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Adepticon 2015

And so another Adepticon came and went. This year saw the first time Adepticon was at their new location; the Schaumburg Convention Centre at the Renaissance Hotel. This had some pros and cons and in fact the whole event was about ups and downs and contrasting moments. The bottom line is a strict positive experience but there are some spotty areas and moments that could have gone better or differently. At the end of the day however, Adepticon put forth another slam dunk event and I look forward to next year. Plans are being made. Ideas taking shape.

The Venue

Let’s talk about the Renaissance Hotel. While the old Westin in Lumbar was no hovel, the Renaissance is one step above even that. It’s a gorgeous establishment that must look superb in the summer when the large fountains in front are clean and functional. The interior is beautiful and spacious in a way the Westin couldn’t compete with. While the rooms themselves weren’t that different, the common areas like the lobby and most of the convention rooms were bigger and nicer.

Nothing is perfect however and in fact several glaring problems quickly came to light. First, the hotel and convention center are fairly isolated from most commodities. The Westin where Adepticon used to be held was within walking distance of a mall, a Target and several restaurants. This made dining and shopping very convenient. The Renaissance has none of that. A shuttle is almost necessary to go anywhere significant outside the immediate area. This wouldn’t be such an issue if eating wasn’t so prohibitively expensive at the hotel and convention centre. I’m no miser but I loath to pay 4.50$US for a miserable steamed hot dog. The shuttle was also impossibly unreliable occasionally forcing us to pay for taxi if we needed to go out. I’m considering solving the problem by renting a car next year.

Another issue was the floor of the main gaming area and vendor hall. Where we were used to carpeting, this time we had to spend our days standing on hard concrete. This made for slightly more painful and tiring games, though of all the issues, it isn’t the worst.

Day 1 - Wednesday, March 18

As is traditionally the case, I was not prepared. In fact, I went to bed at 1am on Tuesday after finishing up the last Malifaux figs I had to paint and packing. My plane was scheduled for 6h30 am so that gave me less then an hour of sleep. Thankfully, I got some shut eye during the flights so by the time we landed in Chicago I was at least somewhat rested. My brother Phil was supposed to be on an earlier flight then mine but it got canceled and we ended up flying out together.

We checked in at the hotel and unpacked the basics. Inspecting our models to make sure everything was in somewhat acceptable condition. I was happy to discover that my Harlequins required almost no repairs. A single model had fallen off its base and a shoulder pad had broken from one of my WraithKnights. Even our display board was in mostly intact condition.

Lunch wasn’t too hard to find. We trekked down the street and after a ten minute walk found a couple of fast food places. We’d return there in the evening to get snacks from the local Seven-Eleven and have diner at a steakhouse. If it had been summer and our schedule not so packed we might have returned to the strip mall where all these were located but as it was, we never went back. Maybe we’ll be able to plan better around that next year.

The big event for the day however, apart from the travel, was joining the volunteer effort to help set up for the event. We helped pack minis and cards in bags for Victoria Miniature (our army’s sponsor) and stuffed tokens for Broken Eggs Game. Eventually, like everyone else, we gravitated to the assembly line for swag bags. It’s a fairly frantic process that lasts hours and starts with a ton of great items being put into the bags, but as inventory dwindles the bags get progressively worst. Important note for those going to Adepticon: get there early if you want good swag.

During the assembly I spotted Andy Chambers walking around and accosted him, not to fanboy in his general direction but so he could contribute to the swag bag effort. I thought I was kidding when I said “Hey! Andy? Why don’t you help out here?” but he joined in and helped out with the rest of us geeks.

Needless to say, we didn’t turn in too late that evening. Went through our own swag after registration and then got some sleep. It was going to be a demanding four days.

Day 2 - Thursday, March 19

Seminar day

With no gaming event that caught my eye for Thursday, I decided to focus on getting myself some learning and signed up for a handful of seminars. Good for me.

Now, some of what I’m about to describe might sound like complaining but I assure you that anything negative about the seminars has nothing to do with the people involved and is completely a result of my own lack of self awareness. You’ll understand why I hope.

First up: two brush blending with Meg Maples. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe that ‘two brush’ meant that each brush had a different coloured paint and that this was a technique to wet-blend them on figs. Turns out that it’s simple water blending, a watercolor technique I’ve been using for a little under a year in my figs. I’ll credit that this version of the technique is a little more streamlined then mine, so I guess there is that, but I was a little frustrated with myself for not having researched what this was about first.

Second class: Skin and flesh tones with Rhonda Bender. This one I knew I wasn’t going to walk out with a large library of new skills. I don’t paint flesh very often because of my choice of armies but I color it a lot in my comic and it’s something we’ve studied when I was in school. I did get exactly what I was looking for though; a nice little document that lists different skin tones and the recommended color mixes to achieve them.

Third class: Tricks to True Metallics with Meg Maples. This turned out to be a surprise. Now, I didn’t exactly learn a ton in there and I may never use what I’ve learned but it’s a neat trick nonetheless and if ever I need to make coloured armour or imitate certain lighting effects on metals, I’ll be revisiting the application of flat colors on metallic undercoats and the peculiar darkening effect it has. It’s actually a pretty obvious trick once you see it though and combined with a good understanding of light behaviour can be easy to use and useful in the right circumstances.

So what’s my beef with the seminars? I underestimated my own capabilities. I’ve been painting miniatures for two decades and have won several best appearance prizes in a variety of events. Yet, I still think that I should be learning techniques without realizing that I already am. Improving my work is no longer about importing art tricks from traditional painting to the miniature world and probably never was for me, but rather in giving myself the time to apply these tricks to my figs and applying myself more when doing projects.

Finally, a note on Bone miniatures from Reaper. In the classes I took with Meg Maples we used these figs and she told us that they didn’t need to be base coated and that spraying them with primer would eat at the plastic or nylon or whatever these things are made out of. I guess that’s a feature, but the truth is, whatever polymer these miniatures are made of isn’t exactly the best. It’s better then the terrible resinated plastic used by so many companies these days but the material is still too flexible to paint comfortably and doesn’t hold details very well. Flash lines must be a nightmare to remove and each fig should be thoroughly washed to remove release agent since primer is out of the question. This material is on par with metals in my opinion and definitely not something I would voluntarily revisit given the opportunity. 2/5 stars.

Day 3, Friday, March 20th

Malifaux Team Tournament

Over twelve straight hours of gaming and I must say, it kinda flew by. A few things to keep in mind before we jump in: neither my brother, who was my partner in this tournament, or I had much experience playing this game, or any playing our particular Crews. We knew we were going to lose hard, but we were there to have fun and maybe get our painting noticed. Phil did a phenomenal job with his Crew and I think I acquitted myself fairly well myself. As for the games, turns out Malifaux, like most games, has a bit of a meta problem, where many people bring the same Crew because it is accepted as the most powerful combination. We were fortunate and only encountered one of these between all the games we played and only discovered that this was a thing when we overheard others mention it.

There’s little point in going into too much detail regarding each individual game. Bottom line is we got trounced in each and every one of them to the point that we finished dead last in the rankings. To the organizer’s credit, they had a little prize of unreleased miniature for the people who were on the bottom table during the last game. A gentle way of encouraging us to not give up on the game. I ended up selling my fig to someone who needed it more than I.

The tables we played on were generally very nice. Malifaux tables are relatively small so it’s worth making them more elaborate, using elevation and pushing the theme for them. Our final table was actually fairly impressive. If you’re going to get your ass kicked it might as well be done in style.

In the end, the tournament turned into a crash course to playing the game. I learned from each game and brought that knowledge to the next game and so forth. It wasn’t enough to avoid defeat at every step but now I feel a lot more comfortable playing the game and will make sure I play through the year so I’m ready for 2016. The only disappointment for this event was how the best appearance prize was handled. Phil and I had very well painted Crews that required a close look to appreciate the subtleties but at no point in the tournament was there a time for judges to evaluate painting. If any evaluation was done it was from over the player’s shoulder from an uncomfortable distance that wouldn’t let anyone begin to appreciate the work put into a model. I’m not saying that the winners didn’t deserve their prize because I didn’t see their Crews, but I also know that the judges didn’t see ours, so I’m left wondering what the point of the prize is.

Day 4 - Saturday, March 21st

Warhammer 40K Team Tournament

Finally the 800 lbs gorilla of events. Even though the 40K Team Tournament has been getting a  decreasing amount of attention in the last few years it remains the most impressive display of incredibly ambitious armies in North America. Teams go all out for this one and it is our battlefield. This is where we go to show off what we can do.

This year we brought an army built of 3/4 Astra Militarum and 1/4 Eldar Harlequins coming to their aid against the forces of Khorne. Heavily converted, expertly painted and heavily themed it made for an impressive army to look at. I was impressed by my teammate’s work and fairly proud of my own results. Before the first game we showed off our models to the judges and explained the theme. Team Tournament judges seem to have improved their poker face from previous years but I was glad to see it break when they noticed the freehand job on banners and my WraithKnights’ faces. As is traditional, after the judges evaluated our team my teammates deserted me to go look around, but once they came back I got a chance to check out the competition. A lot of Eldar and a lot of beautifully painted armies, but I still thought we had some solid chances.

Game 1

Deamons. Deamons everywhere. I played alongside my friend Dannick which, to be honest, was difficult. Dan is good people but he hasn’t played 40K for a year and I couldn’t help him as I didn’t know his army at all. The final results were that we got completely tabled by our opponents who played Chaos Daemons sporting the cheesy ‘screamer star’ unit and tossed around two dozen dice during the psychic phase. Thankfully, the other half of our team did much better, steamrolling their opponents in a manner reminiscent of how we got beaten. I don’t generally mind getting beaten in games as my attitude during the Malifaux Team Tournament shows, but one of the guys across the table from us was relatively unpleasant to play. He wasn’t mean or a jerk but he would go through his round too fast and without exactly explaining what he was doing. It went a little too far when he rolled a whole round of close combat attack completely unsupervised and just declared his victory while pointing to some dice on the table. It’s not like there was a chance of us getting a much better result but that kind of behaviour is tantamount to cheating. I get that we are pressed for time, but not to the point of playing like that.

Game 2

More freakin’ daemons? This time these guys were split between Tyranids and Daemons so it wasn’t too bad though I have to say, it didn’t look good with the amount of models on the table against us. The good news is that I was teamed up with Dominique who is a freakin’ genius at these games. He picked a strategy from the beginning and by sticking to it we managed to beat our opponents soundly. The game ended just in time too as another round would have turned the table on us pretty hard. Our saving grace was that the daemon player had an impossibly long psychic phase which stretched the game to it’s breaking point and robbed them of that last crucial turn. Luck also played a part in this battle as I managed to disintegrate a flying Hive Tyrant with Snap Shots from one of my WraithKnights nailing us both the First Blood and Slay the Warlord points immediately. Not the best painted army and there was a bit of friction about rules at some point but in the end a fairly pleasant game.

Game 3

March of the zombies. Again with the daemons but at least this time they were accompanied by the walking dead and Typhus. This was an intimidating team to fight as they had three nearly indestructible daemonic Monstrous Creatures and a tide of zombies shambling from their edge of the table. We had to carefully split our fire between the mass of undead and the monsters bearing down on us. Focusing on objectives is what allowed us to nail a victory from this battle. The game was fun and rather cinematic as we kept trying to take down the daemons while balancing all the other aspects of the fight. I had to ditch towards the end of the game however as we had been selected to be in the army showcase and needed to go pick our table.

Army showcase

Kudos to Adepticon for really stepping up this process. Not that it was terrible in previous years or perfect this time but asking us what kind of table we needed for our display meant we didn’t have to scramble at the last minute to figure how everything would work. Lighting in the area could have been better though and we did have some scares as our neighbours set up their own, huge display and came close to toppling some of our models on occasion. After setup, we hung out to watch the judges do their thing. Our own sponsor, Victoria Lamb, was amongst them and to her credit she was clearly being very objective about the whole process, going back and forth with other judges between a handful of displays. Most flattering was having people stop by to congratulate us on the quality of our painting and say that they ‘followed’ our efforts through the years, a phenomena I wasn’t exactly aware of and came as a surprise.

Screaming Heretic party

 Me and Jason, stone cold sober

Me and Jason, stone cold sober

Most years, I only drop by the Screaming Heretic party for a moment before going to bed in preparation for the next day. This year however, I decided to participate as much as possible. From helping carry tables when the party was kicked out of it’s original room to again, helping move the drinks to a room when that was crapped on by the hotel. I don’t want to point fingers because I wouldn’t know who to accuse but someone dropped a ball somewhere. Maybe it was the hotel who didn’t communicate their expectations to the organization or Adepticon that didn’t explain the restrictions to Screaming Heretic or maybe the heretic themselves weren’t familiar with how the hotel might treat their public rooms as opposed to their private ones, it doesn’t matter. I trust that every level of the organization has learned from this situation and will smooth things out for next year. That being said, I had a pretty good time hanging out with people I only get to hang out with at Adepticon, from the heretics themselves to my friend Jason and a few new people I met during the party.

The party that lasted until 3:30am for me. Which was too late and I was too drunk. That would come back to bite me the next day. Speaking of which…

Day 4 - Sunday, March 23rd

Did I mention I hadn’t had much sleep during the week prior to Adepticon? Have I mentioned that Saturday I had woken up at 6:30am to be ready for setup? Can you imagine how destroyed I was when, at 7:00am on Sunday I dragged myself out of bed so I could be downstairs on time for game 4 of the Team Tournament?

I’m usually pretty tolerant of alcohol and I can go for surprisingly long periods on minimal sleep, but once you start combining these two, my capacities can and will be exceeded. In hindsight, over the nearly five hour period of the Screaming Heretic party I didn’t drink that much. However, I did it on a nearly empty stomach and bordering on exhaustion. Let me tell you folks, gaming with a hangover is not as fun as my twenty year old self promised it would be.

Game 4

Head pounding, mouth dry, I looked over the table fully expecting to see more goddamn daemons. I was pleasantly surprised to see instead a combined Eldar and Tau force. That’s right; I was downright pleased to see the hated combo of Tau-Eldar pointing guns at me. They had it all: Two Riptides, a WraithKnight, a Wave Serpent, a unit of Broadsides, etc. Yet, I was just happy to see some variety. Plus, they had an Imperial Knight in there which was new to me and I was eager to see how one of these things behaved on the table.

Dom, who was my teammate for this one, quickly outlined a priority list for units that needed to be destroyed. First amongst them was the WraithKnight which was the biggest threat to my own WraithKnights. Then we’d need to alternate between Riptides and the Knight all while taking shots at a unit of Tetras with whatever could take those out.

Once again one of my WraithKnight pulled off the miracle our opponents dreaded, disintegrating the opposing WraithKnight in a single shot. With that threat removed we began a game of back and forth that saw us slowly gain the upper hand as we removed more and more of their units from the table. Proper use of concentrated fire allowed us to reduce their numbers while ours stayed relatively the same despite each unit suffering damage. With the board mostly under our control, we moved some quick units to secure objectives and nabbed a victory. It was a fun game with a lot of back and forth. Dom’s ability to deny the opponent the opportunity to finish off our units permitted us to remain at full power for most of the game but fighting such an intimidating array of big, resilient models made for an impressive battle.

Game 5

I managed to get myself some Aleve for my headache and Dom, my teammate again, had some water bottles for me to rehydrate myself with. Things were looking up for my health. However, our opponents were setting up an impossibly long line of Space Marine bikes under the command of the Khan. They also had a Storm Talon in reserve but more importantly a massive Land Raider variant with a cannon at the front that ignored cover and dropped a crazy S10 AP1 7” blast up to 48” away. Dom declared the game pretty much over before crossing his arms and rubbing his chin while staring down the battlefield. It was as if he was trying to intimidate the table into disappearing. All I saw was a line of white bikes about 30” long that would be charging our forces on the second turn.

“I think I have an idea.” Dom said. “We’re going to leave everything in reserves.”

It wasn’t everything in the end. His unit of Thud Guns and my two WraithKnights positioned themselves as far back in our deployment zone as possible, but everything else was held back. After scout moves that brought the line of bikes even closer we got our first turn and began the difficult task of thinning the line in the hopes of neutering the inevitable assault.

And it worked. It was an uphill battle for sure but a little luck had almost all our reserves come out on turn 2, before the charge, and inundate our board edge creating confusion in the enemy’s ranks. My jet bikes flew to the back of their deployment zone to nail objectives there, gaining us extra points as the fight wore on. In the end, only a handful of charges were declared and the assaults were limp-wristed at best.  We got our victory, pulled out of the raw meat of hopelessness. It’s one of the things I love about playing with Dom; he doesn’t give up and often manages to find ways to break expectations about the game.

Ceremonies

We packed up our stuff and brought some of it to our respective rooms. There’s incentive to not having too much junk lying around during the award ceremony, most of all being able to leave for diner without too much fuss. The awards themselves took less time then usual. Mostly because in previous years there was an interminable list of raffle prizes being awarded which is a terribly long affair. Half the people with raffle tickets are no longer there and numbers have to be called over and over. The chances of winning are so slim that the event isn’t even lightened by the brightness of hope. This year however, a large portion of the raffle prizes had already been drawn during the tournament with numbers being put on a board. This shortened the award ceremony significantly to everyone’s relief.

We ended up with Best Appearance with two other Quebec teams walking away with Best Overall and Best Theme and Presentation. The scoring itself seemed a little bizarre for my taste; we had a perfect score for painting but a shockingly low one for theme. Considering how many people had commented and congratulated us on that aspect of our army I was a little confused. Being tired didn’t help and pretty much all the enthusiasm I usually experience at the end of Adepticon was sapped out of me.

The Final Evening

We went out to diner, waiting an unfortunate amount of time for the shuttle to pick us up. The Ram was our destination and the food was pretty damn great despite several mistakes to our orders. Eric was super into planning the next year, usually my favorite part of the weekend, but I’m sorry to admit my heart wasn’t into it. The energy only came back to me on Monday as I had more time to think of the ideas my teammate had laid out during supper. 

Once back at the hotel, we all went our separate ways. My brother Phil had signed up for the poker game that evening and I desperately wanted to get some sleep (my plane was supposed to leave at 6h30am the next day which meant waking up at 2:30am. Everything got pushed up three hours because of delays however). I did wander the halls a little, playing a quick game of Space Cadets or as I like to call it; The Screaming Game. It gave me an opportunity to hang out with Teras Cassidy of GeekNation Tours and Alex Landis of Iron Heart Artisans which was kind of awesome.

The travel back was relatively uneventful for me but almost every other attendee from Quebec hit snags and delays, some only getting on a plane the next day. As always, Adepticon delivered. As I think back upon it I’m actually impressed that they managed to pull off the event with so few issues in a brand new venue. In any change this important there is always an enormous potential for catastrophes and while there were things here and there that could have been better the Adepticon people managed a fantastic event. They announced yesterday that it was a record breaking year for attendance too, which is great news. With the new hotel and convention centre new opportunities are going to open up for this event and I’m eager to see what will come of it all. One thing for sure, I’m going to be there.

… Team Kebek has plans you see.

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