With Rogue Trader Tournaments that can look like the final tables at any GT, Austin TX is known as one of the roughest 40k cities in the US. This series deals with the experiences of a new player who succumbed to the chaotic lure that is competitive 40k.
I do not know how most people begin war-gaming. I assume for some it was a logical progression from family game night. For others perhaps it was an evolution from a tabletop RPG. For me it was seeing a plastic tank on a friend’s shelf.
It was October, 2010 and I had just finished band practice when something caught my eye. Underneath a handcrafted recurve bow and between a .22 pistol and a homemade knife sat a plastic tank: Bright blood streaks were painted onto its barbed prow, an eviscerated corpse rotted on a spike, and the turret looked to be something that operated in the 40-watt range. It was a grim-dark instrument not out of place on my friend’s shelf of real weapons. “What’s this?” I asked.
My band-mate, Mike, dismissed it, “Something I painted when I was a kid, for some game.” My interest was piqued and in the ensuing conversation I learned it was called a Predator, not only that, it was a Chaos Predator, (Natch that my heavy metal guitarist would be into the daemonic) and the game was called “40k.” Two nights later I had purchased Assault on Black Reach. That weekend we carved some terrain out of Styrofoam and had repurposed his pool table.
That first game, in hindsight, was terribly great. We pounded beers. We fired blindly into never ending assaults, the game lasted until the opponent was tabled, and leadership tests were never taken. We loved it. Soon once a week on the pool table was no longer enough. I had painted a few minis. I had skimmed a forum. We were doing this all wrong. A transcript of an early email I sent to Mike reads,
Man, we need to go to a [censored] demo night some time and ask for a rules demo. I don’t understand cover or armor saves, or any [censored] thing really, like I thought I did. This rulebook is bunk.
We needed to find someone to help us learn the rules: It was time to battle a stranger in a strange place.
It turns out Austin, Texas is well known in the Competitive Warhammer 40k scene, but not at all known to rookies. As the home-base of this very website our local store’s game night regularly sees top-table names like Nick Rose, Thomas Reidy, and John Wolf (Better known in around certain parts as Darkwynn, Goatboy, and Jwolf). And there are far more at that skill level who were cast in the fires stoked by the big names who also play and win here and wherever they travel.
Fortunately for me my first game against a stranger at the FLGS was not against an unstoppable force. I played another Austinite from a non-Warhammer 40k related forum who had agreed to meet me and show me the ropes. (Hello to Counterspin from the Penny Arcade Forums.) Our game of Nids v. Orks went well. I learned about complex rules such as wound allocation, levels of cover, and assault resolution. While our game was easy going the table next to ours was heated. Two guys were actually recording a battle on camera and a crowd had gathered to watch. It occurred to me that this could be a very serious hobby. Since that realization I’ve returned week after week and thrown Orks, Space Wolves, Black Templars, Eldar, and [now] Grey Knights into a swirling maw of Blood Talons, Wyches, Psyker Battle Squads, Thunder Wolf Cavalry, and an Emperor’s Champion or two.
In this series I’ll chronicle the birth of a competitive 40k player: my first Rogue Trader Tournament, building and painting my second (third, fourth, and fifth army), early lists, Jwolf’s old man shirts, a brief detour in California, preparing for my first ever GT, Darkwynn’s Jr. Executive fighting style, ‘Ard Boyz, and beyond. Next look for my first few Ork lists and the wake-up call that was my first game against Caldera’s Dark Eldar.
What say you BoLS readers? Where is the toughest city to learn 40K in? I’d also love to know how our readers discovered the hobby. Let us know in the comments.