Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hobby: Kicking it up a Notch

Hobby: Kicking it up a Notch

Many of you who read this blog are very familiar with Games Workshops games, and the tournament scene that surrounds them. Many tournaments are exercises in best general, and can be very cut throat, and over the top competitive -- especially when there are prizes for performance involved which tends to bring out more Win At All Costs attitudes. Others are more casual affairs, leaning towards campaign style play. Still others promote teamwork as doubles tournaments or team tournaments where you and a pal, or a team of pals build themed allied armies to play against other teams, and your final standing is determined by combined performance, painting, and other scores. Finally, there are the hobby tournaments. These are geared not at just playing and winning, but showing off your hobby mojo - bringing the whole package to the fore, and doing a collective geek out. Whatever your cup of tea, there is probably a tournament, or organised play event for you.

My prefrence is the Hobby Tournament. I often recall a descriptive term used for such a tournament by Games Workshop back in the early halcion days of the Grand Tournaments of the 90s, and Jervis Johnson referred to this great vision as a grand pageant. And that strikes me as somethign aptly descriptive of these tournaments, especially when you consider such things as painting scores, appearance and presentation, where army after beautiful army is put on display for all to see. It can often be like a beauty pageant, where people vie for top honours in not just wins vs losses, but in painting skills with awards for best painted armies and single figures, and for congeniality, in Best Sportsmanship, to name but a few of the common types of awards. It's a lot like one of those custom car shows where everybody parks their cool custom in a big supermarket parking lot and wanders around checking out all the other cool toys.

Ultimately, it's a geek fest. And they are, in my opinion, the best of the types of tournaments one can attend. One such tournament is the Astronomi-Con series. This tournament, spawned in 2000, is now in it's 11th year of operation, and spans North America with annual events in Winnipeg (the home town of the organizers), Toronto, Vancouver, and Texas. The format is a 6 game tournament, which includes composition scoring for first game seeding, sportsmanship scoring, painting scoring, generalship scoring, along with presentation scoring for display boards as well as army list hand ins. Each table is uniquely configured with custom terrain, and a unique scenario invented by the touranment organizers to suit that specific table.

One of my favourite aspects of the Astro (as it is called by alum) tournaments, are the unique custom scenarios. Each has different modes of deployment, including various deployment zones, orders of deployment, and special escalation rules for early reserves arrival, to name but a few. The scenarios are all objective based, with primary objectives for each player to achive. They also have secondary objectives, and the "Price of Failure" which reward or penalize you based on how well you accomplish those objectives.

This model was, in fact, the basis for the current style of mission we see today, where most missions are objective based, and the tournament organizers were actually given thanks in the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 Special Missions book for inspiring that book, and contributing to the creation of that book. In essence, this tournament is held in very high regard, not just by the average 40K player, but by many members, past and present, of the studio staff - many of whom have participated themselves in the event at various times.

Well, this weekend (June 11-12, 2011) Astro is back in Toronto, and I'll be participating. As I said, it's one of my favourite events. This one is, I believe, Toronto's 8th Astro, and promises to be a great one. It will be held at the Toronto Police Association Banquet Hall and, at the time of this writing, there are still space left for any last minute sign ups.

Anyway, for this tournament, I will be bringing my own personalized Space Marines chapter. It's one most alumni will be familiar with, as I have brought it for the last several years, adding to and changing it a little every year. This year, I have settled on a mix fast and hard hitting, but fragile, with a converted Pedro Kantor as the central character. Needless to say, I have spent a lot of time with this army and, being my own chapter, I have a very strong attachment to it - so every time it's been smashed to splinters by careless security officers or other random stupidity it truly hit home, but that's another story.

As I mentioned earlier, presentation is a component of the scoring for Astronomi-Con, including paint scoring, display tray, army list, etc. Well, though it's not a big component, and I have always done fairly well in presentation, including my army list, I wanted to do something special. This is, after all, my army and I want to showcase it as best as I can, because I want others to enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed building and painting and creating it.

So...this year I kicked it up a notch. While previous versions of my army list got more fanciful, with full colour illustrations, and lengthy stories, they were always just staple or spiral bound and I always wanted to do something more professional. So I did.

No. This is not a new codex army book from Games Workshop that got snuck through the radar. This is my own tournament army list for submission. But, as you can see, this isn't your every day army list submission! I made this book from scratch. I developed most of the art work, wrote the stories, took photos, did the layout, printed, and "perfect" bound the book by hand to replicate the look and feel of an official Games Workshop codex. It was quite an enjoyable, if laborious, process and was well worth the effort in my mind. I'm hoping this will knock the socks off everybody who sees it this weekend at Astronomi-Con.

Well, I'm off to go play.


  1. Great job dude, I posted up my IA:Novamarines that I updated for Astro here.

    Looks like yours will blow mine out of the water!

    Excited to meet you, didn't realize you were doing Astro.

  2. We must see more! This is truly amazing.

  3. Thanks guys. Tristan, good to see you again today man. It's been a long time. Like 13 years...

    Brian, I'll take some better shots of it soon.

  4. Like I said when I saw this the first time Star..this thing is the Epic of Epic! Ok well I did not say Exactly that..but it's damn nice work! Now get it up as a PDF after the Con so we can all look on with envy.

  5. Dang this is the next best thing since sliced bread. Wish I had time for this before my next tournament.

    PS thanks for following my new blog; joined yours again as well.

  6. Panda, glad to see you. Thanks for the compliment. Yes, it does take some time and effort, but oh so worth it in the end.

    Glad I found your new blog. Happened to see you comment on a friend's blog, and saw you started a new one.

  7. In my local tournament area you get points for writing a fluff piece. It doesn't have to be long or anything just a paragraph or two. This personalized tournament codex is perfect. Any chance at a tutorial or even just a behind the scenes?

  8. I was planning on doing a tutorial on how to bind books. This was actually a trial to see if it would work, and I didn't take any pictures when I did it. But, now that I have it figured out, I'm going to go and rebind some of my old GW hardcover books. So may do a tutorial with one of those.

    I will eventually do a new version of this as I update and change my army for tournament play etc, and am also planning a new Alpha Legion army so I may also do a full blown article when I do that.

  9. would love to make one of these killer codices any chance on letting me in on how you did it?

  10. Hi Panda,

    I am planning on doing another one of these some time in the next few weeks. When I do, I will make a tutorial, including photos of in process work. It will probably be posted some time around the New Year, or just after that, I hope. Sorry it seems like it's so far out, but there is a timing issue with the holidays and other personal commitments.