Another fine event has come and gone. I go to Mechanicon every year mostly for the people that go. I really enjoy seeing these guys each year, and catching up and discussing armies and you name it. I love my yearly game with Ted Nagel, video to come soon and overall I love the vibe of the event.
Here are some pros and sadly cons.
All of the above is true. It is a feel good event. Tony Spino and crew run a top show. Every thing ran on time and when it came to the awards ceremony, they had it wrapped up quick and had us out the door! (Lets face it, after 2 days of gaming, some of us just want to hit the road instead of sitting through a three hour awards.)
The best thing going for Mechanicon was joining forces with The Warstore Weekend. Neal and Steve at The Warstore have taken over all of the logistics, leaving the guys at Mechanicon the ability to focus on what they love... running an event. What is the best side effect of this? The ticket price! Mechanicon used to be one of the most expensive events in the country, topping 125 bucks or so. They were one of the first independent GTs to run in the country and that price was a product of the venue they chose. It was expensive! This had a great side effect that I will touch on later.
But now with The Warstore combining a whole weekend of gaming into one event, the ticket price is down to a low 50 bucks. You cant beat that!
Without a doubt the best gaming tables I have played on. Each table is hand crafted with a wooden rail to stop dice from falling, plus an additional two feet of space at the end of the table for armies. As more and more people bring elaborate display boards, this is becoming a necessity that other GTs are ignoring, leaving us searching for places to place our armies. (Usually the floor)
I have yet to go to a GT and not hear some one complain about the terrain. Mechanicon is not exempt from this. I admit, sometimes, on some of the tables, the terrain was a little sparse. But in general, I think the terrain is outstanding! It is all superbly painted and a lot of it is hand crafted. There are the usual bits of broken Star Wars ships made into terrain that Mechanicon is famous for, mixed in with the standard GW pieces, plus some had crafted ones like bridges and buildings. There is the LOS blocking piece in the middle. The best part is that each terrain piece has a write up in the rules packet that explains how it is to be used. This stops people from gaming the terrain. One of the best parts is that they include gun emplacements. If you are lucky, you can scramble to an Aegis wall that has an anti air gun inside and use it! This adds an element of fun to the games.
I love Mechanicon missions. First, and perhaps most importantly, they are NOT designed for hyper competitive 40k. Mechanicon has always been the GT for those who like the hobby. If you are a flavor of the monther, win at all cost player, you may not much like some of the missions at Mechanicon. I think this is great! It changes things up and sometimes helps tip the balance of power away from those ridiculous abusive lists.
Now time for the Cons.
Yeah, I listed the low 50 dollar price under the cons. BUT, I would happily pay 100 bucks like it used to be if that would help dissuade some of the flavor of the monthers from showing up.
What does this mean? I use "Flavor of the Monther" as a descriptor for those guys who have made a living out of always playing the hardest net list they can and only going to tournaments to wreck face. Their army seems to change monthly to reflect the most abusive and broken combinations in the game and often times these armies they play are painted poorly at best, and the guys themselves are not the most fun opponents in general. It is not rare to find that these armies are not even painted by the guy playing them. (Usually those look a bit nicer as they are commissioned.)
How does this impact Mechanicon? Well when it was 125 bucks to play, that was a major investment and hurdle. This usually attracted mostly more mature veterans who are not afraid of sinking time and money into their hobby. Most of the armies that you saw on the tables were armies crafted with care and love. Every game was eye candy and every opponent was a pleasure. Mechanicon didn't really attract the power gamers. And when they did show up, they probably didn't return because they didn't like how the missions and rules may have tipped the balance away from their carefully constructed list of doom.
Well at 50 bucks, it is a lot less of a monetary investment. So we have started seeing more of the abusive lists showing up along with their players. The first effect of this is that it chases away the player base that Mechanicon became known for. Who wants to go to a GT with their fluffy beautiful army just to get stomped by 5 riptide or Eldar/Dark Eldar lists over and over? Also, I have seen a steady decline in the visual quality of the armies that people are bringing. One of my opponents playing Eldar/Dark Eldar who tabled me was playing models that were half painted. Yes, the portions that were done were VERY well done, but the army needed a LOT more work. Something you don't expect to see at Mechanicon. More on that particular army and game in a bit.
But Jawa, you played Tau! You are being a hypocrite! Well, perhaps. But, I invested over 120 hours into painting my army over the course of six months. It was one of the nicest painted armies in the room, and every one that saw it agreed that it was a balanced and fair Tau list. But yes, I still hate myself for playing it...
So sadly, a tournament that has traditionally been a place where the best of the best looking armies could show up and have fun games is being replaced by the standard net list 3 color minimum GTs of abuse. I regret to say that I have played two of my most unpleasant games in a long time this year.
By the way, some of these guys I count amongst my best 40k friends. But there is a time and place for this sort of thing, and Mechanicon has traditionally not been that place while Nova has set up a format that embraces it (The invitational) for example.
Overall I would say that the hotel was not a great value. It was a Hilton but the weekend rate was 120 bucks a night and the quality was not there. The sports bar was just awful. The first day when it was time for lunch they for some reason had just one staff member working there. They had to know that the place was going to be packed! Some food and bev manager dropped the ball. A lot of guys left in frustration after sitting there for half an hour and not even getting greeted. The hotel did not make alcholic drinks available at all really. They had another little bar that should have been open but it was unstocked and unused. Not all that big an issue, but then the hotel staff was complaining about us drinking outside beverages! How can they not provide a place for us to get beverages, then complain that we were drinking our own...
The location of the place was not great either. Northern Jersey sucks. It is trafficy and congested. There was no eatery in walking distance to the hotel, and driving out meant paying for parking and possibly driving DUI. We did manage to find a nice brew pub and had an enjoyable dinner, but in general, the Hotel deserves a low grade. Plus the rooms were too hot. It was 65-70 degrees outside but the rooms did not have working AC. I guess they turn them off. My room was hot, and the AC only spit out warm air.
But worry not, they are already looking for a new venue for next year.
My overall experience and batrep?
I got to play Ted Nagel and his Son again. Two of my favorite opponents. I look forward to seeing them each year. But my gaming experience in general was not great. And this makes me sad.
My first opponent of the GT was a Tau guy using 5 riptides and 4 Skyrays. He had Oshava, a squad of 6 fire warriors, a single suit as a tropos, another squad of suits, a named riptide, a suit buff commander. I don't even know if the list was legal, not that it really mattered. I didn't much care and was not about to make it an issue at the GT. As I understand it, if you take that named riptide from the Farsight enclave, he becomes the Oshava bodyguard... you can't take another body guard... I don't know if he did, but his army only had three troops. The 6 fire warriors, a single suit, and a squad of 3 suits. So if the 6 FW were one of his compulsory choices from his mother list, how were both of the other suit units counting as troops? Farsight made the one from the Enclave count as troops I think, but what about the single troop suit? The named riptide and the other riptide taken from the Farsight Enclave both had the Earthcaste reroll of Nova charge upgrade... not sure if that is legal either.
Needless to say the game did not go well for me. My army was outclassed. With most of his riptides rerolling every thing and ignoring cover and armor and instant killing, and then hiding behind terrain, jumping out and blasting me then hiding again, he wiped me out in two turns. That is ok, but in the process of doing so he was arguing with me about what had Line of Sight and doing questionable things with the missile racks on his tanks. As I understand hull mounted missiles, they can only fire in the direction that they are pointing. So a Hunter Seeker missile mounted on the front of the tank pointing straight ahead is dependent upon the position of the tank to fire. You cannot fire it at something behind the tank for example unless it is mounted on a turret or guided by a marker light. But in order to avoid granting me a cover save with three of the missiles of his rack he turned the turret sideways so that the ones on the right of the rack were not shooting through terrain then claimed that all six could now hit my unit and not grant cover. Then he would say something like "What is this douchy? If I am being a douche tell me..." I suppose I should have taken it up with him then and perhaps attempted a discussion about how missiles actually work, but just didn't feel like being in that situation and let it go. At this point I just clustered my units so he could kill as much of them as possible as fast as possible so the game would end.
The sad part here is that he was a nice guy. Part of the problem is he was a new player. And a lot of new players get sucked into the habit of arguing minute rules issues that veteran players just either understand, or don't care about. Like calling a judge over to decide if some of the missiles on my Skyray had LOS through ruins on his tank. There was no need to call a judge. All he had to do was get behind my missiles and look which he didn't do, instead he looked from behind his tanks to see if he could see my missiles. It doesn't work that way. Yes they could each see a part of his tank so yes they could fire, granting a cover save. But the issue went on for much longer than it should have in a game where we were both pretty certain (at least I was) that was going to end in a complete tabling.
His army? Well there were signs of nice touches. He had little crystal gems magnetized to the backs of all his rockets to signify which have fired, and he had them attached to the bases of his Riptides to indicate how many wounds they had left. Nice touch. But the army itself was not of the quality you are used to seeing at Mechanicon.
In my second game I got Chucky Nagel and his pretty Chaos army. Here is a case of a bad matchup for him. He of course had to charge me, and unfortunately for him my army is super abusive to marines within 30 inches. But we both accepted that and had a fun time playing the game. While it was wholly unfair to Chucky who would go on to win Smoking Boots, we sill enjoyed the game and crafted a story together. One heavily weighted to the glorious Tau.
Game three found me against a Chaos/Demons list with Fateweaver and other Flying Monstrous Demons and stuff. The army was pretty and the player was fun. He was chill and engaging. We had a fun game that came down to the wire. While he got the win, it was only because a single shot and subsequent failed leadership test made 4 kill points die giving him a lead I could not overcome. It was exciting and entertaining. I walked away from game three feeling satisfied and happy. We crafted a great story together!
Unfortunately though, scoring big points in game two and decent in game three matched me up against the Eldar/Dark Eldar list for game 4. He was a young and friendly kid. But his models were unfinished. He had a couple wraith knights, a huge seer council with the baron attached, a couple Venoms with troops inside. Not sure what else. There were glimmers of outstanding painting on his models, each had a beautiful flame effect. But the army just needed more time.
The game itself went badly for me. First he was another newer player. But had a "i dont care I will just punch them in the face" attitude that doesn't bode well for playing in a GT.
First here is something I am curious about. I had first turn and was trying to drop my Riptide bombs on his council which he had tightly packed behind terrain. I started laying my template over his models and he insisted that I had to lay it over their base. They were on small flying stands. Which means that the model which is easily three times the size of the stand does not matter. (I needed to touch the bases with my template, ignoring the mode.) First, I was under the impression that bikes now come with the large base flying base not the small one. Other players I have seen using them in tournaments had them on large flying bases, plus I recently just got one that came with a large base. (I could be wrong on that, but I thought it did.) So I said to him, "I'm not going to bust your balls on bases but they are supposed to be on the appropriate sized base and I think bikes now come with large. Some guys won't let you play those." His answer was "well I would just punch them in the face." Alrighty... Another case where I think the higher price point would have weeded out an opponent. The chief advantage of using small bases is that you can hide more of them behind terrain if they are on smalls.
In this instance we used the hulls of the bikes. (I only got four of them and he made 3 invul saves so it didnt matter at all) So it was a non problem. It was the response that mattered. Apparently I was flat wrong. Bikes DO now come with small bases. Or do they? Can any one comment to this?
Any way, once his squad started casting spells and moving they became nigh unkillable. It took my entire army two rounds of shooting to kill two of them. It instantly became obvious that the game was over. I broke it down for him how the next few rounds would go (him hit and running in and out of combat and wiping me out to a man without losing more than one or two models.) and conceded the objectives and game. Seeing as how he was not really engaging in conversation, or really taking part in the game at all other than to measure his distances and roll dice leaving me with a rather dull and unfun experience, it really was the best choice.
Here is a big regret for me. I was matched up against a Khorne Berzerker list with Kharne in a Land Raider and berzerkers in rhinos, a vindicator, a winged demon prince, bastion...
He obviously loved his army and I feel for him. It was very much like my old Blood Angels army that is absolutely unplayable in 6th ed. When we started the game, I warned him my army was absolutely devastating to marines within 30" but mostly harmless outside of that range. We had three objectives each, each of them counting for a secret total of points. You could hold three objective and I could hold one, but I could win because mine is worth more than your three. The deployment was the long corner to corner no mans land. I placed all three of my objectives near the same terrain piece, making it obvious where I planned on deploying. I then won the roll to go first, but gave it to him which he was thankful for. He would at least get a chance to close the distance before I started shooting...
But unfortunately that would be the last thing that went his way. He clustered his troops directly across from the terrain piece where I placed all the objectives which was in the rightish corner of my deployment zone. So what do I do? Some Tau trickery of course. Knowing that he was so close to my "bunker" he would just lob Vindicator shells at me then assault me. SO I deployed all of my stuff in the far opposite corner of my zone where was only the smallest of walls to take cover behind. My plan? Ambush. Rush his side from my left flank, and take his objectives knowing that he would come for me regardless. Only now he had to cover a lot of space in open terrain. I placed pathfinders in opportune locations to grant me marker lights but keep them out out trouble., I put my Skyray so that it would assuredly get side shots if he lined up his vindicator to pummel me, and I put my Stealth team infiltrated into the center behind LOS blocking terrain, ready to jump out and fusion gun the Land Raider.
And then dice started rolling. First he moved his rhinos up 12" and popped smoke. But sadly, his vindicator shot would scatter back onto his own rhino, and explode it. Then on my turn, the dying started. I of course lined up the zerkers standing in the crater with a template that ignored cover and scored a hit, killing them all. My sky ray hit the vindicator with a full barrage of six missiles to it's side armor, exploding it. My broadsides wiped out his heavy weapon marines on the bastion and instantly things started looking bleak. Then I displaced and moved back, leaving only small squads to suffer the charge if it came...
Next turn he could not reach with the land raider with a reliable charge so he stayed inside. Unfortunately it was in range of my stealth team. He killed some of my troops with the guns on his Bastion and held his prince back a turn to keep me from advancing into his backside. But then my stealth team jumped out and exploded the Land Raider. I hit it with enough markers to increase their BS to 10 to ensure I hit, and it did not even have a cover save any more. The explosion killed my fusion gunner, but left Kharne and all his boys to the mercy of my entire army... they would not survive.
My kroot came on and popped another rhino from behind. The squad in there would go on to kill the kroot and some pathfinders before dying to lots of missiles while my missile sides took down his Demon Prince after the prince killed a riptide (The charge was actually short but I called it close enough which my opponent happily accepted) and the game ended that was never in doubt with a full victory for me.
And I felt terrible. He knew it was coming. But his disappointment was obvious in his face. Then I heard words that I never want to hear again. My opponent said that was one of the most UNFUN games he had ever played.
Hearing an Echo here?
That is how bad Tau suck. Whether or not you are playing them, playing against them sucks. Even though my army was fair and balanced, even he agreed, it still rendered an army that he cared deeply about down to an noncompetitive joke and he hated it, and I feel for him. I hated it too.
To be fair, he did do what I warned him not to. He could have actually stayed back and held his objectives, forcing me to advance, and probably stood a chance of winning, but why would Khorne do that? Against my army he had a chance. So long as he didn't charge. That was not the game he wanted to play, and up until I made my Tau army, neither did I. We adapt or we die. I think all of us understand this to some point.
But that didn't stop the sound from resonating in my ears.
It made me realize that for that game at least, I was a hypocrite. Sure it was circumstantial and every army has bad matchups, this one was his, but I was playing an army that left him with a negative opinion. And THAT is what matters to me now after playing 40k for seven years. He admitted that it was not my fault. I was not bad to play against, but the army was just no fun to play against. That didn't make me feel any better. I won't be playing them at another GT. Instead I will be playing my Lamenters and have vowed to finish them.
So any way, to sum up all of this rambling and to try to climb off my high horse. (Tongue in cheek humor guys) Mechanicon is different from The Nova (among others). It has traditionally been the tournament where those hobby lovers with their lovingly crafted but wholly noncompetitive armies could go and play and maybe stand a chance of not getting tabled in all of their games. While there was always a smattering of them, the cut throat players tended to avoid it because they did not like the rules or the price. But with the price now a nonfactor, more of those cutthroat players with subpar armies are showing up. For the first time at Mechanicon I saw a lot of barely painted but terribly abusive armies.
I made an example of two players and I want to be fair to them. Neither of them were bad guys and both of them were newer players. I like them both as people but would not willingly play either again. I don't think that either of them understood the spirit of Mechanicon as I see it as well as most of the guys who have been there from the beginning including the organizers. And to make an example of myself, I don't think that my last opponent would ever play against me again.
So am I any better? Are we products of the armies we play?
What do our armies say about us?
In most tournaments it is irrelevant, we are there to beat face. But in a rare few like Mechanicon and DaBoyz, there are different expectations. At least for some of us.
Here are some images from Mechanicon including a few armies in display. I wish I got more, I thought I did, but most guys didn't even have them on display at all. The Nurgle Chaos army won a very much deserving Best Appearance. It was majestic. It was no coincidence that the painter waited until Mechanicon to unveil it. Well done!