3D Printing and the NOVA Open 2019

As I live in Northern Virginia, I’d be crazy not to attend the NOVA Open so I purchased my tickets a few months ago for the Saturday access and a seminar, with the goal of seeing what sort of 3D printed stuff was on offer and how mainstream it is becoming at one of North America’s most well known events. Having done something similar at Historicon earlier this year, I think its also interesting to compare and contrast the two. So at 8am, I jumped in the car with my neighbor Matt, who was competing in the Age of Sigmar grand tournament, and made the massive 10 minute journey from Alexandria, VA to Crystal City, VA.

Checkin to the event was a breeze, especially being pre registered, especially compared to Historicon, where unfortunately the volunteer staff were struggling with the computerized system, though for some reason they had printed out two copies of my badge! Still I was able to check in in mere seconds, was given my convention pass and guide book (though no goodie bag like you get with Historicon) and I was on my way to check out the event.

The Vendor Floor

The first thing I do is run straight to the shops to see whats on offer (or the flea market if there is one available), NOVA open doesn’t have any flea market, but it does have The Bitz Guy, a massive second hand GW store run by the Toledo Game Room, that is a must see for anyone wanting to pick up old and OOP Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy Parts. Last year I picked up a Rogue Trader Era Weirdboy, while this year I got some old Rogue Trader Era Space Marine Scouts and a LOT of decals for my 3D printed and second hand projects. At 25c for a small sheet and 50c for a large sheet, these are an absolute bargain, and something you want to pick up if you are 3D Printing anything that needs some “official” looking markings. I then decided to venture around and see what was on offer, both in terms of new games, and 3D printed stuff.

Entering the Vendor Floor from above

Now I must stress, while not Games Workshop run event, the NOVA Open’s history over the last 10 years is very heavily Games Workshop focused, as the event started from a backyard 40k tournament around a decade ago. So, the vast majority of things available at the event are for these games, which are of course heavily protected IP. That means I wasn’t expecting to see a tonne of 3D printed stuff available for copyright reasons, that said, I did run into a few cool surprises while I was going through the vendor floors.

3D Printed, customizable resin miniatures available from Dad’s Armies

One of the regular supporters of 3D printing that I see at events is the team from Dad’s Armies. It’s a must attend booth for me as well, as they are the only vendor this year that is supporting any form of historical wargaming at the NOVA Open, with a small amount of products available from Warlord Games and Perry Miniatures. Dad’s armies products include 3D Printed bits for the popular apocalyptic car racing game Gaslands as well as personalized miniatures where a 3D scan is taken of the gamers face, and their face is then added to the model of their choice. Something super cool and customizable for personalized characters in your army.

Printable Scenery Terrain for Sale

After spending a significant amount of time chatting to the team from Printable Scenery last year I was hoping to hear their familiar Kiwi accent again this year, but sadly they weren’t in attendance at the booth (I’m guessing because it’s super expensive to fly from Wellington to Washington DC this time of year), but they were still represented at the event with their licensed printers from Epic Quest Master with a huge booth dedicated to 3D printed terrain from Printable Scenery, WarLayer, Infinite Dimensions, 3D Alien Worlds and more. One of the things that impresses me the most about Epic Quest Master is the sheer quality of their prints, often I’ll see vendors on ebay or other sites selling prints at lower quality, but Epic Quest Master do an amazing job of printing stuff at full quality (for FDM) making for strong, attractive and functional terrain pieces that the original designers can be proud of. While they aren’t cheap, they are great value for money when you consider that some of their sets are the equivalent of 5 machines printing non stop for several weeks! Epic Quest Master do the best job of showcasing the possibility of 3D printing for terrain at the convention.

3D Printed Adeptus Titanicus Bits from White Metal Games

Something that I wasn’t expecting to see, but was pleasantly surprised by, was retail packages of 3D Printed bits for titans in Games Workshops game Adeptus Titanicus from White Metal Games, as well as other conversion bits like banners and other items for sale. These were high quality resin printed in SLA, supplied on their supports in commercial style packaging, which is far better than I’ve seen any other small scale 3D printed products offered for sale before. I’m expecting to see a lot more of this sort of thing available in the near future, where start up vendors and sculptors sell 3rd party compatible parts like bodies, heads arms and weapons for popular games, now possible after the infamous Chapter House decision.

Custom Display Bases by Z Axis Hobbies

Another cool thing I saw were these Custom 3D printed Display bases by Z Axis Hobbies over at the Tablewar Stand. These fit into their Unit Trays and are a great way of showcasing your models in a more themed environment.

3D Printed Masters and Prototypes

I also spent a lot of time hanging out with Ari from Dancing Yak Miniatures at the event (including teaching him how to play the excellent game Warlords of Erehwon, by Rick Priestly of Warlord Games). Dancing Yak Miniatures is a miniatures design company based in Baltimore, Maryland who most recently ran a successful kickstarter for 28mm and 10mm Infernal Chaos Dwarves and Hobgoblins that are compatible with the games The 9th Age and Warmaster. They are currently in the production process for this, and have been 3D printing their masters using Anycubic Photons, which they’ll then cast in metal. A bunch of these prototypes were part of the silent auction, and they also made the official miniature for the convention which was prototyped on the Anycubic Photon.

Prototype Infernal Dwarves and Hobgoblins from Dancing Yak Miniatures

On the Gaming Table

I must stress, that as I was only there for one day, I didn’t get a close look at many of the gaming tables at the event, but there was a fair bit of 3D printed terrain on the gaming table as part of the Warhammer 40,000 Narrative event, including objectives and scenario related itms. One thing that I almost missed, but out of sheer serendipity ended up playing next door to, was an absolutely amazing table that was 100% 3D printed. This included 3D printed tiles, walls, vehicles and objectives, of which most I think was designed by Warlayer. I’m sure there were more similar tables dotted around the place, but this one was an excellent showcase of what’s possible with 3D printing.

3D Printed Imperial Craft terrain piece.
Fully 3D printed Gaming Table on Display at the NOVA Open

3D Printing Classes

I finished up the day by attending the Seminar:

The description of the event facilitated by Joe Kopena from the NOVA Open Website was as follows:

Learn the basics of 3D modeling & printing and enter a new age of miniatures hobbying! Many affordable 3D printers are now available for home use that can produce high quality results more than suitable for making your own terrain, conversions, or even whole miniatures. Several easy-to-use and free or affordable software packages also exist for designing these yourself, as well as numerous websites for downloading unique models and pieces designed by others. This seminar will introduce the basic concepts, terminology, and practices to get you started in 3D modeling and printing, as well as walking through a short but detailed tutorial of designing a simple part using free software. No previous knowledge or experience is required. Seminar lead Joe Kopena has a professional background in engineering design research, and greatly enjoys the hobby aspects of miniatures wargaming. He has used 3D modeling and printing extensively for his own widely followed terrain builds as well as to make critical components for the innovative NOVA 40k Narrative, LibertyHammer 40k Narrative, Molokh Gambit X-Wing Narrative Campaign, and other projects.

Taking part in the 3D Printing Seminar at the NOVA Open 2019

It was an interesting seminar to attend to get an idea of the knowledge of 3D printing held by the average (in this case 40k, AOS or other Sci Fi or Fantasy Wargamer). which I’d still class at mostly entry level. It was interesting to see though that the experience level of attendees was mixed, and included those with entry level experience in both FDM and Resin Printing, with at least 3 people in the room having Anycubic Photons. The class was well worth attending for those who are looking to learn the basics of 3D printing, had some great hands on examples of the sorts of pieces that Joe had created for his 40k narrative event, and the benefits of FDM printing over resin casting for quickly manufacturing terrain for these sorts of events. He also went over an introduction to FDM printers, some of the basics of Tinkercad, and a lot of Q&A from the audience. I think the audience is probably ready for some more advanced classes at NOVA next year, and I’d like to suggest the organizers consider some around: Advanced 3D printing, Resin 3D printing, Sculpting in Z Brush (like what was taught at Historicon), Advanced 3D modeling for Vehicles and Terrain etc, if you are reading this NOVA crew, I’m local and would be more than happy to help lead one or more of these at the more advanced level.


This was my second NOVA open, and the first time I spent a really decent amount of time in attendance (last time was a Friday night on the trade show floor). I really feel that it’s outgrown its current location and could easily fill a larger space, the trade show floor really needs to be larger (its around 1/4 the amount of exhibitors that you have at Historicon for instance). It’s still very much a Games Workshop focused event (there were some games of infinity, Malifaux etc, but no Bolt Action, Konflict 47, Flames of War, Team Yankee, Gaslands etc) making it ideal for fans of Warhammer 40,000 (and 30k), Adeptus Titanicus, Age of Sigmar and Necromunda. Due to this, you don’t really see fully 3D printed miniatures or vehicles on the table due to Intellectual Property reasons.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the increase in acceptance of 3D Printed parts and terrain, and teaching around 3D printing at the event, and I hope that this continues I’d love to see a wider variety of game systems represented, which if it happened, I’d even consider running a trade show stand and educational classes on 3D printing myself. One thing that was missing however, was demonstration/participation games, such as the large scale games that you see at Cold Wars, Historicon and the like, which I think would make it a much more fun event to attend if you weren’t a tournament gamer, as it has a very strong competitive focus, that doesn’t really attract my more “beer and pretzels” style of gaming.

It’s a must attend if you are within driving distance of Washington DC, or if GW games are your preferred system.

Did you go? What did you think? Did you see any interesting 3D printed stuff that I missed out?

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