a guest piece by the BoLS Lounge’s tireless Mod: Duke
Let’s talk pilgrimage! Perhaps the greatest trek never told is the convention/ tournament pilgrimage. Today we’re going to go over some of the finer points on how to get ready for traveling to tournaments.
Throughout history groups of people have packed up their stuff (or left it behind) and started on a long journey to something at the center of their world… The Imperial cult make pilgrimage to Holy Terra, the ancient Greeks made pilgrimage to the Oracle at Delphi and modern Americans have a shorter pilgrimage to the Refrigerator.
I’m not going to go over how to get your army list in competitive shape, or how to paint quickly so your army is to the three color standard. All of those topics are for other articles. This article is mostly targeted to those people who want to travel but may have questions or haven’t traveled to a games convention before.
Rule 1: Don’t Forget your Stuff
I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often this happens. Recently my friends and I packed in the car to head out to Austin for War-Games Con. We all worked tirelessly on our armies, we did conversions, custom bases, freehand, checkers all over the place and blending to the extreme. We were all proud of our armies. Jokingly one of my buddies said as we are getting in the car, “did everyone do the OH CRAP check?” As it turns out he forgot to do the “OH CRAP check,” when we got to the hotel he was going through his bag he noticed he forgot: 3 razorbacks, two turrets on his predators and other misc items. Trust me when I say that he said a little more than “oh crap!” luckily we were able to borrow some space goats (thanks Goat Boy)… But it was almost a tournament ending disaster for him. Now you’re asking, “Duke, how do I prevent this madness from happening to me?” well here are a few suggestions from myself and a few fellow veteran gamers.
– Tear a piece of paper into several parts; on each piece write one of your units. Take these pieces of paper and tape them to the spots that they will fill in the battle foam/army transport you are taking. Alternatively, you can go over your army list like a checklist with a friend or two. Trade off each other’s army and try to check that each and every model listed is present. A fresh set of eyes can never hurt!
– Do not take additional trays beyond what you need. My friend found that in the place of his Razorbacks was some Tau… It’s very easy to think you have everything when the bag “feels/looks full.”
– Buy Battle Foam or Sabol or other carrying bag. Using boxes and such can get messy and it is very easy to forget stuff. I know they can be pricey, but it is an investment that pays dividends. Plus stuff breaks a lot easier on the road trip if all you have to protect your stuff is the air. Also a nice custom foam tray looks a lot less suspicious to a TSA agent!
-If flying “DO NOT CHECK YOUR ARMY!” I cannot stress this enough. I’m sure many of you have a story of some crazy friend checking an army and it making it without a scratch through the maze of the airport baggage system, but trust me. For every success story there are 8 more stories of armies being lost, partially stolen or just plain annihilated! Plus by bringing everything you need to play as a carryon, if your luggage is stolen you will only lose some clothes and a display board. Neither of which are vitally important to a convention experience, especially for you less hygienic people (You know who you are).
Rule 2: Look at the “Costs”
In economics we talk about something called “opportunity cost,” put simply it is the cost of doing one thing instead of another. When considering whether or not to fly or drive think about the time it actually takes to drive. During our 24 hour drive to Austin most of us agreed heavily that it would have been better to fly and save the pain of a really long drive. Most of the time it is cheaper to drive to an event especially when traveling in a group of four or more to an event 16 hours or less away. However, remember that a bad travel experience can really take a great event and put a dark spot on it. Sometimes it is better to pony up the cash and relax on the plane. To put it simply, a lot of the costs and benefits in a traveling medium aren’t of a monetary manner.
-How tired will you be after driving, how much mileage will you put on the car, can the vehicle make the trip (it sucks being stuck in the middle of nowhere!), will you be ready for the drive back?
-If flying you should consider the following; are you traveling alone or in a group? Will your bag fit as a carry-on in the plane? How tight is the airport security? How are you going to transport things like glue and paints? How much will parking at the airport cost? Will you need to rent a car?
Rule 3: Decide Early
– If you put off deciding to go your registration costs can go up, and your cost for airfare rises significantly.
-Planning early means you can get more people involved, nothing says “awesome trip,” like showing up to an out of state convention and having a dozen people you know there!
-It’s a lot easier to get time off if you ask a couple of months in advance, not only that, but it shows your boss that you plan months ahead of time!
Rule 4: Don’t be THAT Guy!
– So you have decided to make the road trip and drive. Don’t be the guy who didn’t shower for a week before. Brush your teeth often, wear deodorant and it is never cool to fart in a car (well sometimes…).
– If flying, don’t fight with your friends over the aisle/window/middle seat…you’re gamers, roll a d6 and the winner gets the seat of choice.
Rule 5: Be THAT Guy
– If driving, offer to drive when people don’t want to. Buy snacks for everyone to share.
– If flying, wait for your friends after security if they get checked. If flying bring a white dwarf or codex that is accessible so you can show the security guard what it is that you’re packing (they do ask sometimes.)
Rule 6: Plan the Route and Plan it Again
– We went 6 hours out of the way because we didn’t do this. Yes we had multiple GPS and all that, but double checking never hurts.
– Use Google maps to see where you should fuel up. If we hadn’t had some advice from a friend we probably would have either had to make a 3 hour detour, or run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
– If you’re taking your army as carry on plan more time at security, some airports are pickier than others. I mentioned this earlier, but it makes things go a lot smoother so I will mention it again. Make sure you have something like a White Dwarf or Codex or similar publication in your bag if you’re going to check an army.
Rule 7: Display Boards?
– Email the tournament organizer and see what kind of (if any) display boards they suggest. Sometimes you don’t need one at all. If this is the case pack only a piece of hard board to transport the army around.
– Use a display board that is thin and can fit into your suit case. It is even better if the display board can fit into the army carrier.
-Don’t bring a huge board, something just large enough to transport your guys from table to table and set them up on for painting. A huge board is a pain in the ass to carry around the convention hall!
Rule 8: Pack Properly
– Your bags should be a backpack with your clothes and a carry on army bag. There are many army bags that fit the requirements for carry-on, however double checking the airlines bagging policies should be done like voting, early and often! Your display board/carrying tray should also fit into the army bag or alternatively into a hard sided suitcase that you check.
– Taking a car doesn’t mean you can take whatever you want. You should still try to pack like you’re going flying.
– Only one person needs to bring the painting/modeling supplies. You don’t need 5 sets of paint, brushes, etc. This goes into “being that guy.”
-If you’re only going for the weekend event, you can pack light, really light. A backpack should suffice, plus if you bring a backpack you can carry around your army books and lists without a hassle during the event.
Rule 9: Have fun!
– Our Austin road trip was an absolute blast! Yes we would have done things differently. But all in all it was one of the best experiences in my gaming life. There are inside jokes that we will never forget (Alllrrright!) and games that we will be talking about for years. Some of the conversations 5 gaming geeks cover in a 40 hour round-trip is the stuff of ballads and epic poems (sometimes literally). If it is not something that you have ever done, you need to do it soon! Get your buddies together and plan to do one or two next year.
So what’s your best and worst gaming travel experience?