Monday, August 29, 2011

NoVA Overview


Before I get into how I had a great time and all that stuff, I'll cut right to the chase and say I did extremely well this weekend, beyond any of my expectations.

I won Best Army ("Sum of All Parts"); tying the winners of both Best Conversion and Best Painted Mini.  I'd hoped to do well with Appearance; I went specifically with the goal of trying to do well with Appearance... but I certainly didn't expect to walk off with the top prize.  So, you can imagine how pleased and flattered I am.

Furthermore, I came in second place for Renaissance Man, third overall.  Despite planning to show up, try to do well with Appearance, and spend the weekend drinking: I ended up going 4-1.  This was absolutely out of left-field for me.  I planned to show up, roll some dice, and drink a lot of beer; winning games wasn't in the plan.

I got to see a lot of folks I don't really get to see much of (especially Jay, Doug, Austin and Kevin), and I got to meet a lot of new folks.  Thank you to everyone who introduced themselves (RGH, RGH Jr., Iggy Koopa being the ones who associated themselves with blogs); it was great to put faces on such (talented) names.  Gav Thorpe is an incredibly nice dude.  Someone (RGH?) had him sign their Chaos Space Marines codex, "Yeah, I wrote it.  So what?"

Doubly huge thanks to Austin for letting me stash my army & board in his room overnight.  That saved me an immense amount of hassle.

I'm really glad I played Fantasy instead of 40K. Five rounds of WHFB across two days were exhausting.  My tournament kit includes a chef's mat to stand on, and my knees and feet still ache.  Eight rounds of 40K would have me curled on the floor, crying and clutching my knees.

Anyway, the ICGC did a great job running things: games started pretty much on time and kept moving.  I had a great time (which didn't really have anything to do with my success).

I'll go over my games tomorrow (or the day after).

What Worked

  • Paint scoring had a very particular, structured format that kept things pretty objective while allowing for just a bit of subjectivity.  I remember being dissatisfied with the old GW GT appearance check list because it put a lot of emphasis on basic stuff without allowing for much nuance at the higher levels.  I feel that this was a huge step beyond that.

  • The format's solid.  We've done smaller tournaments using the bracketing structure and it's worked out OK.  At the local tournament format, it's a liability, since it either caps players at 8 or requires more rounds than are practical (especially when your FLGS opens at 11AM).  When spread across two days, and you can play the games you need, it works out really well.

  • Raffles.  Your name went into a raffle every time you lost a game.  I have no idea how many things they raffled off each round, but I saw a lot of folks win prizes.  Three or four folks from my (extended) gaming group won prizes.

  • Consistent, balanced terrain layouts are solid.  It'd get old for pickup games and such, but for a tournament it's inarguably great.

  • The hotel was nice, and there was a lot of space.  There were concerns about putting 400+ people in a relatively low-ceilinged space stinking the place up (let's call it what it is), but that wasn't a concern at all.  At points (particularly first thing in the morning) where I felt a bit warm, but I was never hot.  (Though they did cut off the AC on the Fantasy/Warmachine side of thing a bit early.)
What Could Use Improvement


  • The intercom system.  Not sure there's a fix for this, though.

    The problem was that the 1) 40K tournament had a tight schedule, requiring everyone to be coordinated, 2) the person doing the bulk of the intercomming sounded like everyone was an idiot and 3) announcements got longer and longer and repeated more often as the weekend went on.  That made it pretty dang hard to play: we couldn't hear each other at all over the announcements, hardly any of which had anything to do with us... which made them extremely disruptive.

    Like I said, I'm not sure there's a fix for this.  Everyone's going to be on the same intercom system and, at 200+ people in a tournament, there are going to be coordination issues that make the intercom scolding required.  Maybe the best one could hope for would be a recognition that there are other events as well, and that everything grinds to a halt when someone's talking on the intercom... so say what you're saying and be done.  Though I really don't think that would actually change much, because I don't think there was that much fat to trim from the announcements, and the repetition's justifiable and necessary.  So, I dunno.

    The converse was also true: Scooter's not a quiet dude, but I had trouble hearing some things the Fantasy organizers announced.  They probably should have hopped on a/the intercom as well.

  • A Schedule.  I guess there were schedules printed, but I never really saw them.  A schedule of the games should have been posted in the tournament area (next to table assignments?), so we wouldn't have to keep interrupting judges to ask how much time we had left or when the next round started.

    One hour or, at least, 30 minute warnings would have been nice.  We got a couple of "Don't start another turn!" announcements, but that was it.

  • There was no internet or cell signal.  I had to go outside and stand at the concierge stand to get the slightest of bars.  It felt like coming up for air: walking halfway across the hotel, taking the escalator up, and walking out to sync up with the mothership.  This could be a positive thing: removing a huge distraction of players, helping them focus on their games.  It'd have been nice to stay connected through the day, however: I know it completely prevented me from posting and tweeting about my games throughout the day.

    A wireless access point or something made available to NoVA guests might be worth considering.  I'm sure the 11th Company had some wired connection (since streaming video is a mite bandwidth intensive).  I'm sure wireless router or something could be stacked on top of a similar connection with a password posted in the NoVA space.

  • A poster listing walkable food options and/or delivery options would have been really helpful.  I have no doubt there were a lot of options but on the tight schedule, I didn't have time to try to figure out what they were.  
Anyway, since I don't want to wrap on a negative note (and really, I'm shooting for constructive, not negative), I really did have a great time.  Mike did an amazing job, and should be extremely pleased with himself.  I'm looking forward to next year!

* What I'm (unsuccessfully) trying to say here was that it sounded like he was talking down to everyone. I'm assuming that he's in the military and probably puts dangerous things in the hands of teenagers professionally, and I have no doubt that it was necessary and appropriate at the tournament.  So, I totally get it... but it made the disruption more unpleasant.
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