Alright, Dear Reader it’s time to talk about the GW Open Series Finale. This event is a pretty big deal and similar to last year, I want to cover it as close to live as possible. Unlike last year however, I’m not going to be trying to live blog the event or anything; but I will try and get these out sooner than a week after the event. I’m breaking these up a bit as well just to make them more readable. I’ve started writing this on the plane to ABQ, so if you notice weird tense shifts later, that’ll be why. I’ve got lots of travel time pockets to write, but very little time to edit.
Generally speaking, events tend to slow down on the last two months of the year. As we get into Thanksgiving and Christmas in the states, most players’ travel concerns turn toward those two holidays, which are already fraught, expensive times to travel. There’s a legitimate question as to whether the Open Series Finale is happening a week or two too late in the year; it certainly makes sense given when Kansas City was scheduled but with only a few days to go before Thanksgiving it’s certainly cutting it close for some people. Add to that the worsening weather and you’ve got a recipe for some potential disasters.
So it was that the morning before the event, our Goonhammer planning channel for the event began to fill up with fresh horror stories about delayed flights and harsh travel conditions. In particular, the Midwest is getting hammered with polar vortex weather, and both Campbell and Gunum were forced to reckon with icy conditions that led to delays and missed flights. My own flight was delayed about 45 minutes thanks to some potential engine trouble, but I was fortunate that was resolved quickly and without changing flights. I don’t envy the poor souls who will be getting in late tonight, with bags forcibly checked.
I’ve said this before but the cardinal rule on these trips is: Never check your minis if you can help it. You can get your clothes a day late, but if your minis arrive late for whatever reason, you’re not going to be able to play. On top of that, you have no control over how your bag is going to be handled, leading to broken minis and fucked up cases. Hard pass, thanks. I managed to get all of my terminators painted the night before the event, but just barely – I had to give up on my plan of bringing Possessed, and so shifted my order of battle around a bit. I ended up filling out the rest of the order with whatever I had painted that would fit into my case, which ended up being a Helbrute and a Forgefiend, plus a Dark Apostle.
I also had to give up on my plan to play Aeronautica, though I’m still vaguely planning to try and get some Kill Team in. I have the models I need for a roster but no the book, though I have access to the materials I need. I’ve got some more painting work to do after I get home, it seems. As it is, my extracurriculars are more likely to be additional games of 40k rather than Kill Team.
The flight from IAH to ABQ is about two hours, plus or minus a half hour of time spent taxiing to and from various gates. The big advantage to living near my parents is that we’ve offloaded Bryce to them for the weekend and so get to turn this into a combination Warhammer thing/couples vacation, which is an incredible plus for me. It helps that lots of the Goonhammer crew are also bringing their SOs, and many of them have met before. Wives aren’t automatically friends or anything but in this case my wife is good friends with Erik’s and so they’ve already made lots of plans without us.
A smaller flight means leaving from Terminal B at IAH, which is cool both because it means not dealing with the hellacious traffic of terminal C and its neverending and constantly shifting construction and also because Terminal B has not yet joined the trend of replacing known fast food brands (good) with weird bespoke airport eateries that force you to order by scanning a QR code on an ipad and don’t’ know how to cook a goddamn hamburger but will charge you $30 for it. I’ll take a Whataburger over that shit any day, thanks.
We touch down in Albuquerque roughly on time – one of my favorite stupid things to know is that planes can, in fact, just fly faster to make up lost time – and from there it’s a dash over to baggage claim and then an hour+ wait for our shuttle. Or it would be, if Erik hadn’t pulled the clutch move of renting a car. We split the cost and head to the venue in style. The car is also important to our booze consumption plans later anyways. Despite us passing on the shuttle, it is one of the cooler things about the event, at least in theory – GW springing for airport shuttles goes a long way to offset the costs of the event ticket and helps the whole thing feel more like a luxury event.
And that’s ultimately the big thing here – at a $300 price tag, the GW Open Finale definitely feels like something they’re positioning as a luxury event, right down to the seminars they’re running: One of our authors, “Contemptor” Kevin Stillman, is also here doing the Warhound Seminar, which costs two thousand dollars but comes with a fully assembled, pinned, and primed Warhound Titan, ready for painting, plus a case to get it home. That’s a pretty solid value, especially given how fucking hateful the Warhound is to clean and assemble. Kevin’s going to write about that seminar on his own though, so I’ll leave that to him.
In total we’ve got what I would consider a very large crew of Authors and some Patrons at the event, mostly participating in the Narrative, though our own James “Boon” Kelling is in the 40k Best Overall tournament and obviously the Art of War guys have several people in both 40k events, while new Goonhammer authors Travis Cheng and Fernando Marcos “Ace” are in the Kill Team bracket. Both Condit and Norman are on Team Chaos with me, while Erik and Gunum are on the Interloper/Xenos team. And our Imperium crew includes Campbell, Dan Boyd, Rocco, Enzo_Da_Baker, TheArmorOfContempt, Pendulin, Jack Hunter, and another dozen or so people who can be mad at me for forgetting their names later.
This is a long preamble and you can mostly thank me writing on the plane for that but the point is: We’ve got a bigass crew here and we’ve got our hands in almost every event. We’re a little light on Kill Team – I blame Alice – but we’ll rope some of those folks into writing about it later on too. What this means for us really is that this can be less of a serious face tournament experience (I mean it’s a narrative anyways) and more of a Nerd Summer Camp, which is going to be dope as hell. Our first priority is finding the closest liquor store and stocking up for a party Condit’s suite. Some of the guys have brough additional games and entertainment, such as Blood Bowl and the 40k Commander decks, and we’re sure to crack those for play tonight on top of everything else.
Arriving at the Venue
The hotel itself is a bit isolated, but nice. The mountain views from the rooms are great. It’s got an interesting layout in that it’s more horizontal than vertical, which means long walks back to the room and parts of that have to go outside – given the nights have been dropping to around 22 degrees, that’s a fun walk. There’s a heated outdoor pool and a spa and they have some really cool daily activities they do – every night they do a fire pit activity outdoors where guests can make s’mores. My wife will do this every night of our stay.
There isn’t a ton to do before the event starts otherwise – none of the halls are open to get games in ahead of time – so we hit up the closest liquor store and stock up Condit’s suite with five hundred buck’s worth of booze. And so it was that I kicked off the event with a hangover.
The Pre-Event Briefing
There’s a briefing the night before the event, where our three faction leaders – Chaos, Interlopers (Xenos), and Imperium – give us a little speech. The group leaders are all in cosplay and this is pretty fun, though they aren’t saying much of substance; they just go on about how we’re going to crush the enemy and capture the system and so on and so forth. The group aren’t professional actors or anything and so fall into a single note pretty quickly: The Farseer leading the Xenos group is arrogant and smug; the Chaos princeps leading our group yells a lot. The best of the three is the Imperial commander, but that may be because he’s got a Scottish accent.
While my wife and I were out exploring the hotel, someone dropped off a bag of swag in our room. Or part of one, anyways. I’ve got a name tag and a backpack with the Chaos icon on it. These are part of the “supply drops” every player gets, and it’ll include a couple of drink tickets, a glass tumbler, one of each event mini (the company champion and the kruleboyz dude), and a copy of the Wrath and Glory rulebook, which I immediately gave to Contemptor Kevin because it weighed too much for me to want to lug it around. If there’s a complaint I have, it’s that there was no water bottle in this event’s swag – that’s one of the most useful bits they put in the swag bags at the comp events, and doubly useful when you’re staying in the high desert.
Post-briefing we post up in Condit’s suite for a bit for some drinking and discussion and make enough noise to get complaints. We’re not far enough from the city proper to see the milky way at night but the skies are incredibly clear out here and we spend a bit of time stargazing since the views are still pretty nice.
Alright, check back in a day or two for the recap of the first day of games and some talk about the preview, though you’ve likely already seen most of it by now. And if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.