(Semi) Live-Blogging the GW Finals in Grapevine, TX

Hi everyone, and welcome to me following up on one of my dumber ideas. Namely, flying up to Dallas to watch some friends play Warhammer. Thanks to some clever finagling on my part, I’ve managed to turn this into half family vacation, half no-expenses-paid business trip, and it’s all upside for you, Dear Reader.

I’ll be periodically updating this article with timestamped updates as the weekend rolls on covering things I think are interesting and adding photos as time (and the TOs) permit. The event is taking place at the Warhammer Cafe in Grapevine, Texas (a suburb north of Dallas about 4 miles from the DFW airport). It’s a fine store, and I’ll do a mini review of the location as I hang out here. If you want to catch the games on stream, some of them are being streamed over on the Warhammer Twitch channel.

10:30 – I’m at the store. It’s still closed to the general public and won’t open until 11, but games are already underway inside and streaming. There’s a small line of people out front. The store’s running a promotion – spend $100 and get a free battle mat. The mats are the ones from the road show, with GW branding on them. They look great, and it’s a really good deal given it only costs you $100 in spend.

10:38 – Apparently there are finals this weekend for Age of Sigmar as well. I think I knew that was happening academically, but it’s not really my jam and we didn’t have any AoS players make it to the big leagues so we didn’t have lists to preview. Note to self: Yell at Alice and our AoS crew about not winning more events. 2-3 with OBRs is not gonna cut it!

10:45 – I’m sitting with Nate Goodfellow, a well-respected tournament organizer in Texas who recently joined Mike Brandt’s team. I first met Nate at the Lone Star Open, where he helped me out when I lost my phone. Nate’s coordinating everything today and conducting the thankless task of ordering lunch for two dozen people the day of. If you’ve ever done this, you know how maddening the process is.

10:52 – Brad Chester was apparently shamed into playing something that wasn’t Drukhari by his teammate Jack Harpster, and did a last-minute switch to Craftworlds. This would have been a very strong meta play back in April against the older Drukhari builds, but is not so great these days. Still, it’s a bold move, and very respectable given that it prevents us from seeing a final four with 3 Drukhari players. Good luck, Harpster – you’re gonna need it!

11:30 – Did a quick walk by the tables. The games are going well. People seem to be really digging the exhibition format, in part because I think some of them are just sick of the armies they’ve been playing all season and in part because as we found out in Blunderdome, playing junk lists is pretty fun. Especially when half your army isn’t a bunch of spore mines that can’t score.

11:40 Dan Boyd and James Kelling are midway through their game. It’s pretty close right now. Mani’s game is also going well. Lots of good vibes all around for the exhibition games.

12:00pm – The event has supplied players with custom printed cards for their missions as a mission pack, in the same way they did at Orlando, New Orleans, and Austin. The big difference though is that 40k players get the all-new secondary objectives from the GT 2022 Missions pack. I’m going to get ahold of these and talk about them and what’s changed, will update as I have them so check back periodically.

12:04pm – OK, first one. The only mission that was replaced is Retrieve Octarius Data. It’s now Retrieve Nachmund Data (so expect that to be our next campaign setting, probably). One INFANTRY or BIKER unit can attempt to do this action per turn if it is more than 6″ from another table quarter. At the end of your turn you roll a D6 and subtract one if the model performing the action is TROOPS. If you roll less than or equal to the number of models in the unit, the action is completed. You score 4, 8, and 12 points for completing the action 2, 3, and 4 times, respectively.

12:29 – Engage on All Fronts has changed. It now requires a unit either have 3 models or a VEHICLE or MONSTER unit to count for scoring purposes. Otherwise it’s the same. Still, a big change that makes it much easier to prevent a unit from scoring by whittling it down to only a couple of models.

12:40 – No Prisoners still scores the same broadly, but now gives you a bonus point if you killed between 50 and 99 points of enemy units, or 2 bonus points if you killed more than 100. I love this because there were lots of times I’d go up against armies that almost had full points for No Prisoners, and would have like 128-135 wounds, and I’d want to take the secondary but would be afraid of giving up a few potential points. This kind of hurts Astra Militarum but if you were already giving up 15 points it’s not as big a deal; I suspect it’s a bigger deal for marine lists that were skirting 13 points on No Prisoners and now will give up 8+ more often.

Also Dan is going crazy over at his table. He just spiked a huge roll to kill Boon’s Succubus. Right before this he charged Boon’s Archon with his Phobos Librarian, scored 3 wounds, and then the Archon promptly failed his second shadow field save and ate two wounds for five damage and died. The shadow field is the worst 2+ save in the game and I’ll die on this hill.

12:55 – OK last one as far as I can tell – the other Secondaries look unchanged. Investigate Signal still scores the same, but you can start the action even if there are enemy units within 6″ of the center of the battlefield. At the end of your turn, it’ll complete as long as no enemy units are within 6″ of the center of the battlefield. This gives you even more leeway with it, allowing you to start it when there’s just one model nearby, but still finish it if you’re able to clear off the middle of the table. This makes being able to do actions and still shoot much more powerful.

1:04 – I was wrong! There are more changes. Will have them in a few.

1:07 – Bring it Down has changed as well – you still score 1 point for each enemy VEHICLE/MONSTER killed with 9 or fewer wounds, but now you’ll score 2 each for 10-14 wounds and 3 for 15+ wounds. This is a change from the prior objective, which gave you 3 points at the 20+ threshold. This is also a major change for all the 10W vehicles out there, where Rhinos and Raiders are now worth 2 VP each.

1:20 – Psychic Interrogation got an update. It now no longer requires your target be visible to the caster. This is a big improvement, since it makes it much harder to hide targets away from your casters.

Credit: Blake Law

Credit: Mani Cheema and Sascha Edelkraut

We’re also running super late in the round and two of the 40k exhibition and one of the AoS exhibition games are still going. It looks like on the 40k side the generals won all four of their games – Mani’s Necrons cleaned up against Sascha’s lovely Imperial Fists, while Old Man Chester’s Craftworlds beat Blake Law’s Imperium forces. Harpster looks to be cleaning up against Cannon Biggs’ Gensetealer Cults. And despite a valiant effort from Dan Boyd, it looks like Kelling is gonna take that matchup on points.

Credit: Dan Boyd and James “Boon” Kelling

Credit: Dan Boyd and James “Boon” Kelling

Credit: Dan Boyd and James “Boon” Kelling

1:40 – Round 4 is officially over and Dan and Boon finally called it, with Boon winning 87 – 69 (nice). Dan put up a great fight and got off some MONSTER rolls with his Librarian but ultimately James’ strategy of “just ignoring the Redemptos” paid off and he managed to stay ahead on primary objectives all game.

1:45 – Dan has reminded me that the Bring it Down changes mean that Land Raiders, at 16W, are now worth 3 VP for Bring it Down. Thank god. Our long national Land Raider nightmare is finally over. We did it.

2:20 – Sitting with Dan and James post-lunch. Dan made the mistake of ordering a salad from a local burger joint in Texas, which means he got a clamshell container with four 1″ square pieces of romaine lettuce, three pounds of shredded fontina cheese, two sliced chicken breasts, and what looks like two lightly toasted burger buns cut into 8ths. RIP. Boon’s blt looks OK though.

We’re talking about what we’re going to do for next year’s March Madness is instead of doing Spiel des Jahres winners is doing which faction playerbase are the whiniest, shittiest babies. Lots of good opportunities there to figure out if whining about Orktober is worse than complaining about not having two wounds or if they’re both beat by complaining about finecast aspect warriors despite having a top-tier army every edition forever. Gonna be a fun article.

3:00 – the first round of comp games are starting. Watch them over on the Warhammer Twitch channel.

3:15 – OK we’re on to round 1 of the competitive event. The pairings are:

  • James “Boon” Kelling (Drukhari) vs. Mani Cheema (Drukhari)
  • Jack Harpster (Blood Angels) vs. Brad Chester (Craftworlds)

I’m gonna try to cover both OK but mostly I’ll be focusing on Boon’s match cause he’s my boy. The mission is Priority Targets again and both pulled out the other’s objective for primary. Secondary selection is where it gets interesting.

James “Boon” Kelling vs. Mani Cheema

Boon’s Secondaries:

  • No Prisoners
  • Retrieve Nachmund Data
  • Herd the Prey

Mani’s Secondaries:

  • Stranglehold
  • Raise the Banners High
  • To the Last (the three units of Talos in his list)

Boon is basically handcuffed to No Prisoners with Mani’s list, but the new secondary gives him a big boost – 1 to 2 points (see above) on scoring it, which will help. Mani knows this, however, and so has picked To the Last. Doing this means that Boon will have to choose between killing his non-Talos units and scoring points for No Prisoners, and killing his Talos, which are difficult to kill and will drop Mani’s score but not get Boon any points. It’s a really clever move on his part.

To Boon’s credit, he knows that taking To the Last will likely cause Mani to be more conservative with his Talos, which in turn will keep them from spreading out and helping prevent scoring on Herd the Prey. The game is likely to be an aggressive competition for the middle of the board, and because Mani has Stranglehold he can’t afford to spread out as much.

It’s Drukhari vs. Drukhari, yes – but the nuance here is important. Mani’s list is more durable than Boon’s, with bigger squads and more grotesques, but it also lacks 3-damage weapons. Boon’s a bit more flexible and has D3 weapons, which may help here. Though ultimately it may just come down to whoever spikes their FNPs. Good luck, James! Mani won the first turn roll-off.

3:30 – Brad Chester and Jack Harpster are set up and on turn 1.

Jack’s Secondaries:

  • Investigate Signal
  • Stranglehold
  • Oaths of Moment

Brad’s Secondaries:

  • No Prisoners
  • Engage on All Fronts
  • Retrieve Nachmund Data

I’m not actually sure what Eldar do in this matchup. Blood Angels aren’t top tier or anything but Craftworlds have a real uphill battle against them, especially on this terrain, which can be very friendly to melee armies with lots of movement. The Blood Angels want to violently hold the center of the table for primary, Stranglehold, and Oaths, and should absolutely be able to do so. Meanwhile the Eldar have to spread out and maintain firing lines on the Blood Angels. I think Brad’s best bet is to try and continually threaten Jack’s priority target objective, forcing him to split resources to it away from the middle of the table, but he may just find that trivially easy to do.

3:40 – Finally there’s Dan and Sascha’s game, which may be the prettiest table at the event.

Dan’s Secondaries:

  • Oaths of Moment
  • Stranglehold
  • Raise the Banners High

Sascha’s Secondaries:

  • Oaths of Moment
  • Stranglehold
  • Raise the Banners High

Don’t let that Imperial Fists paint scheme fool you; Sascha’s playing Black Templars this game. And he’s basically playing a better version of Dan’s army, which makes this a very tough matchup for Dan. Dan will find some succor in that Black Templars aren’t quite as melee-heavy as they used to be, but the secondaries paint a very clear picture that both armies want to do the same thing. This may ultimately be what does Dan in. Good luck, Dan!

3:58 – OK we’re on the top of turn 2 in Mani vs. Boon and uh, shit’s ABOUT TO GET REAL. Boon spent his first turn aggressively pushing to middle and Mani has done the same and now we’re looking at an hour-long fight phase:

I’m gonna level with you: I have no idea how this will go. I’m not even sure many of these models will actually die – Mani needs to push forward to prevent Herd scoring and he needs the free movement for that, so the charges are mostly to do that, and if he fails a couple of 5″ or 6″ charges it might be bad. But there’s also a ton of feel no pain saves in there and either player could get lucky and just turn the tide early. I do know that whoever wins, we lose.

On Brad and Jack’s table I don’t think things look good for Brad. I confirmed with him my strategic thoughts and got a nice little boost to find out I was right, but then realized that Jack can just spread his whole army across those two objectives trivially and can be just as fast as Brad’s Eldar. Good luck, Brad. You’re gonna need it.

Dan and Sascha’s game is still on turn 1 and gearing up. Dan’s got a hurdle in that he hasn’t played against Templars yet, and I don’t know if he ever got to play against the prior version. He’ll need to be really cagey about how he positions himself with the possibility of Devout Push in play.

4:16 – Dan’s working on moving his army when a woman drops off a package for him. No one has any idea what it is but it turns out to be an excellent gift: One of the Badcast listeners gave him a set of teething rings along with a wonderful heartfelt note thanking him for the podcast and congratulating him on their future family member. It’s pretty great and I can see the big softie melting as he reads the note.

Brad’s game does not appear to be going well for him. He’s lost his jetbikes and one unit of Dark Reapers. He wanted to play Drukhari and well, the good news is that he’ll still get to, just not both games.

4:28 – One quick update on objectives: There are two faction secondary objective cards in the set the players were given. I don’t think this is currently in play for this event, but it does suggest we’ll see the ability to take two faction secondaries in a game in the future, and not just have that be a thing that Space Marines get to cheat their way into. So keep an eye out for that.

Update on Boon’s game: The fight phase is still happening. Mani killed a squad of Boon’s Grotesques by spending a lot of CP. Boon spent a lot of CP to kill 1.5 Grotesques on his end.

DECISIONWATCH: The big thing here was Boon choosing to interrupt in Mani’s fight phase. He went back and forth between trying to take out the Succubus (below) with his Hellions vs. trying to take out Grotesques.

Boon decided to attack the Grotesques. I have no idea if this was the right move. I understand his rationale – going after a Succubus with her bullshit 4+ invulnerable save is always a high-variance proposition and if you fail it feels terrible – but I think actually removing the Succubus (and keeping yourself on Herd) was the right call here, because taking out more than 2 Grotesques was pretty unlikely. Still, Boon’s a better player than I am and knows the army better so we’ll see how it turns out.

4:46 – UPDATE ON THE MONSTER MASH. We’re into Boon’s turn. Mani managed to fight his way out with his Succubus against Boon’s Hellions, then ran deep into Boon’s territory. Boon charges her again with his depleted Hellions, then rolls pretty poorly on hits/wounds, leaving Mani with 7 saves to roll and needing to make 6 of them. Mani makes 5 then CP re-rolls one to a save to keep his Succubus alive at 2 wounds. Now she’ll clear out Boon’s Hellions and run roughshod through his deployment zone, and that’s basically going to cost Boon the game, I expect – but we’ll see. In a hilariously terrible mirror moment, Boon’s own Succubus gets interrupted on by some Groteseques, then fails four out of five 4+ saves (including a CP re-roll) to die. Just amazing. This fuckin game, man I swear.

Over on the stream table it looks like Jack and Brad are making more of a game out of it than I thought it’d be but I’ll still be surprised if Jack loses.

5:42 – The site went down for a bit (RIP) but we are BACK. Big updates here:

  1. Boon’s still in it, but he’s probably gonna lose to Mani thanks to that Succubus.
  2. Dan’s lost to Sascha, who just kept him off the middle all game.
  3. BRAD CHESTER HAS DONE IT. His War walker reserves and Warp Spiders absolutely trashed Jack’s flank and he pulled out the win. Brad Chester advances to the final round of the Invitational. Absolute legend.

6:00 – OK, gonna head back to the hotel. Boon’s not mathematically eliminated yet but it’s pretty much over. I’ll have more updates tomorrow, probably in a new article. See you then!

More updates to come. Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.