I've been slacking off on writing this, work has been nuts this week, but here are my thoughts on the NOVA Open.
Overall Thoughts on the Tournament and Convention
I had a very good time. I played in the 40k Grand Tournament and it was well run and moved. I think it's unfair to compare it to Adepticon or past Games Workshop Grand Tournaments, they have very different aims than NOVA, but they will have to work as a baseline.
First, the hotel worked. It was clean, reasonably priced, and was not in the way. I've been at tournaments in crappy hotels that cost 50% more than what I spent at NOVA, and I'm thankful that NOVA appears to be sticking with the Hyatt in Crystal City. From what I understand, it sounds like most of the complaints last year were addressed in a positive way this year. The only real complaint, and I know this is one that can't be addressed, is that most of the neighborhood restaurants weren't open during the weekend and the hotel food was a little pricey. We packed sandwiches and snacks so it didn't bother us too much.
The 40k GT was well run. It moved along and I didn't hear very many complaints. Pairings went up reasonably fast, and with two and a half hours I imagine most everyone finished on time. I only had two games that didn't end "naturally" and both of those would not have changed had there been more time.
My only real complaint with the GT was the terrain. It looked nice, but was very big and just didn't feel like any sort of terrain I've ever played in 40k. I've been to numerous Grand Tournaments, both GW and independent, tons of RTTs throughout the East Coast, and have played many games otherwise and I have never seen or played on terrain that felt like this. I don't think the terrain ever won or lost me any games, but I definitely think it's an area where they could improve moving into the future.
Don't get me wrong, I imagine those that brought balanced lists had no problems. While the terrain could be improved, and granted this is an improvement that would make the terrain more in line with what I feel 40k terrain should be, I don't think anyone that brought a balanced list was overly hurt by it. I have no sympathy with someone that lost because of the terrain because they brought an MSU gunline and wanted to grind down their opponents with statistics, instead of actually playing a real game of 40k.
Outside of terrain I think the NOVA FAQ could have been better. I give them a pass on this because GW has been lax about cleaning up some of the core rules for 6th edition, but one NOVA FAQ ruling struck me as just obviously wrong. NOVA FAQ ruled that a Flyer could fly, or Hover or whatever they call it, and do so at Combat Speed up to 35". That means that Cruising Speed is the domain of 36" and only 36". In all the games I played and all the Flyers I played against I never once saw someone go 36". I bet there's a very strong probability that there was never an instance where a Flyer ever went Cruising Speed the entire weekend. I think that's a clear way you can tell you got a rule wrong: When a rule gives you two choices and you interpret it to mean that in 99.99999% of the time only one option will be taken.
It's not a huge deal, although it definitely helped the two Necron Flyer lists I played, but there you go.
I have a few other quick problems and areas where I believe they can improve.
Paint judging was done in a way that confused me. I know I got paint judged, but my result was never posted. Now, my army is very much a tabletop quality army, but I'm still proud of it and painted it up in a few short weeks. I think it would have scored well, and I would have liked to have seen what I got. It's a little annoying that I had to bring my army to get judged and I don't have the score to see.
Ashley and I have talked that when we NOVA next year that both of us will have to play the same system. Schedules didn't overlap and it was hard to see one another much. I obviously don't expect them to make this work for us, I doubt there were many other couples that split systems like us, but going forward we just need to make sure we play the same system.
Lastly, and most importantly, I think Mike Brandt and the guys who run NOVA need to decide if they want to be the big competitive 40k tournament or if they want to be an actual convention. I only played in the 40k GT but I still played 8 games and that left me with zero time to check out vendors, take hobby seminars, or do much of anything but play all the 40k in the world. I love 40k, but cramming that many games into a weekend involves sacrificing a few things and I think creating a real convention is going to be one of them.
I remember the old Games Workshop Grand Tournaments, at least the ones I went to in 2008, and how great they were because we would play 5 games but we also had time to check everyone's army and really take in the event. It's a slower pace that really allows for a more relaxed environment, which fosters an ability to do things that aren't just playing games. I very strongly believe that for NOVA to become a true convention that it will need to give up the "competitive" nature of what they are going for.
Everything I talked about is relatively minor. I go to these tournaments to play new people, to see cool armies, and to get in a bunch of good games. The tournament did all of that and it did it very well. I hope none of what I said above gets in the way of the fact that I had a good time and will go again next year.
Quick Battle Reports
I didn't take detailed notes or have army lists / missions handy, but I had a great time this weekend and thought it would be fun to talk about each game briefly.
Here is my heroic Tau with glorious Kroot, intrepid Vespid, and stoic Ork allies.
My first game was against a really good guy running Necrons. I forgot his name (Very sorry!), but it was a very close game. I had some ridiculous luck, Vespids managed to take off the last Hull Point of a Necron Flyer (!!??!?) and I managed to pull out the win. It was a tough game and I think Wraiths give Necrons a very strong assault element that ties that army together. Without them they have the risk of not being well balanced. This army was balanced and fun to play against. Good guy and a good game.
Game 2 was against Nicholas Caruso and his Grey Knights with Space Wolf allies. I believe the mission was Objectives, with The Relic being the center objective, and using Hammer and Anvil. His list was hard as it constituted Grey Knight Razorbacks and lots of Psycannons.
I honestly became disinterested in this game by round 2. He was just rolling so many dice and going through shooting with everything that it became tedious. He was an incredibly nice guy, though, and was really great to talk to afterwards. He fully admits that this is a hard list and isn't fun to play with or against, but NOVA is a competitive tournament so there we are.
Very good guy and a very big defeat for me. Looking back on it now I realize that I could have given him a much better game had I deployed differently. I believe I have the tools to beat this army and had I deployed better I think it could have been closer. It would have been a hard game for me to win, but I believe I better understand what I need to do to make it a better matchup.
Game 3 was against Pete and his Blood Angels. I saw his army and thought I had a strong win. He had very few models, and I figured I could kill 15 2+ Save models.
I couldn't. Pete was a super good guy, but this is one of those games where the game wasn't as fun as it should be. There were just a lot of weird things that happened, such as having a big mob of 30 Ork Boyz with Warboss charge 5 Sanguinary Guard with Dante and kill zero models. Between Shooting and Assaults I did an unimaginable number of wounds and killed nothing.
It happens, and Pete was a lot of fun to play with. He had really bad luck his previous game so he was owed a good game. I also know that a big part of my loss came from my playing too aggressively and counting too much on being able to throw enough wounds on his Terminators and Sanguinary Guard. Had I played more carefully and focused on shooting and having a strong Counter Attack element I think I could have won.
You have to take the bad with the good and the bad luck I had this game turned into ridiculous luck in my 6th game, so it all works out.
Game 4 was against Brian Carlson, and if I keep repeating myself that he was a great guy it's because I had really great opponents for a lot of the tournament. Super nice guy with a gorgeous army.
I wish I remembered more about the game, but I believe it was pretty close and he ended up with a victory. I remember there being a lot of dancing and shooting with his Wraiths, but I couldn't do enough to stop him at the end. I believe Victory Point were close and it was an otherwise close game, just one I couldn't seal the deal on.
Very good guy and I'm very glad he won his bracket. He's a great player with a strong army.
At this point we're all put into our brackets. I'm in the heroic 1-3 bracket, and at this point the games start to feel more intense. My 4 previous games were much more relaxed, but now each game effectively becomes single elimination and it definitely makes for a more intense environment.
Game 5 was against Robin Adair. Robin had a really nice looking Night Lord's army, using Blood Angels rules, and was a good guy. I feel bad because he was very frustrated for a lot of our game, he missed a 7" charge that became a 9" charge because of Overwatch and a few other things. Sadly, I don't think his army was all that good. It looked really nice, but I think it's going to be hard to win a game of 6th Edition with 50 Jump Infantry.
This was a tough game for him because I just had so much long range shooting, and I still managed to have a strong Assault Element that by the time he did get to me I had Kroot and Ork Boyz that could Assault and take care of whatever I needed.
This was a big victory for me.
Game 6 was with Mitch Stevens with Stiff Neck Painting. Mitch was a really great guy with a gorgeous Imperial Fists army.
I made up for all my bad luck in game 3. I had first turned and ended up taking out a bunch of Space Marines, a Vindicator, his Thunderfire Cannon, and a few other odds and ends. Whenever something would come up it would come up good for me. He had a Storm Talon come in and my Quad Gun just downed it before it could do anything. Vespids shot and killed a Librarian. It was a brutal game and Mitch was gracious and kind about it.
Had I not been lucky I think this game would have been extremely close. He's a good player and his list could give me serious problems.
Also, all of the Stiff Neck guys I met were great and class acts. I'd look into them if you wanted some painting work as they were very gracious and talented people.
Game 7 was against another Tau player. Ryan Christensen was a nice guy, but arrived almost a half hour late. This was a good game but we ended after only 4 turns. Things were looking great for me, so I don't think us going any other turns would have helped him too much. He had no answer for my Ork Boyz and I had killed almost all of his troops by this point.
Very good guy, though, and it was fun to play against another Tau player.
Game 8 was a huge victory for me. Chris Hood was a really good guy, but he made some big mistakes that I was able to capitalize on.
One of the reasons I play so many armies is that it lets you really appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the next army you play. Between playing lots of Xenos armies, Tau and Dark Eldar especially, plus playing Fantasy I have come to really appreciate Leadership. I'm not sure if a lot of Space Marine players appreciate how Leadership can influence the game. He deployed 3 Long Fang Squads, one with his Rune Priest, not far from his table edge. I had first turn and made it a point to cause a Leadership Check in the 3 Long Fang Squads and the one Grey Knight squad he had. This resulted in two units falling back and one, the unit with his Rune Priest, running off the board. He thought this was incredibly unlucky, and while it wasn't fortunate I can't help but think that I deliberately shot at each squad to cause enough wounds to force as many Leadership checks as possible.
The rest of the game went great for me. He Deep Striked a Drop Pod full of Wolf Guard Terminators next to my Ork mob, and stayed within range for my heroic Kroot to continue shooting his other squads to death.
I hope this does not come off as rude, but it was strange to see someone be so surprised that his 6 Wolf Guard Terminators could die from 30 Ork Boyz, with Slugga and Choppa, and a Warboss charging. That resulted in 110 Strength 4 Attacks and another 9 Attacks with Power Klaws. There is not much that can stand up to that.
The rest of the game involved mopping him up. I'm not sure if he was trying to stall, but I definitely felt like a jerk for insisting we get at least 4 turns down as we only had 45 minutes left at the end of turn 2. I think he spent close to a half hour just deploying his Drop Pods and Mordrak squad.
I ended the weekend winning my bracket and going 5-3. I think that's very respectable, especially with a list that was constructed to be good but to also adhere to a theme (Alien Alliance!). I definitely know how I could have made this list better, well there are lots of options but something like dropping the Kroot, Vespid, and Boyz for Nob Bikers would make it a serious contender.
I had a great time at NOVA this year and can't wait to go next.