Welcome back, Dear Reader, to my ongoing journey through a 2022 packed with Warhammer. In my last article, I talked about my Saturday games at the event and the showcase for best painted. With one day left at the event, it’s time to talk about the final day, the awards ceremony, and my thoughts on the event.
Dawn of the Final Day
I sleep OK heading into the final day. The dry air is messing with me and I’ve been yelling for three days now, so my voice is near gone and I’m pretty hoarse. I’m also getting a bit of a cough, which isn’t great. I meet up with my crew down at the cafe for breakfast again and we quickly go from a table for four to a table for ten. At one point, Richard “The Machine” Siegler will sit down and join us, having no competitive games in the morning. He was drop-kicked out of the Best Generals bracket with his Crimson Fists, and is now going to be matched up against someone in the Narrative who’s been stomping faces. Gunum and Quinn give him a brief run through of what Crusade is about.
From there it’s on to another morning briefing. The Farseer is smug. The Chaos Lord is angry. The Imperial Lord General speaks too softly to be heard. Time to win our games. Apparently the Imperium won last nights Aeronautica games. Or they didn’t, depending on who you ask. This doesn’t matter all that much. Our group is being deployed to Lambda Rho again. That’s vaguely a mechanicus planet. I was there in game 3. It’s fine.
There are some cool costume touches going on during the event. All the warlord characters look more messed up than before. Krann the Beast, the Chaos warlord, now has 5 horns and some scars after starting with two. The Imperial Lord General now has a cybernetic eye. The Ministorum priest, continuing to be the coolest part of the event, is now fully preaching the gospel of the sky god and has purple makeup all over his face. This is one of the cooler touches of the event.
Mission 5: Cut Off the Head
Alright, one last mission. I try and pair up my hapless Chaos Knight players as best I can and then I’m taking on a Sisters Player with a custom order. He’s playing mostly flamers. Sisters are already not particularly challenge-worthy when they don’t have Nephilim secondaries to rely on, but with only a couple of multimeltas in the army to worry about I shouldn’t have much issue. My opponent is pretty new, and here for a friend. I walk him through the terrain and a lot of the game basics as we go, and it’s a fun teaching experience, but there’s never any doubt on the outcome. I table him on round 3.
While Round 5 was going on there was apparently a big titan battle happening in the main hall. I noticed this because I happened to be going through there in the morning to cheer Boon on but from what I can gather most people missed it or didn’t realize it was happening, as they didn’t find out until well after it was over. It was well over by the time my final game wrapped, anyways.
I head back to the main hall after my game and join a half dozen other Goonhammer peeps cheering on James “Boon” Kelling as he starts his final game. After losing to Gonyo in round 3, James fought his way out of the loser bracket, then today beat Gonyo in the finals. Boon basically cannot win this matchup if he goes second, so he deployed super aggressively in game 2 in case he won the roll-off. He got to go first, then powered forward and picked up 800 points of Gonyo’s army on turn 1, leading to an early concession. Now he’s starting game 3 on Data-Scry Salvage and hoping to pull off a similar trick. He won the roll-off again, and so now he just needs to do enough damage to Gonyo early to keep from getting pulled off the table late.
I’m joined by Scott Horras, Norman, Erik Nelson, Jack Hunter, and a few other GH peeps as we watch the game and commentate. Both players are very deliberate, and it’s slow going in this final game. Kelling has a habit of getting too into his head and overthinking things, especially when there’s really only one course of action. Scott sums this up best when he says “my brother in Christ you cannot out-think needing to roll a 6; just do what you gotta do.”
The Awards Ceremony
We step out for a bit to hit up the awards ceremony for the event. There’s a final briefing from each group leader, plus awards for a bunch of categories. Turns out the Interlopers – Xenos, the faction with all the strongest armies – won the event, while Chaos and Imperial forces are depleted and fighting over scraps in the Pariah Nexus, which is apparently where we’re fighting. Now the Necrons will take it, I think? Hard to say.
They hand out awards. There are awards for best battlegroup, best Imperium/Chaos/Interloper, plus three awards for best painted: Best Display, Best Theme, and Best Technical. Best Theme is the only one I’d have realistically been in the running for, and I don’t get it, but I’m not sad about losing to Craig Sniffen. I think I can beat him with a better effort and some more touch-ups on my army. There are some models I just won’t bring next time because they’re painted to a slightly lower standard, and I’ve already identified a few ways to improve some of the models in my army. Also, Craig’s army is gorgeous, and absolutely deserved to win. I am also pretty sure I finished behind Campbell as well, so I’ll have to work on that.
In terms of the awards, I really, really liked the three awards system for best painted, and I hope it’s something they continue in the future. Best display allows them to award something to the display board sickos, while best theme allows for armies that are a little less technically perfect but have a more cohesive theme and fun conversions going on to shine. I hope they do this at every event in the future.
After the ceremonies it’s back to the comp floor where we watch more of the final games. The Best General Bracket is also on its double-elimination game after John Lennon battled back and beat Harpster to force an extra game, while likewise Ace has forced a sudden death game for Kill Team.
We hang out watching for as long as our wives will put up with, then drive out to get dinner at Pappadeaux – options are pretty dire near the hotel. Throughout the dinner I’m checking back in with Chase for updates on Boon’s game. We left at the top of turn 3. Kelling had two decent but not amazing turns so far, bracketing all of Gonyo’s Riptides and killing most of his infantry, but the Riptides held on and punted most of his models off the table. Kelling is about 27 VP ahead but stands to lose a ton of his army as they go to the bottom of 3 – he hasn’t managed to kill quite enough of Gonyo’s army, but he’s held most of the objectives.
When next I check in it’s turn 4 and Kelling has four models left on the table and is trying to use them to contest every objective. It’s hold 2/hold 3 and he still has a lead but things are getting close. Kelling is tabled and they work through the points Gonyo can get and when the dust clears…
Kelling wins by 3 VP. An amazing fucking turnaround from showing up 40 minutes late to round 1 and losing game 1 to Gonyo, he’s battled against he odds and managed to hold on for his biggest win of the year. Yeah, the ITC scores won’t reflect it but winning the best overall bracket is a hell of an accomplishment and we’re all going crazy. I know Kelling has another team back home but I’ll bet my house that no one can match the team vibes that the Goonhammer crew throws out. We talk for as long as he’s able and I spend a bit longer talking to Lennon and Harpster (Harpster won by 1 VP), and the Kill Team guys (Ace narrowly lost). It’s been a hell of a weekend.
The Return Home
I crash relatively early after packing a bit and then there’s nothing left but to head home. We find out early the next morning our flight was delayed (plane missing a part), so we change to another flight scheduled to leave a few minutes earlier than our delay, and that one also gets delayed, but only by an hour. The airport is basically packed with GH people so we talk a bit more about the weekend and what we enjoyed/didn’t like/could be improved. We’re back in time for dinner and I hand off a few gifts to my son – he gets the Chaos backpack, my battlegroup challenge coin (he calls these and the store coins “Warhammer Pennies”), and a name tag, and he loves all of them. It’s been a great event, and it was awesome seeing everyone.
Having had a few days to think about it, I have a large number of thoughts about the event. Generally speaking, I had a blast. I had a great time over the weekend; every one of my games was fun, all of my opponents were great, and I had a blast hanging out with the Goonhammer crew, who are the best bunch of shitheads you could possibly ask for.
That said, talking about the event is tough. I had a great time, and the vibes at the event were immaculate – 7/7 – but when it comes to the actual execution of the event however, I felt that most of those elements were only a 3 or 4 out of 7. It’s definitely an event where the result was more than the sum of its parts, and while I had a great time, it was very easy to see how most aspects of the event could have been improved, both as a future attendee and also as someone who’s planning to run my own narrative events again in the future.
Let’s start with what I thought worked about the event:
- The Faction leader cosplay. The costumes were on-point, and I thought all three faction leaders looked great. Also the costumes were generally solid, and I liked the idea to encourage cosplay at the event. It’s not a thing I was ever going to go hard enough to win, but it was a fun bit and I like seeing cool costumes. In that sense, we were actually kind of lucky it was so cold at the event, because it made being in costume more bearable.
- The Ministorum priest. His little narrative arc – becoming slowly more invested in the GSC over the event – was a really cool touch, and something that was foreshadowed in the Dramatis Personae docs for the event. He was the best actor of the bunch and had a ton of energy.
- The time per game. Five games in three days leaves lots of time for hang-outs and extracurriculars. It gives the whole event a more laid-back pacing that really works well. You probably could fit a third day 1 game in there at 50 PL if you wanted and I don’t think you’d ruin that. Either way, it was a great pace to run things at and I’d encourage that again for the next event.
- The three painting awards. Having three different painting awards is brilliant and I think they should do this at every single GW Open. Just a great idea.
- The Discord channels. Each campaign faction – Imperium, Chaos, and Interlopers – had a Discord channel to talk about them. This helped teams plan and coordinate ahead of time, and get to know each other before the event.
- The Preview. Getting a special preview event and getting to see some things that didn’t show up on Warcom was really cool, and there were several things I was completely not expecting, like Vashtorr. It was a cool presentation and a lot of fun to be at one live.
- Administratum. I’m gonna be self-serving here and note that Administratum was in use by the majority of players for the event, tracking more than a hundred rosters and hundreds of games, and we did so without any slowdown, downtime, or errors. It was a major test for us and one that I’m really happy with and throughout the event I heard nothing but positive feedback around the app and many people told us that running Crusade without it was basically impossible.
Ok that said, nearly every good thing I have to say about the event comes with some kind of caveat or note about how it could have been done better. Almost none of my complaints are major, but they all kind of show how the event could still make a massive leap.
- No record/skill matching. I get the desire to avoid putting an emphasis on wins and losses in a narrative event but ultimately I think avoiding record/skill matching in any capacity was a mistake. In part because this meant that a lot of players were frequently matching into harder matchups than they deserved and in part because having record matching ensures that the minimum possible number of people finish with 0 wins, and that’s pretty ideal. I’d like to see more of an effort to match by record in future events.
- Power level. Power level sucks, and they need to jettison it. It’s punishingly hard for some armies to use, and meanwhile there were Tyranids lists running 2600 points of Carnifexes at 100 PL.
- Better Discord usage. While having channels was good, they could have been used better. There was no Announcements channel in the servers, so group leader messages would get lost, and the mods didn’t seem to realize they could pin messages to make them easier to find. Some small tweaks like that would really help.
- The Terrain. The terrain all looked good, but as you can see from the photos of my games, the actual layouts were just kind of mediocre at best – there’s a ton of open terrain in the middle of these tables, and there’s no bases on any of it to help provide area terrain cover. There was also a decided lack of big centerpiece terrain or unique terrain features to help make tables stand out, which was also a bit of a miss. This is the area where I think they could stand to make the most improvement.
- The “secret” objectives and fame/infamy. I kind of get what they’re going for by not spelling out what these were explicitly and making them something you could game, but the communication around them was too weak and at the end of the day they had little to do with the actual mission objectives too much of the time. It also seemed like afterward these nebulous objectives mattered much more to campaign outcomes than wins and losses, which seems bizarre. Likewise, fame and infamy were never clear either, and they also didn’t seem to matter to anything except the final awards ceremony. Crusade is already pretty complicated to add two more mechanics on top of it that are, themselves, also kind of secret with payoffs that are at best, uncertain.
- The missions. The missions we ran were all from the Core Rulebook Crusade missions. And those are fine – I like quite a few of them, and the ones they picked were good. But given there were more secret objectives to run, it really felt like they could have given us at least one or two bespoke missions that incorporated these rather than layer them on top of other missions.
- Custom swag. The swag bag was just kind of meh. No event t-shirt and no water bottle were the lowlights. The rest of the stuff in it was cool, but also stuff I got at other events during the year. Also apparently there was a challenge coin in some of them but I (and several GH people) never got one. Addendum: I have now been informed that there were shirts, but only if you were told about them and got to them in time before they were picked clean, further underlining my point.
- The campaign events/special stuff. Generally speaking, I think things like the titan battle are cool as shit, and campaigns should do them. But they need to be better communicated – most of the players, best as I can tell, had no idea the titan battle happened until Brandt talked about it during the awards ceremony. Also special events like that are something you have to be careful with: You want everyone at the event to feel like they had a different or unique experience, but you don’t want people to feel like they had a worse or less special event than someone else, particularly when everyone is paying the same $300 ticket cost. That’s an area where I don’t think you need everyone to play in a titan battle, but you have to find ways to make sure everyone feels like they got to do something as cool as a titan battle.
- The extracurriculars. While the event schedule for games was published in the event pack, most of the things outside the event were much less visible, so we had no idea when those games were happening until basically right before they happened. So this means we were kind of ambushed with Kill Team games at 9:30pm on the night they happened, and likewise for Aeronautica. Trivia ended up only having three teams because no one knew when it was happening. Stuff like this needs to be better communicated up front, as doing so not only makes it better-attended but also helps attendees plan for when they’ll be doing things with their friends.
- A more centralized venue. The resort was cool; it was a nice venue in and of itself, but it was also pretty remote – too far from any nearby places to eat and basically if you didn’t rent a car you were trapped there. This was particularly brutal because the eating options in the hotel were pretty limited and became overcrowded with event participants. I’d much prefer something with easier access to other restaurants next time, and that’d also help the spouses and SOs that attend and want to do stuff off-campus.
Again, on the whole I had a great time and greatly enjoyed the event, even if it seems like I had complaints about the whole thing. I had a blast and I’m currently planning to attend next year. Hopefully they take some of the feedback they get and bring it forward because I think it can be something really special with some tweaks.
Next Time: More Games and Big Plans
That’s it for my write-up of the GW Open Finale Narrative event. I had a blast, looking forward to the next one, and I’m already thinking about how I’ll run my next narrative event. And on that note, I’m planning something big for Goonhammer on that front soon… stay tuned. Next time I’ll talk about more games, hobby progress, and planning for the big thing. See you then.
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.