Monday, May 11, 2009

Baltimore Gamesday 2009 - Post 3 (GD 2009 review)

Games Day 2009 Review

I suppose the best way to start this thread is to explain some of my background, both directly and my thoughts on Games Day prior to this years Games Day. I have been attending Games Day in Baltimore since 2002. I missed 1 year due to a friends wedding.

I attended my first Gamesday with friends as their way to introduce me to the hobby. Holy Crap, I was hooked. I got a “Runtherder pass” to enter for free and was shocked by the show. Golden Daemon was incredible, the 8 foot tall Marine, the freaking rhino at the big game, the noise, the open gaming. Wow, just wow.

After leaving the show that day, I knew 2 things:
1. I was hooked and needed to figure out what army I wanted to play
2. Gamesday would be on my calendar every year

I will admit that each year I was excited as Gamesday drew close. I started attending seminars to hear the rumors of what was coming up. I anxiously watched the website to see what the Games Day mini was going to be. To be fair, I only bought tickets on those years I liked the mini, and used the free Runtherder pass the years I did not want the mini. I brought my kids, I brought my wife, I spent money and bought models or T-shirts most years.

That’s the background. Suffice it to say I am/was a Games Workshop fanboy, and a Devotee of Games Day. However, GD 2007 and GD 2008 were each decreasingly enjoyable and seemed to also be of lower quality than the years before. The spectacle that was games day was shrinking, specifically around the “dressing” in the hall and the quality of the “big games”. GD 2008 had a table full of baneblades as the big-game (not as exciting as thousands of mini’s on the table) and Golden Daemon seemed to have far less submissions that past years. The incredible sales on 25th anniversary boxes and other goodies were great though! Thus we arrive at Baltimore Games Day 2009.

Like any other year, I was answering a resounding “YES” when asked if I would be attending Games Day this year. As GD drew closer, I began to reconsider this answer as GD drew closer. The first doubt that gnawed at me was the very strong rumor that runtherder passes without an accompanying paid ticket would be strictly forbidden. Now, I looked at the decreased ticket price with no model (I did not want this years model) and was willing to consider buying a ticket. I was not convinced that the show (based on the last 2 years) would be worth the $25, but I figured what the hell.

The next was club support and GD advertising. This year was supposed to be focused on Club support, as the GD tourney was not happening. The club I joined this year (IFL) was running a number of events and I was excited that GW would be supporting these GD events through press (White Dwarf? Website?) and really pushing involvement. I found as GD grew closer that I could not find information on what club events were happening. In fact, it was only 2 weeks before GD that GW finally posted something on their website. Not something easily found, but something none-the-less. This really struck me as disingenuous of GW and their “club focused approach” and pushed me to deciding not to attend this year.

At the last minute (about 1 week before the show) I changed my mind and ordered a ticket through direct order. I decided that at worst, this would be my last GD, and at best I would see a re-emergence of the spectacle that got me hooked on this hobby. I wanted to give GW the benefit of the doubt. I mean, perhaps I was being unfair about their 2 week window for announcements. I was truly hoping that at a minimum, I would get some good pictures from Armies on Parade, Golden Daemon, some pre-release “Sneak Peak” pictures, and get to look at the Planet Strike book & terrain. I was also hoping that GW would do more deals this year and I could get some discounts.

At the end of the day, I was more disappointed in GD this year than I have been in the past. Even with that start on the negative side, let me list the things I saw that were good:
Highlights & Upside of GD 2009
• Black Library sale on many books – excellent
• Sale table for discontinued models in back of store – good
• Duff from Ace of Cakes – Squig Cake – excellent!!!
• IFL 40K Rapid Fire Tournament – excellent
• Giant Minas Tirith Castle (forget the store who built it) – excellent
• Armies on Parade – good
• Golden Daemon increased participation – good
• Big Game for all 3 systems (WHFB, 40K, WotR) – good (mixed)

Let me also say that I walked past the Golden Daemon lounge and this looked interesting. I wish I had known about it prior to showing up at games day, as I would have brought some of my models for some advice. As it was, I did not see many people there either time I walked past.

Now for the negative:
• Hour wait for registration (all tickets, even if you pre-ordered your ticket) – Fail
• Line at Forgeworld (rumored to be ~2 hours long) – Fail
• Line at registers for the GD Store, 30 minutes when I went through – Fail
• Mob at the sale table, and the small space for discounts – Fail
• Not enough markings on what was where – Fail
• Same Scenery for Scenery make and take – fail
• Scenery Make and Take ran out of scenery by 1pm – Fail
• Same models for Conversion Contest – Fail
• Conversion Contest ran low on sprues by 1pm – Fail
• Dirty plastic covers for Golden Daemon and Armies on Parade – Fail
• Lack of Spectacle – Fail, Fail, Fail
• No open gaming – Fail

Ok, let me discuss a couple things here to provide a bit more insight. When I showed up at 10:05am the registration line went out the door and half way down the block. This ended up being at least an hour wait even if you ordered your tickets. I jumped ahead (what a dick) and was able to skip most of the line (I only waited 5 min), but this was not a common occurrence. People who were buying their tickets at the door were still directed back to the end of the registration line to wait.

Now, lets talk about forgeworld. I know from past years that the forgeworld line is long. I have rarely jumped into that line, as I am not that interested in purchasing FW at the show. I spoke with a few people who stood in line and on average, the line appears to be about 2 hours of a wait. The process made this worse. The process (as reported not experienced by me) was to wait in line (2 hours), get your invoice for the item you want to buy, get in the pay line for the store (30 minutes), and then go back to FW to pick up your item. Are you kidding me?

Regarding Scenery make and take and the conversion contest. I saw these when I first walked in and they were filling up fast. I expect this, as it is the same every year. I walked around and took some pictures. I chatted with my friends at the IFL tables. I walked through the store and bought some items. Then, around 1pm I went back to the tables. Both tables looked like hungry vultures had been eating at a carcass for almost a week. There was so little left by 1pm that it was pointless to sit down. Come on GW, this should not be a surprise. Either better policing at these tables needs to be done, or there needs to be better support for the full day. I recommend better support for the full day.

On Dirty protective screens. This seems to be a no-brainer to me and it actually offends me on behalf of the Golden Daemon entries and the Armies on Parade entries that this happened. The Plastic screens that are put on the tables to protect the models were filthy. There were streaks and water/dust spots all over them. It was very difficult to get anything close to a good picture of the models without asking for the model to be removed from behind the screen.

Lastly is the lack of spectacle. In the early games days I attended I saw an 8 foot tall space marine mock-up (its at the Baltimore Bunker now), a Chimera, a Rhino, Amazing boards with cool scenery, hordes of GW models painted and set-out for big-games. For the past 3 years, there has been none of this. In fact, the spectacle has steadily declined each year. This is disappointing, as it really indicates a lack of interest to me on GW’s part.

Overall, I am very unlikely to attend GD next year. I am very disappointed and would rather spend my money (both my spending money I bring to GD along with the fees) to fund a trip to Adepticon next year. Adepticon (based on reports) just seems to be done better, be a better investment in money = fun, and at the end of the day, it sounds like what GD used to be.

I strongly urge everyone reading this to also check out the Adept’s Forge blog. Jeff has some excellent insight and also a well-written review of GD 2009.

Would love to hear comments or feedback.

1 comment:

  1. Bill, I have to agree with you about the content of GD. However I would suggest not giving up on it. A streak is a streak and you should just approach it from another angle. Come work Rapid Fire with us next year or join up with one of the other groups. To be honest I had a blast at Games Day and not because of anything GW did, but because to the response to Rapid Fire and the great event that was run.

    Just look at it this way. Free admission, doing something that helps others enjoy the Con too, and the possibility of seeing a better GD next year. I mean come on, it can only go up right?

    The one thing I wish I had known about was the Golden Daemon Lounge, I would have really like to go in there, meet those guys, and talked shop and tried to pic up some tips. I still need Thomas to introduce me to Dave Taylor.