand

Sautekh Battalion (+5 CP, 1,786 points)

HQ: Immotekh, Warlord
HQ: Cryptek w/Staff of Light, Chronometron, Veil of Darkness

Troops: 18 Warriors
Troops: 10 Immortals w/Gauss Blasters
Troops: 10 Immortals w/Tesla

Elites: C’Tan Shard of the Deceiver

FA: 5 Destroyers w/Gauss Cannons

HS: Tesseract Ark
HS: Doomsday Ark
HS: Doomsday Ark

Sautekh Outrider Detachment (+1 CP, 212 Points)

HQ: Cryptek w/Staff of Light, Chronometron

FA: Scarabs x3
FA: Scarabs x3
FA: Scarabs x3


At this point, I was not doing too well. It was my first GT, and I expected to win three out of five games. So far, I had goose eggs. Lance was 2 – 2, and I think Scott was in a similar boat. There was a group of people from near my hometown who came up, and they all had winning records so far. One of the guys was actually about to play for first. Fuck. I had never felt so small. I saw that my fifth round opponent was Willy D, a Necron player with a beautifully painted Necron army. I listen to enough podcasts to be aware that there are a couple of Necron lists that have been doing well recently but didn’t think his list had the same units as those lists. He’s a great guy and goes through what all of his units do and their stats because I’m a dumb bitch. I wasn’t proud of this thought after the fact, because my opponent turned out to be such a good guy, but I looked over at the table next to me to see Space Wolves and the thought occurred to me “Fuck, man. There are literally three tables below where I’m playing, and I’m amid Necrons and Space Wolves, two of the lowest-performing factions in the game. What am I doing wrong?”

Every game until this, I asked to use a clock because I think it’s the best way to ensure a fair match, time-wise. When I asked Willy if we could use one, his reaction was surprisingly strong that he hated them because they distracted him. He said he couldn’t say no, though (as per the clock rules). I was left startled by such a strong response but realized that the only thing on the line was my dignity. My instinct was to press the point, but I didn’t want to be “that guy” who forced his opponent, also on one of the bottom tables of the event, to do something he hated for the last round of the tournament. So I said we didn’t have to use one, and after the fact, I’m glad I did. Willy and I had a good game. It was a fun game. I learned a lot about Necrons, how he achieved that cool-looking metallic blue, and, most of all, I got out of my head and my funk. I made a conscious effort to not be a dick to a random stranger, and I feel good about it.

The custom rules for this mission meant that we each started with one stationary objective in each of our deployment zones, and the other four were in “no-man’s-land” in-between. The ones between our deployment zones could be picked up by infantry models and moved. Willy used some Necron shenanigans to redeploy three infantry units onto mid-field objectives before the first turn of the game. Then at the top of his first turn (he went first), he used something else to jump another infantry unit onto the fourth and last remaining mid-field objective. The three units that moved before the start of the game then advanced back towards his deployment zone. Well, done Willy D. My response in my first turn was to focus on my cards, which the mission called for us to draw 15 at the start of our first turn and then no more. Because of the cards I drew, I focused on killing things with Fly and his most expensive unit (denying him a custom secondary objective, representing the first time during the event that I thought about secondaries and endgame objectives before the end of the game). I then proceeded to successfully assault his unit, holding the fourth and only remaining mid-field objective. Over the next few turns, I would successfully wrap that Necron unit and keep it from being too much of a problem from Reanimation Protocols; I would have my last remaining Lord Discordant make an inordinate number of 5-up invulnerable saves; and my Deredeos would continually do work on his infantry units, resulting in me being able to chase down most of the stolen objective markers. Not to outdo my idiocracy though, I did forget to bring in both units of Nurglings that I had deep struck, which not only was a massive oversight but was also a mistake to deepstrike them as they would have effectively blocked him from stealing the objectives at the start of the game. Finally, remembering to keep the endgame and secondary objectives in mind, I used a self-warptimed Daemon Prince to steal an objective on the last turn for a six-point swing. The game ended in a 36 to 14 win for me.


Wrapping Things Up

I finished in 93rd place out of 118, and that still stings. My paint scores were not what I hoped they would be, and I’m not happy with my overall performance. At an RTT, it’s a more intimate affair. The paint/theme judging is more straightforward, too. At the Michigan GT, there was a different feel altogether. The skill level across the board is much higher both on the table and with painting. Possibly because there are so many more people there, and the range of skill and type of player is more prominent, I ran into players who routinely used clocks and others who hated them or didn’t know how they should be played. With an RTT and only three rounds, every round, and every point matters. I want to be on the clock and by the book. I’m not at that same point for the GT-level, so there’s a point in the event where you have to be honest with yourself – does playing by the exact letter of the law or second of the clock really matter? Do you want to be a stickler for the clock when you’re 0-4? I didn’t, and I’m glad that I wasn’t.

If there are lessons to be learned, it’s to better appreciate the kind of event you’re going to. Understand your ass is there to be kicked. If you’re like me, someone who has to fail at something before you can succeed at it, play more of the damn missions ahead of time. Screw up in your basement before you screw up at the event. Get a friend, or better yet someone unbiased, to run through the painting rubric for your army ahead of time and give you feedback. Besides all that, and as weird of a metric as it might be, I want to be a 40k player that my daughter could be proud of, and I nearly failed at that due to a poor attitude going into the last round. Instead I had a fun game, and learned the most important lesson of the tournament: don’t be a dick.