October 13, 2014 by brennon
This weekend just gone was Games Workshop’s attempt at a different style of celebration surrounding the hobby. The entire event was re-named Warhammer Fest, it was held over two days (on both Saturday and Sunday) and appeared at a different venue from the standard Birmingham arenas that it’s been held at in the past. So, what did I think of it?
Warhammer Fest Venue
I should preface my opinions on the event by saying that because of illness I wasn’t able to attend the event on Sunday but I have talked with friends who attended on the second day and got their opinions on it to coincide with my own from the Saturday. Don’t worry, there will be nice Golden Daemon pictures later on!
So, let’s get on with it. The first thing to talk about would be the venue itself. The Ricoh Arena is an interesting venue that’s become very popular of late. Video game shows and more have been held there and generally it’s a nice space. It’s clean, modern and a lot more comfortable than something like the NEC or NIA. Despite that however it’s a bit more of a pain to get to if you’re trying to make it there using public transport. It’s just far away enough from the train station in Coventry to make it a taxi or bus ride on top of the train. For those driving in however it’s not such a problem.
Warhammer Fest was then split between three floors and I think we’ll go through my impressions of each in turn. On the ground floor was the sales area and the Black Library room. The sales area was pretty much as you’d have seen at previous events with the big long winding lanes for people to stand in, on the Saturday it wasn’t particularly jam packed and the Sunday was fairly easy to navigate too making it a lot more of an enjoyable experience. Instead of two hours waiting to buy something it took less than ten minutes.
The sales area however did bring up my first rather disappointing moment. From how it had been described in the run up to the event, and even within the program, I thought the Humbling of Settra was going to be an awesome mega battle that stretched over a range of different tables and would have people crowding around it all fighting sections of the battle.
Sadly this wasn’t the case. The mega-battle was confined to one small table in the sales area and it all felt a bit of a let down. I reckoned the focus would have been on trying to make people feel like they were playing as Nagash himself rather than a small part of the bigger picture but it just didn’t have the kind of pomp and ceremony I would have liked from a big signature battle. The miniatures looked nice though.
The second floor was given over to the White Dwarf, Citadel Design and Art team. Once again it felt like it wasn’t as celebratory as it could have been. The Art area of the room was alright but nothing overly special. It was nice looking at the evolution of things like Dark Eldar, Space Hulk and the Undead but it all felt a bit lacking – as if they’d wanted to bring more but hadn’t. Chats with the White Dwarf and Citadel teams however were really fun and the smaller numbers meant you could have a good conversation with the team members. This would be one of the main good points I would raise about the event. It was a lot more personal, despite its rather lack lustre appearance, meaning you could actually engage with the different teams.
On the top floor was Forge World and some more demo pods showing off different techniques. This was also where Golden Daemon was situated on the Sunday. This was decidedly the best floor to be on. The Forge World team as always bought out all the stops with loads of amazing looking miniatures to check out, some great chat about their work and some lovely tables packed with miniatures.
Demo Pod Demonstrations
On all of the different floors were Demo Pods showing off different painting and modelling techniques that you could use on your miniatures. There have been conflicting opinions on exactly how good these were and I can see why. I sat in on one of them on the second floor and it was engaging and interesting with a lot to talk about.
The demonstrations on the bottom floor and up with Forge World however didn’t seem as big a draw and I’ve heard folks talk of not being able to see what was going on and it generally being rather boring as a result. I think if you were really into the particular techniques being shown off they’d be worth the time but they felt a little more miss than hit. It’s genuinely an interesting avenue to pursue at an event but I think it lost a bit of the magic at times.
Some of the best things at previous Games Days have been the seminars and once again Games Workshop and Forge World didn’t disappoint. I attended the Forge World one and they talked about loads of new releases, their design decisions going forward, and even took some rather good questions from the crowd too making it a nice open discussion.
In terms of what we found out at the seminars the Forge World team are bringing out a lot of very nice stuff in the future. The Ultramarines are getting some very cool looking miniatures and the Chaos Forces have turned up looking lovely too. A Chaos Knight is also on the cards and the new book will begin to fill in more of the story away from the Black Library novels. The big draw was the Solar Auxilia and the way they’re developing them is an exciting twist on the Astra Militarum of the period. These are expansionists who, while not as powerful as the Space Marines, are a force to be reckoned with. They are aggressive but in a ranged capacity and unlike the standard Imperial Guard don’t just sit back. They’re getting a very cool super heavy in the future too!
People who had attended the Black Library talks also said they enjoyed it and it was a good way of engaging with the authors and focusing in on some of the great things about the Horus Heresy. This does bring up an interesting point on the focus on these talks. It was more or less all focused in on Warhammer 40,000 or the Heresy itself with Fantasy not really getting a look in at all. A bit of a downer for me as I prefer the Fantasy range a lot more!
Here is the bit I wasn’t able to go to but Golden Daemon was said to be really great this year. The photographer who took the images below said that the smaller setting with less people meant it was great for people to try and browse the miniatures on display. Once again it was a more subdued affair but this meant people who were really interested in what was on display were able to check things out in more detail. It certainly didn’t appear to have the levels of excitement that surrounded previous competitions but there was no shortage of offerings.
Let’s check out some more of the entries…
Warhammer Fest Worth It?
So was it worth it? I don’t think that spreading it out over two days was entirely needed. On the Saturday there were some interesting things to do but it felt like after a few hours you were at a bit of a loss. Some people were leaving by as early as midday after they’d seen the Forge World talk. Sunday was a different affair and from the sounds of it the draw of Golden Daemon meant that people stayed around a lot longer and took their chance to keep checking back to see how certain entries were doing. There never seemed to be enough people there however to justify making it something that could be done over two days. Turning up on the Sunday and doing everything in one still seemed like the best option making the first day a bit of a pointless endeavour.
I could see a reason for them spreading it out over two days being that it allowed people to come when it was easier for them but if that were the case then retaining Golden Daemon to just one day meant going on Saturday felt like a raw deal. Run Golden Daemon on the Saturday and spread the judging over two days potentially if they want to keep running it like this.
All in all I think that Warhammer Fest 2014 was a stop gap exercise by Games Workshop for next year. With Warhammer World being re-designed right now to make it a bigger space it makes sense that next year Warhammer Fest would be held in Nottingham. This would, I think, clearly be the best idea as it keeps the event at the heart of Warhammer and allows them to use their existing Citadel Hall of Fame, the tournament space, and Bugman’s Bar. They’d be making a lot more money out of it too simply by not having to rent out a venue.
The more personal touch with limited numbers was grand and all but it still felt a bit sparse. It all felt, as I mentioned before, like a trial run style stop gap before they can solidify where its going to be next year. There never seemed to be enough exciting things to do (especially when you consider how big participation games have been missing for a few years now) and see compared to past years and the idea of it being a celebration of all things Warhammer fell a little short.
My prediction for next year? It will be held at Warhammer World in Nottingham, will be back to a Sunday (or Saturday) only affair and will make use of their home venue.
Golden Daemon photographs from the Geek Photographer!
What did you think of Warhammer Fest?