I went to bed at 2am, I've been staying up late through nights along with my wife's schedule, but went to bed 'early' in the hope that I would have plenty of energy from a short sleep and had fully intended to wake up at around 0630-0700 that morning for an early morning trek to Baltimore where I would try and meet up with a few folks prior to the event. 0630 came and went and I found myself waking from a dream state at 0930 and cursing soon followed. The roads were thankfully sparse with traffic and I was able to get into town just around 1030 and find parking near by the convention center, for the low price of $25 for the day, I grabbed my gear and headed in.
I completely expected to be wholly overwhelmed by the event, and I was not disappointed. I stood in line for a short time until a lady came along handing out the lanyards to those who already had their names on the tickets. When I entered the hall I was nearly taken out by a few staffers yelling as they ran by with a long tape measure before yelling 'BOOM!' once they stopped. The round had apparently hit its mark and I again almost lost my feet as they started to move the tape as I went to cross it!
The hall was jam packed with tables, people, models and terrain. As it was my first time out to Gamesday, I hadn't the slightest clue where to start, so I began to wander, losing myself to spectacle of it all. Then over the loudspeaker the announcement came that there was a mere 15 minutes left before the Golden Demon registration would close! I had to get to the room two floors above and I didn't have a clue where it was! Heading upstairs I took a look around and eventually found the room where I was able to get my models entered without issue. It was slightly disheartening that I knew I had nothing painted specifically for the competition, but pulled from my collection the night prior and decided to enter my Skaven Warband, a Grey Death Marine Squad, and Venerable Dreadnought Perseus from my Sons of Medusa. Looking through the competition I knew I didn't quite have the strongest chance, but I wasn't shooting for a win, just a chance to enter a contest that I have wanted to since I first started this hobby so many years ago!
Making my way back down to the main hall, more wandering ensued. I had hoped to meet up with various online acquaintances but bad planning on all fronts left me with only a single number to get in contact with one of them so I shot my friend Alex 'Empchild' a text and waited for a reply. Eventually getting back to me I met up with him in the Demon room where we talked shop for a while and he introduced me to various other online entities I've known of/talked with including but not limited to Dave Taylor, Mathieu Fontaine and Jeff Lybbert. It was a real pleasure to meet everyone and finally put faces to the online personalities. In a chance encounter I noticed another Storm Wardens shirt wearing individual lounging in the area and struck up a conversation to find out the it was Mr. From the Warp himself, Ron Saikowski.
With every new face, more great conversation followed. Hanging out with some online buddies I'd met for the first time from Massachusetts, Empchild being one of the four, I was in the company of instant friends, with common ground in our fantastic hobby, but quickly finding more to talk about within minutes.
One new face in particular was a welcome sight. Sitting with a small unassuming folder full of artwork and a small contingent of traffic around his table was John Blanche. I've always been a fan of his work and took the chance to chat him up. We talked at length about various art related ideas and understandings. It's always wonderful to talk with a successful person in a field I would love to find myself working in once I've finished my degree. He was incredibly nice, and was more than willing to share his thoughts on artwork and his approach to it. It was an honor to meet him and I thanked him for his time and shook his hand.
I had no plans to buy anything. But plans go out the window quickly in the midst such a frenzy! Finding my way into the on site store, I wandered along the books. Seeing they had 'The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions', I knew I was about to spend more money. I snatched a copy and picked up my Gamesday mini before heading for the line. While there I met another purple heart veteran who I was able to pick out from his frankly amazing prosthetic (above the knee with a functional joint!) and a purple heart patch on his wheelchair. I stepped over to talk with him shortly, trade quick war zone info and just generally say hi to another brother veteran.
Eventually, I was able to get through what seemed like a far longer line than it was and the new book and mini was mine! The book is chock full of Blanche artwork and since he was so accessible, I strolled back to his table asking him to sign the book as a memento of my meeting him. He was more than happy to and proceeded to John Hancock the first blank page in the book commenting that he had plenty of space to work with. Another quick hand shake and thanks and I was off to explore more.
Thankfully, there was a bag check area that I wasn't aware would be available. I handed over my new wares and my Battlefoam case and put my ticket in my lanyard along with my ticket and Golden Demon tickets, and went back to wandering.
If you've never been to Gamesday, it's hard to explain just how overwhelming it is. I couldn't settle in more than a few minutes at any one area and likely did a few miles of roaming while I looked for a few more familiar faces or trying to find the few I'd already met again. I would continue to make my way up to the Demon area throughout the day and talk, with spatters of hall roaming with Empchild and some of the others from his group.
Eventually I was suckered into helping paint the Realm of Battle community board that was to be raffled off, and found my way to the terrain build and take table as well. I was also able to get in on a giveaway frenzy that happened near the terrain build area and walked away with an Eldar Bonesinger. Next time around I'll likely try and do more in the way of events, tables, and other activities, but this being my first time out, I was happy to just be in the event!
Up in the Demon room, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my entries made first cut and gave the other entries that made the cut a look as well. I knew I didn't have much chance to win a Demon, but making the cut was a win for me, considering I hadn't specifically painted any of them for the competition!
The Demon winners were displayed around mid afternoon and congratulations and adoration made it's way through the people crowding around the winners case. My friend Empchild picked up his first Demon, which he had been working on getting for some time. It was a really special experience to be around people winning for the first time. The awarding of the statues was humbling, though I'm sure my choice of company during the ceremony had something to do with it, I'm quite sure I was the only one in my small group without a statue in hand! Next year!
With an event like Gamesday, it's hard to not go into it with some expectations on your experience. In nearly every case, the day was a success. I had a fantastic time, more thanks to the excuse to get out and meet people than the activities themselves. I'm a very social person when it comes to the hobby, and without that interaction (online or in person) it has hardly half the draw. After the Chicago announcement was made, this social networking day was still ongoing as my new group of friends from Massachusetts and I headed to the inner harbor for some much needed nourishment and a beer to unwind.
The night drew on quickly and I made my way home. My dogs were extremely excited to see me when I opened the door and I realized just how sore I was after all of that walking and standing. After a quick walk outside with the pups, I settled into a chair and didn't move for a few hours. The day complete, muscles sore, mind exhausted, I ended the night relaxing at the helm of various hobby websites, my enthusiasm for wargaming renewed.
If you're looking for photos of the Golden Demon entries, you really need to check out The Stuff of Legends for photos of all of the winners and a good chunk of honorable mentions, to include my own models! If we didn't meet this time around, be sure to stay tuned for future events myself or Realgenius will be attending!