The US Goonhammer Open Grand Tournament: Event Recap

If you believe the true measure of a Grand Tournament’s success is how well the elevators work, and we certainly do, then the GHO is the best 40k event ever run in the greater Washington DC area over a Labor Day weekend. Ever.

This past weekend Goonhammer ran its first ever Goonhammer Open Grand Tournament in Rockville, Maryland for two days, six rounds, and one shot at the championship title belt. Overall, the event combined a 45-player grand tournament run in parallel to a fantastically styled 24-player narrative event which we’ll cover in separate articles. Over the coming days we’ll publish multiple reviews and experiences from our contributors, but today we’ll take a look at the tournament itself and highlight our winners!

The Event Structure

The Goonhammer Open was a six-round event held September 4th and 5th 2021 and hosted by the Marriot at North Bethesda just outside of Washington DC. A short three-minute walk from the White Flint metro station, the combination of major hub (Reagan International Airport) and the excellent DC metro system provided easy access to the event center for those travelling in.

The event utilized terrain layouts pioneered by our friends at Vanguard Tactics using sets from 4 Ground on Tablewar boards. Individual games rotated terrain layouts between one of three types depending on the deployment type, and missions played included: Sweep & Clear, Battle Lines, Overrun, Vital Intelligence, Retrieval Mission, and Surround & Destroy.

At the helm, Shane Watts guided the event as tournament organizer and supported players at the table as the head judge. The pairings system utilized a Win -> Win Path -> Random structure while the placing system utilized a Win -> Win Path -> Battle Points structure. The combination incentivized maximum performance in each game (final results) while pairing players based on tournament performance in prior rounds. It also had the effect of ensuring that the two players who made it all the way to round six undefeated retained the first and second positions, while players who faced off head-to-head but otherwise ended with the same W/L were ordered accordingly.

At the end we awarded prizes to our First, Second, and Third Place finalists as well as awards for Best Painted and Smoking Boots. The full tournament results can be found at BCP. The lists from our top finishers can be found in our recent Competitive Innovations. Early feedback on our post-event survey indicates that overall people were very happy with the event in all aspects. We did note some areas we might improve upon next time regarding the availability of WiFi, clearer information on various parking options and pricing, and clear and table-available instructions on the terrain and its use. Overall, we are very pleased that everyone seemed to have a great time! Now on to the fun part, let’s profile our awardees!

The Awardees

Tournament Champion – Anthony Vanella – Drukhari

Hot off his win at Mythicos Studios Mahwah GT Anthony stormed through a tough series of matchups including three of the event’s top-6 finishers. On day two, Anthony unceremoniously slapped around your hero James “Boon” Kelling in the mirror match, then rolled Sam O’Brien and her overmatched Blood Angels, before finishing with the meta match into Adrian Phillips and his Ad Mech on his way to claiming the title belt. He currently sits at 5th in the ITC.

Anthony Vanella Taking the Title Belt

How did you first get into the game of Warhammer 40,000?

I started playing in September of 2019. I was looking for a hobby I could do at least partially with my girlfriend (she’s an absolute saint and paints parts of any given army for me).

When did you begin playing competitively?

I was interested in the competitive side basically right away. My first tournament was in March of 2020, an RTT the first week, a GT the second, and lockdown thereafter.

What other armies do you play?

I started with Chaos Knights with a touch of Lord Discordant soup. Over lockdown I picked up Blood Angels and played that army up until the Drukhari release. I picked up the army as a bit of a hobby project and it turned out that GW made a fantastic book (for us). Now I’ve a new main, and it’s been a blast to run.

What’s next for you in the hobby?

In an ideal world, the Drukhari Best in Faction! The next major events I’ll be at are the GW Open in Texas and eventually LVO.

Anything else you want to add?

A shout out to my local store Mythicos Studios and their TO extraordinaire Kenny, as well as all my boys on Team Vindicta.

Runner-Up – Adrian Phillips – Adeptus Mechanicus

One half of the Tabletop Titans trifecta, Adrian piloted a Mars Veteran Cohort that was 90% Sicarian by mass to the top table. His path took him through fellow Tabletop Titan Brian Pullen round four, his father Russell round two (take that dad!) and a mirror into Ramses Alcaide in round five before being brought low by the champion Anthony and his Drukhari. I’m sure he’ll be looking at another shot at the belt next year!

Adrian Phillips

How did you first get into the game of Warhammer 40,000?

I’ve been playing wargames for as long as I can remember, and have been painting since I was old enough to hold a paint brush without eating the paint. My dad got me into all this with Warhammer, Magic, and DnD as a youngin’, and it was wonderful to pay it forwards as the Goonhammer US Open was his first ever competitive event. After college I got hooked on the competitive setting and that’s where I made many of my friends, teammates, and colleagues I know today. 

What other armies do you play? 

It’s almost easier to say what armies I don’t play, as I’ve become totally addicted to the game, and love painting and playing a variety of armies, which my channel only encourages! All in all though, my roots are as a Xenos/Chaos player, and this is really where my heart lies. The Dark Mechanicus project has let me play one of my favorite Imperial factions while having the conversion potential of factions like Chaos and Orks, so it was a natural fit. 

What’s next for you in the hobby?

I have some changes I’d like to play around with in the near future for my Admech. The ballistarii have continued to be a bit of a chore as they often end up hiding in the back because of ‘Eradication of Flesh’ or ‘To the Last’, and so I’m going to try out Skorpius Disintegrators filling a similar role but being able to function while hiding, as well as giving me some out of LOS shooting. This should help with some of my tougher matchups like Drukhari. In other news I’m continuing to experiment with Ork builds until I feel like they can compete on the same level as my Admech.

You also have a content channel – is there anything you want to say about Tabletop Titans?

Tabletop Titans is a Youtube channel about playing epic and strategic games of Warhammer 40k with our friends. We like to bring a healthy competitive attitude to even the most off beat lists, playing on gorgeous boards and creating the most epic battles from Warhammer. We have weekly games, and are kicking off our Tabletop Titans Tournament Two at the moment, where we play a single elimination event with 8 armies piloted by four members of the team. It’s a ton of fun and I encourage people to come by and say hi on the channel!

Thanks Adrian, we look forward to viewing the goings-on and results of the tournament!

Also-Ran – James “Boon” Kelling – Drukhari

I have it on good authority that Boon will write up a separate tournament report so let’s not waste your time and focus instead on those more deserving of the recognition!

Best Painted – Daniel Axe – Imperial Knights

It’s undeniable that Knights are in a weird place in 9th edition, not quite able to play the objective game… primary or secondary, but still present a tough match-up for some armies thanks to their ability to skew. Small wonder then that Dan not only leveraged his kill-bots to a 4-2 finish but took his only losses to the 3rd and 5th place finishers, rolling with his Castellan, Valiant, Magaera, and support. He also did it in style winning our best painted award with Krast’s finest.

Dan is a lot more colorful in person

Dan’s Knights in Action

How did you first get into the game of Warhammer 40,000?

I’ve been an off and on player since I was 12, more off than on, but I played a lot in 5th, and came back for 8th and 9th. Discovering the Imperial Knight kit at the tail end of 7th was actually a big part of my decision to get back into the hobby even if I didn’t play a single game that whole edition.

How long have you been painting and what inspired your current scheme?

In order my favorite parts of the game have to be: Building and especially converting models. Playing the game and figuring out good synergies between lists and tactics. Painting. Like it’s always a bit of a slog to drag myself away from something to paint. The time in quarantine definitely helped some of the backlog, but it’s still a struggle. That being said, there’s nothing like two fully painted armies on the table, and I love the 10 points for battle ready as a very strong incentive for finishing the models I want to use.

The scheme is inspired by the textures of deteriorating architecture I’ve always appreciated. Specifically the rusting wrought iron for the the mechanical understructure and Verdigris Copper for the carapace and armor plates. I wanted to emphasize the age of these hulking relics which predate the imperium itself in the lore while also adding organic texture and complexity to models that have lots of smooth open panels.

What other armies do you play?

I have a Tempestus Scions airborne force with a complement of 7 Valkyries/Vendettas/Vultures. And a long neglected, extensively converted, but almost completely unpainted Ork Trukk and Battlewagon force.

What’s next for you in the hobby?

I will be running Imperial Knights at several upcoming events including, The Battle For Salvation GT, The Portal Fall GT, and The Las Vegas Open.


We’ll look forward to seeing you and your pretty knights there!

Smoking Boots – Laura Janks – Aeldari

The winner of our “lowest non-Greg finisher” award, Laura completed her first ever tournament and we were very happy to support her continued enthusiasm for the hobby. In addition to the Smoking Boots award, Laura won an additional surprise (even to our TO) from our very own Chase “Gunum” Garber, who was not in attendance but after reviewing the field and determining which list he had spiritually identified with as a Hear Me Out – issued a HMO award and a brand-new Tau’nar!

Laura & Ramses

How did you first get into the game of Warhammer 40,000?

I was first introduced to Warhammer 40k when I met my partner, Ramses Alcaide. He mentioned the game on our first date, two years ago, and invited me to play a starter game as Tyranids which reminded me of my favorite Zerg from StarCraft. While I first played to spend time with Ramses the reality of it is, the game is fun as hell! From there I wanted to pick an army that I connected most to and I was very attracted to the speed of Harlequins and the small codex of the army. Ramses lent me his beautifully painted army (credit to our friend Chuck Bush who painted them)! I love playing with the bikes haywire against vehicles and when the fusion pistols don’t whiff it is great fun. 

When was your competitive event?

The Goonhammer Open was my first entry to a competitive event. Ramses and I have wanted to play together in tournaments since we met, and this was the first event that was available to us! While we were both highly underprepared, Ramses reassured me that at the end of the day we were there to have fun. My biggest worry was playing many strong opponents (which I did) and leaving feeling bullied off a table as if I didn’t belong. One thing that made this event so special to me is that everyone was supportive. There were times I asked my opponent “What is your biggest threat?” or “Can you tell if this is a good idea?” Since they knew I was a newer player they kindly responded and made suggestions. This meant that even when I lost I left happy knowing I just met another great person and I learned more than I had before. Above all else, people came to play a game they really love. This is a huge testament to the organizers of the event. Culture flows downwards, and the event organizers set an incredible example from the very first announcement. 

What other armies do you play?

When the Indomitus box came out I started playing Necrons and really loved the Skorpekh Destroyers close combat abilities. I have also played a few games as Dark Eldar and really enjoy the Incubi, such a deadly unit! However, Harlequins are still the army I love above all else. The only issue is that it is Ramses’ favorite army as well, so we have to share hahahaha 🙂

What’s next for you in the hobby?

Thanks to Goonhammer and Chase, with my new incredible Tau’nar I am set to build a Tau army and I can’t wait to have this beautiful army on the table top! I am also grateful for the experience of the tournament. It allowed me to play against many different armies, including Sisters of Battle, Tyranids, Chaos, and Deathwatch which also helped me learn new tactics for fighting them in the future and improve my skill set. I reflected on my mistakes and am very determined to keep growing and entering future tournaments to play this wonderful and very challenging game. 

We look forward to seeing you both at more events! As a brief side note, Laura and Ramses have an absolutely excellent doggo that attended the event with them. We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to venerable Professor Tyrion Lanister Alcaide who is 15 years young and just an A+ pupper we all enjoyed very much.

Doggo in Question


The Future of Goonhammer Opens

We’d like to thank all our participants and supporters for making this possible. We will have more from our authors in the coming days and stay tuned for news on future Goonhammer Open events. Our next established event will be the GHO UK in October which has already registered a staggering number of participants! In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at