SRM’s Roundabout to NOVA: Probably Too Much Warhammer

Goonhammer oldheads might remember that approximately 30 years ago, back in 2019, I contributed to our first Road to NOVA series. If you don’t remember, I can’t hardly blame you; I am simply a warham who is compelled to post, and my wordy scrawling is no more likely to find its hooks into the wrinkles of your brain than anyone else’s. For the uninitiated, the series began with my work on an Ultramarines force, and ended with the completion of a display board for them. The fruits of my labors can be seen below, along with the force I was intending to take to that year’s NOVA Narrative, run by my Badcast co-host and ham husband Dan Boyd:

My Ultramarines on their display board in 2019. Credit: SRM

Unfortunately, mere days before I was geared to leave for the event, my mother-in-law suddenly and unexpectedly died, and I stayed home to support my wife and her family. With the following two years of NOVA canceled by a deadly virus, this is something of a return home for me. I’d done some local tournaments and Historicon with my dad, but NOVA was my first big Warhammer convention, so to see it come back is huge. It’s also where my podcast, The 40k Badcast, got its start. Despite all the pent-up exhaustion and anxiety of real life (and boy howdy has there been a lot in my town lately) I mustered back out for a week of nerd summer camp at the NOVA Open.

The Plan

You may have noticed that this isn’t Road to NOVA Part X or what have you. That’s because

1. I am extremely tired, and didn’t have half a dozen posts in me.

2. I had next to no plan going into this and wasn’t about to write 10,000 words of navel-gazing. I save those for my year-end reviews.

I signed up for the Narrative in the Warlords slot for Salus Preatus; the “good guys” for lack of better term. This was largely out of habit – windmill slamming F5 until I could get in and then grabbing a Warlord ticket was the move I made at every NOVA before. It may have been pure, animalistic instinct, but the process was repeated all these years later. I then promptly didn’t think about any of this until halfway through August.

Black Templars Bladeguard Veterans. Credit: SRM

The benefit of having entirely too many fucking models is that you don’t need to paint anything for events. My Black Templars had already been more than combat-ready for the Seattle Tacoma Open, so anything I painted since was purely for my own edification. Granted, I did paint a load of Bladeguard and a Redemptor because I liked them in Booley’s list, but I wouldn’t say I had anything resembling a timeline on the whole spiel. If it was ready in time, cool. If it wasn’t, who cares. My approach to writing lists is purely vibes-based, so I was not concerned.

This was a Crusade event, which means I was going to be slammed with games and homework. On top of all that, I was playing 9 games this Labor Dabor Weekend, so my schedule was going to be packed extremely tight. Fortunately, a ton of friends, acquaintances, and friendly acquaintances were going, and one even volunteered to help me deal with the aggressive schedule:

Why did it have to be Rocco.

What is an Army List? A Miserable Pile of Models

Writing this approximately 9 hours before my flight left Redmond Municipal Airport, I figured it was as good a time as any to write a list. I dragged around a bunch of cells in my Templar roster file in Google Sheets and came up with the following:

FOC Unit Name Upgrades Size Points Cost
HQ Gravis Captain (Marshal Dietrich Donnerschlag) Chainsword 1 115
HQ Techmarine (Adept Ciaran) Plasma Pistol, Omnissian Axe, Servo Arm 1 75
Troops Primaris Crusaders Pyreblaster x2, power sword, Pyre Pistol 10 188
Troops Intercessors Auto Bolt Rifles, power fist 5 110
Troops Assault Intercessors Power Sword 5 100
Elites Redemptor Dreadnought Icarus Rocket pod, plasma thing, onslaught gatling cannon 1 190
Elites Bladeguard Veterans 5 175
Elites Bladeguard Ancient (Ancient Gerhardt) 1 85
Elites Primaris Aggressors Flamestorm Gauntlets 5 200
Elites Bladeguard Veterans 5 175
Transport Impulsor Stormbolter x2, Multimelta 1 130
Heavy Support Repulsor Executioner Heavy Laser Destroyer, fragstorm x2, heavy onslaught gatling cannon, stormbolter x2, twin heavy bolter; twin Icarus ironhail heavy stubber, ironhail heavy stubber 1 315
Heavy Support Eradicators 3 135


Is this how other people post lists on Goonhammer? (Rob: No) I don’t know, I don’t read anything written by someone who claims to know what they’re doing, lest it pollute my vibes-based perspective on wargaming. You might read this and think “a lot of these are bad units and I don’t know how they work together” and you’d probably be right to do so. Importantly, they all look very cool, so any other details are moot. We were supposed to bring 3 separate lists for 1500 and 2000 point games to this event, but I didn’t read the packet. I am very good at this, and all other games.

Black Templars Repulsor Executioner. Credit: SRM

Most importantly, it all fits in 2 KR cases, which fit in my KR backpack that fits in the overhead on most flights. Note I say most – the propeller-based Alaskan Air flights out of my local airport have real dinky overhead bins, which means I have to check my bag when I fly Alaska. Watching a porter fully yeet my soft army case onto a pile of luggage was not my favorite memory of this year. Fortunately, I was flying United, so I was off to the friendly skies where these models should arrive intact.

Day 0: Inscrutable Swag and the Mechabarista

I woke up at 4am on August 31st to catch a 6am flight. So far so good. My wife volunteered to drive me to the airport so we wouldn’t have to leave a car there for a week, which was greatly appreciated. I crammed an Ocean Roll in my mouth on the drive over, and hopefully the carbohydric density of this pastry would keep me sated until I was over a few state lines. I kissed my wife goodbye and speedran security at my little podunk airport. Only as I stood at my gate did I realize I forgot my neck pillow, but I wasn’t about to spend $40 at the local Hudson News equivalent on a foam donut to add to my pile of foam donuts. I passed out immediately on boarding and awoke in San Francisco.

San Francisco airport is extremely nice. It has a yoga room, which I realize is literally something out of that shitpost/meme format about millennial/gen z house layouts or whatever. There’s also a mechabarista in a kiosk that looks like the arm on a Mars rover or whatever. I saw it playfully gesturing at onlookers and was internally seething that someone spent millions of dollars to make a machine specifically to replace the job of a single working class person who would never, ever be paid a comparable amount of money. I resisted the urge to celebrate Labor Day by hucking a trash can through the window and instead bought a coffee from a human being. I then proceeded to Mr. Magoo said coffee all over myself as I boarded the plane. I watched Last Night in Soho on my flight and let me tell you, that movie owns. I also caught up on Chainsaw Man, which kicks wholesale ass.

Michael, a listener and friendly himbo who is not a cop but looks suspiciously cop-like, picked me up from the airport. We listened to Bolt Thrower in the car. It was a brief but good hang. He dropped me off at the hotel where I picked up my veritable mountain of SuperNOVA swag and had to wait for my aforementioned podcast cohost Dan to check me in, because he didn’t authorize me for the room. He showed up with a running crew of friends, listeners, and Goonhammer contributors. He checked me in, I dumped off my stuff, investigated this year’s swag offerings, and made sure I didn’t have any breaks in my army. My Black Templars were completely intact, and the swag bag was the usual mix of extremely cool stuff (a full Kill Team starter set!), neat but more niche stuff (coupons! Infinity and Malifaux models!), and absolutely inscrutable con tat (off-brand NOVA branded flying disc? NOVA branded business card holder??? Tiny NOVA branded BlueTooth speaker??????) included with some welcome snacks and hand sanitizer. This was also my fourth SuperNOVA bag so I got a pair of KR cases for my troubles. I am not sponsored by KR, but they make some fantastic cases, and I now have 40 of the damn things to put my models in.

I met up with my crew and we headed to the GW preview event. The line was long and sweaty and we almost bailed, but it finally moved and we all get to sit together. Now, you can read the official coverage of this preview event right here on Goonhammer Dot Com, as well as the even more specific coverage from Dan and I on the Badcast, but it’s safe to say everyone was excited or impressed by at least some of the stuff on display. Wisely, the moment they announced a Q+A section, most of our running crew bounced right out of there and the 11 of went to Enjera, an Ethiopian restaurant about half a mile away. We were the only people there and had some massive family-style platters of meats and veggies that we all got to share. I hadn’t had Ethiopian food in at least 10 years, and this was a fantastic take on an underrepresented cuisine. One crisped spicy beef dish was called Derek Tibsi, which we called Tipsy Derek for the entire night. I had Negus Lager, an Ethiopian-style lager that is a touch sour, a smidge floral, and drinkably smooth. It’s a good damn beer. I followed that with a Devils Backbone Vienna lager, which is easy drinking but unremarkable. We have a wonderful time.

We closed the night out at the NOVA Cantina. The NOCF Lounge was always the highlight of NOVAs past – a big suite on an upper floor of the hotel with strong mixed drinks, draught beers, and some snacks, all available for cheap and all benefiting charity. This time it was held at the Renaissance hotel across the street in a much larger space. Instead of cash or card, all payment was done via Cantina Credits, which were $2 a pop and it cost 5 of those tickets for a bottle of cheap domestic beer. I may not be a mathemagician, but $10 for a bottle of Blue Moon is the rawest of deals. As the con went on they apparently got a lot of backlash for these drink prices, as the two hotel bars were far, far more reasonably priced with much better alcohol offerings. They’d introduce lower ticket prices for things, but between that initial sticker shock, the lack of other payment options, and its location across the street, the Cantina always resembled a ghost town. Dan kept telling Rocco that his daddies need drinkies, and Rocco obliges. I had an aforementioned overpriced Blue Moon and Angry Orchard cider while I’m there, because I wasn’t going to spend those tickets anywhere else. Dan and I retired to our room and riffed on the attract mode on our hotel room TV until 2am, mostly talking about how cool birds and lizards are.

Day 1: A Little Bit of Too Much

Black Templars. Credit: SRM

I awoke at 9:30 and got cleaned up before heading to breakfast in the hotel. Dan and I were pressured to get the buffet by our server, but I do not know if it was indeed the most valuable option. It was good, I had a veggie omelet and some berries with a chocolate croissant and two cups of not great black coffee. I knew fruits and veggies were going to be the things my body would be needing most this week, so I loaded up from the getgo. We went our separate ways – Dan to go do some Bleedball or whatever, and myself off to the Warlords-only game of the NOVA Narrative.

Chris Stover’s NOVA Narrative Tables.

For those not in the know, the Narrative was a 9-game event, with each game running 1500 or 2000 points. These were using the full Crusade rules, so our armies were going to be growing and changing over the course of just a few short days. Now, I’ve written my own diatribes and verbally painted multiple pictures before about this topic, but I think Crusade is not very good for event play. For a game group that meets every week or whatever? Hell yeah. For an event where you need to cram in a ton of games, explain all your upgrades to a dozen different people, and find the time for all the Crusade bookkeeping between rounds? That’s cramming for the SATs in the middle of your Creative Writing class and doing AP Stats homework at the same time. It requires multiple browser tabs in the brain to be open at all time, and that again is not something I am very good at.

This is, of course, is on top of remembering all the typical rules and stratagems for your army, keeping up on the FAQs, and playing the actual missions themselves, which are fortunately on the simpler side in Crusade. Honestly, these days I’m playing Matched Play games with Crusade missions just because it lessens the mental load a bit. Chris Stover, the (generous, handsome) event organizer, also put together separate special missions for each of his 24 distinct and beautifully thematic tables. These table-specific missions, complex enough in their own right, were layered on top of the book missions, our own personal Crusade agendas, and a single Matched Play secondary agenda on top of that. This meant at any given time, a player would be juggling a minimum of 6 competing objectives for three different kinds of victory points, as well as their own army’s Crusade upgrades, battle scars, Agendas, kill tallies, and Out of Action tests. It was, in no uncertain terms, A Lot. The Narrative was broken up into two teams – Salus Praetus and Oblis Exitium. These warring factions essentially wanted to keep the four planets we’re fighting over in Imperial space or destroy them, respectively. Each bank of six tables represented a planet, and we would vie for control over them by accomplishing special objectives over the con. I was on team Salus Praetus, which was a load of familiar faces from Team Humanity in the old NOVA Open days.

Game 1: Dave’s Orks. 1500 Points, Recon Patrol

Black Templars vs. Orks. Credit: SRM and Dave Scarlatella

My first game was with Dave Scarlatella from team Cuddle Buddies and his Deffskullz Orks. He’s a listener and friendly face from cons past, and this was our first time actually getting to play each other. His list had some scary stuff in it – a Squigosaur boss, Mek Gunz, a War Rig, and more besides, but I felt pretty good about taking it on at 1500 points. My Crusaders did what they do best, which is run up, screen my more important units, and tank something extremely killy with Transhuman Physiology for a couple rounds. About half of our armies were in strategic reserve as per mission requirements, and mine came in way faster than his, giving me a slight advantage. His Squigosaur boss and my Redemptor Dreadnought, affectionately named Brother Thiccums, duked it out for a few turns while my Techmarine, Adept Ciaran, furiously tried to keep him operational. Thiccums did eventually fall, and exploded, also killing the warboss. It was my first time playing against a Squigosaur boss where I really got to find out exactly how scary they are, as I usually get lucky and gun them down early.

Black Templars vs. Orks. Credit: SRM and Dave Scarlatella

We both casually played the bonus table objective, which was just picking up some scrap at the various terrain pieces, but we usually forgot to. It was an absolute blast and Dave was a joy of an opponent to play. He’s pretty good at actually playing this Warhammer thing, and he’s as friendly, fun, and welcoming as can be. Due to my early reserves and board control, I was able to reconnoiter more of the table and eke out a 65-45 victory. We finished the game 1 minute before the between round break, which was something like half an hour.

Game 2: “FromTheShire” Dan’s Blood Angels. 2000 Points, Recon Patrol

Black Templars vs. Blood Angels. Credit: SRM and FromTheShire

I had time to update my Crusade roster and move my army over to my next table, and that was about it. This was the first game of the Narrative for the Lieutenants, who came in as fresh-faced reinforcements for all of us already-weary Warlords. We had a big ol’ briefing where I scarfed one of my SuperNOVA granola bars (GraNOVA Bars? Whatever.) and geared myself up for another couple hours of shouting in a crowded room through a mask. We were also playing next to the extremely loud mechanical closet, which lent the room a real Necromunda vibe for better and/or worse.

In this battle of Goonhammer regulars, Dan and I picked each other for opponents. Note he’s not my cohost Dan, but a downright distinct Daniel. While we had been running in the same posting circles for over a decade and been to many of the same conventions together, we had never actually gotten a game in. This mission was on an airfield, which was possibly the most expensive gaming table outside of Warhammer World. There was a parked Thunderhawk, a parked Stormbird, and a pair of parked Fire Raptor Gunships, along with a beautiful table worth of thematic and bespoke terrain. With current Forgeworld prices, that’s $2722.50 of just airplanes hanging out on a table, and each was immaculately painted and weathered. The mission was again Recon Patrol, and there was an Ocarina of Time-esque trading quest of things you needed to do if you want to launch a plane. Cool as it sounded, I think only one player managed to accomplish it all con. When Stover asked me if I launched the plane, I said no as it seemed too complex and difficult. He said it was a red herring, and I wonder why it was included as an objective at all.

Black Templars Marshal vs. Sanguinary Guard. Credit: SRM and FromTheShire

The game itself was one where, again, my reserves rolls worked favorably and my opponent’s did not. I was able to do my reconnaissance, hold my objectives, and reliably gun or chop down unit after unit of smol bean marines from Dan’s mostly-Firstborn Blood Angel army. Dan is a kind, gentle soul, and has the worst dice rolls of any living being I’ve met on this earth. We had a cool duel between Astorath the Grim and my Marshal that I won, and the game was a fairly one sided affair in my favor and a 96-26 victory. The Dice Like Ice podcast boys stopped by and gave me a can of Cosmik Debris from Creature Comfort Brewing in Georgia. It was delicious, and the best DIPA I’ve had in a minute. Turns out they’re only like 45 minutes from Stone Mountain, where I officiated a wedding a few years ago. If you need a non-denominational minister, have your people reach out to my people.

I rushed to the bar and met my previously established cohost Dan and a bunch of our running crew mere moments before last call. I was able to secure a wholly mid-tier hotel bar burger and two draught pours of Monumental IPA by Port City Brewing. Looping back to weddings and Dans both, I last had it at Dan Boyd’s wedding. All of us in the wedding party were getting pictures taken in a park, and there happened to be a brewfest going on. As before, it was a merely okay IPA, but one that paired fairly well with the burger that I was wolfing down. We stayed up drinking and shooting the shit and were met by a fella named Nate. He’s a Badcast listener and a funny and sweet man, and knows this kid Austin I grew up playing Warhammer with in high school. Nate got brought into the hobby by Austin and it sounds like the kid is crushing it these days. It was a great close to a busy day, but only the beginning.

Day 2: The Warhammer Death March

The note I wrote on my phone for this morning was “Too ealey (sic) too hungover” and I think that sums it up pretty well. I had to get moving at 8:30 so I could clean myself up and scarf something down before my Warlords meeting at 9. I got a breakfast sandwich on a croissant and an iced coffee from the hotel bar and housed them during the Warlords meeting. The other Warlord in my Battlegroup, David Robertson, gave me a debriefing on all the stuff I’d missed while I was hungoveredly cramming food in my mouth. David is one of my oldest NOVA compatriots, a genuinely brilliant and sweet man, and one of the best painters I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’m happy he and I could be co-Warlords for our Battlegroup. I guess I’ll explain what that was, because it’s an extra layer of social complexity but one that is very cool and frankly necessary for something like this to work.

There were four Battlegroups per side, each consisting of two Warlords tasked with all 9 games of the Narrative, a few Lieutenants, who played 8 games, Sergeants, who played I think 6 games, and then Militia who would jump in whenever. There was a pre-pre mission briefing with just the Warlords meeting one on one with Chris Stover, wherein he’d give us our orders and fill us in on what was going on with the narrative. It kind of felt like a performance review with your boss. There would then be a second meeting where everyone else got filled in. Before each round the Warlords and the officers in their Battlegroup would gather at their planet and gather up enough Militia to fill out their team of 6. They’d then take turns pairing off a player and a table, only for the other team to offer up a player and repeat the process from the other side. So for instance, one team would say “We’re taking table X, and Bubbus here is going to bring their Knights.” The other team would commiserate, someone would invariably say “I can’t deal with Knights, but Jeorg and their T’au can” and they’d offer up that player before moving on to the next. It’s a good system, and not dissimilar to the one from NOVA Narratives past. Our Battlegroup, Battlegroup 4, was creatively named “Battlegroup FORE” because we were at the forefront of the fighting or something. I was extremely hungover when I came up with our team name and I know it’s not my best material, so sue me.

Game 3: Sam Duguin’s Night Lords. 1500 Points, Cut Off the Head

Black Templars vs. Night Lords. Credit: SRM and Sam Duguin

For my first game of the day, I saw the opportunity to play against the new Chaos Space Marines and jumped at it. The top of Sam’s cart had a bunch of Night Lords Marines, some Daemon Engines and the like. However, he actually came prepared and had written three lists for each points level like players were supposed to. Naturally, the list he rolled out against me in 1500 points was a bunch of Khorne Blood Slaughterers, a relic Contemptor Dreadnought, a Lord Discordant and a bunch of bikers. Oh, and a Brass Fucking Scorpion.

Black Templars vs. Night Lords. Credit: SRM and Sam Duguin

Sam’s a writer for FLG, and a genuinely good player and affable dude. In this mission your characters had intel points that had to be uploaded at objective markers, but I misunderstood how those worked because I can’t read. Regardless, we both played under the assumption that each side had 30 intel points, spread as evenly between their characters as possible, and they would give up those points on death or gain those points when they uploaded data to an objective. Instead they’re supposed to just get 10 from uploading, and each character can do it as many times as they want, not just fire off their tactical email and call it a day. They also give you points just for being alive, which we missed. Regardless, he performed that action early on with his Discolord and scored 30 points, and I was struggling to play catchup from there on. When he deployed the Brass Scorpion, I said I couldn’t kill it. I lied. Our game was as aggressive as you’d expect an all-Khorne Daemon Engine vs. Black Templar dustup to be, and by turn 4 I had lost a good chunk of my army but managed to table him. We added up our points and, to the surprise of both of us, he actually came out with a 20-40 victory. Tabling my opponent and still losing the game is a Campbell McLaughlin Special, and even if we misunderstood the mission we still had a great game.

Black Templars vs. Night Lords. Credit: SRM and Sam Duguin

The extra table-specific mission, Chaos in the Streets, involved our armies splitting into thirds and deploying in random points on the corners and mid-long edges of the battlefield. If we strayed away from the designated leaders of each of these thirds (or from any characters) our armies would start hemorrhaging points. I did not enjoy this secondary mission at all. It slowed the game down and meant you had to be hyper-conservative with your movement, which really sucks for armies built around melee combat or mobility like both of ours. You could easily charge outside the piddly 3″ range of control that your characters gave, and the randomized split deployments slowed deployment and meant you could very easily end up with your stuff wildly out of position, which was likely the point based on the name of the mission. We were both lucky that our armies were on our respective sides of the table, as I wouldn’t want to be running up and down the aisles just to get to the back corner so I could move my Intercessors or whatever.

I had some time for lunch and paint judging so I hurriedly browsed the stores to use my swag bag coupons at Atlantis Games. I picked up Sigvald and Gaunt’s Ghosts, and by happenstance ran into a Gaunt’s Ghosts cosplayer, face tattoo and all. He was very nice, and his costume was excellent. I had lunch at the BBQ truck. I figured DC was south enough that bbq would be good. It was not. The brisket was dry, undersauced, lukewarm, and on a shitty roll for $17. The guy next to me claimed he had been waiting 40 minutes for the same sandwich.

Game 4: Brett’s T’au. 2000 Points, Sabotage

Black Templars Crusaders and T’au Breachers. Credit: SRM and Brett

I hadn’t played against T’au in a m’inute, so I was pretty happy to take them on this time around. Brett and I immediately bonded over our love of old models. His Pathfinders were all the old metals, his Ethereal was a classic metal model converted to stand on a drone, and his Stealth Suits were even the metal XV15 variants, as opposed to those plastic Gonk Droid-looking jobbers. My team was defending this round, so I placed the objectives for the Sabotage mission and the attacker would go first, with the goal of destroying those objectives. I realized this after placing the objectives, which would have handed him a turn 1 victory in his movement phase. He graciously let me reposition them into a more defensible series of locations.

Classic T’au. Credit: Brett

This game was tense. I was trying to play my level best, and Brett is a technical and precise player who knows exactly what all his stuff does and how to use it effectively. His list was geared for high mobility and close range firepower, so I had to suffer a good turn of close range Breacher squad fire, cannonades of plasma, melta, and flame attacks, and the dreaded Hammerhead. He mobbed me with Kroot, only for my Aggressors to beat them all to death nearly immediately. My Crusaders did what Crusaders do (tank damage for my actually dangerous units) while my Bladeguard did what Bladeguard do (be the aforementioned actually dangerous units) and we had a tank battle I can only describe as cinematic. Due to some lucky 5+ mortal wound shrug saves and a middling damage roll, his Hammerhead’s railgun was able to cripple my Repulsor Executioner, but not quite kill it. I tucked it behind a building and repaired it for two rounds, only to pop back out and return the favor twice over. I knew if I didn’t get the shot off my tank would absolutely be dead that turn, but luck and entirely too many Crusade upgrades were on my side and it finished off its piscene rival. It then proceeded to roll around gunning down entire squads of infantry and laser destroyering Crisis Suits and the like while my infantry fought for their lives elsewhere. After cutting down most, but not quite all of his infantry in melee, the board was looking firmly mine, and on turn 5 he had only his Ethereal left on the table. His technical skill and careful planning lost out to my bullheaded idiocy, ending with a 90-40 Templar victory.

This game ran a bit long as we had plenty to talk about as middlehammer oldheads and Brett was a more technical player, so I jogged to Bozzelli’s Italian Deli to meet up with my crew of friends, listeners, and Goonhammer contributors. Someone told me on the way over that it had just closed and I was absolutely filled with despair, but whether they knew it or not they had just lied to me. Dan told me to get a chicken parm sandwich, so I almost thoughtlessly ordered that and a River Trip Table Beer from Allagash brewing. I used to go to Allagash on the regular with my longtime friend and fellow goon-whomst-hammers, Dylan. We usually got some unusual sours there, but this sessionable pounder was strictly fine. The sandwich though, buddy, that’s what dreams are made of. I’ve had many a chicken parm sandwich in my life, and this is absolutely in the top 3, and certainly the best I’ve had since leaving Boston in 2020. Perfectly crisp chicken cutlet, a soft roll that doesn’t get in the way of the stuff inside, thick, flavorful tomato sauce, and some perfectly melted cheese describes not just the ideal of the chicken parmy, but the one I was holding in my very hands. I wish only that I had more time to savor it and the company of my sundry delightful friends. In this photo taken by my buddy Fakie, you’ll see about a dozen smiling faces and confused mugs, and one guy in the back staring at his phone. He is captured dissociating from the world around him as he updates his Crusade homework. That, dear reader, is me.

NOVA Goons. Credit: Fake James

Game 5: Patrick “Artum” Robins’ Ultramarines. 2000 Points, The Relic

Black Templars vs. Ultramarines. Credit: SRM and Artum

Patrick is someone I’ve known for years and years. We hung out at Adepticon back in the before times, and like FromTheShire, he’s someone I know from my SomethingAwful days. However, in all that time, we had never actually played a game together. He was the Grima Wormtongue on my shoulder at Adepticon 2018, reminding me of the rules I was missing. Now he was doing the same from across the table; he still really knows his stuff. We were both pretty beat and didn’t feel like doing either the extra table objectives or dealing with a Hammer and Anvil deployment on a table way at the end of a row. Instead, we kept it stupid simple and just did a standard Dawn of War deployment with the titular Relic smack dab in the center of the table. This was 40k at its most stupid, and that’s precisely where I feel at home.

Black Templars vs. Ultramarines. Credit: SRM and Artum

I had a solid first turn, rushing my troops towards the table center and blowing away both of Patrick’s tanks. The problem was, he had already deployed a squad of Infiltrators on the Relic, so I had to press the attack immediately or risk losing the objective for the whole game. My gaggle of zealous idiots closed on the center, largely hidden by the central rock formation. On his turn he avenged his tanks by plasma incinerating my Repulsor Executioner off the board and rolling up his deathball of Ultramarines characters and Bladeguard. He was using stratagems I  had never given a second glance and it was clear that I may be have been getting outplayed here. Then, like a velvet glove stroking my arm from a hitherto unseen corner, Rocco appeared at my side.

Adjutant Rocco

The mad lad did it. He actually did come by and deliver a Mich Ultra in the middle of my game. It was not, as you can tell, on a silver platter, but on the base from the Astraeus he had purchased earlier that day. I laugh extremely hard, give a hug to this absolute goober, and he opened up the Mich Ultra for me. It was not good. It tasted like beer flavored seltzer. I drank it and he asked if it was helping. I said not as much as a second beer would. He obliged and brought me a Hop Blast IPA from Starr Hill Brewery. It’s merely okay but a far sight better.

Black Templars vs. Ultramarines. Credit: SRM and Artum

It was a brutal game but I was able to capture the relic with my Bladeguard after clearing out Patrick’s Infiltrators. I devised a plan wherein I would have them move back as far as possible (I could not retreat from combat, due to my Vow at the start of the game. It’s Templar stuff, don’t worry about it) and then either back them up or screen them with Assault Intercessors as he either gunned or cut down all of my units. You see, Patrick’s Gravis Captain was a wrecking ball that walked like a man, and he would chew through anything and everything before him. I genuinely don’t know how to get Captains to be that scary. His aforementioned wrecking ball crashed through my bois and I was down to just two Bladeguard holding the Relic. He kills them and they dropped it, only for me to have already Zealous Pushed my Assault Intercessors onto the Relic, capturing it with Objective Secured. Patrick was kind of aghast at this stupendous play as I basically handed him victory with my unit placement, but still won. It was an incredible game, and I hope I can play him again.

We hung at the bar afterwards and I had 2 Cloud 9 from Settle Down Easy Brewing, another light-to-the-point-of-seltzery beer that I wasn’t wild about. The hangs, however, were good. I had an always dependable Fat Tire and FaceTimed my wife and our cats from the far end of the bar. Dan said hello and was happy to see her. He then kept me up til 2am talking about World War 2 like somebody’s dad. Fitting, as he is now a father.

Day 3: In Which I Am A Moody Babby

I woke at 8:30, comforted only by the knowledge that today would be the last day I’d have to wake up early for the rest of the con. I trudged downstairs, stopping briefly for another iced coffee and breakfast sandwich from the hotel bar. Neither were great nor terrible and they were consumed almost instantly. Our briefings were no longer one-on-one with Stover; he just addressed both teams, one after the other. My battlegroup co-Warlord David dropped from the morning and afternoon games, as he was getting worn down by the relentless schedule. I wonder what that must be like.

Game 6: Charvel’s Necrons. 1500 Points, Raze and Ruin

Black Templars vs. Necrons. Credit: SRM and Charvel

I’ve been seeing Charvel at cons since my first NOVA in 2016, and never actually got to play him despite both being in the Narrative. You may have noticed this theme by now. We catch up, as I hadn’t seen him in a minute. Things are going great for him nowadays after beating cancer and having a couple of kids. His TRON-inspired Necron army was rather cool, and he was positively jazzed to play some Warhammer. His enthusiasm would be infectious, but I was somewhat inoculated by a month’s worth of fatigue.

Black Templars vs. Necrons. Credit: SRM and Charvel

He had a mechanized Necron list with the Silent King at its helm, and I had to close the gap on foot. I did not. This was not the first Charge of the Light Brigade I have led, and I fear it shall not be my last. He tabled me on turn 4 and won on points, scoring 65 to my 40. We talked after the game and he suggested I could have tried running up the buildings to close the distance instead of rushing the center, but I honestly don’t know much good it would have done. This was a real rock-paper-chainsword sort of matchup, and while I definitely wasn’t playing my best, it was always going to be a struggle. Still, Charvel is a delightful guy and if he wants to put my Templars into the dirt again, he is absolutely welcome to.

I have a feeling the only reasons anyone at these cons actually poops is because of the laxative effects of coffee and lactose intolerance. I hoped to rectify that by getting more vegetables in me during lunch. Craig “MasterSlowPoke” Sniffen and I checked out the food trucks, and given the lines and our perilously short lunch break, I bolted over to Bozzelli’s again in the hope that they had something resembling a veggie sandwich. They did not. The closest they had was a caprese, which I dutifully ordered and brought back to my room. It was divine. Eating alone in silence and air conditioning was a much needed respite, and I had a cup of knockoff Keurig coffee from the machine in my hotel room. It was brown water. I watched a video of a rubber tiger being dropped from a staircase four times.

Five times.

Game 7: Sam’s Death Guard. 2000 Points, Cut Off the Head

Black Templars vs. Death Guard. Credit: SRM and Sam

I had not played against Death Guard since I played Goonhammer’s own RagnarokAngel back in early 8th edition, so I was interested to see what the army could do now. When Sam volunteered his Death Guard as an opponent, I was happy to oblige. We wound up on the same table as my Game 3, versus a different Sam with different Chaos toys. I said I didn’t want to do the Chaos in the Streets mission, but he did, so I got to play the same mission on the same table. I wasn’t exactly happy about that but was too beat to make my case and didn’t want to come off as whiny or like a bad sport. Just like last time, we ended up placing down in an uncomfortably wide pitched battle deployment on our own sides of the tables, avoiding a truly lower-case-c-chaotic situation.

Black Templars vs. Death Guard. Credit: SRM and Sam

I was definitely in A Mood between a light hangover, not enough sleep, too much Warhammer, and too much of this mission in particular. I just came out of a mission where I couldn’t do much of anything, and here I was again in a mission where I couldn’t do much of anything. There were two objectives along the center of the board that we had to get our characters to so they could transmit their data, and he was able to plop a 10-strong unit of nigh-unkillable Blightlord Terminators right on them. He gave up a few secondary points turn 1 by accidentally straying his Blighthaulers out of the control range of his characters, but from there on it was an unrelenting slog through no fault of my opponent. Death Guard want you to come to them and my Templars want to get in the thick of it, and here Death Guard durability won out against Space Marine melee prowess. He played well, never presenting me with the targets I wanted to hit, and despite some desperate gambles, I scored a big fat goose egg of 0 primary points to his 65. I would love to play Sam again, just in any mission but this one. He really leans into the jovial, goofy side of Nurgle and the hobby, and I wish I could have given him a better game and a better time.

Word had gotten out that the food at the Renaissance is actually quite good, so Patrick and the Sniffen brothers joined me over there for dinner. The vibes were tired. I don’t think I was a very lively conversation partner, and all I can really recall is Jason Sniffen talking about a Family Guy best-of clips pyramid scheme. Only half the people at the table knew how to pronounce the various Italian dishes on the menu, and I dare not say who. I had a grilled Caesar salad with salmon. I could feel myself actively becoming more alive with each mouthful of vegetables, and the salmon was fantastic. They grill a whole wedge of lettuce for this salad, which is a novelty that lends that crunchy water a bit more flavor and texture. I worried that people would notice the lettuce stuck in my teeth, then remembered I was wearing a facemask.

Game 8: Rad’s Sisters of Battle. 2000 Points, Supplies From Above

Black Templars vs. Sisters of Battle. Credit: SRM and Rad

I must have been positively radiating fatigue without hostility at this point, because people were being remarkably kind to me apropos of nothing. A listener who I forget the name of (I’m sorry!) poured me, by his judgment, $4.20 worth of bourbon. I gladly accepted it, although I now know what it feels like when my liquor-scented breath gets caught in a KN95 facemask. It’s an unfortunate side effect. David was back and he could tell I was beat. He asked me if I wanted an easygoing game against a fun opponent and said I should play Rad. Again, I gladly accepted.

Black Templars vs. Sisters of Battle. Credit: SRM and Rad

I’ve been seeing Rad at NOVAs past for as long as I can remember. He’s a somewhat older guy who seems like he’d get along real well with my dad. When I described to him all my various Crusade upgrades, he said “I’m just here to roll dice and tell a story” which is one of the chillest things I have heard in my entire life. We just played the Crusade mission with none of the other stuff, which was exactly what I needed. This mission had a clunky system for determining wind, involving drawing a line between 2d6 that a player rolled. Instead, he busted out a classic Scatter Die, probably for the first time in 5 years. The objectives flitted to and fro, and we scrambled to catch them while blowing the crap out of each other. Ken sent Rocco to get me a Sam Adams Boston Lager. He presented it to me once again, cicerone-like, on his Astraeus base. On May 27, 2017 I described it as “beer.jpg” but I must admit it is a fairly high resolution .jpg. It’s decent and an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Black Templars vs. Sisters of Battle. Credit: SRM and Rad

My favorite moment of the game was killing Celestine with my Assault Intercessors, only for her to resurrect in her classic metal form. She was then immediately Laser Destroyed off the table. My second favorite moment was when his Immolator in the center of the table died and he willingly spent the CP to make it explode. It blew a huge hole in the middle of the table and we laughed about it. I nearly tabled him and won 100-60, but he was a fantastic sport and I hope I grow up to adopt his chill as hell stance on gaming.

Post game, I heard the gleeful guffaws of one Dan Boyd as he killed one of Norman’s Chaos Knights with Shrike’s bolt pistol. I joined a great hang with Dan, Nate, Rocco, Norman, David, Alex, Michael, Emma, and a ton of listeners and friends coming and going. I had 3 Dogfish 60 Minute IPAs, which is at least 180 minutes. It’s a good fuckin beer. I used to exclusively drink it on the ferry to the Harbor Islands in Boston, but it still tasted good on land. We mostly dunked on stupid Star Wars EU books from the 90s, talked our various gaming journeys, and had a great hang while Dan and Norman wrapped up their game. Dan and I retired to our room and talked more hams. He was having a grand ol’ time. I was just looking forward to sleeping for more than 6 hours. 

Day 4: In Which I Sleep More Than 6 Hours

At 9:30 I got up and trekked over to the Renaissance’s Illi cafe with Ken. Coffee pickings are slim around the hotel and it’s about as good as you’re gonna get in easy walking distance of the Hyatt. I got their last cold brew, a bagel breakfast sandwich, and a banana. None were exceptional but the coffee’s better than the Hyatt’s. We talked about Ken’s Corgi, Spork. Stupid pet names are the best kind.

Game 9: Adam’s Ynnari. 2000 Points, Grand Assault

Black Templars vs. Ynnari. Credit: SRM and Adam

For my final game, I told my battlegroup to prioritize playing people they hadn’t played before. Following my own advice, I played against Adam and his Ynnari. Adam’s a Badcast listener and Discord member, and had been in and out of our various hangs all con. They also have a very cool denim jacket. Our mission was Grand Assault, in which I as the defender placed 8 objectives, and Adam as the attacker had to plant flags on them. If they planted flags on 5 of them it was game over for me, and their units recycled on a 6+ at the end of each movement phase. Elf Bullshit of all varietals, especially Ynnari Bullshit, has been a particular bugbear of mine, so this was going to be a tough matchup.

Black Templars vs. Ynnari. Credit: SRM and Adam

Adam had first turn and immediately flew jetbikes out to a pair of objectives, planting the first two flags. This was immediately worrisome. My middling first turn of shooting gave way to a solid assault phase where I cleared out their forward Rangers and Shroud Runners, leaving only their jacked up Shining Spears, who would continue to be a problem. I had an extremely clever-feeling play where I tie up their D-scythe Wraithguard with my Crusaders, only for them to use a stratagem to fall back and shoot. I countered, Yu-Gi-Oh!-like, with a stratagem to keep them from falling back on a 4+ and I absolutely beefed it. Fortunately they didn’t wipe out my Crusaders, who then ran off and bullied the Farseer and Seer Council. Adam dropped a Falcon full of Howling Banshees behind my lines. I pasted the tank with my Repulsor and the only unit in range for shooting the Banshees were my Eradicators, who left only the Exarch standing. She charged in, killed two Eradicators, and was beaten down by the surviving sergeant.

Black Templars vs. Ynnari. Credit: SRM and Adam

The other flank was less contested, and had my favorite stupid Warhammer moment of maybe the whole con. My Impulsor was limping along after taking some big hits, and got charged by an Autarch. The Impulsor survived a round of combat and in my shooting phase, Multimelted the Autarch completely. Using a stratagem, the Autarch stood back up and shot my Impulsor with a Fusion Pistol, killing it. I had spent Adam’s entire turn staring at my tank, attempting to manifest a 6 on the forthcoming Explodes roll. My mental efforts were rewarded. The tank exploded, causing some mortal wounds to both the Autarch and a passing Crimson Hunter, shooting the plane down. We were both cracking up the entire time, and it was a welcome distraction from the fact that Adam had already planted a 5th flag on their 3rd turn. I didn’t make any fuss about it and we played the game out to completion, ending with 45 points for me, and a whopping 75 for the Ynnari, giving Adam the victory. It was exactly the kind of game I wanted to send off the Narrative. It was an easy to understand mission with a fun opponent, where we were so caught up in the fun of the game that we didn’t care that it technically could have ended an hour earlier. Adam is a wonderful opponent with an extremely cool army, and I hope I can play them again at a future event.

The Awards Ceremony

Black Templars. Credit: SRM

In the Narrative we had our own little awards ceremony where the results of the Narrative were told to us, leading into next year’s story. I feel a little bad because Chris Stover clearly put a buttload of thought into his stories and I don’t know exactly how committed people were to it, but there were people asking questions afterwards which is a good sign. I was too burnt out most days to really spare it much thought, but the final result with a narrow victory for Oblis Exitium, our opposition and the “Bad Guys” of the Narrative. Awards were given out for best and second best generals on both sides, smoking boots awards, and best and second best painting awards. David Robertson, as per usual, took best painted with his gorgeous Red Scorpions. Also, as per usual, I took second best painted after him. It was not the first time this has happened, and I dearly hope it is not the last. He also got a bronze award for some trolls he entered in NOVA’s general painting competition, the Capital Palette. He’s as talented as he is kind, and he manages to outdo himself almost every year. For my prize, I was awarded an Army Painter Mega Paint Set, a nice little certificate, and my pick from the prize table. In this case, I grabbed a squad of Sisters of Battle Novitiates. I’ve got some Sisters coming through Imperium at some point, and it’ll be nice to add to that force with some chaff.

One award, the most prestigious and meaningful, went to my friend Spencer Connell. While his battlegroup, Connell’s Conquerors didn’t fare especially well in the narrative, he personally had been answering rules questions, event questions, and generally being a helpful little gremlin in the weeks leading up to the Narrative. I met him at the Narrative back in 2016 or 2017 and we found out we actually lived rather close to each other in Boston, so we would get the occasional game or hang in. For all his help cheerleading and answering questions, he was awarded the Spirit of the Narrative award. While Stover had nothing physical to give him, the prize was a ticket to the Grand Narrative in New Mexico. He looked like he was about to faint, and he absolutely deserved that award. There couldn’t be a sweeter dude to achieve it, and I look forward to slamming hams and beers in equal measure with him come November.

The brothers Connell, the brothers Sniffen, David, Dan and I went out for dinner after the event died down. We had some solid burgs at Good Stuff Eatery, and I had some local amber that I wish I wrote down. It was a lovely, balanced, malty and easy drinking take on the style, and exactly what I was looking for. I got their Colletti’s Smokehouse Burger; you stick bacon, onion rings and BBQ sauce on a burg, and I’m there. It was a quality hang with quality burgs, and we spent most of it quizzing Jason Sniffen on pop songs he didn’t know. He couldn’t identify Prince, Queen, or Def Leppard, and it became our new favorite game.

We migrated over to the NOVA Cantina, as we still had tickets to burn. Now, the Cantina was already the source of much criticism over the course of the con, and it was confirmed that it will not be coming back next year in its current form. Despite the numerous flyers advertising cheaper prices, the staff there hadn’t gotten the word, so it was still $10 for a Modelo Especial. It’s as light as beers really get, the kind of beer you drink at the end of a party because you want to nurse your buzz but keep hydrated. I went to the bar downstairs instead and got an 8 Point American IPA by Devils Backbone Brewing. It wasn’t exciting, but was cheaper and tastier than anything tickets could buy. The Cantina was, at this point, pretty much a ghost town, and exclusively filled with folks from our running crew. The area reserved for the Cantina was huge, and while that’s probably the better move in the time of COVID/Monkeypox/Nurgle’s Rot, it felt positively cavernous with how sparsely it was attended. The staff also seemed extremely tired of these nerds, and who can blame them?

On our way out, Dan and I ran into Doug from Tablewar. He said he was going to tour around the country in a Winnebago converted to look like an Ork Battlewagon. I hope, someday, to be as cool as he is.

Our tickets exhausted, we headed back to the Hyatt. I got a Port City Brewing Porter, which was a bit more than I was planning on taking on at 7.2% ABV, and was the kind of roasty and thick porter you’d want on a much colder night. Dan and I were invited to play Rocco’s new copy of Street Fighter: The Boardgame, a thing I didn’t know existed until this exact moment.

BONUS STAGE: Street Fighter, the Boardgame, vs. Rocco, Scott “Soggy”, Garrett “Condit”, Dan “Sex Cannon” Boyd, and Scott “Horussy”

NOVA nerds playing Street Fighter

We picked our characters, and while I’d rather Dan and I got to be Ryu and Ken, respectively, I was happy to take Chun-Li. I’ll be straight up, this game was probably straining at the seams a smidge with 6 players. It’s a pretty fast playing card/miniatures hybrid game with some lovely prepainted models, there’s just a bit of downtime when there’s half a dozen people playing. During said downtime, a Goonhammer reader named Megan let me know how much she appreciated my Imperium writeups, and it did my heart some good to find out someone actually reads my liveblogged midlife crisis. She seemed very nice.

Chun-Li KOs Dhalsim. Credit: SRM

Somehow, much like in the arcade cabinet version, I button mashed my way to victory. If nothing else, this is a triumph of game design, because it means I can play a game where I’m halfway past half in the bag, have no idea what I’m doing, and still win. Rocco has already threatened to bring this game to the New Mexico Grand Narrative, so I look forward to finagling my way through another round of this game I barely understand. Now if they made a Primal Rage boardgame like this, then I’d be all in.

Dan and I went to a room party with a bunch of GW and NOVA staff. Pete Foley played Wonderwall. We drank even more. It was exactly the kind of room party I’m used to closing out a big con like this with, and something I’d missed dearly. I nursed another Devils Backbone Vienna Lager I brought with me and tried some blueberry moonshine, which was entirely too much. Dan and I headed back to our room and stayed up til 4 talking about a secret project. I felt like I had to barf but I was too tired. This is foreshadowing.

Day 5: Squad Broken

Black Templars Repulsor Exectioner. Credit: SRM

I woke up at 10 feeling like absolute garbage, no surprise. My throat hurt from yelling for 4 days straight and my head hurt from drinking for just as many. I played Tetris with my luggage contents and it barely all fit. I brought a half-empty massive checked bag for just such an occasion, but my restraint in the dealer area meant it could still close. Dan, Soggy, Condit and I went to Los Tios for breakfast and got some huevos rancheros. I ate some chips at the table and was reacquainted with them in the rudest of ways as my body made good on the previous night’s nausea. Dan dropped us off back at the hotel and drove off to reunite with his beautiful family while we hung out in the lobby for a while. The hangs were pretty good, but between over 2 years of limited human contact, 5 days of con fatigue, a previous 10 days of my own travel fatigue barely removed from NOVA, and days of overindulgence, I was having kind of a hard time talking to folks at this point. If, at any point, I talk to you about credit cards and real estate, know that my brain has cycled through everything interesting I have to talk about. For that, Soggy, I apologize. For that, future conversation partners, I also apologize.

I split for the airport via shuttle, got through security with little incident, and got an actually pretty decent salad bowl from CAVA, a Mediterranean takeout joint. It was also priced pretty reasonably and was the combination of meat and vegetables my body needed most. Feeling physically human again, I spaced out, mindlessly scrolling on my phone for the first time in almost a week. I don’t like doing this normally but my brain was every bit as mushy and smooth as the hummus on my salad. 

My flight was an hour and 15 minutes late, and sat on the tarmac for distressingly long. I watched The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, and while it took me about half an hour to get into it, I found it to be a heartwarming tale of unlikely adult male friendship punctuated by Nicolas Cage not so much chewing the scenery as grinding it between his pearly whites until there’s nothing left to spit out. I’ve heard his acting style described not so much as “over acting” but “mega acting” and he has plenty of opportunity to do just that. Pedro Pascal is also, as ever, a treasure. I read through a good chunk of Salvation’s Reach by Dan Abnett as well, and that’s a very good Gaunt’s Ghosts book. I have a snack box on the plane, and for a $10 Lunchable, it was astoundingly good.

When I land in Denver, my connecting flight is already boarding. I sprinted through half of the airport, only to find the plane was done boarding and there was nothing I could do about it. I immediately regretted my choice of Converse Chuck Taylor High Top sneakers, as they are very much not running shoes. I waited in line next to a guy in a “BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD” t-shirt to see customer service. I was connected to a flight back to San Francisco, and from there I would get home. Allegedly. I was happy I had that $10 Lunchable, because I would not want to add “hangry” to the litany of negative emotions stewing around my brain at this particular moment.

I lightly jogged back to the gate just in time to board the flight to San Francisco, take my middle seat at the back of the plane, and read about 60 pages of Salvation’s Reach, which continued to be a very good Gaunt’s Ghosts book. I had one more almost-too-brief layover in San Francisco and spent the last flight catching up on My Hero Academia chapters. It used to be better but the art is still good. I was surrounded by screaming, crying, whining and loudly bored kids and it made me want to give myself a vasectomy on the spot. When I landed, I checked my FindMy app to see my AirTag and the checked baggage surrounding it was still in San Francisco, and I am some 517 miles North of my location in Redmond, Oregon. The lone customer service rep calmly let me know it would be delivered to my house the next day. My wife picked me up from the airport, I took a much needed shower, and was asleep by 2.

The Aftermath

I got my bag the next day and for the most part its contents were intact. The building from my display board lost its second storey, but the break was clean. My Command Point tracker from TNT Laserworks was pulverized and there were some dings on the packaging around some of my ill-gotten gains, but everything was accounted for. I also had no breaks in my Templar army, which were safely cradled in their KR foam in the overhead on all of my sundry flights. So where does that leave us, post-NOVA?

The Narrative

The Narrative was entirely too much. 9 full-sized games of 40k with precious little time between them was already rough. Chris Stover’s added missions on top of the Crusade missions and all of the bookkeeping, homework, and so on made for a tungsten-dense gaming experience that weighed heavily on the mind. The only saving graces were the Crusade missions being fairly simple, and my opponents all being genuinely cool, friendly, and fun opponents. My hypothesis that Crusade isn’t good for conventions is continuing to be tested, but I’m ready to chalk it up as scientific fact at this point. Narratives past had bespoke missions, some of which were even a bit complicated, but didn’t have Crusade or secondaries bolted on. I think the spirit is absolutely here, and by gum is the terrain game strong, but missions should really be stripped back. If each game was just the table-specific mission or just the Crusade mission and nothing else – no Crusade bookkeeping, no secondaries, nothing – they would have been fantastic. I would have loved more time to see the rest of the con, hang out with people, or just chill out between games. The pace was breakneck, and it definitely impacted the more leisurely pace I want from the NOVA Narrative.

The Cantina

Much ado was made about the Cantina leading up to NOVA, and a much louder, more grouchy ado was made about it during and after. Compared to the NOCF Lounges of years past (or hell, the bars in the hotels themselves) the selection of beverages was poor, the prices were sky high, and the location was inconvenient. NOVA themselves are apologetic about this fact and have definitely heard the feedback, as even their rosy and upbeat emails are making it clear that they weren’t thrilled with how the Cantina turned out. NOVA is changing venues next year, and with it, the Cantina will be excised. These are both good things. Speaking of…

The Venue(s)

NOVA has grown and grown over the years, and has finally outgrown the Hyatt where it has made its home as long as I’ve been attending. This year it was split between the Hyatt and the Renaissance across the street, and Adepticon will do something similar next year. I think it’s necessary to facilitate the sheer growth of the event, but it’s a growing pain for sure, and slightly dings the feeling of community you get from wandering into a room and seeing a system and playerbase wholly new to you. While there was an all-time high of over 480 40k players across all the events, there was a record high of over 270 Age of Sigmar players too. It bums me out that I didn’t get to see the AoS area due to my packed schedule, as I heard their display board and painting game was absolutely top notch. I remember when the AoS event was like a dozen people in 2016, so to see it blossom so much is inspiring and speaks to just how great that game has become. Next year, they’re changing to the Washington Hilton, the hotel Reagan got shot in, so that’s already a huge plus. I’m excited to see what the new venue means for the con, and what new changes that will bring.

The Hangs

While my time between games was too short and my good times each evening were firmly borrowing from the mornings thereafter, the hangs were top-tier. NOVA is where the Badcast began and where so many of my friends and colleagues, new and old, congregate every year. In so many ways this was a homecoming, and there are so many faces who I only see at big events like these. The moment we strike up a conversation, it’s like not a single day has passed between us. Events like these are such a massive part of the hobby for me and so many others, and to go back to them is nourishing as all hell. As far as I’m aware, nobody I went with has caught anything aside from some very mild con crud, and the worst I’ve got is a sore throat from days of yelling over a room of gamers before scream-singing Sweet Caroline in a room party, plus some aching knees and feet from wearing some less than supportive footwear. Some folks didn’t attend because NOVA required masks and vaccinations, to which I say “lol” and then “lmao”, as not dying of a deadly coronavirus is a small price to pay for games, people, and hangs as good as these.

Next Year’s Plans

I’m not thinking too far in the future right now, as a few days out my body and brain are still mashed potatoes, and I hit the ground running right back into work and an active home life the moment I returned to Oregon. If I were to make a quick checklist over what I’d keep in mind for next year, it would be:

  • Play fewer/smaller games
  • Schedule time to rest or hang out during the day
  • Drink less, as I am no longer in my 20s
  • Not have a different travel obligation less than a week beforehand

It’s not an ambitious list, but I think if I can stick to it, I’ll have a far better NOVA in 2023.

The Section In Which I Log Off

Black Templars vs. Night Lords. Credit: SRM and Sam Duguin

Thank you for joining me for this latest post-event novella. I want to extend my thanks to all of my gracious and wonderful opponents, all of my fellow Goonhammer writers, all of the wonderful listeners and readers I met, Chris Stover and the NOVA staff, my podcast co-host Dan, Goonhammer’s own Pendulin for making Administratium, the only tool that can keep Crusade manageable, and you, yes you, for reading this. I know brevity isn’t exactly my forte, so it means all the more if you actually got this far. With my thoughts out into the aether, I can finally enter the Odinsleep and rest until my next big event.

See you in New Mexico, warhams.

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