Me: So where does someone go to eat at 10pm on a Wednesday in Schaumburg Illinois?
Hotel Desk Lady: Buffalo Wild Wings is ALWAYS happening.
I touched down at O’Hare airport outside Chicago on a cold and windy March evening and headed to Schaumburg about 30 minutes away. I had flown directly from a conference in Las Vegas, so the desolate corporate business parks of this Midwestern suburb were oddly comforting and understated after the garish buffoonery of the strip. I met up with Chris from Slow Death Games, ate some unappealing brewpub food and talked shit before hanging in his room assembling a key piece of his Wild in the Streets booth for Adepticon, a wall of old punk / HxC flyers that we thought might attract up to one additional customer throughout the weekend. During the evening, and into the late night, we talked about expectations for the convention, which revealed both of us were entering this endeavor with a massive brick of consternation, which looking back I find odd.
Chris being a vendor was feeling the stress of last minute prep and also the corporatization of the event. He was up against the octopus of commerce, which was actively seeking every orifice he had to extort more and more money and product out of him before the event had even started. I had different clouds hanging over me, as honestly I had no greater purpose for being there. Nominally it was to play a tourney for Kings of War, and I had lugged an army across multiple airports for this purpose, but that didn’t even start till Saturday. I had flown over solo to immerse myself in this ocean of nerd, and as always, my fears revolved around whether it would be “worth” it. So there we were, furiously glue sticking, tearing through the monotonous but Zen tasks that encompass arts and crafts, both with jangled nerves and a big fucking weekend ahead.
So jumping ahead, ignoring whiney emo paragraphs about social anxiety and sparing you the bullshit, it was totally worth it. Had such a good time, and I highly recommend. Adepticon is a weird fucking convention, unlike anything I’ve been too. It just feels like a dozen or so different conventions all sort of crammed together into one event space, sharing a theme and a badge. Warhammer 40k is the main attraction, filling multiple halls with events all through the opening times. Themed tourneys, team tourneys, massive apocalypse games, pickup games, kill team, 30k, narrative and casual was all being thrown down around the event center for entertainment of the masses. “But I don’t play fucking 40k” you might whine. “I’ve grown out of that space fascist game and pursue only the finest of miniature gaming.” Fine, let me just prattle off the events I saw while wandering through in my free time. Warmachine, Hordes, Flames of War, Kings of War, Deadzone, Blood Bowl, Bolt Action, Saga, FrostGrave, Age of Sigmar… wait what’s that, Age of Sigmar sucks, guess what Ragey McBurns Your Army, they’re playing 9th Age for you holdouts too. Love scantrons but hate school, they’re still playing Battletech from 20+ years ago.
The truth is, if you play it, chances are someone else there is down for a game. You might even find yourself accidentally playing with the creators like friends of Corehammer Broken Contract, Relic Blade and Wild in the Streets. All kinds of indie games show up so you can find the new hotness to replace the old and busted your friends are still stuck in. So instead of actually going through my Midwest adventure day by day (which for most of you I feel would be incredibly boring), I’ll just throw out some highlights/conclusions in no particular order…
Dealer Room: There is a big ass dealer room. The majors were all pretty much there. Games Workshop (Forgeworld primarily), Privateer Press, Infinity, Wyrd Games, Mantic etc… along with a bunch of other cool stuff. Terrain, storage, figures, paints, airbrushes and just about every other damn thing you can think of. I know the internet offers us endless browsing and choice, but it is so nice sometimes to see the product for real and get exactly what you paid for. Also great to get exposed to smaller companies / games that you maybe didn’t even know you always needed till you saw it.
Creator Access: You know who was at the Osprey booth selling books? Ash Barker… but who gives a shit about him, you know who else was there? One Joseph A. McCullough, AKA the dude who wrote Frostgrave. This was not an uncommon occurrence for anything outside of the majors. Wargaming is a niche business, and so the folks working the booths were the creators and heads of these companies. This might seem like a small thing, but there is something great about shooting the shit with a dude at a tradeshow about their own figures/rules/company etc… Maybe it is the old punk kid in me, but that interaction, between creators and fans, on a 1 to 1 basis, all sharing a love of something that brings us together is special, and should be recognized and enjoyed whenever possible. I was also lucky enough to take some amazing painting classes with masters in the field. Truly impressive folks standing over your shoulder showing you how to do things better. These alone could be worth the trip for some folks (and some people definitely just go and take classes the whole time). It was also great to watch people turn into human heart eyes emojis when they saw Ash.
Quantity has its Own Quality: So most of what happens at Adepticon are tourneys and similar events. Some are competitive, some are friendly, and some are downright silly. What you aren’t seeing as much of are the historical/Salute style participation or exhibition games. Beautiful specially modeled boards with massive armies staged in a way for maximum visual spectacle. Just by the nature of the beast, tourney tables and tourney armies are not always as visually stunning as those show battles are. Of course some tourney armies are frankly incredible, but the average is usually a little lower on that side of the fence. Something I witnessed at Adepticon however is just how impressive the sheer scale of the events are. A packed convention center with armies of every type for every system occupying row after row of tables. The sheer quantity of the hobby on display impressed the hell out of me.
Cosplay: So apparently cosplay at wargames conventions is a thing, and at Adepticon it was being practiced by all sorts of folks. Some wandered the halls posing for photos, some themed their dress to match their armies, and others were running events and came dressed as characters from the game. Overall it seemed like a natural extension of the general geekery on display, but sometimes it just struck me as a bit odd. Mainly it was seeing folks in full costume doing totally normal things. Like Cadian soldiers rooting through bits bins or orks standing in line for food. Just felt fucking weird. Like a Klingon in a McDonalds.
Tourney: I played in one. Kings of War rules. I thought people might be competitive dickbags that sucked the enjoyment out of the game like some sort of creepy grease stained fun vampire. They weren’t. Had a great time and really enjoyed it. Tight play, good opponents and I didn’t totally get my teeth kicked in.
Different Cliques: So I mentioned earlier how Adepticon felt like a ton of different conventions shoved together like a big ball of Play Doh. What I mean is it is nominally one thing, but you can clearly see the different stuff that makes it up, and the gaps are not quite smoothed over. It all felt like people were in their own little worlds, their own groups, and their own little tribal affiliations. Some were massive like the 40k folks, others were smaller, and some felt like everyone knew each other (the painter’s area definitely felt like that). People could spend the entire time in one section, seeing the same people, interacting in that group and be perfectly happy (again, painters I’m looking at you), just catching glimpses of the overall bigger or different events. This is not a value judgement, just an observation. I know I can’t talk shit as I’ve been known to have driven hours to see a show and then stand outside for 80% of it chatting with the same people I already knew. It just felt like the convention had different streams and moving between them wasn’t a priority for a lot of folks.
Event Overall: It was big. Seemed well run from an attendee stand point. You should go.
Crystal Brush: Damn some people can really paint. If you have the chance to see models done to the highest level in person, do it. Golden Demon, Crystal Brush whatever… It is amazing. I know you can see all the winners on the internets, but it is just different in person. The techniques used stand out more, it is more impactful and overall just fucking impressive. If I really have to make the argument about seeing art in person vs. on the internet then we probably shouldn’t be friends.
Overall great time. Met up with “Internet Friends” & real friends and just had an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable experience. I can now add Schaumburg Illinois to my random Corehammer World Tour ®
Shout outs to Chris Kohler for holding his booth down and giving me a spot to hang. Corle the beard babe. Nick and his minions at Broken Contract. Skirmish Supremacy Podcast. Sean from Relic Blade giving me a friendly face in the crowd and everyone else I got to meet and spend time with. Trenchworx for being friendly neighbors and Mr. Airbrush and Chill himself Angel Giraldez for being a great instructor. And Ash, but really, why bother.