Warzone: Atlanta 2016 – A Look Back

Warzone: Atlanta is a great Warhammer 40,000 tournament held in the USA, and we caught up with Paul Murphy, one of it’s organisers, to find out how this year’s event went. This overview provides some great insights for anyone looking to run an event of their own.


Warzone: Atlanta was held last month and it was amazing. Over 100 gamers gathered in Atlanta, Georgia on November 11th-13th to take part in the largest Warhammer 40,000 event in the American south.  

We ran two Games Workshop events over the weekend. Friday night we featured a Horus Heresy Combat Patrol tournament based on the rules published by Warhammer World on their Facebook page. Saturday and Sunday we threw down with a 108-person Warhammer 40,000 grand tournament.

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Horus Heresy Combat Patrol:

As far as I know, this event is unique to Warzone: Atlanta. We are big fans of the Horus Heresy lore and game setting. We made a few slight modifications to the published Combat Patrol rules; the event was themed around the battle of Istvaan III and these modifications made sense to us. Our version can be found on the warzoneatlanta.com website.

To make it a little bit more interesting (and to represent the chaos of the first large scale betrayal of Adeptus Astartes) the winner of round one was allowed to choose if they were Loyalist or Traitors. The loser was assigned the opposite faction. So, you can see there was a lot on the line.

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We allowed for 75 minutes per round and everyone finished with time to spare; conflicts in the Horus Heresy are especially brutal and quick. At the end of the night, we awarded the Best Overall, Best Loyalist and Best Heretic.

I hope this format takes off and ends up being a good entry point for those curious about wargaming during the Horus Heresy. Games Workshop and Forge World have done an excellent job balancing the factions, and there were a lot of back and forth swings over the course of the game that made it exciting.

As for the venue, the hotel that hosted the event set up several pop-up bars for us around the tournament area. This helped everything feel more like a full convention instead of just a tournament. This event is just as much about camaraderie as it is competition, and by the end of Friday night, the hotel lobby and tournament area were both filled with people hanging out, swapping stories and having a good time.

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The Main Event:

Registration started the night before, but we opened the doors at a very early 7am on Saturday morning. This helped to make sure everyone got checked in and we started on time.

I want to take a moment to explain how we got to 108 players. Warzone: Atlanta is not your typical style of tournament where the tables are placed end to end and fill the rooms. Warzone: Atlanta is the product of the Forge The Narrative podcast and an Atlanta based gaming club, The General Staff. We started this event to organize what we call a ‘first class affair.’

The tables are placed in such a way that there is at least 4 feet of space around EVERY side of the table. This means that when you are playing a Hammer and Anvil mission, for example, you have full access to the table. This also means that, between rounds, it is much easier to get from place to place, and during the game, there are fewer collisions with other players from nearby tables.

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We originally had the cap set for 100 players, and then proceeded to sell out within 8 hours of our tickets going on sale. We did a lot of promotion online and on the Forge The Narrative podcast. I was confident that we would sell out, but I had no idea it would be that fast.

The hotel ballrooms could have held many more tables, as you might expect, but we resisted expanding; for our players from the previous year, and to match the hype generated on the podcast, it was very important to us that we maintained the first class approach and didn’t compromise the table spacing.

This goes a deeper than just space around the tables, however. We didn’t want to expanded the ticket cap if we couldn’t be sure we would have enough qualified judges and staff to attend all the players. In events like these, the staff to player ratio is very important and can potentially impact the experience of attendees in ways that are difficult to quantify.

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Saturday and Sunday, between the first and second rounds of the day, the players were served a catered lunch in another part of the hotel. This allowed everyone to come together, hang out and break bread. I know this isn’t possible at all events, but it was fun to see players from different groups mingling between tables and sharing a meal. The meals were great. The hotel has continually impressed us with this, and it was all included in the ticket price. Players got to enjoy all of this at no additional cost to the weekend. Did I mention that we offered table side bar service? We did… 

With all this in mind, and the speed at which we sold out, the crew and I made the decision to open up 10 additional slots for the tournament. By this time, we had a fairly deep waiting list, so we essentially sold out again immediately. As life sometimes intercedes, we had a couple of players pull out at the very last minute, so when we rolled dice at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning, we had 108 players.

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In line with the ‘first class’ approach, we wanted people to have plenty of time to finish their games. We allowed for 3 hour rounds – three rounds on Saturday, two rounds on Sunday. We understood that, at the end of the event, there would be multiple undefeated players, but this isn’t a win/loss event. At the end of the weekend, we would crown four equal champions of the event who would take home the gold and represent all aspects of the hobby. If anyone asks me who won Warzone: Atlanta, it was those four people.

Our Awards are:

The Sigilite – Best Average of Sportsmanship Score, Painting Score and Battle Points score.

Warmaster – Best Battle Point Score

Imperial Envoy – Best Sportsmanship Score

Fabricator Artisan – Best Paint and Hobby Score

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Outside of one player, who had a little too much fun on Saturday evening, every player played every round. Between a few pickup games and the organized events – over 300 games of Warhammer 40,000 were played. We ended up with 12 groups, 9 players per group. We also gave away a Best Team prize – determined by the overall teams’ average scores for the weekend.

Through the generosity of our sponsors, we were able to award a prize for first and second place in each group; one of the best things about running these is giving away prizes. Seeing the rooms filled each day with people playing the game we all love was amazing. Just hearing the stories of victory and defeat from smiling people each round is quite literally why we do this.

The Warzone: Atlanta format is the closest thing to ‘unfiltered’ Warhammer 40,000 that we could engineer. We talk a lot about this style on Forge The Narrative and play this out every 6-8 weeks in the Atlanta 40K Tournament Series.  

The only limitations we placed on army design were that each force had to be Battle Forged with an optional 0-1 Imperial Knight Formation OR 0-1 Super Heavy or Gargantuan Creature. You could also bring Horus Heresy armies, built using the Age of Darkness rules OR using the 7th edition guidelines. Every model on the shelf was ‘legal’ at this event.

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Protecting the game experience of the middle tables was our guiding hand. These are the majority of tournament goers and these minor limitations, to us, helped create a slightly more balanced field in the middle ranks. Please keep in mind that this is just for our competition and not a statement about how anyone else likes to play. Warzone: Atlanta is about the spirit of the event as much as it is about competition.

Believe you me, the competition was brutal! We had some of the most experienced players in North America in attendance. You can see some of their posts on Facebook and Twitter using #wza2016. Warzone: Atlanta was also a Major ITC (Independent Tournament Circuit) event. Since this is the near the end of the ITC season, points are in high demand. We are happy to be a part of that community and blend our experience with theirs.

Speaking of community…  the Community Team from GW seem to have a tremendous care for the people who play and support their games [editor’s note: Aw, thanks, Paul!]. That is so refreshing to see. They helped us out this year in the form of some impressive trophies.

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If all of this wasn’t enough, we introduced the soon to be famous ‘Bounty Board’. We allowed players to offer rewards for good natured conquests or pulling off difficult manoeuvre. Rewards for the bounties were typically a hard or soft drink from the bar, but we largely left that up to the player offering the bounty.

Our amazing volunteer staff was the only way we were able to pull this off the way we did. They were, and continue to be, awesome. I can’t thank them enough for giving up their weekend to work this event. The immense amount of professionalism they showed can not go unmentioned. They made sure that things like score sheets were filled in and entered with 100% accuracy and helped us run on time the entire weekend. This can easily go unsung, but I just sang it. Without them, Warzone: Atlanta would not be what it is.

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So who won this thing?!

Imperial Envoy: Shelby Hall
Fabricator Artisan: Luke Slothower
Warmaster: Mike Twitchell
The Sigilite: Thomas Byrd

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I had the proud honor of being able to hand them the amazing chainsword trophies they had earned.

Thank you and I hope to see you there in 2017.

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