Okay, so last year I had a...well let's just say 'bad'...Ard Boyz experience.
I had fun with my opponents, but the Venue not so much. I'm not going to re-hash it here, just reference it;
(if you're interested in the 'review' of the venue, scroll past the bat-reps and read...it ain't pretty).
So, after last year I was leery to return to Indianapolis for Semis.
In no way was the player base onerous, in fact I genuinely had fun with my fellow players last year...but the venue REALLY left a bad taste in my mouth.
Honestly, with gas and tight finances shaving a half hour off the drive (coupled with the player base being solid players, well versed in the rules and genuinely pleasant) Indy was the only truly logical choice.
Like last year, I was up at the butt-crack of dawn waiting for friends to carpool with. Also, like last year, my spouse drug her sleep-loving (and now very pregnant) self out of bed to cook us all breakfast. Soon we were on the road, chatting about the game and life (but honestly, it was a bunch of guys going to play with plastic crack...we talked mostly about the game).
2+ hours later we arrived.
We walked in, and after initial shock(the store was small for upwards of 50+ possible players) we were directed to an empty shopfront next-door...and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Before dice down, nearly ALL my fears from last year were alleviated. Though terrain was light (for my tastes) on some of the tables, a genuine effort had been made to make certain things were good...and they were. So, without further ado, I will review the effort that Games2D4For (http://www.games2d4.com/) put forth for this years 'Ard Boyz semis in Indianapolis!
-Venue location-Good; not too far off the beaten track. All told, maybe 15 minutes off of I-70, and pretty straightforward to get to. Aside from minor glitches (My GPS AND Google Maps both led us slightly astray) we found it with very little difficulty. Located at a major intersection, with easily accessed food and necessities, it was a very amenable destination to drive to.
-Venue Layout-Good; Just as a store, it is good. Definitely a labor of love that has its heart in all the right places. For 'Ard Boyz semis, it was a bit small...but the ownership rented an entire storefront next door to accommodate the geekery that was descending upon it. That setup was well laid out, with minimal constraints to movement, and (space allowing) as much concession to comfort as could be delivered. Elbow room was tight, but not excessively so. Chairs were supplied for all players. Walking aisles were clear enough for any needed travel between games/for Judge travel. The only complaint would have been potential for excessive butt-rubbing, but it was less than I expected.
-Terrain Layout-Average; A genuine effort was put forward to populate the tables with playable, competitive terrain...and it showed. Unfortunately, consistency was not great. Some tables had very large blocking pieces, others had few or none. For the most part, terrain averaged just over 20% (between extremes). Low, but not crippling...and far better than last year. Consistency was my ONLY issue, as variation between tables was a bit extreme.
-TO involvement-Excellent; What can I say? He gave a damn. He walked the tables, responded to requests for input immediately and was quick to explain rulings with no rancor (in fact, ALMOST apologetically when ruling against someone...not in a wishy washy fashion, but in an empathetic way). Funny thing, he wasn't even supposed to be the primary (who was in a car accident on the way to the event...fortunately just fine) and had his girlfriend from out of town hanging out for the weekend. He sacrificed a great deal to make sure we were all covered.
-Ownership involvement-Excellent; Again, he(they?) gave a damn. Walking the floor and talking with the TO constantly, to insure happiness (or at least sportsmanship) abounded. It's an investment in time/money/energy for something like this to go off with little in the way of issues, and they did it.
-Transparency-Excellent; Spreadsheets, constant updating, posted listings/tables and even off-handed knowledge of pairings (etc) bore all the earmarks of genuine and unbiased involvement in all aspects of pairing.
-Timeliness-Good; A might late on a few little things, but frankly that ball started rolling with the accident, so no issues.
My only gripes for the whole thing (Venue/TO related) were really terrain based.
I think more varied terrain on individual tables, while maintaining a greater level of consistency between tables, would have been even greater improvement than an increase in percentages.
BUT, I also am of the firm opinion that 5th ed functions best at the 30% terrain mark (noting that the 25% mark really is a minimum, not a cap).
I will CERTAINLY return here if they ever do host 'Ard Boyz semis again, and may make it a point to drive out there just for one of their RTT's.
Thank you Games2Die4, for restoring my faith in the system!