The NOVA Open is held only a few miles away in Crystal City, Virginia, just across the river from Washington DC. It’s a con I’ve been volunteering at and attending for the past five or so years, and it’s currently the only con I go to each year.
The con kicks off Wednesday night with some small special events and goes through Sunday, offering over 4 days of events. One big benefit to working only three blocks away from the con is that I was able to swing by after work on Wednesday and picke up my SuperNOVA registration and Swag Bag. The SuperNOVA is NOVA’s premium registration, and offers loads of perks for the notably higher price – one of which is the embroidered KR Multicase Backpack 2. The rest of the goodies… well, you’ll just have to wait for the loot showcase!
The con really started on Thursday for me. My schedule for Day 1 included a Build-and-Play for CMON’s Dark Age, and three (!) seminars.
Dark Age Build-and-Play
A pair of buddies and I decided to jump on the idea of hanging out for about four hours while we assembled some models and learned to play *yet another* new game. Unfortunately, one had a surprise family visit, so it was just pal Zac and I for our debut encounter with this new system.
It also turned out that CMON had decided not to come to NOVA. So, NOVA was forced to punt and had to throw responsibility for the event to it’s volunteers that were running the CMON Dark Age and Wrath of Kings tournaments.
I’m sure there’s some sort of juicy drama there (or a depressingly simple conflict of resources), but alas, I’m left guessing why CMON didn’t make it. Clearly their entire truck was ambushed by gremlins, who ran off with all of the boxes of miniatures, so the crew is off on an adventure to recover the miniatures…
The event was billed as one where we could pick a faction starter box of our choice, build it, an then play in a little, friendly 4-person tournament. However, since it was planned that CMON would have a booth, none of the other vendors brought any Dark Age or Wrath of Kings miniatures, so the organizers and NOVA had to figure something out.
They decided to supply us each with a 2-player starter pack instead of trying to stock multiples of every starter. While this took away our chance to pick our faction, it did give us a whole lot more value for our money. Kudos to NOVA for finding a way to make the event work despite the challenge.
The 2-player starter was really neat. It had sheets of cardboard tokens to pop out, a Quick Start ruleset, and nine models across two factions, the Dragyri Ice Caste (big ugly brutes from the elemental Dragyri) and St. Issac’s group from The Forsaken – a guy in power armor with helper riflemen and centipede bots.
In addition to the standard starter, we were given a tape measure, some arcylic objectives with the NOVA 2018 logo on them, some art prints and a story / scenario booklet (focused around the Skarrd faction). So many extras!! (Thanks, gremlins!!)
Of the two factions in the starter, I chose to field the Ice Caste Dragyri, as large, beatstick type armies tend to fit my personal playstyle (favoring simplicity and being the guy with the biggest stick). The models have fantastic detail for being “restic” and they fit together so nicely, I only had to glue two spots to play in the tournament; the rest I just left dry-fit.
The game is easy to pick up if you’ve played any kind of alternating activations type wargame. It’s a standard I-go You-go system, but initiative resets every round. Another neat aspect is that every troop has a small action economy, typically 3 actions per activation. These can be moves, attacks or special things like charge (move + attack), etc. It felt a lot more versatile and free than something like Warmachine’s standard “movement first, then one attack”.
Troops with the same name can activate at the same time (one right after one another), and St. Issac’s forces had a nice interaction between the riflemen and their centipedes (who had flamethrowers).
My first game was a mirror match against one of the other folks at the build-and-play. It was a slugfest and came down to some timely critical hits. The second game was a bit more exciting, as buddy Zac had picked the St Issac force. I weathered his guns pretty well, but by the time I was able to put sword get a sword onto St Issac himself, we both had only one model left and it came down to dice. In the end, mine were a little hotter than Zac’s, but my Spirit Lord was bleeding out and barely limped home.
Demo: Age of Sigmar: Champions
Wednesday when I dug through my SuperNOVA bag, I’d found a starter deck of AoS: Champions. When Zac and I were walking around after Dark Age, we noticed that there was a crew from Games Workshop running demos for the new collectible card game.
Huh. It’s like they want us to try out their new game.
It also looked like they had free swag, probably for people who take a demo of the new game.
We decided to try out the new game.
We sat down for an explanation of how the game works, and were then set loose to slug it out by proxy of our Champions. Zac helmed the forces of Order, and I tried to overwhelm him with the forces of Death. Alas, card draw was not in my favor and Zac expertly unlocked two of his bonus cards, and I lost by a considerable margin.
Seminar 1: How to YouTube, Technical Details with Atom Smasher
Atom from Tabletop Minions kicked off my seminar curriculum at NOVA with a discussion on the technical details of filming videos for YouTube. His photography background and experience running one of the most successful wargaming related YouTube channels was well received – I took four pages of notes in my NOVA Open notepad.
He had lots of information and anecdotes from his past while he learned about what to do and not to do with recording and editing. He also shared lots of tricks and nuggets of wisdom about setting up for recording, equipment to use for various parts of the process and some pitfalls to avoid.
I also really enjoyed chatting with Adam after the talk with a few of the other attendees. Some of our questions led him to talk a bit about his plans for his Tabletop Minions channel, and we all spoke about common concerns with trying to balance ads, staying genuine to ourselves and being honest with the audience. It was nice to hear all of us struggle with the same hurdles, and then bounce around some ideas on how to handle them.
Definitely don’t read anything into the fact I took this seminar. Nope. Nothing to see here, please move along…
Seminar 2: Intro to Scenic Basing with Shoshie Bauer
Shoshie’s basing class was about 10 minutes of instruction and then 2+ hours of supervised build time. Her process is largely organic and self-taught, but with some simple principles and guidelines. It’s rather different from some of the other teachers and definitely brought something new.
It was really refreshing to have a class where we dove into the hands-on portion immediately. I appreciate the academic classes as well, but sometimes I just really want an opportunity to try things and have someone more experienced than me to look at my work and give me feedback.
She had some example display bases she’d created, and they were really helpful in understanding her process.
I always like it when display plinths aren’t smooth, simple blocks of wood – I like it when they look like a cut-away of some larger scene. I think that’s such a cool effect, so I wanted to do a bit of that. So, I started by carving away a corner of my block. After way too much work, I had an angle along one corner of the block.
Beyond that, I hadn’t come with any kind of pre-conceived idea for what scene I wanted, so I let myself be informed by the multitudes of materials she’d brought. I liked some plaster tiles she had from Hirst Art molds and broke them apart in order to build a pathway along the ravine… ditch… landslide? Slope-y bit.
Once I was happy with those features, I needed something to give the base height. My neighbor in the class had turned a load of kebab skewers and toothpicks into a dock, so I took inspiration from his use of the skewers and decided to build an asian inspired gateway… arch… trellis? Wooden structure thingie.
Anyway, this is my finished piece from the class. It definitely needs more life, and I have no idea what miniature I’ll be using on it. I also may just paint it up for practice on atmosphere and environment…
My basing continues to be a thing I’m not 100% happy with, and classes like this help me understand where I’m at and how to get where I want to be. It’s useful to see the process others use, and take from them some new tools to add to my toolbox of skills and knowledge. It also helps me check the notions and goals in my head and make sure they’re accurate and realistic. More on that at another time.
Eventually I’ll put paint on this base and the one from last year’s class with Roman. It totally won’t sit in my display case for a year. Nope.
Seminar 3: Corvus Belli Exclusive Q&A with Gutier Lusquinos
The first (and busiest) day of the con ended with a fantastic talk from Gurier, Corvus Belli’s loremaster.
Most of the material Gutier covered had already been presented at GenCon and at Corvus Belli’s Interplanetario, but there were a few new pieces of “Breaking News”.
Gutier got to show us the allowances and fireteams for the two new sectorials that will come from the Operation Coldfront models, and he had the same data on Yu Jing’s Immortals army. I’m sure you can find pictures of those elsewhere on the internet – my pictures of those slides are terrible.
My big take away from his talk was that Gutier is the Dungeon Master of the Infinity universe. He is cnstantly managing story lines, plots, characters and working in hooks and “gates” that the company can pull on or open when they need to. That work creates an impressive web of connections and cause & effect that lets CB pull off the unexpected, like the recent Uprising events.
He also spoke on why Corvus Belli pushes out some of the releases they do. The new Morat Rasyat and Kurgat Engineer with Autocannon are being done now so that the design team doesn’t have to do any switching away from the new Shasvastii that they will be working on next year.
All in all it was a great talk that gave new insight into the internal operations of Corvus Belli, stuff we don’t usually get from the usual hype videos.
He also offered to autograph any rulebooks we brought him, and he certainly did not disappoint:
Gutier came up with unique messages like this for each of my four books!! He hung around the Infinity area and I was lucky enough to catch him later on at the con and thank him for the messages in my books and tell him how much I enjoyed the unique aspects of his talk.
That’s the conclusion of my Day 1 at the NOVA Open. Stay tuned for Day 2!