Despite an awful lot of queues (about which you’ve all no doubt heard by now) Warhammer Fest 2023 was undeniably one of the largest wargaming events in the UK this year, with a bunch of Warhammer-related activities for the attending flocks of fans to immerse themselves in. But don’t be deceived by all the noise – the best thing there was one of the smallest: what Games Workshop calls the Hobby Challenge.
For the competitive folks, GW ran tournaments for Warhammer 40k, Age of Sigmar, Kill Team, and Warhammer Underworlds; for the digital gamers, the studios behind various licensed Warhammer videogames were there showing off their creations – and, of course, GW staff were demonstrating Warhammer 40k 10th edition live.
But I spent nearly a third of my three days at Fest cutting, gluing, and painting random bits together, and here’s why.
Scrapheap Challenge for Warhammer
Similar to the Scrap Demon challenges Games Workshop ran at its Games Day events of old, the Hobby Challenge is an epic, day-long mission where you’re provided with the choice of two models – an Age of Sigmar character or a Warhammer 40,000 character – from which to create a unique display piece.
Once you’ve selected your chosen hero to build, it’s onto the sprue table, where you’ll choose from a selection of terrain pieces to create the backdrop for your piece.
Then, at last, it’s time to get creative and build all your bits into a smashing Warhammer diorama, in the hopes of being crowned the winner of the Hobby Challenge. While other events test fans’ skill at painting miniatures to superhuman levels of detail, or winning battles with their favourite Warhammer 40k factions, this one is all about pure, scratch-building creativity.
I had a cracking time joining in with the Hobby Challenge during last year’s Golden Demon 2022 anniversary event at Nottingham’s Warhammer World – and, exploring Warhammer Fest 2023 as an independent content creator, I simply couldn’t help but jump back in for a second go.
The event last September was very intimate, the number of attendees was a lot smaller, and there weren’t any tournaments running at the same time.
By comparison, Warhammer Fest 2023’s hobby challenge was significantly larger, with rows of like-minded hobbyists painting and building throughout the day, and a bustling tournament area in the same huge convention hall, just a few yards away. There were bright lights. There were cosplayers. There was a fifteen-foot Space Marine Terminator. It was a whole thing.
The atmosphere the whole day was full of nerdy excitement, with others (like me) clearly rejoicing in being around other hobbyists and content creators, instead of hobbying on my own at home.
For my character, I had the pick of the two event exclusive Warhammer Fest 2023 models: for Age of Sigmar, Chaos huntsman Tolgar Split-Eye, and for Warhammer 40k, the bolt pistol-toting Astra Militarum officer model The Commissar’s Duty.
Both minis were excellent, so I spent a little time debating which one to go for. Being an avid 40k tabletop gamer, my usual preference would have been the Commissar – but in the end I opted for Tolgar Split-Eye, as the model sculpt captured movement well, and I wanted to include this in my diorama.
Sadly, compared to last September’s challenge, the terrain sprue table had very few choices on offer to help us bring our imagined scenes to life. I had an idea in my head of what I’d have built, had there been a nice spread of foliage, trees and rocks. Instead, with only Warhammer 40k pipe terrain or Age of Sigmar temple steps and ruins available, I had to wing it.
I wasn’t the only one, either – the rather limited terrain palette resulted in many entries having more or less the same look and feel to them – but, on the bright side, it did at least push us to try and think outside of the box when building. Depositing my final creation at the judges’ top table among the other submissions, I was delighted to see a good amount of variation (despite the mostly similar terrain backdrops).
One hobbyist managed to turn their bits selection into an actual War Hammer, while another created a crown and a staff from unrelated plastic components. A skilled kitbasher named Mark took the win, however, with an excellent diorama, to which he’d sneakily added four or five extra models he’d found lying about on the sprue table that morning when the event began.
Building on his advantage, hed then spent five or six hours crafting them all into the perfect display. After all, resourcefulness, repurposing, and improvisation are the soul of kitbashing, and celebrating those makes the Hobby Challenge a joy.
Warhammer Fest 2023’s Hobby Challenge was a blast. If you and your family are going to pay for tickets to a three day event, you might feel giving up most of one of those days to sit and build models (i.e. what you’d usually do at home) isn’t worth it – but trust me, it is.
Contrary to what you might expect, this is an experience that gets its ‘juice’ from making you approach a hobby project in a way you’d never do at home.
It pushes you to think outside the box – and it’s a perfect opportunity to meet like-minded hobbyists. It elevated my experience of this show for sure, and – come the next big Warhammer convention – I’ll be right back there, cutters and glue at the ready.
Already on the hunt for more kitbashing inspiration? Have a gander at this remote-controlled, flamethrower-armed Warhammer 40k Land Raider; or this cardboard Imperial Knight; or this bewilderingly detailed Roboute Guilliman diorama.