NoVa Open 2022: Contemptor Kevin’s Recap (featuring Salsa)

Hello folks! We are about a week or so after the end of NoVa 2022, and I’ve been having lots of thoughts on how to best contextualize one of the greatest convention experiences of my life. Running at full blast for five days straight in a miasma of hobby joy, long-lost friends, new neighbors, and Salsa is not the easiest experience to manage, but it all worked out.


NoVa 2022 went on sale the weekend after Adepticon, in early April. Having had a pretty fun casual experience at the Adepticon Friendly, I was hopeful NoVa’s narrative was going to be something similar to the Friendly. After all, in 2019, I only had time to play one game at NoVa and that was a game with “Fakie” James Kauzlaric and “Artum” Patrick Robbins, and that was an absolute blast. But I was not super-interested in playing a hyper-packed schedule of games, since I know for a fact I don’t like playing 40K at NoVa enough to play more than one game a day. So when NoVa went on sale, I windmill-slammed myself into a SuperNoVa, a Saltus Praetus (good guys? I wasn’t paying that close attention when I picked it), and some airbrush classes. At the time, I was planning on purchasing a house. And, I figured, I could learn to airbrush at NoVa close-in-time to when I would be moving. I picked the GW/CK studios terrain painting class, vehicle painting class, and all-day Knight painting class on Sunday. A bunch of us also settled on a slot to play Kill Team Live.

I also, for the first time, obtained a hotel room for NoVa. Now, through this NoVa, I have lived about four blocks south of the Hyatt. That’s a ten minute-or-so walk, so a hotel was never really necessary. But since I did not know where I would be residing by NoVa-time, I grabbed a hotel room. I invited my friend Meg along, because she wanted to do some tabletop convention-ing and because I thought she’d be a perfect member of the GoonCrowd (TM). I was right.

This would also make it slightly easier for our other roommate.


Upon waking up Wednesday, I was…effectively already at NoVa. It was simply a matter of waiting for friends to arrive and for the convention to open. So I worked out, cleaned up, and took us to the convention.

Salsa K. Stillman. Photo Credit: Kevin Stillman and Salsa

So it turned out the Hyatt had a pets welcome policy, and NoVa did not have any rules *against* bringing dogs. So I put my Adepticon Friendly bandana on my ShihPoo Salsa and drove us to the convention. I picked up my SuperNova bag, and wandered around the being-set-up convention until Fakie arrived at National Airport. I picked him up and went back home so Salsa could nap and I could drop off my SuperNova Bag. I live and die by my First Year SuperNova bag, so the second one – while nice – just didn’t have all my stuff in it.

After an hour or so, we went back to the convention and met up with the rest of the GoonFolks. My friend/roommate Meg also arrived around then. After continuing to wander around and poke around Toledo Game Room, we got into the very long line for the Games Workshop Preview. Salsa was less than thrilled to be waiting in line for forty-five minutes, asking to explore and get some of her treats.

The GW Preview was, as per usual, pretty amazing. Nothing *quite* to the excitement of the Adepticon Horus Heresy launch preview, but the Votann reveals and Horus 2.0 reveals were extremely cool. Meg and I also spent the preview trying to entertain a very bored dog, and many kudos the GW folks for taking the time to give her a pet on the head during the event.

After the preview, we hit up the GW store to see if they had anything cool/interesting for our respective armies. This was the worst possible time for going to the Forge World store, but I was able to snag a squad of Mk IV Despoilers.

Salsa deciding what she models she wants to chew up.

After we were done there, we went back to my place to sleep. It had been a big day for a little dog, and she is a dog with a very set schedule. This would also give me some time to finish packing all my stuff for us to stay in the hotel.


Thursday and Friday were scheduled to pretty packed days – there was nothing on the schedule for either Meg or myself until 2:00 pm, so she decided to sleep in. I woke up a smidge later than normal, took Salsa to her daycare, and then went to the gym. After a quick brunch at the local diner, Bob and Ediths’, we arrived at the hotel and checked in. By this time the Hotel garage was near-to-bursting, so there wasn’t any way for me to get my car back until (realistically) Sunday afternoon. Luckily, my friends had volunteered to pick Salsa up from day care and watch her through Saturday afternoon.

After check-in, Meg and I wandered around the vendor hall until around 2:00 pm, in which I had a class with CK Studios for the “learn how to airbrush terrain!”. As I got there, I quickly ran into good old Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, “Joey Custdoes” Knoblauch himself. He too was there to learn the secrets of the CK technique. It was a fun class, lasting about three hours. The main technique demonstrated that I learned the most about was just how to pull the dryer sheets in such a way as to get a glorious marble effect on terrain. After the class ended and a quick bite to eat from the food trucks, it was time to get the army unpacked and taken downstairs for what would be my one-and-only game of NoVa 2022 at the Narrative event.

Now, dear reader, I have a confession to make: I don’t actually like playing 40K. I love everything else about this hobby – the community, the models, the terrain, the lore, the novels, the painting, the music, the conventions. But I find actual 40K to be an exceptionally difficult game – within a roughly 2-3 hour period, one is supposed to keep track of several books worth of army stats; plus stratagems pulled from three different books, plus various powers and army-wide bonuses. Playing basic 40K is, in and of itself, a significant chunk of mental load. The mental load is further complicated by 40K’s rather curious rules regarding terrain, which to me always seems to change from event to event and I’ve never had opponents who have consistently similar understandings of those rules. This event was also using the Crusade system, aka “40K for people who like homework”, adding an additional layer of rules. And on top of that, the campaign system had “table missions” on top of “book missions” with an added dash of “secondary missions suggested to you by the person in charge of your battle group”. So pretty much by the time pairings were decided, I figured I was going to drop the event. I was tired and just did not have the mental acuity to play this variant of 40K.

Credit: Kevin Stillman

Nevertheless, I got one game in with TableWar’s Doug, in an Ultramarines mirror match! I am very appreciative to Doug for dealing with an exhausted Kevin, and letting me rampage around with my Astraeus in it’s first-ever tabletop appearance.  The mission we picked had us both place half our armies into reserve for the first three rounds. Unfortunately for me, my army was mostly an Astraeus, some Marines, two Redemptors, and a Gladiator Tank. So by the time my reserves came in, most of the rest of my army and been destroyed or was otherwise too far away from actually have an effect on the outcome of the game.

Afterwards, I went back home to take care of some stuff there, then went back to the convention to have drinks with my Goons. We commiserated about the various issues and difficulties with the narrative event. I went to bed around 12:30.


After we woke up, Meg and I grabbed breakfast at the hotel buffet. Reader, despite having lived at Crystal City for the past twenty years and despite having attended four prior NoVas, I had never actually eaten breakfast at this buffet. It was….disappointing. The scrambled eggs tasted funny.

I had a class that would last from roughly 8 to 12, in which I would paint an Arminger Knight with Caleb and Kat.

Credit: Kevin Stillman

While some of the lecture was the same as the airbrush lecture from the previous class, the presentation helped me understand some techniques I had been told about in the past but never really understood. (1) Having practiced with them since NoVa, I can definitely say that I think I’ve become a better painter.

During this class, however, they explained that in addition to the various classes they had at NoVa, GW had decided to back their most insane class idea yet – painting a Warhound Titan at the upcoming New Mexico event in November. GW would provide the Titans, CK and friends would build the Titans, and the people taking the class in New Mexico would paint the Titans. Considering the….travails that Rob and Greg had in building their Warhound Titans, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I asked Rob “should I do this?” with him yelling in all caps “FUCK YES”. So….I’m going to New Mexico.

After painting and lunch, it was time for GW’s Kill Team Live. For whatever reason, about a week or two before NoVa started, the Kill Team Live session was split into two and we were automatically given both session tickets. This meant that of the 12 Goons who joined in this silliness, we got to switch sides from Orks to Imperium.

Goons playing Kill Team Live! Credit: James “Fakie” Kauzlaric

My team lost both games, though when we did Imperium we were apparently the only Imperium team to out-spirit the Ork team with our cry of “FOR THE EMPEROR!!!”

After Kill Team Live was a class on blending taught by GW. I was able to introduce my friend Sundeep to my other Goon friends, which was pretty cool. The class itself was soothing and relaxing, though the practice model I had was kind of wonky. After the class, I didn’t have any more events scheduled so I checked my E-Mail in case any weirdness happened with my House.

There was a notification from NoVa that prices in the NoVa Open Cantina were going to be slashed because, as Campbell pointed out, the prices over there were insane. But in addition, from 8 to 10 was going to be Pub Trivia from District Trivia. Because District Trivia was, pre-pandemic, one of my local preferred trivia formats, I was very excited to try and get the rest of the Goons not interested in dealing with the narrative to join.

Having wrangled seven Goons to rebirth my District Trivia Team, we proceded to run into some problems when it turned out that District Trivia had changed their format slightly for the Pandemic. Instead of score sheets to hand in, we had to submit answers via Cell Phones. This led to, well, the eventual winner very obviously cheating. During and after the game, my friend who used to run the DMV Trivia Meetup was complaining about how the format of the game was why they had stopped going. That said, afterwards we just hung around on the outside deck drinking until around midnight and went to bed.


I wasn’t hungover. I did not have that much of a headache.  Nevertheless, I was pooped and sluggish.

Meg and I woke up late, and got breakfast at the Renassiance across the street. This was wonderful – I had had breakfast there a couple of months earlier with my parents and delicious. This one had the delicious scrambled eggs. After poking my head into the GW store to see if they had copies of Echoes of Eternity, we then went to the Toledo Game Room to get Chaosy bits. I managed to snag a whole bunch of older Space Marine bits as well – including enough parts to build five RBT-01 Space Marines!

Credit: Kevin Stillman

I did my class of the day, painting a Tau Sunshark and a Space Marine. This one wasn’t quite as fun, because we spent a fair amount of time in lecture as opposed to air brushing. Still, the results were worth it in the end

Credit: Kevin Stillman

After finishing up the class, I got a call from my friends telling me that Salsa had been dropped off at my place. So I walked home and gave my little doggy a hug! I then had to walk her back to the convention – a challenge, considering we had never walked up there together. Salsa was sniffing everything on our way over there. We met up with Meg and a mutual friend of Meg and I, Doug. We hung out for several hours, discussing painting, 40K culture, and playing with Salsa. Afterwards, Salsa and I did another tour of the vendor hall.

Doggy's First Hotel Bed
Credit: Kevin Stillman


I woke up and walked Salsa home. After getting her treats and breakfast, Salsa proceeded to conk out for a nap. I went back to the hotel, and did my final CK studios class – a class on painting a Knight Abominant. That lasted from 8 to about 4:30.

After the class, I went home, picked up the puppy, and came back to the hotel to hang out with the Goons for the rest of the evening. Sadly, we were unable to get back fast enough to get into that awesome Goon picture from Bozzeli’s, but we were able to get beers and dinner at Bozzeli’s and hang out for a few hours. Salsa was restless and dragged me away to go explore a few times, but for the most part she was a chill little dog.

We went back to the hotel when the rest of the Goons decided to hit up the Cantina, and I realized I had apparently misplaced my sunglasses. After scouring the classrooms (with thanks to Kat), we were sadly unable to find them. By this time, the Goons had returned to the hotel in order to drink and play Street Fighter the Board Game.

Salsa is a bit too young to get something from the Hotel Bar.
Credit: Kevin Stillman

FRIENDS! Credit: Kevin Stillman

We lasted until close to midnight, which was Salsa’s bedtime.


Con is over, everything is being torn down. I packed my stuff up, and somehow managed to get myself and Salsa down to the main entrance of the hotel. I picked up my car, dropped Salsa off at home, and had a nice relaxing hour-long workout. Afterwards, I picked up Meg, Fakie, and Artum at the hotel and we went out to brunch before the latter two were dropped off at the airport. Meg got dropped off at a local WMATA station, and I went home to breathe a sigh of relief. NoVa was OVER!


I hit three of the biggest Warhammer events in 2022 – the LVO, Adepticon, and NoVA. While Adepticon was clearly the biggest and most impressive, NoVA is where my heart is. So many of my Goon friends managed to make the trip (or they otherwise lived in the DMV area), and it was a pleasure and honor to (re)introduce them to my home of Crystal City. And while we no longer say it *quite* as often here, the real reward is the friends you make along the way. And this NoVa, I made friends.

The pet friendliness of NoVa, while somewhat unintentional on the part of the NoVa Open, was also quite welcome. Being able to bring my closest friend with me on one of my favorite activities is always welcome, as that means she is exploring and is otherwise not sad at home.

This is the last NoVa, however. While the NoVa Con will continue, it is (rightfully) moving to the Washington Hilton in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. While still being the big DC area convention, it will no longer be in NoVa. I’m looking forward to this new venue space, because it is 1) pet friendly, if I want to try bringing Salsa and 2) It’s a lot bigger than the Hyatt.

Many of NoVa’s problems and quirks, in my opinion, can be traced back to the “original sin” of NoVa having outgrown the Crystal City Hyatt and probably should have moved out back in 2019 (2). While there was a decent vendor area, it was still much smaller than even that of the LVO (never mind Adepticon), and some vendors such as Monumental Hobbies were not present. Likewise, moving the Cantina from the top of the Hyatt to across the street at the Renassiance (along with the Hobby Hangout) had its issues. The benefits of moving the Cantina meant that people were not taking the elevator to the top floor of the Hyatt – and the Hyatt has infamously slow elevators. The downsides, of course, were that the Renassiance seemed to be absolutely unprepared for NoVa and were charging regular hotel prices using regular hotel stocks. The NoVa Lounge has always had its own beer and snacks section, which was always different than the hotel and frankly better.

Lastly, and this is the big one, is that many of the issues with the Narrative can be ameliorated by having more space. NoVa only had room to run two different 40K events at the same time, and this year both of those 40K events were not casual events. The additional space next year will hopefully enable NoVa to hold a more casual 40K event, a la the Adepticon Friendly. During the drinking session on Friday, we nominated Greggles Hess to mastermind this event on the basis that he knows how to make a fun, casual event.

NoVa is over, but there remains one last event of this year: the New Mexico Warhammer 40,000 Grand Finale. I will be there with the Goons, but painting a Titan instead of playing 40K. Which is good, because I will get to hang with my friends instead of playing a game that is currently not a lot of fun for me.

Until then!

(1) Specifically, how they panel line and how they paint trim.

(2) Another issue was that NoVa went on sale in April of 2022, which was before the Horus Heresy 2.0 game release date and box were officially announced. This meant that the event was originally set up as a 1.0 event, instead of a 2.0 event. Since at the time we weren’t sure how fun 2.0 was going to be compared to 1.0, I signed up for the Narrative instead of 2.0 events. By the time I learned otherwise, all the 30K events had filled up.

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