Contemptor Kevin’s Warhammer Fest Recap: Everything Except Monday Morning

So having flown back from the US, summarized my 10th Edition game, recovered from a bout of Con Crud, painted some minis, and been bossed around by a small dog, I’m finally free to tell you about my trip abroad for Hams. This was my first trip to the United Kingdom, and I am glad I finally got to see Britain at some of its most British (1).

Contemptor Dreadnought I bought and built at Warhammer Fest 2023. Credit: Contemptor Kevin Stillman



Thursday was my big travel day: I flew from DCA to JFK, and after a four hour layover at JFK I took an overnight flight from JFK to MAN. After getting into Manchester and getting through customs, I took a cab to my hotel, the Deansgate Hilton. The Deansgate is a nice hotel, even if not all that different from a hotel in the US. The main difference is the hotel beds are smaller, and the fact that the hotel shower is a death trap because they apparently haven’t heard of the concepts of “slipping and falling” (Rob: This is true for all European hotel bathrooms, I find). After breakfast, nap, and a far-more-harrowing shower than I was tremendously happy with, it was time to start wandering around and explore!

About 45 minutes into my walk around the Deansgate area, Soggy buzzed me to come join the Goonhammer Crew at a local pub. I met up with Soggy, Rob, and Condit and got to meet Wings and Corrode for the first time. We all had a pint or two before heading over to the convention center to pick up passes. It was at this point that things got a little irritating: They were only allowing early badge pickup for those in the tournament. Those of us like Condit and myself who were just there to Hang Out needed to wait until Saturday morning to get our badges.

Afterwards, while Rob, Wings, and Corrode went to a meeting (Rob: Official GOONHAMMER BUSINESS TIME), Soggy organized dinner. We wound up at a pretty good burger joint and had more beer. By this point our crew had swollen in size considerably: Snafu Mike and his wife, plus many others who I soon lost track of. We spent the rest of the night hanging out, having a brewski or two, and in my case getting lost all over downtown Manchester because I wasn’t paying enough attention on my phone.

Having had a long day, I make a futile attempt at turning in early-ish to get a good start on the next day’s convention.


I have pre-con jitters. I do NOT sleep well the night before a convention begins, ever. As such I was up at 3:00 am to work out and take another life-risking shower. Some time around 5:45 AM I decided I couldn’t take it any more and headed over to the Manchester Convention Center where, despite getting there before 6:00 am, I was not the first person in line!

Entrance to WHF – Credit: Kevin Stillman

After queueing for a little over two hours and being led around the Manchester Convention Center we were finally let in a bit after 8:00 am. It was soon after that the first real issue of the weekend would rear its head: The QR code readers were not working (Rob: These were vital to the event’s QR-based scavenger hunt minigame), which held me up about 5 minutes.

The entryway was a very cool Leviathan-themed environment, and after going through that it led into the main hall. As I had never been into the Manchester Central convention hall before I did not know where to go to queue up for the 10th Edition preview.  I did however wind up in the shop before the real horror stories began. I picked up Primaris Dante, Primaris Azrael, the Warhammer Plus Khorne Terminator, and Blood Angels Primaris Lieutenant Tolmeron. At that point the queue for the preview was up, and I was able to get a relatively good seat for the preview. The preview itself is online; you’ve seen it and gushed over it already.

After the preview I wandered over to the hobby challenge. This was a challenge in which we had to take one of the two event models – a 40K Commissar or a Darkoath Warrior – and include them in a diorama made from various sprues provided by GW. Unfortunately by the time I got to the Hobby Challenge, there were few sprues other than random pipes or some Sigmarite Temple bits to work with. I played around for a while, but got bored with the Commissar model and left to go try the Scavenger Hunt to get a pin badge. After looking around the convention center to get one third of a pin badge, I left the convention center to go back to my hotel to get my Space Marine Codex for Thundercloud, get lunch, and to play a Pokémon Go Community Day. I had a burger and brew from Almost Famous and it was delicious.

I eventually returned to the Convention Center to build a Dark Angels Contemptor Dreadnought I purchased and then to meet up with the Goonhammer crew in order to get folks to do “pub trivia”.  Eventually, I, Mike, Thundercloud, Thundercloud’s wife, Yvonmukluk, and a couple of others got into the trivia venue – which was a stadium seating auditorium.  This was the first and biggest problem with “pub” trivia – the people behind us could look down and see what we had written, and it was hard for our team to communicate with each other because of distance between us.  Also, there was no beer.

The trivia itself was difficult – there were some trivia rounds which had multiple choice questions, generally asking for obscure Warhammer references.  One trivia round was a set of 10 vicious anagrams – of which we were able to get 9 correct! – which was the hardest round but also the most fun.  There were two rounds where the Warhammer TV staff took pictures of themselves in poses, and we had to guess which miniature they were recreating.  The one round I’m still salty about – even two weeks later (2) – was a “Who would Win” round, in which the audience would decide which of two choices would win in a fight. For some reason, the Warhammer Fest crowd said that Archaeon would beat Horus Ascended, which just feels incredibly wrong. I’m not a fan of trivia rounds that are explicitly subjective in terms of answering, and think that it should have been excised. We ultimately finished in the top 25% of teams or so, but not the top three teams. Next year.

Afterwards, I met up with Rob/Condit/Wings/Soggy/Bair/Corrode for beers at an Indian place, then after that broke up wandered back to my hotel area to grab dinner and go to bed. I wound up getting some delicious chicken tenders from a halal chicken place.

I clocked out for my one night of actual sleep while in Manchester.


Credit: Kevin Stillman

While I had my alarm set to wake me up at 5:00 am BST, I dismissed the alarm and went back to bed.  I then woke back up at 7:45 am, which was less than ideal for trying to get into the 10th Edition Demo line. So instead, I went to participate in the hobby challenge as I had passes for both Saturday and Sunday. I selected the Age of Sigmar Chaos mini and began to build up a diorama.  It was at this point that a hangover headache kicked in and I had not eaten that day. Nor did I have my usual supply of ibuprofen to stave it off. After about 6 hours, I decided my diorama was finished because I could no longer physically focus on the model.

My Scrap Demon Entry. Credit: Kevin Stillman

After that, I braved the store again and picked up the Dark Angels transfer sheet.  I then wandered the convention hall to do the Day 2 scavenger hunt while waiting for Scrap Demon judging.  After completing that, I then spent half an hour on hold with Delta because I was unable to check in online for my flight home.  I later found out that’s just a thing that happens with the flight between MAN and JFK.  I then met up with Thundercloud so he could return my Space Marine Codex, and in return he aimed me towards a Tesco Express in order to get much-needed water and ibuprofen.  After taking my meds, I retreated back to my hotel room and took a little nap before heading out for dinner and then going to bed.


My day started like this.

After I finished the 10th Demo, I reported back to Soggy and Mike with my initial thoughts, and then made my semi-goodbyes to go finish up the Scavenger Hunt. As the Scavenger Hunt was the only thing I had planned for that day, it went quickly and I got the last bit needed for the official exclusive Leviathan pin (TM).

It was then time to go home, which unfortunately involved going through JFK. My time stuck at JFK was the definitely low point of the trip, but I made it back eventually.

Warhammer Fest 2023 Scavenger Hunt Pin Badge. Credit: Kevin Stillman

Final Thoughts on the Con

Over the past two weeks many of the post-mortems of Warhammer Fest have hit the same points: Awesome venue, amazing floor staff despite them being extremely pooped, weird use of space, long queues, questionable amounts of activities, the fact that hot dogs in the UK are apparently pork and not beef like a civilized country, a lack of space for open hobbying and open gaming, lack of readily available coronation schlock to get as a gag gift for my friends, and no exclusive JoyToy action figures. And all of these are good points!  It’s arguable that by giving over half of the floor space to various tournaments, GW severely hampered their ability to have a Warhammer convention. And that’s the question worth considering:

Could you have a Warhammer Convention that did not have a competitive gaming tournament? We know that tournaments can be held on their own – the Las Vegas Open this year had a Grand Tournament that was three times as big as the Warhammer Fest tournament with a bit more limited “convention” scene – a store and some very high quality painting classes – but the Leonard Nimoy Theater was given over to gaming.  But also most of the 40K conventions in the US – the LVO, NoVa, Adepticon, and the various Warhammer Open tournaments – tend to be held in hotels so players don’t have to pack up their army every day and then submit to bag queue when showing up.  So why not for the next Warhammer Fest, if they use the Manchester Central Convention Center again, either have the GT/gaming areas off-site and expand the convention throughout that hall?

My other controversial take: The queues weren’t that bad. Now, admittedly, I got to the convention two hours early both Saturday and Monday and was able to more-or-less do what I wanted to do right off the bat. But that’s what I do at all the conventions I go to and what I expected from Warhammer Fest. The store, the 10th Edition Demo, and the 40K preview were going to be huge draws. Two hours in a queue in order to get them was more-or-less to be expected. The lines I dealt with at the GW Store at NoVA wasn’t any better than the line at the Warhammer Fest store (and not just because I was going through that line with a very tired and bored dog), and far superior to the mess that was the Adepticon store in 2022.

Now, I admit that Comic-Con-esque lines are not ideal. But they weren’t awful.

Scrap Demon was not all it could have been – in order to participate, you had to use the event exclusive models.  These included a Commissar and a Chaos Untamed Beast.  While these are fun models, they did not lend themselves easily to dioramas. The sprue selection was also fairly limited – it was limited to launch models of Space Marines from 8th Edition and a couple of flavors of Stormcast Eternals; as well as some 40K pipes and one of the Age of Sigmar terrain kits. While occasionally additional sprue drops happened – there were a bunch of Titanicus sprues dropped in, some Age of Sigmar Extremis sets, and some Sector Munitorum kits dropped in – these were few and far between.  I was fairly disappointed by the limited selection.

Next year, if I go to Warhammer Fest (which isn’t impossible!), I’d probably take the full week off to go to Nottingham first and make the pilgrimage to Warhammer World.

Next Con: SDCC 2023!

(1) i.e. it was in the 50s and wet.

(2) Considering I’m still salty about trivia at NoVa 2022, yeah I’ll be bitter for a while.

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