This weekend saw Manchester host Warhammerfest, the premier event in GW’s event calendar, and as it’s 10mins from where I live it was a no-brainer for me to go. I signed up and paid £70 to take part in the AOS tournament, advertised as a 3 day GT. I briefly considered paying the additional cash (I think an extra £70) to upgrade to a premium ticket which said included extra stash but was worried that it would just be stuff from the shelves that GW couldn’t shift, and there was banter in the group chat about one person going for the VIP Golden Throne ticket @ £1,080 but without details of what you’d actually get in the goodie bag that was shelved pretty quickly.
Myself and the MAD gang (MAD being the gaming group in Manchester I’m a member of) were all excited in advance of the big day and lots of chat ensued over what armies we’d be running, expectations of the event and how we’d do in the tournament. As always I suffered the indecision of what faction and list to take so I decided to roll for it and it came up KO (spoiler alert: not the first time over the weekend the dice would fuck me). The day before the event GW emailed out entry times and this set twitter ablaze before the doors had even opened. It appeared that people with single day entry couldn’t get access till 10am, the exact time that the new 40k reveals would be happening! Understandably people were incensed they wouldn’t be able to get in and have a chance at watching one of the two biggest things happening in the world of 40k that weekend (the other being a chance to try out the new 40k edition).
Pre-event registrations were the day before the ‘Fest opened so myself and a mate headed over at 5pm to pre-register to save time the following day. We picked up our wristbands and Alex got his “premium” goodie bag, and I got my standard entry pack. My bag had:
- Pin badge
- Name lanyard
- £10 GW voucher
- Event pack with laminated cards printed from the GHB with the battle plans and maps
- Warhammerfest poker chips
- a tote bag
Alex’s premium bag had more stuff as was to be expected:
- Faction dice (40k – so useless for him as an AOS player)
- Water bottle
- The event mini exclusives – a 40K Commissar and a S2D model
- Mouse mat (why??? Seriously why?)
- Event exclusive coin
Alex was a bit underwhelmed with his extra bits for £70 and whilst he could have sold his event mini’s on eBay to probably recoup the cost, he gave away the Commissar to a friend just cause he’s a nice guy. The £10 GW voucher seemed a nice touch until you read the small print and saw you needed to spend at the ‘Fest and had to be a minimum spend of £25. The poker chips were probably the best bit of the pack and I’ll probably use them as Command Point tokens. The main thing was we were pre-registered so this would mean quicker entry the following day!
The tournament kicked off with a briefing at 9am, with doors for tournament players opening at 8am, MAD all decided to arrive at various different times with myself and Alex feeling confident that we’d be able to fast track in as we had our wristband already. Alex arrived earliest and messaged saying that there were big queues forming already, and it turned out pre-registering wouldn’t be saving us anytime after all, so not sure what the point of it was tbh. My tram passed by the Convention centre and I was able to see the “Queues” for the first time and unfortunately not the last. There was a separate queue for Tournament players and it was long, and slow moving. Panic started to set in that we might not get in for the 9am briefing. As we approached the front of the queue we could see that they had event security staff checking bags on entry, and obviously everyone in the Tournament queue had a bag. I’ve zero issue with the due diligence and need for searching bags, I did have issue with there only being 4 staff doing this searching. As someone who has worked in event management I would have deployed maximum staff on this entry point as the Tournament ticket holders actually had a hard deadline of when they needed to be in and would all have bags, unlike the other queues. It was an unnecessary stress point in advance of tournament play and could easily have been solved. I think in total there were 4 or 5 different entry points depending on what ticket you held and on Saturday all were jam packed.
Once inside it was your standard convention centre but with loads of Warhammer props placed around, various statues and “zoned areas”. There were some hanging banners signposting to various bits and we had to walk through the main throng to get to the tournament tables at the back of the hall. The biggest area seemed to be given over to the Shop and there was a queue for people to walk past and view the Golden Daemon entries, and a longer queue to see the new 40k game in action. There were 5 tables with 6 or 7 people crammed around each table watching GW event staff showcase the new game in a tiny area. As this was the premier attraction for the event (imho anyway) it seemed odd that they didn’t have a larger area and more tables dedicated to this. It also seemed poor layout design having the shop, 40k showcase and Golden Daemon all next to each other, concentrating footfall into one area.
Back to the tournament then, we checked in on BCP, found our tables and games ensued. The terrain was ok, better than some of the tournaments I’ve been to but I was surprised they didn’t have any terrain rules in play and it was left up to players to decide. The tables themselves were FAR too low and as a 6ft 3′ player this ruined me, they were adequately spaced out though and there was no “bum-to-bum” action which was great and meant you could easily get around. Humidity in the hall was pretty bad and I was glad of wearing shorts (my standard tournament wear anyway), it’s a good job the event was in spring not summer as I’d have probably been sweating even more. You could order drinks and snacks to the table using a QR code which was great as there were queues at all the food points. There were plenty of judges walking around in Yellow Judging t-shirts and there were senior GW games people involved in this so you were getting RAI for sure if you needed it. At one point I collared Matt Rose, lead game designer for GW, and asked him to return Gnoblars to 100 points, I’m not sure he was convinced as he thinks they’re one of the best screens in the game but he took it in good humour. He was happy to chat about AOS with anyone who wanted to and from my point of view I thought the judging and judges did a good job at the tables (counterpoint: a couple of people I know had some issues relating to their games, and felt the judging was too soft touch and not wanting to piss off people). After round 1 it turned out multiple people hadn’t read the pack and had played the new SGBL and OBR books. GW staff had copies of the old books printed out and gave these out to people to play old rules. I know there is a responsibility for people to read the pack but there should have been a list submission cut off point and lists checked for validity surely to avoid feel-bads.
I finished my game fairly quickly (this was a theme for all but one game) and we headed away from the ‘Fest to a local pub for lunch as we couldn’t face queuing for drinks and food at convention centre. We chose not to engage with any of the various side stalls because, yes you guessed it, of the queues. In fact let’s just deal with the main issue with the event, queuing. The event just didn’t have enough to do and the popular sections were just jam packed with people waiting to engage. Having lunch at the pub with mates was sadly one of the highlights of my weekend, and there was half joking comments about just staying there.
My final game of the day I played against a nice guy but his army wasn’t fully painted. He did have three colours on each model but there wasn’t full coverage on his models and lots and lots of white space. I don’t say this to name and shame but it is another example of the soft touch judging as GW clearly didn’t want to disqualify someone who was a customer. It was a long ass day and I went home physically broken with my back screaming in agony. I finished 1-2 for the day, and coming to the re-realisation I’m not a smart enough player to pick up an army without any real reps and do well with them.
After Queue-fest(TM) on the Saturday we all decided to head in early to ensure getting in with plenty of time. I arrived early and there was a mid sized queue but I was in within 15 mins. Walking past the 40k exhibition game I heard one of the event staff saying that there was a 3hr wait from the point they were standing. A 3 FUCKING HOUR WAIT – The venue had only been open 15 minutes. Why the hell didn’t they have 30 or 40 tables for their brand new game system. It seemed a massive own goal, unfortunately just one of many.
The AOS tournament was a three day, 8 game event and there was plenty of confusion about how this worked as the standard UK GT format is 5 games over 2 days. The pack said that after game 5 players would put into a bracket and then play in their bracket. Day 1 would see a best overall player awarded based on paint and gaming scores with a prize of a Golden Ticket. We were actually put into brackets after game 4 and so played into people with a similar gaming record. If you then won all your games in your bracket and were outside of the top 16 you’d get a certificate to say so. At this point my gaming record was a disaster and I made a decision that unless I won game 5 and 6 I wouldn’t play day 3 as my back and knee were really screwed at this point (For context: I’m waiting on an operation on my knee and have a torn meniscus. The consistent bending down to put my models away etc aggravated it really badly). I won Game 5 comfortably and then just played like a chump game 6 deciding to put a frigate the wrong side of the screen and when I failed a re-rollable 3d6 charge I was struggling to hang on in the game, losing 23-18.
2 of us decided to stick around for the awards as Alex had got a painting nomination and was in with a chance of best overall or best painted. It took ages for them to crunch the numbers (in reality they only ran late by about 20 mins but it had been a long weekend). They announced that painting scores and gaming scores were split 50/50 for the decider of “Best Overall”. At this stage no one had any idea who might win. One of the 6-0 players had a painting nom so could be in the running, Alex had a 4-2 score and a painting nom so he could be in the running. Neither of them did get the nod and a player with a 4-2 win rate was announced. The winner for AOS wasn’t around to collect their award and there was a slight look of confusion on most players faces as people struggled to work out how it was calculated as there was nowhere to see combined scores. Awards handed out, I trudged home reflecting on a poor weekend of gaming and a poor fest.
Overall I was left throughly underwhelmed by the event. There were some good points but as someone reflected in the group chat, its just felt like a big GW store, rather than the flagship GW event of the year. Queuing and lack of things to do were my main gripe with the event. Prices for food and drink wasn’t cheap but probably on par with most “Fest’s”. Social media has been quite scathing about the event as well, and allegedly GW staff were told to just avoid social media this weekend for their own Mental Health, and I get that as most of them will have worked their arses off and it is hard to see criticism in real time. Horus Heresy players were apparently left feeling short-changed after having just 2 games per day and 4hr round times which were unnecessary as 3hrs would be fine.
On the gaming side there isn’t much for me to say, I went 2-4 with KO (keeping the meta win rate down, thank me later), playing shit and forgetting core abilities and needing to check rules etc too often. I may do a write up at some point about the benefit of reps and decision fatigue and the impact it can have on gaming and experiences. On the whole I had great opponents and I loved hanging out with friends as always and talking Hobby. I’m looking forward to my next tournament and I’m heading back to Destruction and it’s warm comfort.
I wouldn’t personally attend a Warhammerfest again (one team mate said they’d never attend a GW event or tournament again) and if I’d paid additional money for a hotel and travel I’d probably be pretty furious with the experience this morning. I’d say a rating of D+ would be appropriate, with GW needing to do better on infrastructure, attractions and layout to make this a worthwhile experience.
3 thoughts on “Doing Lines in Manchester: A Review of WarhammerFest”
Nice review of the event, shame your top post picture is not of the actual event but rather in London
I paid for a 3 day gt 40k,left after first day, I would never return to a fest. To overcrowded, queues for hours for everything, also Bag checking everytime I went for a smoke outside, stood waiting for hours to get food missed the second game because of it, I got moved first game to a twitch live table, had no qr code to get food brought to me, had no other choice. I contemplated coming back Sunday, had to also park a mile away from complex and trek it in, no parking spaces left, just a bad experience, I will only stick with warhammer world events going forward.
I enjoyed it personally and will be back next year.