Just this past weekend, Games Workshop held their annual Games Day USA here in Chicago. So without further delay, here is the good, the ‘meh and the ugly of it all.
Black Library had a very good showing. Authors Gav Thorpe, C L Werner, Mike Lee and writer/editor Nick Kyme came out to meet and greet fans as well as sign books. These authors were also available at a Black Library seminar, which will appear in a later show of ours, to answer questions from the audience. Additionally, books that won’t be available for several more months as well as nearly their full in-print catalog were out for purchase. Ultimately, I contented myself with asking a few questions at the seminar vice approaching any of the authors at the table because I didn’t want to the thousandth person to approach them to say I’m a big fan. Overall, Dan and I are really appreciative of the opportunity Black Library gave us in attending Games Day.
There was a bevy of other activities to participate in. In no particular order, there was a miniature paint & take, scenery make & take and a speed painting competition. For organized gaming, there was a super-heavy tank battle, specialist game intros, miniature conversion contests, gameboard painting event and art contest. Monster conversions, vehicle conversions, costume contests, banner contest, armies on parade were also out there to take part in or judge. Overall, any event that involved conversions or walking away with something you worked on were swamped and it was hard to even get in to unless you camped out for a spot (and ultimately missed a bunch of other things). Clubs also had a big presence at Games Day as they were involved in running a number of independent events.
This was also a great opportunity to meet people as well. Just about every walk of life in the gaming and hobby community were at Games Day. We were able to meet a number of people that listen to our show. Despite my hesitancy to mingle in large groups of people, I found that Games Day was manageable with all the extra space in the hall that wasn’t taken up with Games Day goodness.
Speaking of extra space, Games Workshop had lots of extra space they could have used and didn’t. Next time, I would consider using a smaller hall or increasing their presence to fill what they do have.
The makers of Warhammer 40,o0o: Space Marine were out in force. THQ had about six XBox 360 stations setup so anyone could walk up and try out the new console version of the game. I personally did not try it out as there appeared to be a large wait to test drive the game. To boot, THQ brought a Khorne Berserker out of the warp. Ok ok, there was a dude in a costume, but the costume was pretty convincing I tell you. The girl in the blue t-shirt doesn’t look impressed, but the glowing green eyes impressed us! Given that Dan nor I are computer game junkies, we were more taken by the Berserker than the game.
Forgeworld also had a pretty good showing as well. The line to even pick up orders or purchase their limited selection was ridiculously long … no, it was absurdly long. Longer and more ridiculous and absurd than their line at Adepticon. At Gamesday, Forgeworld made several announcements regarding their upcoming releases. Of the more interesting items, Imperial Armor 11, 12 and 13 were discussed as was their release dates. Of the not so interesting items, they announced several new model releases for new Space Marine armor and shoulder pad designs as well as new Land Raider variants and Dreadnought arms. Certainly they do quality work and certainly you pay for such good work, but ultimately my 40K hobby designs don’t require Forgeworld so I found these announcements to be ‘meh. Also, Forgeworld had a great Q&A session with model designers Will Hayes and Mark Bedford for anyone who gets rock hard about FW.
Fantasy Flight Games also had a pretty good presence as well. Besides doing a Q&A session, they had a trove of role playing books and materials as well as board and card games to get your 40K fix. Coming from a role playing back ground, I was once again intensely interested in their line of 40K based role playing games. If only I had more time or more people I knew that were interested in playing, this seems like it would be awesome for me to try. The fact that I don’t play and would have a hard time fitting into my already crowded gaming schedule makes me put this in the ‘meh category, which is not an indication of my opinion of their work. Being that I am an unrepentant fan of Andy Hoare and knowing that he has contributed to FFG’s endeavors in the 40K role playing universe, only increases my interest in this game system.
To round out the ‘meh category, my Games Day brochure states that Mythic (company behind the WHFB MMO) and Codex Pictures (company behind the 40K film Ultramarines) were present. Much like a tree in a larger forest, they were easy to miss. Indeed, I rounded the convention hall 5 times and did not see them. Not to say they weren’t there, they just were not readily visible.
Now we get to the ugly. While I am not as negative as some of my fellow hosts, I am admittedly a cynical optimist in that I hope for the best but unabashedly point out what goes wrong.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with Games Day USA 2011 but for one aspect: no GW announcements about upcoming items. For $25, you received a Games Day miniature (Skaven Warlord metal model) and a pass that allowed you admittance to Games Day itself as well as all of the seminars and Q&A sessions you could want to attend. Additionally, you were able to meet with Jes Goodwin (model maker extraordinaire), Chris Peach (studio painter extraordinaire) and Adam Troke (design studio extraordinaire). Indeed, I queried Jes about the evolution of the Space Marine model from a skinny, anemic person in armor to the robust, larger than life armor clad killing machine we now know. These are the good side of the coin.
The bad side is that you also had access to the store where you could pay full MSRP for any of their items. The other bad side is that there were no announcements of note from Games Workshop themselves regarding upcoming products, releases or plans. Given past statements that they are working to limit their new product leaks and limit the knowledge their front line people have of upcoming releases, this would have been an excellent venue for them to release Necron goodness as well as other plans. Sadly this was lacking and indeed, I learned more from unofficial sources about GW’s upcoming releases than I did from GW themselves.
In summary, I give this Games Day a 6 out of 10. Much like the Games Workshop financial statement, this Games Day was carried by affiliates and business partners more than anything that GW did. It’s kind of like that clique from school that revolved around one person. That one person (in this case, GW’s table top wargaming) wasn’t so interesting when taken by themselves, but rather, when surrounded by other, more interesting people (FFG, Black Library etc) had their image brought higher. This Games Day could have been much more interesting had they done more than a celebration of what was and what is, but included something of what will be.