Hall of Fame - Mark Morrison
Mark Morrison is far and away the first and most influential person in the history of Arc40k. This article reveals just a glimpse at his involvement and impact on the event!
In so far as records serve us it can be established that Mark Morrison was the inaugural winner of the Arcanacon 40k event in 1998. His army, the same one he always plays, his beloved Plague Marines.
The following year he grasped the reins and history was written over the next 10 years as he led the growth of what started as a small Warhammer 40,000 tournament into a titan among events. Not just because it regularly saw more than 100 players - but there was a difference in the way Mark hosted his fellow hobbyists taking them all on a whirlwind of gaming adventures every single event.
The foundations of the current Arc40k event were forged by Mark and his cohort of playing buddies. The likes of Steve Firth, Dave Smith, Ian Arentz, Ben Leong and Tim Luckman filled early winners circle but their friendships bloomed through Arc. Some played or play tested, others organised and their association grew to form a club.
War All The Time - WATT for short, the coalition of the Fez! That became the organising group behind Mark and together it drove the mayhem and provided the formula for success at the Arcanacon 40k tournament. Along the way they set some principles and practices that remain to this day…
It was early on that the loud driving Heavy Metal pumped out from the TO's desk to signal the end of each round. As the venue changed and grew so did the decibels of the sound system as despite a booming voice Mark needed the amplification of a microphone to be heard by the larger crowds.
During the launch and player briefing Mark started to encourage everyone to repeat and abide by the mantra for managing your way through an Arc weekend. The team would hold up signs so that players would read out aloud - Play for Fun, Paint your Damn Army, Don’t be a PRICK!
(Funnily enough these are key foundations of player etiquette to this day - however the way they are described is less colourful. But at their core equally as powerful in carrying the ideals they were built upon.)
Possibly the biggest insight into the origins of Arcanacon 40k and the philosophy behind the event, came as Mark was recognising the end of his stewardship during his farewell presentation in 2011.
He mentioned that the Powerfist Event run by Mike Bantick and Ed Brock had fired his passion for tournaments. Seeing a hall filled with scenery filled tabletops and painted armies battling out over them he felt was an unbelievably fun weekend...
‘And so I was hooked and decided to run my own event,’ Mark explained. ‘It was serendipitous that at just that time, Games Workshop developed the Rogue Trader Tournament system, which balanced battle, with sports, with army, with painting. And thus we had the formula which seemed to have worked!’
So, back in 2000 for Arc III it was an easy fit and ultimately Arc had a path to tread - including the benefits from some nice trophies and support from advertising in Australian White Dwarf - trappings which came with signing on to Rogue Trader.
“Games Workshop then began to help us in a way that we could not have functioned without them. With amazing tournament support.”
Arcanacon 40k continued to grow and develop for its following of fans. It was also able to forge relationships with the local Melbourne based GW Stores and continued to benefit from their support. A truck of table tops and scenery supplied and set up annually allowed the event to cater for the growing numbers of participants.
Joining in to support Mark, and Arcanacon 40k, was the local community. Clubs like Grots and Ringwood provided tables and scenery year in year out.
Interstate players found the event and would return like pied pipers, leading ever growing groups of followers needing to experience the welcoming, fun gaming experience, which was unique to an Arc weekend. Miles continue to be travelled on the road and by plane as players from across Australia join the annual pilgrimage.
Mark’s time at the helm and with help of his WATT team saw Arcanacon 40k grow in size and reputation. Recognition of Veterans who returned for 5 and then 10 years was instigated by Mark. He was surprised and humbled that so many people returned again and again to play in his little 40K event.
Player’s Choice has grown to be a premier award at Arc40k. But it was a huge innovation when it was first introduced - handing the power of choosing the best presented army to the participants. Dare to say it may not have been introduced without the insight and inventiveness that was core to those early Arcs.
The continued focus on army theme, list construction, sportsmanship and painting having more combined weight in deciding the overall winner than just winning games. Because of this we continue to see Arc40k being a celebration of every aspect of the hobby. And it appeals to a wider community.
As it did then, this focus on Playing for Fun, Painting Armies, writing a fair list and always putting Sportsmanship at the fore, continues to set this event apart from other tournaments that may focus more strongly on just winning games.
Some things however haven’t carried over - Teddy Bears thankfully breath a sign of relief. And others are now memories associated with the venue, time of year, and part of the decoupling from the once umbrella association with the Arcanacon Role Playing Convention.
Thankfully for all of us Arc40k survives as a thriving, popular Warhammer 40,000 Event, looming large in the Annual Australian Gaming Calendar and a must to experience because of the lead taken and the legacy set through the often tireless work of Mark Morrison and his War All The Time team.
Everyone is Fez!