The Journey to Become a Tournament Organizer

By |2018-02-13T07:30:54+00:00February 13th, 2018|Categories: Editorial, tournaments, Warhammer 40k, Warzone|

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From gamer to tournament organizer, the journey of a few years is always worth a look back at. Horton walks through his journey to becoming a TO for Warzone: Atomic Empire.

I have always been a gamer. Playing with action figures at age three, Super Nintendo at age five, Nintendo 64 at age eight, computer games at age eleven… There has never been a time in my life where some kind of game has not been a major form of entertainment for me. However, something happened in high school that changed the course of my gaming life forever:

Dawn of War.

I can remember it so clearly. I was in high school, and still an avid Starcraft player, when a friend of mine told me he had found a new game he thought I would enjoy. From the moment I saw Dawn of War, I was hooked. There were so many great things about the game that drew me in and appealed to my innate interest in real-time strategy, and the setting of the game was amazingly cool. I became an avid Dawn of War player and spent many an afternoon doing digital battle in the 41st millennium. But it turned out there was more to the game than just the video game.

“You know,” my friend Daniel said, “this all based off of a tabletop game.”
“Yeah, you can have really powerful characters that can chop tanks in half, and even daemon princes that suck the souls out of things. You should check it out.”
“Huh. Well, that’s neat.”

At my first exposure to the idea of a tabletop game, I was rather hesitant. Models, rulebooks, painting… why bother? Dawn of War was a great game, and it did all that for me. So, for another year or so, I ignored my friend Daniel’s persistent reminders to try Warhammer 40,000 and just kept playing Dawn of War and its many great expansions.

But one day the reminders kept piling up, and as graduation approached, I promised Daniel that I would let him show me Warhammer 40,000.

“You can show me, but I’m never going to play,” I said.
“Why not? it’s really cool.”
“I’m sure it is, but it’s way too expensive. There’s no way I’ll get into it.”

Daniel just stoically acknowledged this and planned for the future.

One spring evening, Daniel cobbled together a random assortment of models to teach me the basics of Warhammer 40,000. Rather than show me the books first, he simply got some models out and walked me through an extremely small battle of Tau vs Imperial Guard. From the moment I saw the models on the tabletop, I was hooked.

“You are telling me that since this model can see that one, it can shoot it?” I asked.
“Yes.” Daniel said.
“That is amazing!!!”

It was not long before I powered through the entire 4th edition rulebook in one insane day of super-reading, and was eager to play more learning games.

We upped the points and used full squad sizes and the Imperial Guard once again clashed with the Tau Empire, and it was amazing. It combined all the elements of strategy games that I liked, had amazingly cool models to play with, and the turn-based nature of the game let me actually enjoy the battles as they happened instead of frantically micromanaging units as they fought.

The summer after high school graduation I went all in on Warhammer 40,000 and started a Necron army. I must have played ninety games that summer versus Daniel, losing nearly every one, as he continued to show me that Warhammer 40,000 was not just a pay-to-win game of luck, but had incredible tactical depth and strategy to it. We would even swap armies and play again during games that I thought were impossible to win, and Daniel’s incredible tactical acumen always shone through and led him to victory. At the cost of my pride, Daniel showed me just how great a game Warhammer 40,000 could be and I knew I was hooked for life.

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From there it was not long until I built up a small force and I found local tournaments to play in and got involved with a regular gaming group at Borderlands Comics and Games in Greenville, SC. I spent a ton of time playing Warhammer 40,000 in college and even joked that I had a major in Asian Studies and a minor in 40k. I was spending tons of time gaming, more than ever before when the total hobby was considered, but there was a dramatic difference in the gaming atmosphere between computer/video games and 40k: I was not alone. I was meeting people, hanging out with people, and making tons of friends. The social aspect of 40k was something I had never considered when I first got into the game, but its impact on my life has been dramatic, leading to the making of hundreds of friends, and connecting me in some form or fashion to hundreds more all across the world. When I lived in Japan I even met and played games with people from Italy, Spain, and Australia!

As my gaming experience and enjoyment of the 40k hobby continued to expand, I began to grow more aware of just what a big role tournament organizers play in creating a good community of gamers. I traveled all over the Southeast to play and even ventured farther for a good event, but if dedicated individuals did not take the time to organize and run events, then I could not go to them. With these thoughts on my mind, I found out that a local tournament organizer in NC was taking a break due to the birth of a child and would no longer be running events. This struck me as unfortunate, for while I was very happy for the TO to become a father, It was disheartening to know this his popular events would be no more. Soon the local 40k scene around his shop began to dry up.

But did it have to? What if someone else took the mantle and ran events there instead?

“Why don’t you do it, Horton?” Dean suggested.

“Why not?” I thought.

The 40k community had given me so many years of fun, and so many friends, that I realized that I needed to do more than just play. I needed to take the time to help support the community myself. I began to run 40k events at Atomic Empire in Durham, NC.

I have only run three tournaments at Atomic Empire, but each one has been a blast and drawn a crowd from across the South. Mike Twitchell, 40k general extraordinaire and SC TO, has joined forces with me to run these events, and with each one, we strive to grow the 40k community. But now we want to do something more: we want to run the biggest and best 40k tournament that we possibly can, and bring a 64-player GT to NC.

40k is unique. It allows players to create epic moments on the tabletop and fight strategic battles against a wide array of foes. It also provides an incredible opportunity for people to meet one another and celebrate the awesomeness of the hobby that we all share, and these are the kind of opportunities we sought to create while putting together Warzone: Atomic Empire.

Following in the footsteps of the incredibly popular and very high-quality Warzone: Atlanta, Mike Twitchell and I seek to create an event that celebrates all aspects of the Warhammer 40,000 hobby and provides a gaming and social experience of the highest quality to its players.

With all that said, we encourage you to check out our event on May 19-20th, Warzone: Atomic Empire in Durham, NC, at the world-famous Atomic Empire at 3400 Westgate Drive, and enjoy 5 rounds of 40k fun!

You can register here.

We hope to see you there!


Warzone: Atomic Empire

Warzone Atomic Empire

Where: Atomic Empire – 3400 Westgate Dr #14B, Durham, NC 27707

When: Saturday, May 19th – Sunday, May 20th
Doors open at 8am each day, Dice rolling 830ish.


Warzone: Atomic Empire is an 8th edition Warhammer 40k Tournament. We welcome you to bring your toughest and fluffiest lists. Bring your best painted and your worst combos. This is a no-holds-barred event where Loyalists, Heretics and Xenos are welcome alike – bring your favorite toys. The “Warzone” brand the premier Southeast 40k tournament scene.

  • 3 rounds Saturday, 2 rounds Sunday, 3 hours each -Lunches not included in the cost, but available on site
  • 64 players -Mission Packet Coming Soon!
  • $50.00 entry fee – payable online on Atomic Empires website –
  • Registration OPENING SOON!

Army Construction:

  1. 8th Edition Matched Play Rules.
  2. 2000 Points OR LESS.
  3. Maximum of 3 Detachments.
  4. Battle-Forged Armies Only!
  5. All 8th Edition Forgeworld Imperial Armor Indexes Allowed.
  6. All current GW rules (including Beta rules) will be in effect.
  7. Relics (and command point use to take extra relics), Psychic Powers and Warlord Traits must be included in your army list and cannot be modified before each game.
  8. Each players warlord must be clearly marked on their army lists.


Sigillite (Avg Battle Score + Total Appearance + Total Sports)Warmaster (Total Battle Points)Artisan (Appearance)

Imperial Envoy (Sportsmanship)

Best Theme and Display (organizer judged, stand-alone prize)

On day 2, the entire tournament will be broken into 8 groups of 8 people.(for prize purposes only) Winners of each group will be recognized.
Bounties, in-game prizes, and more. Fun for everyone!

Model Policy

All miniatures in your army must be fully assembled, painted and based.
Each model must completely and accurately represent its entry on your army roster (including wargear).
All units in your army must be made of “models.” 3rd party models are acceptable, but they must be similarly sized and appropriately themed. Pre-painted toys, aquarium decorations, googly-eyed rocks, colored turtle shells, construction hardware, etc. will not be allowed. If you aren’t sure about a particular model, ask!

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About the Author:

Japanese Major, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and 40k Fanatic. What else do you need to know?