A love Letter to Holy Havoc

Warhammer is an enormously broad hobby. You could spend a lifetime alone delving into its lore, perfecting your paint jobs, chasing your tournament rankings, or simply chatting with people that are as enthusiastic as you are. It is such a broad hobby that most of us probably are only able to devote ourselves to a portion of it at any given time. 

The last couple of years has been hard on a lot of us and I think it has caused a big shift in how many view the hobby and ultimately what we get out of the time we spend in Warhammer. 

At the end of 2019 I was coming off a few small tournament wins and was gearing up to take my Space Wolves onto the wider competitive scene. I would very much consider myself a competitive player and I was hungry to prove how good the Sons of Fenris (and Reivers) could be, but the pandemic changed all that.

It is still very hard to get games in, even amongst friends, so I found my time in the hobby becoming more of a solitary thing. As a result, my focus shifted from the competitive side to the painting aspects of the hobby. I love attending events and tournaments. They push me out to meet new people and I love helping build a network in the Chicago area. I love chatting with everyone, strategizing and trying to dissect the meta, but these things are very draining. The older I get the more I learn about myself and it is now clear to me how introverted I am. I truly do love all the events I’ve participated in, but recently I needed the hobby as a recharge. This shifted my focus to painting/modeling.  

In a way I felt guilty for neglecting that competitive side I had embraced for a while, but so much of my time and energy was focused on real life events, and what I really needed from the hobby was a way to unwind and mentally destress. Painting has always been very meditative for me, and as an introvert it really helps me recharge. 

At GDFC we have always promoted trying to push people and improve them in all aspects of the hobby. The difficult part for me was I felt like I was actively withdrawing from part of the hobby. 

Holy Havoc

Holy Havoc was an event I was looking forward to all year. Steve Herner, who organizes the event, will describe it as an Age of Sigmar hobby event, so naturally my recent focus on painting had me excited. However, Holy Havoc is really so much more than that.

In my eyes it is the perfect intersection of all the aspects of Warhammer that make it so great. It accomplishes so much of what GDFC was founded to do, and it has left me truly inspired. 

Armies on Parade

Everyone at Holy Havoc has a Warlord of Havoc in their army roster. It’s a custom warscroll that can level up over the event by achieving feats in game. Armies go all out creating custom warlords. Sometimes that conversion can even inspire an entire converted army. 

David Griffon’s awesome Warlord of Havoc

You will also find incredible lore with novellas describing an army history, or my particular favorite, a comic book made from pictures taken from past battles. 

You can read the comic on Dominic Reitman’s twitter account @ColdBloodedDom

The best part is everyone is willing to share their tips and tricks. A big driving force in the improvement to my painting over the last couple of years has been increasing the contrast in my models. This all started based off of feedback I received from Steve and Vince Venturella at Holy Havoc in 2019. You will leave the event wanting to do bigger and better conversions and tackle new painting challenges. That is something that is truly amazing. Holy Havoc is also a big reason I pushed myself to start painting my Hallowed Knights in a full non-metallic metal style. 

The Hallowed Knight Redeemers form the steel wall.

The Boards Play

The first thing newcomers learn about the Holy events is how deadly the tables can be. All the tables have unique rules and deadly features that dish out “holy wounds,” which cannot be saved in any way. This creates a unique experience which depends heavily on the custom mission you are playing, but also which board you have chosen to play on.

The boards force you to think on the fly, and react to events that are occurring over the course of the game. Each turn presents you with novel problems to solve, and my competitive side loves that. Sometimes it can feel like Warhammer places so much emphasis on list building, but the boards at Holy Havoc really give much more power to how the list is piloted. 

The Hallowed Knights battle Khorne for control of the center of the ruined temple. “Force them into the canals into the arms of the monster that lurks there!”

I’ve always struggled as a player with choosing between the “optimal play” versus the “fun play”. My Warlord of Havoc really powered up in my first three games of the tournament, but I played him more reserved, and very much like a regular tournament player would. By my 4th and 5th games I really wanted to get my warlord into the mix and flex the muscle he built over the first day of the tournament. This really helped me see the game in a new light. Not only was it more fun for me (and my opponents) but it also changed how I got enjoyment from the game on the competitive side. 

“I’m not trapped in here with you…”

Regularly competitive players place so much emphasis on tournament standings and record, and I was really no different. Winning a tournament was an interesting puzzle to solve. Holy Havoc really helped me redefine the puzzle. Instead of focusing on the result of the tournament, each battle round became the puzzle to solve. The deadliness of the tables created a new variable each round you had to account for. How could I maximize my Warlord’s performance, given I was going to throw him into the fray early? At one point I used the Redeploy command ability with a unit of Vindictors that had been beaten down to just 2 men. I pushed the unit forward two inches to block off any further advance from my opponents. This stopped Be’lakor, a daemon prince, and one of the warlords of havoc from hitting my lines.

Something wicked this way comes.
The brave Vindictors plant their banner in defiance, halting the advance of Chaos.

While the game ended up in a draw, it really fueled my competitive spirit. I got the same satisfaction knowing I made the correct tactical decisions in the moment, and was less concerned with the outcome. Holy Havoc helped me find that balance, and redefine what I get out of the hobby as a competitive gamer. I still crave the challenge and finding a good “puzzle” to solve, but I learned I can find it in different places outside of a tournament record. 

Thank You, Holy Havoc

The time spent with everyone at the Holy Havoc is a clear reminder to why I love the hobby and why we do what we do at GDFC. It truly is a manifestation of everything about the hobby that is great. Not only has it helped me come to terms with what the hobby means to me, but it has also inspired me to try and bring that into GDFC events. I can only hope that one day I am able to put on an event a fraction of the caliber Steve and his team do for the Holy Havoc and Holy Wars.

I want to close out by thanking Steve and the Holy Havoc team from the bottom of my heart. It was truly an amazing event. Thank you for all that you do for the Warhammer community, and for all that you do for the community in Chicago. Holy Havoc is a charity event that raised $4,589 this past year, helping Hesed House support those suffering from homelessness. Those donations will aid four families in graduating from shelter by the end of the year. To Steve, his team, and all those that attended Holy Havoc, you are what makes the hobby such a great thing to be a part of.

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