SRM’s Road to Adepticon Part 3: Dirtbags, Deep Dishes, and Dawnbringers

Here we are at the end of our journey to Schaumburg, IL. Folks who have been following along with this short series through parts one and two will be happy to know that I am back home and among the living. Once again, my enemies will be disappointed.

DAY 0 – ARRIVAL

Campbell “SRM” McLaughlin and Dan “Dittka” Boyd of the 40k Badcast. Credit: Fowler

I had been fretting all week over how to pack for the event, as I had to prepare for 4 different game systems, with attendant miniatures and materials for each. I was able to cram all my models into two KR cases, which fit snugly in my KR2 backpack, which itself fits snugger-ly in an overhead bin on most flights. My clothes, books, and other stuff were crammed into a tiny backpack that I could fit under an airplane seat, and should I acquire any stuff whatsoever, packing for the return journey would prove problematic. More than anything else, I wanted to avoid checking a bag. Losing my stuff on the way there or back was not a reality I wished to prepare for. In the days leading up to this, I had figured out what books I wouldn’t need, hoping the Age of Sigmar app would carry me through. This reliance on the technology of the now versus the technology of the past would make Saturday a challenge, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I got up at 7am for a 9:25 flight at my podunk airport in Redmond, OR, and drove there more or less on autopilot. I listened to the new Gorillaz album, Cracker Island, on the drive over. It was quite good. The advantage of tiny regional airports over the big international ones is that you can show up and waltz through security, going from the front door to your gate in 7 minutes flat. I should know, I timed it. Said gate had a gift shop serving Sisters Coffee, so I had a decent black coffee and enjoyed that while the airport filled up for the morning.

My flight was easy, as this leg of any journey often is. I nervously heard the PA announce that boarding group F (condescendingly referred to as “F” for Fabulous) would all have to check their bags, and having seen my army case get fully yeeted by a porter only for me to deal with the consequences, that was a fate I wanted to avoid. Even though I was in group E (“E” for Excellent) it was going to be close. I fortunately got the last spot in the bins and sat next to someone who goes to my climbing gym, then slept for the following 47 minute flight to Seattle. Those stupid donut neck pillows are actually a pretty good purchase. I recommend them.

SeaTac is one of the more pleasant airports I have spent any amount of time in. It’s clean, well lit, and efficiently laid out compared to many. There’s also a SubPop store and a FunkoPop store, which are two very different varietals of Pop. One of those represents a staple of Seattle’s musical history, and the other will likely not be there in a year. I’ll let you figure out which is which. An overly twee couple was playing ukulele music for a crowd and I headed in the opposite direction towards Bad Egg for breakfast. Their beer list said 10 Barrel’s Pub Beer was a Seattle brew, which is patently untrue. 10 Barrel is based in Bend, Oregon, where I make my home, and their other locations are in Idaho and elsewhere in my beautiful square state. It was also $12, which is far more than I would ever spend for what is, essentially, a slightly elevated PBR. Instead I had a comically large Sky Kraken Hazy IPA from Fremont Brewing. I try to get a beer at every airport I go to, time permitting, and this fairly average hazy from Seattle was dry, hoppy, and had a hint of grapefruit rind. I paired it with the restaurant’s PNW Salmon Toast, which was avocado and smoked salmon on wheat toast. It was solid, like maybe not $20 good, but certainly $14 good. It came with fresh fruit, which was welcome.

After finishing up and traipsing back towards the gate, I saw one of SeaTac’s multiple Beecher’s Cheese locations. Along with your typical variety of prepackaged foodstuffs, they just have big ol’ wedges of cheese you can grab. I assume these are more to buy as souvenirs than anything else, but I can’t shake the image of someone buying a half pound extruded triangle of muenster and eating it on the plane like a handfruit. A guy in front of me in the boarding line was wearing a shirt advertising a small town porn shop in Indiana. This is the second flight I have been on in as many months with this kind of guy in attendance, and while I don’t think there’s a pattern yet, it’s weird to see it twice.

The coffee maker on the plane was broken, so they gave me a Golden Pilsner from Fremont Brewing, which I suppose is just as good. I enjoyed this garden variety beer whilst watching Heat, an important piece of film in the Dudes Rock canon. It’s wild how foundational Heat is to the modern aesthetic of crime in pop culture, from all the Grands Theft Auto through The Dark Knight, from Kane and Lynch to the Payday games. Basically name a movie or game where grumpy dudes steal a thing and it likely owes at least a little something to Michael Mann’s 1995 crime classic. It would have been nice if any women in the movie had agency whatsoever but I’m unsurprised, given its macho tough guy aesthetics and 1995 release date. Also Al Pacino says he has a “dead tech, post-modernistic bullshit house” but it doesn’t even have a dishwasher in it. I followed that with another nap, and after an eye-watering $75 cab ride, I got to the hotel and met up with my crew.

This core running crew of my Badcast cohost Dan, Adepticon stalwarts Pat, Craig, and JD, all-around-good-times-enthusiast Greggles, and Adepticon first-timer Fowler, often accompanied me in some variety at any and all times. Tired, hungry, and shellshocked by an expensive cab ride, I was treated to Bodem, an IPA by Half Acre Beer Company. It was genuinely wonderful, a clean, fruity, and slightly resiny take on a ubiquitous beer style. I was told the wait to get food from the restaurant was going to be roughly an hour and a half as the kitchen was severely understaffed, and they were throwing out orders because of how many they were getting. I opted instead for delivery and got a Mediterranean chicken and rice bowl from Roti Mediterranean. It was room temperature and the rice was unevenly cooked, but I devoured it hungrily as I hadn’t had anything more substantial than airplane pretzels in quite a few hours. This chronically understaffed kitchen and bar situation would prove to be a running theme throughout the event, with a crowded restaurant often being attended to by a single server, or a lone middle-aged bartender serving a sea of nerds with the practiced motions of an artillery crewman loading round after round until a ceasefire was called. My assumption is the Renaissance Schaumburg wasn’t paying their staff very well, and they didn’t have the foresight to try and hire temporary help during the Adepticon blitz.

My stomach filled and my senses softened, I was off to get my badge. The GW preview event was going on at this time so I figured the process would be quick. It was not. I was separated from my crew due to the haphazard organization of the line, so I wandered around the still-in-progress halls to see who I could run into. I find Dan from Tectonic Craft Studios, one of those guys I run into at every con and am always happy to see. I met him through my ex’s ex years and years ago, and now he’s just another friendly face who makes cool MDF doodads. Tell him Campbell sent ya. I also ran into Brent from Goobertown Hobbies, and we talked shop for a bit. We both enjoy each others’ work, and it was cool to bridge the parasocial divide. That will happen a lot this con, in one direction or another. I also said hi to Todd from Tablewar, another old con friend who I last hung out with in New Mexico. He was raffling off a Warhound Titan he and Caleb Wissenback painted for Tablewar Charities. It was gorgeous, and I offer my sincere congratulations to the lucky winner who took it home.

This whole time I was also being passed by people carrying their VIG and Premium swag packages, and I was relieved I hadn’t gotten one. While it was cool that there was sometimes Necromunda dice or a blindbuy Battletech Salvage box in there, for the most part, it was just, as described by Philip K. Dick in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, mere kipple. 

“Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.”

I paged through the reveals on Warhammer Community once they started getting posted, hung out with my crew and enjoyed a Voodoo Ranger IPA. Voodoo Ranger is a perfectly pleasant and extremely drinkable IPA from New Belgium Brewing that I’ll never specifically seek out, but I’ll happily drink if it’s in front of me – which it was. I headed to bed around 1am and hit the pillow fairly hard.

DAY 1 – KILL TEAM PODS

Elucidian Starstriders vs. Veteran Guardsmen. Credit: SRM and Justin

I awoke at 7am, expectedly tired but energized by the thrum of excited nerds prepared to begin their first day of Adepticon. Dan and I hit the breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant, which was rather good. Scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, coffee, and a stale chocolate croissant adequately fueled me to take on a day of gaming. Dan went off to the A Song of Ice and Fire gulag while I headed downstairs to begin my first day of gaming with the Kill Team pod.

I’ve known JD since my first Adepticon, and I have seen him absolutely miserable, year after year, as he took on the 40k Team Tournament. He’d usually have 6 of the worst games of his life, try to get me to join him the following year, and I would always refuse. He has pivoted to the Kill Team circuit and I’ve never seen him happier or more enthusiastic about his hobby. He is intensely knowledgeable about Kill Team, and he was happy to run me through all the Into the Dark Rules that we would be playing with. Zach Rochner was running this event, and I’m always happy to see him. He was also in New Mexico, representing the Chaos faction in the grand narrative. He often runs events for GW, like the Narrative in Seattle Tacoma. He’s good people, and we caught up for a minute before pairings were announced.

Game 1 – Elucidian Starstriders vs. Justin’s Veteran Guard

Elucidian Starstriders vs. Veteran Guardsmen. Credit: SRM and Justin

My first game of Kill Team this event likely put me into a bracket where I was going to get destroyed, but here goes nothing. This first match was against Justin from Manchester, NH, a jovial fellow and all around swell dude. His Veteran Cadian team was all converted with the new kits and looked lovely, but sadly were not long for this world. I took my Elucidian Starstriders, who happen to be extremely potent in Into the Dark. While my lasguns and rotor cannon are fine and dandy, my orbital lasers (that work inside space ships) have the Blast rule, which means they’re lethal on 5+ in Into the Dark. This meant I was critting whole clusters of his dudes at once, and regularly deleting a fire team at a time. This game went extremely quickly, as I tabled him on turn 2 and scored max points, securing a 20-3 victory. He was a great sport about it, mostly laughing with me as I became increasingly incredulous at the lethality of my orbital lasers and frag grenades.

Lunch Break

My first game ended early and we had an hour for lunch besides, so I went back to the hotel restaurant with Craig and we both got salads. Vegetables are in short supply at events like these, so load up while you can. I had a kale and sweet potato salad that was mostly lovely, with some slightly overcooked chicken on top. I paired it with an Irie IPA from Tighthead Brewing, which too was refreshing and enjoyable, if a bit thick in the mouthfeel department. 

Game 2 –  Elucidian Starstriders vs. Joe’s Naval Breachers

Elucidian Starstriders vs. Naval Breachers. Credit: SRM and Joe

Joe is very good at Kill Team. Joe knows the intricacies of its rules and is extremely patient in explaining them to idiots like me. This patience was put through its paces as we were only able to play through 2 turns in our allotted time, and had to talk and dice through the remaining 2. His Breacher team breached my dudes extremely hard, and their tanky nature meant I had a very hard time chewing through them. This is where I learned the difference between visible and obscured in Kill Team, which I very much don’t like. This is the only Games Workshop game where if a model’s ankle is behind a trash can and he has a conceal order, they can’t be seen. In any other game they wouldn’t even get a cover save, but here they’re as concealed as Bugs Bunny hiding behind a comically thin tree, and I’m Elmer Fudd. I did learn a lot here, but not enough to cinch the victory, as we diced out a 15-17 win for the Breachers. I hope I don’t come off as salty here, as I have no problem with Joe, who was a perfectly pleasant and knowledgeable opponent. There were just some newly discovered quirks about Kill Team that would begin to bother me. 

Game 3 –  Elucidian Starstriders vs. Randal’s Tyranids

Elucidian Starstriders vs. Veteran Tyranids. Credit: SRM and Randal

This was another Into the Dark game, and I identified that this would basically play out like Aliens – a couple of jobbers will get munched by his Genestealers, my named dudes played by A and B list actors will survive til the end, and there will likely be a big explosion as the timer runs out. I was correct in all of these assumptions. The first 2 turns went extremely well for me, as I routinely looted the objectives I had to loot, and I set up a brutal firebase where my Lectro-Meister held down a barricade with a few of my other models, daring Randal to get into my Mortal Wound field. I could tell my team was frustrating him these 2 turns, as they’re a tricksier team with a lot of ass pulls and space lasers, and I was a bit slow as a player since I’ve only played Kill Team a few times. While my team was definitely doing the damage they needed to do, he was doing a little better on objectives and he started munching my guys on turn 3. He eked out a narrow 2 point victory against me, and we ended at 14-16.

Game 4 –  Elucidian Starstriders vs. Cole’s Sisters Novitiates

Sisters Novitiates. Credit: Cole

I assumed Novitiates were a fairly basic team, largely because I’ve gunned down quite a few of them in games of proper 40k. I was incorrect. Cole absolutely ran laps around me with their team, and they outplayed me from deployment onwards. I’d call a shot, they’d use an Act of Faith, and I couldn’t shoot anymore. I’d hit one of their operatives with a space laser, and they’d roll crits on saves. Cole said they play Kill Team weekly, and it definitely shows. They ran away with an 11-18 victory, and were an absolute pleasure to play against. 

Awards and Takeaways

This event was tightly run, with perfectly functional Best Coast Pairings integration helping everything run on schedule. There were an adequate number of judges to resolve rules questions and disputes, and they would trust us to run through games that were running out of time. Hell, we even got through awards ahead of schedule, none of which I took home with my 1-3 record and lack of a display board. It was a tight, lightweight little event to start things off with, and I learned so much about how to Kill a Team. 

Burgerquest

Kuma’s Corner is an Adepticon staple. This metal-themed burger restaurant has burgers named after bands like Mastodon and Iron Maiden, a large beer selection, gothed-up staff, and death metal blaring over the whole restaurant. It comes across as loud to all 5 senses. This year, they were even selling Kuma’s dice alongside a stuntfood Adepticon burger, so they clearly got the memo. Seemingly everyone else in Schaumburg did too, as we waited for an hour and a half outside in the increasingly cold Illinois evening air. With no table in sight, Dan, Fowler, Matt and I bailed and went to the nearby Stonehouse Alehouse and were sat and served immediately. Hell, I even got my novelty burger fix here, ordering their Elvis burger. This food crime was a medium rare burger with chunky peanut butter, bacon, and banana on it, with a wholly superfluous lettuce and tomato should I decide to add more flavors to the fire. Boston Burger Company did this burger better with their The King burger, but I was feeling the novelty option here. Stonehouse’s beer selection was more interesting than the hotel bar’s and cheaper to boot, and we took advantage of that while we had this immensely good hang. I started with the Stonehouse Amber Ale, the bar’s bespoke beer. It was comfortable on a cold night – toasty, malty, a little hoppy, and exactly what I was looking for. I followed that up with a Bell’s Two Hearted, one of those all-timer dad beers that you could crush 3 of on a porch without thinking about it. Unfortunately the raspberry vanilla sour I wanted had kicked, so I went on name alone and got a Wild Onion Radio Free Pilsner, which was one of the okayest beers I had the whole trip. Craig eventually joined us and we hung out there until the townies started to filter out around 12:30. We talked about GWAR, the Fast and Furious movies, and the time in the Vin Diesel vehicle, XXX, where the whole movie stopped so they could have a Rammstein music video for Feuer Frei. It was the kind of Dudes Being Dudes hang I haven’t had in a long, long time, and it was immensely nourishing.

DAY 2 – NECROMUNDA: INTO THE WASTES + 40k TRIVIA

Dan “Dittka” Boyd and Fowler. Credit: SRM

The day’s Necromunda: Into the Wastes event had a luxurious start time of 11:45am, so I reveled in an easy morning, waking up at 9 and getting myself cleaned up before getting breakfast. Dan had already ran out the door so I went to the hotel Starbucks for a comically large cold brew and a ham and egg sandwich. It was nothing to write home about, but a far sight better than the $9 convention center glizzy you could get downstairs. I loafed around, catching up on Discord messages and the like before heading to the Utopia room for some underhive action.

We gathered together in a gaggle of gangers as the event organizer walked us through the basics of the day. We would be split into two teams – Law and Disorder – and would play 3 games with an optional 4th after awards and the like. XP and Credit rewards were set by the missions, and there was a custom injury table that left out some of the more severe results. We were each given a playing card that determined matchups, though the mechanisms by which this was determined never quite made sense to me. Dan and Fowler, in their mismatched Orlock cosplay, both opted for team Disorder so the could slam their denim jacket crews into my Goliaths. The tables were arranged into an even split of Ash Wastes and Zone Mortalis terrain, all gorgeously modeled and painted by the organizer.

Game 1 – Goliaths vs. Matt’s Orlocks

Goliaths vs Orlocks. Credit: SRM and Matt

My first game of the day was also my first Ash Wastes game ever, and it was against Matt from Miniwargaming. He had just finished an Ash Wastes campaign, and resultantly was knowledgeable about the ins and outs of this bold new frontier for Necromunda. His patience and know-how got me up to speed in just a turn or two, and we were off to a game of Mad Max shenanigans. His Wolfquad handily destroyed my first Mauler (Maul Rat riding Ripping Hazzard) while my other Mauler (Glizzy Guzzler Griz on Ol’ Crankable) tried and failed to run down his various dudes on foot. We avoided narrow disaster after narrow disaster, as his dirtbike riders made their Initiative checks to avoid a terminal case of road rash. My heavy bolter wielding Forge Tyrant (Angus Thickburger) was trying and failing to put dents into his Rockgrinder, but after a lucky reload, he turned his attention on Matt’s hapless and very killable gangers running around on foot. I hit his party bus with a frag grenade from my specialist (Fudd the Rucker) and it launched all his dudes out like a scumbag firework. Things came to a head when his Rockgrinder bulldozed my remaining Mauler, only for my Renderizer Forge Boss (Top Round) to juice up on stimms, leap off a building onto the moving vehicle, slam it with his giant axe, force a loss of control test, make the vehicle flip over, get thrown off, and land on his feet like nothing ever happened. It was the most excited I’d been all con, and Matt was right there with me, cheering on my giant idiot son. We were coming up on time and when the dust settled, the game was a draw. I thanked Matt for the equal parts delightful and educational game, and looked forward to my next gang fight.

Game 2 – Goliaths vs. Dan’s Orlocks

Goliaths vs Orlocks. Credit: SRM and Dan Boyd

As we were determining round 2 matchups, Dan pointed right at me and challenged me to a game. With both of my Maulers in recovery for a round, I accepted Dan’s challenge and pointed us towards a Zone Mortalis table. My paltry 5 available fighters were outnumbered, but with the aid of a tactics card, I threw in a pair of juves to catch bullets and better control the action economy. This mission involved capturing a trio of tactical locations, which were all but impossible to actually reach. As with most Necromunda missions, it came down to just trying to murder each other, which is precisely what we did. I made a risky move early on where my Forge Tyrant and one of his attendant free juves rode to the top of an elevator, only to get shot by a grenade launcher. The juve narrowly avoided falling to his death, while Angus Thickburger’s Nerves of Steel kept him standing and, with the aid of some Suspensors I bought, he had a commanding firing position over the battlefield. Any time an Orlock poked their head out he would promptly blow it off, until a 3 round streak where he needed a 2+ to hit but kept rolling 1s. Eventually he learned to aim again, and resumed being a terror on the battlefield. Dan played a very good game, keeping his dudes hidden until they could pop out with a shotgun and cap one of my musclebound idiots, and we both ended up bottling. What happened next was a turn by turn challenge where we would both be hidden out of line of sight, rolling Cool checks, and seeing who would bail first. I was able to get my idiots close enough to Angus Thickburger that they could use his unparalleled Cool stat of 4+ for an easy pass every turn, and Dan’s remaining ganger fled the field. It was a great game, and any time slamming hams with my dear friend and cohost is worth savoring.

We ran to the bar before our third game and grabbed a can each of Ninja vs. Unicorn from Pipeworks Brewing. Pipeworks clearly puts a lot into the label art of their beers, and the vibrant art on this can draws the eye and lives up to its colorful name. Fortunately, this double IPA is more than just a pretty face. Tropical, sweet, and dangerously drinkable, it’ll sneak up on you. Definitely one of the better beers I had this trip, and one I would happily seek out again.

Game 3 – Goliaths vs. Fowler’s Orlocks

Goliaths vs Orlocks. Credit: SRM and Fowler

My third and final game against Orlocks of the day was against Goonhammer’s own Necromunda underboss, Kevin Fowler. This mission was another Ash Wastes mission and our task was to recover fuel caches scattered around the table. Half the time they’d give you a point, half the time they wouldn’t, and on a 1 they’d explode. Visibility was only 12″ due to a dust storm on the table, and there was a big Starship Troopers-esque fort in the middle of the board that we’d be fighting over. I used a tactics card to bring in a House Agent (Dumpwrap Supreme) with a bolter/grenade launcher and renderizer. If nothing else, it was a chance to use the overladen Goliath champ I reviewed last year. Said House Agent was merced by Ted Balloon, one of Fowler’s jump pack equipped Wreckers, who was then heavy boltered into oblivion by Angus Thickburger. I was rolling better on the fuel checks, and once I’d secured 3 and Fowler had failed the roll on 1, I knew I’d secured victory. That didn’t stop the Necromunda nonsense from continuing, however. Maul Rat rammed Fowler’s walker, knocking off a fighter who was riding on top, who only narrowly rolled away as the vehicle lost control and ran into a wall. Maul Rat then rammed the walker again, knocking it off the table. The vehicle rules are wonderfully chaotic, and have filled me with so much excitement for all the wild and wonderful variables they add to an already wild and wonderful game. Fowler is also a great opponent, and just as invested in all the fun bullshit that Necromunda entails. I’ve been in Zoom and Discord painting hangouts with him for a good 3 years now, and it was great to not only meet him in person, but roll some dice and slam some hams together.

Awards and Takeaways

Ah damn I won the cop award. Credit: SRM

I regret to inform you, dear reader, that ACAB now includes me. I won Most Lawful for getting the best score on my team, which granted me a coveted Adepticon medal and my choice of reward from the prize pool. I grabbed a set of Squats, and now I’m waiting for the inevitable Ash Wastes upgrade kit for these little idiots. The event was immensely fun, owing largely to playing 3 games with 3 wonderful opponents who were all bringing the right energy and attitude to what may be Games Workshop’s most unhinged game. The terrain was gorgeous, the gangs were characterful, and the vibes were immaculate. I think for events like this in the future, 3 games isn’t really enough to take advantage of Necromunda’s progression mechanics and economy, so it would be better to crank those numbers up or ignore them entirely. Having your fighters go into recovery is also a bummer in such a short event, and it was pretty telling when all fighters got to come out of recovery for round 3. As stated, I also couldn’t figure out how the matchups worked, but was fortunate enough to be challenged by my friends for 2/3 of the rounds. I feel like skipping progression, giving us a slightly higher starting value, and determining matchups in a different manner would have helped. If it started earlier in the day we also could have stayed for the optional big battle at the end, but I appreciated the later start time. These are all nitpicks, and didn’t get in the way of what was my favorite event of the con. Everything was run on time, everyone seemed to be having a great time, and I would absolutely play another event with this organizer.

Brewery any% any ABV% Speedrun

The note in my phone for this part of the evening is, and I quote, “That brewweiy??” so I will try to recall this as best I can. I had my eye on Granite City Brewery since we passed it the night prior, and I earmarked it as a place where we should get dinner. Time was rather tight, as we wanted to get to trivia, so Dan, Matt, Craig, Fowler and I popped on over there for some dinner. On our server’s recommendation, I grabbed a Burning Barn Irish red ale. It was malty, sweet, smooth and comforting, much like the Stonehouse Amber from the night before, but a little heartier. I grabbed that and some varietal of spicy chicken sandwich I’m having a hard time remembering the specifics of, but I do remember enjoying it. We were in and out of there in under an hour, and we got back to the hotel just in time for trivia to begin.

Trivia

Black Templars Bladeguard Veterans. Credit: SRM

Our team, Returning Champions, was hungry for victory. Well, mostly hungry, Dan was basically falling asleep at the table because he’s a dad now. We got tripped up on a few questions, like naming all 4 legendary Dark Angels swords, only for me to spurt out “Heavenfall Blade” which is the category of sword, not any one sword in particular. We made the poor call of betting 7 points on the final, impossible question, putting us just a few points behind the 1st place team and netting us a less prestigious 2nd place finish. We were each given a Company Champion for our efforts, which is a pretty fine prize all things considered. One currently serves as a Bladeguard Sword Brother in my Black Templars, pictured above. I was given another Ninja Vs. Unicorn and an unremarkable mystery IPA by Richard, a listener who had been hanging with us for a chunk of the evening, and I chatted with him and Patrick until around 1:30am. My notes tell me there was another Voodoo Ranger in there too. This may have been a mistake. I tried to prep for the next day’s event before bed, but I was signed out of the AoS App on my iPad and was too out of it to figure out the WiFi situation at the hotel, so my next day would involve far more time buried in my phone than expected.

DAY 3 – AGE OF SIGMAR DAWNBRINGER CRUSADE

I woke up at 8am still drunk, something that hasn’t happened since my early 20s. I don’t recommend this experience. I dry heaved in the bathroom before my first game, and I had such a hard time getting out of bed that I didn’t get breakfast or coffee beforehand. I felt insane. I got to my table, and was shuffled around as the AoS Team Tournament right next to us was having some problems with table placement. Imagine my consternation as, mid-deployment, a group of 4 people with their armies came up and said “actually this is our table” only for my non-confrontational and highly hung over ass to wordlessly shuffle away, army in hand, looking for any port where I could drop anchor. I winced every time the PA boomed with some garbled announcement about the AoS Team Tournament, loud enough that I could feel it in my molars. Somehow during this kerfuffle, I lost my baggie containing all my Kill Team and Necromunda accoutrements, but somehow extracted my dice and tape measure beforehand. Eventually, I settled into an unoccupied table near the back, some half hour after the round was meant to begin. I shook my opponent’s hand, and thus began the first game of the day.

Game 1 – Slaves to Darkness vs. Jason’s Maggotkin

Slaves to Darkness vs. Maggotkin of Nurgle. Credit: SRM and Jason

I sincerely wish I could remember this game better. My opponent, Jason, had a lovely Nurgle army with a couple units of tanky chonkers, a bunch of cultists, and some characters to keep the army rolling. Unfortunately, those tanky chonkers weren’t tanky enough to handle my brick of 10 chosen who got to run and charge, fight twice, hit on 2+/2+, and spit out a bunch of mortal wounds with their Soulsplitters. I went over this strategy in my previous article, and it fortunately went well for me – so well, in fact, that I maxed out points for the round and left my opponent trailing well behind. Jason was a gracious, understanding, and enjoyable opponent to play with, and I hope I can match up with him again when I’m in a more lucid state.

Not Quite Breakfast, Not Quite Lunch

I lurched over to the Starbucks for a yogurt and nitro coldbrew coffee, and ran into Patrick again whilst doing so. The coffee was honestly pretty decent and the yogurt was that entirely too sweet American varietal of ‘gurt  that I’m not wild about, but there was fruit and granola so I happily chowed down on it. Pat and I chatted for a bit and I motored off to round 2.

Game 2 – Slaves to Darkness vs. Karl’s Ironjawz

Slaves to Darkness vs. Ironjawz. Credit: SRM and Karl

Feeling markedly more human now that I had some food and caffeine in my system, I was ready for my next game. Karl’s Ironjawz at first did not worry me in the slightest – I’ve played this flavor of Ork/Orc/Orruk before and things usually go my way. I failed to take into account that when these things did go my way, I had an Old World Empire army’s worth of guns and crossbows. Here I was on their turf, taking it to them in hand to hand combat. We maneuvered around each other for the first round, and I was able to get an early double turn, surrounding his lead unit of ‘Ardboyz and scoring a Battle Tactic for my troubles. When his Megaboss charged into my Untamed Beasts I was elated, glad he was wasting his combat character on my chaff, not realizing that what this was actually doing was powering up his Mean Green Machine into something that would later take out 5 Chosen in a single charge. My Chosen held the center as best they could, but he kept feeding units into them and they were getting worn down as a result. He yeeted a second squad of ‘Ardboyz into my backline and took out my Sorceror before tying up my Warriors (who I never quite figured what to do with) and effectively crippled my army on turn 3. Things got worse for the spikey lads from there on, with me failing a clutch charge roll that would have at least scored me another Battle Tactic, and Karl took away a solid victory. If I was more committed with my Warriors I might have actually been able to put them somewhere useful, but this was a case where Karl had a clear plan and I just didn’t. He was a good opponent and an enjoyable dude to spend an hour and 45 minutes with.

Game 3 – Slaves to Darkness vs. Oscar Lars’ Soulblight Gravelords

Slaves to Darkness vs. Soulblight Gravelords. Credit: SRM and Oscar Lars

I had noticed Oscar’s army whilst doing the rounds at the event. He had a gorgeous army of skelliemen and zombie doggos, all presented on a similarly gorgeous display board. His Grave Guard were custom designed by Oscar and a friend of his, and were painted with the heraldry of Mannfred Von Castein. Once he said “heraldry”, I immediately knew we’d get along. He traded his branded tape measure for my Badcast sticker and we got rolling. This game was, without exaggeration, one of the best games of Age of Sigmar I’ve ever played. After trading our screens, Oscar was able to lock down my Chosen with an extremely hard to kill monster and some Grave Guard. We danced around the backfield and flanks with his  summoned dire wolves taking on my Warriors, and his summoned Grave Guard assassinated my Sorceror Lord. Meanwhile, my Chosen were chewing through his front line, and our armies were slowly sanding each other down. I had a turn 5 hail Mary, a 12″ charge with my Warriors to take out his Vampire Lord and last 5 Grave Guard. I had to position my models just so and when the dust cleared, he had one skeleton and one wound remaining on his Vampire, just enough to secure him the victory.

Slaves to Darkness vs. Soulblight Gravelords. Credit: SRM and Oscar Lars

Our game was intensely tactical, and I’ve never seen positioning matter more in a game of AoS. Our dice were hot as hell too, with preposterously high rolling on both of our parts. It was an explosive, bloody, and closely fought game that I’ll never forget. I told him outright that if I played against him every week, I’d become a better player in no time. He told me he wished I lived closer to him so we could get games in more often. I shared that sentiment, and look forward to seeing him at NOVA. You owe it to yourself to peep his Golden Daemon entry, which took home a much-deserved silver award.

Game 4 – Slaves to Darkness vs. Mark’s Seraphon

Slaves to Darkness vs. Seraphon. Credit: SRM and Mark

I won’t bury the lede: My final game of the day was a blowout. Mark was more of a skirmish gamer who didn’t play AoS all too often, and he was playing with an older battletome that left a lot to be desired. On the first turn he ran his Carnosaur and cavalry up, charged into my screening Untamed Beasts, and was then wide open for my Warriors to countercharge his cavalry and my Chosen to yeet themselves 12″ and charge into his his Carnosaur. I cast a Fights Last spell on the cavalry, and took out both units before my turn was up. My Chosen continued onwards, plowing through his mob of skinks and taking only a handful of wounds in exchange. I wasn’t going to play the game for him, but I was kinda shocked that he didn’t Unleash Hell when I charged his mob of 20 blowgun skinks. It unfortunately wasn’t much of a game, and while he did Dinosaur Laser my second unit of Untamed Beasts away, the biggest boon he got was when my Sorceror Lord channeled Chaos too hard and exploded his own head, dying on turn 2. Play Chaos games, win Chaos prizes. The game was a 20-2 victory for me, and we sat down and talked tactics afterwards. We talked through some general tactics, army composition, and order usage, and I hope to see him keep playing AoS.

Awards and Takeaways

With my 2-2 record and middling paint score (no display board or armywide conversions really hurts you by Adepticon’s rubric) I didn’t think I’d be in the running for any sort of awards. However, they had a raffle system for all their prize support, where for every defeat you had, you got some extra entries. My name came up and I grabbed a set of the Extremis Edition cardboard gaming boards, as right now I don’t have a regulation sized AoS table at home. The prize support was pretty decent – a couple Dominion boxes, some Swampcalla Shamans, and the aforementioned boards – and we were informed that for 2/3 of the attendants, this was their first AoS GT. The event was intended for beginners and casual players in the AoS scene, and it definitely delivered. Aside from the miscommunication with this event and the adjacent team tournament that caused a table kerfuffle in round 1, I think this event ran smoothly and I had my best game of the con.

Convention Center Moseying and 15lbs of Pizza

Deep Dish Pizza. Credit: Lou Malnati’s

Dan and I reconvened, grabbed some beers, and got walking around the joint. We had some time to kill before the pizzas Craig ordered arrived, so we filled it with a stroll around the evening’s action. I had a Rugged Coalminer from Scorched Earth Brewing, a smooth and sweet robust porter with notes of coffee and vanilla. We bugged Carl, Chelle, and Jody, formerly of The Independent Characters, as they went about their giant Space Hulk game run by the Basement of Death crew. Carl’s been talking this event up since the halcyon days of his podcast, and it warms my heart to see it still going strong. We didn’t want to bug them too much, and wandered around to see part of Matt and Pat’s 40k game, where Pat’s Ultramarines were firmly sweeping Matt’s guardsmen off the table.

The pizza finally arrived and it was, in no uncertain terms, transcendent. While opinions may differ on who does it best, Lou Malnati’s is to date the best Chicago-style pizza I’ve had, and Craig invited me to heft the stack of 3 pies he’d ordered. By my estimation it was 15lbs of bread, cheese, sauce, and more besides. We had to fetch a knife from the restaurant, as their pizzas arrive uncut, and got to digging in. This was basically the first thing of substance I’d had all day, and I greedily had a slice each of the pepperoni, sausage, and veggie varietals. I enjoyed these with a Revolution Anti-Hero IPA, an enjoyable if unremarkable hop bomb I last sampled at a liquor store tasting event in Somerville, MA, in 2016. It may have been the sleep debt, the carb overload, or my body otherwise catching up with me, but I hit the hay around 11pm.

DAY 4 – BATTLETECH OPEN

I luxuriously woke up at 8:30am, getting the best sleep I’ve probably had in a month. My event started at 10am, so there was plenty of time to enjoy the morning. I had another nitro cold brew and yogurt from the Starbucks, which for some reason was 2 bucks cheaper than it was the day before. I’m not going to complain about fluctuations in the ‘gurt market if it means I get to save a few ducats. I loafed around on a couch, enjoyed my breakfast, and headed down to the event space.

Battletech Tax Forms. Credit: SRM

This was my first interaction with the greater Battletech community since I was a wee bairn, and it was both familiar and different from what I was used to from the Warhammer space. The attendants were split between excitable 20-30 somethings and grouchy-looking old grognards, and a big chess clock was hanging over the event, ever counting down towards zero. I joked that this event was “Sealed Mech Format” over on the Badcast. Instead of bringing a lance from home, each round we would choose a mech pair from a prepared list, with an hour and 45 minutes to slam them into each other. The caveat is that each pair of mechs was decidedly suboptimal, and usually united by some theme – a really fast and really slow mech, a mech that runs hot and a mech that causes heat, a mech with a bunch of bad guns and a mech with one really good gun, and so on. When I spoke to Josh from The Mechbay podcast, a Badcast listener and late addition to my Adepticon running crew, he said he would never have given these mechs to anybody, except as a joke. This excited me.

Round 1 – vs. Mark

Battletech Open. Credit: SRM and Catalyst Game Labs

I took a Blackjack and a Warhammer this round, as those mechs are familiar to me. You may notice that my mechs are a Griffon and Archer, but we were invited to use our own models, proxy things in, or use the event models, and I wanted to show off my work. As far as I recall, Mark took the same. Immediately things went well for me, as I was nailing PPC shot after PPC shot from my Warhammer into his. Without talking to me, Mark grabbed my dice and said he wanted to check that I wasn’t cheating. He rolled them a few times, and, satisfied that my dice weren’t loaded, said he was just joking. I knew he was lying. This hung a pall over the entire game, as did his generally sour attitude whenever he missed a shot, which was quite often. He would loudly curse and switch dice, time and again, and he held onto a pair of my dice for the entire game without my consent. I flanked his Warhammer with my Blackjack and destroyed it, only for his Blackjack to take mine out in vengeance. He managed to do a bit of damage to my Warhammer as well, which meant he narrowly beat me out on points. I maintained a chipper attitude the whole time, as I was here to roll dice and have fun, and he had an awfully bad attitude for someone who had just won a game. If you could not tell, he was one of the grumpy grognards I clocked from the beginning.

Round 2 – vs. Leonard

Battletech Open. Credit: SRM and Catalyst Game Labs

When I asked Leonard how long he’d been playing, he said since 1987. He said he had played regularly since then, and since lost all passion for the game. This did not bode well. He proceeded to surgically cut apart my pair of mechs, always having them perfectly ranged and managing his heat with practiced efficiency. Not once did he crack a smile as he dismantled my force without losing a mech in return. While I wouldn’t say this was a fun game in any capacity, I found it to be an educational one, and he was gracious enough to teach me more Battletech specifics after the fact. Leonard, despite not actually enjoying this game, was clearly very, very good at it. I hope he can find joy in another game or rekindle his love for this one in the future, as I can’t imagine going to a convention like this just to spend hours and dollars doing something you don’t actually like. Seeing the dispassioned look on his face while people on either side of us were hooting and/or hollering with excitement was a grim reminder of what can happen when you keep pursuing something long after it has stopped bringing you joy.

Round 3 – vs. Josh

Battletech Archer and Battlemaster. Credit: SRM and Josh

The aforementioned Josh requested we be matched together, as he wanted to show me that Battletech can be fun, actually. This, dear reader, is where I am delighted to say he succeeded. This game was my first time using clan mechs, and they’re souped up hot rods compared to the clunkers that Inner Sphere folks are saddled with. These bipedal cruise missiles ran at each other at perilous speeds, and shit was popping off every turn. I had a Rifleman and some medium mech, he had a Kraken with 10 Ultra AC/2s and a light mech. His light mech ran behind my Rifleman, trying to take advantage of its weaker rear armor and kick it in the butt, only for my Rifleman to flip its arms over, fire an ER Large Laser into the light mech’s cockpit, and kill it instantly. His Kraken traded blows with my speedy flanking mech before coring it like an apple, and it was down to his assault mech and my pristine Rifleman. He closed with me, his targeting computer damaged, and my Rifleman jauntily jumped over him, and shot him in the rear armor. The shot went internal and hit the stacks of AC/2 ammo within, and his mech exploded in a glorious fireball of internal damage. We were done in maybe an hour. It was just the kind of spiritual salve I needed after my first two funereal games, and Josh gave me a Nova mech, a preposterous Clan mech with more ER medium lasers than sense. We hung out chatting after the game and Dan joined us to talk mechs and such as we waited for awards to roll through.

Awards and Takeaways

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t win anything here, and Leonard won the event far as I could tell. I like the chaotic nature of the mech pairings, and ideally it’s so far out of the player’s control that they can’t get too tilted about it. That memo seemed to be lost on some people, but everyone under 40 looked like they had a grand old time. I think I would reformat the scoresheets, which looked about as intimidating as a federal tax form, and I think I would reconfigure the secondary objectives as well. Points were given for standing still and shooting, which is lame as hell in my opinion. Anything that encourages sedentary play should be avoided, and a pair of robots missing each other from opposing copses of trees doesn’t paint an exciting mental picture. I liked that our lances were just two mechs each; it meant games could go quickly and we could actually get a few games in. It took me out of the game a bit since we had to use proxies for all of them, but for the nature of the event, it made sense. I’d potentially do this again, or something like it, and it proved that Battletech can actually be played pretty quickly if you put your mind to it.

Closing up Shop

I haven’t played enough Company of Heroes to know what this is. Credit: SRM

Our crew convened in the hotel restaurant, where a lone, harried server was the only person on the floor. I had a Goose Island IPA, a remarkably unremarkable IPA that Anheuser-Busch bought back in 2011. However, the corned beef sandwich I had was pretty fantastic, and the fries weren’t bad either. I was asked if I would miss that sandwich and this restaurant or NOVA’s own Bozzelli’s more, and with barely a thought I pointed to that Crystal City staple. The food at this hotel restaurant is genuinely good, but at no point am I craving to be in a sterile hotel restaurant bereft of personality when I could be in the noisy hole in the wall Italian deli that Bozzelli’s represents in my mind palace. Dan departed here, and we were joined by a rotating cast of friends before migrating over to the bar.

In the restroom, I noticed there was pee not just in the urinal, but atop it, an act that would have required a particularly acrobatic urinator or a sick 2.5-foot arc. I note this here and now because it is, itself, notable.

Hellboy. Credit: Artum

I joined Carl and Chelle in the bar, who were killing time before a game with some friends elsewhere that evening. Chelle and I shared cat pictures with each other. Carl showed me his sea turtle tattoo. I enjoyed a Hefeweizen from Dovetail Brewery. It was a classic take on the style, a clean and sweet “banana soda” in the words of my cohost. I said my goodbyes to Carl and Chelle as they headed off for their game, and Patrick busted out his copy of Hellboy. I had heard a lot of good things about this boardgame through other Goons whomst hammer, and despite my trepidation about getting into another game before heading out, I accepted the invitation. Craig, Pat and I rolled through an adventure, crushing frog folk in a sewer and taking on a bigger, more monstrous frog at the end. We barely scraped by, with a few of us going down and getting back up, but I got a solid grasp of the mechanics and had a pretty good time with it. Josh left me with a Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewing, one of the few absolute goods in this world and a reliable standby for when I just want a beer to chill out with. Malty, sweet, poundable, whatever else you want to call it, I’ve never found it to be an unwelcome beverage. I liked the older label art better though. With our Hellboy adventure concluded, we had some of those longer, deeper conversations about family and grief that tend to come up when multiple dudes who probably don’t get to talk about their emotions enough have a few drinks and finally choose to open up. The bar was quiet and there was room to breathe, unusual for the end of Adepticon. However, I had to get a move on, as my first alarm was at 3am, with my flight a few scant hours after. A few passes through my various accoutrements later, I was packed and in bed at 11:30.

DAY 5 – THE VOYAGE HOME

O’Hare’s liminal spaces. Credit: SRM

3am rolled around quickly, and I was in a Lyft some 20 minutes later. Checkout was painless and cheaper than expected, and 3:20am isn’t exactly peak hours for rideshares in Schaumburg, IL. Security was a ghost town, with one family in front of me who had left a stuffed animal on the ground behind the security checkpoint. I reunited their youngest with Willy Wonka, her plush sea lion, and groggily ambled towards my gate. Airports are the very definition of a liminal space, but that uncanny feeling is all the more evident at 4am when a quarter of the lights are off and the thoroughfares and eateries are empty. I parked myself under one of O’Hare’s many burned out lightbulbs, marked helpfully with a tag saying its bulb was dead, and tried unsuccessfully to sleep for the hour and a half before my flight boarded. Once on, I saw Goonhammer’s own Pendulin seated in his own half-asleep stupor, and we both had a vague “do I know that guy?” look on our faces as we tried to identify each other through the masks and pre-dawn haze. We chatted over Discord, wished each other safe travels, and tried to catch some sleep. I was sharing a row with a dude who was on my departing plane some days prior as well, and he now was returning from Gary Con. We talked for a minute about gaming before a third passenger, absolutely reeking of AXE Body Spray, sat between us. They would proceed to study for their driving test on their phone the entire flight. I slept for the majority of said trip, if not especially well. The aforementioned Body Spray odor didn’t help, and I had sleep paralysis for the first time on a plane, which was fun.

We landed in Seattle, and it’s truly a wonder how much nicer SeaTac is than O’Hare. Seattle is a shining city on the water, speckled with greenery and overseen by snow capped mountains in the distance. Chicago is a bus station. SeaTac is cleaner and brighter than O’Hare, with better food options and no Cubs-themed bars that only serve Budweiser products. I got an egg and ham on croissant with a black coffee and a cornetto from Costa Coffee. It was about Starbucks level, and that is the last time I will namedrop that particularly okay coffee chain in this article. It was mostly fine. I caught up on a few days worth of correspondence, read a few chapters of the always delightful Spy X Family, and boarded the plane without much incident. Unfortunately I lost a few of the sundry pins I stuck onto my bag in the process of shoving it into the overhead, but ephemera is beautiful solely because it is so ephemeral.

The bumpy but short ride gave me time to read a few more chapters of Spy X Family and on landing I rolled right on through my podunk airport and back to my car. Some half hour later I was home, reunited with my two extremely needy kitties and back in my desert mountain home. There wasn’t a single break in my army case, and while KR doesn’t sponsor me or this website, I’ve gotta say they make a great product.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Dumpwrap Supreme vs. Ted Balloon. Credit: SRM and Fowler

Exhausted as I am, I’m glad I went this year. Spending time with my Goonhammer co-conspirators, listeners, and longtime friends was reaffirming, and reminded me why I do all this stuff in the first place. I must admit, in the days leading up to Adepticon, my biggest feelings weren’t ones of excitement, but ones of anxiety. 14 games over 4 systems, all of which required some learning, seemed like a recipe for failure. My homebodyish and introverted self felt that this would probably just be Too Much, as I haven’t been to Adepticon since 2019. I even had a conversation with my spouse beforehand that this might be too much for me right now; losing a week of work, leaving her right as she starts her own new job, and, not to again bury the lede, mourning the loss of my mother.

My mom died at the end of February, and while it’s been a decades-long grieving process by degrees for me, it’s a little different when it finally happens. I decided, ultimately, that it would be better for me to throw myself into something that has made me happy before than hang around at home, lonely with my thoughts during yet another workweek. I’m back in one of those now, and I know that while my mom never understood this nerd stuff, she understood that my dad and I loved it. There’s no clean segue out of this topic, and you probably weren’t expecting some melancholic navel gazing to close out this lengthy travelogue, but my mother is in large part responsible for my vocabulary overladen with a wallet’s worth of five dollar words and my fastidious adhesion to the rules of grammar. You can, at least in part, blame her for this novella. Just be kind when you do.

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