Lone Star GT Canceled, COVID AOS Dynamic, and an Interview with Dan Norris

Howdy y’all JTJ here with disappointing news. The first Masters ranked GT of the year has been Canceled.

 

Lone Star GT Canceled

Here is the official notice:

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Matt Taylor who is the organizer for the Lone Star GT and also runs the Texas Masters AOS ranking system wanted the community to know, “It’s a sad day having to cancel. We were really excited to start off the Texas Masters year with a BIG event and crown a champion with a 100 participant field. It was the right decision and we are pulling for the other GTs to happen later in the season. We plan to be back in the future and better than ever!”

I cannot say that I was surprised that the event was canceled, with the uncertainty of things and the amount of effort/cost associated with a GT it was probably the correct move. I was honestly hopping that the event would happen. I have been eagerly waiting on my first GT of the year for several month. I have been building, painting, and play-testing in preparation for it. I was fully prepared to attend the event even in MOP 4 if need be. My plan this year was to make a solid showing at all 4 of the Texas Masters GTs and that should have given me enough points to punch my tickets for the Masters Tournament at the end of the year. As per Matt’s update video last month they where planning to put in place as many protocols as they could to keep the event as safe as they could. However it would have been interesting to see how the attending population handled these protocols. I do think stress levels would have been a bit higher than normal.

I am glad that Matt is planning on having a raffle for all those that let the event keep the entry fee. I hope that he is able to keep enough money to allow the Lone Star to happen next year. I would ask that if you are a part of our Texas AOS community and are financially able, let them keep the entry fee as a good faith investment that it will be back and better next year. However if you ask for a refund I do not think anyone would hold that against you, cant tell people how to spend their money.

As we go through this uncertain times All I can do is wait and see. I can hope that the next GT is not canceled and that I will be in Austin this July.

 

The COVID/AOS Dynamic

The COVID situation that we are all in is one that we have never faced before. Both as individuals and as a gaming community. Tabletop Wargaming is a social event. If I did not want social interaction I could just paint my models at home and never play. However most of us enjoy going out and testing our skill against other people. We love to see what the other Warhammerers are building and painting. I can honestly say that most of the friends that I have made over the last 10 years is because of playing Tabletop Wargaming. I honestly do not know what I would do with all my time and money if I was not playing with little plastic men. But now as a Wargaming community we have been forced to keep away from other, most if not all of our gamestores have been closed for months and some may not open ever again. Tournaments have been canceled and friends will not leave their house to come over and play anymore. I am very interested to see the long term effects on the community. How many people will walk away from the game and never pick it up again?

I have said it 100 times. I am just a guy, I don’t know what is right or wrong. I am not sure if the virus will kill us all or if this is just a giant conspiracy theory. I am not here to argue either side. My personal feel is that I respect your point of view so please respect mine. I think if everyone takes this stance we will be ok as a society. The current situation is so polarizing, and you have vocal minorities on both sides pointing fingers and calling names. In fact many of the problems in America today can be traced to the hard line stances that people are taking today, not willing to listen to anyone else’s point of view and look at every issue with a critical eye. All I can hope is that we as a gaming society can be civil, intelligent, and respectful of the others games around us.

I reached out to one of Houston most notable players, Gavin Grigar to get his thoughts on the Covid/AOS dynamic. Gavin Grigar is one of the top AOS players in Texas and one of the best meme posters in all of AOS, this is what he had to say: “Its weird to see how big the divide is between the 2 opinions that people generally have about it. People are either dismissive about the virus or cautious to the point that they are cancelling their event tickets. Even when we get back to playing I could see it affecting the banter for some during the game and the atmosphere of the event. As for the hobby and meta side without events both have seem to have stagnated significantly. Hopefully we can get back to playing soon because I think that community aspect is what makes AoS great, and tournaments are the lifeblood of that in my opinion.”

One of the ways that some in the community have gotten their gaming fix is with Tabletop Simulator. I will say that I have found playing AOS on TableTop simulator is an ok fill in for the real thing. It can be clunky at times, but it gives you the general idea of the game. I would compare it to a frozen pizza. Its pizza, its ok, you get full, and you can enjoy it at home, but we all know its not as good as a fresh hand tossed pie from the brick oven joint down the road.  All in all I am happy that I started using TTS, I see it as another tool in the tool box. I plan to continue to use it even when things go back to normal. I am also interested in continuing to live stream the games. If you have not tried TTS  I would honestly say give it a go.

On of the biggest questions I have is with the Generals Handbook 2020 (GHB). Are we getting one in June? Or will it be pushed back or canceled this year? I would hope to get a new GHB this year, however I am worried as always my current army will get the hammer. It will be interesting to see how GW handles the GHB this year.

Another question about the situation I have is what is the liability of tournament organizers and game stores? What happens if an outbreak is traced to an AOS event? What would the legal and ethical ramification of that be? I am have no idea, I am merely posing the question.

What does the coming moths hold for our society and community? I would hope that we are back to normal sooner than latter. I know that some of the local stores have already hosted some tournaments. I plan to attend local tournaments in June, if there are no crazy setbacks. I am eager to get back to playing real games against real opponents. I continue to stay positive that we will return to normal sooner than later.

Interview with Dan Norris

I had the chance to correspond with Dan Norris co-hosts the Slambo GT in San Antonio and is President of the Sons of Slambo gaming group. He was able to bring his unique insight about the current situation.

Excuse the absence of block quotes I was having trouble making them look correct in WP.

From your point of view how has the COVID situation affected the gaming community in San Antonio?

“In many ways it has had a mixed effect.  Of course, our weekly gatherings have stopped and we’ve lost many opportunities to gather.  We are a rowdy bunch – I miss seeing all my Slambois and Slamgrlz every week.  We are blessed with a community that works hard to build fellowship over meaningful gaming experiences.  That said – last year’s Texas Masters series was a whirlwind.  Several of us realized we needed a little time off to recharge and reflect.  We didn’t want THIS much time, but we’ve found new ways to hobby and gather.  Our Discord voice chat channel has been really good for me.  As an extrovert, it’s been helpful to stay connected with all my friends online.  Hearing their voices, trash talking, sharing hobby tips, etc. have kept me in good spirits.”

In Houston, one shop has already started back up with tournaments. Has San Antonio began running any tournaments yet? If not, when do you think that will happen? Do you think that some areas are gaining a competitive advantage as it relates to the Masters Ranking System, with some cities having tournaments and some not?

“We have not started our tournament scene back up.  There are a lot of voices along the political spectrum that position it as an “either/or” problem, but we are looking at it significantly differently.  We are asking questions like ‘What can we do to gather and ensure everyone is protected?’  Gaming is a significant and wonderful part of our lives, but most feel it’s worth it to do what’s necessary to reduce the risk of transmission before we gather again.   Many of us have work restrictions that currently prevent us from attending or at-risk family at home.  I’ve personally know some people who lost their lives back home in Michigan.  I don’t want to inflict that pain on any family. On a personal level, my family was decimated during the Spanish Flu epidemic.  We are still working on our genealogy to find branches of the family that were disconnected when some of our ancestors passed away.  We just discovered a branch of the family we didn’t know about in Ontario.  I suppose the stories passed down also influence my personal caution.”

“I know some very competitive players may think it’s unfair that other cities have started holding tournaments.  But at the end of the day, we are playing toy soldiers.  It’s war dollies, yo!  Losing a chance for bragging rights in the 2020 Texas Masters season is much more palatable than unintentionally exposing people to danger.  I applaud Matt Taylor for cancelling the Lone Star.  It’s a courageous decision that protects the community.  Those of us who run events here in San Antonio share a similar mindset.  We would rather be guilty of being overly-cautious rather than take a presumptive risk.  I say this not to cast aspersions on anyone else who is holding tournaments – I assume they are taking precautions and hope to follow any successful safe formats they may create.   If they can figure it out and earn points – all the power to them. Besides – what greater trash talking can there be than telling the Tim Frisbee’s of the world that their high score is because none of the other state players turned out!  ;-)”

How has your local shops dealt with being closed, and social distancing? Has there been any permanent closures?

“We are absolutely blessed in San Antonio for gaming shops.  Knight Watch Games, Heroes Retreat, Court of Gamers, Dragon’s Lair, etc. – you can’t really lose.  Fortunately, they have all adapted to curbside/limited capacity service and are working on plans to slowly allow in-store gaming.  We are grateful for all their support and can’t wait to begin whatever the new routine will be.”

As a member of the Sons of Slambo how has the group been dealing with quarantine? Have the gamers been gaming? Or has everyone been locked away?

“Most of us have stayed home and hobbied.  There are a few folks who have gathered for “quaran-gaming,” but they are few and far between.  I’m personally excited to play again.  I’m eagerly watching new cases and deaths daily.  How the state opens up will directly influence my decision to get back out there.”

Do you think that we are going to lose AOS gamers in the long term or do you think people spending more time at home has brought a few more people to the hobby?

“Frankly, I’m optimistic our community will grow.  I think this will help us bring more people into the hobby.  People have had time to slow down and think about what is more important to them.  I’ve had several online discussions with 40K players who are tired of their system and former Warhammer Fantasy players we lost during the Great Rage of Sigmar.  Several are using this extra time to explore AoS and it’s lore.”

“In San Antonio specifically, an unintended consequence of the Texas Masters was to focus the community on competitive play.  Most of us had an incredibly great time.  Unfortunately, it caused some of our narrative and open play folks [to] take a break.  They felt excluded as many of us trained for qualifying GTs.  Several of the community leaders and I have had robust discussions about how to avoid that when we can gather again.  One of the most significant things we can do (and I think this goes for all communities) is to invest time prior to the game asking your opponent what type of game they want to play.  Cut throat, competitive game with a competitive list?  You got it-here comes my filthiest list!  Friendly back-and-forth to kill the time?  Sure thing!  Fluffy narrative to create/re-create a story?  Count me in!”

“Building a community can be tricky business.  Of course, you can do it organically, but the Sons of Slambo believe it should revolve around a common culture.  Ours is to create meaningful gaming experiences to build fellowship, have fun, and make a difference in the community.  If you feel something is ‘off’ in your community, take this time to really think about what you want the future to be.  Decide what is non-negotiable in your group.  Deciding what you will not do is often more important than what you will do.  Bullying, list trashing, bitching about ‘meta,’ being exclusive, etc. are all non-negotiable for us.”

Have you gotten more hobby projects completed over the last few months or about the same as normal?

“About the same.  Necessity focused me to work on what I had.  Good news for my Cities of Sigmar!”

What are your thoughts Currently on Slambo GT? Has the situation changed the way you are planning it? If the event has to be canceled, how will that impact the 2021 Slambo GT?

“We won’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse to be the last tournament of the season.  The pros are we can learn what others are doing to help keep our event on the books.  The downside is they are predicting a resurgence of COVID-19 and a nasty flu seasons.   I miss all the great folks across the state and would love to have them down again.  We’ve got new scenarios we can’t wait to use.  But it’s a coin toss to know if we can do it this year or wait to 2021.  We will coordinate with our Texas Masters brothers and sisters to navigate as the time gets closer.”

What are your thoughts on the Masters Points this year? If one or even two more GTs get canceled will the Masters be cancelled this year? If so, do you think it is fair?

“It may make sense to cancel the whole season, but I’m not committed to that.  If you asked me 8 weeks ago to predict what is happening now, I would have thought you were nuts.  Who knows what the next 8 weeks have in store.  Maybe we can pick up where we left off.  Sports seasons sometimes are condensed due to strikes, etc. and still are successful.  (I work for the family who owns the San Antonio Spurs – our first championship was during a lockout year).   I do know this – I don’t want my restrictions to affect others fun.  If my situation means I have to stay home, I don’t begrudge anyone who does have an opportunity to gather and earn points.  Sometimes we just have to accept imperfect situations.  I know some are trying to use the simulator.  Maybe that is a bridge for the meantime.”

Do you think that gaming will return to normal this year? Or will we just find a new normal?

“I hope not-let me explain.  I sincerely hope we take this pause to reflect and think about what we can do to make our communities thrive even more.   When we do gather, beyond ensuring everyone is safe, I hope we’ve all learned how painful isolation can be and work to include as many people into our hobby as possible.”

From your point of view what can we do as a community over the next few months to continue to grow the AOS community in Texas.

“Encourage everyone.  The internet is a harsh place.  We like to condemn and criticize from the safety of our computers.  When a new player posts a picture of their new model, compliment them.  It took courage for them to post their first paint jobs.  I see people criticize far too often.  Make it safe for people to learn develop their painting skills.  Welcome new players and offer to answer their questions. I would also encourage people to modify their behavior when people are talking about new lists.  Many of us immediately take a competitive point of view and either approve or veto a choice.  Maybe the player selected those models because they look good to them.  Maybe there is a strategy they hadn’t considered.  Instead, ask ‘How are you planning to use the unit?’ and ‘What could you do to avoid (X) disadvantage?’  I lurk on a lot of boards and often see competitive players shut down any notion of lists that vary from the accepted norm.  It can drive people away. Lastly, I would encourage communities to practice forgiveness.  People have lost jobs, experience anxiety from isolation, or may be overworked.  I’ve seen several examples of dysfunctional behavior.  These times have been tough on all of us.  We gamers are not known for our social graces, and this time of isolation hasn’t helped.  Be kind, turn your cheek, and redirect.  Find ways to bring everyone together.  Otherwise, these frayed emotions can cause otherwise tight groups to fracture.  We should all be proud of what we’ve built in our community.  I’m proud to be part of the Sons of Slambo and the greater Texas Masters community.  It’s up to each of us to build the community we want to game in.  Thank you for all you do to keep us connected, Jason!  I’m a big fan of your work.”

Dan had some great insight into the gaming community in San Antonio. I value his opinions and thoughts on the subject. I am thankful for the time he as has taken to answer my questions.

Closing Thoughts

You may agree or disagree with his views, and that is fine. We all have a right to believe what we want to believe. Regardless of what we individual think about the situation, I think that the community as a whole is ready to get back to gaming and life as normal. Just remember to be polite and respect each others opinions and wishes, if we can do that we will grow a positive gaming community.

Please support your local stores as much as you can. I know most of us do, however I do understand the dynamics of cost savings and product availability. All I am asking if you have the money and time use the local independent stores. Many need our help to get back on their feet and keep their doors open for the long run.

I know many of us have been working hard on painting models with the hope of gaming soon. I hope so see many new FULLY painted armies at the next tournament.

Thanks for reading…Y’all be good.

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