It’s been a week, and I’m already suffering from the withdrawals. I’ve heard others say you’d miss it immediately, and I definitely do. Going to Adepticon 2019 was my first ever convention experience — particularly on this scale — I had no idea what was in store for me. Sure, I’d done Bayou Wars decades ago when I was in school, but that was a small regional affair in New Orleans. This was going to be different. So here’s my account of my 24 hours at Adepticon, which will get edited, added on, and refined when I get more time to review it. This is a pretty raw stream-of-consciousness post:
I took off my afternoon lectures (thanks to some very cool substitutes) and got to New Orleans International Airport around noon with nothing but a backpack and my day bag with a few changes of clothes. I love traveling, and occasionally actually enjoy travelling alone (less to worry about!), and going somewhere I had never been before (Chicago) on top of the excitement of my reason for going was getting me super excited. Knowing I had only about 24 hours at Adepticon was a bit of a buzzkill, but I was determined to make the most of it. I again have to compliment my wife on her understanding and support in letting me zoom off to Adepticon on short notice leaving her with the kids; if 24 hours was all I could manage this year, it was going to count!
An unremarkable flight landed me in temperatures 40 degrees colder than when I departed two hours ago. It struck me at that precise moment I had only brought a very thin hoodie. No matter, I would be inside 99% of the time, let me just get a cab or use mass transit, like I do at every other airport on the planet. I’ll be there in no time! But after freezing my nuts off for 30 minutes I notice an enormous sign that says cabs must be pre-arranged, with a bank of phones under it and a preferred taxi company’s phone number. Not only had I wasted half of a precious Adepticon hour, I had been waiting for a cab that would never come. I quickly made the call, waited 15 minutes for my designated driver to show up, hopped in, and was deposited soon after at the Spring Hill Suites, which was inconveniently across the interstate from Adepticon’s Renaissance hotel. The guy at the front desk was incredibly polite, got me checked in, told me about the free breakfast, and even suggested I walk to Adepticon and save my money, as there was a pedestrian bridge headed directly to the site — perfect! So I rushed across the interstate, took the selfie you can find on Instagram, and got in touch with a fellow Instagrammer who was already on-site: @warbudgies!
Entering the warmth of the convention hall, I was struck by the enormity of the event. Thousands of attendees were there, some in costume, others toting magnificently painted armies, but all were having a grand time by the looks of it. The line for check-in was short, so I hopped in and asked for my badge, which was apparently waiting for me. The lady skimmed the list, didn’t see my name, and asked if I wanted to purchase one. No thanks. I bought an $8 beer instead and made my way to find his highness Mr. Budgies, or motorized Warlord Titan fame. Upon meeting, I found him easy to talk to, and definitely a good partner for convention shenanigans — he’s definitely not a bunch of budgies stacked on top of one another in a trench coat and hat. He’d come with his brother, who was playing in a Warmachine event. I told him about my badge mix-up and I said I’d better go find some Games Workshop top people to sort it out. I can’t for the life of me remember who it was from the Warhammer Community team that eventually helped me, but he marched me to the check-in line, and asked the exact same lady if I was on the list. She checked, and I was. She just.. didn’t see it the first time? Who knows. Either way, I got my badge! We also found a full pack of Marlboro’s while waiting in the line, which I donated to the hardworking Warhammer staff.
After meeting back up with Budgies, I hung out for an hour talking shop, cruising the vendors, and generally had a great time. Soon after, I bid him adieu as my scheduled Warhammer Heroes dinner was approaching. I found an elevator and went up to the 15th floor lounge, where there would be a short cocktail hour before dinner. The frosted glass door has some movement in it, but no major gathering of people, which concerns me. Was in I the right place? I peek inside and am greeted by who I assume is a staff member, who appears to be one of the few people in the little atrium of the lounge. She makes easy conversation, and asks about me being a Hero, and we get on to what I do for a living. After explaining my art history background, she mentions it’s a favorite of hers, too! Time goes on, more people trickle in (in various interpretations of the requested dress code of ‘smart, casual’), and I have the pleasure of meeting the other Heroes. There was Hank, the founder of Adepticon (!!!), Carl of the Independent Characters podcast (!!!!!), Dan of The Lonely Havocs podcast (???), and a bunch of others I’m absolutely forgetting. Ty Finocchiaro was there, and we spoke for a short bit about being a teacher and the intricacies of it. He reminds me of Crispin Glover, which is an amazing quality.
When we’re seated for dinner (which was delicious), I see the name placards next to my seat: Dan Gomez to my left, and Sarah Kaiser to my right. Sarah Kaiser. The artist that does like 90% of the Warhammer Community illustrations, along with those awesome staff portraits you see everywhere. I’ve been an enormous fan of her work for years. She sits next to me, and its the woman I was talking to for 45 minutes in the lobby. I immediately explain my gaffe, and have a pretty big fanboy moment explaining how I love her work. I somehow managed to proceed the rest of the evening without making a total ass of myself, until I got to talking to Dan, on my left. To make a long story short: it felt as if we’d been old friends and were just catching up. He has such a contagious enthusiasm about everything, and made the appropriate number of dick jokes. I was in good company, and I am lucky to have been seated there where I could make the acquaintance of such wonderful people. I stood, received my medal, was clapped at, and continued to have a lovely dinner among excellent folks.
After dinner, fueled by too much champagne, I unabashedly requested admittance into the posse of Dan, who was going to meet more of his crew at the hotel bar. He graciously allowed me to tag along, for which I was thankful as I had nowhere else to go! I met an insane amount of amazing people, and felt the warmth and camaraderie from the group as if I had known them for ages. It was also at this time that the gang made a pledge to get me active on Twitter, as my Instagram celebrity status wasn’t enough. We’ll see how that goes. But I could wax poetic about the community as a whole and how these people are a great cross-section of it, and its inclusive nature, but I would gush for hours on the topic. Just know that the community in its entirety is welcoming, and never have I experienced it more fervently than I had in the few hours I was at Adepticon that day. What seemed like hours of shenanigans passed, and I found it time to make the cold walk home.
I made it safely to my room across the interstate. Hit the bed, and immediately slept.
Now, let me explain my life for the past ten months. We have a four year old daughter who sleeps through the night, but my 10-month-old son has prevented my wife and myself from getting decent rest for nearly a full year. Part of the guilt of going on this trip was that my wife would resent me having a whole hotel room to myself with uninterrupted sleep while she (an RN that works the night shift, which is already an immense strain on your sleep patterns) dealt with the kids alone at home. I am safe to say that I felt no guilt that morning, because I woke up, inexplicably, at 6 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. I’d assume it was just my normal sleep rhythm waking me up that early — I couldn’t sleep in if I tried! So I showered, talked to my family on the phone, waited a short bit, and texted the only person I knew: Dan. I met him, Scott, and Nick for breakfast at the hotel buffet, which was delicious. We then all cruised the vendors, where I was disappointed to find out that Forge World had sold out of Reaver Titan weapon arms, which I wanted to snag while I was there. Though I did get a couple of the limited edition Space Marine Lieutenants for some friends (I could only get a couple!).
After some time, a few of us toured through the gaming halls and marveled at some of the excellent armies in games or on display. It was truly a sight to behold! Then, we all went to the hotel lobby and found a corner of sofas and chairs and melted into their soft embrace. I had only been there 24 hours and I was ready for a break. I had resigned to sit there until I had to be at the airport for my flight home, in a few short hours. Until my phone got a text from an unknown number – the area code was that of my hometown:
One of my former students, who’s at Loyola in Chicago – one of the founding members of our Warhammer club back at school sent me a random text to say he was at Adepticon! He had no idea I was there, much less a Warhammer Hero! To say it was a cool moment is an understatement. He came and found me, with a few of his friends in tow. We talked for a bit and caught up before he went on his way, and I eventually had to go on mine. I had a flight to catch!
All-in-all, the experience was absolutely amazing. It’s something I want to make an effort to attend every year. There are things I didn’t even do at Adepticon that would only heighten the experience. I want to play actual games next year! To witness the 5,600+ people there, all sharing the experience with you is humbling, to meet new friends, to see incredible displays, watch exciting games, demo products, buy whatever you want (except Reaver arms), is something you should not pass up. I make a big deal about community-building through my social media presence, it’s an important topic for me. We need to all be excellent to each other, to enjoy this hobby together, and to build up rather than tear down. And man, everything I saw at Adepticon 2019 made me happy that I’m a part of the community.
[I’ll likely add more and edit this as the week goes on. If you want to know anything specific, just ask!]