Went to the 11th Co GT this weekend and I didn't even get a crappy t-shirt . . .
Hey guys, Caleb with White Metal Games here, and I just got back from the 11th company GT in Myrtle Beach!
For those of you that know me at all, you know that I'm not much of a competitive guy. However, I am always looking for new venues to showcase the studios work, so when I contacted Neil at the 11th Company about their GT in sunny Myrtle Beach, his advice to me was 'Bring a Painted Army and come play!'
Well, I took half his advice. In a strange turn of events, three armies that I had been trying to sell suddenly sold in the two weeks before the GT. So it was with lament I suddenly found myself without a painted army in sight. I had plenty of odd figures, sure, a daemon prince here, a squad there, but nothing like what I would normally want to showcase. My plan up until that point had been to bring a painted army, but with the trip fully planned and paid for, I said the hell with it. At least I'll have a good time. So I snagged every figure I could that would showcase our conversion work, and got in the car, bound for the golden shores of South Carolina.
factors like cost, time away from home, work, etc often deter me from taking trips like this (in fact, I had to leave early, as you'll see below). However, over the last few months I have reoriented my business plan to attempt to establish myself in the 'community' at large and to do that I have to get out there, shake a few hands, kiss a few babies, etc.
So it should come as no surprise that this was my first GT. Part of my desire to attend the 11th Co GT was simply to see how a tournament this large is ran. And while most of it will seem like common sense, seeing how the sausage is made is always interesting.
For starters, Neil and his crew did a good job of keeping people in the know with a series of newsletters released week after week as the GT drew near. Simple issues like rules clarification (FAQ type stuff, and in particular the allowance of the new SoB . .err . . Adeptus Soritas), number or attendees signed up, prize support, etc. were addressed en masse. Inadvertently, this helped me to get excited about the GT, since I was getting so many updates about it.
Through these letters, Neil made a humble request that if anyone wanted to show up Friday night to help set up, then the help would be welcome. I got to the hotel around 4pm, had a few hours to hang out with the wife, and then around 7ish I rolled down to the game hall. Well, me and about 40 other people! They turned out in droves to help the guys get set up. The only hiccup we hit Friday night was that the organizers were using massive rolls of paper to line the tables and help mark out the play areas Each roll was exactly 4 feet wide, which was a marvelous solution to mapping out that many tables that quickly. However, about 6 tables into the process the paper ran out and one of the organizers had to run out and get more paper. Whoops. These sorts of oversights have to be expected in an event of this size, especially for a growing GT like this one.
It was clear that at this point the guys had the art of terrain layout down to a science. Table were already set up at this point and dozens and dozens of trashbags were scattered around the room, each filled with a variety of scenery pieces. Hills, buildings, area terrain, etc. As the bags were emptied, you began to get a sense of history to the GT, as some scenery seemed made in sets (lava terrain, orky ruins, etc) while other sets seemed like assembly line buildings and hills with barely enough paint to cover their bright pink foam surfaces. Being that I have never attended another GT, I can only surmise when you are putting together over 400 pieces of terrain for more than 50 tables, you are limited in the amount of detail you can apply. So while I wasn't terribly impressed with the terrain, it did the job just fine. Each table was seemingly identical in terms of the size of the terrain pieces, what each piece counted as, etc.
In addition, they had a terrain repair station running on the side, and like kids lining up for cafeteria food, we carried of battered pieces of terrain to the table to be glued and touched up with an airbrush. Generally repairs took less than a minute, so you didn't have to stand around for long. Like I said, they had it down to a science.
The GT was for 2000 points, with 7 rounds played over the course of 2 days. Registration started at 7am (yikes) with dice rolling at 8am. A new system was being introduced to the GT this year called Torrent of Fire. Torrent of Fire was new to me, but the basic idea was to establish a way to rank tournament players in a way as uniformly as possible, and to be able to rank those players nationally as well, where scores could be tabulated pretty much at the click of a button. You can enter the results from each round on a smart device or computer and pairings for each round are posted on the ToF website. So you basically go the event, log in and enter your results from each round, then wait for the new round results to be posted for your next game. That's a really dumbed down explanation of what ToF is, which is to say I'm a bit of an idiot when it comes to anything techy, but the potential for this application is immense. I asked the ToF guys to speak on WarCouncil where they could full explain what ToF is and how they are planning to spread the word about it. So once I hear from them, YOU'LL hear from them.
The 11th Company guys tried to get everyone to sign up for a ToF account before the event through their newletters, but sadly, not all of us (yes, that means me) did. So posting the results for the first round was painfully slow, as dozens of us had to create accounts for the event and then post our results. However, let me say that after this traffic jam, the software worked beautifully! Since 95% of the attendees had a smart phone or the like , they just posted their results each round on their phones. The rest of us used one of the dozen or so tablets or laptops the 11th Co guys furnished so we could quickly enter our results.
The only room for error I see here is that if me and my latest opponent enter different results, I'm not sure how they will establish which results are right. So while there is room for error, I think the overall feel was that ToF is amazing. On top of all that, ToF had several support personal on site, promoting ToF and helping to create accounts, answer ?'s, etc. Great job guys! I hope ToF spreads like wildfire!
Check out their site if you get time. The ToF site also has a list of events coming up around the country, so if you eager to get to a GT, there might be one closer than you think!
The event ran like you might think after that. Pairings were posted at the start of each round, players fanned out carting massive display boards to their next match up, trying to avoid tipping over or bumping into anybody. I can honestly say that every person I met or played all weekend was a delight, without a rotten apple in the bunch. There was just a good vibe in the room.
Judge support at the event was excellent! Judge walked the long lanes of the hall, answering questions, making rules calls, updating us on how long we had left to play, etc. I never felt like a judge was far away.
Saturday was four back to back games. Playing four back to back games of 40k is just as exhausting as you might think it is. The only snaffu to the entire day was that since this was an uncatered event, with some players finishing later than others, there was a definite imbalance in the lunch break for many of the players. There was a bar next door to the hotel, but it didn't seem the 11th Co. had informed the bar to expect a lunch rush around 2-3pm as the GT let out for lunch. So when 30-40 of us rolled in for a mid day snack, the bar staff was a bit overrun and orders took a bit longer to get out than they normally would have. I saw a salad take about 20 minutes to get to one player. If I had to make a suggestion, I would have either recommended 90 minutes for lunch to allow players longer to drive somewhere off site, or perhaps a catered event. Even a simple boxed lunch furnished by the hotel would have been a welcome option. I worked in a hotel for about 5 years, so I know this wouldn't have been much of a stretch. A little more planning in this regard next time guys would have gone a long way with an already tired player base.
Sadly, four games was going to be it for me. The Sunday games ran from about 8am to about 7pm or so. That meant if you played all 7 games, you were likely going to stay an extra night in the hotel, and for me that wasn't really an option. So while I bailed like a chump, I have it on good authority that day two at the event went very well. The players from day one that stayed over were organized into brackets and you played through your bracket in an attempt to match up players with those of similar standing. What this meant was if you wanted to play 7 games, you got to play 7 games, and those games would be against people of a similar W/L record.
So, final thoughts . . . .
11th Co GT was an AWESOME time, and I had a blast! The event, while suffering a few expected growing pains, is handled with style and organized with professionalism. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and well organized, and they are looking for ways to improve the experience for their players, both with some amazing prize support from vendors like Greenman Designs, MicroArts Studios, BitzBox, KR Multicase, Mr. Dandy and yours truly among a dozen others.
Torrent of Fire was a welcome addition to the event and definitely sped things up as the day went along.
A few organization snaffus were to be expected here and there, and since there is always room for improvement I don't hold this against them. Catering or a longer lunch break would have been a welcome addition, but was likely overlooked to attempt to keep the cost of the GT as low as possible.
In a major oversight on my part and possibly at least partially responsible for why I lost four games back to back was that I had brought an 1850 point list to a 2000 point tournament! And while this was completely my fault, 100% my mistake, what was interesting that my list wasn't looked at until the 3rd round of play, and that the judge didn't catch the error or inform me. In fact, until the start of my fourth game, no one caught it. Finally my fourth round opponent brought it to my attention. I was more than a little surprised at my oversight.
And while I agree that vendor support at a GT isn't always right for every event, if the event continues to grow they may want to consider allowing vendors into the hall in some form, fashion, or another.
I give the Myrtle Beach 11th Co GT 9 out of 10! It was highly fun, exhausting, and a great chance to meet some cool guys (and gals! More lady players than I've ever seen at an event!)
Great job guys! You really . . .
PUT YOUR TOURNEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS!!!
White Metal Games