Arc40K is a famously friendly tournament, where fun is more important than fighting. It all happened because I got the rage.
In the 1990s, plenty of players at Melbourne tournaments had the right spirit, but a few would use every loophole, field unpainted (or unassembled) armies, and just ruin your weekend.
That sucked! It wasn’t the 40K that I loved: fun times, painted armies and loud Bolt Thrower (Heavy Metal).
The 40K event at the Arcanacon roleplaying convention in 1998 was a good one, run by Hugh McVicker. There were just 9 players, and thanks to an emphasis on sports, to my astonishment, I won. (The prize was a Praetorian Guard metal figures box set. Please don’t tell me you weren’t born then, it makes me feel like a Thousandth Son.)
I was invited to run the event next time. In January 1999 I travelled to the first official Games Workshop tournament at CanCon organized by Dave Taylor.
The Rogue Trader system was just what I was looking for: Points for fair armies, being a good sport and painting your army, as well as battle. Best of all, I met and played against Ian Arentz, who remains a close friend to this day.
Voila, I had a structure for my debut Arc40K. We had 14 players at Collingwood College in July 1999. Friends from my club War All the Time came along, plus a few others but not many: I made painted armies mandatory, and that turned a lot of people off. I did not care. Still don’t.
The next year we had 28 players, the following year we had 50 players. I did all the scoring by hand, with index cards.
In the first round I’d match Imperial players against Enemy players by forming a line, and in the last round I’d ignore the points and just choose fights that would be a good story. At the end of Arc40K IV I was sitting there clutching my brain. Chiara took one look at my stressed face and spoke those magic words: “Would you like a hand next year?”
In 2001, Arcanacon moved to the January long weekend. Adam Jones said “I could bring a sound system if you like?” He dragged this tremendous rig upstairs and man, Slayer had never sounded so good. It was fiendishly hot that year and we blew the amp up, but I couldn’t go back. It became an annual hire. Bless the Arcanacon Committee for approving our increasing budget.
Arc40k kept growing, and over time the War All the Timers graciously stopped playing and started helping. Hugh joined Chiara on the scheduling side, and Kane Tucker quietly revealed himself to be the God of Microsoft Excel and built amazing software. Ian came down from Canberra every year. He and David Smith always fielded unique armies with great stories, so they became the Army judges. Superb painters and modellers Ben Leong, Steve Firth and Adam Jones judged the Painting. Cam Usher, Dick Hunton, Dave Munro and Greg Allen did everything else.
At some point it was useful to make clear who was running the event if someone had a question. Steef had got us all fezzes from Egypt and Turkey, so those were perfect. “Ask a fez” didn’t always work if the bloke wearing it hadn’t played for five years, but at least you could find us.
We got our own wing of the school. Long summer afternoons, beers at the tables, bellies full of barbecue, music filling the space, people smiling and chatting in the courtyard. Those are the Arc40K memories that I treasure: not the battles (they were okay I guess) but hanging out together at nerd camp. Sunshine, James Boag’s and 1200 watts of Sepultura, suddenly sports scores were way up. Winning formula.
It’s all thanks to the players, who just kept showing up with increasingly incredible armies, and to the GW store managers, who not only spread the word but put their backs into it. Andrew Long was a huge early supporter, and some bloke called Dan Attrill (whatever happened to him?) drove the truck with all the 6x4 table tops. Clubs like Ringwood (with the legendary Rick McKay), GROTs (onya Rob and Simon), MWM (those scallywags) and others bought tons of terrain.
We appreciated everyone who helped load in, pack up, or clean up. We had the Gippsland invasion, then the South Australian invasion. The WargamerAU forums were the online hub, so we put WAU handles on player badges: oh, you’re so-and-so. We had tremendous sponsors in Realm of Legends, Back-2-Basics, Miniature Scenery and others.
So many friendships were forged over toy soldiers. The Five Year Tour was a way to acknowledge that showing up was as good as winning. The bittersweet part is that some of those players are no longer here. Mark McLaughin, Frank Stewart, Dave Millar and so recently Craig Clarke are men I’m glad I knew, and miss seeing.
If I have one regret, it is that through all that time it’s been such a boys’ own event. So few women played, and fewer played twice; almost all of them told me of a singularly awful game they’d had. We can do better to welcome everyone.
But apart from that (well, and a few other things, like the time I had a beer gave the 5th place guy the 2nd place prizes), happy memories, and few regrets.
When we retired after 2011, I’m so pleased that the guy who had the exact Arc spirit on his first year and every year agreed to take it on: cheers, Dan. He and his crew he took what worked but made it much tighter. It’s so great now. Could use more Bolt Thrower though.
Can’t wait to see you all there. I’m not playing (my 40K brain broke on the shores of 8th edition) but a few of us WATTsters will be hanging out to celebrate 25 years of friendship and dice. Long may we all roll.
Did you know that Arc40k is an affiliate for Gap Games? That's right! By purchasing your miniatures and accessories through our unique link, you'll be supporting our website and event. Your purchase allows us to create an even better experience for our community. We appreciate your support!