Thuloid Speaks: Dead Vikings and Free Goo – Adepticon 2016

What ho! Partakers of Paincakes, rejoice, for Thuloid has returned from vernal venturing to plop again into the Seat of Writing. In truth, it has been better than a fortnight since my triumphant return from Schaumburg*, and though no slave took the aisle seat on United 4840 to whisper in my ear “Remember, you are mortal,” time dulls the colors of my glory. Put mundanely, my little men did well at Adepticon this year, but work and a trip to NYC (I have embraced tentacles, yet live still) have eroded recall and rendered my memoir a species of fiction.

*Official home of Adepticon, the Adeptest of Cons.

adepticon 2016

Early arrival in Chicago allowed some time to walk through the convention site and get an initial overview of the offerings on Wednesday evening. If you aren’t familiar, Adepticon is about as full-spectrum as it gets for miniature gaming, and runs Thursday to Sunday. There are very large 40k and X-Wing tournaments, to be sure, but also practically every other game you can think of. Blood Bowl, Epic, Battlefleet Gothic and Necromunda all had events going, if you’re into defunct GW properties. I’d have an easier time listing even semi-popular games that weren’t there than those that were. New product demos and Kickstarters-to-be abounded.

There was, as per usual, a sort of painting station and makeshift lounge frequented by a number of the better painters in attendance (especially those leading workshops, held in nearby rooms), so I dropped by and looked at what a few were working on. I had a nice chat with James Wappel, who has been getting into Kings of War lately (including porting over his jaw-dropping Tomb Kings as Empire of Dust), and had some Mantic Salamanders and an Abyssal Archfiend out to work on. Please do check out his lovely stuff.

I also picked up my gift bag. Everybody gets one, but latecomers and those who were not able to lock in a full one in the first few hours of online registration (back in November) got partial bags–whatever odds and ends were left over. Having experienced that disappointment last year, I opted to pay a bit extra for the supercharged version of the gift bag, the VIG (which also gives a handful of other minor convention perks). Contents did not disappoint.
IMG_20160330_223151503Wild array of free goo in there: a Hordes 2 player starter box, a Wrath of Kings House Teknes faction starter, a T-shirt, that glass, a bunch of coupons (some junk, some easily exchanged for real life minis at the proper vendor hall booths), paint, random sprues and figures, various rulebooks and supplements, a 30-sided die, a limited edition Malifaux person (gifted to a friend who actually plays Malifaux), tokens, resin bases, and a Wild West Exodus novel. Easily more than $250 worth of stuff. Now, of course I can’t ever be expected to use all of this, but that’s not the proper measure of one’s convention acquisitions. The proper measure is sheer mass, and by this standard I was already ahead.

The convention’s first full day would be simple–a painting workshop in the morning, some time to explore the vendor hall in the afternoon, and my roommates arriving in the evening. The painting class was Dave Taylor’s Liber Metallica – a focus on True Metallic Metal techniques. Class started a little slowly, but I learned a tremendous amount about reflective properties of different metals and how to get the most out of metallic paints. We were given Union Worker models from Cool Mini or Not’s Wrath of Kings game (same faction as I got a starter box for in my gift bag, as luck would have it) to experiment on. Liking where my initial foray into bronze was taking me, I decided to take the flesh in a more blue direction, but didn’t get around to putting more paint on the model until this past week. I have to say, I really like these figures, and am pushing myself to do some things technique-wise I’ve never tried before. WIP shot from a couple days ago:IMG_20160428_175134686_HDR

The vendor hall this year was a great improvement over last year’s mild disappointment–more booths, more discounts, more giveaways, more demos, more convention exclusives and pre-release products available to buy. Here’s a (glaringly obvious) tip for anyone who would run a booth at a convention like this–if you aren’t giving a discount or selling something I can’t get online just as easily, don’t bother setting up. No offense, but it’s true. I’m not flying back from Chicago with overloaded bags just to make you feel good.

Observations from my forays into the vendor hall, in no particular order:

Privateer Press didn’t have a large presence, but they were giving away faction books. In retrospect, unloading stock in anticipation of the WarmaHordes Mk 3 announcement.

Corvus Belli had a huge booth and some cool displays, but only three products to sell: the N3 rulebook, the new USAriadna starter box, and some early access copies of Human Sphere N3, which sold out immediately. Weird.

GW has started trying a little bit. Their booth wasn’t amazing, but it didn’t look like they thought they were doing everyone a favor by showing up.

Cool Mini or Not knows how to run a booth. Properly staffed, lots of product, great convention discounts. Oh, and demos aplenty. I already had a Teknes starter for Wrath of Kings, so I played a quick demo of the game, enjoyed it (fast-playing skirmish game, great models) and acquired a rulebook and a second starter (Hadross, the undersea faction). Their basing kits were also on a fairly ridiculous deal–something like 20% off plus buy 2 get 1 free, which comes out to nearly 50% off.

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I got a very large resin monster base from a company called Elrik’s Hobbies in my gift bag. I also had a coupon for them, so checked out the booth. Ended up acquiring more–very good quality to price ratio. I suspect I’ll do business with them again.

My least favorite hobby company remains Games and Gears. They’ve never wronged me, but let me explain. Last year, G&G made a huge deal about their super-awesome premium brush sets, and sold many. I saw them up close– fine, not great, but priced above Winsor & Newton series 7, which is absurd. Some of the painting instructors warned people away from them. This year, they weren’t pushing brushes. Instead, a card game called Dark Deeds. I tried it out, and had enough fun. Not amazing, just a single box with a deck of cards and a few tokens. G&G guy asks if I’d be interested in buying. “How much?” $60. I laughed out loud. Seriously, fuck those guys.

Battlefront always has a big presence. Their models are just a little pricey for me, but I have some friends interested in playing Team Yankee in Micro Armour scale, so picked up that rulebook for $20.IMG_20160406_172623044

Just outside the vendor hall, I saw the booth for Knuckleduster Miniatures. Old West stuff–the sculptor, Forrest Harris, runs the booth himself. He does both hand sculpted and now digital scuplts–really beautiful figures, if you’re looking for that kind of thing. I bought some random gunfighters, because I’d acquired some heroes last year and they were getting lonely with no one to shoot.

Oh, one more thing I tried out. Played a silly Mexican wrestling dice game called Luchador! (I assume the exclamation point is necessary, indicating that the name of the game must be shouted at intervals throughout play). Simple enough that my son will be ready for it by the time he’s 4, but fun, and it does have some advanced features one can introduce. I didn’t want to buy it there (no discount, and no reason to carry more stuff back), but plan on acquiring soon.IMG_20160402_104625211

Real gaming would start for me on Friday–the SAGA Grand Melee Doubles, partnered with Nick, an old friend from Minnesota. Nick is far more into SAGA than I am, as it’s much more part of the local scene in the Twin Cities. In fact, half the tournament contingent, including the organizer, had driven down from Minneapolis, where the game seems pretty big. Vikings, you know. I had exactly zero real games of SAGA under my belt, and 4 points of adequately painted Pagan Rus to take to battle. Nick would bring 4 points of very nice looking Mutatawwi’a to complement me. On Thursday night we played a quick 4 point battle against each other to work out the kinks, and then hoped for the best the next day. The Captain & Toenail (we suck at team names) was ready for action.

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Our guys. Not a terribly creative force, but effective–32 Mutatawwia warriors, 16 Pagan Rus warriors and 8 hearthguard.

The field was 20 teams with a fair range of factions represented, and some very good players–the UK champion among them. The ballroom we played in had been decked out to really look the part–shields on the walls, great looking boards to play on. Nick and I were sure we’d go 1-2 at best. A slow start in game 1 ended in a draw against a near mirror force–Pagan Rus (defensive with an emphasis on controlling the opponent’s movement) and Mutatawwi’a (faster infantry and a funny sacrifice mechanic) against Anglo-Danes (also defensive and able to apply fatigue to the opponent) and Mutatawwi’a. The scenario was just kill points. Could have been worse, so we were happy with the outcome. We wouldn’t go 0-3.

Game two had a more capture the flag (well, treasure) feel. Our opponents had Saracens and Vikings. We pushed our troops very hard to get into the middle and grab loot before the opponents could, and then the mayhem began. Pagan Rus can slow the whole game down with The Great Winter ability from their battle board, limiting all movement (both sides!) to 4″. This forced the opponents to play very aggressively from that point on, as we backed our troops away from the center with loot in tow, Nick frequently sacrificing his warriors to drop fatigue from our key units. Our strategy worked–we dictated some favorable combats and got away with 2 of 3 treasure counters. 1-0-1.

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Getting the hall set up. Also, an amazing t-shirt.

Now we were sure we’d lose. Game 3 put us up against a team that had performed better than we had to that point, two very experienced players–they ran Jomsvikings and Rus Princes. The Rus Princes had a nasty unit of 8 mounted Hearthguard upgraded to Malaia Druzhina–that meant bows, but no armor penalty for using them, and added resilience like a Warlord. I’d have to keep The Great Winter up most of the game to counter properly, but that would really limit our mobility. The scenario was a version of Sacred Ground, in which camping multiple objective areas scored points each turn depending on number of models, type, and accelerated based on turn number. We nearly played the whole scenario wrong, and had to go back and re-count the scoring at the end to be sure. It was a close game, but despite many casualties for Nick (he was sacrificing guys left and right to keep us going) and another slow start, we triumphed. A 2-0-1 finish, and we knew at that point that no team in the field had gone undefeated.

In fact, we were in a 4-way tie for first place, and took 4th on tiebreakers. I won stuff in my first ever SAGA event! Everyone involved got a shirt, a beer glass and some free stuff from Gripping Beast, and we walked away with some additional prizes. Many thanks to Eric Hagen for running a fantastic tournament. For more pictures and a better sense of the overall feel, check out our own blogroll’s Twin Cities Gamer on the Grand Melee. His Rus Princes are awesome looking, by the way. He covers the main singles event on Saturday and Sunday as well, but if you check out the photographs, you’ll catch a good shot of me in one of them. Hint–I’m the only guy there who ordered a men’s small as his t-shirt.

Nick had the full Grand Melee to occupy his time on Saturday and Sunday, but Christian (my other roommate) and I did not.  So back to the vendor halls, to demoing games, to beer, and other such wonders of Adepticon. (People give you free beer there. Repeatedly.) A nice, leisurely Saturday was just what I needed at that point. While a sprint of hardcore gaming can be fun, it wasn’t necessary for me this year. I checked in on Nick (he finished middle of the pack in the Grand Melee), chatted with some old friends, watched some of the Kings of War GT (too much trouble to fly with 2500 points of rats for me to have entered) and generally lazed about.

At this point I was also starting to get seriously worried about how I’d get all my stuff home. I had one carry-on bag, and I had packed another duffel bag within it, but things would be tight. So one of my projects was to go dissassemble, unpack and then repack all my purchases so they would take up minimal space. Bags of miniatures wrapped in t-shirts and stuffed inside beer glasses–that sort of thing. Let me show you what I mean. This is what, unpacked and at home, it came out to:IMG_20160406_172607364Somehow I squeezed that into one bag, perhaps the single heaviest carry-on I’ve ever taken aboard a plane. And again, that’s with most of the spare packaging removed.

The problems were only exacerbated by Saturday evening’s Mantic Open Night, which Christian and I had tickets to. We got a small gift bag (tokens and some nice terrain), a couple of free drinks, and then settled in for some games and conversation. I played in a big Kings of War team game–Mantic Pathfinder Mike Carter has a good account of that event on his blog. Again, I seem to have been photographed in the wild. Distressing. Mantic CEO Ronnie Renton was around, answering questions, doing a podcast and generally spilling information anywhere he could (he’s ubiquitous at Adepticon). I got a look at the new hard plastic Deadzone sprues, which are superb. I honestly never thought Mantic would put out hard plastic models of this quality. And I also picked up some more cheap models, as Mantic was selling off old stock at absurdly discounted rates–$2-5 for boxes of troops from various games.

Sunday morning was much like Saturday. I finished packing, arranged my ride to the airport, and then took in a last few games. One deserves mention–a demo of a card game called Legends of Draxia, which apparently was Kickstarted by a company called Mythica Gaming last fall. The game is fun–a resource/building game that also involves killing monsters. Card art is excellent (the artist was running the demo), and an interesting hook is that each player is semi-randomly dealt a hero who determines that player’s scoring conditions. I might have a guy who rewards me for killing monsters, but get off to a very good start in terms of building, and so have a difficult choice to make. I picked up a copy for $25, I think (take that, Games & Gears!).

After a quick goodbye to my friends, I headed for the airport and home to this guy and his mom (the tongue visible between us). He learned to climb stairs while I was gone. Many thanks to the wife who endured single parenthood for four days so I could play with my war dollies.IMG_20160403_224203609_TOP

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  • Dragons Claw

    That sounds like a hell of a weekend I did consider adepticon as my holiday this year but various funding crisis’s early in the new year put pay to that plan maybe next year

    • Thuloid

      It’s a great time. The biggest pain about it is that you kind of have to register immediately when registration opens in November if you want to get into certain things (or get that full gift bag).

      It also gives you a really great window into the state of the hobby in general. For example–there used to be a lot of bits trading going on late nights, for WH fantasy and 40k. Last year, it was 40k bits and people selling off whole fantasy armies. This year, it was just people selling whole 40k armies. If I were GW, I’d be really nervous about that.

      • zab

        some day i will visit a con. Someday… I sold all my 40k years ago to pay for my display painting goodies. I still wonder when the bubble will burst for all the boutique shops as the market floods with awesome mins to paint but no real gaming communities of any significant size to support them 🙁 gw has the size and capital to weather the storm and they are on the right track with these nice boxed games o_O

        • Thuloid

          You know, Adepticon seems to get bigger every year. The fall of King GW doesn’t necessarily mean there are no communities. I think they’ve fractured and diversified, but man were a lot of people playing a lot of different games. You used to go into a painting workshop and they’d ask what you were working on, and people would say, “40k, 40k, 40k…” In my one little workshop, maybe a dozen people, I heard “SAGA, Infinity, 40k, Bolt Action, Warmachine,…”

          There’s space for more than one big player in the market. It’s just never going to be like it was in the mid-2000s again.

          • zab

            Well that’s good to hear. This year for NOVA I am trying to paint 3 sets of minis to auction off. a 40k ironstrider, a set of WoK werewolves and a Malifaux demon.

          • Thuloid

            NOVA’s a perfect example–started as a big 40k tournament, and now is full-spectrum hobby extravaganza.

            I want to see those WoK werewolves you’re doing. My problem with the game is that I love the look of every faction.

      • Von

        That big pain has kept me out of a lot of conventions. If I don’t have money when the tickets go on sale (and the tickets tend to go on sale at lean times of year when my freelancing income dries up to a dribble), I don’t go.

        • Thuloid

          Yeah, I just plan for this one. Since my first time there it’s been marked on the calendar every year. Too good a time to miss.

  • MerryVulture

    While I read the whole article, and really remembered how interested I was becoming in SAGA, all I can parse is “free beer”. Perhaps a follow up on how to convince a non-gaming spouse to okay the next Adepticon is in the offing?

    On a more serious note, (not that I get more serious than beer, but…) it is great to see your presence and writing style back at the House. Loved reading this!

    • Thuloid

      Well, the hotel beer is really expensive, but the staff there tend to just stay out of convention-goers way (there’s a nominal rule of “no outside food or drink”, completely unenforced). And Illinois is a state where alcohol is cheap and sold at grocery stores. As a consequence, everyone seems to have a case of beer in their bag, or a liquor bottle, or something. I wasn’t offered beer before 10am. Follow the link above to Mike Carter’s blog, and you’ll see he had a keg of his homebrew built into the display board for his Dwarfs.

      Here’s the thing–find a roommate or two and Adepticon isn’t that pricey. Our room (quite nice) at a hotel just across the street from the main hotel/convention center was $120/night, split three ways. Apart from that, transportation, meals and the cost of whatever you register for, it’s up to you how much you spend. It’s my big yearly getaway, so the wife is supportive.