This Week in the ITC: Bay Area Open Shake Up and Interview with Mike Brandt!

Hello, fellow Warhammer 40k fans! SaltyJohn from TFG Radio, and one of the Las Vegas Open Head Judges, here to bring you a wrap up of this week in the ITC!

Well, the Bay Area Open is in the books and it shook up the standings a bit and provided us our first real look at a meta featuring full usage of the Imperial Knights codex! As I predicted in other articles from this series the impact of Imperial Knights was loud, they came stomping into the BAO with their Titanic Feet and while their win percentage wasn’t abnormally high, they did quite well. The winner of the Bay Area Open was Don Hooson, who has spent much of this ITC season stomping around the top 10 and holding on tightly to the top Death Guard player. I came in second, also going 6-0 like Don, with Imperial Knights and Astra Militarum. It should be noted that while Don was Death Guard he did have some Renegade Knights in his list!

Unlike many on the interwebs recently I don’t think that there is a huge impending nerf coming for Imperial/Renegade Knights. I think there is a nerf inbound on the CP farms that have become very popular in the competitive ITC meta and it is probably a warranted nerf. With Don Hooson, Geoff Robinson, Daniel Olivas, and Mitch Pelham all attending and doing well at the BAO, and all being in striking distance of the top 10 in the ITC it should come as no surprise that the top ten got a bit of a shake up this week! While no one has yet usurped Matt Root and Josh Death in the top 2 there has been significant movement below them.

Geoff climbs into 3rd from 4th, Don Hooson is catapulted back into the top 10 into 5th, and Mitch and Daniel both sink 1 spot each as a result of Don’s stellar performance at the Bay Area Open with a rather unconventional list! Some more movement was underway as a result of the BAO in some other faction standings as well.

Aaron Wisch, who also performed very well at the BAO as one of the few Dark Angels players in attendance and who is an excellent DA player who is well known on the West Coast, really consolidated his lead for the best Dark Angels player thanks to the Bay Area Open. Don Hooson’s win shot him into a solid lead for Best Death Guard player. Geoff Robinson’s performances at the BAO also helped him put an even tighter hold on his faction in the race for the “best of Custodes” prize! All three won the Best of their faction prize at the Bay Area Open, perhaps foreshadowing the results that might come at the end of the season at the Las Vegas Open.

There was also some significant changes in the team standings as a result of the BAO. A few of the top contenders last year finally broke into the top 30 and began a run at repeating their performance.

Last year’s third and fourth place teams #REKT and RelentlessD respectively both have cracked into the top 30 at this point. Last year they were neck and neck for 3rd place all the way down to the LVO with #REKT barely squeaking by on the performance of Jeff Poole coming in 8th. This could be the beginning of a great race for the best West Coast team again this year between these two. Both teams were helped by solid performances from their team players at BAO. Both teams had 3 players in the top 15 with Nikhil Sinha getting the highest placing for Relentless D running Ynnari/Dhrukahri and I got the best score for #REKT.

With NOVA right around the corner, I took the opportunity to discuss the NOVA with its founder and CEO Mike Brandt!

Question 1: How long has your event, in this case, the Open and Invitational, been going? This will be the 10th year in which we’ve run a late summer event, and the 9th year with the official title “NOVA Open.” It started with the GT, so this is the 9th year of the GT!

Question 2: Why did you originally organize this event? The answer is a bit complicated. I started the event b/c I can’t seem to help myself when it comes to building things, and because I wanted to leverage my hobby to give back to meaningful causes – the NOVA Open has always been about charity. But the 40K GT really was organized and evolved in reaction to a gap I felt there was in the tournament scene. I attended a major 256 player Grand Tournament at a convention in 2010, went 3-0 in only 3 rounds of play, and placed 7th competitively. Meanwhile, the winner faced 3 soft matches that he easily maxed BP on. Battle Point tournaments were the norm back then, and AdeptiCon’s updated format, FLG/Team Zero Comp’s events didn’t exist yet, etc. So, in August of that year we hosted really the first meaningful event to feature a long-round format and an emphasis on simple w/l/d over BP. We also focused hard on the early elements of win path pairing to push better sportsmanship than simple Swiss-paired events are capable of achieving, and ensured Best Overall remained very heavily focused on all elements of the hobby (sportsmanship, appearance, gaming). Innovative format design, careful and self-critical mission design, and ensuring our event felt welcoming to all player types were key core principles.

Question 3: How has your event changed over the course of it existing? Well, it went from a picnic table 32-man tournament to a near-3,000 attendee wargaming convention. So, it’s changed pretty dramatically. The GT itself changes every year as the meta changes, as mission innovations are introduced from the modern wargaming scene to keep from resting on laurels, as we integrate and work more with Games Workshop through the testing and advance planning process to ensure we’re prepared for coming trends, and more.

Question 4: Where is your event located? Why do you like this location? We’re located in Washington, DC, more or less. Crystal City is a 6-minute metro ride to Arlington National Cemetery and a 10-minute metro ride to the Washington Monument (Smithsonian Station). We’re located next to Reagan National Airport and the Potomac River. Washington, DC has an amazing nightlife, free museums, free monuments, and is one of the cleanest and prettiest cities in the country. The NOVA itself is located in the gorgeous Hyatt Regency Crystal City, which we take over completely (over 70,000 square feet of event space). We bring in food trucks galore that rotate in and out along a reserved street out front all weekend long. We convert a former restaurant on the top floor of the Hyatt into an amazing charity licensed bar with a full bar and live music that all generate money for good causes all weekend long. So not only are we in a primo location for the whole family to find fun things to do during the con, we create a wonderful experience from start to finish that encourages making new friends and really sucking the marrow out of the con itself during your stay. It’s a fantastic location.

Question 5: What, if any, other game systems are offered at your event besides Warhammer 40k? Oh yeah, we offer a lot more than just 40k! Warhammer 30,000; 40K Trios Team Tournament (with close to 150 players); 40K Narrative (with hundreds of players in its own right); Kill Team; Age of Sigmar GT, Narrative, and Doubles; FFG’s US National Championships for X-Wing, Destiny, Imperial Assault, and Armada; Star Wars: Legions events (4 big tourneys); Bolt Action, Beyond the Gates of Antares, and Konflikt 47 presented by Warlord Games; Guild Ball presented by Steam Forged Games; Dark Age and Wrath of Kings; Infinity; Legend of the 5 Rings; Lord of the Rings (the biggest LOTR event in the world, and the very best tabletop gaming terrain in any tournament you’ll ever participate in); Malifaux; Necromunda; Shadespire Grand Clash; Warmachine/Hordes; Hundreds of Hobby & Art seminars; and a fully-stocked board game room and library with tons of open play and tournament offerings.

Question 6: NOVA uses “proprietary” missions, what do you think makes these missions, and therefore your tournament, unique compared to other events with different mission sets? Well, the missions will be familiar to ITC Champions fans, as the ITC Champions missions followed after NOVA’s example – progressive primary mission + selectable secondary missions. We developed this format several years ago in response to increasing balance issues in the game. By letting players select the criteria they’re scoring by AFTER seeing their opponent’s army, it improves the ability of mismatches to be neutralized by wise mission choice.

There are several vital elements to progressive mission design we’ve also worked to professionalize. The most important of these is that you not be able to score progressive points without limit. For example, once you’ve scored 18 points for Primary (which you can earn between 0-6 a turn for), you cannot earn any more points from it. This is important in progressive missions because you must give players with different tempo armies the ability to catch up. If you can continue to score progressive points every turn throughout the game, your mission design doesn’t truly work.

This year we took steps to revise the missions further in an effort to also make them more accessible for regular players. Instead of a different primary in every mission, there’s now just one Primary with the choice of either endgame or progressive scoring. To make the secondaries more accessible, we also created printed mission decks that we’ll give to every attendee (see photo).

Question 7: How do you choose the players who participate in the invitational? Well, it’s an Invitational, so a combination of objective and subjective terms. We try, in the end, to have each field be comprised of a mix of known top players, known celebrity players, unknown top players, and wild card upstarts. We then solicit voting from a wide range of TOs (including folks like Reece and Frankie) to seed the field in advance of the first round. This + the way we select players often results in dark horse players shooting through the brackets and similar. We put up the brackets on Challenge a few weeks before the con as well, with worldwide participants able to vote on their own NCAA-style bracket (and the winner gets a free pass to NOVA in the next year).

Question 8: What are some things that make the NOVA stand out from other events in your opinion? (prize support, charity causes, emphasis on the hobby, unique format, narrative events etc.) NOVA stands out, in my opinion, for a couple of key reasons. First, the format of the convention itself encourages and inspires building new friendships and connections perhaps more than some other cons, where the primary goal is showing up with your established friends, meeting other friends from further away, and going to the local bar or casino or similar with them as soon as your games are done. The combination of the dizzying array of food trucks and especially the charity lounge, plus the very welcoming and extroverted lean of the NOVA Open’s all-volunteer staff, makes it very easy to make new friends and deepen acquaintances at the con. It’s also one of the most accessible places for introducing yourself to well-known folks in the hobby who attend, whether that be tournament organizers and famous players, or parent company key staff like Robin Cruddace or Jervis Johnson. Since so many people frequent and hang out in the charity lounge listening to live music and having a chat, it’s a really great “mixer” at which to make new friends and meet new people – it’s such a fun time, very few people actually feel the need to leave NOVA with their small group and head somewhere else (though with DC so close, you certainly can do that too!).

Beyond the social element, we obviously are proud of our missions and format (win-path pairing being perhaps our best-kept secret for ensuring the best on-average sportsmanship experience you’ll find at a GT).

The MOST Important thing about NOVA, however, is charity. Through our online raffles, at-con silent auction items (Which are usually super awesome and unique, check them out during the con!), and the charity lounge I’ve mentioned so much about already, we raise tens of thousands of dollars for key charitable causes, especially Doctors Without Borders, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Fisher House Foundation. Charity and building social connections are the two things that really matter most to us, and the things we spend most of our energy on, so they, of course, are probably the two things we are most proud of 🙂

Question 9: What is your favorite part of organizing one of the largest and consistently successful Warhammer 40k tournaments in the world? People and Charity. I’ve met so many great people running the NOVA Open, including many of my very best friends. Whether regular top competitors or every-year attendees hanging out on the bottom tables, the people who come to and volunteer for NOVA are always so amazing, warm, happy, and outgoing during the con. Through them, I’ve met even more friends and made even more awesome connections, including meeting my wife at a Halloween party that a regular attendee invited me to 6 years ago 🙂

It is a TON of work running a con, and none of the volunteers get enough credit. Anyone who’s been knows the faces of our titanic leads who really make it happen, like Dewey running ops, Laurie running the nerve center of the whole thing, Marti at the Registration Desk and the thousands of yearly customer service e-mails, and so many more. But it’s all worth it, all the thousands of hours of hard work trying to polish every detail when we get to the con and enjoy such a wonderful time with a huge community of awesome, generous souls having tons of fun and raising vital funds for worthy causes around the world.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s wrap up of the week in the ITC! Let me know what you thought in the comments! There won’t be an article next week as I will be on vacation but tune back in the week after that for another one! If you want to hear more about my weekend going 6-0 at the Bay Area Open with Imperial Knights and Astra Militarum check out the TFG YouTube page on Friday for last night’s Twitch stream, or watch it on Twitch, or wait for the Podcast version!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.
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3 years ago

Great article! Exciting to see things shaken up so much and here at mid-season things are really heating up.

Shawn Prosser
Shawn Prosser
3 years ago

Great article on the NOVA Open, John. Always wanted to go. Guess I’ll put it on Frag_Out Gamings to do list for next season along with ATC.
Do you really think the CP farms will get nerfed? I tried out a Nid/GSC/AM list with a CP farm recently (got to keep up with the top Nid players). Started with 13 CP and out of 5 games only went below 10 one time. That ability is broken, period.

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