This past weekend, I attended the London 40k GT for the first time. Here is my review of the event, needless to say from the title, I did not think it went well!
Since moving down to Oxfordshire, I have been fortunate to find a lot of local 40k tournaments to attend, as well as a couple of great gaming clubs. With my close proximity to London, I figured I would attend the 40k GT, one of the biggest 40k events in the UK, if not europe, and test my skills against other great Warhammer players.
I normally do these reviews after all my battle reports from the event and my own army review. However, you may have seen some of the controversy regarding the GT this weekend, so I thought I would share my own opinions on how it went and my experiences at the GT.
I shared some of these over the weekend as they were occurring on my facebook page, so be sure to follow and like it to keep up to date on all the info on the blog.
The GT was held at the Olympic Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
I set off from Oxfordshire at 7.00 am on Saturday morning. The satnav said it would take about an hour and a half to get to the venue, with registration starting at 9.15 am. I set off so early due to the Royal wedding and FA cup final being on the same day in or near London. I was unsure how traffic would be that morning, so wanted to give myself plenty of time in case it was bad. I needed have bothered.
There was little to no traffic on the way, so I arrived at the car park I was using (there is no parking facilities at the venue itself) about 8.45 am and headed over to the stadium. There was already a reasonably sized queue of gamers waiting to get in.
As the doors opened at 9 am, there wasn't much movement from the line. It turns out that security were carrying out searches of all bag and miniature cases. At the start of the day, there were two people at the front door carrying this out. For hundreds of gamers, each with at least one backpack and miniatures case. They eventually added more staff to help with this, but it didn't speed things up too much.
I waited over an hour to get entry into the venue. This was a problem, as the first game was due to start at 10 am, the time that I first entered the venue. I heard from other attendees that they had to wait even longer to get in.
During the whole time, there was no communication from the organisers about what was going to happen. Whether the first game was going to be delayed or cancelled.
Once inside, I had to queue for my convention band. I hadn't bought one of these, having only purchased my tournament ticket. This was my own, fault, as it was clearly stated that you needed to also purchase a convention band for £10 on top of the tournament ticket (£40 or £50, I don't recall exactly). For me, this was a complete waste of money. I had a wander round while waiting for all the other players to get in. There were a few stalls and demo games, but nothing that I saw to justify paying an extra £10 just for attending the event, not even playing. Note, you still had to queue for the convention band, even if you had pre-payed, so it wasn't really saving any time to have bought it in advance.
Once I had my convention badge, I again had to queue to register for the Best Coast Pairings app for the tournament (more on this below).
Again, there was little communication from the organisers about when we would eventually be starting and what would be happening. Everyone just sort of milled around. I caught up with some friends I had made from attending various tournaments around the UK.
Eventually we were told when it was starting, over an hour later that advertised. I moved to my first table to get on with my games.
The Sunday was a bit better. They had more people doing bag checks from the start and there was no need to register on the app that day. However, the starting time was still delayed by about 15 mins on the Sunday.
As a result of the long delay to the day, I was unable to play my third game of the Saturday. The third game was due to start at 16:45, but didn't start until just after 6 pm. It was due to end at 19:45, but there were still games going on at 21:30.
I had to check into my hotel before 8 pm on the day. My intention was to leave and do it during one of the breaks, most likely the lunch break. However, this could not happen as I will explain below in the Food section. As it was, with the day running so late, I simply could not play my final game.
I was pretty mad at this, as not only would I be missing one of my five games at the event, I would also be depriving my opponent of a game. I would automatically take a full loss, which was annoying, as I had had a pretty good day up till that point.
Yes, I could have booked a later check in or stay on the Friday night, but this would have resulted in additional fees for me, on top of my ticket and hotel room for one night.
I went to complain to the organiser about this. All I got was an apology and he asked if I had a friend who could handle deployment for me while I was away and I could play the game when I got back. Unfortunately, I had neglected to bring my 40k caddy with me that weekend!
You may already have seen the photos of the GT tables at the weekend. If not, this is pretty much what every table looked like at the GT.
Each table had 7 pieces of polystyrene "terrain" and some had a couple of squares of card on them too. Some tables had the foam painted, but many just had white polystyrene on them.
One of the joys of a tournament is meeting new players and playing a game with two fully painted armies on a nice table with some good terrain.
For me, the set up was absolutely pathetic. This was the worst set up for any tournament that I have ever attended. Each table did have a gaming mat, but the terrain was abysmal.
It is pretty galling to have a minimum three colours, fully painted army requirement for the tournament, where the terrain is just bare polystyrene. If anyone did have unpainted models in the their army, I hope they refused to take them off the table if asked.
On the subject of painting, the rules pack had scoring and requirements for a painted army. However, at no point did anyone involved in running the tournament ask me about the painting of my army, and as far as I am aware, no one ever came round to check on the painting standard of each army.
Functionally, the terrain worked very well. It had some really good line of sight blocking pieces that made for interesting games. It's just a shame it looked so atrocious.
I know this is a big event, but if you cannot cater for decent looking terrain for all the tables at your event, maybe you need to cut down on the number of attendees. Major events in the US, such as the LVO and Adepticon manage to host as many if not more players and still have fully functional and good looking tables.
One benefit of the tables is that they did have a bit of space on either side to deploy models and keep rule books. There were also some areas with additional tables or seating near gaming table. Some areas of the arena were a bit tight for space, but no worse than any other tournament that I have attended in the past.
Note that this only applies to the GT tables. The tables for the 30k, narrative 40k and Necromunda tournaments looked to be of a much better quality.
Overall, if that is the impression that the rest of the world gets from the biggest UK 40k event and is the face of competitive 40k in the UK, it is pretty awful. The rules pack said there would be three different terrain set ups, but all the tables were pretty much identical from what I saw.
Best Coast Pairings App
The event used the Best Coast Pairings app. This allows players to enter their own scores and the app generates the pairings for each round. This allows you to see your next game without having to cluster round a sheet of paper or listening to someone shout them out. I think the app is a fantastic idea and it has been used to great effect at many tournaments around the world.
Unfortunately, it simply would not work on my phone. I could see the pairings that I had each round, but could not enter my scores after any of my games. You are also able to view your opponent's list on the app and upload your own list for others to look at. Unfortunately, this did not work for me either. Many of my opponents also had the same problem.
Another issue was that we were given no guidance on what score to enter into the app. Were we to enter our total victory points or the calculated tournament points? Fortunately, I guessed the right one, but many players entered scores and then had to go change them after finding out it was incorrect.
No food or drink was allowed into the venue, not even bottles of water. The food and drink available in the venue was limited to one bar and was as outrageously expensive as you can guess (£3 for a bottle of coke, etc).
The queue for food and drinks was always mobbed during the breaks. One gamer even told me that they had stopped taking food orders during lunch as they had too many already. There weren't even that many facilities nearby for alternatives, with the nearest shop a good 10-15 minute walk away.
My first time attending the London GT was pretty awful for me. For ticket, accommodation and food for the weekend, I must have spent close to £200. That was for four games of 40k on lacklustre gaming tables and huge queues and delays on the Saturday.
It wasn't all bad though. I did get to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while. I also got to finally meet Reece and Frankie from Frontline Gaming who were attending the event. I've been writing for them for about 2 years now and communication by email the whole time, so it was nice to finally meet in person and share a beer.
I also got "recognised" as a 40k blogger. One of the attendees (I think his name was Jonathan, but sorry if I am incorrect) heard me talking at the best painted tables about my hotel woes, and the Scottish accent, put them together and came over to introduce himself. It doesn't happen often, but it is great when someone takes the time to tell you they are a fan of your blog and that they enjoy the time and effort that you put into it.
I also got to play four great games of 40k over the weekend. The battle reports will be coming up on the blog in the following weeks, so keep an eye out for them.
I hope you don't think I have been too harsh about the event. If you were attending it yourself and agree or disagree, please comment below and tell me about your experiences.