Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know I was a Games Day 2013 in Birmingham, yesterday. There’s a photo gallery coming later with the many pictures I took through the day, but I’m still waiting on those to transfer off my iPad and upload to the server. In this post I’ll give a a bit of an overview of the day, and recount my experiences.
I’ll mention up front that this was my first Games Day in a long time. The last time I attended, I was still young enough to enter the Young Bloods painting competition, so it’s been 18-19 years at least!
This entry is very long, so it’s behind a “Read More” link. Photos will be in a separate gallery post.
Getting to Birmingham from Aberdeen involved around 9 hours of travelling on a coach. We picked up some attendees from the Dundee and Stirling stores en route. It wasn’t an unpleasant journey, and there was some good banter all around, but I really think I’m too old for doing this again. I found it near impossible to sleep on the bus, managing maybe 2 hours of broken sleep during the whole journey to Birmingham (and none coming back), leaving me with a sore back from contorting in my seat to try get comfy. I had originally planned to travel by plane or train, and stay in a hotel, so I could turn up nice and refreshed to the NIA, but with my impending house move I couldn’t justify quadrupling my cost of attendance, so coach it was. Maybe next year. Travelling through the night meant we arrived at the venue nice and early (7:20 am or so). We weren’t the first, but we were still very near the front of the queue.
It’s here the first of the few poorly coordinated parts of the day started to appear. Amongst our group were 2 Armies on Parade entrants, and a couple of Golden Daemon entries. These guys queued with us for over an hour before someone told them there was a separate line (around the other side of the building) for registration. By this point the queue they’d have to go to was huge so they were a bit annoyed at having to leave prime position in one queue to go join the end of another, when if they’d been told when they arrived, they’d have been pretty much the first people there. 20 minutes after they trudged off, staff opened the outer doors and let us in to queue to get down to the floor (after a quick bag search). At this point, the first 30 or so of us to get in were directed downstairs to wait at a side-entrance to the arena floor. 5 minutes later and a security guard appears and tells us we can’t wait here and have to go back upstairs. By the time we do that, the queues are massive, stretching right around the upper circle of the arena, on both sides. It was disappointing to go from being right at the front to the very back… something which had another consequence which I’ll get to shortly. Event staff compounded this problem by splitting the line into another queue for Daemon/AOP entrants, leading to more confusion as people further back who hadn’t heard the announcement started joining this other queue.
Little things like sign-posts and even some of those temporary, flexible barriers would have saved all of this confusion, and probably a lot of time for everyone involved.
Once Games Day officially opened, it took a good 20 minutes to get through the queues and down to the floor. Right next to where I entered were the design studio stands, the closest of which showcased a history of the Space Marines line, right from Rogue Trader through to more modern incarnations. The design process for the new miniatures was on full display, and was really quite interesting. The new format to Games Day meant all of this was easily accessible, rather than being confined to smaller rooms away from the main floor. The “new format” wasn’t entirely a success, as I’ll discuss, but this at least was a major win.
Black Library were still set-up in a side-room though, and once I found them I discovered the mix-up with the queues had meant I was too late to get a ticket to either of the seminars they were running. A primary reason I was even at Games Day was to attend the seminars by Black Library and Forgeworld. As soon as I found I’d missed out on Black Library, I high-tailed it over to Forgeworld to try get a ticket… only to find I’d missed out again. This left me really quite disappointed, as I’d missed out on a good 75% of why I was even attending.
In light of that, next up was to try and score some of the event exclusives. If nothing else, the retail portion of Games Day was well run (technology hiccups on the tills notwithstanding). Forgeworld had their own queue to get into their ordering area, separate from Black Library and Games Workshop. They needed it. By now it was approximately 40 minutes since the doors opened, and the Forgeworld queue was huge, easily a good quarter or so of all attendees, at least. Everyone was wanting to get their hands on the pre-release Horus Heresy book 2, and the Ferrus Manus miniature. Looking at the size of the queue I figured there was no chance of getting either of these items (I had been on the fence about getting them anyway) and decided to just get the Black Library releases. I picked up the early-release of The Unremembered Empire, by Dan Abnett, and the event-exclusive The Imperial Truth anthology. I’d not intended to get Imperial Truth, but I got lost in the excitement of actually getting stuff I was there for. I kinda wish I hadn’t, as I forgot these exclusive anthologies run at £30 each. I’m considering eBaying it, as it’s still sealed, and likely to be reasonably rare for at least another 6 months. I got myself and my son an event t-shirt each, and politely declined the hard-sell on the exclusive miniature, before heading back out into the stands.
I’ve already hinted at the size of Forgeworld this year, by mentioning the retail queue. Their presence in the main arena was equally as impressive, and very well attended. They had 2 big stands to accommodate all their stuff to show off. Games Workshop by contrast, had many smaller stands. If I had to guess, I’d say the main arena (not including retail) was split roughly 40% GW, 40% Forgeworld, 10% to licensees such as Fantasy Flight Games, and 10% to “other” such as the main stage and the info stand. Because of this ratio, many, many people commented this particular Games Day felt like a primarily Forgeworld event. Almost all of the buzz was about the new stuff coming out of Forgeworld, and there were consistently more people crowded around their “new and upcoming” stands than were around the Design Studio stands for the new Space Marine or Dark Elf releases. The only totally new thing from the Design Studio was information about the upcoming Codex: Space Marines supplement “Sentinals of Terra,” which no one had heard anything about. By contrast, Forgeworld were showing off new kits they didn’t even have a release date for – they were happy to let their secrets out of the bag, and there were a lot of surprises to be found, such as the Space Marine Legion Basilisk tank – something which was previously Imperial Guard only – and the reveal of the next Primarch model being Lorgar (not Mortarion, as had been widely rumoured).
From memory, some of the things I found out: Lorgar will be out some time around Christmas; Alpha Legion are in Book 3 (possibly with Raven Guard, but I don’t remember that being confirmed); Space Wolves and Thousand Sons are book 4 (“Prospero”); Iron Warriors and Imperial Fists are book 5, which I believe is the Battle of Phall, based on the display board they had (which was awesome); there’s a lot of World Eater models coming out soon, and a lot of Mechanicum as well; there’s some new variants of existing tanks; lots of Iron Hands stuff relatively soon, and multiple versions of certain (all?) Primarchs.
Moving on from Forgeworld, I spent some time at the tiny White Dwarf stand. Since the move to the “new” format, this time last year I’ve been a big fan of the magazine, particularly their move to digital. After speaking to the team, I can’t say enough good words about them. They were friendly, chatty, and responded really well to feedback. I chatted for a while with the new Digital Editor, Mel, about the merits of the digital version, and she seemed genuinely responsive to what I was saying, including constructive feedback on something she had just added to the new issue of the magazine. All in all, White Dwarf was one of my favourite stands of the day.
Next I paid a quick visit to the Design Studio stand, and listened to Rob Cruddence answering questions on a variety of topics, from “why doesn’t Pedro Cantor have Artificer armour?” (the model doesn’t, and he didn’t have in previous versions of the rules), which led to a short talk about how the rules and models drive each other, and aren’t made in individual silos, to a general question about the nature of codex supplements, which had an interesting answer: the supplements started as an experiment; the team wanted to dive deeper into certain parts of a codex, which couldn’t justify a codex themselves, but were interesting/different enough to not be quite covered by the “main”. Iyanden was a test – if it hadn’t sold well then we probably wouldn’t have got (m)any more supplements. Because they have been well received they are ramping up their plans. It was also implied that if it hadn’t been for the Chapter Tactics rule in Codex: Space Marines, and the ability to release supplements, we might have ended up with several small codexes for White Scars and the like, which wouldn’t have been good for anybody.
From there I figured it was time to go visit the Armies on Parade and Golden Daemon area. After going down into the depths of the building (it must have been 3 floors at least) and walking past an army of bored-looking GW staff there to assist registration of entries, I found the hall containing the Armies on Parade and Golden Daemon contest entries. Naturally, the room was very busy, but thankfully there was just enough room to move about. Unfortunately, a lot of the people there seemed to have forgot their manners in the excitement – pushing in front of others seemed to be the done thing. The other problem I had here was the lighting. It was bad. Really, really bad. I was using a decent camera, with a decent lens, but the lighting over the Armies on Parade area was so dull I was getting really slow shutter speeds no matter what I tried, making it near impossible to take a shot without a tripod. I managed to get close enough on a couple to let me use the barrier to steady the camera, but due to the mentioned pushing in, even this was only effective a couple of times. When I reviewed my shots during a break for food, I had to throw away dozens of photos.
Golden Daemon entries were in an array of glass cabinets. Unfortunately, the lighting in these were terrible as well. They were very intense halogen bulbs, which led to a lot of details being impossible to pick up on camera due to extreme highlights and shadows forming on the miniatures. This was most noticeable on dark or metallic miniatures. And again, there was the crowding and pushing in. I had a bit more luck taking photos of the Golden Daemon entries, but overall I found the experience of going to see them to be rather disappointing. Aside from that, the miniatures on display were really inspirational. There were lots of Wraithknights, lots of Contemptor Dreadnoughts, and lots of Lizardmen… so much so that Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards in Warhammer Single Miniature all went to Skink Priests! I’m amazed so many entries must have been left to so close to the contest, just based on there being so many recent releases in there. I would have wanted all mine to have been finished quite far in advance, but that’s obviously just me! If I’m back at Games Day next year, I’m going to try get something entered. I’m reasonably confident I could have got a finalist medal in at least a couple of the categories. Of course, I’ve just gone and jinxed myself now!
After visiting the Golden Daemon entries, I’d pretty much done everything there was to do, with a couple of hours to spare, so I ended up wandering around a lot, rechecking for anything I’d missed the first time around. There was also the fact that if I stopped for too long then I would fall asleep! Now the queue had died down, I was able to get into the Forgeworld retail area on the 4th or 5th attempt – they’d had it closed off a few times when I’d walked past. To my surprise, the Horus Heresy book 2 was still available, as were all of the Primarch models, including the much sought-after Ferrus Manus pre-release. I do wonder if Forgeworld accidentally over-hyped the “limited quantity available” in the run up to Games Day, which led to the big queues earlier. As it was, I picked up a copy of both HH books, which was unplanned, and resisted the temptation to buy a lot of Mk IV Space Marine kits. Note to anyone thinking of picking up the HH books at a similar event: they are very big and heavy.
Eventually it was time for the Golden Daemon awards. It goes without saying, the winners were all amazing, and the Slayer Sword winner was especially deserved. There were a couple of first/second/third places I would have swapped around, but that’s just personal preference.
With that, the show was over, and it was the mad scramble to get everyone together so we could get the coach back to Aberdeen.
Overall, I liked Games Day 2013. It wasn’t as good as it could have been, and the new format was hit and miss in places, but there was a lot of the “behind the scenes” stuff on show, which is what I found to be the best bit of the old Games Day. The organisation at the start was a particularly rough point, but my concerns have already been passed on. For me, the big talking point was how important Forgeworld was to the event. If it hadn’t been for their large presence, there really wouldn’t have been much to get excited by, and the event probably would have been a dud. By being stuck in a side-room, Black Library felt pretty invisible. But most of my complaints are easily fixed with an application of common sense or some better organisation. There’s no reason Games Day 2014 can’t fix these issues and be another great day out.