Hello everyone, SaltyJohn here to bring you a run down of my time as a Head Judge at the 2018 Las Vegas Open!
First off a huge thank you to Reece, Frankie, and the whole crew at FLG for putting together a convention of this size. The fact that it keeps growing year after year is testimony to how well organized and well run it all is. This was my second year as a head judge for the Warhammer 40k events, with a focus on the almost 500 player Championship Event. As a judge and simply an attendee of this marquee event in the 40k calendar I wanted to put together an article of my thoughts on what went on at LVO and perhaps some thoughts on the future of Competitive 40k with those observations in mind. If you follow TFG Radio on Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube then you already know we did our LVO 2018 wrap up episode last night with special guest, and fellow #REKT team mate, Jeff Poole who made it to the top 8. The video of the Twitch cast is embedded below and if you prefer our Twitch Casts as Podcasts then head on over to iTunes, your podcast app of choice, or click here the episode is live!
I am going to break down my LVO experience into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good, obviously was what came out of it that was good, the bad is more like things that are easily corrected or on average fine, the ugly is stuff I disliked. The last category is, thankfully, quite small.
- 8th edition rules. Luckily 8th edition proved to be truly less complex in terms of rules, I say luckily because we definitely could have used another judge or 2, especially on Sunday. Most of the judge calls were questions about the missions and terrain, rather than the rules of 8th edition itself. To me this means that the simplified 8th edition rules make it easier for players to grasp the rules and to settle disputes on the rules themselves rather than needing an outside arbitrator.
- Players know the rules. This is similar to the above but I put it separately because I noticed a significant increase in the number of players in the 40k champs who really understood their rules and knew their stuff compared to last year at LVO during the waning days of 7th edition. It was refreshing to walk up to tables and have players be able to accurately and succinctly articulate the rules issues they are having. It makes being a judge an easier, and more pleasant, experience. I attribute some of this to a popular reading rainbow based meme:
- The space and terrain. The Bally’s hall we hold the 40k events in is great, and the vendors hall plus other gaming space is equally great. It’s well lit, clean, with free water all over. There’s space for both GW and FLG to have their Live Streams set up near the Judges table and still be cordoned off enough to eliminate too much “fishbowl” effect. The tables were, once again, great and getting better. The terrain looks amazing, and having the terrain match the FLG Mats makes the event look really slick; furthermore the terrain is done in such a way that it makes the game more competitive, by helping mitigate the First Turn dominance effect to a certain degree. A great venue, and nice tables are the first and most important steps to having happy players, and happy players make great events.
- Army diversity. Walking the hall over the course of the weekend, for a total of well over 20 miles of walking, I got to see most of the armies people brought. There seemed to be a lot of different armies in the field, much more diversity than last year. The 2017 LVO was dominated by Riptide Wings, Wraithknights, and Battle Companies. The mix this year was much better. I credit the edition still being relatively new along with the constantly changing meta due to the rapid fire release of codices, FAQs, Errata, etc. This is a good thing for the game overall; the more diverse the field the more inclusive the events are and the larger they can grow. Diversity in faction can also translate to a more competitive environment in which the TAC, or Take All Comers, list is required over the lists tailored to deal with the 3 most common builds.
- Army Quality. What I mean by this is the visual quality of the armies markedly increased this year over previous years. The fact we continued what began at So Cal Open of enforcing the long running painting requirements for being in the event went a long way to making an event with a distinctly better quality of army appearance. For the vast majority of players the game experience can hinge upon the visual nature of the game in regards to their opponents army being painted and based to a certain standard. The quality of this on the whole was vastly improved over previous years, and I hope changes can be made to make it even better in the future. While we had a few instances of specific models being pulled for not meeting the criteria, or a few models that were simply being played as one thing with no conversions attempted it was rare in a field of almost 500. There was one notable exception where the majority of an army was not up to the requirements but on the whole players were respectful of us enforcing the requirements. With a single exception.
- Food and Drink. This year the food was reduced in price, which was great, and the alcohol continued to flow in Vegas like quantities. While the restriction on outside food and drink remained, that caveat stung less given the more reasonable prices of food this year. As far as con food goes it was good as well!
- The BCP. BCP App struggles in Round 1 and then the debacle with the Round 2 info getting accidentally deleted wasn’t so great. To their credit the BCP guys remained 100% professional in the face of what could have been a major disaster, and salvaged the day handily. The remainder of the weekend went very smoothly with the App and by Sunday the memory of the hour and a half delay in day 1 due to BCP issues was an almost forgotten part of the weekend for many people. The App and BCP will only continue to improve as they are consummate professionals, which was on display Friday for the entire 40k Champs to see.
- Time. The problem of games not finishing, or only going a few turns continues to be a problem in 8th. While I think it is more common right now due to the edition still being new, and rules coming out rapid fire, it is certainly something that needs to be watched. Many players were explaining to their opponents how their games at LVO were some of their first of 8th edition, and while it’s awesome to have new players, it is also the responsibility of those newer players to insure they play at a decent clip to give their opponents the opportunity to play a full, and fulfilling, game.
- Sportsmanship. There were a few problematic sportsmanship related problems. This is a really sticky situation in terms of how to approach it from a community and judges perspective. If you go the European route and implement a red and yellow card system with actual repercussions for going back on things like gentleman’s’ agreements in regards to player intention you could end up with players trying to get their opponents flagged for penalties incorrectly. There’s a reason why men’s soccer is rife with men flopping around on the ground like kindergartners when an opposing players touches their sleeve with the nail on their pinky finger. Hopefully a meaningful discussion can be had around the concepts of time and Sportsmanship and changes implemented in future events.
- For me there really isn’t anything that fits this category from LVO 2018. I think the only thing that’s ugly is the dominance of Eldar in the top 8. If I remember correctly there wasn’t a single Eldar in the bottom 90 players. So there may be an imbalance issue but not enough of one for me to put Eldar into the Ugly category.
Eldar and Chaos
Ok, you know I wasn’t going to let it go with just the above statement. So Eldar had a clearly strong finishing in the top 8 but also in the field in general. I don’t think this is only due to the strength of the Eldar codex, nor do I believe it is an indicator of Eldar being OP and in need of nerfs from Games Workshop. If you watched, or listened to, our pre-LVO show on TFG Radio you’ll have heard my prediction that no Primarchs would make it into the top 8. I was correct on this. My reasoning behind this was most people were using the ability to beat the Primarch lists as the benchmark of a list being viable. Much like how the checklist of a good list in 7th was if you could effectively deal with Eldar, Wolftide, Battle Company etc; the measuring the stick for the meta running up to LVO was if you could deal with a the Primarch lists. This helped Eldar dominance in two ways. The first is Eldar are quite good at dealing with the Primarch lists, and the second is lists that are good at dealing with Primarch lists aren’t great at dealing with Eldar lists. This effect is compounded in the current meta where not all the codices have been released. Personally I believe that with Dhrukari, Tau, and Necrons coming out soon we’ll see a shift in the meta away from the Eldar dominance that was on display at the Las Vegas Open without a need to nerf them.
I decided to put this outside the structure of the good, the bad, and the ugly, because it doesn’t override what I said earlier about the painting/modelling requirements being good and an overall boon to the event and the scene as a whole. Rather, this is more an addendum to those thoughts and observations. While the guidelines and process of having conversions approved helped quite a bit in regards to terrible “counts as” or “conversions” at the LVO there were still enough questionable ones that I must reiterate a previous stance of mine. I personally think the time of conversion, proxy, and counts as armies in competitive 40k needs to come to an end. If you want to bring that to Narrative, Friendly, Apocalypse, or RTT events that’s fine but in the hyper competitive environment of Championship events I think if there’s a model for it, you should be required to use it. I know that’s an unpopular opinion and hopefully with continued enforcement of the painting and modelling requirements my stance on this will become unnecessary.
The Las Vegas Open 2018 was an amazing convention filled with great events, good people, and fun times. Staying up until 3:30am Saturday morning probably wasn’t one of my better ideas, but it was Vegas and is something you really would only do at a 40k that’s held in Las Vegas! I can’t wait to see what improvements can be made for next year and I’m excited to come back to Head Judge again if Reece and Frankie want me to.
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