With the 2022 Goonhammer Open in Maryland less than a week away, we thought it would be a good idea to provide some suggestions on how to enjoy a convention or all-day tournament experience without suffering the consequences.
In the context of wargaming there are few things that are more fun than getting away for a few days to hang out with friends and roll some dice. Whether it’s a local tournament or Gen Con, the chance to get out of your routine and do something different can be exhilarating. It can also be exhausting, since a convention environment is drastically different from nearly everything else. There’s endless levels of standing in close proximity to other people, for wargaming you can find yourself bent over a table in a back-splintering posture for hours on end, and many people (myself included) often use a major event as a goal point for finishing a major project which can lead to more than a little stress in the face of procrastination.
With that in mind, we here at Goonhammer thought it would be helpful to provide some suggestions and guidance on how to get yourself ready for a major event, things you might want to bring outside of your army and clothes, and things you can do during the event to stay healthy and pain free.
The best thing you can do for your own mental health is avoid painting models at the last minute. This inevitably leads to stress and rushed work which might not be fixable later. A perfect example of this happened to Primaris Kevin; while prepping for NOVA a few years ago he was painting Knights until the very last day. Stressed out and not thinking straight, he varnished the models with an old can in the middle of a humid day. The result was a nightmare, with the varnish hardening with a texture that would require sanding to fix. If you can, give yourself at least a few days or preferably a week between your last model and the event. This will ensure you arrive in a mental state that’s relaxed instead of stressed.
If you’ve ever worked retail or a service job that has you staying put on a hard floor for hours on end you will know this already, but for those that haven’t it’s critical to bring proper footwear. Comfortable shoes, preferably with gel or cushion inserts, can be a life saver. Some of the brands that our Patreons recommended included Allbirds, Brooks, and of course Crocs. Do not buy new shoes for a con or event and wear them the first time when you get there. Make sure to wear them a few weeks prior and break them in.
Regardless of whether you normally use them, you are likely going to be doing a ton of talking and cough drops or lozenges can be very helpful to keep your throat in good condition. Talking for hours on end is one of those activities that sneaks up on you, and before you know it you’ll have a sore throat or could possibly even start to lose your voice if you’re not careful. This has the added benefit of fresher breath, which is social nicety and something you’ll personally appreciate if you’re going to be spending hours rebreathing your own breath in a mask.
If you’re at the event for tabletop gaming, definitely consider picking up a foldable travel cart if you don’t have one already. This is a common practice in tournament circuits; having a simple staging area for your models can be a huge time saver. Alternatively, if you’ve magnetized your model bases, a metal baking sheet or a magnetized dry-erase board that can fit all your models can be a helpful platform to carry around. As an added bonus, the dry-erase also offers the option to jot down battle-specific information.
In terms of clothing, be sure to pack enough clothing for every day (including arrival and departure) as well as a spare set. If you sweat a lot consider bringing a few extra shirts and socks to swap out. One of the easiest ways to revitalize yourself after a long day is to splash some water on your face and change your shirt and socks. Plus this is one of the few opportunities you will have to show off your entire collection of pithy gaming t-shirts among people who will truly appreciate it.
Event veteran Greggles likes to bring a small cooler with bottled waters and other drinks. Depending on the location extra masks are definitely a good idea if the venue requires them, as you’ll be wearing them all day and you can swap them out when they get dirty or sweaty. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks that aren’t messy and don’t require you to constantly wash your hands, as well as some hand sanitizer. For longer events Greggles recommends considering a portable humidifier for the room, as most hotels are extremely dry and the humidifier does wonders (and can also double as an air cleaner). If the con is local he likes to bring a standing pad or memory foam bad to take the stress off your body when standing for hours.
Finally, it never hurts to bring a bottle of ibuprofen.
The human body was designed for movement, and standing in an awkward position for hours on end leads to all sorts of problems. This is particularly true for people who may not necessarily be the healthiest and have likely spent the majority of time in an office chair staring a screen. During the event try to sit when you are able. The long hours of standing will creep up on you. Some people will try to steal chairs to store their stuff, make sure you and your friends/opponent(s) have chairs to sit on (and don’t take other people’s chairs for your stuff). If you’re playing a gaming tournament, find a time during your opponents turn to sit at a place where you can still see the action on the table.
When possible, take a walk. This can help stretch muscles that have been inactive for hours and is also good for your blood pressure. Depending on your fitness level, this doesn’t even need to be a particularly long distance. Keep it leisurely; you don’t want to break a hard sweat and return to the event with your clothes drenched. Another option (especially if you’re older) is to look up and practice simple stretches you can do while seated for back and leg discomfort.
Taking a walk also ensures you get fresh air. Exposure to elevated CO2 levels is correlated with reduced cognitive function (particularly among people who are sleep deprived, so take advantage of that hotel room and get some rest), and the enclosed spaces and large number of occupants within a convention space can lead to concentrations of carbon dioxide that border on the limits of what’s permitted by OSHA. Spending some time outside will clear your head and prepare you for the next round.
Hydration is critical. Bring a large insulated bottle and fill it with ice water (save the soda and alcohol for later). Most conventions will have water stations situated throughout the event so that you can refill. This is particularly important near the end of the day as the accumulated mass of bodies overwhelms the air conditioning and temperatures start to rise, but the key to avoiding dehydration is to drink water before, after, and during the event. Think you’ve drank enough water? You’re wrong, drink more water.
Finally, and we hate to have to say this, be sure to practice good hygiene. This is a common stereotype about gamers and convention-goers, so let’s try to break it, please. Whether you believe you smell “fine” or don’t smell at all, err on the side of caution and properly shower or bathe prior to arriving at your event. Wear fresh clothes, especially undergarments, and apply deodorant. Skipping a shower might have been fine while you were by yourself and under lockdown, but when you’re around other people it’s necessary.
Hopefully at least some bits of advice are useful. It’s pretty easy to get swept up in the excitement of convention play, especially when schedules are tight and stakes are high. Do your best to prepare properly, drink plenty of water, and get some fresh air. Taking these simple steps will keep you healthy and help you enjoy your games even more.
If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.