Craters, Ringers, Judging, and Dehydration: Primaris Kevin’s Goonhammer Open Experience

With the Goonhammer Open wrapped up, I thought it might be fun to share my own personal experience in terms of preparation, playing, and recovering. It was an amazing experience and it was a lot of fun to (safely) meet people in person and throw dice. As part of the GHO team I was responsible for working on supplying craters, supporting the Narrative event, and paint judging.

Craters, Craters Everywhere

When we first started forming the Goonhammer Open in the US, we knew that high quality terrain would be a key part of the experience. We have the Vanguard Tactics terrain system for the ruins, but it’s not really a war-torn battlefield unless there are massive craters providing cover and difficult ground to cross. We could make our own but time is short and we wanted some consistency, so instead we purchased 10 sets of Pegasus Crater Sets and I got to work painting them. These craters are vacuum formed plastic, meaning that the details are pretty nice but the items themselves are fairly flimsy. In the future we’ll probably look at reinforcing the base, but right now we need paint on plastic. Lots of paint, and lots of plastic. Anyone who has followed my sporadic (at best…) hobby progress updates knows I’m not exactly the fastest when it comes to painting. Having the event provided plenty of motivation, but I still needed a technique to mass produce these things in a timely fashion. Also I had never used oil washes before and this seemed like a fun excuse.

I wanted an approach that was easily mass produced, resilient, and required no precision work. After some experimentation I came up with the following method:

  1. Prime with Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Slate Satin Granite.
  2. Apply a drybrush of cheap craft paint. I used Delta Creative Ceramcoat White.
  3. Gloss coat with Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Gloss Clear.
  4. Create a thin oil wash and brush the entire surface. Wipe away excess using a sponge or paper towel. I used Winsor & Newton Lamp Black thinned with white spirit.
  5. Matte coat with Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Matte Clear.

Every layer was applied using a e.l.f Foundation Brush, and having discovered the wonders of makeup brushes for drybrushing I will never use anything else. The combination of drybrush and oil wash provides a lot of depth and variation for very little effort, and by using the sponge you can get very good control over the final product. The matte varnish isn’t strictly necessary but definitely mutes the entire thing.

Crater build process. Spray gray, drybrush white, gloss coat, oil wash, matte coat. Credit: Kevin Genson

If you’re doing this at home I recommend reinforcing the crater with vinyl and foam. Most hardware stores in America sell some kind of vinyl peel-and-stick floor tile that works perfect as a base. If you cut out an outline, drill several holes, stick the crater on top, and then fill the inside with a low volume expanding foam then the end result is incredibly strong. A simple razor blade run across the holes will cut the excess flat, and the top can be blended using either pre-colored grout, texture paint, drywall filler, or any number of other options.

Crater with base using peel-and-stick vinyl flooring and low volume expanding foam. Credit: Kevin Genson

Ringing in the Narrative and the Ballad of Watch Master Ominus

Dan gave me a heads up a few days early that I might be needed to stand in as a ringer for the Narrative. Anyone running a narrative event is highly encouraged to have a dedicated person to offset if an odd number of players show up due to drops, as otherwise either the organizer has to participate or someone has a bad time. I ended up playing four games out of the five, as we started with an odd number of players and had a few drops during the event. Since I am a terribly slow painter I bought what I could; the Regal Skulls and Imperial Knights. While we were supposed to bring lists between 50PL and 125PL in 25PL increments, I ended up using a 50PL core in nearly every game with one featuring 25PL in Armiger Helverins. For those who are curious, the narrative behind the Regal Skulls is that they’re the final chapter of the Ultima Founding. As an experiment by Roboute Guilliman, the Regal Skulls incorporate the flexible unit composition of the Deathwatch into a more generalist Chapter. Led by Watch Master Ominus they find themselves trapped by the machinations of Trazyn the Infinite and his intern Dan.

Watch Master Ominus. Credit: Kevin Genson

Deathwatch Battalion (50 PL)

Watch Master Ominus (Watch Master, Relic: Blackweave Shroud, Warlord Trait: Iron Resolve)
Primaris Captain Bastion (Primaris Captain with Relic Shield, Relic: Dominus Aegis)
Kill Team I: Intercessor Sergeant (Bolt Rifle, Grenade Launcher, Thunder Hammer), 4 Intercessors (Bolt Rifle)
Kill Team II: Intercessor Sergeant (Bolt Rifle, Grenade Launcher, Thunder Hammer), 4 Intercessors (Bolt Rifle), 5 Hellblasters (Assault Plasma Incinerator)
Kill Team III: Intercessor Sergeant (Bolt Rifle, Grenade Launcher, Thunder Hammer), 4 Intercessors (Bolt Rifle), 5 Hellblasters (Assault Plasma Incinerator)

That’s it. There were some other bits for the larger lists (Assassins, Inceptors, 3 Helverins, and a Knight Preceptor) but I only ended up using the 3 Armigers once so what really matters is the core. I went in with the goal of starting Ominus off as a Primaris version of the Watch Master, so the bonus Toughness and Wounds made it as if he was a Gravis Captain. Bastion existed to cart around the Dominus Aegis and provide a 5++ re-roll bubble to the Fortis Kill Teams as they ran around and deleted things with massed plasma incinerator fire.

My first game was a 50 PL match against Dan and his Blood Angels, and in what has become a tradition for me and Narrative events it was Dan’s first game of 9th Edition. The mission was The Ritual and I was the Defender, meaning it was my job to take a hero and have them perform a bunch of actions while the rest of the army kept them alive. Ominus was the natural choice, and thanks to a combination of brutal plasma fire incinerating Dan’s Intercessors and Ominus being really good at standing in place and jumping up and down I won the match. Ominus earned MVP and received the Heroic Constitution Battle Trait from the mission and the Adamantine Cuirass from advancing, meaning the leader of the Regal Skulls was now T6 with 9 wounds and a 2+/4++ save profile. Dan was a great opponent and I feel bad for how quickly his models evaporated.

The next game was a 75 PL match against Michael and his Dark Angels with Ravenwing. For this match the Regal Skulls were accompanied by three Armiger Helverins with the mission of Supplies From Above. Michael was another fantastic opponent; very friendly, fun to play against, and completely unphased when both of us forgot that the objective markers moved for the entire game. Let’s just pretend that we rolled doubles every round and not worry about the details. Before the match Intern Dan informed us that Trazyn the Infinite had decided we couldn’t re-use agendas, so I decided to experiment with putting Survivor and Secure the Xenotech to see what kind of shenanigans could be accomplished. Ominus once again did his job of doing something other than combat, and for his heroics he earned something like 26 experience which was enough to get him a Dark Age Displacer Belt and Artisan Bionics, meaning he now ignored wounds on a 5+ and could basically teleport anywhere. The mission ended with another victory for the Regal Skulls, as the Armigers selectively eradicated threats from a distance and the Hellblasters once again overwhelmed anything within 24″.

Goonhammer Open Doubles Match: Primaris Deathwatch and Adeptus Mechancius vs Custodes and Blood Angels

The final game of the night was a 50 PL doubles match, and I had an opportunity to team up with Andrew and his Mechanicus to face Chris and his Custodes along with a rematch against Dan’s Blood Angels. I wish I had taken more pictures of the battles because the terrain was impeccable and everyone had some amazingly well painted armies. The mission was Narrow the Search, where the goal was to push units towards a central objective (the golden disk in the middle of the green pool) while also dealing with the fact that invulnerable saves could not be made within 12″ of the center of the board. In what could only be described as peak Narrative play, we all set the terrain up assuming we deployed along the long edges before realizing that we were actually going to start along the narrow sides. Oops. The resulting melee was incredibly tense, with the Regal Skulls and AdMech taking an early lead before Dan’s vehicles made a push for the center and Chris’s Custodes started to assert themselves. Ominus took full advantage of his displacer belt to first deny deep strike in the backfield, then jump to the objective marker in the upper left to beat up some Custodes, and then jump to the upper right objective to wipe out an Intercessor squad and then withstand the charge of a Blood Angel Smash Captain. The game came down to the final turn but I managed to secure my third win with a 75-70 victory. For his efforts Ominus was granted an Heirloom Vigil Spear. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

Yes that is a host of Deathwing and a Relic Contemptor with four lascannons. No Ominus did not take any wounds from their attack.

Sunday morning started out rough; spending an entire day hunched over relatively low tables (I’m 6’9″) and not drinking enough water had left me dehydrated and sore. Originally I had been slated to face the only other undefeated player in the Narrative, but I wasn’t the only one feeling unwell that morning and we had several drops. As the ringer that meant I was out, but I savored my morale victory of being undefeated and averaging the most victory points in an event where neither mattered at all. At the last minute I was called up and got to play Michael again, only this time he brought Deathwing. While the game was originally slated for 100 PL, Michael and I both agreed that we were feeling a little rough and scaled it back down to 50 PL. The mission was Cut Off the Head, which places a huge emphasis on positioning your characters over objectives to transmit data. Michael’s force only had a Librarian, while I had Ominus and the low-key hero of Captain Bastion. Feeling spicy I once again took the combination of Survivor and Secure Xenotech, and Ominus absolutely earned his role of MVP this game by not only securing the xenotech but also by teleporting directly into Michael’s army, failing a charge in spite of having the Blood Angel Chapter Tactic via Brotherhood of Veterans, surviving a massive weight of fire in response, and then killing the Librarian in the following turn before teleporting out. For this Ominus earned Legendary status and I achieved my fourth victory, but unfortunately another player dropped from the Narrative and my campaign ended.

At this point I wasn’t feeling well and decided to get some rest. Sadly this is where my narrative experience ended, as I basically slept through the remainder of the event while trying to get a headache under control. In hindsight I should have pre-emptively taken some Ibuprofen and pushed a lot more water, but that’s what happens when you avoid events for two years. For those who might be getting back into tournaments or conventions, learn from my mistakes!

Image of game played by Craig "MasterSlowPoke" Sniffen
GHO Narrative Best Painted – Craig “MasterSlowPoke” Sniffen

Judging People Who Are Better Than Me

I was also fortunate to be the head paint judge for both the Narrative and Grand Tournament events. Greggles, John Bidwell, and Dan Boyd also provided invaluable input. While the NOVA Open uses an established rubric with points for their judging, the smaller size of the GHO meant that we could be more informal. Anyone who wanted to be judged was told to set up their armies at a designated time, and the judges went through and looked at each one. From there we selected a top 3 and debated over who should win top honors. Congratulations to Craig Sniffen for his amazing Rainbow Warriors, and to Daniel Axe for his amazing Imperial Knights. Both armies do a fantastic job of demonstrating a well-executed and cohesive theme. What was particularly cool was how different their approaches were. As a Knight army, Daniel had a small model count to work with so each unit became a centerpiece with an extensive amount of freehand work and customization. In contrast, Craig’s larger army required a high degree of consistent execution with the rainbow theme featured throughout the army in the form of incredible blends and highly detailed freehand markings. We covered hobbying in the context of competitive play last year (and then COVID hit…), but there are a few things that this event made me think would be worth sharing.

  • Remember that the judges do not have your army list, and have no idea what constitutes a complete army. If one squad or model is of a lesser quality compared to the others, don’t be afraid to leave it out of your display.
  • Most competitions have you set up your army somewhere in the event hall. If at all possible use this to your advantage, picking a table that matches your army’s theme or selecting a location that has good lighting.
  • We’re judging armies, not individual models. Consistency and cohesion is critical. If you have a few top quality models, but other parts of your army don’t have the same style or several units aren’t at the same par, it will stand out.
  • Be paranoid about the basics. When getting to the top level things like mold lines, gaps, and undrilled/unpainted barrels will stand out. The same goes for unpainted areas such as behind shields.

See You Next Year!

I’m excited to be able to do this again, and thanks to the feedback from all of the attendees I’m confident that things will be even better. Between the masking and requiring vaccinations/negative tests we were able to successfully able to balance being safe with getting together and rolling dice, and speaking for myself this experience was a much needed break. Thanks to all of the attendees and my opponents in particular for making it so much fun.

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