Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AdeptiCon 2014 Recap

So another AdeptiCon came and went, and here are my $.02 on the experience.

As usual, I loaded up the Highlander with a couple of buddies and a ton of miniatures and embarked upon the 12-14 hour (depending on stops) drive to Chicago on Wednesday.
Random Cracker Barrels were visited

Arriving Wednesday night, we all got together at the nearest Giordano’s (best Chicago style pizza in the Chicagoland area according to many in the know) and talked life, love, and the pursuit of better tournament experiences. There’s more to come on that in the future.

Much good pizza and beer was consumed.

At some point I went back to the hotel and crashed. This was the first time I’ve stayed at the Westin where the actual event is held, and I gotta say it was pretty darned convenient. That said, it was also pretty darned expensive. Mixed feelings … I wish AdeptiCon could figure out a way to negotiate the hotel deal down. Paying $120 a night makes me feel pretty good about the $89/night at NOVA in a comparable hotel.

More after the jump ...

I woke up Thursday facing the difficult decision (truly) about whether or not to participate in the singles GT. I brought a list that was good to go for it (though several codices old in terms of meta update), but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I figured I’d wander and start making good contacts with the vendors (only to find out later that vendors for some reason don’t open until Friday), and also maybe check out ongoing Malifaux activities.

After wandering the tables during round 1 of the GT, I felt really good about my decision. With Kill Points being present in nearly every mission, AdeptiCon’s mission-based balance heavily favored the already-powerful deathstar, and also felt more like a 5th edition mission presentation (1/6 6th edition missions use kill points, whereas AdeptiCon used I think 7/8 or 6/8 or something like that # of missions with KP). It was largely a rehash of last year’s missions as well, which I’d played before in the 2013 GT. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of the meta-dominant “Brostar” builds was enormous … in the past at AdeptiCon you’d see a lot of people bringing balanced or fluffy lists, and the usual suspects (including me) bringing the currently more powerful builds. For some reason, this year unlike others, many of the very same guys who normally bring fluffy or balanced lists showed up with brostars and power builds. Unlike in the past at AdeptiCon, most people brought hyped up builds as opposed to the alternative, and with a bunch of 40K games ahead of me Friday-Sunday, I was glad I didn’t spend 4 rounds on Thursday bashing my brain around those things again as with BFS last Fall. There’s only so much an old man can take ;)

My teammates for the Doubles and 4-man Team main event on Friday and Sat/Sun respectively were half in and half out of the singles event. I was basing my decision on whether to play in the Doubles Friday or play in the Malifaux Doubles instead upon whether any of them qualified through to day 2 of the singles GT. If any qualified through, the other would take my spot on a Doubles team with Neil Gilstrap of 11th Co, and I would do the Mali-Doubles. As it turns out, though, Kurt and Tony went a combined 5-3 in the singles GT and missed out on Day 2. This meant the 4 of us would be splitting into two teams and playing in the Doubles on Friday.

Later on Thursday, I got in a game of Malifaux with Torrent of Fire’s Chip Boyd. An extra perk from this was the availability of an AdeptiCon specific Malifaux Fate Deck … I was stoked to get my hands on one.

The Doubles

So Friday dawned facing our first tournament action of AdeptiCon. Team Business Athletic (you’ll see why the name later) included myself, Tony Kopach of Team America/NOVA/AdeptiCon-winning fame, Kurt Clauss (another well-known/successful gamer from our coast), and Neil Gilstrap of the 11th Company Podcast and GT.  Neil and I teamed up for the Doubles event as Business Athletic – Oldies, and Tony/Kurt teamed up as Business Athletic – Newbies.

The Doubles was an interesting format. Basically, there was a nominate-kill mission in play every round, and each team had 6 secret mission cards. These could be used at most once per tournament (3 rounds, 2 games per round) by each doubles team, so you had to plan in advance and carefully consider who would use what. Further, each game was a 1v1 next to another 1v1 (it wasn’t a bunch of 2v2 games) at 1500 points. You diced off to determine who would get to pick the match-ups. Whoever didn’t pick match-ups instead got to decide who went first or second on each table.

Anyway, Neil ran a 1500 point Ovesa Star basically (I think 3 riptides, a buff commander, a bunch of crisis suit troops, a small # of kroot, yada yada), and I ran Serpent Spam (5 serpents, 3 hawk squads, and a servocaddy inquisitor I immediately regretted taking). Every round, you nominated a single enemy unit after deployment/scout/infiltrate to kill … this earned you half max points for the round. Naturally, people quickly nominated my servocaddy.

Nonetheless, round 1 saw Neil facing a more traditional Tau list while I faced off against a Wraithwing. Neil’s game was pretty tough, though he managed to swing max points off it with some late shenanigans. In mine, I was going to face an uphill battle with the wraithwing going first … but then I stole the initiative. We picked up what was left on turn 3 when he managed to snap fire an annihilation barge into the servocaddy and get a few points off me before the tabling.

Round 2, I faced off against Aaron Aleong of 3++, Delusions of Grandeur, and NOVA Invitational winning fame, while Neil Gilstrap faced off against known and solid player Hans Krueger. Aaron was fielding Jetstar, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about his seers and could probably beat up his other dudes pretty well. I picked a mission out of my remaining two that would be fairly easy to accomplish even if I Got beat up, and went to it. The game went sort of as expected; Aaron’s non-seer-council units were slowly being eaten, and I was losing a few units a turn as well. Around turn 3 Aaron figured out he’d get his two primaries and asked if I wanted to call the game. I said sure, as I was actually ahead of him on points, which caused some pause and hesitation before he recommitted to calling it anyway. One of the secondaries required your most expensive unit to be destroyed, thus preventing Aaron from getting it due to my unwillingness / inability to kill his seer council. Simultaneously, Aaron wasn’t going to be able to get my warlord. Thus, the game finished with me 2 points ahead on secondary and both of us maxing both our primaries … 28 for Business Athletic, 26 for Greg Sparxxxxxx (Aaron’s team name). On the other table, Neil mopped up Hans fairly effectively, beating him around 28 to 12 I believe.

Onto Round 3, and we find out we won’t be playing the other Business Athletic team, but we also find out that the four of us are all still undefeated. With any luck, one of the two teams will win the last round and we’ll get an award of some kind!

Our Round 3 opponents weren’t fielding the strongest of lists, so it was my serpent spam against Nob Bikers and a bunch of Boyz / Dakka Jets, while Neil faced up against a balanced non-spammy Eldar list with wraith knights, serpents, etc. Both games wound up being routs, and we double maxed the game. My opponent was especially cool to chat with, but on Turn 2 he couldn’t make a single Feel No Pain roll on the Nob Bikers and they vaporized to only about half my army shooting.

Awards came around and Business Athletic after going 6-0 managed to take the top two! The Newbies took overall based on a higher paint score and a few more battle points, and the Oldies took Warmaster/Best Generals. Woot!

On a bit of a serious interim note … about this time someone came up to me with a business card they’d found in the bathroom. It turns out someone out there REALLY doesn’t like Romeo of Battlefoam, and papered these all over the hotel.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t think very highly of the guy. That said, until I was requested to file testimony for a court case on the subject, I never spoke publicly about any of the things that occurred with him at NOVA Open in the past. Everybody has different experiences with different people, and some just don’t gel well, and that’s totally OK.

What’s cool here, though, is that I have to give the guy props. At some point in the weekend, Romeo naturally found out about the “Romeo is a Douche” business cards floating about. Instead of wigging out or acting like an a-hole about it, the guy went and signed a bunch of these things, then auctioned them off from his booth in support of AdeptiCon’s charity efforts for the weekend. Whatever you think about him, his product, etc., it was a classy move and deserved a bit of a shout-out!

The Main Event – AdeptiCon Team Tournament

Onto the Team Tournament. The AdeptiCon 40k Team Tournament is *THE* main event of AdeptiCon. It’s the primary reason I attend every year. Nearly 500 gamers get together for one massive 5-round tournament with 10 games played per team (four players split into pairings of 2 x 2v2 every round against other teams). The coveted two awards are the Warmaster and Best Overall Team awards … the latter being especially difficult due to the high impact of appearance score on the total.

Team Business Athletic showed up as dapper as could be, wearing our satirical commentary on those who take 40K as if it’s a Serious Business, and/or as if it’s a Professional Sport.

Oh yeah. Lavender button downs, vests, designer jeans, and headbands. We were those guys.
The reviews from those who passed by were absolutely as desired … sort of a combination of either “wow you guys look douchey/retarded/silly” or “you all are the best looking bunch of wargamers I’ve ever seen.” All constitute winning commentary / point and troll well made!

To see if we could translate winning commentary to a winning game experience, we first faced off against the Norweigans. Yup – a bunch of Norweigans came over for AdeptiCon! I am trying to get them to come to our event as well, but one can only take but so many cross-Atlantic trips for mandollies per turn. These guys represented an awesome cross-section of our hobby, including a CFO and a pilot in their mix of players.
We ended up having a lot to drink with these guys by the end of the weekend. In our game, they brought a combination of drop marines, orks, eldar, and chaos marines.
Our team brought four identical lists – a Farseer on a Jetbike w/ a Singing Spear, 6 Guardian Jetbikes w/ 2 Cannons, 2 Ghostwalk/Scatterlaser/Shuricannon Wave Serpents with 5 Avengers inside, 6 Swooping Hawks, and 5 Fire Dragons riding in a Wave Serpent equipped as the one above.

So, every table had 6 serpents, 2 hawk squads, 2 dragon squads, 4 avenger squads, 2 guardian jetbike squads, and 2 farseers.
The Guardian Jetbikes ended up being the heroes of the weekend, operating quite effectively as mini seer councils when combo’ed with 2 farseers. It was like having a flawless psychic toolkit at our disposal every game, and we made prodigiously effective use of puppet master, psychic scream, fortune, precognition, perfect timing, etc. all weekend long.

The first round was not all that difficult against the Norweigans. They made some target priority errors when landing drop pods on Kurt and I on Turn 1 that left them dead in the water, and we ended up clearing the board by Turn 4 or 5 or so. 30/30 for us, while Neil and Tony pulled 29/30. A good start.

Round 2 began the pattern of what all our remaining games would show:
Tau and Eldar. More specifically, lots of Wraithknights, Riptides, and Broadsides … everything a Wave Serpent can’t handle. This also began the pattern of our outcomes … somehow managing to twist max or near max points out of games where all our Wave Serpents were blowing up.
Round 2 I was paired with Neil, and we faced off against a Riptide, Wraithknight, Broadsides, Buff Commander, and a couple Wave Serpents, and they were going first. It was night fight, so we deployed back to nullify their Wave Serpents / Wraithknight, but knowing full well their Broadsides and Riptide would unload on us, and so they all did. We lost a couple jetbikes from our seers+jetbike squad, and some Serpents got dinged up. The rest of the game was a lot of work by the infantry keeping ourselves in the game. Shrieks and Puppet Masters from the Farseers did a ton of good work, as did Perfect Timing (helping some Fire Dragons finish off the Wraithknight when it decided to get more aggressive). By the end, we nicked a perfect 30 off them, while Kurt and Tony pulled a 30/30 against a similar list over on their end, also with a bunch of dead Wave Serpents to show for it.
Round 3 I was paired with Tony, and we went up against Tau/Tau, with both sides facing an array of Broadsides, Riptides, Skyrays, etc. Neil and Kurt faced by far the more difficult game, barely nicking 29 off it at the end. Tony and I got lucky, going first and facing opponents who overestimated Serpent Firepower. They deployed point blank to us, hoping to steal the initiative, and did not (though our hearts were in our throats). The result was we got super aggressive, shuffled up and got out all our avengers and the like, plus used puppet master and everything the serpents had. The result was … we killed 6 of 6 Broadsides and a full squadron of 5 Piranhas plus their gun drones (which were meant to hop off and join a drone control commander) on Top 1. The return fire from three Riptides (THREE) did a number on a couple of Serpents, but then we were on top of them. One Riptide fell to mass fire the next turn, and the other with buff commander fell under the spell of Hallucination until killed later in the game. They had about 100 or so Kroot, but Kroot die fast these days, and the last of their models died on the top of Turn 4.

So Day 1 ended and we were a little surprised to be in the lead. Tons of our Serpents died over the course of the day, but the little 6-guardian/2-seer mini-council units did yeoman’s work every game while our avengers, dragons, and hawks pulled their weight and we found ourselves 3 points shy of a perfect day. That meant the final 2 rounds on Sunday were going to be pretty intense!

More good socializing in the interim both Friday night and Saturday night was had!
So Round 4 began against a really tough team of … surprise surprise … Tau Tau.

Our opponents were clearly doing well on points (We pieced together that they were in 2nd place behind us going into the round, about 8 points lower than we were), yet had somewhat oddball Tau lists. There were plenty of Riptides and Broadsides, but also Tau flyers, burst gun crisis suits, and even an Ethereal in a Devilfish. We rightly guessed that meant they really knew what they were doing, and some intense games resulted for both teams! The mission was relic/kill points, so we knew right away what we had to do – roll on Runes of Fate and snag that Relic! Neil and I were paired for the remainder of the tournament b/c we gelled well and Kurt/Tony seemed to as well (you pick your own pairings in Rounds 4/5). Selecting 4 identical lists was really nice, b/c our opponents were very quick to imply they weren’t going to show us their pairing of lists until we showed them theirs … at which point we readily pointed out that we had no differential pairings! Easy peasy.

Neil rolled on Fate with his Farseer first … Doom … Eldritch Storm … cringe … FORTUNE! Thus with Fortuned procured, we had a tough call. Each team could spend up to two battle points (max one per turn) (these “Battle points” were called Twists of Fate; check the primer at if you want to know more details) trying to cancel psychic powers on a 4+. This meant I arguably could consider rolling on Fate again so that we could try for 2 Fortunes, to ensure the mini-guardian-star had re-rollable saves. Feeling brave, I instead rolled Divination hoping to get Forewarning for the jetbikes themselves. I did not … but I did pick up Precog. Thus with a mini-fortune on one guy, the Relic holder was pretty much set. We won first turn, turned on Fortune and Precog, and snagged the Relic. Our opponents tried to cancel Fortune, but failed the Twist cancel.

This game went basically as we expected – the Tau players blew away more or less our entire army aside from the fortune-squad, took a huge beating from our various units up until they finished them off, and we pulled it out in the end. It got really hairy several times … primarily on a turn where I picked up the dice to roll psychic powers and … failed fortune, then failed precognition, then failed doom and perfect timing just for good measure. Yeah … four LD10 psychic tests, four failures, out of 5 total rolls.

Somehow we survived the brutal turn that followed thereafter, got our powers back up, and finished the game with a couple secondaries and the relic. Since we didn’t burn our twists of fate, but they snagged KP, the final tally was 19:15 in our favor. Kurt and Tony faced a similarly difficult game, and finished at 22:5. So, a double win, but our near-perfect BP total was tarnished a bit … and we knew we had to do our very best in the next round to remain in the running.

The final round was against another intriguing pair of lists. Each list had a wraithknight, 30 guardian jetbikes with 9 total cannons, a farseer, riptide(s) (depending on the list), broadside(s), buff commanders, and the like. They were super mean!  Our particular opponents (Neil and mine) had 2 riptides, broadsides, the 30 jetbikes, 2 kroot squads, buff commander, and the wraithknight. We knew it was going to be another game where we got bruised and battered. More importantly, we had a tough call on target priority – we were going second (Though could deploy covered well), and the mission was Objectives where each objective was worth its own independent points. We burned a twist of fate to up the value of one in our backfield to 10, but basically if we went after their hardcore hitty units with our serpents and such … we might or might not kill them (very few ways to get around the T8 of the Knight or the 2+ save of the Tides/Sides), and wouldn’t be touching their 30 power armored jetbikes or 20 kroot … thus they could wait until late game, contest all our objectives, and grab a couple of their own. But if we focused all our fire on the jetbikes, we might kill them, but we’d end up with our pants around our ankles, shields down, vs. all the heavy hitters. Deciding that points were all that mattered, we went for the latter, hoping the combination of our psychic screaming farseers, rending avengers, and meltagunning fire dragons would be enough to keep riptides/wraithknights/etc. away from our objectives points-wise at the end of the game.

And it worked … barely. End of game, we wound up with a couple secondaries for a 16:0 win. Our partners on the other table pulled a 17:5 or so. We got OH SO CLOSE on each table (crazy odds close) to getting 5 more points a pop with one more objective a pop, but couldn’t quite. Our opponents were pretty awesome in this game, and they pushed us to the very limit on both tables. They also rewarded the game at the end with some Woodford Reserve Bourbon (oh happy day). Ya’ll know who you are – shout out!

As we all sat around for the awards and more and more were called, our hearts sank … we figured we’d lost just enough points and didn’t have quite a good enough paint score that for the fifth year in a row our AdeptiTeam would end up somewhere in the top 10, but without any real recognition. BUT WE WERE WRONG! 10-0 proved to be enough, and we had a solid battle points lead over the next closest competitor … thus yielding us the title of AdeptiCon Warmasters. Also, it turns out we were a paltry 5 points behind Best Overall (out of close to 400 possible points), so if only we’d snagged one of those last objectives! Nevertheless, we couldn’t have been more excited, especially given how incredibly tough our opponents were in every game, and how bad the matchups were for our paper-fragile Serpent Spam lists. It’s funny how weak a list that was so powerful when it first released has become – broadsides, riptides, and the like simply tear through them!

In Conclusion

A long post as usual, but in conclusion, AdeptiCon is a great time. Among the many big tabletop wargaming events, NOVA Open is #2 … in attendance and grandeur … and though we’re incredibly proud of how awesome an event we put on, AdeptiCon is itself quite awesome as well.

Minor critiques

The Westin is very, very expensive for a wargaming weekend.  It’s hard, but there’s always room to negotiate. They may be giving the best rate possible, but they may not – I have no insight into the relationship they maintain with the hotel. I do know that the Hyatt charged about $110/person in 2011, and people complained about that rate, so we went hard at them when we renegotiated and brought it down by $25/night. It was tough, but it was worth doing. It’s a hard call for me looking ahead b/c the Hyatt next to the Westin gives great rates, but then you have to get up earlier and pack your army fully away every day and drive back and forth to AdeptiCon. So we’ll see there.

Change up the missions. Kill Points has never been a very good mission, with its only redeeming values being a gut check on MSU-style list design and the ease with which you can calculate score. GW seemed to acknowledge its weaknesses when they changed it from 1/3 the mission frequency to 1/6 with 6th Edition. KP features in all but one of AdeptiCon’s rounds in the Singles and Team events, and has for 2 years now. I know I heard it from a lot of people as well that the missions for 2 years now have not been all that fantastic. For the biggest and arguably best 40K event in the world, I wager they can probably easily do better. I don’t expect AdeptiCon to do something like participate in the TO/international-participation Mission Catalog, but after 2 years of some complaints, I imagine they’ll come back with much better missions in 2015, and am looking forward to them.

Appearance and Theme judging is still a bit inconsistent; that said, it was MUCH better and felt much more invested / caring this year than it was last year (when our entire score was based upon 3 models we’d pulled out while we were still trying to unpack the rest).

Highlight compliments

The bar at the Westin is fantastic – great beer selection, great policy letting you walk in and out with booze, etc. We spent a lot of time there b/c it was just as good an option as anywhere we could have driven to – major bonus, b/c it made it much easier to socialize and have a few beers without drinking and driving, DD’s, etc. Two thumbs way up.

The AdeptiCon-specific Malifaux fate deck is really cool. Every year AdeptiCon at least tends to find something to give away that is event specific AND game specific, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Bringing the vendor hall back into the main hall was a really good idea.

Until next year, thanks again to all the folks who run this awesome event!

1 comment:

  1. It was our first year, but i was also surprised by how much kp were used.

    It's cool to know that going 8-2 we were only a few ranks behind you guys (until you add in painting, haha)
    Maybe next year we'll see you at the top table!

    My summary plus links to battle reports.